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Mom Talk with Musician and Traveling Mom Samantha Stollenwerck Runkel

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Mom Talk with Musician and Traveling Mom Samantha Stollenwerck Runkel

Mom Talk with Musician and Traveling Mom Samantha Stollenwerck Runkel

Singer-songwriter, Samantha Stollenwerck Runkel is known for her soulful pop music and has helped pave the way for many independent female artists. Originally from California, she is an avid traveler who currently resides in Germany with her travel photographer husband and their two kids. An early childhood music educator and writer, Samantha enjoys working with organizations to help bring music into conflict zones to help heal the effects of war. 

How do you find balance?

For moms right now it is a round-the-clock job, juggling unpredictable COVID restrictions, working from home, and educating -- all on top of the everyday demands of parenting. I try to integrate some kind of physical movement into each day. Germany, where we live, has a big biking culture so we’ve been getting around by bike (it also leaves me feeling better about our footprint). We keep an acoustic guitar in the living room for the oft-repeated “Frozen” jam session after breakfast, or a merciless tickle session before bed -- anything to get the blood flowing!

What makes you feel like a good mom?

I feel like a good mom when I’m trying to make the world a better place for my kids. Community activism is very regenerative for me, especially these days. I’ve been trying to take 10 minutes a day to do digital canvassing for voters abroad or supporting climate change initiatives or taking them on local beach cleanups in our neighborhood. Women for Biden just asked me to write “vote early” songs for their TikTok channel, which sounds awesome and something my daughter can do with me. Finding a few minutes in the day to do one piece of action for democracy or the environment gives me the juice to double down on snuggles. That makes me feel like a good mom.

What is the one lesson that you'll teach to your kids?

"Be kind... and have an open mind.” We’ve seen our daughter grow so much from being open to new situations, especially through our travels. Striking up friendships with kids on a playground in Macedonia without speaking the same language or trying Papa’s “not so delicious” Matjes herring on the Baltic Sea or a sneaky-looking hotpot in Taiwan -- if she doesn’t like it, she doesn’t have to eat it, but at least she tried. I think being vulnerable and curious about the small things opens the doors to empathy and compassion down the road.

Tell us about your child's name. Any special meanings there?

Our daughter’s name is Sia -- we are a bilingual family and are often in different countries for Michael’s work as a travel photographer, so we wanted our children to have names that are easy to pronounce. We are also big fans of the singer Sia, and I was a singer-songwriter before we had children, so it’s a homage of sorts to my musical life. And our baby boy's name, Luca, is another beautiful, universal name that means ‘light”... which is exactly what he is!

How was your pregnancy? Or what has surprised you most about pregnancy?

Both of my pregnancies were physically very healthy, but I did carry some grief and anxiety through each of them. I’ve had two pregnancy losses (one before each baby) so I always felt on the edge of possibly losing them, too. As a woman in her mid-to-late 30's, I was extremely conscious of and empathetic for my friends who weren’t able to start families themselves or had their own complications. What helped was talking about my experience with other women, which caused a ripple effect of story-sharing. We don’t talk so candidly about miscarriage in our society, so I think trading our experiences was exceptionally healing.

Any parenting books or other resources you've found helpful?

Besides having a wonderful sister, Adriane Stare, who happens to be a doula and babywearing expert (aren’t I lucky!), I learned a lot about motherhood from spending time in different countries and communities, watching how mothers interact with their babies. Talking with women in Japan about co-sleeping, alloparenting in Namibia’s Himba communities, the lullabies of Kuna Indians in Panama’s Kuna Yala archipelago, or breastfeeding grandmothers in Myanmar, I’ve absorbed a lot of information from around the world. The common thread that runs through us all is that we love our babies and would do anything to make sure they are safe, close, and cared for. 

How are you different and similar to your own mother?

My sisters and I always describe my mom as casually whistling Bohemian Rhapsody in perfect pitch around the house. She has such a joie de vivre and generosity about her, if it’s with her youth sports organizations or burying our friends on the ping pong table. Most importantly, when she played with us she was 100% present. I always try and mirror her in that way. Her self-sufficiency as a woman also rubbed off on us: we were a house full of girls, very DIY, even a bit scrappy. We all care about the world and the people around us. I think that comes from having a mom who didn’t sweat the small stuff and encouraged us to walk through life with a big heart.

Do you have any mom icons?

Christy Turlington is a fierce mom icon. She took her own difficult birth experience and translated it into an international organization, Every Mother Counts, advocating for maternal health worldwide. Now, during COVID, the organization also supports essential workers and works for birth justice by combating racism in delivery rooms. She's such an inspiration and reminder that one person can truly make a difference in the world.

What websites about parenting and/or motherhood have been helpful?

I always check in at Mother Mag when I have extra time. It’s aspirational, stylish, and keeps me connected to what’s happening in the States. I also love the Washington Post’s On Parenting for wonderfully-written op-eds about the parenting journey.

What is a recent parenting experience that made you laugh and/or cry?

The endearing truth-telling of children! We were in Myanmar earlier this year and my husband was to photograph Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, a Buddhist pilgrimage site high in the mountains, just north of the Andaman Sea. The large granite boulder is perched precariously on the top of a cliff (legend says one of Buddha’s hairs is underneath it) and is visited by thousands of devotees each week. After juggering up 3,500 feet in the flatbed of a pickup truck sandwiched between ecstatic Burmese pilgrims, hiking across the craggy ridge (Sia was even carried in a bamboo basket usually reserved for luggage), past the tinkling of prayer bells and sandalwood incense and rows of hawkers selling prayer water in plastic bottles, we finally reached the golden pinnacle. Sia, clad in a purple longyi and a few days away from a hairbrush, turned to me and asked, "Why did Papa make us come all the way up here to this rock?" Trying for a straight face, I replied, "I ask myself the same thing every day.”

What is your go-to meal for your children?

The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother by Heng Ou was a great resource after my birth. An incredible book filled with restorative recipes for our postpartum bodies, I still make many of the broths, and the kids love them. I keep them in the freezer and do a German twist on them by adding Maultaschen (filled pasta pockets) or Eier-flädle (pancake strips) which makes for an easy and nourishing weekly meal! 

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