This season, we partnered with some of our favorite mothers who happen to be multi-talented artists, photographers, and designers. We asked them to capture their littles in their natural elements. The result has been a series of beautiful images from around the globe.
Emma Donnelly of @takeapicturelady
lives in England with her husband and their two children. We are thrilled to share Emma’s take on motherhood, life in the English countryside, and running a 20 year old bar with her in-laws!
B+G: What are the biggest gifts and challenges of motherhood?
Emma: Right now I’m really cherishing the small things, the cuddles, the little love notes and the kiss at the school gate. Motherhood felt like a natural thing for me, I am generally a calm and quiet person, one of the challenges of motherhood was dealing with new little personalities, the ones that won’t walk when they are tired, go to bed when they are tired (!), do their reading, eat their dinner, these little every day things that are both a gift and challenge. I never realized that these two things are so entwined but on reflection the gift and responsibility of nurturing our children brings both these things. It makes you feel whole and divided at once.
B+G: What motto do you live by or try to instill in your children?
Emma: I often say ‘don’t worry, it will all be fine’. My husband thinks I am unrealistically optimistic - but I think you need to be optimistic as a mother. To guide your children to have hopes and dreams and when things don’t go right to be strong and guide yourself through them.
B+G: What is your favorite thing to cook for your children? Or what is their favorite thing to eat?
Emma: I like to cook them something new. Challenge their tastebuds. I cook from scratch every day - they always eat the same as us. Which at first meant that our food was slightly adapted to younger palates but now they are older and enjoy all the same things as we do. They watch cooking programmes on television and have had the opportunity to eat in some lovely places but there is nothing better than mama’s cooking. We eat organically, and incorporate meat into our diet but not every day. They would say their favourite thing to eat is my lasagne which takes hours to make - first slow roasting fresh plum tomatoes, making the ragu etc - and is definitely sprinkled with an extra dose of love. Cooking can also be a chore, and we as mothers are generally the ones getting the meals on the table, or shopping for the produce - sometimes I think it is a full time job in itself.
B+G: Describe your ideal family day.
Emma: An ideal family day would definitely start with fluffy pancakes with fruit and maple syrup, and lots of coffee. We would pack up the car with books and drive to the countryside with the canoe and go for a paddle down the river, or take the SUP to the beach and rock pool, fish and picnic. One of our favourite places in the UK is Forest in Wales - a fantastic campsite with geodesic dome tents and lots of space for the children to run free and make friends. It has a tiny little pub on site with plenty of open log fires inside and out. Many a perfect day has been ended around a fire with glass in hand and the children playing freely. Giving them freedom to play and explore is imperative to our family life.
B+G: What are your favorite things to do with Monty and Agnes?
Emma: My son Monty is an avid ornithologist - I love to go bird watching and walking with him. Agnes loves to help me in the kitchen - but I just asked her what her favourite thing to do with me is - she said ‘hug’! Need I say more? :)
B+G: What is your philosophy when it comes to motherhood?
Emma: I’m not sure I have one just yet. Try to be patient and guide them. Spend less time in front of the screen!
B+G: What was the biggest surprise about becoming a mother?
Emma: The biggest surprise was that my boundaries would be pushed and pushed. Boundaries for patience, expectations, love, time, sleep and many more. And at the moment I daily have a panic about them growing up so fast. The early days are so wholehearted and constant, a roundabout of sleep and feeding, dressing and domestic chores, trying to fit in a little work. And then BANG! - they are at school and those days are over. Life is so busy and all I want to do some days is curl up in bed with them and read and cuddle. I have to say my heart is aching for those days again. Or maybe another baby!
B+G: If you could go back 10 years, what would you tell yourself?
Emma: 10 years ago I was trying for my first child. I would have told myself that motherhood will be better and harder than I could have possibly imagine. And that along with that I would be a fuller, happier and more creative person. The children have inspired me to true to myself and follow
my creative paths.
B+G: What excites you most about motherhood?
Emma: I’m excited to see how the children develop into their own characters and what paths they will chose in adult life. I hope that I can guide them and support them in their needs. A little part of me wishes that they do the things that I missed out on, traveling, finishing a degree and I’m a little fearful of the bonds being cut a little as the years go by. I truly hope that we can have a strong family bond for the rest of my life - something, that needs a lot of work but must be the ultimate fulfilment.
B+G: You’re a multi-talented photographer. How has it been balancing a career and caring for your family?
Emma: Thank you. When the children were young I devoted my time to them completely, I didn’t want to miss a beat. And having very little support with childcare this was my only option too. When Agnes started school 2 and half years ago I realized that this was an opportunity for me to work on photography projects and much of this has happened in the past 12 months. It is has been amazing and I have gained so much support and encouragement through other mother/photographers. I feel as though I balance it all terribly - the laundry cupboard is always pouring out and the dishwasher needing to be loaded, but dinner is on the table and the house is reasonably clean. And I alway make time for cuddles at bedtime. What more can we do?!
B+G: Any upcoming work projects you are excited about?
Emma: Yes, I am working on campaigns that really excite me, they are exciting brands with lots of creativity and we work well together. It is fantastic to meet people and create a vision together. So much of this, if not all, has been through Instagram. Also I have had the most amazing opportunity to work on a creative project called Mothering Sunday Collaborative with Barbara Berrada, Flannery O’Kafka and Tatjana Schloer - we have produced a photo book which will be published very soon and I cannot wait to see it in print.
B+G: What’s a typical work day like for you?
Emma: I do not have a typical day from one to the next. Which I love. Generally I will check emails and Instagram after I have dropped the children to school and then work on editing or putting plans together for shoots, styling ideas and looking for new brands to work with next year. I have to pick the children up from school just after 3pm - and work stops until after they have got to bed. We also have a cafe/bar that is family run and was set up nearly 20 years ago by my mother in law - we now all run it and it’s a nice part of the community. It was the first place to have a proper coffee machine in the town and now we are over run with them. Over the past few years we have given it a face lift, installed a log burner for the winter and changed the menu. It ticks along but needs a lot of work.
B+G: How would you describe the aesthetic of your home?
Emma: Our home is a mixture of old and new things that we have accumulated over the years. I like the home to be simple and calm, with plenty of plants and flowers. We have just ripped up the beige fitted carpet that was on the floors upstairs and this has made me so happy. We are painting all the floor boards white. I think our home reflects us as it’s pretty chaotic and messy but beautiful too. I like to buy British and slowly manufactured or second hand furniture.
B+G: How would you describe your own style? How has it changed since becoming a mother?
Emma: I wear red lipstick and a brown (now slightly greying) bob - and I pretty much always have! My style is quite boyish and classic, i love flat boyish shoes and shirts with good jeans and nice knitwear. Or a clean cut dress with chunky flats - never heels - I can’t think in heels. I feel that since having children I have found my style but my shape has changed too.
B+G: What pieces would you consider staples for your wardrobe?
Emma: At the moment - autumn- button up shirt, my Babaà jumper and good shoes — at the moment I wear Grensons every day and jeans.
B+G: What do you love most about raising your kids where you live?
Emma: We love being close to London and also the open space of the countryside - we are lucky to have the expanse of the Thames estuary at the bottom of our road - giving a sense of space and in the other direction beautiful woodland.
B+G: Would you like to live anywhere else?
Emma: We would love to live elsewhere. I particularly love Holland - the dutch people and way of life is very appealing to us. Car culture seems to have hit our part of England and it feels like such a busy place on the roads. We crave space and the confidence to let the children cycle safely. The family business ties us to where we live - but hopefully one day my work will allow us to move and not be tied to living in any particular location. This may be a dream though!
B+G: What is your favorite room in your house and why?
Emma: My favourite room is my kitchen - it has a huge old metal table from the 1940’s with a marble top that we had fitted, a log burner stove and industrial lights over the table. Stained glass doors open out into the garden. It’s always a bit of a mess as this is the focal point of the house but I love it.
To see more from Emma and her lovely family, follow her on instagram and head over to her blog!