Heather van Mil’s daughter Adri is doing very well these days.
Born with a congenital heart defect, Adri underwent open heart surgery at just 17 days old.
“That was definitely a rocky start to parenting to go from no kids to a critically ill child,” notes Heather.
Now seven years old, Adri is quite well. “She’s very healthy,” says Heather. “We’re really lucky.”
Adri now has a little sister as well and Heather says being a mom continues to come with some surprises.
“I think it’s probably a lot more humbling than I expected. You have to let a lot go. I can’t worry that my house isn’t clean all the time, I can’t worry about a lot of different things. And I have to also let a lot go in terms of letting my kids make their own choices,” she says.
Even without a medical crisis, parenting in general can be challenging and sifting through the digital deluge of information these days can add to the effort.
“I love information. I’m an information junkie. I’m constantly Googling things. And so I like to learn, I like to find out new ideas and then I talk to people,” says Heather.
But sometimes it’s hard to know what information and advice to follow, she notes.
“You really need to trust your instincts and find out what works best for you and understand that it’s not necessarily going to be the same as your best friend or as your co-worker. You have to really, really trust that you can figure out what’s best for your child.”
She says after her second child was born it got easier to accept that there wasn’t a “one-size-fits-all” answer to parenting questions.
Just two years ago, Heather started her own business focusing on social media marketing called Word of Mom Marketing. She now works full-time on the venture.
“It’s definitely a challenge,” she says of being a parent and starting her own business. “Juggling is definitely a good word.”
She is currently working with the upcoming Healthy Family Expo event, a connection she made through a mommy meet-up group run by North Vancouver resident Angela Santoro, who launched the new consumer trade show with Kay Protheroe three years ago. The pair were looking to grow the event and Heather liked their message and what they were trying to do.
“It really helps me to provide an authentic voice for these vendors and for the expo itself. I am their target demographic, I am their audience. I’m the people who they want to talk to so I can really help make that a meaningful conversation.”
Heather explains that parents are inundated with messages about what they should or shouldn’t do for their kids and much of it follows a hard line. Militant advice is not easy for families to follow, suggests Heather, noting the expo instead promotes businesses and services that offer small steps and simple solutions towards active, eco-friendly living.
Heather says all the participants have been vetted by the show’s two producers to make sure they fit the expo’s philosophy. “What the expo aims to do is to bridge that gap and to show families you don’t have to do it all.”
The Healthy Family Expo is on Sunday, March 6 at the Vancouver Convention Centre and will feature businesses, products, suppliers, and food and drink sampling, as well as a 10,000-square-foot active kids zone with rock climbing wall and run-bike races.