transparency

June 24, 2011 |  Category:   life me parenting

This is a word that has been coming up a lot. I get asked every now and then if I mind sharing such personal details about my life on a public blog. The answer would be no. I wouldn’t write anything that I wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing. The other question I might get asked is “why?”. I often say that this blog is more for me than for any audience, but the “why” part of it did become a little more clear when I sat down a few weeks ago with Joanne Wilson who interviewed me for her Woman Entrepreneur Mondays series. We talked, among many things that morning over coffee, about how we were both in agreement that there could be more sharing and honest discussion among women, particularly women who were also working mothers. This is happening more these days on the web via social media and blogs, but there still could be so much more – and I don’t mean fashion tips on what shape dress is the most flattering on your post-pregnancy body or what color wall will be the next trend in kid rooms. I love eye candy distractions as much as the next girl, but I do have a limit, and at the end of the day the most inspiring content on the web for me isn’t going to be a moodboard.

I totally get that blogging of this nature isn’t for everyone. You open yourself up and you’re also opening yourself up to haters, critics, and people who just can’t help themselves by telling you what they think of you. But that’s ok. It’s worth it to get a comment or an email from a reader who can relate to something I’m writing and who then doesn’t feel so lonely for feeling the same things, or from someone who might aspire to have children one day, but can’t quite figure out how to make it work with their career. Our life path isn’t for everyone and I’ve never aspired to be some kind of role model for “the working mother”, but if I’ve helped shed some light to anyone’s questions on balancing work and family by perhaps showing that parenthood and a career doesn’t have to be so black and white, that there are alternative lifestyles out there beyond a 9-5 existence, then I’m happy to have helped in that small way.

Things have changed since I first became a mom in 2004. Things are shifting and the economy isn’t the same. It seemed like most of the new mothers I was meeting back then decided to stay home. Some of the moms went back to work full time after their 3 month maternity leave and I didn’t see them very much after that. I rarely, if ever, met a mother who freelanced like I did and I often felt like I couldn’t relate to either the stay-at-home moms or the working moms because really, in one sense, I was both. I wish there were other people that I could have talked to back then who could relate to the kind of life that we were trying to build, but we just figured it out ourselves as we went along. Our situation was born because we couldn’t afford full time childcare, but we couldn’t live off of Mark’s salary either, so I needed to work. I was always the main breadwinner of the family and that wasn’t necessarily going to change just because we had kids. Somehow we made it happen in the past 7 years through juggling schedules, a PT nanny 2 days a week (up until last summer) and tag team childcare even if it meant that we were sleeping less or that Mark often went to my mother’s group playdates in place of me. If we were being really honest with ourselves, the juggling may have played a part in a few lost projects or jobs, so it’s not been without sacrifices. Often, it was stressful. But in the past few years, I have met more families like ours. I meet women all the time who are starting or running small businesses while raising their kids, or families where both the parents are freelancers or own a business together. Perhaps the change in economy has instigated this, or perhaps we’re all starting to think differently about what it means to be working parents since the traditional structure of corporate America doesn’t make it easy to be a working mom.

And this is why I choose to share. It’s not because I think my life is better than yours (I assure you, it is probably not). It’s not because I aspire to be some kind of role model or blog celebrity (that whole concept is so weird and strange). It’s not because I have anything to teach anybody. What I do have, through age and experience for a lack of a better way to describe it, are stories and I genuinely believe that through sharing, we can help each other out. To tell each other that it’s ok to get angry, to be sad and frustrated, to be scared and lonely sometimes. That it’s ok to be all of these things even as mothers. Although I love my children dearly and I am proud of the little people that they are turning out to be, being a mother isn’t my greatest achievement in life. It may very well turn out to be in the end, but I don’t know this to be true yet because I haven’t finished living my life. Being a mother isn’t what defines me. It’s part of who I am, but it isn’t what defines me. I get to decide what does.

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  • tamera jane June 24, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    yes!! YES! I was just looking at this Forbes Women “Top 100 Websites for Women” and I was thinking WHAT WOMEN? I clicked on a “career” blog and it was all about fashion and looked like a chick lit cover. No thanks.

    http://www.forbes.com/2011/06/23/100-best-web-sites-for-women-blogs-2011.html

    So yes. Thank you for sharing, and giving a window into a world that’s more realistic than 99% of what’s promoted as “popular” for women.

  • j June 24, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    what a great post. thanks for sharing. i’ve been contemplating on starting a blog about some challenges i’ve been faced with as a mom attempting to reach a lifelong goal but coming to realization that it may not pan out as i hoped it would. i think i may just do it even if it means helping someone along the way.

  • jen June 24, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    I want to thank you for sharing your experiences. I’ve been following your blog regularly for over a year now and absolutely love it (though i’ve never commented before).

    I’m in my late 20s, a designer, have no children. But I love your blog for your honesty and how all your photographs tell a story on their own.

    You have a great eye for the simple beauty of everyday life and I find that incredibly inspiring.

    You also have the most beautiful children ever 🙂

  • Audrie June 24, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    I couldn’t agree more. I started my blog because I’d moved to a new country and needed an outlet. It’s helped me so much to be able to write and share what I create, and finding that people want to read what I’ve written is purely icing on the cake. Icing that I’m thankful for because many of them have become good friends.

  • Ana June 24, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    Thank you for sharing this with us, it is truly the first time I feel a real connection with you. Hugs

  • Susan June 24, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    I’m so thankful that you share, as I have gained quite a bit of wisdom from you, on many topics. I do not have children yet, but when I do I will remember many of the things you have written.

  • Amie June 24, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    I have been following your blog now for about 6 months. I don’t have children, live in a big city, or have
    a husband, but I am a 41 year old designer and an aspiring small business owner. Despite the differences, I almost always relate to what you have to say. I loved what you wrote here and felt compelled to say so. When you write about design, the demands of daily life and business, and about getting older and how that affects you, sometimes if feels like you’ve just written about me. Or that you’ve just mirrored exactly what I was thinking. I really never stopped to think about the “haters” or critics that must chime in too. Thank you for being so open and insightful!

  • Rachel B June 24, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    Jenna,
    Thank you thank you thank you! I just did a little happy dance all over my dining room/ office/ toy room. I have 4 children and I am constantly juggling, making new childcare plans, trying to ‘relate’ to other moms- and I find that the thing separating me from most of them is that I don’t believe that motherhood defines me either. I too am proud of my kids and I love them in a huge crazy way- but I do more in this life than just mother them. I have things to share with the world. I am glad you shared this with us.
    xxo
    Rachel

  • Renita June 24, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    I appreciate your thoughts and experiences. There are times you are more honest than any of my local girlfriends. Reading your experiences are a great way to see ‘choices’ being made for both personal and professional growth. I wish I could write and visually document life as well you are doing.

  • Rachel June 24, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    I somehow stumbled upon your blog about six months ago, and I say with all honesty that reading it has become one of the most cherished parts of my day. You’re photographs are beautiful and emotive, and your written voice is easy and direct. And I so appreciate your honesty about your doubts and difficult times because you’re sharing REAL life in all of it’s ups and downs. So many internet personalities are so polished and pristine that they make a sane intelligent normal girl like me feel like I’ll never be happy or successful enough.
    It’s so cheesy and trite, but reading your blog feels like spending time with a friend. And at times when I’ve been down, it’s really comforting to see how one woman is making it happen for herself and her family in Brooklyn.
    Thanks

  • gabyo June 24, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    you rock!

  • kenzie June 24, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    as someone who feels pressure to have kids, being defined only as being a mom is one of my big fears. But I think it’s something people don’t want to say because it’s taboo. Thanks for sharing, that’s the reason I started my blog, and those are the blogs I read.

  • tara thayer June 24, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    hi. longtime listener, firsttime caller.
    could say so much, but i’ll just say:
    yep.
    xo,
    tara

  • chavonne June 24, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    I have been trying to write something like this for a while and just couldnt put it into words. One of the major reasons I started blogging was to find moms like me (young married mothers trying to figure it all out) and it just seemed like moms in my age group who were happy and married were no where to be found (which is why i read so many mormon mommy blogs in the beginning). Anyway so far nothing but positive things have come from blogging and I have no plans to stop any time soon.

  • Rebecca June 24, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    Thank you! I appreciate your honesty and the insight into balancing work and family. While I do not have children (yet!) I do think about those eventual struggles. There are very few women out there who seem to be able to be mothers without it becoming their entire identity. It’s refreshing to see you be honest and bravely state that it’s a huge part of your life, but not everything. Thank you.

  • Jennelle June 24, 2011 at 7:34 pm

    Jenna,

    Your realness is exactly why I have stuck around for over 2 years now. Unlike those ‘popular’ blogs, I never feel as though you’re trying to sell me anything via ads or endorsements etc. Thank you so much for being genuine, it is very inspiring 🙂

  • Hayley June 24, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    Thank you. Your blog is a beautiful reminder of the joy & complications of being a mother and a small business owner. Your honesty is inspiring and I wish more bloggers wrote about the downs, as well as the ups.

    Cheers!

  • unha June 24, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    you are the best! what i’ve been thinking past a few months that i wish more women shared! xoxo

  • Shirley June 24, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    Wow that was a very honest and real post. I read your blog religiously every day for these types of messages. I too am a working mom to a one year old and some days are really really great (like today) and some days are extremely tough. I get so inspired by your words because you have been there and lived it, and your writing is so polished yet so uncensored and I can feel the raw emotion behind the words. Your blog makes me feel like it’s perfectly normal for life to be messy and not so perfect. In fact, those are signs of a life well lived. And like you, I came to the conclusion (recently) that I don’t want motherhood, as wonderful as it is, to be my entire life. I feel that I can be a better mother to my daughter if I take time to be other things and to contribute to the world in other ways. Please keep doing what you are doing and know that you do touch other peoples’ lives in a very significant way.

  • Stephanie June 24, 2011 at 8:54 pm

    Okay, so I love this post. I totally agree. I don’t have kids yet, but I will (God willing) and I completely agree with everything you just said. Thanks for always being real. That’s why I keep coming back. Your posts are brave and honest and even if I don’t always agree (although mostly I do), they’re always real.

  • Kayla @ Exquisite Banana June 24, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    I’m not really sure how to express my admiration and respect for you other than to say that if in ten to fifteen years I’m in a similar place, it will be a very beautiful thing. many thanks for your honesty and inspiration. it is much appreciated.

  • Erin at Such Small Steps June 24, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    Love this post. I’ve read your blog for at least a year now and the reason I come back (and read you first in my feed!) is not just due to your gorgeous photos, but because of your honesty and your openness. I started a blog this year and it’s hard to know just how revealing or honest to really be, but I do struggle to balance working full time with being a mom to young kids and I wish there were more women, either in my real life, or who blog, that had similar experiences. Thank you for what you do share here- it is much appreciated.

  • Meghann June 24, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    Yes! This is such a great post. I love it.
    I love being a mom and I’m truly dedicated to doing the best I can. But being a mom is not WHO I am. Its just one of the many things I do and am passionate about.
    Thank you so much for posting this. I’m not alone.

  • Sora June 24, 2011 at 10:56 pm

    Thank you! You have, on many occasions, made me feel like I can get through those challenging parent/ working-for self/designer moments. Thank you for continuing to share — it has made a difference.

  • SY June 24, 2011 at 11:37 pm

    Jenna, if you’re ever in Northern California please let me know! I feel that parts of my life really parallel’s yours, I too am a freelancer and it is a struggle sometimes and although there are sacrifices I fell very lucky to have such a flexible schedule. Thanks you for sharing your life with us and for doing so with grace and humour, I look forward to reading your posts (even if I don’t get around to them sometimes until after I’ve finished my work and then I realize it’s already past midnight).

  • jen June 25, 2011 at 12:07 am

    thank you for this blog. that is why i come here everyday. so much of what you say resonates with me because i feel like i’m in a similar boat. working mom trying to figure it out 🙂 my closest friends after they had their babies, left the workforce and eventually moved away. the bay area, like brooklyn, is hard to raise a family on one income.
    you say you’re the breadwinner, i’d love to hear more…

  • Chai Ling June 25, 2011 at 12:12 am

    this is the reason i love your blog since two years ago and i proudly made it my homepage 🙂 always appreciate your generosity of sharing this blog publicly.

  • kath June 25, 2011 at 1:05 am

    If somebody asks me why yours is my favourite blog, I will show them this post!

  • Jacqueline June 25, 2011 at 1:49 am

    I’m not yet a mother, but the work-life balance of it all is something I’m interested in, especially with moms who are small business owners. So I just love that you share your experiences on your blog — transparency! I think it’s so helpful.

  • tish June 25, 2011 at 4:06 am

    i started reading your blog only just recently, but you’re the first blog i read when it pops up into my feed. i love reading about your life and thoughts and especially looking at your photos. i relate most to when you reminisce about your life with your family when you were younger. keep blogging!

  • ann June 25, 2011 at 5:24 am

    jenna- your blog is much more substantial than most others out there. i esp love when u write about your time spent finding yourself in washington/oregon because i’m at that stage in my life right now and through your stories, i feel there’s hope for things settling down and working out. i love that u share 🙂

  • Evie June 25, 2011 at 8:35 am

    This is a great post, thank you. I am a new mom and have been working freelance since my son was 3 months old. My husband and I also tag-team with child care (he’s a chef and so works late and I do my work mostly in the mornings). We barely sleep, have never had more than a day off together yet and at times it gets so stressful I’m tempted to quit my work. I love reading your blog because sometimes I feel like no one else does this and it gives me hope that it can be done.
    At the moment, being a mom is my greatest achievement but I don’t want it to be my only achievement.
    Thank you for your transparency!

  • Emily June 25, 2011 at 11:06 am

    Jenna, I am 26 years old, a designer living in nyc. My boyfriend is a self-employed composer/musician. I often worry about our financial future and things like health insurance, etc., especially if and when kids enter our lives…. sometimes to the point where I question my decision to stay in this relationship (despite it being wonderful and loving and all those other amazing things that matter so so much). Reading your blog over the past year or so has really helped me think through some major life questions. This line from one of your anniversary posts has really stuck with me:

    Don’t question whether or not you’re making the right choice. You won’t be rich and have a country house and you won’t ever get to be a stay-at-home mom, but you’ll have a nice life and 2 of the cutest and smartest kids you’ll ever meet. Money is not everything.

    Your wisdom and honesty are so appreciated. Thank you.

  • Roos June 25, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    Honest pieces like this are the only way to go if you ask me!

    I’ve been reading here for over a year, but haven’t found the time to comment more often since my husband was recently diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. I am a small business owner, decided to take a 12 months break to care for our 2 small boys. In the midst of this break our nightmare all of a sudden took place. The heart wrenching thing is, that all social services consider it more than convenient that I am a SAHM. With my business on hold, I’m their ideal “home nurse candidate” and we cannot apply for outside help. Needless to say how frustrating this is..

    Don’t change a thing about your writing (and pics!), it’s such a welcome contrast to the whole “pink and fluffy” moms blogs 🙂
    PS. mine isn’t so cheerful either, but you might have guessed that already..

  • K of Little Alexander June 25, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    I really appreciate the honesty and thoughtfulness you bring to this blog. Having kids didn’t pan out for me and as a result I generally avoid any blogger with kids, but you’re different. You do an amazing job of sharing your own unique path in life, which includes so much more than motherhood. Keep up being your own person and thank you for sharing your adventure!

  • Katie June 25, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    I read your blog almost every day and never leave a comment. Today, however, I had to tell you that you are awesome. I’m still trying to figure out my voice and where it belongs in the whole blogging world. After reading this post, I thought, “Yes! *That* is why I decided to do it.” Thank you.

  • Beth from MD June 25, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    Amen Sister Friend! Thank you for putting into words what I struggle to define. I’m a mom who is the primary income source in our family of musician parents. The relating to other moms thing has been very tough for me, too. I don’t work 9-5, but i do work a lot, so I don’t really fit in to either group. I’d be around the stay-at-home set a few days, but then not be available for a week or two and fall out of the circle of plans. We are constant shufflers when it comes to our daughter and I worry that we don’t spend enough time all together. We’re doing our best. Your blog is a treasured space. Thank you for not doing mood boards or using the phrase “pop of color”. Stay awesome!

  • Sascha from toddler tastes June 25, 2011 at 10:58 pm

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. This blog is exactly what i am going through at the moment. Even though we will never meet, it already feels like i have just spoken to a friend who know’s exactly what i am going through.

    I’m new to this blogging world, it’s big and scary but so exciting at the same time.

    Thank you

  • Jenna June 25, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    Thank you to each and every one of you for your nice words! It is so appreciated, you have no idea. And it keeps me writing.

    @Roos I am so sorry you are going through a tough time. Hang in there and I will keep your family in my thoughts.

    @Emily I will write more about this subject, but remember, a loving strong relationship is so much more valuable than money. Trust.

  • cherish June 26, 2011 at 11:37 am

    beautiful picture!

  • t June 26, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    amen, sister. preach it.

  • miffymoo June 27, 2011 at 3:12 am

    Congratulations on your blog and thank you for your easy-to-read honesty. You are a daily read and I never once think ‘better than me’ or ‘show off.’
    I appreciate the small porthole you offer into life as a mother. Living in inner Sydney, Australia (these days not a cheap place to be) I often wonder and lament how I will ever be a parent. We are all, I’m sure, looking for that opportunity where we can chase what we love! You are living proof of this…
    You are both a comfort and inspiration, please, please, keep it up!

  • Manja June 27, 2011 at 7:16 am

    Dear Jenna,
    thank you so much for this post. Although I live in Belgrade, Serbia, far from NY I can relate to what you are writing about. I’m a 28 year old mom of a 16 months old boy, a children illustrator, wife, sister, daughter… Plus I’m still the only one of my classmates to have a child! I feel like they have no idea what it’s like to be a stay at home mom and try to do ANY work done every day. So when any of them ask me, what interesting projects have you done lately? I get so frustrated and sometimes lie to them because how can they possibly understand that I have about 4 hours a day when my son is asleep and that’s the time when I run around the house cleaning, cooking… and then I just collapse on the sofa before I drag myself to bed! Ahhhh! People say it will get easier as he gets older:)
    Anyway, thanks again for making me feel like I’m not crazy and feeling all alone:))

  • Lauren June 27, 2011 at 8:23 am

    Jenna, Been on here for a few years, but those last few sentences have made me respect you in a whole new way. Awesome – glad to be able to hear perspective from a working mom.

  • Pink Ronnie June 27, 2011 at 9:49 am

    Jenna,
    I really appreciate what you share on your blog – not only do you write so well but the stories you tell and the experiences you share really do help and inspire. I’m a self-employed designer like yourself and I also look after our three boys under three. It’s just really nice to know that there are others out there in somewhat similar circumstances.
    Ronnie xo
    p.s. Your photos also rock.

  • Jessica June 27, 2011 at 9:55 am

    I am also a designer and mom (of a 3 1/2 year old). It is such a tough job to balance both. I relate in SO many ways to your posts and am so glad you write about what you do on your blog. Thank you for having the courage to put out there what so many of us are feeling, but are often afraid to admit.

  • Clara June 27, 2011 at 10:12 am

    Jenna- this post could not have been more timely. Literally this past Friday I was running through my list of blogs I read, and thinking about how Friday posts have become so predictable- it’s all about having a great weekend, and everyone’s grand weekend plans. Weekends aren’t always that grand! And neither is life! That’s not to say I don’t want to here about the good in people’s live, it’s just nice when people portray a balance. I love your blog for that reason. It’s honest and real, and provides really great perspective. Thank you!

  • Mirella June 27, 2011 at 11:09 am

    wonderful post – thanks!

  • Alicia June 27, 2011 at 11:16 am

    Jenna, I continue to read your blog nearly ever since you started it because of your honestly and your take-it-or-leave-it attitude. In the past, some of your entries I didn’t agree with and some of them I did, and in the end I continue to read because it’s your space to say what you want to, and your blog is a lot better than some others precisely because you don’t just write about what everyone else does or what’s in style (for example, most travel blogs seem to have the same token ‘how to best use your frequent flyer miles’ entry that says the same exact thing every time and imparts no special tips or tricks, and you’ve never done anything as bandwagony as that for moms or chefs or small business owners, all of your content is highly original).
    In one way I think you’ve earned the right to be so honest because you have really established a presence in the (at least online) world, have such a great writing and photographic ability and own a popular baking biz (and those are just some of the reasons, I’m not trying to minimize nor inflate why it all works), so sometimes I feel like if I were to start being so honest via blogging, just as a person no one knows, who is young and unestablished in the world, would people accept my thoughts in the same way that your readers so respect you? I don’t know, so I continue to hold off, although I have a lot of things I’d like to say one day, too. 🙂

  • Jenna June 27, 2011 at 11:51 am

    Alicia, nobody should feel like they should earn a “right” to blog – you should blog because it makes you feel good to write and let things out into the world. Age/experience shouldn’t matter. We could all use a little more honesty and real life content in the blog world. Blog away!

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