If you’ve enjoyed any of the DIY projects we’ve published over the past year, you have Washington FAMILY contributor Lindsay Ponta to thank.
For more than 10 years, Ponta has been inspiring busy people to explore their creativity on her curiously named DIY and craft website, Shrimp Salad Circus. These days, however, she’s spending less time blogging and more time attending to family—husband Andrei and their 3-year-old daughter—and her day job at a nonprofit.
Here, the Silver Spring mom tells us about her “perfectly imperfect” life.
What’s the hardest part about juggling motherhood and your career?
I’ve struggled with severe anxiety for much of life, and I put a lot of pressure on myself to always just “make it work.” When my daughter was born, I realized I have to take care of myself so that she’s growing up with a strong, balanced mother instead of a harried, defeated one. For me, that meant prioritizing: My family comes first and then my job. My side business happens if I have the time, instead of between midnight and 3 a.m.
I’m constantly battling the urge to do it all—and to do it all perfectly, no less. I want to teach my daughter the concept of “good enough” so that she isn’t in my shoes 30 years from now trying to cram an extra eight hours into the day. Because as hard a time as I have practicing what I preach, I truly believe that in many situations, done is better than perfect.
How do you find time to nurture your own creativity?
I started writing Shrimp Salad Circus in 2010, and it has been a constant in my life through a lot of change over those years. I find that having a network of friends—even virtual ones—pushes me to keep creating.
Lately, I find that I’m making for the memories rather than just for the heck of it. I sewed up matching shirts for our last pre-pandemic trip, and I adore those photos because my daughter thought that matching with mommy was the coolest. I’m sure that when the teenage years hit, and matching with mom is cringeworthy, I’ll treasure them all the more!
What do you love about being a mom?
I barely remember my first few weeks of parenthood because breastfeeding had us awake for a feed every three hours. One night I zombie-shuffled over for a diaper change, and as soon as I got the diaper off, my 8-pound little person shot poop 5 feet across the room, taking out a couple teddy bears along the way. I started laughing so hard that I woke up my husband, who ran off to get scissors to cut off the onesie.
I can’t stand it when people tell stressed-out, sleep-deprived new parents to treasure every moment. Sometimes there’s a blowout or a grocery store tantrum when you have nothing left to give that day. But the unshiny moments sometimes end up being treasures that you can still laugh about until your stomach hurts years later, and I love the daily accumulation of those perfect little surprise moments.
What’s your biggest parenting fail?
I like to think that we’re all doing the best we can with the circumstances we’re given, so I try not to think of anything as a parenting fail. But the area where I feel like I most often let myself down is modeling that it’s more important to do the right thing than to do the easy or comfortable thing. I feel a huge responsibility to guide my daughter toward becoming an empathetic, caring adult who stands up for others and is vocal against injustice but also treats her own time and mental health as the precious things they are. That’s a hard thing to navigate when you haven’t mastered it yourself.
What’s your favorite way to spend a weekend with your family?
We love to hike and are lucky to have so many wonderful places for it in the region, so we started calling our weekend hikes “adventures.” We have an adventure song that we chant as we meander. We find treasures (sticks and leaves) along the way and try to spot animals like baby frogs, not-so-baby snakes, deer, squirrels and “hedgiecorns.” They’re hedgehog unicorns, and they’re exceptionally rare.