doing the best we can

September 29, 2010 |  Category:   life parenting

You don’t spend most days asking yourself whether or not you’re doing a good job of raising your kids if only because days are hectic with school drop offs and pick ups and homework and lunch making and dinner and bath and bed. By the time the day is over, it’s a blur. I feel like Mark and I are constantly running in and out of the house, like a revolving door, and it’s only when everyone’s in bed that you can sort of exhale…but the day is often not over. There’s a whole lot of working still going on once the sun goes down. Our schedules are anything but typical, but I know a few other families who also have complex schedules and atypical work lives. We all do the best we can with our own unique situations to make our families work.

Once in a while you do find moments to step outside of yourself and look at your kids…I mean really look at them, not as their mom or dad, but look at them as the people they are growing up to be…and you might find yourself wondering, “Are they really mine?”. I didn’t know what kind of parent I thought I’d be before I actually had kids. But I know what kind of parent I’m not and some things have surprised me. I realize that as the girls get older and become individuals with their own opinions and their own lives spent away from us at school, the hardest years of parenting might just be ahead of us.

Some time ago I received an email from a woman who berated me with some harsh words over something that she read here. She didn’t think I was leading a good example for the girls on this one particular issue. I didn’t have to respond because it was a personal choice issue, not a clear right or wrong thing, but I did because I just can’t seem to help myself and we exchanged a few emails that progressively worked towards a nice resolution. But she said something to me that struck me as oddly disturbing. I had joked that I was only human and that I had a free pass to make a few mistakes, but she replied that actually, no…I wasn’t allowed to make this mistake because these “mistakes” set bad examples or teach my kids the “wrong” things. Okaaaaay.

The emails and comments that hurt the most are the ones that criticize my parenting. I surprise myself by how it doesn’t really bother me so much after that short initial sting because I spent most of my childhood worrying about not being liked by everyone. It killed me to know that there was someone out there who didn’t like me, but I seem to have the capability of letting stuff like that roll off my back now. It’s ok. I’m far from perfect and I HAVE made some mistakes and have done things I’m not proud of regarding the girls, but I’m trying my best. Everyday. This is all that I can do. Hopefully in the end when we unleash them out into the world, we’ll all turn out ok, myself included.

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  • Lanet October 1, 2010 at 9:23 am

    Jenna, We are all from the planet Earth, not the planet perfect.
    All ya have to do is be one eyed crazy about your kids,
    and they’ll turn out alright. They will know ya love them,
    no matter what, and that is worth more than being
    perfect. Kindness Always, Lanet

  • Carolee October 1, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    Wow, honestly those types of snarky comments are so unnecessary. Everyone has such different ideas of what the right/wrong ways of parenting are. How can there be 1 set way for everyone in the world? It doesn’t make sense!

    Unfortunately, the idea of parenting really scares me for these very reasons. Not only do I think “hmm, am I accidentally going to leave my baby car seat on top of the car?” but I worry about these snarky remarks too! Words can sting and linger for a long time, even if they’re from strangers. Moms have told me that the worst comments are the parenting comments, that it strikes a nerve unlike any other. I’m terrified of that, but at the same time I feel a little better that someone like like you can feel the same way.

    My mom was the wackiest mother ever, and I have the craziest stories about her “parenting” skills, but I love her more than anything. She made 100000 “mistakes” but of course I wouldn’t replace her for any other Perfect Mom. I obviously don’t know you at all, but from the way you write I feel like you’re such a loving, free spirited, warm and incredibly doting mother!

  • Lyn @ A Photogenic Life October 1, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    It’s heartwarming to see how much you love your children through all the chaos that is life. in general. You can feel it in every post. I don’t see how people think hurtful words and unsolicited advice is at all helpful to anyone’s spirit. If anything, your girls will see how much they are a part of you through this blog. You could only hope other parents were as hands-on as you!

  • woop October 1, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    I am not trying to be a contrarian because I don’t even know what “mistake” you made, but I don’t think this is a space for us to criticize how you live your life, if anything, thanks for sharing with us the things you do. Is not an easy thing to put yourself out there, as you have written before so naysayers should not apply.

  • Sara Jensen October 1, 2010 at 11:18 pm

    If someone is confident enough in their own parenting skills they really dont need to be sending emails coming down on other parents. Unless you are like setting fire to your kids or something. I cant even imagine what would prompt someone to send you a message about parenting.
    It’s fair to say that when I was outside of your building packing up the car, and your two girls were standing there watching as Henry flipped over into the gutter while strapped into his stroller, I felt like a bad parent. I swear Mia gave me a look like “I’m sooooo glad you arent my mom!” and Claudine is thinking “Why does he still talk like baby?”.
    But really. Whenever I question myself as a parent I try my best to shake it off. I look at my beautiful hilarious stubborn kid and feel like he is my parenting resume. I mostly try to act as I would want him to act in any situation now and I feel like he makes me a better person so that I can raise him to be a good person.

  • Jenna October 1, 2010 at 11:25 pm

    sara, I totally dumped claudine onto the street when we were jumping a curb. She was 2 and she wasn’t strapped in. When Mia was about 6 months old, I forgot to strap her in once too. I was clueless about the fact that she was slipping down in the stroller and her little body was half hanging off until I heard a few grunts coming from the stroller. So maybe the girls were remembering that when they gave you that look. At least Henry was strapped in, which you know right there, indicates that you’re already a better parent than I am.

  • DOTS October 2, 2010 at 1:10 am

    claudine in the first pic. those lips. those eyes.
    * our parenting rules generally follow the guideline of “if it’s not illegal or immoral…don’t make a big deal about it” either that or ‘this too shall pass” both which have come in handy in times of parental stress 🙂 from what we’ve read these last few months…you’re a kind,caring,and very honest parent…you’ll be fine and your kids will be great.

  • Lauren October 2, 2010 at 9:41 am

    I’ve been unfairly judged by other moms who aren’t perfect either, but I guess it makes them feel more secure when they are being petty toward others. Women are just mean to each other in general and it’s so sad… we could/should be ruling the world, if we’d just support each other!

  • Mala October 2, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    Jenna u are doing a great job with your kids as a mother . I’ve worked with u & seen how straight foward u are & Mia & Claudine are adorable .Beautiful girls!!!!!!!!! Xoxo

  • Jenna October 3, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    thank you mala. we miss you.

  • Anna October 3, 2010 at 11:04 pm

    Hello!
    I agree with what Cara said and felt compelled enough to post for the 1st time as well. I’ve followed your blog since a friend referred it to me. The gorgeous pictures, honest vignettes of your family and work are unique. While it’s healthy to check in with yourself and ask if you’re doing the right thing, the way you parent them will be clearly unique from anyone. It’s not really fair for a stranger to criticize and judge given the vulnerability of such proprietary information.
    It’s quite clear that you cherish your girls very dearly. My boyfriend lives in Park Slope, and once we saw you three in the street! The girls were skipping along so happily-I thought it best not to disturb or come off as a creep!
    I find your stories about your childhood especially profound. I know what is to have Korean mom too!
    The notion of freelancers (I do too) raising kids in NYC seems insane, but you and Mark seem to make it work!! You show it’s possible and are an inspiration I identify with. Kindest wishes.

  • Jenna October 3, 2010 at 11:08 pm

    Anna, haha, I’m glad that you spotted us when they were skipping along happily, ’cause um, you know, there are plenty of times when walking with them is a frustrating experience for both them and me. Thank you for your kind words!

  • kari October 4, 2010 at 5:18 am

    Hi Jenna,
    I don’t know if I’ve commented before, but I visit, well okay I lurk! I enjoy reading your blog and love, love, love your photos.
    I learnt and accepted a while ago (and I have to keep on reminding myself) that I’m the best parent for my children. my parents were the best for me. I know and they’ve told me that they didn’t always do everything right or perfect but I learnt from those lessons. that’s all we can do, really. Learn with our children and learn from our children. You’re girls look happy and content every time I see their pictures on your blog.
    p.s. shame on that woman who sent you that email, who made her judge.

    Happy Day.

  • Dominika October 4, 2010 at 6:52 am

    Dear Jenna, you are doing a great job and we can all see how much you love your girls. I am a mum too and I can say that I’ve made many mistakes like a parent too, but that’s the real life. Take care you and your family.

  • Alicia @culinarybliss October 5, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    I know you’ve got lots of people here telling you you’re right and she’s wrong, but I’m here to mention that that woman’s attitude comes from ignorance, not stupidity. It’s based on a very old understanding of how the human brain works, behaviorism, which held that all behaviors were reinforced and thus mistakes were bad. Thankfully this theory was abandoned in the late 70s because it’s so obviously wrong. I teach language and encourage my students to fight the urge to ‘ban’ mistakes, because they are actually quite valuable. They tell us where we need work.
    And if every child were destined to repeat their parents’ mistakes, we’d be in a whole load of trouble!

  • Joke October 9, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    Before I had my son Oliver, I thought I knew it all! I looked at situations and thought…that will never happen to me or my kid! Once I became a mom, I realized how dumb I had been! I go through all the same things that I never thought I’d go through. I have doubts about how I handle situations and hurdles. But, my son is happy, I love him more than anything in the world. I’m always open for advice, but I can’t deal with critique, because I know I’m doing everything in the word to raise a happy boy! Your kids look so happy, Jenna!

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