Each Mommy Matters: Jenn L

Today’s interview is with my friend Jenn L. I met Jenn through our mom’s group online, and I instantly felt like a big sister to her. At the time, Jenn was in college, juggling classes, her partner, having a baby, working, stress in general. We traded messages brainstorming the ways she could furnish her apartment on the cheap and it took me back to my own college apartment days. Sometimes life throws you a curveball, or as John Lennon famously said “life is what happens when you are busy making plans.” Not only does Jenn have two children and a third on the way, you might be surprised to learn that she has played the violin since age 5, and can play be ear. Two of my cousins play the violin and I know it is not an easy instrument to master, yet Jenn played in the Alabama Youth Symphony. So a musician, mother, wife and friend, future doctor too? That’s a well rounded life. I hope you will enjoy some of her insights.

As I said, I met Jenn while she was still in school.

I got pregnant with my daughter in college. My path was to have been medical school, but I thank the Lord everyday that He interrupted my plan. I am so glad to have been able to have my family young like I wanted (although a little earlier than I thought it would be) and be able to spend time with them. I love working in healthcare and it is what I currently do. I still am not quite sure what I want to do as I really enjoy healthcare and taking care of people, but I also have a passion for counseling. I still have plenty of time to figure it out I guess. 

So, Jenn works at a hospital which intrigued me. As a mother, I can imagine the stress of seeing children in pain would be unbearable, yet at the same time healthcare has always fascinated me from the helping aspect of it. I think I would like to be on the sidelines, not right in the trauma bay, you know, but doing something to help people when they aren’t at their best. Being in the healthcare field, what kind of “inside information” makes you a smarter mom?  What chills you?  What makes you go back every day?

I think mostly knowing what should be a doctors visit vs what to treat at home is awesome. Saves us a lot of unnecessary visits. Also having knowledge about what procedures/tests are necessary or could be dangerous is great instead of just blindly following doctors orders (although I respect doctors and they are very important, sometimes as a mom we need to educate ourselves).

What chills me is seeing people not take care of themselves. So many patients come in complaining of headaches, and sore knees. They have diabetes, high blood pressure, etc and they want doctors to ‘fix’ it. But then they won’t try to eat healthier or exercise, won’t take their meds. And then are mystified when their problems get worse. It’s really scary.

What makes me go back: my patients. We have some absolutely amazing patients. Especially my elderly ones. They are like grandparents to me, and we genuinely care about each other. I love taking care of them and making them happy! They always let us know how much they appreciate us. I genuinely love them!

Jenn touches on something here that I think we all need to remember, and that is taking care of ourselves. We cannot rely on others to make our lives better, and as parents we need to consider what our children will do if we are not there to help them grow into the amazing individuals they will one day be. Jenn’s husband – her high school sweetheart – is a swim coach and their oldest daughter Lacey (5) is on a swim team now. It is great they are teaching their children young that activities are fun and part of every day. We have enrolled Melody in dance and there are many students I see at the studio who are pudgy. I’m so thankful their parents have them in dance as an activity that is enjoyable too!

Being healthy is not just a physical thing, though; it is also mental. We can’t always be the level headed, calm parents we imagined we would be. What do you use every day to be positive for your kids?

Prayer. Lots of it. If I am not praying continually for patience and love to flow from my actions, then I have a major mean mommy day. My kids are awesome, but like all kids they are great at pushing my buttons. I pray for gentleness and calmness when they act up and I try to make every moment a teachable one. I also pray for God to remind me every day how blessed I am!! It helps me appreciate the small things. 

And yet, there can be difficult lessons and moments with our kids. What about that?

Teaching kids (especially my stubborn ones) is never easy. The hardest part for me is follow through and being consistent. It’s easy to let your children misbehave, or not be polite, etc. Its hard to stay on them and hold them accountable. It’s downright exhausting and sometimes I want to fall into the trap of ‘i’ll fix it later.’ But it only gets worse, so I have to nip it in the bud even if its tiring or frustrating. What I’ve learned is patience and perseverance pays off. The hard work I put in teaching and molding them shows when their teachers compliment their behavior, or when friends notice their manners, etc. Then I can relish the moment (for a minute) until the next teachable moment comes along!

Ahhh, follow through and consistency. That is a tough one in this house too! I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who says “no” to something one day and “yes” on another. Plus, each child is so different (I think I’m lucky I only have one!) and Jenn has her third due in just a few short months. What kind of challenges have you faced with your kids?

I guess one would be having so called ‘high needs’ children. You can google Dr Sears if you’d like for more info on the matter. But basically my children are very high needs. They need lots of stimulation but get overstimulated easily. They have a hard time regulating emotions and calming down. They are very empathetic and feel very deeply, and are very smart. They are super stubborn and take a long time to self soothe. Basically what that meant was: they weren’t like any of my friends kids, and they weren’t easy babies. They didn’t sleep through the night until around 2.5, even when I approached the second baby with a completely different mindset than the first. It was hard, especially as a young mom, to have a needy child when everyone else had easy babies. What was I doing wrong? Was I a bad mom? Did I spoil her? As it turns out, she is an AMAZING 5 year old. Caring, loving, empathetic, stubborn, and too smart for her own good. She feels intensely and cares deeply. She is such an old soul. So when the second one came along and was exactly the same, I stopped stressing as much as to what other people considered ‘normal’ and kept reminding myself that Lacey turned out awesomely, so I know that I need to parent Davis the way my instincts tell me (and not how society instructs) and he will turn out just fine. It’s proving true as he is an awesome, caring, loving, smart little boy. 

Finding a success out of adversity is one way that Jenn is a super mom. It isn’t always easy to rise above the moments of frustration to see the big picture. Lots of us turn to our own mothers to learn about this mom gig. What is something you learned from your mom?

Mainly, rock and hold your babies as much as you can. I have triplet sisters. Two of them were ‘easy’ babies and one was not. The one who wasn’t is very sensitive, smart, and touchy now. My mom regrets not holding her and rocking her more, she so desperately needed it. She needs a lot of touch and didn’t get it because my mom isn’t that touchy and she had two other babies. My mom realizes that now and is sad that she didn’t listen to her instincts. Her words of wisdom, “When your children get older, you will never look back and regret holding them too much.”

So true! I still rock Melody in our glider even though she is nearly half as tall as me! There is just something wonderful and special about holding your little one, singing them a song or reading a story together. I know one day she won’t want to do that any longer, so I will cherish every moment of it. Any final words of wisdom?

Trust your instincts. There is no ‘normal’ when it comes to children. Not all babies sleep through the night at 6 weeks. Not all babies eat on a 3-4 hour schedule. Some babies just fuss and its not colic. Some babies want to be held all the time. It’s personalities. You can’t spoil a baby. Don’t listen to what other people tell you unless you asked for advice. What works for one child may not work for yours! If doing something makes you feel uneasy, don’t do it!! Lastly, hold and rock your babies. When they are wild two year olds or big 5 year olds, you will never regret not holding them enough.

Jenn, thank you again! I have really enjoyed learning more about you and gaining a few more pearls of wisdom from another mom who I deeply admire. I can’t wait to meet baby #3 in January!

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