Hannah was nominated by our admirable Feme Meg Kelsey. This lovely lady is a wife and mother of four, living a dream life. I find it amazing when women decide to focus on raising their children full-time, I think it is admirable, brave and beautiful. From reading her interview, I can easily imagine how much love, fun, kindness and joy can take place in their home; I can almost hear the laughter. There is this incorrect idea that women who devote their time to raising children are “putting their lives on hold”, as if raising children was not “living”, maybe because it is thought of as unsexy or nonglamourous. Women who dedicate their lives or part of their lives to raising their children are incredibly brave and noble, they are willing to go against certain expectations, placing the needs of forming human beings at the center stage of their lives, which shows pure confidence in their own paths and in my opinion, there are few things more beautiful, glamorous and sexy than confidence in one’s own way in life. Meet Hannah…
Profession or Passion: Full-time mom of almost 4, part-time jewelry artist, and small business owner.
Where are you from? Virginia Beach, VA
You are a mother, jewelry maker and also a Co-Director and Photographer for Surf Hatteras, how do you juggle all of these different hats?
Well, my children (Ila – 8, Susannah – 4, and Samuel – 2) are always my first priority as their needs are most pressing and most meaningful to me on any given day (sorry hubs, there are a lot of them). But over the years, I’ve found ways to carve out time for jewelry-making and the business side of that (Byrd Jewelry). My studio is in my garage so I get to escape there for some parts of the day or at night. And yes, there are certainly times when I’m consumed by filling orders, creating the next line, or getting ready for shows. But I’ve never wanted jewelry-making to compete with my kids and my husband, so I’m thankful my busiest times come in bursts. I love being active and taking our kids on adventures, but in this season of little ones and naptimes, I’m kind of a home-body. Our backyard is a little oasis for me. Just looking out at the lake and giant oak trees is enough some days, and other days we spend as much time as we can exploring and soaking in the outdoors. (Though at nine months pregnant, I’m usually perched somewhere watching the three of them have their own adventures).
In the summers we move our entire family down to the Outer Banks of North Carolina (Hatteras, NC) to run our surf camp. Surf Hatteras is an overnight camp for teenagers from all over the country who come and surf with us for a week at a time. This sounds like a lot, and it is, but it’s actually freeing to switch gears and focus on something completely different for a season. Our world becomes a lot smaller, so it’s easier to be more connected to what is right in front of me. In the summers, I switch hats a bit: I am the surf photographer and help oversee the staff and camp. It’s a very unusual environment to raise kids, with seventeen campers per week and 9 college-aged staff around all the time, but they become our ‘summer family’. There’s something really magical about it. Our kids love it. The beautiful setting, the people, and the unique experience we’ve designed make our camp paradise to campers, staff, and our family. When these teenagers are whisked out of their home-life and away from technology, we get to show them what it’s like to experience beauty in nature, joy and adventure through surfing, and what genuine relationships look like. They are free to be themselves and get to experience something bigger than themselves. I’m so grateful to be a part of it, to work alongside my husband, Ross, and for my kids to grow up experiencing the beauty of what we are trying to do. It really is a little slice of heaven.
What does a day in your life look like?
It certainly depends on the season and it changes as our kids and family grow. Right now I spend a lot of time in the car taking our girls to and from school, as my two-year-old son points out all the school buses, police cars, and trucks on the road and tells me to go faster. It’s not very glamorous. Running a household with this many people in it takes a lot of effort in terms of meal planning, shopping, laundry, potty training, etc. Some of it feels mundane, but there are not many days that go by where I don’t stop and take in how blessed I am by this life. Whether it’s watching how much my son adores his two older sisters and how happy he is in our family, seeing my eight year old mature and act like another little mommy to him, or watching my adventurous middle-child (soon to share this role) live in her own little world where everything talks including her eating utensils. Sure there are frequent tantrums, time-outs, and unspeakable messes to clean up (I’m talking about poop here), but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Coming from a broken family where my parents divorced when I was young and my sister and I’s relationship was also torn from it, I feel a sense of God’s redemption through this crazy, exhausting, joyful family life I’ve been given. After dinner time, (which is a mixture of taming potty language, yelling at the kids to take more bites, trying to have a conversation with my husband about his day, more taming potty language, and at least one injury), we tag-team baths and bedtime and then the world is our oyster. But we usually veg out on the couch, finish catching up about our day, or go into our own creative zones (mine being the garage to make jewelry).
In the summers, my days look very different. My husband is out of the house checking waves for the campers pretty early so after getting the kids fed and dressed we head over to the “camp house” to get my camera gear ready, pass my kids off to a very capable twenty-something, and head to the beach. Then for about two, sometimes three, whole hours I get to stand on the beach and photograph our campers surfing. I get to be alone and listen to whatever I want. It’s glorious. I spend the rest of my day trying to juggle editing photos with entertaining my kids, but there’s usually a lot going on to entertain them as well. Some of the nights my husband can come back and help with bedtime, but a lot of nights I’m on my own while he’s running a poker game or whatever the nightly activity might be for the campers. I have learned to appreciate solitude in the summers. In the mornings I try to get up before my kids to spend time reading, and at night I find myself finishing up my photos for the day, working on my fall jewelry line, updating my website, or getting sucked into a show. Again, it’s not glamorous, but I’m grateful.
Of all of these roles, which do you find most fulfilling and why?
While I’m thankful to have creative outlets like jewelry and photography to keep me sane, my roles as a mother and wife have been the most fulfilling to me. Marriage has taught me about the deeper joy that can be found in leaning into one another during hardships and pain, knowing that we are committed to each other for life no matter what. There is real freedom and growth in that. Freedom to laugh at yourself, to love fully, and to be completely known by that person no matter how ugly it might get. Motherhood has taught me that the most important things in life are often found in the mundane and in the unseen. It is through these roles that I have been forced to learn that the only way to truly find life is to give it away. These roles have shaped me into a more patient, selfless, and content version of myself, with God’s help of course. His hand has guided me through it all and I couldn’t do it on my own.
What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
I would say “hang tight, your 30s are going to be a lot better. Work hard through all that family junk, but also relax and don’t take yourself too seriously.”
What is your definition of a “dream life”? Are you living yours?
I sure think so. Maybe a few less wrinkles and grey hairs, and a tad bit more energy, but I’m not sure I would change much else.
Your choice of
- A song – Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah”
- A place – Noosa Heads, QLD, Australia
- An inspiring woman in history – Elisabeth Elliot