Nina Pierson: “Working, being a mother and running a household is not sustainable in the long term”

Interview by Ralph Edelstein.

Nina Pierson is serial entrepreneur. She is the founder of media platforms PUP and Bedrock, and together with her husband she started SLA, a successful organic salad bar chain. On Nina’s Instagram page, you will find pictures of her pumping breast milk at work. She aims to normalize the vulnerable aspects of motherhood, such as breastfeeding and giving birth.

 


What are you currently working on?
At the moment, I am writing a book on pregnancy that focuses on the woman. Babies only really need milk and loving attention. Therefore, it is essential that the mother feels good. That is why my book is all about the woman. I talk about things such as, what mothers can do to ease anxiety like meditation and yoga, but also about insights into healthy eating. I’ve also been talking to a neurologist to investigate how a woman’s brain changes when she becomes pregnant and what the effect is of the 200 hormones released during pregnancy.


So, in addition to everything you were already working on, you are starting something new?
Haha, yes, sometimes I get tired of myself… What characterizes me as an entrepreneur is that I always think from my own needs, out of my own urgency. I recently gave birth to my second child and I just really needed a book like this for myself.


What taboo do you break with your book?
I fight for openness about all the imperfections, setbacks and challenges that are part of motherhood. Instead of hiding them, I want to embrace them. I believe this is important in a society in which “picture perfect” seems to be the norm and there is no room for failures. I want to show people that I don’t have everything figured out, and that sometimes I also have to pump breast milk in a public bathroom of a café. I want to show that giving birth is excruciatingly painful and at the same time the most beautiful thing I have ever experienced. And also, that motherhood makes me extremely happy but can be enormously overwhelming as well. And I want to show that being a mother goes hand in hand with the other roles you have as a woman.


Why is that important?
Women have started to work more and more since the 60s’. And yet, we’re still expected to be a mother, and a housekeeper at the same time. Three tasks, all in one. It’s just not maintainable in the long run. That’s why we need to look for solutions. And one of them, which I really believe in, is to involve the partner more; ensuring you have an equal relationship, both professionally and as contributor to the household. Being a parent is the most undervalued, unpaid job. That’s why I filed a petition 1,5 years ago, to increase partner leave. That’s where it all starts. It’s so incredibly important for men to also be able to spend time at home and take care of their children, especially with a new-born. They have a much better system in Germany and Scandinavia. Hopefully, we’ll go to six weeks of leave by 2020 in the Netherlands. But it’s a long way from how things are in Germany, for example where partners get to divide twelve months between the two of them. The partner is even allowed to take an extra two months adding up to a total of 14 months. The two extra months are meant only for the partner, to encourage them to take the leave and spend time with their family. I hope we will get there as well.


You show the less attractive, vulnerable and insecure aspects of motherhood. What good does that do?
Actually, only positive comments. I am very pleased to receive many positive reactions from women who are happy that I’m sharing these things. I’ve been told that by sharing that I breastfeed in public, for example outside at the Artis Zoo, that other mothers dare to do the same. These women are a big inspiration to me. I’ve also heard back from women that are increasingly communicating what their limits are as a result of what I post online. A nice example is women indicating that they’d rather not receive a visit from their mother-in-law shortly after the delivery but want to have the first two weeks to themselves. I see women are getting more empowered to do these kinds of things.


What does feminism mean to you in this day and age?
The most important thing to me is that women dare to make a choice that is right for them. Whether that is having a career or being a stay at home mother. If it’s a choice out of free will, then that’s great. A friend of mine quit her job to become a full-time mom. She received quite a lot of criticism about how she was a bad example. I perceive feminism to be something really different than this. To me, a woman who consciously chooses to be a mother 100% of the time can be a full-fledged feminist. If this decision was made from her own free will then that is amazing! I believe that to be a greater act of feminism than feeling miserable at a day job because society expects that of you.


How is all of this reflected in running a business together with your husband, Jop?
Interesting question, haha! Well, I must admit that I have to keep working at finding that balance. Fortunately, I have a husband that takes on an equal role and respects me and encourages me to follow my heart. In practice, it is the case that I take on more tasks and responsibilities to do with our children than he does, but this is a decision that we make together. Let me give you a nice example: Just recently, the kindergarten was organizing a field trip for the kids. I told Jop it would be nice for him to join for a change. At first, he resisted a bit, because ‘too busy’ and such, but in the end, he agreed with me. He ended up being the only dad among twenty mothers. That says a lot. And it makes me very proud that we decided this together!

 

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