The following feature was originally published in April 2019 at BetSheWill™ which is a project that inspires black women to live their purpose by offering resources that supports self-healing and self-care.
Tanya Smith Johnson is one inspiring mama, wife, mother, and midwife! Here she chats with us about her approach to motherhood, how she spends her down time, what inspired her to become a midwife, and the joys of being a wife of a loving husband! We were truly inspired by Tanya’s words and we know that you will be too, and don’t forget to follow her on Instagram to see all of the beauty and love within her part of the world!
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Number of Children: 6
Occupation: Stay-at-home mom, Homeschooler, Birth Worker, soon to be Midwife, and Midwifery Care/ Reproductive Justice Advocate
“I believe I am challenged the most by mothering without a mother. By having a toxic mother, dysfunctional home life, and a trauma filled upbringing, I try hard to make sure that I don’t repeat that cycle with my own children with my choices and actions.”
What is your favorite affirmation or inspirational quote?
“There is magic in the mundane”
How would you sum up your style/approach to motherhood?
I would say that my approach to mothering is centered around modeling what I’d like to see and be. I believe everything starts at home, right here with me, so what I do and how I do it matters. I believe mothers are not only the first teachers, but we are the centers of our children’s world. They look to us for guidance, stability, love, and light. We are their guiding light, so whatever we institute in our homes is what they will take away and how they will approach the world. I try to make every moment count. I try to imbue our home with as much love, beauty, harmony, peace, and health that I can. Especially since we homeschool! It is imperative that here, within these walls, they learn who they are, where their passion lies, and how to be the best people they can be so that they can share their gifts as stewards and citizens of this world. I believe if we want people in this world who are warriors for peace, love, and justice; if we want people who are good and fight the good fight; then we must create them, and that starts with us as individuals, as a family, and as a collective.
How would you spend a day that’s dedicated to “Me Time”?
Oh this is an easy question! I would spend time in solitude at the beach where I can be near the ocean and get grounded. Water is so soothing and cleansing. With as much as I have on my plate, it is important that I take a moment to just be still. Next would be going to eat solo. I love everything about food and cuisine, but most importantly, food that is prepared by hands that aren’t mine. I make it a point to cook from scratch for my family. I pour so much love into it since it is my love language!
I love having great food prepared for me since being able to sit and eat slowly is a luxury. I plan out where I’m going to treat myself and have a lovely brunch or lunch date with myself. I would also go to the bookstore. I loooove books. One of my favorite things is to peruse through a used bookstore and find little gems.
Lastly, if I can round out the day with some type of bodywork….I would be in heaven. I love sarga massage/bodywork, acupuncture, and cupping. It’s even better if I can go to the Korean Spa! As long as I am on someone’s table getting the kinks worked out. Then, if I can get in the bed early and just stay there uninterrupted…I would be on cloud nine, and will have my love tank completely full!
What things within motherhood do you ever feel that you question yourself about, or that you feel you are challenged with the most, and how do you try to resolve them?
I believe I am challenged the most by mothering without a mother. By having a toxic mother, dysfunctional home life, and a trauma filled upbringing, I try hard to make sure that I don’t repeat that cycle with my own children with my choices and actions. I don’t have my mother in my life. I was raised mostly by my father’s adoptive mother who was cruel to say the least. I grew up not experiencing a normal or typical mother daughter relationship. My mother was on drugs during my childhood and struggled to parent. So, I had to piece together what a mother is ,based on what I didn’t want for my children, which was based on my experiences. I am thankful for my mother because she showed me what I didn’t want to do or be. As an adult, I can empathize to a degree. My experiences made me cognizant of the fact that children remember how they are treated, and the way that they are treated stays with them and shapes who they are and how they treat others. So, I always parent from the place of saying that I want my children to leave my house saying simply “I had a beautiful trauma-free childhood.”
I feel that most people’s issues arise from childhood and their upbringing. So many of us had to do the best we could until we were able to be on our own. I want my children to not leave my home running away from me…trying to escape. I want them to want to come back because they know they are always welcomed, safe, and loved. I want them to want their significant others to come to our home. I want them to want their children to be around me and be a grandmother. I think about the future in this way and how the present shapes that. So, I parent my children in a way where they are able to be treated with respect as autonomous human beings. I look at my role as their guide and guardian. They aren’t my property. I don’t own them. They are of me and I am blessed to be able to be their mother and treat them as such!
If you could give a new mother advice on motherhood, what would you tell her?
I’d tell a new mother to take each day one at a time and find the beauty, blessing, and grace in it, even when it’s rough or hard. One day you will look up and the time will zoom by, and the things that seemed so big in the moment will become minuscule or unmemorable.
What have you learned from your kids about yourself and or life since becoming a mother?
I have learned from my children that love is infinite. That it grows. You think you couldn’t love anything more than you do now or that there is only so much love to give, but then another child comes along and your heart expands again. So I am always amazed at how beautiful and expansive love can be.
They have also taught me that love is redemptive. Through mothering our children I have become the mother I needed and always wanted to be, and it has healed me in the process. As a child, I prayed for things to be different. I prayed for a mother daughter relationship that was everything I dreamed. I didn’t get it then but with time and patience I have it now. I am the mother of 3 daughters and I get to have this beautiful relationship of my childhood dreams. It’s so good and glorious that all I can do is be thankful!
And lastly, my children have taught me the meaning of unconditional love. When we hear about unconditional love we think it comes to us in a romantic sense. But, now as a mother, I know it lies here…within mothering. There is nothing that can change the way I feel for my children. I have loved them since before we were a dyad…when they were just awaiting. I loved them before I ever saw them and I will love them through this life and beyond!
What was it that inspired you to want to become a midwife?
I have always known I wanted to care for women and children. I knew when I was 3 and remembered telling my father. Ever since then I thought that meant I was meant to become a doctor…an OBGYN. I knew there were Midwives in the hospital, but I figured why become a nurse midwife when I can just be the doctor. So I pursued medical school. A girl from the wrong side of the tracks of St. Louis was going to become a doctor one way or the other. I was determined! I was a candy striper at the hospital at 14. I joined the Navy as a hospital corpsman at 17. Then I went on to college as a Biology/Pre-Med major, and then on to grad school. I had my first child with a doctor /midwife team and then had my second child right before entering medical school with the same team. By this time I knew I wanted to birth my way! I wished it wasn’t in the hospital.
Even though I had beautiful natural and unmedicated births, my experience left me wanting more. I entered medical school and was distraught in how little we learned about natural unmedicated births. The way we were being trained and how I was treated as a new mother and future doctor let me know that there had to be a better way. I left medical school. I researched about hospital birth, midwifery, and the status of home births in various states, learning as much as I could.
Since we are military, we move a lot, and I wanted to understand how I could have the birth I wanted moving forward. With each child I became more and more confident and sure in my decision to birth out of the hospital. I had my first home birth and a light bulb went off. I knew this was what I envisioned when I said I wanted to be a doctor. I wanted to provide individualized care, seeing people in the comfort of their homes, having long leisurely appointments that lasted longer than 15 minutes. The type of care I got with my midwife was what I wanted for myself and what I wanted to give and have other women experience. My midwife at the time knew my background and said I’d make a great midwife. She gave me the nudge I needed and 6 months later I was applying to midwifery school. After that the stars aligned for me in away that was serendipitous. We were getting stationed in Southern California and my midwife told me to look up a black midwife there and see if she was taking student apprentices. And the rest is history. Several years and 2 children later, I have come full circle and I am back in Hawaii preparing to start my own midwifery practice!
What do you admire/love most about your husband in his role as a father?
I admire and love my husband simply for being one of the best men…no, one of the best people I know. I’d say that even if he wasn’t my husband! He is just a stand up, regal, and honorable man. He is brilliant and one the smartest people I know as a math genius and engineer. He is not only a magnanimous leader and role model of many men and women in the Navy as a Commander in the Civil Engineering Corp, but, he is also a great leader and role model for our children as well. He is everything I wanted the father of my children to be. He is kind, calm, and patient, while still being strong. He models behavior for our children in how he treats me and them. He is a hard worker and often doesn’t get to enjoy the fruits of his labor, but happy to provide the means for us to do all the wonderful things we do and homeschool! He is beautiful in that he says he leads but I am at the center like the Sun and everything revolves around me! We have just celebrated our 19 year anniversary and it is beautiful to see who he has become and all we have created together!