This interview is in collaboration with Totum Women and begins a series we’re hosting together on some moms who’ve recently rocked our worlds.
I met Erin Erenberg, Founder of Totum, in January when we were both chosen to be a part of little experiment with 30 women from all of over the country. We were brought together as a group to participate in a 30-day virtual workout challenge (a fun combo of 300 squats, push ups, sit ups, lunges and leg lifts daily). What a weird way to meet, but the challenge included accountability via group text that led to community and connection among the participants. When Erin was officially introduced to the group, I was astounded at the similarity of the mission of Totum Women to Hello My Tribe. Additionally, Erin and I share a joy in collaboration over competition, and our first project together is to share some profiles of the awe-inspiring women who joined us in our January challenge.
First up is Elsa Marie Collins. Elsa rose to the top of our list because she’s been a force in the fight for justice for immigrants and is delivering aid to child detainees this week. Elsa grew up on both sides of the border, and immediately knew that she had to take action on this issue. Here’s her incredible story as mother, entrepreneur, advocate.
xoxo, Alex + Erin
The youngest of five children, Elsa grew up in Tijuana, Mexico, and moved to San Diego at the age of 16. She went on to receive her B.A. and Masters from Stanford, followed by the obligatory Sex and the City phase of living in New York City where she received her JD from Columbia Law School. Settling in Los Angeles with her husband, Elsa co-founded BabytalkLA, a parenting education company addressing issues on raising children and parenting. Elsa transition to a role at Fusion/Univision on their social impact strategy team and most recently co-founded The Ideateur, a social impact and political consulting group. Elsa is mom to three and is a respected contributor on the topics of talking to children about race and gender.
What highs and lows did you experience as you transitioned to motherhood? The transition to motherhood for me has always been a windy road. The ultimate high for me was giving birth. I had never felt more powerful or in awe of my own body. This continued especially with my second and third children. Every time I went into the hospital I was beyond excited.
Being pregnant was never my cup of tea, but giving birth? Oh I was born for that. I will miss that more than anything (yes I am done having kids).
I think the biggest difficulty I had with the transition was realizing that I had to change the way I made decisions about everything in my life. From where was a good place to live (are there good schools nearby?), to eating that piece of cake for dessert (have I gotten my body back?), to having coffee with a girlfriend (she has no kids will she be bored if I talk about mine?).
What surprised you most? I think the right word is shocked. What shocked me the most was how many things I started doing that I said I would never do because I hated it when my mom did it! I used to hate going to church and proclaimed when I had kids, I wouldn’t have them go to Church…my girls are having their First Communion this summer.
Growing up, when my brother and I used to fight, my mom would never pass judgement on fault unless she had witnessed it. She would say “If I didn’t see it, I don’t want to know, you need to figure it out.” This made me so mad, but now I know use that same line.
How do you practice daily self-care? Other people’s glass of wine is my workout. That is how I express my self-care. Whether it’s a run, a pilates or yoga class, not only do I need it but I have no guilt when I do it because I know it makes me a better person.
Healthiest daily habit you practice? Going to bed right after I put my kids to bed.
And worst? Looking at my phone in the middle of the night.
How have your priorities shifted over the last few years? I want my kids to know they come first. If you would have told me years ago I would be the head of the PTA at school I would have laughed in your face. But I want to be involved in the community where my kids spend the majority of their days. Since my husband lives in the Bay Area for 10 months out of the year, being at practices and games and performances take precedent over everything and that is a welcome adjustment.
I also realize that I need to take care of myself as much as I am taking care of the kids. So going to bed early, drinking water, all of the things I encourage my kids to do I also try to do! And of course when my husband is home, leaving the kids to do a date night or a short vacation is essential.
Piece of advice you want all women to have as they transition into motherhood? My best piece of advice is to not compare yourself or your kids to anyone else. This parenting role will go on for the rest of your life and it isn’t worth wasting your energy to continue to look around you and compare. Embrace who you are and who your children are!
Extra: Elsa has rallied her network to collect goods (backpacks, toiletries, blankets, books and toys) for Casa Cornelia and Border Angels. Elsa and her community have distributed hundreds of boxes.