As it sometimes happens in life, I met Christina trough two friends – she went to school with Nadine and has been friends with another good friend for quite some time now. We quickly agreed that Christina would become our go-to photographer in Amsterdam, but then, when we got to know each other, we decided to do a portrait of her too!
Even if she feels uncomfortable in front of the camera, you have to meet this interesting woman. Christina has three businesses running – and a daughter who just turned one. And even though she calls herself “not very motherly”, she somehow doesn’t struggle with motherhood at all. But she unfortunately completely changed the picture perfect image I had about having kids in the Netherlands… but read for yourself:
Wie das Leben manchmal so spielt, lernte ich Christina Schumacher gleich über zwei Ecken kennen: sie ging mit Nadine zur Schule und ist außerdem seit langer Zeit mit einer guten Freundin befreundet. Schnell war klar: Christina wird die Fotografin unseres Vertrauens in Amsterdam! Und dann, als wir immer mehr Kontakt hatten, beschlossen wir: Erstmal machen wir ein Portrait von dir! Auch wenn Christina sich vor der Kamera unwohl fühlt, wollten wir euch diese interessante Frau nicht vorenthalten. Sie halt parallel drei Geschäftsmodelle am Laufen und eine Tochter, die gerade ein Jahr alt geworden ist. Und obwohl sie von sich selbst behauptet, “nicht so der mütterliche Typ zu sein”, hadert sie selten bis nie mit ihrer Mutterschaft. Leider hat sie aber das Idealbild, das ich vom Kinderhaben in den Niederlanden hatte, etwas auf den Kopf gestellt… Doch lest selbst:
Dieses Interview ist vorerst nur auf Englisch verfügbar, wird aber bald übersetzt!
Hi Christina! You’re actually German right? But you grew up in France… How did that happen?
Well, my German parents moved to the South of France in Antibes about 40 years ago and due to an unforeseen event in their travel they decided to stay and live there. Lucky for me and my brother it was not the worse spot to be born and grow up!
Antibes! Sounds idyllic!
That’s true! Growing up where people usually go on holidays is not too bad! Thanks to my parent’s adventurous approach of life, I grew up in an international environment since they were Germans living in France. At home we got to speak German, at school French and English. In the South of France the living conditions are pretty amazing, you live close to the sea and are surrounded by nature. It was nice!
You’ve seen quite a bit of the world and ended up in Amsterdam. Would you say it’s a good spot to strike roots and to grow a family?
Amsterdam is definitely child friendly, but my boyfriend Remy and I didn’t choose that city based on this aspect at the time. We travelled quite a bit beforehand and lived in Hong Kong and New York. It was a fantastic experience to discover new cultures, foods, lifestyles and on top of it we got the chance to meet amazing people we’re still in touch nowadays. Once we were done with our expeditions we decided to move back to Europe to be closer to our families. Amsterdam came as a natural choice since Remy is native dutch. When we moved there 7 years ago we were far from thinking of having a child. We mostly liked the laid back lifestyle approach compared to other capitals in Europe. If you compare it to Berlin or Paris, Amsterdam is still a village, which we liked after living in fast paced cities.
You actually have three businesses – and a little daughter who just turned one. How do you manage all that?
Our daughter is being taken care of 3 days a week by a caretaker. Those days are fully dedicated to my work and my business. I mostly work from home which allows me to be very flexible and cost efficient. I shoot packshots, do webdesign and run my webshop – and most of it, I do from my living room!
What’s a usual day like in your family?
Remy and I get babyzilla ready in the morning, give her a bath, get her dressed and ready to spend the day with the caretaker. Remy is off to work and I then glue myself in front of the computer or camera for the rest of the day. When Lise is at home I continue to work when she naps or in between when mademoiselle allows it! On weekends we always spend time all together and go out to meet friends or alike, we also like to do little day trips here and there.
Most people praise the Netherlands for their good and early child care system, you have a more critical point of view, right?
Yes. I don’t think it’s bad but I find it extremely expensive. €1000/months for 3 days a week at the daycare is crazy don’t you think, how do people cope? Also mothers get only 16 weeks work leave compared to a year in Germany. My experience was after 3 months sleepless nights and all the birth aftermath you’re barely physically out of the wood, don’t you think?
Totally. I couldn’t have gone back to work so early either… And the costs, I had no idea? Is every crêche so expensive?
It’s the case for all daycares – at least in Amsterdam – and there used to be 50% tax deductions but since 2013 the ruling changed. Therefore Lise has not started daycare yet, as we opted for a more reasonable option until she will begin in June. So far a caregiver took care of her but now since she’s one year old you can clearly see that she needs to spend time with her equals.
But in general it’s quite easy and common to combine work and family life there, or not? Don’t destroy my illusion!
Haha, yes. It is commonly accepted by dutch employers for a mother to work 4 days a week. I don’t think many other countries are so understanding of a mother’s life organisation. For the rest if you don’t have in laws or family around make sure you earn a good living! It’s more pricey than you would think…
And how is it to freelance…?
I love it! I get to be my own boss and feel more free than when I had a 9:00 – 5:00 job. Freelancing is not made for everyone though, you need to be quite organised and disciplined in order to get things done. Also some people might feel lonely but I don’t really have that issue. When I’m done with my 4 walls I get out and meet someone.
I must say one of the things I love in Amsterdam is that you always get a glimpse of how people live because there are no curtains! You apartment is truly pretty. How did you choose the interior?
Thanks for the compliment! I guess over the years you start putting things together. When we moved to Amsterdam after living in Hong Kong and New York we never knew that we would stay there until now so there was not much planning behind it in the first place. And I’m very sorry to break the myth but we do actually have curtains!
And how do you keep it neat?
Of course I cleaned up for the shoot! But still Remy and I like to keep it neat and try to stay organised as much as possible. My tiny secret is: Clean up mess right away! And having a great boyfriend who helps a lot and is more a neat freak then myself!!
With all the struggles – when do you find time for yourself and with your partner?
I don’t think we see real struggles, it’s just that your lifestyle changes a little and you need to adjust to it. As you say in french you should not start to drown yourself in a glass of water (se noyer dans un verre d’eau) and it all can workout nicely. Of course, the downside of having a child is that you can’t do things together anymore unless you get a babysitter since our families are abroad. Our solution to this is actually to invite often people at home so you can spend nice time with your friend while your child is sleeping. Alternatively we get a babysitter or ask friends depending on the occasion.
You say you haven’t been very motherly before you had Lise. How did she change you?
A friend told me once that I stayed true to myself even though I became a mother, so I’m trying to keep that spirit up. What really changed is that I go out less!! So much less! But now I could not picture my life without our little babyzilla, a child does grow on you!
Any more kids planned?
It’s not in the planning, and to be honest we might be completely happy with a single child. I’m not a single child myself, but my father is and my boyfriend as well. I don’t think it’s bad at all! And kids are challenging and expensive, plus life is getting more and more competitive. Sometimes I feel it’s actually insane to put any child into this mad world. But you never know maybe in couple of year I’ll speak differently and feel like having a baby again.
What’s the most annoying part of motherhood?
I guess that you’re always the one in charge. You never can have a break or say today I don’t feel like it, I need a time-out, that just doesn’t happen.
And what’s the best part?
Lately she starts to speak and hearing her say mama and papa is heart-melting! Generally I would say observing a little one growing and making it’s way through life. that’s the best part….
Thank you, Christina!
Christina Schumacher with Lise (13 months), April 2015
Interview: Isabel Robles Salgado
Photography: Christina Schumacher / Stephanie Koning
Find more about Christinas work as a Photographer here.