Another late night brainstorming session – some days the post-bedtime quiet is the only time I have.
It’s been different tonight, though.
My bigs have been fighting bedtime as the new school year inches closer. As they finally settled in, a part of my heart begged summer to slow down so that I can keep them near me just a bit longer. My #1 and #2 are excited and ready to go, and I’m thrilled for the new possibilities a new school year brings, but this mama heart is also nervous and a bit scared for the bumps and bruises that come along with navigating the outside world away from my protective shield. It’s hard, this parenting big kids thing. It’s hard. It’s easy in the summer, as I’m cheering them on as they attempt to master new tricks on the skateboard and as I kiss the scraped knees that inevitably come next. The waking up when we want, the picnic lunches, the trips to the park, the playing outside all day, the movie nights. Summer has been good to us. Maybe not too exciting this year, but so very good. I’m not ready for it to end. As I peek at them sleeping, I’m suddenly aware at how fast time is flying and I want to hold on tighter.
My littles hung close tonight, as they do most nights these days. We turned the lights off and cuddled on the couch. We smiled and laughed at the baby as she imitated her big sister, clapping when we yelled “Yay!” and giggling instead of going to sleep. My sweet #4, who regulates her sleep like a champ, crawled under a blanket when she began to feel tired. She asked me, as she does every single night, “Mommy, inkle ar?” and I sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to her. “Mommy, ine?” and I sang You Are My Sunshine to her. She rolled over and fell asleep.
My darling #3, who wasn’t feeling well, needed to sleep near me tonight, as she does most nights these days. She’s cautious and sensitive, always a bit anxious about changes. She feels safe when she can touch me as she falls asleep. So she laid down on the couch and put her feet on my lap. This precious girl, who is finding her independence and her courage a little bit more each and every day, finds comfort in my presence. She’s finding her voice because she knows she is safe and that she can count on me. I learn so much about how to be a better mother because of her.
Then my #5. She’s been fighting sleep lately as we deal with what appears to be teething. But tonight was, dare I say, a bit easier. She nursed to sleep and woke a bit as I laid her down, but quickly was lulled back to sleep as I rubbed her back. She’s 10 months old now. I don’t know how that happened. As her birthday nears closer, I find myself treasuring these baby days just a bit more, soaking up that baby smell, kissing those chubby baby cheeks, cherishing every second of her first year. I hold this baby so close to my heart. Her beginning was tough, and I don’t take her presence for granted, not even for a minute.
So here I am. All five kids asleep. Binge watching The West Wing on Netflix. Feeling inspired.
When I decided to start my own business and dive head first into this entrepreneurial journey, I did so with one big reason in mind – to be home with my kids.
My business has grown over the last two years, and I’m moving forward with plans to grow it further. I’m feeling inspired and bursting with ideas. It feels good when you are in alignment.
But that’s not all. There’s more to it. There’s bigger plans underway. Larger dreams. And it all comes back to the five little people that I put to sleep tonight, who I’ve gone to one by one to kiss their foreheads and check and see that they are breathing as I’ve done almost every single night for the last 11 years.
I may not have followed the path I had envisioned. I didn’t graduate college after four years. I didn’t go to medical school like I had planned. Nothing happened the way I thought it would.
But it happened just the way it needed to.
Five beautiful babies later and I am right on the path I was meant to be on.
I watch her sleep, lying next to me on the couch, her bare feet propped up on my thigh. She sleeps with her hands clenched, her long eyelashes pressed gently against her slightly pink cheeks.
I wonder what she’s dreaming about.
There’s something different about raising your last baby.
To know that you’ll never again hold your few-day old baby and smell that sweet, unmistakable new baby smell. You’ll never again coax that first smile from your baby, staring up at you wide-eyed with wonder and trust. You’ll never again experience all the wonderful firsts of that first year of life.
I didn’t realize how fast it all would go. As I held my first baby over 10 years ago, I remember wishing she’d grow up so we could get some sleep at night. Oh how I wish I hadn’t wished those days and nights away.
This baby-phase has been my life for so long now, I almost don’t know what to do with myself as we move away from it. We’ll be full on toddler soon. Then they will all be in school. Then they will all be adults. Just that fast.
So I take more time now. I slow down. When she’s hungry, I put away what I’m working on and I sit and nurse her. When she cries and needs attention, I stop what I’m doing and give her whatever she needs.
Your last baby makes you think. Makes you slow down. Makes you treasure everything. Makes you be present.
This in turn makes me more present with my older kids. Because I suddenly realize how fast they are growing up.
So here we sit, in the afternoon on a busy Friday, and I’m watching her sleep. Hoping that she doesn’t grow up too fast, and that I can enjoy these moments for as long as possible.
Several years ago, I found myself knee deep in motherhood, a bit lost, and trying to find myself. I regularly read blogs, two specifically were that of Stephanie Precourt and Lovelyn Palm. I read about a show they were involved in called LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER and I was intrigued. I felt a rush of energy – THIS is what I’ve been searching for!
There was no show here in Michigan, so I signed up to audition in Indiana. And then I freaked out. I didn’t go. Instead, I read the blogs and watched the videos and saw other people do this big scary thing. An email came out saying they were searching for people to take on new cities. THIS was what I was waiting for! I was going to submit my hometown of Detroit and try and start a show. Same story, different day. I freaked out. I never sent the email. Someone else did, and they got the show.
I cried. A lot.
The strong, confident me had disappeared somewhere and I didn’t know how to find her again.
I thought about auditioning for that first LTYM Metro Detroit show, I even followed the audition call out, but baby #4 was only a month old and my postpartum anxiety was real. I couldn’t bring myself to follow through.
Over that next year, I found a bit of my voice and started my business. It was five years in the making, and finally taking that leap allowed me a sense of confidence I had long been missing. I signed up for email updates for the next round of LTYM auditions.
The time came, I got the email, I headed to the site to register… and it was booked. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me again!
This year I was determined. I pretty much stalked the LTYM site for months, just waiting for the audition announcement. I registered right away.
Here was my chance! But in true Jenny fashion, on the day of my audition, I hadn’t finished writing my piece. So I wrote… and I wrote fast. What I came up with wasn’t at all what I had intended to write about. I had envisioned myself standing on that stage, sharing a deep, heartfelt, meaningful story of motherhood. Maybe I’d touch on the struggles of becoming a mom at 21, and the societal judgement that came along with not being married when she was born. Maybe I’d write about parenting a sick child, the ups and downs of his first year of life, the struggles to find him help, how being his mother has taught me about patience and acceptance and fighting for your child and feeling pure unbridled joy. Maybe I’d write about my struggles with breastfeeding, and what it took to go from a traumatic birth experience to our healing births of our youngest two. Maybe I’d talk about how waiting the years between our 2nd and 3rd babies changed me as a mom, and how that new baby changed me as a woman. Maybe I’d share how it feels to parent girls when I only had brothers growing up, and all the things I don’t know how to deal with like makeup and sisters and sharing clothes. Maybe I’d talk about my relationship with my mom, and how that has grown and changed since my father stepped out of the picture. All I knew was that I had something really deep and meaningful to say.
What I wrote didn’t feel very deep or meaningful.
But I wrote it.
And I waited.
Then it happened. I got an email saying YOU’RE IN!
They picked me.
THEY PICKED ME.
They picked… ME.
Still baffled, people. Still surprised. That feeling of setting a goal, following through, and reaching it? Holy geez, what a feeling.
This was the boost I needed.
I spent my childhood and my teen years in two places – on the softball diamond and on the stage. These two places feel like home to me more than anywhere else.
It’s been 8.5 years since I’ve stepped foot on a stage.
Getting a chance to do it again? I have struggled to find the words to explain how I felt.
My littlest was just 4 months old when I was picked to join the 2016 cast, which made the logistics of my involvement a bit tricky. Everyone was so great and so kind. At our first rehearsal, when it was time to take my headshot, I handed my girl over to a woman I had just met. But that didn’t feel odd to me. I already felt like we had all been friends for a long time.
The day of the show was magical.
I took several moments to soak it all in. To be sitting in the green room of The Shelter. To be standing on the stage of Saint Andrew’s Hall. The history is rich here, and I felt it. I felt all of it. The energy. The lights. The words. The moments.
Being surrounded by so many strong, amazing women sharing their stories was inspiring. Sharing the stage with them was such an honor. Being part of this entire movement was a privilege.
Something awakened in me during this experience. The confidence that I had in myself returned. The fire inside me to do big amazing things and to chase my craziest dreams was lit again. I felt passionate, excited, and truly alive in a way that I hadn’t felt in a long time.
You know that feeling you get when you KNOW you are doing exactly what you should be doing and you are exactly where you should be in that very moment?
That was my LTYM experience. Being exactly where I was meant to be.
I wish they’d let me do this show every single year. Or really… every single day! I want more!
I’m using this experience as the fuel to get in touch with my dreams and my passions again. To allow myself to feel exhilarated. To feel connected to my soul. To feel strong and powerful. To feel connections to other people. To be myself, completely and unapologetically, as I am.
Since LTYM ended, I’ve found myself dreaming more. I’ve felt more connected to my husband and my kids. I’ve been more present in my every day. I’ve brainstormed and planned and allowed myself to dig deeper. This experience has become the catalyst for a new phase in my life. One more in tune with my soul, with my passions, with my dreams, with my kids.
Standing on that stage, feeling the connection of motherhood and of storytelling, feeling the lights, hearing the laughter… this was the beginning for me. I feel confident. I’m no longer afraid. I’m ready to take action.
Thank you to my mom and brothers for supporting me, being ridiculously excited about the show, and loving me through all of it. Thank you to my dear friend Rachel and her sweet daughter who drove from Ohio just to see me. Your friendship means so much to me. Thank you to my sister-in-law for keeping ⅗ of the kidlets and allowing me to not worry about them as I took the stage. Thank you to Stephanie for sharing LTYM with me all those years ago. Thank you to The Angelas for choosing me and believing in me. Thank you to the amazing women that I shared the stage with – I am honored to have walked this journey with you. Thank you for inspiring me with your words and your hearts. Thank you to my husband, who supported me when I rambled on about this show about motherhood that I so desperately wanted to audition for, who took care of our kids during rehearsals, who cheered me on and believed in me, who gave me the confidence I needed to follow through. You + me, baby, thank you. To TBGIL, the fab five, my motivation, my heartbeat – thank you for allowing me the privilege of being your mother. I said it that day on stage and I’ll say it every day of my life – I am blessed to be a part of your lives. So very blessed.
And to all those who have walked on the LTYM stage in the past, and to those who will in the future – we are part of something special. Be brave. Share your stories. Feel confident and strong. Do whatever it is your heart is calling you to do.
Oh, and that piece I wrote? It was deep and meaningful after all. It was the perfect representation of my motherhood journey, and where I’m at in my life right this minute. Writing this story gave me a new perspective, it gave me a sense of pride in my amazing kids, and the feedback I received after the show made it clear this story was something that resonated with many people. It was exactly what people needed to hear, and it was exactly what I needed to write.
I’m going to ride this LTYM wave for as long as I can. It has become the fuel I needed to light the fire within my soul. Big things are coming. I’m taking action.
I had this vision of Spring Break that was full of adventure and fun. I had plotted out activities we’d undertake each day. I got all crafty and wrote out a card that said, “Spring Break Day #1” on the outside with our first fun activity on the inside, and pinned it to the bulletin board. The kids got home from school, so excited, loved the card, and I felt like YES! I GOT THIS! We may not be going anywhere fancy, but I’m sure going to give them a Spring Break to remember!
And then the vomit started.
I’ll spare the details, but I can sum it up by sharing that I was THISCLOSE to just chucking (pun intended) the couch out the front door. Movie night and sleepover in the living room turned into kids sleeping on the floor close to the bathroom, with towels and bucket all over the place.
Those cute Spring Break cards I made? I never got past day one.
As disappointing as it was to not be partaking in any grand adventure, I have been grateful that I am in a position to be home with my kids when they need me. Working from home has its advantages, and this is one of them. I was able to put work aside when my kids needed me, and not have to worry about calling in to work, missing a day of pay, finding childcare if I wasn’t able to get someone to cover my shift…
But it wasn’t easy. Balance is never easy.
I have been juggling all week. Taking turns between comforting a sick child, working on client projects, cleaning up after sick kids, laundry…
It hasn’t stopped.
24 hours of non-stop caregiving, because of course most of the fun parts of this illness have happened at night. Crying out of exhaustion because of a pretty long to-do list with deadlines that are creeping closer quicker than I’d like, but it’s midnight and there are three kids laying on top of me.
I want to put my laptop away, ignore those deadlines, and hold them close, comforting them.
I want to find that balance.
I want to be a mom who is present, patient, and kind. I want to be an attentive wife who isn’t quick to snap when she’s frustrated. I want to be a perfect housekeeper who always has the dishes done and a home cooked meal ready for every meal. I want to be a successful business owner who brings in amazing clients doing work that I love.
Even on the days where I somehow start to find a way to balance it all…somebody throws up all over me and I have to shift my plans. Whether it’s literally or figuratively.
Balance. Some days balance just means that I remain upright and make it through the day.
It’s that perfectionist in me. Trying to be everything for everybody at all times.
So putting that goals of balance aside, and focusing on my reason for everything – these little people who need me. And maybe that’s really what balance is all about. Just being able to prioritize and be who you need to be in that moment. And this moment, I’m diving deep into mom-duty, and feeling grateful for the exhaustion and the struggle.