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When Hein Koh became a mother to twin girls, the accomplished sculptor worried about how motherhood would affect her career.
Her daughters, Amelia and Oneida, are now seventeen months old, and the New York artist says becoming a mom has made her a better artist who works more efficiently and finds daily inspiration by seeing the world through her young daughters' eyes.
In a private Facebook post when her girls were five weeks old, Koh shared a photo of breastfeeding the twins in her Brooklyn apartment, while she worked on her laptop. At the time, Koh says she captioned the image "multitasking," assuming her friends and family would find it funny.
Recently, however, Koh shared the candid photo publicly, along with a heartfelt message penned to encourage other moms.
"What I am saying is that parenting is like any other challenge in life," Koh wrote in the now viral post. "And if you embrace it and figure out creative solutions, you can emerge a better person. It's important to think about the ways in which these challenges can help you move forward, rather than hold you back."
Koh was inspired to write the post in response to a recent article, which quoted fellow artist Marina Abramovic as saying having children would have been "a disaster for her work." In an interview with The Guardian, Abramovic admitted to having three abortions, because she feared having a child would divide her energy and detract from her art.
"I understood where she was coming from...it's a prevalent view in the art world — but I'm sick of all this prejudice towards motherhood in the art world," Koh told TODAY Parents. "People just assume you won't be as committed — that because your attention is divided between family and career, then you're just not as committed of an artist."
"I wrote that heartfelt blurb about how motherhood has actually made me a better artist, because it's a fraught conversation that we have in the art community," Koh continued. "So many artists I know — particularly female artists — are conflicted about having kids and I just wanted to let them know that having kids doesn't necessarily mean death to your creativity and career."
While Koh says her post was targeted to her fellow female artists, her words have now reached thousands, something she says has shocked her and her husband, James Horowitz.
"I am still reeling (from the attention the post has received) and I think it resonated with so many moms because they were impressed with the fact that I was getting anything done while breastfeeding — they know how hard that is, especially since I have two babies."
"I think they appreciated my words — a positive message about how you don't have to give up on your dreams when you become a mom, that challenges can actually make you a better person and better at what you do," Koh said. "I think the photo and my message celebrated...the kinds of heroic things that moms do in private, just trying to keep up with our own lives. Every mom is a heroine in that sense."
Koh has some advice for her fellow heroines, especially those just beginning the journey of motherhood.
"Be kind to yourself and enlist help when needed," said Koh. "I'm being hailed as a 'mom boss' and 'shero,' but I didn't mean to set any sort of precedent or expectation that new moms should be working soon after giving birth. Everyone has a different amount of energy, resources and support, and no one should feel...inadequate if they are not doing as much as the next mom. We are all just doing the best we can."
Koh says spending time away from her daughters while working has been a way for her to care for herself and recharge.
"When I go to my studio, I can return home and feel refreshed so I can truly enjoy my kids," said Koh. "I want my kids to grow up seeing that their mom pursued what she loves to do, that she didn't give it up and become resentful towards them for thwarting her dreams," said Koh. "I want to pass that along to them — the idea that they, too, can pursue their passions, no matter the circumstances, and do whatever makes them happy."
Also surprising to Koh have been the critical comments and articles written in response to her post.
"I've received a lot of praise for the photo, but also a lot of attacks as well," said Koh. "It's unfortunate that moms are always the first to judge other moms. If anything, I'm glad that my photo and post are opening up a lot of questions about motherhood, career and feminism."