June 12, 2011 |  Category:   life parenting travels

I’ve been thinking a lot about the choices we have made in the last 8 years to craft this life of flexibility. Flexibility was born out of the need to become creative with childcare, to make it more affordable while still working as many full time hours as possible. It was also born out of the recognition that I don’t do well with routine, particularly within office and corporate culture. Flexibility is so valued in our lives that we have held off on important, big decisions like opening a store. Even though we crafted this life of flexibility to be more present and involved parents while juggling full time work hours, ironically it’s now the kid’s schedules that have made our lives become more scheduled and a bit more rigid. With Claudine entering Kindergarten in 3 months, our lives will be even more ruled by the school calendar.

I was talking about this with my friend Megan the other day, who is also struggling to adapt to this life according to school schedules. It’s not just that family vacations now need to be coordinated with school vacations (and with the rest of the world which makes traveling always on peak times), but many things revolving around the kids need to be planned, reserved and paid for well in advance. The kids have been committed to summer camp, which starts in a month, since last November. When I recently looked ahead at the calendar, I noticed that pretty much every week of summer, and in some instances, ever day of the week is accounted for between camp, Brooklyn Flea dates, work deadlines and our trip to the West Coast. It suddenly made summer seem fleeting and all accounted for.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just different and maybe something to get used to when you now have school age children, but I won’t lie and say that I don’t miss how life used to be more spontaneous. Not just for the big things like taking off for months at a time and traveling around the country in a car with no agenda, which was a big part of my life in my early 20s, but for little things as well – friends dropping by, last minute dinner plans, a movie in the middle of the day. I want – and believe I can – bring back some of that spontaneity back into our lives. Our calendar may be filled, our business may tie us down to home, and Mark’s schedule may have become less flexible than when we first started the company, but we are making some choices even if it does comes at a price. Our business and online store will be closed for nearly 3 weeks in August which also means we will not be earning any money during this time. It also takes a while to ramp sales back up from such a long break and I admit, it does make me really nervous to be closed for so long, but we are doing it anyway. I look at these vacation photos from our most recent trip, a trip where we had to pull the girls out of school for 3 days and close our business down for a week and think…was it worth it? Undoubtedly, yes.

Every stage of parenting brings on new challenges and a period of adjustments. It rarely stays the same and so it keeps you on your toes. Perhaps my once spontaneous life can never return to what it once was as long as the girls are young and living at home, but I also recognize that since they have become a bit older, school schedules aside, it’s totally possible to take spontaneous trips to the museum and little outings here and there and not be ruled by nap and bedtime schedules. If I can’t be spontaneous for whole summers, I can be for just a day. You lose some freedom, but you gain others.

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  • Isahrai June 12, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    This post has brought so much comfort to me this morning as I’m gearing up to repaint my beloved music studio to turn it into a (equally beloved!) baby’s room this afternoon. I’ve been incredibly nervous about how I will adapt to the restrictions put on my freedom and spontaneity as a baby comes into my life in 4 months. Your last statements about the give and take of raising children perfectly frame the mentality I’ve been trying to adopt. Knowing it is a constant, but worthwhile, struggle is a calming thought. Thank you!

  • unha June 12, 2011 at 12:18 pm


    i’ve thinking about these for a while too and making efforts to claim that “freedom” from my youth in a new way i can accommodate. with kids a bit older, it’s only getting “easier” on so many levels.


  • janine June 12, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    I really enjoy reading your posts but often wonder why I spend time reading about someone else’s life – sometimes it feels voyeuristic and sometimes it makes my own life seem less interesting. But this post made it clear to me why I keep on reading your blog – it goes beyond the lovely pictures and the exotic feel of life in Brooklyn- it makes me reflect on my own life a bit more. I have a 9 and 5 year old so many of the issues you raise strike a chord. (OK sometimes I feel a teeny bit jealous but I’m also sure that if I wrote a blog (and could take fab photos!) then others would sometimes be a teeny bit jealous of my life.) Thanks!

  • angela miller June 12, 2011 at 2:00 pm


    My “baby” turned 15 today. I have three children, the oldest 24 now and with a baby of her own. I have always taken my kids out of school (single days at a time) for what I deemed “mental health days.” I usually took these after January, and for a variety of reasons. I might need the day to clear my own head….I might have noticed that one child in particular needed a physical or emotional break from his or her daily grind….the bottom line being the break was needed in some way by one of us. We build a stronger, more secure family that way and as far as I can tell all these years later, there has never been any negative impact, only positives. My kids have also never tried to abuse the system, they have always appreciated that it is there for them to use when they truly need it. Keep doing what you feel is right for your family. When your heart is in it, it always works in a positive way.

  • Michelle June 12, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    Looking at this from the other side of the experience (grown kids), please remember that in barely more than a decade you will no longer be governed by these restrictions, so don’t stress! In the meantime, you are wise to treasure the small moments of spontaneity — the impromptu outing, walk, board game or treat. You’ll remember them, and your girls will, too.

  • diamondkelt June 12, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    It’s a good thing, this spontaneous stuff πŸ™‚

  • Juliet June 12, 2011 at 10:27 pm

    jenna, like janine says, your words help me to reflect on this life; there is a purity to your thoughts and your life that has made me realize how many of my life decisions have been ruled by fear. your bits of wisdom really speak to me. i love how you quietly cherish your husband; you guys are a team. listening to your words has helped me to realize how lucky i am to have my own superman, how i haven’t cherished him nearly enough over the years and how in some ways, my fear of failure has dictated the path we’ve taken in too many ways. thank you for showing me the beauty in following your heart and helping me to see the wonders that are beside me.

  • courtney June 12, 2011 at 11:48 pm

    my sister homeschooled my niece and nephew their first couple of years. my niece entered first grade this year and it was their first public school experience. my sister wanted to do their family vacation in mexico this year, didn’t want to wait for peak travel season and unbearable heat, so she just took my niece out of school for a week in may πŸ™‚ sounds like you’ve been able to invent creative ways of doing things in the past too.

  • mrsB June 13, 2011 at 12:10 am

    Enjoy those moments of “why not?” while you can…all creative people need them. Curious if you’ve ever checked out Tyler and Wendy from Blue Lily? They are California photographers who are on a world tour along with their two kids all the while doing photo shoots to pay for it all–it’s a great read and inspires us all to make it work for our lives:

  • Anna @ D16 June 13, 2011 at 12:34 am

    This post, while beautifully written, makes me feel ashamed of the lack of flexibility and spontaneity in my life. Not having children, I suppose I should be freer about how I spend my time and the commitments I make, but flexibility has always been something that terrifies meβ€”I don’t see it as being liberating at all. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but whatever it is, it’s shameful. I really admire how you’ve managed to make all this work.

  • Crystal June 13, 2011 at 12:52 am

    Thanks for sharing this – my husband and I are actually just starting the “flexible” period of our lives, as we’ve both left the cubicle world to work on our own. It’s very scary, and after so many years of set schedules, I worry that I’ll just flail around, but you’ve made me hopeful about those spontaneous days!

  • Jenna June 13, 2011 at 1:05 am

    Oh Anna, you shouldn’t feel ashamed (about this or anything – what a harsh word). Nothing is wrong with you. Everyone is different and I recognize that such an unstructured life is not for everyone. But just as you have crafted your life into something that you are comfortable with and that works for you, we have done the same thing. I would absolutely get depressed if I held a day job – the commute, the routine, everything about it would put me in a deep depression. I believe we all have the choice – and the right – to steer our lives into whatever form that makes us the most happy and comfortable. Sometimes I wonder how this came to be since deep down I am far too controlling and fiscally conservative to be so comfortable with a life that provides no stability in many ways. I guess for me the alternative is worse, and that’s what keeps me motivated to chug along. Embrace the life that you have. From where I stand, it looks like a beautiful life.

  • tamerajane June 13, 2011 at 1:26 am

    Being a kid in NYC would be the best-even a day vacation could unearth so many wonders!! I love that you’ve made your life this way, it’s so inspiring as I try to manifest the next chapter of mine!!

  • C June 13, 2011 at 2:28 am

    Mia could be a child model there. She’s good at posing πŸ˜‰

  • jennchab June 13, 2011 at 3:12 am

    i LOVE how you put it at the end, “you lose some freedom, but you gain others.” i came to the very same realization just recently, after spending several months mourning the loss of my freedom/flexibility as a stay-at-home mom of a 22-month old. i decided i wanted to stop wasting time being unhappy, focusing on everything i thought i was losing when, in fact, i was gaining new/different joys and opportunities i never knew! it’s quite liberating!

  • Chantale June 13, 2011 at 10:02 am

    Beautiful photos of Mia.. Is she taking back the power of her hair (i.e. she decides now)? ;p This definitely hit home with me too. I even changed jobs to keep up with the kiddo in school thing. Hopefully my next step is finding an even better way to find the flexibility you value as well.

  • Janeinto June 13, 2011 at 11:21 am

    Jenna: Will there be a Brooklyn Flea on Friday July 29, or only on Saturdays?
    Will be in NYC and hoping we can catch your booth during the week of July 25th. at The Flea. Thanks !

  • gia June 13, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    As an adult I have realized that I crave change, and I find it in literally flying away on a plane or planning a move. It’s scary, I was so shelted, my family never was able to take trips. I think it’s so valuable to teach your children change though!

  • Maggie June 13, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    I don’t have any children, yet when I flip through my planner over the summer months, I am in the same situation as you–almost all of my weekends are already accounted for, and sometimes it feels a little claustrophobic. For me, it is helpful to think about the idea of spontaneity differently when the structure of summertime looms–spontaneity doesn’t have to be the freedom to take a whole week off from work and go on a road-trip, as awesome as that would be. Trying to find small moments where spontaneity can surface within a larger scheme of routine and obligations (that may or may not be negotiable) is sometimes just as precious.

  • cvjn June 13, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    Jenna, my daughter’s preschool teacher, who has several teenagers, recently told me “You know, I think before highschool, it’s really not a problem for kids to miss school for travel and family functions. Once they’re in high school, you really can’t do it.”

    I think you should travel and take vacations when it works best for you, and if your kids miss school, they are bright and they will be fine. Your are fortunate to live in a pretty progressive community where educators will likely understand the value of travel and family time. Of course your experiences will vary from teacher to teacher, but my point is, I dont’ think you need to assume you are locked into the school year calendar. I think there can still be some flexiblitly.

  • kin June 13, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    these photos are amazing. mia is a stern and powerful little beach deity

  • Jenna June 13, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    Janeinto – the flea is only on weekends, not on fridays. We will, however, be at the Ft greene one on the 30th.

  • The Flying Quiche June 15, 2011 at 11:41 am

    Oh Jenna I just stumbled on your website and I’m in love. The photography and writing is top notch and puts me in such a wonderfully dreamy mood. Keep up the good work!

    (PS: Having just gone through your archives, I’d like to say that I completely trust that in 10 years you will be getting paid for your photos.)

  • Twiggs June 21, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    hello! i have this post opened since yesterday to remind me of writing a comment! πŸ™‚ first you daughter is growing such a beautiful lady! i love how grown-up she looks, and she is developing that big girl’s look! second of all, i love how you two found out that corporate environment was not for you and tried to grab something else that made you feel good! that gives me courage to keep chasing what i dream of doing! take care! twiggs