What a wonderful, thoughtful and in-depth conversation we got to have with Jenny. We walked into her house greeted by a smiling little boy who seemed pretty excited to see some new people. Throughout the interview he would be up and down on his mamas lap. He was too busy to sit still. He wanted to play and he wanted us to notice him playing (it was pretty cute). Every once in a while he would find his way back to his mama and give her a sweet little hug. Almost to say ‘you’re doing great, mama’. It was incredibly sweet.
It was extremely refreshing to hear some of the things that Jenny had to say. She was honest. You don’t get that type of honesty anymore because you think you will get ‘shamed’ for the things that you say, or even think. For that, we thank you, Jenny. Thank you for being honest and real with us. We are so very grateful that you shared your story with us.
Welcome to the Mom of Fame, Jenny. You deserve it!
What is the best piece of advice you were given about motherhood? Did you take it? Would you give that piece of advice to someone else?
I heard a lot more about that it would be the biggest change I’ll ever have, but it will be the most rewarding experience more than I heard real, solid advice. That was really until my fiancee’s mom kinda gave me a couple of off the cuff statements at random times.
She said to me once that “all babies need is a boob and a blanket”. It was kind of funny and I was cracking up, but she was right. She could tell that I was starting to get overwhelmed with the financial side of all of is this. It’s really tough to walk into these Buy Buy Baby’s and see a $200 bassinet and you’re like, “they’re going to be in this for 4 months. Seriously!?” I was given a 70 year old bassinet to put my kid in. It kind of looked like a picnic basket with wheels [laughing], and yes I was hesitant to put him in it, but I did and he’s fine. It made me realize that as I went along that she was absolutely right.
Then she said, “no baby has ever died from crying”. That was really good because it meant it was okay to just walk away. That was helpful because you have those really overwhelming moments. Sometimes you just need to set your kid down, walk away, and reassess.
So I would definitely give that advice to other people. I would also add that people need to take time for their significant others. I was totally unprepared for how that was going to change our social life and intimacy together. So I would say to definitely schedule time and ask people to babysit for you. Or ask people to come over for a couple of hours just to give you time alone.
How is motherhood different than you imagined it would be?
I didn’t know if I even wanted kids. I got pregnant unexpectedly so I kind of had to start thinking about that stuff during my pregnancy. That was very emotional and scary. I had been so disinterested in kids. I mean my friend had kids and I very rarely visited with them. I was more or less the person who came over and took them out for a “Mom’s Night Out”. I bought them birthday gifts and things like that but I wasn’t real involved with their children. And I was okay with that role, I liked it. So I was sort of on the fence about having my own. I could have been okay either way. It wasn’t something that I didn’t want, but I had to wrap my head around all of this kind of as it was happening.
So I worried about if I would like the role or not. So it kind of scared me because I knew how life changing it was going to be to some degree. I mean I saw how little autonomy my friends had and how planned everything had to be and how time consuming these little humans are.
During my pregnancy I envisioned what kind of mom I wanted to be. I thought about what this little person would be like and how I would want our relationship to be. I imagined taking care of him. I thought about the things I knew I would have to do. I imagined rocking him, soothing him, nursing him, and the countless day to day items (diaper changes, bathing, household chores, etc) that I would be responsible for. I had thoughts about how exhausted I would probably be. I want to be sure that I say that I was happy during my pregnancy, though. I was excited and I loved my son before I ever met him.
I am relieved and happy to say that I do like this new role. I have to say that my sweet little boy completely stole my heart. The moment I met him I knew how happy and lucky I was. I mentioned how selfless and planned my life would have to be. How I imagined this being difficult. It really doesn’t matter now. I don’t care that I go out for dinner at 430, so I can be home by 7 to start the bedtime routine so my son can be in bed by 8. I don’t mind that I have to plan in advance before I go out with friends. I don’t care that I don’t stay out late. I don’t care that I put myself second at times. I look at my life, and I know how fortunate I am to have this experience.To experience this completely different kind of love that a parent has for their child. One chapter closed and another started. I love my new normal.
What are your three strengths when it comes to motherhood?
Patient and Consistent
My toddler is at that point where he is testing his limits. So he has decided that snack foods are his favorite thing in the world and he just won’t eat anything I make for him. So he is tossing things off of his high chair and looking at me straight in the face while he does it. So I immediately get him down and I do it every time. It took a little while like 3-4 weeks before he completely stopped, but I was proud of myself for that parenting moment. For being that consistent with it no matter where we were; grandmas, home, he just got out and was done.
Spending Quality Time
I think that I am good at spending the quality time with him and ignoring the things that are piling up at home. I blinked and the first year was done. When he was an infant I cherished the closeness of getting to hold him every moment. I enjoyed the baby snuggles so much while he slept, when I could just relax, listen to him breathe, and look at his sweet face. Now I get to enjoy seeing him learning and showing interest in things, walking, and saying words. I just stop and watch all he does with such amazement. Taking time to be worry free and have true quality time with him is everything to me. I am good at forgetting there are dishes in the sink, those can wait. I recognize that I won’t get this age back, so I play with blocks, make animal noises, push him in his truck and read with him. I don’t stress about the day to day chores so much. My house is a mess most of the time, but that just means I had a fun day with my toddler.
Putting Him First
I’m pretty adapatable to what he needs. So even if decisions are really hard for me, like putting him in daycare, I make them for him.
I didn’t want to relinquish my control as a parent. I didn’t want others to choose what he ate and when he ate. I was doing all of that for a year so it was really hard to let it all go. I realized, though, that he needed to play with other kids and he needed other adults to start implenting some routines and boundaries. So I recognized he needed that and I just kind of swallowed my pride on the whole control issue and I just let it go.
Describe a time where you were completely overwhelmed as a mother.
It had been close to 3 months and my son never slept a good long stretch during that whole time. I was up every 2 to 3 hours. There was a night that he just wouldn’t stop crying. He had done it all day, too. He was just really, really fussy. I was doing everything including rain dances in my living room and nothing was working. I was so emotionally and physically exhausted at that point. He was in his bassinet and I was just kinda staring at him not knowing what to do. So I wheeled him into his room and just shut his door and shut my door and had a really long therapeutic cry because I was so annoyed with him. And I felt so terrible for being so angry and so annoyed with this little tiny human. So then I just sat there sobbing and I collected myself and I went back in. I don’t know if he just kind of knew I was at my limit but he did eventually calm down after that. I felt a lot better giving myself a second to do that.
The only other time was when I was having supply issues with the nursing. It didn’t matter the lactation supplements. I was going to Whole Foods and buying cases of smoothies and drinking them daily. And the cookies and the Gatorade and anything else you could think of that you hear about. I just wasn’t making enough for him and it took me a while to figure it out because he fell off his growth curve. And then he was going in for bi-weekly weigh ins. So I felt so guilty like I was not nourishing my child for so long; enough that he was not gaining the weight he needed and it was terrible. I liked nursing, too. I enjoyed it. That was the tough thing, too, is that I could have totally lasted a year with it. That was a really emotional time for me, as a mom, that I had that cut off not on my own terms. But in the end, fed is best!
Is there anything you feel that you have lost about yourself since becoming a mother? What have you gained?
I mean, other than my automony some, not really. That wasn’t as difficult as I had thought it might be, for me. I think, since becoming a mom the casual relationship I had with my fiance has been the most noticeable loss. We never had to try to be together before having our son. Our relationship was easy. We always had time for one another. We slept in, took our time getting ready, going out together often by ourselves and with friends. Conversation came easy about our common interests. All of this became stuff we had to try and remember to do after he was born. For a while I kind of felt like we lost our intimacy, our random conversation, and social life with one another. We have to work at making time for each other with scheduled date nights. We have to prioritize our day to have an hour or two to have quality time. I’m still getting used this.
Something I have gained is just kind of seeing things through his perspective. Everything is so new and fun and exciting. The stuff that I stopped appreciating I appreciate more now. You know the other day I had a relatively good day, but it was raining and it was freezing and I was lugging all of our stuff back in from the parking lot. And he was like “wow” and just had this amazing smile on his face and was laughing and had such amazement for what was going on around him. I completely stopped appreciating these little things. This sort of reminded me of jumping in mud puddles when I was a kid and how much fun I used to have. It reminded me, too, that my grandmother used to tell me that thunder was angels bowling and all of these little things that I get to share with him now. It made me so happy and I stopped caring that it was raining and crappy.
What do you want your child(ren) to learn from you?
I want him to learn how to be empathetic and treat people well. My father’s mantra was a simple one, “treat others how you want be treated”. I want to pass this on to my son. I was taught to think about situations from others perspectives. It is so important to me that I raise James with the same mindset. Sometimes it seems that we live in a judgmental, mean world. Part of me wants to shelter him from this, but I know realistically I can’t. What I can do however, is teach him how to treat others with respect and dignity, so he can be part of what is positive.
Tell us about working from home with a toddler.
It worked out awesome when he was an infant, before he started crawling. He was pretty okay to be set down or baby-wear him or rock him in my lap. I help older adults coordinate in-home services so I’m just on the phone all the time. It’s not difficult to be on the phone with an infant so much.
Once he started crawling and doing all of that stuff it got harder. Honestly there was the exersaucer and he got used to playing on his own. That’s why he does that so well, because he kind of had to. I would sit him in the Bumbo or his high chair and give him some toys. So I kind of had these little areas of things that he could do and I would just bounce him around between them. Then for the most part, too, I would work over at my fiancées’ parents so I had a kind of had a back-up adult. If he was needing to be rocked or needing extra attention they could give that to him.
That worked out okay, but it was really overwhelming. I didn’t feel like I was giving my son all of the attention he deserved. I wasn’t giving work all of the attention that deserved either. I was using flex-time; logging in early by an hour or hour and a half and then staying late a couple of hours to make up for that time. So I really just kind of felt like I was bad at both for a little while. Realistically, I wasn’t. I was a good mom and I was doing fine at work. But I was torn in all sorts of different directions and being stuck in this 1200 square foot place, too, was really hard. I was working, parenting and relaxing here and it was like I was trapped. Part time daycare ended up being the best choice. I feel relieved now that I can give both my job and my son the focus they deserve.