Heather Deyo's home in Jacksonville FL, featured by top design blog, Design Mom on their Living with Kids series

Heather Deyo is goals. She’s mostly raised her kids and has only her youngest child still at home. Her house is gorgeous but she is already making plans to downsize. And she is the perfect example of living life well — her kids are successful and all-around decent human beings, she has done incredible work to help survivors of human trafficking, and to help with the HIV/AIDS crisis in South Africa. Heather is well-read, well-traveled, and has deep well of parenting wisdom to share. I’m so excited for you to meet her. Welcome, Heather Deyo!

Hi! I’m Heather Deyo, and I live in Jacksonville, Florida with my husband, Seth, and our twelve year old son, Tommy. Seth is the chief financial officer for a finance company, and I’m a Development Director for an anti-trafficking organization.

I’m different from most of the Living with Kids moms in that I’m on the tail end of living with my kids. Seth and I are parents to four great kids but our first three are college-aged or older, so now it’s just us, Tommy, and too many pets, living under this roof.

We met 27 years ago as CPAs working for a large public accounting firm. In a very non-accountant-ish move, we got engaged three weeks later, and married a few months after that! I have no idea what we were thinking, but hey, it worked. Our favorite thing to do together is anything outdoors — swimming, going to the beach, hiking, white water rafting, exploring new places, or just taking the dog for a walk. Seth is in amazing shape and has off the charts energy, and I’m just competitive enough that I try and keep up! 

Heather Deyo's home in Jacksonville FL, featured by top design blog, Design Mom on their Living with Kids seriesHeather Deyo's home in Jacksonville FL, featured by top design blog, Design Mom on their Living with Kids series

I grew up in Durban, South Africa, during apartheid. My ancestors moved there from England in the 1800’s so we were fully South African, but my parents were progressive and unsupportive of the apartheid government. We had an easy life surrounded by family and friends in a beautiful home on the Indian Ocean. But my mom says that she could never forget the fact that our ease was built on the backs of others’ pain, and they didn’t want my younger brothers doing mandatory military service for a government they opposed.

We emigrated to the U.S. when I was in high school. We were an English-speaking, financially comfortable family from a relatively stable country, so it should have been easy, but it was one of the hardest experiences of my life. Despite apartheid, from which I was largely sheltered as a child, I had a magical, nature-filled childhood and was close to my extended family. Although we went back several times, this was well before the days of modern technology, and communication was rare and expensive, so it felt like a complete break-up. But my parent’s willingness to give up their lives of privilege and comfort for their principles made a life-long impression on me. May I be so brave when it counts! 

Heather Deyo's home in Jacksonville FL, featured by top design blog, Design Mom on their Living with Kids series

Seth is kind, patient, calm, and loyal, and is the least pretentious person I know. He has a great sense of humor, and is smart as a whip. No one sails through 26 year of marriage without some hard work, but we’re a great team and are each other’s best friends. He grew up in the upper Midwest, in a tiny town surrounded by cornfields. His only brother was born with a congenital condition and had severe cognitive and physical limitations, so patience and service were the cornerstones of Seth’s childhood, and it shows.

Our kids adore their dad. We have a secret text thread where we share the endearing things he does, which are many. His latest discovery is Bitmoji. Seeing a 50-year-old executive sending his grown kids heart bitmojis is the best.

Heather Deyo's home in Jacksonville FL, featured by top design blog, Design Mom on their Living with Kids series

Will, 24, is our oldest child and is married to beautiful Faith. To have Will for a first child has been a gift. He has a strength of character and a level of integrity that makes me feel that “my work here is done.” He’s considerate, humble, loving, and extremely goal oriented. He and Faith live in Brooklyn, New York where he’s a tech guy and Faith is a tour guide at the Tenement Museum (she’s incredible, ask for her tour if you visit!). Will chose a rigorous high school which allowed him to graduate early from college, so he’s been working for his company since he was 21. We miss them terribly, but they’re great about keeping in touch with all of us, and now we have an excuse to go to New York!

They’re passionately involved in local politics and live out their principles and beliefs in a way that inspires me. Faith lived with us for two years while Will was in college several hours away, and we’re all very close to her. She’s incredibly artistic and is an all around brilliant, thoughtful, and creative person, and our lives are so much richer since she’s been with us.

When they got engaged they asked if we’d have the wedding at our house because it was the place that meant the most to them. It took a little convincing, and a lot of work, but I’m so glad we made it happen. Last Thanksgiving weekend we had over one hundred family and friends here for a ceremony, dinner, and dancing. All of our family flew in, and between them and the other guests, mostly Will and Faith’s friends, we had a blast!  It took me and the house about a month to recover, and I’ve officially told my other kids they’re not getting married at home! 

Heather Deyo's home in Jacksonville FL, featured by top design blog, Design Mom on their Living with Kids series

Max, 22, is a senior in college here in Jacksonville and is the most creative, and probably the strongest person I know. When he first told us he wanted to be a creative writing major we were not thrilled about it — he was always a math kid and we are two accountants; we had high (and boring) hopes! But he’s got some crazy talent and has already been published in some great literary journals and is making a name for himself in that world. He lives in an apartment about 30 minutes from our house and although he loves us and his baby brother dearly, the washer and dryer at our house is the greatest lure home.

Anna, 19, is our only girl and is a velvet hammer. She’s kind, gentle, and compassionate, but she has a core of steel and knows her worth and her mind. She went to a performing arts high school for vocal performance and theater, but shortly before college she decided to change directions and took herself off on a self-planned, self-funded, hair-raising (for us) service gap year around the world. It was a life changing and liberating experience for her.

She’s now a freshman in college about 3 hours away, and will probably end up doing something medical or humanitarian, although she has so many interests it will be interesting to see which one wins out. She and I are really close and have an intuitive bond. This separation is hard, but it’s good for me to see her as a strong, autonomous young woman, not just my sweet little girl. 

Heather Deyo's home in Jacksonville FL, featured by top design blog, Design Mom on their Living with Kids series

Tommy is our baby and is the most agreeable, least angsty pre-teen I’ve ever met. I’m sure we over-parent him since he’s the only one still left at home, but he’s loving and patient with us and never complains. He’s easy and easy-going, has a wicked sense of humor for his age, and gets on with school, with sports, with people, and with life. Sometimes I feel like we’re the grandparents rather than the parents; he doesn’t require a ton of direction or discipline and we all adore him.

We’ve done this enough times to know that the high school years may bring a new story, but we’ll coast on this joy as long as it lasts! He’s so much younger than the others that most people think he was an oops, but he was actually the most planned of our kids! We thought we’d have another after him, but I wasn’t good at late in life pregnancies, so we called it a day. Seth calls Tommy “the best decision we ever made” and he’s right, it is SUCH a gift to get to do this whole parenting thing all over again! We’re far more relaxed with him, and have a much better idea of what’s important and what’s not. 

Heather Deyo's home in Jacksonville FL, featured by top design blog, Design Mom on their Living with Kids seriesHeather Deyo's home in Jacksonville FL, featured by top design blog, Design Mom on their Living with Kids series

Our four kids are so different but they’re all close, which is something I never thought I’d say when they were in middle school! (Why do kids decide they’re best friends when they go to college?!) They’re also all funny and all hard workers. Sometimes life throws you a bone and I’m so glad that no matter what we’ve faced as a family, we’ve rarely been boring or lazy! 

Few families escape major challenges and ours is no exception. Since Max, our second child, was a little boy, he’s struggled with a severe panic disorder, OCD, depression, and other mental health issues. His onset was early, and he’s been in treatment since he was seven. We had many hard years, and I wouldn’t wish the pain Max has suffered on anyone, but I’m convinced his illness is one of the reasons our family is so close.

When he was young, a psychiatrist told us that a child’s mental health issues resulted in damaged marriages and families over 90% of the time. As young parents, that was a scary statistic and one we were determined to beat. We chose our activities carefully, and intentionally built a large circle of supportive and understanding friends who carried us through many difficult seasons. Of course, people aren’t perfect, and sometimes we’ve been stung by words, actions, or judgements of others, and on occasion we’ve had to make hard decisions about relationships.

As the young parents of a child with mental health issues, it was easy to second guess our every decision, and to waste time and emotional energy sifting through well-intended but mostly useless advice and opinions. The silver lining of this is that we now have a well developed intuition and confidence about what works for our family on every level, not just in relation to mental health. 

Heather Deyo's home in Jacksonville FL, featured by top design blog, Design Mom on their Living with Kids series

One of the greatest challenges in raising any child with chronic illness, either mental or physical, is teaching them how to take ownership of it themselves. So many kids go off their meds, or ignore their health in other ways when they leave home. From an early age, Max had a say in decisions about his health. We, he, and his doctors were a team of partners, each sometimes pulling more weight than the others, but as Max grew into adulthood, the medication decisions became his. We also made him practically responsible for his care, filling out his own paperwork and managing his medications. We all do a lot of research and trust that we’re on the cutting edge of available treatments. As a result he owns his health and takes it seriously.

Despite the curve ball life has thrown him, he’s one of the most emotionally healthy people I know. He’s realistic about his challenges but doesn’t have a victim mentality. He knows that some people have it easier, and that others don’t. He’s honest, communicative, considerate, and has strong integrity and healthy boundaries. He’s true to himself and his needs when making life decisions. He’s respectful but not a pleaser and is successful in his life. He has great relationships with us, with his siblings, with his friends, and with Emily, his lovely girlfriend of five years. He’s confident and accomplished and people are often shocked to find out that he’s struggled so severely.

Mental health trials can come in the most unlikely packages. As he’s matured we’ve let him take the lead on telling his story — there’s such shame around mental health issues and while we never wanted to play into that (we’ve always treated his condition in the same way we would if he had, say, diabetes) we also didn’t want to make privacy decisions for him that he may have resented in adulthood. But he’s very open about his story, and through that he’s been great at breaking the stigma in our community. 

Heather Deyo's home in Jacksonville FL, featured by top design blog, Design Mom on their Living with Kids series 

Florida is a quirky state, but for the most part we love living here. Jacksonville is in the northeast of Florida, on the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a city of about a million, bisected by the beautiful St. John’s River. We followed Seth’s career here in 1997 when the city was still very provincial and Southern. Things have changed, and we now have a great local culture with excellent sports (Go Jags!), entertainment, food, and beaches. If you can put up with blazing heat in September and the occasional hurricane, Jacksonville is a terrific and affordable place to live.

Our neighborhood is aptly named Deerwood — we share this space with many deer and beautiful birds. Deerwood was started in the seventies and no two homes are alike. It has everything from traditional brick. to modern like ours, surrounded by huge old oaks, magnolias, maples, birch, and dozens of varieties of palms. The route to my house is covered in a canopy of oaks — it looks like something out of a fairytale.

Heather Deyo's home in Jacksonville FL, featured by top design blog, Design Mom on their Living with Kids series

We’re five minutes from the three major highways, and 20 minutes from the beach. Ten years ago our neighborhood was fully suburban, but as the city has built outward we’re now a hybrid. Turn left and in half a mile you’re in full suburbia with public tennis courts, parks, and fancy grocery stores. Turn right and you’re soon in an urban setting with city busses, ethnic groceries, diverse people and languages, and tight parking.

When we moved here 20 years ago I was worried about a lack of diversity, and I’m ever conscious that we live in the South where sadly, some attitudes lag. We’ve happily landed in the middle of Jacksonville’s large Indian community and have loved the friends we’ve made and the diversity it’s brought to this part of town. 

Heather Deyo's home in Jacksonville FL, featured by top design blog, Design Mom on their Living with Kids series

I found our house in the weirdest way! Years ago I got hopelessly lost in our now-neighborhood and remember driving by this house and thinking what a cool house it would be to live in. A few years later I drove by the house again and saw a for sale sign in the yard. On a whim I rang the doorbell, and three months later we were living here! We weren’t even looking to move and didn’t look at any other homes. This was in 2007, right before the bottom fell out of the market, but we got it for the decent price of $527k.

Our house is 4200 square feet on close to an acre with a pool, but it was leaking like a sieve, the floors were peeling up, it had iridescent purple tile, and a backyard that looked like a gator-haven. Over the next few years we did several major projects, and spent over $150k on mostly un-glamourous stuff — sealing the whole house, cleaning dumpsters-worth of dead landscaping out of the yard, pool refinishing, new roof, floors, kitchen, pipes, wiring, etc.

Heather Deyo's home in Jacksonville FL, featured by top design blog, Design Mom on their Living with Kids series

Our main requirement when picking materials was “does it hide dirt and is it indestructible”, but we also try for pretty, cozy, bright, and modern. I’m a huge believer in the impact that both nature and design have on mental health so we took out walls and added big windows so that every room has a full view of trees or water.

We’re picky about what goes on the walls and surfaces. Everything means something to us, and nothing is precious or bought just to fill an empty shelf. We all love handmade and regional/traditional pieces, and prefer clean lines and lots of negative space. I’m the queen of repurposing, most things in here are on their second or third lives.

We didn’t rush filling the house and collected most of our things over years of life, travel, and experiences. I don’t ever want it to look like we just ordered it all from a catalog! I don’t believe in bricks and mortar having a soul, but if I did, this house would have a good one. We’ve hosted birthday, graduation, and pool parties, reunions, tons of house guests, and even a few wedding receptions and house concerts, and given our kids a great place to come home to.

Heather Deyo's home in Jacksonville FL, featured by top design blog, Design Mom on their Living with Kids series

We’re incredibly fortunate to have a family home in rural Italy. It’s a beautiful and serene place that was originally a fifteenth century Jesuit monastery. It’s not fancy at all, in fact it’s very basic, as you’d imagine a monastery to be. But it’s set in a stunning Umbrian village and the home — actually three small buildings — wraps around a flower-filled and peaceful garden.

When my big kids were young we spent weeks there at a time each summer. We’d take very little from home, just some books and clothes. The village is tiny, and there’s not much to do so we’d take long walks, make good food, read and draw, and the kids were so content. Those summers taught me that you can live with very little in terms of space, clothing and personal possessions for a long time and that simple is often best. 

Heather Deyo's home in Jacksonville FL, featured by top design blog, Design Mom on their Living with Kids series

I’ve kept our village experiences in mind as our children and their possessions have left home. I’m largely driven by the principal of no-waste: no wasted space, no wasted possessions, no wasted experiences, and I can’t get past the feeling that this, our Florida home, is wasted on our now-smaller family. It’s been the perfect place to raise a large, active family, but I don’t want to waste my later middle age years taking care of empty spaces, and I sense our time here is winding down.

Of course, when that time comes we’ll be so sad to say goodbye, we love this house so much, but I’m excited  to make new memories, take on new challenges, and get out of my comfort zone! I have no idea where we’ll end up but I want it to be an adventure, just like living here has been.

Heather Deyo's home in Jacksonville FL, featured by top design blog, Design Mom on their Living with Kids series

In 2006 Seth and I took the kids back to South Africa. I hadn’t been back in a long time and was devastated to see the ravages of AIDS. A few years later, not having a clue what I was doing, and with the help of my church, family, and a few visionary friends, I started an HIV/AIDS project in a township of 50,000. The project grew quickly, and the next five years of my life were crazy, back and forth to South Africa and long hours trying to build something from nothing. Although it all worked out beautifully, I cringe now to think of how culturally clueless I was.

Early on I started to look for a local South African charity to partner with. Eventually we were able to roll our organization into a fantastic locally managed organization which has taken it to a level I never could have imagined.

Heather Deyo's home in Jacksonville FL, featured by top design blog, Design Mom on their Living with Kids series

Before I could launch into my next project the 2016 election happened, and I was forced to confront some uncomfortable decisions about my future role in the southern evangelical church. We’d been part of the church for our entire marriage, but remaining would mean compromising many of the things we stood for. Here in the Bible Belt, there wasn’t an obvious roadmap of how to live a life of faith, following the teachings of Jesus outside of an institution that no longer matched up with our beliefs. But we are nothing if not fully responsible for our own actions, and while we’ve thankfully kept close friendships with people we love we’ve sought out new ways to serve, learn, and deepen our faith.

We still go to church, but without the construct of the evangelical church to lean on, I’m even more reliant on my personal faith. I’ve had long periods of anger and sadness about the way this country has gone, but my Christian faith is one of forward momentum and if I dwell too long on what’s happened I get stuck. Life is short and my faith and momentum are strong, and I don’t want to waste that!  

Heather Deyo's home in Jacksonville FL, featured by top design blog, Design Mom on their Living with Kids series

My time in the township in South Africa — especially working with the courageous women there — was the inspiration for my work now, fighting human trafficking and gender violence. I work for Her Future Coalition and we focus on cases of extreme abuse at the epicenter of global trafficking, in India and Nepal.

Our survivors come to us at the moment of rescue and stay with us until they are recovered enough to rejoin society, which usually takes several years. We always work hand in hand with local partners, with full healing and independence as our goal. We’ve helped thousands of women and girls in the last decade, and have an incredible success rate, which I attribute to our full circle approach and long term commitment. 

One of the loveliest (and most design-related) aspects of our work is our jewelry program. We have trained over one hundred survivors as goldsmiths, a profession which previously has been practiced only by men.  Our jewelers create incredible, modern designs inspired by their own experiences and perspectives, and they take pride in being pioneers as some of India’s first women goldsmiths.

Heather Deyo's home in Jacksonville FL, featured by top design blog, Design Mom on their Living with Kids seriesHeather Deyo's home in Jacksonville FL, featured by top design blog, Design Mom on their Living with Kids series

My work at Her Future involves a lot of strategy work and some fundraising. Our work is, by its nature, sometimes sad and difficult, but the joy of seeing survivors thriving is a tremendous counterbalance to the challenges. Last year some of our survivors marched in the Indian Women’s March — it was an amazing moment of victory for women who had been so terribly abused. Women are so brave and it’s a great time in history to be working for women’s rights. I meet the most incredible people in my job: amazing survivors, change makers, people of deep faith and action. I’m inspired every day! 

I’ve learned the hard way that I do my best work if I take care of myself. Service work can cause compassion fatigue and burnout. Self-care for me isn’t about spa days and lunches. It’s about family and friend time, reading, prayer, exercise, being in nature, all the things I should be doing anyway! Lately it’s also about turning off the news. The stories I hear in my job provide enough fuel for action, I don’t need more!

I’ve learned to surround myself with emotionally healthy people who support my work and the fact that I work. I’ve been a working mom, and a stay at home mom and I’ve been praised and criticized for both. At the end of the day, I’ve done what’s worked for me and my family. Other people’s value judgements typically say more about their lives than yours. 

Heather Deyo's home in Jacksonville FL, featured by top design blog, Design Mom on their Living with Kids series

I swore I’d never be one of those older moms who forgot the sheer work of having little kids. A long time ago an older mom told me that when my kids were grown, I’d give anything to have my worst day with them again — but she was wrong! I loved parenting little kids but it’s demanding, and it’s not hard because you’re doing it wrong, or because you’re not appreciating it enough, it’s hard because it’s HARD. I can’t see a young, frazzled mom without wanting to tell her that easier times are coming soon!

Those years go fast but it’s almost impossible to see that when you’re in them. I adored my babies beyond words, but I didn’t especially like the baby stage. I like my sleep, and although my infants grew up into delightful people, three of them were difficult babies and I wouldn’t want to go back to that stage! 

I did enjoy having young school aged kids, they have so much energy and curiosity and are still un-self-conscious and affectionate. We traveled a lot and homeschooled during many of those years and I’m glad I got to spend so much time with them when they were at their sweetest! 

Heather Deyo's home in Jacksonville FL, featured by top design blog, Design Mom on their Living with Kids series

Our home during those years was chaotic and messy, and the house took a beating, but overall that was a sweet and easy phase of steady parenting. We treat our kids like full humans and expect them to treat us and each other the same way. We didn’t want kids who yelled, so we tried not to yell. We didn’t allow slammed doors so we didn’t slam doors. I expected my children to stop and listen when I spoke, so I stopped and listened when they spoke. 

A child feels their feelings so strongly and I never successfully addressed a behavior, no matter how wrong it was, without first acknowledging the emotion. Obviously we’re not perfect and like any large family there were squabbles and we all blew it, and still blow it, from time to time. We give each other a lot of grace!

I had a little trick I used a lot in those years when things got heated and I could tell the wheels were coming off my bus, I’d ask myself how I’d feel if I heard my children talking to their children in the way I was talking to them. That’s such a reality check! 

Heather Deyo's home in Jacksonville FL, featured by top design blog, Design Mom on their Living with Kids seriesHeather Deyo's home in Jacksonville FL, featured by top design blog, Design Mom on their Living with Kids series

My favorite phase of all though, was and is, the teen and young adult years. Truthfully, the thing I like most about this stage is that, on most days, it’s really fun. Life with my big kids around is like a party. Sometimes a party where you wish the guests would call it a night, but always a hive of activity: friends, books, music, opinions, conversation, and ideas. And older kids make you be your best self. You can’t be a hypocrite around your teen. They have a frightening capacity for calling out anything inauthentic so you’d better be ready to walk your talk!

This stage has lots of bumps in the road, but navigating those bumps helps make a healthy adult. In general, I’d say we push our teens hard in terms of character, guide them loosely with life direction, and pretty much leave timing up to them. The most important thing for us in raising teens is being good listeners and being able to gently reframe hard situations into a bigger perspective without minimizing their emotions. Those years involve so many decisions: media, dating, friends, morals, activities, college, careers, etc. There’s a lot! 

We had a strategy that seemed to work almost 100% of the time when key decisions were on the table. Seth and I would first talk, pray, and do our homework, then we’d sit down with the child for a private, low key chat about the subject. We’d listen first, and we’d spend some time discussing their feelings and making sure they felt heard. Whether we started or ended on the same page, none of us left those sessions feeling angry, even if the issue involved discipline. I have no idea why this worked so well, but I suspect it’s because the child always felt heard, respected, and that they’d had a say in the outcome. 

Heather Deyo's home in Jacksonville FL, featured by top design blog, Design Mom on their Living with Kids series

For less consequential things, we just had to get out of the way and let the child figure it out. I wish we’d done this more. Parenting teens is often an exercise in restraint. It’s natural to want to save them from pain, hardship and their occasionally foolish selves, but overprotection can easily slow the natural course of life and learning. Sometimes you can give a kid just enough help to sink them!

I hope my kids remember us as emotionally whole parents who weren’t trying to raise carbon copies of ourselves. I hope they remember the joy they brought us in getting to raise them and how much we hugged and loved them. I hope they remember how we made each other laugh, the trips we took, and the adventures we had. I hope they remember this as a house filled with books and music, and how into their passions we were: Lego, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, basketball, singing, animals, guitar, comic books, music. I hope they remember the parties and sleepovers, that our home was a safe and fun space for so many people, and mostly for them. I hope they remember Type 2 fun: that you don’t have to be having fun to have fun.

I hope they remember, until their dying days, that we got them a dog even though I don’t like dogs.

I hope they remember the really goofy things, the talent shows, theme nights, bake-offs, and that I re-upholstered the sofa and made them corny outfits out of the extra fabric, just to get them home for a family photo shoot.

I hope they remember that the greatest gift is when you get to choose your hard and that not everyone gets to. I hope they remember that not every battle is theirs to fight, but that some are. I hope they remember how important education is, but that they forget how we often made it the most important thing. I hope they forget how we often majored on the minors and focused on ridiculous, short term things.

I hope they forget how much I yelled at the dog.

I hope they forget about the times we made them honor and respect people who turned out to not be so deserving, and about the times we made them be silent and obedient when instead we should have been empowering them to stand up for themselves. I hope they forget the times we picked form over substance. I also hope that all memories of me feeding them pop tarts or lunchables is forever blotted from their memories.

Heather Deyo's home in Jacksonville FL, featured by top design blog, Design Mom on their Living with Kids series

My absolute favorite thing about living with my kids sounds so cliche, but it’s the ordinary days. We’ve done some big things, traveled the world, and braved so many literal and figurative mountains and valleys together. Those are great memories but they’re not what’s made us us. Funny conversations, small celebrations, movie nights, long chatty dinners, beach days, being goofy together, those things are my favorites.

I already miss the fun and the bustle. I miss looking over and seeing Will studying at the kitchen table, recounting a steady stream of interesting facts while I made dinner. I miss him convincing me which book I should read next, and then telling me so much about it that I didn’t need to. I miss him making me “Mom’s Music” playlists and his almost-empty LaCroix cans all over the house. I miss coming home to a kitchen full of Faith’s laughter and baking experiments. I miss my daily dose of education about women’s rights from a quiet, tiny, young woman who’d always had to stand up for herself. I miss Max’s hilarious raps and his many creative projects all over the house. I miss the way he energizes a room. I miss Anna walking in the door from school with her giant smile and throwing her long, skinny arms around my neck. I miss her gentle and loving tone, and her beautiful singing when she didn’t think anyone was listening. I miss seeing them talk each other through hard situations and the sympathetic glances they’d give each other when one of them was in trouble with us. I miss them arguing about Kanye and debating authors, movies, coffee beans, and who Tommy likes best. 

Heather Deyo's home in Jacksonville FL, featured by top design blog, Design Mom on their Living with Kids series

I wish someone had told me that there’s joy at every stage, and that just because one phase is passing by, doesn’t mean that the next one won’t have great things too. I spent so much time in a mild state of panic about my kids growing up and leaving home, but here we are, most of them gone and life is still good. I wish I had known how awesome it is to see your kids turning into successful, healthy, loving adults who you like, and how much that would make up for the missing. I wish I had known how naturally an abundant life has a way of filling empty spaces with great things if you let it. I also wish someone had told me how much our kids were listening, how much impact we were actually having. So many times we felt like we were pushing a boulder uphill for nothing. But the benefit of having older kids is that you can actually start to see what worked. If we’d known how well it was working the boulder would have felt lighter. 

Today’s young parents have it harder than we did. Social media, Pinterest, the constant news cycle, it’s all added an extra layer of stress to parenting. But in many ways it’s made parents, us included, get our heads out of the sand about important issues. It’s so much more important to know why you believe what you believe than it was two years ago. I wish I’d spent more time teaching and modeling for my older children what standing up for your beliefs looks like. I wish I’d been a better example of living outside the echo chamber. I wish I’d introduced them to more progressive people in our faith, more thought leaders, more courageous people who were standing up for justice rather than protecting institutions.

They’re all extremely passionate, involved, socially conscious young people, but I regret not encouraging them more in that. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of living in our tiny corners of the world, and it’s taken me a long time to figure that out. We’re doing it differently with Tommy. We’ve talked more about oppression, immigration, economic models, culture, politics, what consent looks like, his personal responsibility as a white male in today’s world, than we did with our older boys. We’ve largely chosen Tommy’s school based on it’s diversity. Our older kids went to diverse schools too, and we were happy about that, but didn’t necessarily make it a goal. I’m thankful my older kids figured it out, and in some ways brought me along with them, and I’m glad for an opportunity to do it better this time around. 

I wish someone had told me how great it was, down in your bones life-giving, to get to this stage and be best friends with the people you raised. 

Heather Deyo's home in Jacksonville FL, featured by top design blog, Design Mom on their Living with Kids series

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Wow! What a life you’ve built! Thank you, Heather.

I can’t wait to see what the next chapter of Heather Deyo’s life holds. If she managed to do all of this while raising amazing human being, I can only imagine what is coming next. And this house really is a stunner. Exactly what you want a house in Florida to be — big open windows, loads of light, wide open spaces, and tons of comfort.

I am so impressed with the way Heather has gotten involved in causes that have mattered to her. What a gift to be able to have helped so many individuals. It’s wonderful to imagine the impact that kind of work has on the world. I also loved Heather’s advice about turning off the news sometimes. It’s so easy to feel like in order to be engaged you have to be 100% up to speed on every tragedy and every scandal, and sometimes it gets to be too much. Heather’s advice to find the thing that motivates you and stick to that is wise and timely.

I also really loved what Heather Deyo said about different phases of life. Some of them are just hard! I think any parent knows that is true, but a lot of times we feel guilty that we aren’t enjoying a current phase more, or taking more advantage of it, or really cherishing every moment. There are definitely unforgettable moments when kids are small but sometimes when I see parents wrangling a group of toddlers I feel like I have a bit of PTSD. Hah! What phase are you in? Is it a hard one?

 

SOURCES

Macrame Lamp Shades and Plant Hangers

Jewelry from the women helped by Her Future

Heather Deyo’s Home in Italy is for Rent

 


Photo credit to Lyndsay Almeida. You can follow Heather on Instagram or learn more about https://www.herfuturecoalition.org/” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Her Future Coalition. // Living With Kids is edited by Josh Bingham — you can follow him on Instagram.

Would you like to share your home in our Living With Kids series? It’s lots of fun, I promise! (And we are always looking for more diversity in the families we feature here. Single parents, non-traditional parents, families of color, LGBT parents, multi-generational families. Reach out! We’d love to hear your stories!!) Email us at features@designmom.com.