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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  • nichole September 29, 2010 at 10:50 pm

    I know that feeling. The feeling of stepping outside yourself and looking at your kids through eyes that aren’t your own.

    It’s those times when I can really look at them, and be amazed that I am responsible for those two boys. Boys that are laughing, happy, engaged, learning, and will grow up to be fantastic regardless of how well I may parent on a given day. I know that I am not the only one responsible for those smiling faces. It’s my friends, my family, their teachers, their friends. Though I am far from a perfect parent, I’ve done my best to create the best conditions I can for them.

    If we love our kids – truly love them and do our best, they will thrive, and will remember the good times and all you did for them.

    That’s what I tell myself on an average day. On my best day, I am pretty damn proud!

  • quyen huynh September 29, 2010 at 10:55 pm

    i think you and mark are doing a great job. just look at them! happy and curious. the best combination! you can’t please everyone and nor should you. they are your kids and no one else.

  • chris September 29, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    hi jenna,

    please hang in there. do not doubt yourself. you are doing so very well with the girls. we know that and you do so too.

    please do not let those harsh words on your parenting bring you down!

    HUGS!

  • miya September 29, 2010 at 11:11 pm

    you’re clearly so insightful that you can’t not be a good parent, if that makes any sense. i think that insight and reflection, not perfection, are the keys to being a good parent. i think it’s healthy to make a few mistakes in raising your kids–that way you’re setting an example of how to reflect and improve. bottom line is, haters gonna hate. good for you for letting it roll off your back.

  • Annie From Seattle September 29, 2010 at 11:53 pm

    Good gawd. No mistakes? Like….none? Is that really the standard? If so, my Dad has some serious explaining to do…..:)

    I often say that the first real test of being a good parent is disregarding what other people tell you you to do, in favor of what *you* think you should do. Power on Jenna and Mark!

    PS I’ve said it before but how amazing to watch Mia evolve into having more of Mark’s features. Now that the roundness of the little kid is giving way, I see so much more of Mark in her face. What a beauty she is!

  • Cara September 30, 2010 at 12:33 am

    Hi Jenna,
    I’ve been quietly reading your blog for a few months now, having found it somehow through Whimsy and Spice. Your photography had caught my eye first, and then I just started swooning after, I think, the idea of a family like yours. My boyfriend and I recently graduated from college (where we met) and are now living in our first apartment, and I look at your blog and think “this is the type of life I would like in a couple of years”. I can’t tell you how much I admire you and Mark for being so creative and so hard working. I can imagine how stressful it must be to juggle a career and parenting (working in a creative field myself), but your girls are beautiful, and really have helped resolve me to wanting my own when I’m ready.
    I guess I just wanted to stop anonymously reading without telling you what a wonderfully charming blog you have, and basically, yeah, how much I admire you.
    Don’t let the haters get you down!

  • Marie September 30, 2010 at 12:39 am

    Dear Jenna:
    I think one of the greatest things you do with those girls is treat them like people rather than like small kids. You let them use their minds and only entervine when it is for their immediate welfare. Keep going the way you are!! Aloha

  • Jenna September 30, 2010 at 12:39 am

    thanks guys. Annie, that is not the standard. I don’t really know what kind of world that standard would apply…and yes, Mia has always been just like Mark.
    Hello Cara!

  • elaineganmaclaine September 30, 2010 at 12:44 am

    Hmm… Don’t fret too much… Your girls are still perfectly raised in your eyes.
    People can judge/ comment on anyone’s parenting skills BUT you’re in full control of your own family.

    I enjoy reading about your daughters! πŸ™‚

  • Renita September 30, 2010 at 12:46 am

    My mother made plenty of (with the best intention) mistakes under the circumstances she had to face … raising me as a single parent (a husband who died, not through divorce) …. but she was growing and learning too.

    Nothing stays forever, our lives are constantly developing. The hardest years are always coming …

    ‘Looking, really looking’ at my mother, I see a woman who worked so hard at maintaining a life for the both of us and I couldn’t be prouder. I see ‘it’ people everyday … it’s bittersweet … it makes my heartbreak, but you have to be hard enough to plow through.

    This journal will be a beautiful tool to help your children see that, they’ll be so proud.

  • whitney September 30, 2010 at 1:11 am

    sometimes i really hate the entitlement people think they have. i’m so sorry someone said something horrible to you.
    i have followed your blog quite some time now, and as a new mother myself, it is one of the few places i feel like motherhood/parenting is realistically represented. and, i don’t say things like this very often, but, i find you very inspiring. so, thank you so, so much for that.

  • amanda September 30, 2010 at 1:25 am

    It is ridiculous that people think emailing someone with those kinds of comments is ok.
    Strangers wouldn’t walk up to you on the street and start lecturing you about your parenting skills, so why on earth do people think they can do it from behind a computer screen?

    Anyone who think that parents shouldn’t make mistakes is very misguided.

  • shruthi September 30, 2010 at 1:26 am

    perfection is just a guide post, if you stay within the lines, the squiggles in between don’t matter. Besides, life is a moving target, where definitions are altered – daily! Perceptions, will always be different – kinda like ‘two sides to a coin’ thing. Forget what everyone thinks, if you are happy and your children are happy – none of what anyone says matters!

  • Michelle September 30, 2010 at 1:27 am

    Now that my kids are older, and have turned into people I admire and am proud to know, I’m constantly amazed by the sheer dumb luck of it all. I’ve had parents of young children say, “Your kids are so great; how did you do it?”, and I tell them I did a lot of things right, and a lot of things wrong, and damned if I know which is which!
    When you are a young parent, you tend to worry about every perceived child-rearing mistake, and the fear of doing harm is very real for many of us. The fact is that the days that we feel like total parenting failures may contain incidents that our kids dismiss easily. And our older children will tell us about hurts that we didn’t know occurred, or were unintentional. The important thing is to keep slogging along, love each other, keep talking, listening, and remembering to create some family traditions and fun along the way.
    Jenna, I admire your thoughtful writing, your lovely aesthetic, your beautiful photography, and your concern for family and friends. But the best part is always seeing your beautiful children, and witnessing the myriad experiences you are sharing with them — food, farms, museums, friends, parties, walks — the things that make memories. They are truly lucky to have you, and as they grow, I know you’ll be able to realize that more and more as well. Here’s to you, and thank you for this blog. I look forward to your updates!

  • neta September 30, 2010 at 1:41 am

    I wouldn’t take seriously that kind of criticism. it’s like when someone at the supermarket line will remark upon something you say to your kid at that moment- not knowing you, or anything about you. I hate that! so don’t take it too bad.
    I have older childern, my oldest will be 20 soon, just recently I have been thinking about how we raised them, our choices and everything. I can honestly say they turned out fantastic ! I am bursting with pride with everything that concerns them, so I allow myself a little pat on the back. but mind you- even at 20, our jobs are not done πŸ™‚ and what makes me happy is that I am still “parenting” at 20….

  • Annie September 30, 2010 at 1:49 am

    No mistakes? you are supposed to be perfect?
    Really???
    wow.
    I guess teaching kids that making mistakes is only part of being human, learning from them and moving on, is not a good thing?
    Who is this woman?
    Nothing is perfect.

    I do not know you family but for what I read on your blog I can see that you are a VERY close family, that your lives are for your girls and that the opportunities and options you are giving them are one of a kind.
    You treat them as independent beings and that alone, is priceless.

    You are good parents. You are doing a great job, well above average.

  • Shilo September 30, 2010 at 2:11 am

    My parents made loads of mistakes. Cringing textbook don’t-do-X mistakes.
    And yet here I am in my 30’s and I love them to bits and am close with both.

    As long as they know you love them everything else can be fixed with time, cocktails, and occasionally some therapy.

  • mau September 30, 2010 at 3:39 am

    everyone makes mistakes. it’s impossible not to, no matter how hard you try to be perfect. the real lesson to your kids is showing them how you shoulder your responsibilities for the mistakes committed and how you make things right.

  • mette / ungt blod September 30, 2010 at 3:43 am

    I think “no mistakes” might be the most dangerous and harmful advice you can give anyone! Mistakes are important to make -you kids will make mistakes too, so you have to show them how to handle mistakes! how to reflect and how to move on or amend! What will the mother following the “no mistakes” advice do not if but when she makes one?

  • maria September 30, 2010 at 4:34 am

    Hi Jenna,
    i have been reading your blog for some time now, and i admire you and your husband for all you do when it comes to your kids, work, life in general. Being a parent of a little boy myself it really gets to me when people judge, just because they think they can! i catch myself double thinking something i have said, or a way i acted in certain occasions concerning my boy not sure if i should do it different or not, but at the end of day somehow it turns alright… You are not born a parent, you evolve to one… As long as you stay calm (most of the times…) and (of course) love your child more than anything else, you can’t go wrong… And even if you do, you are just human…
    keep up the good work (in all fields)
    all the best

    P.S. such a shame i am so far away (Greece) and can’t get to taste all the lovely stuff you make…

  • Gretha September 30, 2010 at 5:03 am

    Jenna,
    from what you show here you are doing an excellent job. I know it is the hardest part being criticized. And worst for parenting!
    There are so many ways and opinions and options…we all have to find our very own, special way to make our life work. And it IS your life.
    For me, there is nothing wrong with making mistakes. It is important to let your children know that noone (even not their parents) are perfect. But: that there is always a way to make things better. My Mum used to say ” hey, this was no good, next time we do it like this”. It was more helpful to me than a mother that would have been too perfect.
    And I still and truely believe, that there is always a way out. Even out of the biggest crap, the most stupid mistakes. That is what it is about.

    Do it your way!

    Love,
    G.

  • make my day September 30, 2010 at 6:18 am

    I’ve only just come across your blog but it appealed to me because of the fact that it covered many aspects of life as i know it in a way I related to. Food , kids, design, house, work, everyday life………you know how it goes. I just wanted to say thanks for allowing everyone of us in..that in itself is huge. Parenting is hard… judging people is easy… right and wrong will always have different meanings for different people…keep doing what you do. cheers Kari

  • Carol September 30, 2010 at 6:44 am

    I know which ideal works for myself and my son and that’s the human one. That one that does make mistakes, that recognizes our humanity and flaws rather than the one that woman suggested to you, which is perfection. Perfectionism is an impossible ideal. It’s unrealistic and places incredible pressure upon us as parents. Yes, there’s always things that we could or should do differently. But parenting isn’t just a learning process for the child, it’s a learning process for us too πŸ™‚

  • Adele September 30, 2010 at 8:19 am

    Hi Jenna, lovely writings – an insightful perspective on things and your photography is idyllic. I think there are people out there in unhappy spaces who in needing to feel heard vent through comments, it probably never actually about you. And for many of us it’s so easy to be misconstrued via text. If you’re not a good parent, then your smashing kids are freaks of nature because they radiate with happiness through your blog

  • Mandy September 30, 2010 at 8:56 am

    I read your blog every day and am always struck at what a wonderful job you are doing as a wife and mother as well as running a business and committing time to updating this blog for us all to see! I can barely perform one of these tasks daily competently! I think your beautiful girls are testament to the fact that you are doing everything right. It’s amazing how judgemental people can be. It’s usually these very people that do not take too long a look at themselves! Thank you for your wonderful and inspirational blog.

  • Barefoot Liz September 30, 2010 at 9:08 am

    Any parent who claims they never make a mistake in parenting is lying.

    When parents make a mistake and talk to their child about the mistake (and apologize, of course), it teaches an important lesson. Mistakes are an opportunity for learning and growth.
    πŸ™‚

  • Sos September 30, 2010 at 9:22 am

    Don’t let anybody tell you they know the best thing for YOUR kid. They know next to nothing. You are the person who wakes up next to them, talks to them when they fall asleep, and percieve those little emotional exchanes, not them!
    This applies to everyone out there! πŸ˜‰ cheer on, Jenna!

  • SY September 30, 2010 at 10:00 am

    While I don’t know you personally, you and your husband seem to be doing a fine job at parenting. If we didn’t show our kids that it’s okay to make mistakes, I believe that they would have a very hard time when they actually make a mistake. None of us has had the perfect upbringing and for the most part, we’re all fine. Your girls seem happy and part of the parenting adventure is to learn fromthem. The woman who didn’t think we are “allowed” to make mistakes is somewhat dysfunctional in my opinion. Nobody’s perfect!

  • ChantaleP September 30, 2010 at 10:08 am

    Hey Jenna,
    I won’t go into flowy details about how ‘insightful’ you are and ‘what an amazing parent’ you are and ‘keep slogging on’.. yeah yeah. You know you’re all that.
    The only thing I will say is.. I just don’t understand why anyone would think they have the right to email you directly just to berate and judge you. I think only our families have that right. lol. And honestly? Don’t get hurt by people criticizing your parenting skills because if you focus the magnifying glass the other way, you’ll notice everyone has their way of doing things. It doesn’t make one better than the other. Your way is your way. Finger to the rest of us.

  • bronwyn September 30, 2010 at 10:12 am

    I nearly choked on my coffee when I read the “no mistakes” thing. Wow. I should just throw in the towell now. Really, I roll my eyes at anyone who thinks they know what’s right for any child that is not their own. And one they’ve never met? Really? My thoughts are that woman either has no children, because it all seems so easy before you have your own, or she has no ability for self reflection and is likely making some very severe mistakes and is not learning from them. It seems that people who are overly concerned with the way other people are living their lives are the ones who have made a hot mess of their own.

    And yes, I do know those times when you look at your child from somewhere outside of yourself. Those are the times when I feel completely overwhelmed at the responsibility I have in caring for this person who is so good and kind and otherworldly. Sometimes I just thnk to myself “God I hope I don’t screw her up.” And now I find out I can’t make any mistakes. Damn!

  • Sue September 30, 2010 at 10:38 am

    Jenna,

    My oldest just graduated with a BA, and my baby is eighteen, and in his first year away from home. I’m STILL wondering if I’ve done the right thing. My husband died almost four years ago, and one of the most difficult things is not having someone else to bounce off these ideas, feelings, etc.

    I know you didn’t ask for advice, but please spend the time now to talk with each other about how and what you’re doing as parents. You will find, I’m sure, that the two of you make an outstanding parent team. Treasure these years as a family.

  • Jenna September 30, 2010 at 10:46 am

    hello everyone. I wish I could respond to each one of you, but you guys are amazing and I love to learn a little more about you. I hope that others can benefit from some of the wise words shared on here!

  • Jessica September 30, 2010 at 11:04 am

    I have read your blog for some time now, but this is my first comment. I can’t help but restate what others already have:

    As the mother of two girls–a little older than yours; they’re 7 and 9–I have to say how important it is that our children DO see us make mistakes sometimes, fail sometimes, and then pick ourselves up and hopefully try to figure out a better way for the next time.

    Expectations of constant perfection are absurd and impossible to achieve, of course. I suppose it’s possible to hide our imperfections from our children (at least when they’re little). But if our children don’t see our imperfections, they won’t learn how to fail gracefully, how to make mistakes without being swallowed by them, and ultimately how to learn from them.

    Those are incredibly important tools for navigating life successfully. It would be a disservice to our kids to not provide them with those examples.

  • Jessica September 30, 2010 at 11:05 am

    And I’m doing a damn good job providing my two kids with lots of examples of mistakes.

  • joslyn September 30, 2010 at 11:47 am

    I’m experiencing the same thing with my girls. When life slows down enough for me to step back and look at them as individuals, rather than just as “my children”, I’m amazed… Watching these two little people grow into who they will ultimately become is humbling and crazy and exciting and scary.

    Re: mistakes…I think one of the greatest gifts we can give our children (and how we can help them save thousands in therapy later) is to show them how to gracefully recover from mistakes. How to bounce back, how to course correct. So keep on making them sister πŸ˜‰ I think you’ll have better kids for it. At least that’s what I’m telling myself!

    xox

  • Dinah September 30, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    Hey Jenna, it was so good to see you all at the Antic this past weekend and finally meet the famous M & C! I had asked you if you’d already walked the fair with them because they seemed so happy and animated. But no, it was just two little girls having a good time chasing each other and giggling without a lot of bells and whistles and over-the-top entertainment. Hmm, funny how that works…

  • Darcy September 30, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    I think the biggest “mistake” a parent can make is not allowing themselves to make mistakes. Can you imagine growing up with such a perfect parent? Wouldn’t it damage you for life? Imagine a child asking, “mom, what’s your biggest mistake?” and hearing in return “we don’t make mistakes in this family.” it boggles me.

  • unha September 30, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    one of the best parents i know! hands down! xo

  • K. September 30, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    my parents made loads of mistakes.. πŸ™‚ they were the coolest parents in town and now that we are grown.. we have the best parent-kid relationship because we know that we don’t have to be perfect all the time to feel loved.. it really is terrible to say someone is a bad parent..

  • vesna September 30, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    you are doing great!

  • Fiona September 30, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    It’s funny, the idea of expecting oneself or anyone else to be a perfect human being would be ludicrous and yet there really is this idea around that it’s possible or even expected to be a perfect parent. Different parents have different values. They raise different children and surprise, surprise, the world keeps turning. But yeah, for one parent to criticise another’s parenting skills is about the most hurtful thing. Good for you for being able to brush it off.

  • Matty September 30, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    I am an ex school teacher and have never met a perfect parent or a perfect child. We are all a work in progress and we all do the best we can. My parents weren’t perfect and my siblings and I all turned out all right. Hang in there..

  • cherish September 30, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    that’s weird someone would think they have the merit to comment on your parenting while only reading a slice of your life through your blog.

  • olivia rae September 30, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    Jenna, I’ve never met you or your girls (although I’d love to) but I can say that judging from this blog, your family is one of the most beautiful, genuine, poised and sweet families I’ve ever laid eyes on. And like someone else said, solely from your insight and constant reflection, you are clearly an incredible mother. xox

  • rorie September 30, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    i think you are just wonderful.

  • Alison C September 30, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    I can’t believe people who have the gall to tell others how to raise their children! Good job on ignoring those comments.

  • Jasmine September 30, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    I think you are doing a marvelous job, and I admire how honest and insightful you are with yourself and your readers. It’s refreshing, and I always find myself coming back to read about a slice of your life.

  • Fraulien September 30, 2010 at 10:38 pm

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_U5HpeA_WSo
    sorry i just had to.
    i am human got me……..

    love the blog! i say hate on haters. you’re living the good life!

  • Lecia October 1, 2010 at 2:43 am

    I think I remember hearing about that email encounter… it still astounds me that anyone would feel free to give that kind of unsolicited input. This is a personal blog, not the New York Times!

    You and Mark are doing a fantastic job; please don’t ever forget that.

    And I know what you mean about seeing your kids in that way.

  • RebeccaNYC October 1, 2010 at 9:17 am

    Free pass to make a mistake? DAMN SKIPPY you get a free pass!

    Thanks for being so honest in your blog about what real life is like. Your open-ness (is that a word?) is a breath of fresh air in the blogosphere.

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