Jacqueline Courtney | Another Mother Her Way
Jacqueline Courtney's reputation preceded her before our breakfast date. I was told she was super sharp and had turned down the offer she got on Shark Tank to fund her business, Nearly Newlywed - a global marketplace for preowned wedding dresses and accessories. So prior to the meeting, I chugged two coffees assuming I'd need them to keep up. But her warmth and humility match her smarts and our hours of chat seamlessly shifted from the culture of entrepreneurship to the grit and gorgeousness of the first year of motherhood to life adventures and travels. I wanted Jacqueline's take on having had her business before her son, Ryan, and what's changed since. Read her down to earth and loving view on having those two babies side by side and what the weighty buzzy words - "balance" and "hustle" - look like in real life.
Q HOW DID YOU CHANGE AFTER BECOMING A MOTHER?
Motherhood came much more naturally to me than I had anticipated. I had been anxious that the ‘switch wouldn’t flip’ so to speak, so when it did and I fell madly in love with this little person, it was an incredible, happy relief. I didn’t enjoy my pregnancy, I found it to be uncomfortable and hard (morning sickness, gestational diabetes, hormones mood swings like woah!) so was bracing myself for the worst for the post natal period. Instead, it went about as well as I think it could have and I experienced a profound gratitude and love. Having Ryan felt like something inside of me opened up in a new way. I have heard people say that meeting your first child is sort of like having your heart explode because you have never felt that kind of love before. For me, it was like that, no words can really capture how it felt/feels.
As for how I have and continue to change, I’ve gotten better at time management and being more present. Ryan is so in the moment he reminds and teaches me to be more that way myself.
I’ve also become more selfish, in ways. Less selfish in that I give much more of myself to my son and my family but more selfish in a broader sense in that I am learning to say no and be ok with it. I tend to be a people pleaser and can over extend, and motherhood, out of instinct and simple necessity (no time, so tired!) has enabled me to say no and prioritize my time and commitments better.
Also, I wake up very early in the morning and usually, like it. Which is a welcome change and one that anyone that knows me refuses to believe is possible.
Q WHAT CHOICES DID YOU MAKE TO ACCOMMODATE MOTHERHOOD? WOULD YOU MAKE THEM AGAIN?
I think in some way, I began making choices to accommodate motherhood long before I became a mother or even knew for sure that I ever would or could be. I previously worked as a fashion publicist and felt that my career fully defined me. I love to work and derive immense satisfaction from a job well done. I am a person that can’t do it halfway and so in considering motherhood, I always had great anxiety about how I would maintain a career that I loved and cared about but also find time and joy in being a mother.
After my husband Patrick and I got married, we had a conversation about that and I remember thinking, I won’t be able to do this job and have a child and not feel that I am not doing either like I want to be. And while that wasn’t the entire reason I quit and decided to start my own business, I think those seeds were there.
Since becoming a mother, there have been some big decisions and lots of small ones. I decided to spend the first 6 months at home with Ryan which meant much less time for my business and almost no time for anything outside of those two things. Before Ryan, Nearly Newlywed was my only baby, so putting time with Ryan ahead of my company was a stressful decision and not without a heavy dose of guilt. (mom guilt! ah it comes in all shapes and sizes) After 6 months, we decided to find a nanny share for four days a week so that I could resume working on Nearly Newly Wed but still have a day a week for Ryan and I. It is an ongoing dance to find balance between being an entrepreneur/working and being a mother. Nearly Newlywed and Ryan both challenge, inspire and make me a better person, so navigating the ups and downs of that balance is well worth it. But it is hard because I never really feel like I can 'clock out' of either.
My husband and I have also started planning date nights, at least once a month, which has felt indulgent at times but has been an important step in negotiating and understanding ourselves as a unit and as individuals, now as parents. Reconnecting and keeping that connection strong is a challenge at times with a young child, so I believe it is important to prioritize that. We went away when Ryan was six months old for four nights to Mexico, which I was very hesitant to do but Patrick felt strongly that we should and he was right, I am glad that we did.
Q DESCRIBE YOURSELF AS A MOTHER IN 3 WORDS. WHAT KIND OF MOTHER WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE?
Silly, Messy, Loving.
I hope to be laid back, loving, adventurous and creative as a mother. I want to have a home filled with laughter and creativity. My deepest hope is to be a mother that creates a fun and happy home but that is still able to enforce boundaries and rules. I want Ryan to feel like he can confide in me, to tell me the bad and the good, but I also want him to feel that there is structure and boundaries in his life. I am cognoscente that how I choose to live my life, the decisions I make, how Patrick and I are to each other, what we do/don’t do, all show Ryan what I value in life by example and impact him in many ways outside of how I actively choose to parent him. With that in mind, I am trying to live an authentic life and be true to myself, so I can teach him to dance to the beat of his own drum by dancing to the beat of my own.
And super cool. Why not? Probably have ways to go on that one.
Q HOW DO YOU TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF OUTSIDE OF MOTHERHOOD?
Oof. Ask me in a few months? I think I am really only beginning to. The first six months I didn’t feel like I could, and so the second six was a bit of picking up the pieces and building a framework for a healthier and more balanced lifestyle. I try to meditate in the morning, just 10-15 minutes and am beginning to be more consistent. I have also started to get my nails done every other week. It makes me feel very pampered and put together, an unnecessary luxury that feels surprisingly delicious. Yoga is on my to do list, even just in my apartment, but the ‘no time’ voice talks me out of it more times than not, so that is one I want to work on prioritizing. And working on my business. Allowing myself to be ok with having someone else watching Ryan four days a week while I carve out time to dedicate to something outside of him.
Q EVERY MOTHER NEEDS HELP TO FIND BALANCE. WHAT DOES YOUR VILLAGE LOOK LIKE?
Well, I think voices and communities like Mother Untitled are a big part of it for me. There is your village that is close to you and helps on the ground floor, but there is also the larger community. I find it comforting, inspiring and thought-provoking to participate, even if passively (I am probably more of a lurker than a sharer… ), in conversations in which women share what they are doing, what works, what doesn’t and everything in between. You can see and understand things that maybe you wouldn't have thought or considered only consulting your immediate circle.
Near me, I have a dear friend in Brooklyn that has a son around the same age as Ryan. She and her husband are family for us here as we don’t have any close by - we babysit for each other, trade tips on what works and what doesn’t, share late night texts full of crying emojis when the boys have sleep regressions and most recently took a two week road trip with both boys through Portugal - so they are amazing people I am so thankful for.
My husband, Patrick. He is my best friend and partner in everything and such a wonderful father.
I have two other very close girlfriends that have two kids now, and they are also incredible support and sounding boards when I feel clueless or at my wits end about something.
My mother and my mother-in-law. And my youngest brother. They are all so loving and supportive. We FaceTime all the time. My younger brother Josh can always make Ryan laugh, so he has saved me on many occasions when we hit the 6pm crankies before bedtime.
And our amazing nanny Lisa and our share family. We are still getting to know them but it is a unique experience as we work together to make choices for both of our kids and what/how Lisa handles them, so there is a closeness and learning there that has been unique and priceless. And watching their daughter and Ryan grow up alongside one another has been a joy so far. Plus, we get to share clothes, toys, and tips too. Win-Win-Win.
Q WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON IMPROVING ABOUT YOURSELF AS A WOMAN & A MOTHER?
I would like to be a bit more ‘together’ as they say. I think I am kind of a hot mess a lot of the time. As an entrepreneur I am often running around meeting new people and companies and I often see Instagram posts of ‘hustling’ or ‘getting it’ but next to an impossibly stylish girl with a blowout in heels. My ‘hustle’ does not look like that. It is more of a two tote bag, wrinkled blouse, sneakers & sweaty top knot situation, so I wouldn’t mind looking like it was a bit more effortless once in awhile, even if for me, it isn’t. And I am late way too often.
Gratefulness. Being present. Understanding and settling into myself more and more. Motherhood has really helped with that one. I mean, women are incredible - each and every one of us. I am in awe of what my body can do now. And of every single mother I see and meet.