Joy Fehily on Motherhood

This interview is in collaboration with Totum Women and is part of 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.

Meet Joy Fehily. Joy was raised by a motivated and energetic Chilean immigrant father and a wise and graceful Italian mother from Brooklyn. Both were spirited and loving, and they encouraged her to believe that she could do anything (what wonderful parents!). After earning her degree in communications from USC, Joy ventured into the entertainment business and soon found her passion for publicity and branding. Twenty-three years later, Joy guides the images of some of the top actors, writers, producers and directors in the business today. Joy’s husband and and best friend also “happens to be one of the most talented writers” she has ever met (writer on the “number one show on the planet” NCIS). Together, they have two daughters who have inherited Joy’s parents’ energy, grace, and wisdom.

What highs and lows did you experience as you transition into motherhood? The lows began with the realization that nobody in my life could do this with me or for me. My husband and I were so extremely close and did everything together that I was shocked when I came to the realization that parenthood really is different for a mother versus a father. The transition to motherhood is such a change to your personal identity that I wasn’t prepared for how long it would take me to adjust. I had to get to know my new self while being completely obsessed and overwhelmed by this new little being that took my breath away— yet also took my freedom away.

When I returned to work after my maternity leave, I had the greatest physical yearning I’ve ever experienced in my life. My body and soul couldn’t wait to see her. I would describe it as leaving my arm at home all day, and I couldn’t wait to put it back on to feel whole again. The highs of early stages of motherhood are other worldly. I felt and continue to feel my heart actually expand with pure love and awe. The creation of life is a miracle and it is the greatest high when you see your little miracle sleep, eat, smile, laugh and even cry.

What surprised you most? I was surprised to learn that I wasn’t as strong and independent as I thought I was. I was surprised by how desperate I was for likeminded “mommy friends.” I needed a new tribe that was going through exactly what I was going through and when I found it, it was life-changing. I discovered that strength and independence can also mean knowing when to admit you can’t do something alone.

How do you practice self-care? There are several ways I practice self-care and I’m still working on making it a daily occurrence. I’ve been going to a wellness retreat with my mother for the last six years. It’s one week a year where I reconnect with myself and also spend uninterrupted quality time with my mom. I was just like many working moms that think they could never take a week off just for themselves, but now that I’ve done it, I will never not do it. I have an a-ha moment every time and I come home a better wife and mother. Last year it hit me hard that the best way to take care of those I love is to take care of myself.

I’m a giver at heart, but I can’t do it when there is nothing left to give.

I have now added in exercise, meditation and journaling into my life. These practices have brought me more internal peace, balance and gratitude than I ever thought possible.

I have three healthy daily habits to share:

  1. My husband and I make a “kitchen sink” shake for breakfast. It has everything you can think of- fruits, veggies, all sorts of protein and energy powders, probiotics, oils, nuts, seeds, aloe vera, etc. I do my best to eat healthy all day, but this shake gives me the mental freedom to know I can cheat a little!
  2. Sunscreen. I love the sun and I live in Southern California, so I’m in it a lot. I refuse to hide from the thing I love, so I won’t leave the house without putting on sunscreen. Those brown spots and wrinkles my mom always warned me about are real!
  3. I never, ever leave my husband or children without a kiss goodbye. I tease my girls that they’ll have a bad day without it. I know I will!

And worst daily habit? I don’t drink enough water every day. I’ve realized that I just need some flavor, so I’ve started pureeing ginger and freezing the liquid in ice cube trays. One ginger cube with hot water and lemon makes an energizing drink.

How have your priorities shifted over the last few years? Everything shifted when my youngest turned five, and I realized I didn’t have babies anymore. That’s the threshold where motherhood gets less physical and more mental. It is no longer about chasing them around to eat or change their diapers, it’s now about guiding them through adolescence and beyond. As they grow, I’m learning that it isn’t just about the one thousand things we do every day to take care of them, it’s about being present. It’s about listening and being their constant source of love and support. So, I’ve shifted my schedule so I can pick them up from school 1-2 days a week. Spending more time with them — quality time that doesn’t involve rushing to get them to bed or get them to school — has become my main priority.

Piece of advice you want all women to have as they enter motherhood? Be prepared to find your new identity. You will change. Drastically. It is hard, but the reward for that journey is worth it.

Post Author
Alex Winkelman
Alex founded Hello My Tribe not because she was an expert on motherhood, but because she was a mom who desperately needed support and community. During those tough first months of motherhood, Alex spent day after day reading and learning about motherhood. She learned: 1. She wasn’t alone in her feelings about motherhood. 2. Everything we could have ever dreamt of existed for the baby, but there was a lack of resources for the woman/mother 3. There are many maternal health issues in our country that need attention and need to be addressed. Hello My Tribe was built upon these needs. Previous to launching Hello My Tribe in 2016, Alex was a professional and volunteer fundraiser, raising millions of dollars for non-profit organizations. Alex lives in Austin, TX with her son and two rescue dogs.