As a part of our interview series, Flawless Project contributor Jessica Newsome has been asking flawless women in different fields and life places seven questions about life, career, feminism, dreams and goals, and more.
Meet Jayni Reed! Jayni is a former homeschooler who lives in Germany. She is currently raising her 2-year-old son and learning life lessons about what it means to be a mom of toddlers, including how to ensure his first word isn’t a curse word, how to dig hot dogs out of unheard of furniture crevices, and how to laugh-cry when he eats a stick of butter after locking her out of the house.
1) Did you know about The Flawless Project before today? How did you hear about the Flawless Project? What drew you to it?
Yes, but only because it linked to you [Jessica] on Facebook/showed up in my newsfeed.
2) What is your ‘day job’? Are you a mom, white collar, in the arts, etc.? What do you do as a career? What do you feel is your biggest passion/dream for your life purpose? How did you decide what to do with your life? Are you still working it out? What are your go-to ways to figuring that stuff out?
I’m a mom, but I don’t consider this my day job or my career. It’s what currently occupies the majority of my attention. If life has seasons (and I hate the concept of life having seasons because usually they involve telling you that the season you’re currently in is A Fruit Of The Spirit) so… phase? My current life phase is living overseas because of my husband’s job, mom-ing and waiting for a phase that is more friendly towards my own career aspirations to begin. I think maybe I would like to teach at a college. I know I want to go back to school with the sole purpose of studying how people process grief. So, teaching seems to be the eventual output of that pipeline. I can’t tangibly picture myself doing any teaching itself, but cursing in tandem with students at the administration for 8:00 AM classes still existing and having a tiny army of malleable grad students to do my bidding seems very doable.
But deciding what you want to do with your life does not predict actually doing it. I don’t like the life I have now. It’s hard to say that because I know some people will hear “she doesn’t love her child.” That’s not what I said. I’ve found I’m not 100% fulfilled by being a stay-at-home mom. And that’s okay. I have a rough outline of future goals though, and I settled on them through self-reflection. I’m not a very motivated nor passionate person on my own, so I thought back to what felt worthwhile. What came to mind was the research study I designed as an undergrad. If I’m perfectly honest, I’ll admit I thought that I wouldn’t have to complete my study. I figured someone else would long before I got back to it. But they haven’t, so no excuses.
3) What do you think is the biggest myth about being a woman that you had to overcome?
I have two and they’re competing: that women are help-meets, and that women can “have it all” (all being a career and a family). Neither are true, but both are damaging. I really feel that my religious upbringing totally fucked me. A woman is more than a man’s doormat. But you can’t have a full-time family and a full-time job without sacrificing one or the other at varying intervals. Wanting a career inspires (inspired?) guilt, while being a doormat inspires depression, rage and self-loathing. My college advisor very nicely let me cry in her office most of my second semester senior year because I wanted to go to grad school but felt I couldn’t because I was engaged and getting married immediately after graduation.
It was important for me to realize that others’ narratives are theirs, not mine. Growing up, I had watched the generation before me marry at a young age, immediately have half a dozen children and homeschool for the next twenty years. They got together when their husbands allowed to talk children and gardening. I didn’t want this life—also, I have too many allergies to garden. Yet here I was, 22 and about to stack my degree with a marriage license. I thought my life, the life where I made any decisions for myself, to further myself, was over. And I only cried harder because I loved my husband-to-be. I was actively CHOOSING this life I didn’t want!
I made the mistake of thinking because I am a woman, I am other women. I’m not having six children. My husband’s not telling me what I’m allowed to do. I might still have a garden. My child(ren) are definitely not attending school at our dining room table.
4) What myth would you most like for society to change about how women interact with each other and the world?
I would like to see women supporting each other in their different choices. I think we get wrapped up in our own journey and maybe can’t see past that sometimes. Maybe my brown grass is your green grass.
5) How do you deal with it when you don’t feel flawless? Can you talk about a time in your life when you felt totally and completely lost (career, relationships, spirituality, etc.) and what the biggest/hardest lesson you took away from it was? What would you say to encourage other women going through something similar?
This is like five hard questions labeled as one. I’ve never felt flawless. I think the closest I’ve come I’d describe more as feeling loved, appreciated, or desired. And these feeling were all externally motivated rather than intrinsically felt. I feel that I’ve only ever been taught that a women’s worth is measured by the people around her. I don’t mean “Are the people around her good? Then she’s good, too.” I mean, “Is she loving/kind/helpful/self-sacrificing to the people around her? Do the people surrounding her find her joyful? Useful? If so, then she is those things.”
5.b) Is this a Women(™) Issue? I’m actually curious now, if other women feel this as well.
I’d say, in retrospect, I’ve learned that I should have been brave, took action, pulled my head out of my ass, stopped overthinking and just acted. Basically, trust your gut in a healthy way. it’s okay to want something, and it’s okay to go for that thing. Also… you won’t be lost forever. It’s impossible. I mean, if you stay in a lost place eventually you’ll get to know that place. And then you won’t be lost.
6) Who are the flawless women in your life? What would you like people to know about the relationships you have with other women?
I admire the women in my life who go for things. The ones who aren’t afraid to reinvent themselves. The ones who avoid boxes. One thing I’ve more recently come to appreciate about this military life is that I’m interacting with women twenty years older than me in a relaxed social setting. I’m always impressed when they talk about going back to school and finishing their degree, getting a new job, or a new interest or hobby. They seems so flexible and brave about reinventing themselves every few years when they move to a new duty station.
I have relationships with other women who hear me when I say, “You can drop by anytime, I probably won’t be wearing a bra and my house will be trashed but seriously, we’ll just hang out,” and they actually come over. Sometimes, just for fun, I like to pretend that I have my shit together. But actually I’m just cleaning it off the rug, since my child acquired the pants removal skill.
7) What’s something you’ve accomplished recently that you are proud of and want to share with the other flawless women who are part of this project?
I made a new friend. For me, that’s an accomplishment.