Meet My Mama: Mary Ostyn – {#Wholemama}

Sometimes when an idea starts to feel more confining than it used to it is good to talk to someone and just get a feel for how their life works if just for the sake of curiosity and sharing insight or encouragement. This is where #wholemama is taking me. I want to hear how life actually works for us #wholemamas in just a few kid-centered or creative details. And then share it all with you! :)

And even though this is my own mom we’re talking about -shouldn’t I know all this already? – I was very encouraged to read her responses to my questions :)

My family at Christmas. Just my siblings, parents, and the grandkids :)

I am so glad to have my mom as an example of being a #wholemama. I have 9 siblings between the ages of 11 and 27. Over the years she has published three books – A Sane Woman’s Guide to Raising a Large Family, Family Feasts for $75 a Week, and Forever Mom: What to Expect When You’re Adopting – and consistently created the time to pursue her own passions in all the chaos. She is still doing just that in these days with just five kids still at home, working part-time, building a grand adventure, and having grandkids to visit whenever possible. You can find her blog, books and latest projects at Owlhaven!



And the interview!

Often, I find it easier to talk like a #wholemama than to live like a #wholemama. How do you make it practical personally? Are there specific things you’ve chosen to do or not to do as a result?

I have a vivid memory from when you oldest 3 kids were all preschoolers. A friend came over and I was showing her some dresses that I’d just finished for you girls. She was awestruck that I’d found time to sew. I laughed and said something about my toilets that needed scrubbing.  Maybe it’s not quite that simple, but that’s the basic concept. I specifically allowed some parts of housework to slip so I could choose to nourish this passion of mine even in the midst of mothering little ones.

I continued to make choices like this through all our kids’ growing-up years. As kids grow, they can begin to take on more of the housework, and so things didn’t always look as chaotic as they sometimes did when you kids were tiny. But always I tried to make choices that were sustainable.  

Sometimes that meant giving up organized sports, or doing activities that several kids could enjoy together so that we’d have more time for storytime with Dad in the evenings. In some seasons I even limited playing with friends to a couple days a week, because I so much wanted to preserve time for siblings to play with each other.

Other times that meant being more careful with the grocery money so that we’d have money for a yearly vacation– or even more on point, so that we could afford for me to quit work and be at home full time.

Everything is a tradeoff, so I think a big key is being willing to release what is less important so that you can fit in what is soul-growing and life-sustaining.

As a mom of littles I want to teach my kids to be brave and intentional with their lives. How do you think we can teach our kids about chasing their dreams even in the midst of completely ordinary and full lives?

There are two main ways, I think.

First of all, to help kids explore their own interests– check out the library books, and get out the art supplies, and go see the interesting places.  Kids will often bop between lots of different interests, which can sometimes be disconcerting to us as parents. “What, you don’t want to learn guitar after all…?” But if we give them the flexibility to grow passions organically, we set the stage for them to be lifetime learners.

Second, I think it’s okay, and even important, to model passion in our own interests, to the degree that this current life stage allows. The trick with that, though, is to be mindful of how important it is to pull back from our pursuits when our kids need face time with us, and to make peace with the fact that ‘our’ stuff is going to take awhile to accomplish. In some stages of life, we may only get a 15-minute spell once or twice a day to work on what it ‘ours.’ And that’s okay.

What inspired you to start writing and keep writing? What are you most excited about in your creative life these days?

For me writing was a form of processing my life, of grabbing onto what was beautiful and good and right—- the stuff that I wanted to do more of– and getting it out on the page. I love to encourage people, and sharing that mothering experience with others was encouraging and motivating to me.

I have been blogging about motherhood and family life since 2006.( But these days I’m heading down a different, related rabbit trail.  John and I are building a beach house on the Oregon coast. Some of our very best family time has been at the ocean, and it’s been a dream of ours for a lot of years to have a place of our own over there. This summer we’re beginning the build of a really neat family home over there, and I am planning to blog about it all. (  I’m SOOOO excited!

What is your favorite way to spend a leisurely afternoon?

These days I have been spending way too much time dreaming on Pinterest, thinking through decisions about flooring and furniture and color schemes. We are designing a vacation house that will be really practical for a family, and so I want the finishes to be practical and hardworking. But we also plan vacations as retreats, places to get away from regular life. So I want this home to be visually beautiful as well—a place that wraps its arms around you and invites you to snuggle into a comfy chair and just be. A place of peace.

Can you tell me about a #wholemama moment or experience you had recently?

It actually happened over the course of a day. I work two nights a week as a nurse, and sometimes between their schedules and mine, I can go a day or two without seeing one of my older teens. So on this particular day I’d worked the night before, had to sleep most of the day, and then needed to work that next night. But somehow in this accidentally lovely choreography, I was able to talk to a couple of my kids earlier in the day before I went to bed, then caught another one in the afternoon when I woke up, and the other three kids just before I headed off to work. And in at least 3 cases, they were important, meaningful, connecting conversations, somehow managing to fit in just little slivers of time. It was such a gift, and really reassuring to me to see that, yes, this really was working, and our kids really are growing and thriving.

Do you have any questions for my mom?  :)

This month I’d like to again share some posts that made me think of all you mamas.


A Call to Learn This Rhythm by Jamie Wright Bagley – breath-taking poetry on empathy and mourning.

The Heritage of Faith by Heather Caliri for SheLoves – “But it’s not just strength I’m loving with. Not just mind. No, it’s soul and heart, too. Perhaps I should take it seriously if the latter two are lacking. Because the God I long to share with my kids is bigger than my bullet points. He is wholeness. He is a place to dwell.”

wholemamaWhat’s encouraging you? You can make your own collection to share or just link directly to the posts you’d like to share!


Our next prompted linkup is on July 5th with the word ‘spontaneous’.

If you’re curious about #wholemama go here or join our facebook group to get on the insider’s loop. :)


Find me on FacebookInstagram, and Goodreads!

One thought on “Meet My Mama: Mary Ostyn – {#Wholemama}

  1. Hey, Erika! Thanks so much for the link to my SHeLoves piece. Your mom’s wisdom and her patience inspire me. So important to choose parenting practices that nourish us that are also sustainable.


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