So excited to feature Jeanne Sager from Inside Out Motherhood today! Jeanne is the senior writer at CafeMom’s The Stir, a recovering bulimic and a young mom. Married at 18 and mom by 23, Jeanne says her daughter is “the person she is because of what I did right and what I did wrong.”
I love her fresh approach to motherhood and her wit…slays me. Right there in the tagline, “Motherhood with attitude. Hold the appliqued sweaters.” Too funny. Although part of me has always really wanted to buy a brocaded, appliqued Christmas sweater. Maybe this year will be the year…
Take it away Jeanne! Also be sure to follow Jeanne on Twitter.
I got married insanely young. And the funny thing — at least it seems funny to nosy people when they ask — is I wasn’t pregnant. I just wanted to get married! So when we finally decided it was time to get pregnant, we’d already been married several years. But being pretty young (I was 21 when we started trying, 22 when I found out, just shy of 23 when I delivered), I figured it would be a snap to get pregnant. Only month after month would go by with just one line on the pee stick.Eventually we’d hit the fall, and our five-year wedding anniversary was fast approaching (did I mention I was 18 when I got married?). I did normal pee on a stick routine and nothing! Just one dang stupid line. I was starting to get a little down in the dumps, but we went away for our anniversary and had a fabulous time. I came back home and went to get my last pedicure of the season from my friend who works at a hair and nail salon. She’s one of those women who believes in spirits and psychics and all that hoo-doo, and she took one look at me and said, “You’re pregnant.”I told her she was crazy (because really, just by looking at me?), but she insisted.So here I was with those little foam flip flops on my feet toddling into our town’s only grocery store to buy a pregnancy test. Because they’re behind the counter I HAD to deal with an older woman who lives down the road from my parents, and all I could think was, “God, if I’m not pregnant, we’re in trouble because Y. is going to tell the whole town I am.”You can guess how many lines showed up on that stick that night …
I’m a work at home mom, which means my day is a lot of hurry up and go. The whole family wakes up, and while my daughter is deciding whether or not to throw a fit over the outfit we picked out the night before (together mind you), I start up my laptop. Then it’s the normal morning routine: make breakfast, tell her to brush her teeth, brush out her hair, tell her to brush her teeth, ask my husband to turn off the news so she’ll go brush her teeth, tell her to brush her teeth, say goodbye to my husband as he’s leaving for work, do one last teeth check and head out to the bus.
Then it’s dinner, couch cuddling, herding her into a shower, and I’m ready to collapse with a good book on the couch while my husband plays some XBox.
I know people always say this, but I really can’t remember a point in my life when I wasn’t writing. I remember winning my first writing contest in third grade. We had to write an alternate ending to Tomie DePaola’s Strega Nona. Years later I actually got to interview dePaola for Babble, and it was one of the highlights of my career.As for writing from a journalistic perspective, that started in high school. I was an uber-geek, skipped a grade, graduated at 16, the whole nine. So during my senior year I didn’t have much of anything to DO at school, and I signed up for a class called school-to-work. I was able to spend mornings at the local newspaper as an intern under the editor’s wings. Years later I went back there as a full-time reporter/photographer, and I still freelance for them.
I know it’s a silly tagline, but I have always looked at appliqued sweaters as the sign of a mother who has given up on being herself! We can be moms and still be cool without being that cool mom who tries too hard, you know?So no, I really don’t have any appliqued sweaters. Although I do have a Perry the Platypus sweatshirt. Does that count? I try to say I wear it ironically. It came from Hot Topic!
Rudest comment you’ve received as a young mom:
Oh man, where do I begin? I really struggle with women who gave birth later in life who insist that older mothers are “better.” Maybe for them waiting was right. For us it wasn’t. We felt we were both emotionally and financially stable enough to start a family then, and 7 years later it seems we were right. We even expect to pay off our mortgage just in time to send her to college!
Any advice for other young moms out there?
Don’t listen to the stereotypes. Just don’t!
I know some young moms who absolutely suck at the job. I know some old moms who really stink. And then I know women of both age groups who are fantastic mothers.
I think we moms need to be nicer both to each other and to ourselves. I spent a lot of time when my daughter was younger beating myself up for every little mistake I made, but I look at my amazing, quirky, whip-smart little girl now. She’s the person she is because of what I did right and what I did wrong.
Best part about being a young mom:
I hope (hope!) that I’ll be better able to identify with my daughter as she gets older because the experiences she’s having won’t be such distant memories for me. That’s the biggest thing I think parents forget to do: look at life through their kids’ eyes. There’s such an emphasis on getting our kids to do what we say that we forget that they have reasons for doing what they do too.
Does that sound like I’m too easy on my kid? I hope not. I try to strike a balance. We discipline, but for example, she is scared of the dark. And I know a lot of parents would insist on complete darkness at bedtime. But I remember being afraid of the dark when I was a kid! I remember the terror that would well up inside of me. So I allow her to have a soft light near her bed.
Maybe that’s not necessarily about young motherhood. Maybe other parents remember that kind of stuff … hey, did I mention the mortgage thing?
I try to be pretty open about my bulimia struggles whether I’m taking on Michelle Obama on CNN or admitting I will always be bulimic on my own blog because I know that this is something people are still afraid to talk about. I know I was for years.I started when I was about 15. I was a chunky high schooler, and when you add that to the geek, well, you can imagine what school was like for me. I had friends, but I also had my fair share of bullies.Sadly, the bulimia helped. A lot. I went from a size 14 to a size 6 in the years when I was throwing up. It wasn’t until college that I stopped, and my then-boyfriend (now husband) really helped me realize that I was more than what I weighed. Which isn’t to say I was cured. I have had my fair share of relapses but none that have changed my weight so dramatically.As we stand right now, I’m not throwing up. I haven’t in about a year, but I’m tempted almost every day.But I honestly don’t worry about myself as much as I worry about my daughter. I worry about her realizing how much I dislike my body. I worry that one day she will look in the mirror at the adorableness that she has and think what I think when I look in the mirror myself. I worry that I’m too hard on her about eating good food and getting the right amount of exercise because even though I KNOW the doctor tells me she’s perfectly healthy, I want to protect her from being the fat girl. I’m very careful not to use words like “fat” or to put her on any diets; we stress eating healthy over calorie-counting, but it’s always in the back of the mind.
What’s next for the great Jeanne?
I don’t know about great, but little old me hopes to one day find five minutes to write a book (agents, if you’re out there, ahem). I would love, love, love to hear from other writers and other moms who have found time for discretionary writing. How do y’all do it!? I confess I spend my downtime diving into someone ELSE’S books instead of getting started on my own!
But I still love what I’m doing now. I really enjoy working at The Stir, watching it grow, and using my own blog as my outlet on the side. I also take family portraits and shoot the occasional wedding on the side so I have an excuse for the growing pile of camera equipment I keep around!