Our Mom Next Door this week is someone that I am grateful to know both personally and formerly as a coworker. We both taught in Brooklyn, NY with Teach for America and then we both joined up to work for the same company following our time in the classroom. Besides her dedication to education for all kids - Jen is also one awesome momma. She is a full time working, school board leading, boho-chic traveling, single momma to her munchkin-queen daughter Honora.
It is my pleasure to bring you some of Jen's inspiring insight and voice to the Mom Next Door Series today. Please take a minute to read her witty and meaningful thoughts on being a momma and balancing it all.
Who are you? Jen C.; 33 years old living in Washington D.C.
Who is in your family? Honora Junebug Jones, age 7 and a half (the half is very, very important)
What do you do for work? mom with a paycheck I work on one of those big, scary college readiness tests as it tries to join the digital age
Which chore is your least favorite? Cleaning, especially dishes, vacuuming, mopping, changing sheets, and scrubbing the bathtub. Um, is everything an option? Blech. Whoever said money doesn't buy happiness never heard of Handybook: the money I pay a cleaning lady twice a month is worth (almost) as much as the money I earmark for the Anthropologie sale rack.
What has become (at least for now) your parenting mantra or guiding principle? Let it go. Oh, wait. That’s just my daughter’s mantra. I suppose my personal one is 'Relish the details': the sweet smell of detangler as we comb Honora's crazy curls; the apropos of nothing compliments she bestows on me; when she grabs my hand to cross the street.
What was the most difficult Mom moment you've had (so far)? Probably the first milestone of (pre) momhood: finding out I was going to have a baby. I had just moved to NYC as part of Teach for America’s corps, was in graduate school, and casually dating after a bad break up. I lived with two other girls who were trying to make it a la 'Laverne and Shirley' in Brooklyn; my apartment was above a Chinese restaurant (I am pretty sure was Mafia-run). I could barely get my laundry together for send out (even then I didn't like chores!) I was attending happy hour regularly (read: every day) after going hoarse from wrangling middle school kids. I was not prepared and not planning (for a long time anyways) the munchkin queen (one of Honora Schmonora’s gazillion nicknames). But I have found that most of the things I don’t anticipate end up being the best. Honora is definitely the crazy amazing best thing I never planned; now, I cannot really remember life before her.
What keeps you up at night? That my choices – which I have agonized over with Excel spreadsheet lists and pros/cons docs tormenting me as I lather my hair (and get more lathered about executing a decision) – aren't right for Honora; that I am letting her down. That being a single mom isn't fair or right or good enough for her.
What would your pre-mom self be surprised to know about motherhood? How much you worry about someone other than yourself. Like constant worry. Did she brush her teeth? Do I travel too much for work, and she thinks I am abandoning her? Does this place have a kid’s menu, and will she eat food at this restaurant? Is that cup BPA free (and what is BPA and will it kill us if this cup does, indeed, have it)?
What would your pre-mom self be proud to know about you in motherhood? That I am killing it. Just kidding. Kind of ;) No really, I think 24-year old Jen would be happy to know I still can rock high heels, make an amazing pitcher of guava daiquiris, and prepare Annie’s mac ‘n’ cheese, all at the same time. Motherhood has definitely helped me step up my multitasking game.
What big projects, worries, or events have you busy right now? I am on Honora’s school board. It’s so much work (but you should totally do it). It’s seriously my second job, after raising Honni and before my 9-to-5’er (no, for real – I Google drive and Doodle the heck out of the academic committee, which I lead). Education is a personal and professional passion of mine. When the opportunity to participate on the board of first year charter in D.C. presented itself, I was like, hey, sounds fun...?
I should probably share now that I have history of over committing myself (Tab- sound familiar? ;) ) and also being a crazy perfectionist (although I would argue I hide my Type A pretty well; I appear to look laid back, but I am dying inside to do it right and my way every time). The school is moving into its second year, and we are replacing our Head of School. I am leading the search and hiring committee, and it’s pretty much consumed my life. But if not me, then who? And I would be losing a heck of a lot more sleep if I sent her to a school that didn't meet my (very) high expectations; this is important “stuff”, and I am 110% committed to making the school an amazing place for all our kids.
How do you unwind ore re-charge? In the past year, I have realized that as much as I love my daughter, as often as I am away from her for work, I need “me” time, too, and that doesn't make me a horrible, out-of-touch, hands-off mom. I like to get a babysitter and hit up Target or Whole Foods (Bougie Mom meccas), attend a meet-up of my foodie group (lots of recipe and restaurant trying out –yum), or going out with grown ups as we finish sentences with no interruptions lubricated with white wine spritzers.
What do you feel like you are really good at as a mom? My daughter is amazingly confident. I have tried to set up a home where “you can’t do that” is only saved for activities that will stain my white couch (and even then...), a place where she feels valued and acknowledged and fearless. She should have no boundaries on her dreams and encouraged to think even bigger. I am really proud of how she is so willing to take anything on, always gets back up if she falters, and has a real gusto for adventure and new experiences. I am so ridiculously proud of her, I feel like my heart will explode sometimes. For seriousness.
What do you feel like you wish you were better at being a mom? Stopping and really paying attention. My life and mind generally are going 1k/miles an hr. I feel like I miss so much with all that multitasking mentioned above and just generally being distracted with work, bills, driving here and there, etc.
What is the one "Mom Tip or Trip" that you can share that has made your life easier somehow? Let it go. No, this is not another Frozen reference. When I am stressed or busy with 15 things (that darn multitasking), I tend to lose my patience over small stuff. Then I feel terrible and either a) apologize to the point of craziness (i.e., give in to chicken nugget dinner because I feel bad) or b) sulk in my room/ kitchen/ nook I can be alone and ruin my night (and her’s). In the moment, I try to count to five – no really, I do – and sometimes just walk away. It helps quell freak outs (mine, not her’s); if I flip, I just let it go. It happened. Moving on (in a positive way).
|family vacation in Bosnia|
What are the small joys of being a Mom that you treasure most right now? She is like a mini-BFF (or BFFFFFFF as she says). We always say “Mom first, friend second”, but she is becoming a little lady in such a fun way. On most days, she’s my first choice for a girl's day out (currently a good meal on a patio, some Target browsing, Super hero movie-watchin', and perhaps a gelato to cap it off). She’s a little Big kid rather than a big Little kid these days. I hope this sweetness and enthusiasm for chilling with me lingers through her preteen/ teen days.
What do you miss most from Mom days already gone by? I cry (a lot and in the privacy of my bedroom) about how big she is, and really, I am so afraid I don’t remember everything. I tried to not live behind a camera so I could really experience all the moments with her, but then I worry I don’t have enough pictures of the “fun times.” So, I guess, I worry that I might not even know how to answer this question!
I will say I miss how she used to say French fry ("prench pry"), and how when we lived in NYC, she told everyone she was the queen of the forest (or the Brooklyn Bridge – depended on the day) as she wore this cute green tutu and curtsied around the living room with her halo of blonde curls. Ack, tearing up as I write this.