British-born singer-songwriter Joss Stone is stepping into this holiday season with a bit more gratitude after welcoming her baby son Shackleton in October, following a near-fatal 30-hour labor and delivery.
"There's a different compartment of your heart that gets opened. And it is completely unbreakable, completely unconditional," Stone, 35, says of being a mom. "My life got bigger and my love got bigger. My feelings got bigger, the good and the bad. The fear got bigger, the excitement got bigger, everything got bigger. Now, when you're creating something, it's for a bigger purpose. It all just seems heavier. And lighter."
The "What Christmas Means to Me" singer, who shares Shackleton and 2-year-old daughter Violet with partner Cody DaLuz, credits the children for inspiring her to write her first-ever Christmas album Merry Christmas, Love, which dropped in September.
"It's a wonderful thing to have Christmas with children," says Stone. "When we're children, it's really a magical time of lovely stories, but that kind of dwindles and goes away the older you get. Then you start having adult Christmases. Yes, it's still a wonderful time of year. It's still festive, it's still magical, it's still full of love. But that little shimmer, that wonder, it kind of goes until you have children again. Now, it's back, and it’s back with bells on it!"
Still, being a globe-trotting mother with an infant and a toddler at home requires a high level of patience, especially around the family's sleep schedule — which, she says, she's taken control of the second time around.
"Violet did not sleep through the night until she was a year and a half," she explains, which is why she and DaLuz are doing sleep training for Shackleton. In essence, it is an infant care program emphasizing parental control of the infant’s sleep, play and feeding schedule rather than allowing the baby to decide when to eat, play and sleep.
"I'm definitely trying something different with Shack. Because of the year and a half thing [with Violet], I was like, 'Please, God, let's find another way,'" Stone says. Given her tight work schedule, she says it's been a beautiful experience to have the babies nearby when she and DaLuz are traveling — partly because she knows it's not going to last forever, so she's making the most of it now.
"When they're small, that's the time you can just do your thing, because you're not anchored down by school," she says. "When that happens, they're about 4 or 5. And at that point, you're not moving. Unless you want someone else to look after your kids, which I personally don't. So that means, [being] in one place at one time and you can't bugger off. But, for now, they'll do whatever mommy and daddy does and it won't freak them out."
In fact, Violet is already showing signs of having as much zest for life as her mom.
"She is so mellow. She's not thrown by anything. She's cool with everyone," says Stone. "I think it's because we've had a lack of structure — and that goes against every baby book you'll ever read. They say 'No, no, you need structure. You need a routine.' But we have done the opposite, and it's worked amazingly."
Stone, who's lived in England and the United States since she was 14, couldn't help but point out some major flaws in Western culture as it pertains to mom shaming, especially when it comes to the nuances of breastfeeding.
"You have to support your fellow females in [whatever feeding method] they choose, whether that's formula or breast, whatever. We have to support each other," she says.
The singer, who breastfed both her babies, says no matter what choice mothers make, it's important to have support through the postpartum process.
"You get to week three, and you're crying. It's harder than pregnancy," she says of breastfeeding. “Pregnancy is really tiring, but this is actually like sticking needles through my nipples every day… It's hard, and we need our sisters to stand together on that."
Making things even more difficult, Stone says she suffers from mom guilt when she leaves her children to go to the studio. "It's a horrible thing, man," she explains. "You just want to be there all the time. But I also have to work, and being a working mom is hard."
At the same time, she's well aware of the privilege her position gives her — and is "so grateful" to have a partner who picks up the weight when she's recording music. The biggest advice she has for young mothers is simple: Take things one step at a time, and never feel ashamed to ask for help.
"We as women, we are amazing humans, of course, because we can do everything," she says. "But because we can f***ing do everything, it doesn't mean we should be doing everything."
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