This month, I have the pleasure of introducing you to an amazing mama and new friend of mine, Gillian Behnke, of @momcamplife and Mom Camp: The Camp. She is a fellow mama of two (a boy and girl), a hardworking career lady who started her own brand and business. Let's find out a little more about Gillian, shall we?
Gillian Behnke was one of the speakers at a Leading Moms Vancouver event I attended in May of 2019. I heard her speak about having worked herself to her limits and her inspirational journey to get back to who Gillian is while balancing the demands of a busy career as well as being a wife and mom (in no particular order).
Since that event, I have followed her Instagram account, @momcamplife, which is an encouraging reminder that we can have balance, health and fun in our lives as moms. She created Mom Camp: The Camp that I attended last year and I am so happy that she agreed to answer a few questions for me!
What makes you who you are? Who is Gillian?!
Wow, this first one is a tough one! I think I am still figuring that out, every day. My first go-to would be wife and mother, but this question is about me, so beyond those two very important roles…I am a sensitive, loving, motivated, self-loving AND self-deprecating, efficient, sarcastic, problem solver.
What is momcamplife? Where did the inspiration come from for you to start your Instagram account and website?
Mom Camp and @momcamplife is a place for moms to find the community, tools and resources to make their lives better. That might mean finding ways to get themselves back on their priority list, to manage their time in a new way, to set some boundaries for themselves and their family, or to make time for self-care. And most of all, to know that they’re not alone in the feelings that come with being a busy working mom. We always hear that it takes a village to raise a child, but I also say that it takes a village to raise a MOM. We need that community and support for ourselves, as well as our kids.
As for the inspiration…I think it was more desperation than inspiration! I was in a particularly stressful time at home and work. It was the second week of June, and at work we plan the biggest Canada Day celebration outside of Ottawa, so three weeks out from July 1 is a critical planning time. Lots of pressure, lots of final details. It was also just before the end of school and our son gets really anxious as we head towards any kind of big transition, so his behaviour was pretty challenging. I was on my way to work one morning having just had a before-school battle and heading to what I knew would be a crazy day, and I said (probably out loud, I tend to talk to myself in the car):
“I want to just get away. Into the forest, away from everything. I want to go to camp.” And then immediately I said “MOM CAMP.”
It was crystal clear – a summer camp-style getaway, with cabins, a dining hall, activities, campfires, and community. Because I knew if I needed a getaway like that, others would too.
It was a couple of months later, with this camp idea rumbling around in my brain, that I was at a personal development conference. On the final day, during one of the last speakers, I got what I can only describe as a bolt of inspiration lightning right to my brain – “Mom Camp isn’t about creating a place for moms to run away to. It’s about helping them create a life they don’t want to run away from.” It’s about MORE than just camp. It’s about solutions, it’s about support, it’s about community. And that’s where @momcamplife came from.
Have you always been a motivational/public speaker? What is your background?
I have a varied background from theatre to radio to marketing to events, so the answer is “no, but … ” I have always loved helping people, and helping connect them with solutions that might make their lives better, get them out of a tough situation, etc. Also, I get super inspired when I’m talking with someone and we’re brainstorming how to attack a problem, but it’s almost always been one on one. I went to school for theatre, and I love being on stage and part of that magical experience, but also get crazy nervous. Like crazy, stomach issue nervous, which is why acting isn’t really a part of my life anymore. But there’s something about public speaking, when I remind myself that helping someone, connecting with one person in the audience that might find help in something I say, that is so much more important than a nervous tummy.
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Picture it: two nights away just for you. Campfires. Bunk beds. Awesome food. Incredible presenters. Downtime. Pyjama dance party. Workouts. Archery. Wine. It's HAPPENING! April 24-26 in Squamish, BC. Just like a traditional sleepaway camp, but designed specifically for moms. You deserve this two-night retreat, mama. It's a chance to refill your bucket and make yourself a priority. It's your time to relax, recharge, and reconnect - both to your community and to yourself. Go to the link in my bio for all the details and registration. Space is limited and early bird pricing is on now until January 31!
What is the best part about being a mom? The most difficult?
The best part is watching them turn into little humans right in front of your eyes. To hear them say something, observe something on their own, with their own lens and interpretation. I would say that’s also one of the difficult parts, because the more they become their own little humans the more you realize you have to release control and let them experience things for themselves. It's slightly terrifying.
I would say the MOST difficult thing for me is patience. Our son is diagnosed with high functioning ASD as well as ADHD. That comes with a whole ton of challenges, but also a ton of amazing moments. Remembering to be patient and to try and see the situation through his eyes is a constant challenge, especially as we’re still learning every day about how he interprets situations and sees the world. Roll that into also trying to teach them responsibility and get them to do their chores, homework, be kind to each other. Patience runs pretty thin sometimes.
With that patience struggle also comes a huge dose of “am I screwing this up?” Is this the one thing they will remember and be talking to their therapist about twenty years from now?
We can only do the best we can do, but that’s why it’s so important that we take time for ourselves. If not, we can get in this downward spiral of tired > stress > no patience > guilt > shame and it can be tough to pull yourself out. Self-care, self-compassion and time for ourselves to just have mental and emotional space, is SO key. It gives you the capacity to get out of that spiral, or to avoid it all together.
What was your favourite part about Mom Camp: The Camp?
The women that were there. Especially when we were all gathered in the Fireside Lounge, fireplace burning, chatting openly. I love that everyone came open and totally free of judgement. So much laughter and community, right from the first moment.
Tell us about the future of Mom Camp: The Camp and momcamplife!
Definitely another Camp! I'm working to run a camp retreat at least twice a year. And I would love to see it in different locations in the future. I just launched the Mom Camp: Around the Campfire podcast, so I am looking forward to growing that and interviewing more and more amazing moms that can offer solutions and inspiration for the audience. In the new year I will be running some online programs and workshops, and the ideas are still coming!
InHERview Rapid Fire Favourites:
Book: 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins
Lunch spot: Anywhere where I can see the ocean, but while I’m at work I would have to say Rogue Kitchen & Wetbar across from Canada Place in Vancouver. It’s close and the menu is awesome.
TV Show: Madam Secretary
Vacation spot: Maui
Hobby: I’ve been pretty bad at keeping my hobbies top of mind in this season of creating Mom Camp, but I love knitting, crafts, gardening, reading, and travel.
Drink: English Breakfast tea, or a delicious glass of wine.
Place: The seawall from Ambleside to Dundarave in West Vancouver. Sitting or walking, staring at the ocean.
Mom Camp 2019 Post Axe-Throwing
I want to thank Gillian for her honesty and taking the time to share her story with me. I have been so inspired, getting to know such a strong, positive and honest woman. Please check out her Instagram and listen to her podcast if you get the chance! Even better, if you're a mom that just wants some time to get back to the roots of the woman you are underneath the spit up, drool, practices and PAC meetings, then Mom Camp: The Camp might just be for you. I highly recommend it! Visit Gillian's website here for more information.
On a final note, I am so happy to be sharing these powerful and amazing women with you. I am building my mom tribe, one amazing woman at a time.