Tag Archives: motherhood

She’s Thirteen

No other moment in my life has been as significant, as life-altering, as all-encompassing than the moment of your birth.  You came into this world and simultaneously the old me left it; with your entrance into this life, I became a mother.  Nothing, not one other thing, has so defined me.  For the last thirteen years, we’ve been inextricably bound – mother and daughter – figuring it out together as we go along.  But I know that my existence as the center of your world is waning.  You will eventually define your life apart from me, and that’s how it should be.  Always, though, my most important evolution will have begun with you.

You’re a teenager now.  Officially and for real.  You. Are. 13.  I know how much you love that, you big dork.

It’s simply incomprehensible, although it also feels like there’s no way you’ve only been around for thirteen years. 

You are funny and irreverent.  You are incredibly intelligent.  You are dramatic and, truth be told, melodramatic.  You see the truth in a way that often surprises me, and you thankfully are not all drawn in by the pitfalls of teenager-hood.  At least, not yet.  You stay above the fray more often than not, a fact for which I am truly grateful.  Good lord, may that continue over the next few years.

You’re you.  You’re totally and fully finding yourself and it is awesome to watch.  I love you.  But I also really, really like you.  That’s important.

I so vividly remember being your age that it’s hard for me to believe that my baby is thirteen.  I hope that my memories and opinions about what was good and what was bad about my teenage years will help me help you navigate yours.  I know I cannot and should not shield you from the trials and tribulations that come with being a teenager, but I hope that I can be for you the person you need to help you get through it all relatively unscathed.

The next few years will absolutely be a defining time in your life.  You will find your tribe, and although the members may change over the years, I believe that the people who guide you through your teenage years have an impact on your life unlike almost any other people you’ll ever know.  If it’s a good time for you, you’ll meet adulthood well-prepared. 

My most fervent hope is that you will surround yourself with people who GET you, who know what is truly important, and who will help you figure out who you are yourself.

I also know that we are, by nature, coming into years when you might pull away and I might try to cling too close.  I hope that by being cognizant of that, I can minimize any potential disasters.

I also hope you understand that regardless of what you WANT me to do, I will be your mother first and your friend way, way, way down the line.  You’re still a kid.  My kid.  Even if you are a teenager.

I think that our decision to move to England has been really good for you.  You’ve already found people who get you, you’ve experienced a new culture and had to adjust to massive change, and so you’re better prepared for the changes to come.  We’ve had some really amazing adventures that I hope will become a foundation for you to build a life on.

You are, though, even at thirteen, my little girl.  You will probably never not be. I truly enjoy spending time with you, regardless of what we’re doing, and I hope it will always be so.  You’re an excellent and skilled cook, great fun on an adventure, and a fantastic shopping partner.  You are able and willing to talk about books and movies with me that no one else in this house has a real interest in reading or watching, and I truly appreciate that.  Like I said, I like you a lot.

You are the apple of your father’s eye, and such a funny little thorn in his side sometimes.  I love watching your relationship.  You are far more like me than you are your dad, and seeing the two of you square off makes me laugh inside every time.  You challenge him – to be more sensitive, to be more patient, to be more willing to understand the challenges and intricacies of a girl.  And he challenges you – to be stronger than you think you are, to back up your opinions with facts and thoughtful arguments, to not fall victim to your own drama.  It’s lovely.  I love you two.

And your brothers are the exact people you need in your life to bring you back to earth.  My very, very favorite thing is to watch the four of you play together, independent of your dad and I, whether it’s soccer, whiffle ball, poker, or a board game.  I hope that your relationships with each of your brothers remains as strong in the future as they are today.  You guys share a childhood with memories and experiences that no one else will ever understand.  They get you in a way that no one else ever will, and you get them.  Stay friends. 

My god, you are thirteen.  I cannot even believe it. 

Please know that,no matter what ever happens, I am so grateful to be your mother.  You are the thing that changed my life, the person who made me me, and for that I am forever grateful.  And as the person who MADE you, please know that my greatest wish is that you live a life you love and you know that you are adored and appreciated every step of the way.

Happy birthday, baby girl.  Happy thirteenth.

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When Your Kids Travel Without You

Bridget is on a school trip this week.  I dropped her off on Sunday morning, waited around with all the other parents, and then watched her and 60 other kids board a double-decker bus and drive away for six days to a different country.

We travel a lot, our family, and I never really get nervous.  But dropping my kids off to travel without me is a whole different thing.

Every time – and this is B’s third international school trip  – I am completely engulfed in fear as soon as she is out of reach.  I’m fine leading up to the trip, albeit slightly obsessive about making sure she’s packed correctly.  But when the bus pulls away I feel terror rise up in my throat.  Horrifying scenario after more horrifying scenario plays in my mind and I actively have to push them down, force myself to breathe, pretend I’m calm even though I am in full panic mode.

The forced calm eventually gives way to actual calm.  It only takes me about a half hour to compartmentalize that anxiety, reason with myself, accept that everything will be okay and that I have to be able to let her go.  But for the entire time B is gone I will feel her missing presence like a phantom limb.  It won’t be until she’s home safe that I truly relax.

It does get somewhat easier each time.  I know these trips will become more frequent the older she gets and I’ll get more and more used to it.  I’ll panic less each time until finally someday I’ll be able to hug her goodbye and wish her bon voyage without simultaneously covering up my surging terror.

And eventually I know that all my kids are going to leave.  One day, each of them will leave my home for good to go off on their own and live their lives.  It’s the exact thing I’ve been working toward since the days each of them were born: it’s all been prep-work to get them ready to go.  I know this.  I accept this.  I look forward to the day when I can look around, hopefully, and say, “That’s it.  I did it.  I brought up these four great humans and they are happy and good people and I have successfully done the only thing that really mattered I do well.”

It will come with a piece of heartbreak, I know.  But I have to hope it also will come with an enduring sense of satisfaction. 

I’m not there yet though.  I’m still smack dab in the newness of letting her go, years away from the day it will be anything like easy.  So until then, I’ll be sitting here counting the hours until tomorrow when my girl is home with me.

A Woman’s Work: Samantha

Samantha is my baby sister, but she’s not a baby anymore.  She is thirty, a new mom, and an entrepreneur, although she probably hates that term.  Sam was born when I was just shy of my 8th birthday, so I’ve always thought of her as little.  She’s not though, she’s a full-fledged grown up.  (She probably also hates that term!)  It’s really amazing from my perspective as the big sister to look at how she’s made these unexpected and really cool decisions about what she’s going to do and how she’s going to do it.  She just impresses me. 

She’s not necessarily doing something she expected to do, but she’s doing something she loves — which is way more important.

1) What is your job?

I am a new mom, and also one of the owners of a restaurant called Dillon’s Local in downtown Plymouth, MA.

2) How did you wind up in that job — was it something you always wanted to do, a career change, etc?

I double majored in history and political science at Umass Amherst — and I have the student loans to prove it — but after college I worked for years as a bartender and waitress.  I was employed at so many different places, and always thought I would eventually leave the service industry, but I was having fun and not ready to stop doing what I was doing and look for a 9-5 job.  I figured I would use my degree eventually, but the longer I worked in restaurants and the more I learned the intricacies of the business, the more I fell in love with it. I did not, however, love working for absentee owners or in huge restaurants with way too many employees. While working at a nearby bar & grille, I met my now-fiance, Colin.  Together we decided to try this whole restaurant thing for ourselves. For years we essentially ran bars and restaurants for other people…so we figured, why not do it our way?! 

3) What other jobs have you done in the past?  What was the path that brought you where you are now?

In high school I worked at Dunkin’ Donuts, then during and immediately after college I worked at low-paying or volunteer internships and I substitute taught for a while.  But I always had the bar industry as a fall back — it’s hard to walk away from leaving work with cash in hand and switch to waiting for a paycheck!  I worked at small bars, huge restaurants, dives, fine dining establishments, and everything in between. One year I worked at at least five different places. I was sick of bouncing around, and so was Colin. So we worked together and saved up all our money and took the risk!  We are now co-owners of our own place (along with our Head Chef), and we work for ourselves and do things the way we think they should be done.  But, just to complicate our venture, I found out I was pregnant about one month after we opened our restaurant.  Surprise!  Colin and I had to shift gears a bit — we went from opening a business and a follow-your-dreams mentality to working for something even more important: our son.

4) What do you love about your job?

I love everything about my job — both jobs!  I love being a mom, even though it’s still new to me. John Francis is only 7 months old so I am definitely still learning.  My outside job is the most rewarding one I could have ever imagined for myself.  I never thought I would be a business owner, but it suits me (and Colin) well.  I get to socialize and talk to my friends and strangers all day.  I get to run a restaurant with my partner how we think it should be run.  It’s nice not to have to follow someone else’s rules.  We get to be creative and we get to set the standards ourselves.

5) Have you faced any challenges/struggles to get where you are today?

I was broke for years after college! I’m still broke, but it’s for a good reason now. Money is always a struggle, but when you do something you love it doesn’t seem to matter as much. Bouncing from job to job was torturous. Working for someone else was never what I wanted. I do not like to be bossed around!  So now that I get to make the decisions, I am much happier.

6) Has becoming a parent changed your perspective on work?

Becoming a parent has changed my perspective on everything in life!  Gone are the days when I came first.  Now everything I do is for my little guy.  I’m still up all night, but it’s a much different scene.  I went from a pretty carefree existence to one that is way more worthwhile and I wouldn’t change a thing. 

7) What advice or inspiration can you give to other women — about anything — jobs, work, family, parenting, life in general — what do you want other women to know?

I’m new to the whole mom thing, but so far I think the best advice I’ve received is to RELAX.  I’m going to mess stuff up in work and at home, and it’s going to be okay.  I’m still struggling to balance my schedule, so I’ll take any advice I can get on that!  I’m pretty much winging it…but so far it’s going pretty well!

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Sam is managing a crazy new life in a pretty chill way — in the course of a single year, she became a self-employed business owner AND a new mother.  But she is happy and content and confident and it’s so clear that she loves her life.  Even when things get stressful, she gets over any momentary freak-outs, straightens up, and moves on to make things work.  And you know things can get stressful when you’re running a business and taking care of an infant!  (In my highly unbiased opinion, though, John Francis is basically one of the sweetest and cutest babies ever to grace the face of the earth, so that has to make things easier!)

The thing that makes me happiest reading Sam’s words is this: “Money is always a struggle, but when you do something you love it doesn’t seem to matter as much.”  It is absolutely true that doing something you truly enjoy makes all the hardships worthwhile.  And I love seeing my sister so happy and so fulfilled. 

And you guys, Dillon’s Local is seriously awesome — right on the water in Plymouth, MA, it’s a cool, cozy, unpretentious place and the food and drinks are seriously AMAZING.  They’ve already won awards for best local bar and been featured in the Boston Globe and at the Phantom Gourmet Food Festival at Fenway Park in Boston.  So not only are Sam and Colin happy, they’re also killing it in a very competitive industry.  I’m so proud of them both.  If you’re ever in Plymouth, MA, you should totally go eat there.

Thank you Sam for taking the time in what I know is an insanely busy life to answer these questions!

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Do you know someone I should interview for “A Woman’s Work”? Shoot me an email at

jessica@littlenestingdoll.com and let me know.

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A Woman’s Work: Alexis

Alexis and I were roommates in college.  She is one of those women who always seems to know what she’s doing and is confident and calm in all her decisions.  Since we graduated, she’s done some pretty amazing stuff — she’s lived in Japan, Manhattan, and Istanbul and traveled all over the place.  She spent a summer traveling alone in Turkey, where she met the man who was to become her husband, then had one of the coolest weddings on earth that Matt and I were so lucky to be able to attend (which included my favorite wedding story ever).

Alexis is smart, chic, and strong and she uses her talents and her grace to create a new generation of thinkers, readers, and writers.  Read on… 

1) What is your job?

I am a teacher.   Currently, I teach high school English in a private school in Istanbul, Turkey, but I started my teaching career in the New York City public schools.

2) How did you wind up in that job — was it something you always wanted to do, a career change, etc?

When I was very young, I used to “play teacher”: I would line up all my dolls, get out my own small chalkboard, put on my pink plastic glasses (because that gave me more authority, of course) and teach my class.   A few of my elementary school teachers even gave me the teachers’ edition of textbooks at the end of a school year when they were changing books for the following year, and those spiral-bound pages with all the answers inside became some of my prized possessions.

As I entered university, though, I really was not sure what I wanted to do as a career.  But I knew I loved reading and writing, so deciding to major in English was an easy decision.   For a period, I entertained the idea of going to law school after college, but I soon realized that my heart just was not in law.   This did leave me wondering what to do when I graduated (even once graduation was upon me)!

3) What other jobs have you done in the past?  What was the path that brought you where you are now?

My mom jokes that I have been working since I was 10 years old, but that’s not too much of an exaggeration really.   Over the years, I have been a candy store clerk, gardener, dog sitter (which really amounted to watching “The Price is Right” with the dog during the day while his owners were at work), nanny, catering sales assistant, and a waitress.

After I graduated from university, I needed to earn money and, still doubting what profession I wanted to devote myself to, I took a job as a waitress (at Boston’s famous Cheers).   It was good fun, low stress and the hours were flexible, but I wanted to do something more.   I applied to work in a language school in Japan and was offered the position, so for one year, I taught English to children and adults with varying degrees of English proficiency.   It was a great adventure that introduced me to life as an expat, with all its thrills and frustrations.  

It was during that year in Japan that I decided that teaching was, in fact, what I wanted to do professionally and so, upon my return to the States, I immediately started pursuing that goal.   I applied for the New York City Teaching Fellows program and was accepted; soon, I was immersed in intensive training, teaching 8th grade and studying for my Master’s degree at the same time.   In those first six years, I taught at two different middle schools in New York City.

Then I took a solo trip for most of the following summer break.  On that trip I met and fell in love with my now-husband.  Soon after my return to New York, I applied for a job near him, then packed up and moved again, this time to teach in his native Turkey.  I am currently in my sixth year of teaching here in Istanbul.   

4) What do you love about your job?

There are many things I love about my job, but the biggest one is the connections that I make with students.   I enjoy so much when students stay after class to chat about the lesson, or about something else going on in their lives.  When I was teaching in New York, I regularly had students who stayed with me in my classroom for lunch rather than going to the cafeteria, and even though I sometimes wished I could take a break, I appreciated that they wanted to be there and I enjoyed getting to know them outside of class.

I also absolutely love those moments when students are engaged and getting it and taking the lesson even further than I had intended.   Yesterday, for example, a few students in my 10th grade English class got into an unprompted, lively debate about Prospero’s motivations in Shakespeare’s The Tempest.  While other students were telling them, “Okay, that’s enough,” I let it go on because that is exactly what we are hoping for as teachers: that we can lay the groundwork for students to access and engage with a text or topic, but that they will then develop their own ideas about it.   Here are kids who groaned about reading Shakespeare, who are reading it in a foreign language, and they were now having a thoughtful debate about some of its central themes.  Those are the moments when I love my job most.

5) Have you faced any challenges/struggles to get where you are today?

When I first started out as a teacher, I was also taking classes in the evening for my Master’s degree.   It was a two-year program and those being my first two years of teaching, it was exhausting and stressful.   I was also teaching in a school that had only recently opened and I was not only the lone 8th grade English teacher there, I was also the first 8th grade English teacher the school had ever had.   That meant I had to design the curriculum from scratch, so I spent endless hours outside of school planning lessons and gathering resources.   Since my school did not have a library and much of my curriculum depended on students having access to a wide variety of books on their independent reading levels, I also spent time going to secondhand book shops and book fairs to buy books for my students.   On top of those challenges, the school also had no deans, no established discipline procedures and lots of discipline problems.   It was a real baptism by fire for me, but I think it helped shape me as a teacher.

I was also living in Manhattan, which is notoriously expensive, and trying to survive – and have fun – on a teacher’s salary was no easy task in the Big Apple.    

6) Has having children changed your perspective on work?

Before I had a baby, I never thought I would want to be a stay-at-home mom.   Fast forward to 16 weeks after my little girl was born and I had to go back to work full-time and I was longing to just stay home with her.   Nothing other than our little family felt like it mattered at that moment and I just wanted to be there to teach her everything and witness her every milestone.  I felt so sad to leave her because I knew I would miss her so much during the day, but I was also sad because I felt like those 4 months when I was on maternity leave would be the last time – perhaps ever – that we would be able to spend every day together, just the two of us.   That was a very depressing thought.   I can now fully appreciate all the Superwomen I know, who juggle so many things personally and professionally.   And all the stay-at-home moms.   I have been back at work for 4 months now and I have adjusted to the situation a bit more, but I still run home at the end of the day, scoop my baby up, and plaster her with kisses.   

7) What advice or inspiration can you give to other women — about anything — jobs, work, family, parenting, life in general — what do you want other women to know?

I am a new mom, so the advice that is on my mind right now about parenting is this: read, listen to friends and family’s advice, but then really listen to your own instincts and to your child.   I have already found myself getting caught up in the differing approaches to everything parenting — from breastfeeding to sleep training to introducing solids — but when I come back to listening to my own instincts, it seems to make so much more sense.

And forge strong female friendships because those will get you through the tough times. 

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Basically, Alexis is brave and independent — she took a solo trip to Turkey, met and fell in love with her husband, and transplanted herself across the world to make that work.  Istanbul is an amazing city, different from anywhere else I’ve ever been, so living there must be an incredibly unique experience for an expat.

Alexis also truly loves her job and I cannot think of many careers more influential on the future than that of a teacher.  She is literally shaping the minds of the future, teaching kids to think and comprehend and apply what they’ve learned to their own lives.  And I can also tell you that Alexis does all that with a calmness that is truly impressive.

Out of the whole amazing interview, though, the last line struck me hard: “And forge strong female friendships because those will get you through the tough times”.  I’m so lucky to have Alexis as a strong female friend that I can rely on!  If nothing else, as a mother and a woman, you need those friends that you can turn to when you have questions or complaints or worries or, even better, fantastic news to celebrate.

Thank you Alexis!

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Do you know someone I should interview for “A Woman’s Work”?  Shoot me an email at jessica@littlenestingdoll.com and let me know.

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