The Mamma Stories featuring Marjolein, Jack & Sef - Joey van Dongen

What has changed in your life since you became a mother?
Everything, really everything. It started with the pregnancy itself. I loved that growing swollen belly. It’s a pure magic. But it can be tough as well. Our first son Jack Jude was born prematurely when I was 30 weeks pregnant. He arrived 10 weeks earlier than expected, a tiny human being of 1600gm. But even though it was very unexpected I immediately felt it – I AM A MOTHER. I remember I was thinking all the time “I will never let you go, I will never let you go”. It was a very stressful even frightening time for us. But luckily our little boy turned out to be a big fighter. Now he’s the tallest in his class.

When I got pregnant with our second son Sef Benjamin, I heard from my doctor that most likely I’m going to deliver a premature baby once again. But due to a lot of rest and some medicines I managed to keep my baby in my belly till week 35. It was a stressful pregnancy. Though, I believe that these circumstances have formed me as a strong mother, especially the birth of Jack. I didn’t have that getting-used-to period of marvelling all over your newborn.

Our newborn was fighting for his life and we fought with him together. When Jack was finally allowed to go home we were incredibly happy but also very, very tired of all the stress and uncertainty. It took me a while to find a certain rhythm and routine. But luckily with Sef we had a completely different start, the one it is supposed to be.

What things do you want to teach your child/ children?
I want them to know that the world is there for them to discover; that it’s ok to make mistakes. They should learn from them and keep going on. Fall and get up. Believe in yourself. I find it difficult to let go of my children. And that’s not good. Kids grow up and leave; this is how life goes. I hope I’ll do better. And I also sincerely hope that they always will help each other and take care of each other. They are completely crazy about each other. So I think they’ll do just great.

What’s the best thing about being a mother?
It’s such an overruling feeling – mother’s love to her child. Sometimes I have to watch out otherwise I get carried away and I can hug them till death, joking, It’s an incredible feeling to be a mother of a completely different person and see him growing up and becoming himself. They grow so fast. Sometimes I have a weird feeling that I have to be there every second otherwise I’ll miss out on too much.


The Mamma Stories featuring Marjolein, Jack & Sef - Joey van Dongen

The Mamma Stories featuring Marjolein, Jack & Sef - Joey van Dongen The Mamma Stories featuring Marjolein, Jack & Sef - Joey van Dongen

What did surprise you about motherhood?
It’s a hard work. Motherhood is the most beautiful gift in the world but also extremely hard work. Sometimes it knocks you down. Once I read at (blog of Julia Restoin Roitfeld, daughter of Carine Roitfeld) an interview with an actress Molly Sims. She said “It takes a village to raise a child” and that’s so true. As a mother, you need help and also tips. I’m always joking that I’d have loved to receive an instruction to use when gave birth. I always ask my friends who also has kids, for a piece of advice. I’d like to know how other mommies do it all.

What do you recognize from yourself or your partner?
With Sef it’s hard to say, but with Jack I recognize some properties of myself and of Ian. Jack is a dreamer, sensitive and is worried about others, and has an eye for the smallest things, looks everywhere in treasure. He comes home with pebbles he finds, chestnuts, sticks, everything he likes. There I see a lot of myself. He also has a lot of humour, he is really our clown, and exactly his father, just as sweet and cheerful as he is. They also have exactly the same twinkle in their eyes, really a mini Ian, love it.

What are you looking for when it comes to toys and playing?
I personally love toys with a nostalgic feeling, like the ones made from wood. Plus they won’t break that quick! Jack got for his first birthday a step which looked like a fire department car. He loved it a lot. We do have a lot of LEGO and toy cars in-house. Jack is crazy about his Superman costume. He can run in it for days. For me, it’s important to provide them with toys that develop imagination. Unfortunately, an Ipad is also a favorite of the boys. But ok, I guess it’s a part of this generation. We do have a lot of children books. Every evening we read one of them. It’s a beautiful ritual before bed.

What are the things you can’t live without since you became a mother?
I love anything from Burt’s Bees “Baby Bee” line! It was an advice from a friend of mine. The line is completely ecological and hypoallergenic but I’m especially crazy about the smell – sweet honey, it’s seriously fantastic.

The Mamma Stories featuring Marjolein, Jack & Sef - Joey van Dongen The Mamma Stories featuring Marjolein, Jack & Sef - Joey van Dongen The Mamma Stories featuring Marjolein, Jack & Sef - Joey van Dongen

What’s your advice to all newbie moms?
Relax and enjoy, or at least try to. Your child feels it when you are nervous, stressed or impatient. Kids are our own mirrors. They copy us. And perfection does not exist. So do not expect yourself to be perfect. Once when I had my down moment as a mother I got a card from my sister-in-law with the following text “No matter how weird it may look like, it’s good as long as it keeps the child happy and quite” Funny and so true. The nicest days are when we have nothing planned. So many pleasant unexpected things happen then. But when I have a busy day planned, it all tends to go wrong. Kids are unhappy and I’m super frustrated.

How do you prefer raising your child/children, what works for you?
Practice has shown that being consequent works the best. It can become a bit less peaceful in the house, a lot less peaceful. But kids need clarity and well-drawn boundaries. We should remind ourselves about this once in a while.

How do you unwind? What is a nice treat for you?
Once in a while I’m treating myself with a massage or a facial. But actually, I should do it more often. But I’d better spend this time on my kids, my partner, my family and friends. I also like going to the downtown to have me time, have a cup of coffee, shop. A lunch or a night out with my girlfriends always makes me feel completely energetic and inspired.

What do you do to make sure everything is ‘in balance’, work, family, friends?
After eight years being a fashion editor at Marie Claire I quit and started as a freelance fashion stylist. So I’m currently fully in search of that balance. I do think that it always will be difficult for me to maintain a balance and be “good” on all the fronts. I wouldn’t like to stop doing what I do. Happy is what I am when I’m working on a project with a great team and everything turns out simply perfect. But my boys and Ian are and will always be my number one. With them, I’m the happiest version of myself.

Do you have any family traditions/rituals?
Every morning the boys come to lay with us in our Big Bed. What a luck to have three guys lying next to me! An other tradition is to make a birthday hat for every single birthday. I still have all four from Jack’s birthdays. Such a nice thing to make and keep!

Can you tell a little about how you decorated your kid’s room?
A bit Scandinavian. I love warm, cozy and of course safe space. A lot of wood, white, black and light green colors, plus a lot of self-made items and small trifles we collect through the years. I can be such a housewife and get very happy from just cozying up our home, haha! Since recently the boys sleep together in one room. So sweet those two beds next to each other.

The Mamma Stories featuring Marjolein, Jack & Sef - Joey van Dongen The Mamma Stories featuring Marjolein, Jack & Sef - Joey van Dongen

What’s important to you interior-wise, when it comes to creating a home?
Right now the most important this is that the house is childproof. Our kids should be able to play and grow in a safe environment. We have a garden where the boys play football. But to say the truth I haven’t done much with the house since the boys are born. First of all I simply don’t have time to combine it all: kids, work, house. Secondly, it isn’t our dream house. So I’m not very much motivated. Hopefully, a dream house will come soon, a spacious house with concrete floors and a lot of light. But for now, this house will do. Most importantly it has a nice homie feel.

Where do you shop for your kid(s)?
In Rotterdam, I usually go to the shop called Little Department Store and Pomme de Jus. Also Bonbon on the Block is great. I often go to Paris for work. When I’m there I shop at Zef, and I’m catching on some ideas at BonTon. Monoprix quite often comes as a surprise with some awesome stuff for kids. In Antwerp we have a couple shops where we are the regulars. Those are Brussels and Bellerose.

What are your favourite clothing brands?
Mini Rodini and Bobo Choses for fun clothes; Zef and Kidscase for quality and beautiful pieces. And I fill the gaps with Zara. I like a brand called Bellerose. They have an edgy boyish clothes yet different from the rest.

What are your favourite places to take your kids to?
I love a café called Villa Augustus in Dordrecht, they have amazing salads and cakes. There’s also a beautiful garden where kids can play and a small shop full with nice little things. We often go to a park called Kralingse Bos, the kids love it.

What was the first item you bought for your baby when you were pregnant?
The first thing I bought was a pair of super soft baby pants with little stars on them. I was in Paris and I bought them at Zef. It was such a special moment for me. I had recently found out that I was pregnant and nobody knew it yet.

When does your heart melt?
Luckily there are a lot of moments in my life when my heart melts. For example, every time when my boys play with each other. They get so enthusiastic about each other. When they are apart and see each other a smile from ear to ear comes on their faces. I’ve never even dared to dream about happiness like this.

The Mamma Stories featuring Marjolein, Jack & Sef - Joey van Dongen

What is in your opinion the most difficult part of motherhood?
Fear and concern about your child, those you start experience straight after you gave birth. And no matter how old your child is you never stop worrying about him or her. I get very upset when I hear on the news about violence or any sad stories. I think when you become a mother you also become more sensitive. And I’ve always been a softy even before giving birth!

What is the role of your own mother?
My own mother and my mother in law, my own father and my father in law are very important in our family and are definitely irreplaceable. They don’t have a set day for babysitting. But they all are very helpful and are ready to babysit the boys when we need it. I cherish my parents and in-laws. I’m extremely happy and grateful that they simply “are”. It can be very different.

Which city do you like to visit and why?
With or without children I like to go to Antwerp. It’s such an amazing city with so much to do, so many vivid old neighborhood and every time I visit I discover new shops and boutiques. My father-in-law lives close to Antwerp. So we got an extra reason to go there. For work,

I often go to Paris. As the fast train Thalys arrives at the station Paris Nord my heart starts pondering. I love this magnificent city. It’s a magical city. Maybe I have this love affair with Paris as I visited there my first ever fashion show when I  just started my career. When I’m watching Dries van Noten, Jean Paul Gaultier and Chanel new collections on a runway my heart starts beating faster. It’s quite crazy but I’ve never been in Paris with my partner. We really should fix this asap.

What do you like about your partner as a father?
Ian is a super-father. He’s so patient with the kids. He also takes the boys very seriously and listens carefully for what they think or have to say. Ian was from the start, from the very first moment a father. He’s a leader of the pack and takes care of all of us. When Jack was born unexpectedly we’ve just moved. I think we had a key of our new house like for three days more or less. There was so much to arrange. Ian took control of everything and made sure that all issues were settled. He had to care of our premature baby, of me very fragile after a seriously difficult labor and make sure that the house is taken care of. I’m very proud of him.

How did your relationship change?
We are by now 6,5 years together. And in this relatively short time we were there for each other for better and for worse. There’s so much happened. Our love is deep, rock solid. Now we are parents but also the best friends. When we met I got immediately a feeling that this man is very special. He’s a good, beautiful from inside and out.

Eight years ago Ian had a life threatening ski accident. He survived but he had to start from scratch, he had to learn how to walk for example. It’s been a very dramatic but learning experience for him. We live once now and we should enjoy it. This has become his moto. We knew quite quick that we are for each other, that it’s serious and that we want to spend the rest of our lives together and have kids. He is the best.

How does your date-night look like?
We bring the boys to my in-laws and go to the city, very romantic on our bikes. Usually, we have gigantic plans to stay up till the morning light. But often after having a dinner we head home. Haha! It’s nice to have those moments with only two of us, like old times.