Thursday, April 30, 2020

A joyous labor: Jennifer Lopez on the necessity of working and how she deals with working-mom guilt

I need that pink bag!

Even though I follow @jlo on Instagram, it's only now that I saw her videos for the Coach Spring 2020 campaign called "Originals Go Their Own Way". At 50 years old, Jennifer Lopez is having a really good year (good for her) that kicked off with her jaw-dropping performance at the Super Bowl, nominations for her role in Hustler, and her numerous brand endorsements. And yet, as her famous song goes, she's still Jenny from the block and her every interview just shows a woman who is warm and funny and real. Which is exactly what I want to always be!

I'm loving her little NY Minute interviews for Coach. This one, where she talks about being a mom, is especially inspiring for me as a working mom.

The best thing that happened to Jennifer is not her phenomenal career. It was her twins, Max and Emme. I remember covering this story for OK! magazine way back in 2008. As the editor, I was hell-bent on getting the photos and exclusive interview. And we got it! It was a beautiful feature but one I—as a newlywed with no desire for kids—didn't understand.

In London for the 2008 OK! annual conference and so proud of our cover.

Now that I have my own kids, I can appreciate Mommy JLo better. She says in her Coach video, "Your whole perspective on the world changes.  It's all about [the kids]—how you can be better for them, how you need to be better for them. [With] my type of work, I'm lucky that I can have [my family with me]. Because when they're there, they empower me to soar. I want to make them proud."

For Jennifer, being better means never getting complacent, which kinda stung because I wasn't dreaming anymore. I've already had my dream career come true before so I believed that I can't get greedy. I'm lucky I had that. Now I can be a nobody, just be there for my family, dream for them not for myself. But what JLo said stirred something in me. The old me. Perhaps the real me. I want to dream again! I want to conquer something again!

And if the new dreams make life as a mommy harder? Jennifer says, "I think they wish I didn't work as much but I think they also appreciate all they have because of it. Just like anybody's life, it's not perfect but we make the best of it. Just like every working mom... there's not just enough hours in the day sometimes but it's a joyous labor making it all happen."

A joyous labor. I love it! I finally have the words to describe what motherhood is. It's so succinct. So perfect. Motherhood is hard work and the work never ends. But it is also joyful and though we're exhausted all the time, we can't imagine life without this joy.

Here's Jennifer being interviewed by People magazine's Jess Cagle in 2017 [full interview here]. He was asking her about her comeback way back in 2011, when she was a new mom and she was 42 years old (ancient in Hollywood) but that was when she launched her mega-successful album LOVE? and invaded homes everywhere as a judge on American Idol. Jennifer said she was a new woman and the world needed to see the new JLo. "Here's what changed in my life: I had given birth. I had given birth and the kids honestly gave me a new direction. They just made me realize what was real and what wasn't real... They just changed everything."

And instead of feeling, as I did, that motherhood means retreating from the world, for JLo, it meant conquering it. She said, "It's true! There is a thing that happens and 'On The Floor' honestly was me [going]: 'Get back out there. You're an animal. You're a beast! Pull up your panties and get back out there!'"

"Here's what happened: I had the kids, and I started working on some more music and I started thinking about life in a different way. Like I said, I started asking more questions of myself, of love, of what was right and what was wrong, all because I wanted their life to be great, too. And I knew for their life to be great, my life had to be great. I had to fix some things."

And boy did she fix things. Actress, singer, dancer, fashion designer, producer, author, and businesswoman. And mother! Jennifer does all that she does while she's a devoted mother. I am so inspired! Of course I'm aware our situations are different. I know I'd be able to work better if I had household help, for instance. But just dreaming again is a big step, I think! I want to do something again apart from motherhood, for myself really, that my kids will see and be proud of. 

As moms, we all know our children are our priority. That's a given. It's so easy to get lost in motherhood, however, and we forget we are more than moms, that we were someone before we became moms, that we can be something else, too, while we are moms. It's been a struggle for me to go beyond motherhood because it's easier for me to focus on just one thing. But I want to always push myself to work. For my own fulfillment, yes, but also for my boys. I need my sons to see me as more than their mama, because that will color how they see women for the rest of their life. I need them to see women as more than just a devoted wife and a nurturing mother, but as a fully realized human being with dreams and goals and ambition and drive and power. 

That is my joyous labor. I'm so excited! Now let's dance to some 20 years of JLo tunes!

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful post, Frances! :) I realize that there shouldn't be any guilt at all if we try to balance personal growth and motherhood. Let's do it!


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