Michelle Bilodeau has proudly pounded the pavement in the media biz. Like the Love, Mom team she has circulated around the major titles like Flare and Fashion magazine and also immersed herself in custom and digital content. Her most recent gig before having her baby, Emmeline, was the digital editor for The Kit where the consumption of products, stuff and online hootspah went on overdrive. She was living in high gear to keep up with the pace. Today she’s a freelancer for cbc.ca, flare.com, Hudson’s Bay’s blog (thepoint.hbc.com), and at the helm of the-eco-edit.com, a personal crusade that focuses on turning people onto stylish, green-minded and sustainable living. She admits having a baby has inspired her to switch to a slower lane thanks to the mental and spiritual leaps she’s made since becoming a mama almost a year ago.
Rule No. 1 Let your identity shift.
“I wish someone had told me how much I would change. I always knew I would be reconciling the ‘old me’ with the ‘new me’ after Emmeline was born but the process still surprised me. I feel like I am definitely more empathetic towards other people. I’m more confident in myself too. The old me cared too much about what other people thought and was a bit too sensitive. Becoming a mom has brought out the better parts of me. It’s been more of an awakening than a struggle. I’ve even changed how I work. The media industry is bananas. I have a love/hate relationship with how hard I have to hustle to make ends meet. I’ve tried other things like custom content and PR but I don’t feel as fulfilled by those things as straight-up writing and research. Now that I divide my time between my baby and work, I’m particular about what kind of jobs I take and willing to say no to jobs that just aren’t worth it.”
Rule No. 2 Accept the truth.
“I think women should be more honest about how hard having a baby is. I was lucky that my friends and cousins weren’t afraid to tell me how hard it was going to be. In the beginning you’re not sleeping, your partner’s not sleeping and everyone’s on edge…that’s a lot to process. On top of it all, if you’re breast-feeding, you’re a milk-making machine and if you’re anything like me, you were trying to keep up with your life before you had a baby and beating yourself up for not doing as much as you used to.
I was lucky. Emmeline is a good baby but despite that, I definitely had baby blues. There were times when there were a lot of tears involved and anger just because my husband would be snoring while the baby and I were crying in the middle of the night. I tried to talk to people frankly about how I was feeling, which was a bit hard because I am the first of my close friends to have a baby. But I also learned quickly to ask for help—from my partner, my mother, and my friends. I started to feel more like myself around three months postpartum. And then with each month, I started getting different parts of myself back. Now that she’s one year, I am still on a bit of a monthly rollercoaster (hello, hormones!), but it’s definitely so much better.”
Rule No. 3 Create your own pace.
“I had envisioned I would have time to focus on The Eco Edit—I’m so passionate about living a sustainable life. I had this idea that I would jump start this crusading website and quickly found out I don’t have time to focus on it as much as I would like to. There is a maternity leave subsidy the government makes available for freelancers but I didn’t sign up in time and as I’ve learned, juggling a baby with being a freelancer and business owner is a beast in itself. I’m lucky if I can post a couple times a month and for a while I was beating myself up about not posting more. Then I went to a panel discussion called Creative Minds, put on by the AGO, where Junot Diaz, who’s notorious for taking time with writing his novels, said that we all need to slow down with our media consumption and only look for the quality pieces that resonate with us. That made me step back and realize what I need to do is produce stories that are well-researched, well-written and resonate with me and my website. I really had to break all those all-consuming digital habits I was trained to take on during my career.”
Rule No. 4 Understand less means more.
“I used to look at Google Analytics daily. With Eco Edit I look at it once a month to see how I’m doing. My numbers are so low compared to when I was working at the bigger sites. Instead of tens of thousands of readers, I have a hundred or so. I have a smaller network and audience and team (it is only me) but it makes me so proud to know I’m making my own audience without the muscle of a big brand behind me. I also look at the time spent on a page and I see people have spent 2 or more minutes on it; that make me feel good that they’re not just clicking and going away.”
Rule No. 5 Turn Down Your Social Media
“I went to your event with [digital entrepreneur] Joanna Track where she said that she sets a timer for 15-20 minutes a day when she catches up on social media, then she puts it down to focus on other things. That also resonated with me and I’m trying my best to put that into practice. It has allowed me to focus on other things like reading more books and long-form articles instead of zoning out on Instagram. It’s hard for me to scroll though while I sit at home; I always have digital FOMO. I have to remind myself that what’s being photographed isn’t always as fun as it looks.
Michelle’s home is anything but average. Her husband Matt is 6’9″ tall and subtly you’ll notice the home’s proportions (the doorways, staircase, counter heights etc) have been cut to fit his stature (Michelle feels at home too; she’s 5’9″). “It’s the first time he’s ever had a chance to create a home where he won’t bump his head and where he can feel comfortable,” she says.
Keeping Matt’s height in mind, the kitchen cupboards above the stove are recessed so he doesn’t hit his head and they chose to keep the stove and hood fan against the wall for a clear line of sight through the kitchen. Stools, dwr.com.
“I love clothing and fashion but I’m not as into design. I used to think I was good at it until I met my husband. He does a better job at making design decisions than I do and I’m happy to have him take the lead.” She did however choose the lilac tile backsplash. “I’ve always loved purple. It’s one of those colours that has always made me happy.” Tiles, Ce.Si. available at Stone Tile.
An office chair that belonged to Michelle’s father-in-law finds a home in her work nook.
As an editor and writer, Michelle has an enviable collection of samples that are ready and waiting for her digital ink.
The light and airy kitchen subtly transitions to a palette than includes tonal greys and black.
Dining chairs, Eames from dwr.com; and large scale photograph by Toronto artist Joshua Jensen-Nagle.
The wallpaper in the main floor powder room caught our eye for good reason. “Mike D. From the Beastie Boys commissioned Flavor Paper from NYC to make him wallpaper for his house. They loved it so much they asked him if they could sell it.” The couple couldn’t help but get their hands on it too.
The entranceway to the third floor attic space is kitted with a must-see from Thrush Holmes.
“I interviewed Adria Vasil for my blog. She’s been an advocate for sustainable fashion or so long that she’s witnessed the trend come, go and now come back again. For example, she explains that the 2008 recession stopped an upward trend for conscious living because the bottom line became more important than thinking sustainably. And she reminded me that Aritzia was originally a sustainable brand.” Magnifeco: Your Head-to-Toe Guide to Ethical Fashion and Non-toxic Beauty by Kate Black; Green is the New Black by Tamsin Blandchard; Echoholic by Adria Vasil; and Style, Naturally: The Savvy Shopping Guide to Sustainable Fashion and Beauty by
Michelle is doing her best to be clean and green with her life and style, but admits the pay-off of some conventional products out-perform some non-toxic choices. Ombrelle Ultra Light Advance Tinted Face Lotion SPF 60; SunBum SPF50 Broad Spectrum UVA/UVB Protection; Island Joy Cuban Lemon Lip Scrub; and Nars Monoi Body Glow.
Her get-out-of-the-house routine is pared down but still impactful. Bite Beauty Agave Lip Balm; Eric Buterbaugh Florals in Sultry Rose; Charlotte Tilbury Magic Eye Rescue Eye Cream; and Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Red Carpet Red.
The shower must-haves she’s road-tested and approved: Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Special Shampoo & Conditioner, Dermalogica PreCleanse; Natural Grapefruit Himalayan Pink Salt Body Scrub; OGX Coconut Miracle Oil Shampoo and Conditioner; and Aveda Pramasana Purifying Scalp Cleanser.
Her daily staple is her Masur Gavriel Lady bag. “Matt bought it for me when I left The Kit as a congratulatory gift for going freelance.”
“I still love these shoes I bought for my wedding. I got them on sale at Hudson’s Bay. Their Tabitha Simmons and I got them for $250 from $1400.”
“This framed picture in our hallway is from Nepal. Matt always wanted to go and when I got pregnant he took the chance to go before the baby was born. He knew it would be a bad idea to go away for three weeks as a new dad. I was 8 months pregnant during his trip and when he came back, she was born 10 days later (she was also 10 days early).” He brought back artisanal beaded necklaces (below) for Michelle to mark his getaway and their newborn.
All her jewellery tells a story: She sought out earrings are by Dean Davidson for her wedding—and forgot to wear them during her pictures. “The bangle is vintage from Cynthia Findlay that I bought as a present for myself. The cameo is a gift from my father for my 18th birthday, the diamond ring belonged to my grandmother and we used it as my engagement ring. And the last ring is from Leah Alexandra who’s based out of Vancouver. I bought it to celebrate my pregnancy.” Her dad also gifted her with the necklace because they share the same birth date: Lucky number 13.