Always a Mother, But Not ONLY a Mother with Jen Olson | Episode 2

Always a Mother, But Not ONLY a Mother with Jen Olson | Episode 2

Kimber and artist Jen Olson talk about finding passion in and outside of your parenting role.

They discuss the realities of lead parenting, the "mother martyr" role, and finding ways to hold on to a sense of self as a parent. 

See Jen's artwork or send her your raw motherhood pictures on Instagram

Follow Kimber on instagram @justbeyourbadself 

For guest bios, episode transcripts or to leave a review, please visit:

Resources for further study

(As an Amazon Affiliate I get commissions for purchases made through any  product links in this post. So if you like the podcast, this is a great way to support me!) 


Untamed by Glennon Doyle

The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls by Mona Eltahawy









Always a Mother, But Not ONLY a Mother

[00:00:00] Intro

Kimber: Welcome back to the be your bad self podcast where you get to show up imperfectly, make space for your authentic self, remember your inner child and sink into the magic of the present moment. I'm your host Kimber Dutton. And today I'll be talking with my good friend, Jen Olson.

Jen is a stay at home, mom of two and former choir teacher. And she's now starting an art business. She's passionate about capturing the human experience through art and is diving into exploring honest elements of motherhood. After experiencing postpartum depression, her passion project is giving a voice to women who find motherhood to be many things, joyful, painful, boring, whimsical, exhausting.

All of it. I'm excited to share with you our conversation about honest motherhood.

[00:01:01] Welcome to the Podcast

Kimber: Welcome to the podcast Jen.

Jen: Thanks for having me Kimber.

Kimber: Jen and I know each other from college, we were in a singing group together and that was 10 years ago,

Jen: Let's not talk about that. It was like two years ago when we were in college, I was like 10 years ago.

Kimber: In the past, three years, we've gotten back in touch and we get together on a yearly sometimes more than yearly basis, which has been a lot of fun.

And we got into watercolor, similar times. But you've taken a much more professional direction with your artistic abilities than I have. I went the bad portrait route. You went the really amazing, good, cool people want commisions from


Jen: Well,

Kimber: you, which is awesome.

Jen: It's still really new

Kimber: Tell us about, how you got started and. What you're doing with your watercolor

[00:01:57] Getting Started with Watercolor

Jen: Yes. Okay. So, , I feel like it's important to share how I got started. Cause I think a lot of, stay-at-home parents might relate with this. I was teaching music full-time for seven years and it was such a nice creative outlet for me. And also just having this, like. Cult following of students and parents that, were supporting me.

And I'm so extroverted. That was so nice. So transitioning from that to being a full-time stay-at-home parent, especially with my, first with Emily, I didn't have like crushing postpartum at that time or anything, but I was bored a lot and I remember what was so important to me that Emily had art time every day, she was doing some kind of crafting every single day.

And I sat down with her with just like a little Crayola watercolor set and just felt this envy, this total envy like. Why do we carve out time for our kids? We highly value their creative pursuits. And I was just in this place where I was like, what am I, what am I doing to like express myself or to be a creator?

And so I had been using her Crayola water color set with her, just mommy and Emily painting time until. Ruby's birth, which is when I got my very first watercolor set. And that started me on my journey to just really loving the art form

Kimber: I didn't know how you got started in watercolor, but it's very similar to my story. I bought a watercolor kit for Maddox. Cause I was homeschooling him that year and he didn't like it, but I was like, this is so cool. We have all this supplies now. And so I started doing the tutorials and I fell in love with it.

And that such a Zen come home to yourself experience.

Jen: Also, I think there's something that I really like. I, I love all art and I want to do it all, but I think I really love water color cause I'm so attracted to organic movement, you know, organic shape and the experience of seeing the water and color drop on the page. It is really therapeutic. That experience alone.

Even if you don't create a genius work of art. The experience is really nice

[00:04:11] The Reality of Lead Parenting

Jen: so, anyways, I've been trying to start this, art passion project, where I want to collect reference photos from women to reflect just the real experience of motherhood and some of that roots from.

My reality of just feeling a lot of isolation or how mundane motherhood can be, and I shouldn't just say motherhood, like lead parenting, being a stay at home parent where the majority of what I'm doing is the nurture and care of children and managing home and life. And I think there's a lot of artwork that depicts the really.

Precious and joyful moments, which I love. And I I'm going to do that too, but I really want there to be some reflections of the uncomfortable stuff. And it really roots from this place for me that I have felt like I haven't had a voice or it's not important or meaningful, and starting to be in this place in my life where I'm waking up from that,

Kimber: Yeah.

that's awesome. I find it interesting that when we do create space for ourselves we have To find ways to justify it. When you and I both started our watercolor it's because, oh, we were doing.

With our kids, or at first we were doing it for our kids. And then I started this yoga mat business, and the way I justify it, well, it's yoga mats for kids, and it's all going to be about creating mindful routines for families. And that's my purpose now is I'm a mom and that's all I do.

And as I've continued on this business journey, I've realized more and more I'm not really passionate about kids yoga. What I'm passionate about is creating. space for moms, because that's what I need. And I it's sad that we only feel like our passions are justified if they're related somehow

Jen: Yes, yes. to the giving of ourselves, to other people. That's what justifies our creative pursuits. And so I think for this project, I really want to show the perspective and lens of the mother. A mother who is nursing, who is going through a childbirth or laboring, a mother who is experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety, or just, I mean, you don't have to have postpartum depression to think the parenting is real effin' drag.

Sometimes sometimes it is, And I've been realizing too, this constant need, you know, if it is a drag and you're in a moment where it's hard, this need to explain to your people like, oh, I really love my kids. I would die for them, but sometimes it's hard where I wish, you know, I just want to live in a world where that caveat isn't.

Where we meet each other with this understanding, especially as women, right? Where it's like, Hey, you're doing all the invisible labor here. , you don't have to justify your love for your children. I know you would die for them. And sometimes they're little rats and it's hard and that's

Kimber: that was a nice word to call them.

Jen: Yeah. I filtered that.

Kimber: Good job.

[00:07:21] Always a Mother, but not ONLY a mother.

Kimber: I just talked to, a life coach, a friend of mine, her name's Bree. And I was explaining to her this, same thing, I just feel this constant guilt. Like either I'm not with my kids enough, or if I'm not with them, I should be with them. It never, it never, ever, ever, ever goes away.

And she said,

, you're always a mother, but you're not only a mother.

Jen: yeah,

Kimber: And that hit me so hard, like, oh, yeah.

that's not all I am. I always am that. And that's a huge part of my life, but that's not all I am.

And it's sad that when I express these other parts of myself, that it comes with this huge sense of guilt.

I don't know if there's a way to get rid of

Jen: Totally. And I think our social context is that like to be a good, valuable woman and mother that involves being self-sacrificing and carving out time for yourself is, kind of a negative thing. It has some negative connotations. And I think a lot of our examples, I should say a lot of my examples personally, from the women in my life.

And I don't, I don't feel critical of, of the life they lead. I think it's their social cultural context that made them have the choices they do. But it's all this rhetoric about oh, the never took a moment for themselves. They gave everything to their kids. They did everything for their family.

And, I think that we're living in a time where that has to start to change, because we're up against this idea that women can have it all. But when you become a mother, there's some internal guilt and flogging that like, oh, , I shouldn't be doing this for myself. I should be giving more to my kids.

Kimber: And of course that's going to be the narrative that the men and the kids and even our own mothers are going to keep pushing because it serves them. Of course, they want us to give up everything to serve them. And there's a quote I want to read from Glennon Doyle. I've got to find it really quick.

My mom and I have had this conversation where I was reading Glennon. Doyle's untamed

Talking to my mom about it, and it was really. Really hard for her because I was telling her , , I don't have to give up my whole life for my kids. I can be a good mom by living a good life and showing them this is what a good life is.

And to her, it was like, cause she did give everything up to be with me. She, we were homeschooled. We were military family. She gave up so much to be home with my siblings and I, and everything she did was for us. And for me to say, oh no, you actually could have had a life. And that would have made you a better mom was heartbreaking to her.

And so I want to read this quote really quick. Oh, right. I know. That's not exactly how I said it, but I know that's how it came across.

Jen: Yeah, yeah, for sure.

Kimber: side note she had since read the book and loved it and we've had some really good conversations about it, but Yeah.

that was hard for her to hear, so.

[00:10:18] The Mother Martyr

Kimber: Okay. Here's the quote. She says,

"Mothers have martyred themselves in their children's names since the beginning of time. We have lived as if she who disappears the most loves the most. We've been conditioned to prove our love by slowly ceasing to exist. What a terrible burden for children to bear to know that they are the reason their mother stopped living, what a terrible burden for our daughters to bear to know that if they choose to become mothers, this will be their fate too, because if we show them that being a martyr is the highest form of love

that is what they will become. They will feel obligated to love as well as their mothers loved. After all, they will believe they have permission to live only as fully as their mothers allowed themselves to live. If we keep passing down the legacy of martyrdom to our daughters with whom does it end, which woman ever gets to live.

And when does the death sentence begin at the wedding altar in the delivery room whose delivery room, our children's or our own. When we call martyrdom love, we teach our children that when love begins life ends, this is why Jung suggested there is no greater burden on a child than the unlived life of a parent."

Jen: Oh, my gosh, as you were saying that I had this vivid memory as a child of. Talking to my mom about why she didn't pursue flute. Cause she was a really accomplished musician. And I remember feeling really bad for her. Like really sad that and having to process with her. Why can you not be playing flute or pursue, your life and career as a musician right now?

And the answer was because I elected to have children and stay home with you and that's worth it to me. Which I have to say it's a valid choice. If that's what you want to do, then I'm happy for you. And you should do that men or women. I think though, it's that we are socially in a time when it is more expected for the woman to show up as the lead parent and the one that takes the hit in the career. I just remember feeling so bad about that for her and trying to process that for myself too and giving myself the same story, like, oh, when I become a mom, I'll give everything up for my kids.

And I guess it'll all be worth it.

Kimber: Yeah.

I'm glad you said that it's a valid choice because it's also tricky right now we're in this like liberate women and women should have freedom to have lives too. But sometimes I feel like, okay, so now I'm a stay at home mom and I need to start a business and have a passion project and do all of this, but it's not like that's lessens the load of motherhood anymore.

Jen: Oh yeah,

Kimber: It's just sometimes feels like another thing.

Jen: Oh, yeah. And this is, I really love this concept of invisible work. It just resonated with me to my core. The first time I had heard of it, because , I don't think the answer, needs to be , Hey women, you don't have to just stay home with your kids.

You need to have a thriving career and do all of these other really energetic pursuits. You need to have that to, to be considered valuable, which I'm like, no, no, no, that's not what I'm saying. I'm saying. We need to acknowledge and appreciate all of the nurturing and care that women largely are providing to the young and to the elderly, that has to be acknowledged.

And I, I think until that's really valued and appreciated men won't have the opportunity or social permission to bust into those nurturing roles. So again, if we're looking for. Some equilibrium between men and women. I really don't think we're going to get there until the work of women is highly valued.

So that was like a little tangent. But again, I, for me, this is not a judgment on my own life path. Right? My own life path has been to be a full-time stay at home mom, that is what I have been doing for the last five and a half years. And so I don't feel critical of that. I, in so many ways, I'm very happy for my choice.

But I do want to carve a new rhetoric for my daughters, which says, you are lots of things. Not just a mother and it is okay for you to put on different hats. And I hope that in seeing me do that and in seeing their dad take on nurturing roles, that they will grow up to expect that of their partners, and that they will have, this new idea of what it means to be a woman and to be a nurturer.

If that's the path they go down.

Kimber: Yeah.

[00:14:48] The Raw Moments of Motherhood

Kimber: And coming back to your art project, , here's the thing.

No, one's taking pictures of themselves during the raw moments of motherhood. That's going to be a hard thing for you to get, because no one wants to show that.

Jen: I know I have. Yeah, I know. I have been scouring, Instagram and Facebook, and I've reached out to a few people there. There's an Instagram account called motherhood in the raw and there are women who have shared snapshots of them, crying, frustrated. Falling to pieces. And I would really like to capture some of that.

A woman right off the cuff sent me a picture of her in the hospital with her new baby, just looking. Blasted as labor and delivery will do. She said that she had like severe postpartum kick in 24 hours after her labor, , and went through a tragic divorce months after the birth of her son.

I'm really excited to use her photo as a reference of what it is like to be in the hospital with a new baby thinking what the hell just happened and not that that's everyone's experience, but

I think it's more common than what we portray or discuss.

Kimber: definitely. I'm so happy you painted that picture of me and Jaylee, but that was definitely a very happy glowing motherhood picture and the raw moments for me, a lot of times my kids aren't in those moments because those moments for me are me hiding in my closet, away from my children, plugging my ears and just trying to breathe.

You know, I'll take a picture for you next time.

Jen: Oh, yeah. The only time in my life that I have ever literally needed to put a pillow in my face and scream at the top of my lungs has been when I have been nursing a baby around the clock, been fricking sleep deprived and potty training a toddler. Those are the times that I'm like, oh my gosh, I just, I have never felt that it's like, there has to be a pressure release.

You know, and it's, raw, man. It's not fun. It's not pretty, but it's hard. I'm like,

can you guys send me a photo, a reference photo of that? That'd be

Kimber: people going to have to be brave. I think it's a good project. when you were talking about screaming into a pillow, the first time I ever said the F word was nursing, my newborn baby, it's probably one of the very first words she heard.

Jen: You're like, guess

Kimber: There's no pain like, oh,

Jen: Total curling pain, toe curling pain. I've had this in my mind I don't know if I'll actually do this, but I think it would just be so fun to do a series where I paint a really glowy, gorgeous moment of nursing, of labor and delivery, whatever, just this like really glowy moment, but have some kind of.

Hand lettering the bottom that that says how it really is like this effing hurts, those first few weeks are brutal for so many

Kimber: No one tells him about that. No one at least no one told me about that. I just was like, okay. I went through labor. The hard part is done. I'm good to go

Jen: Lies.

I know. , and even when it's not painful anymore, for me, it's just like being a slave to this clock 24 7. If you're not bottle feeding your baby where you're like, I'm the bottle. So for 15 to 18 months, or however long you nurse that's where it's constantly on my mind.

Like I have to be prepared to nurse or pump round the clock at all times for over a year. 24 hours a day. Like,

Kimber: Oh, I did not

Jen: you will never get, you never get to take the hat off. You know, it never comes off and again, motherhood is lots of things. Nursing is lots of things. It's really beautiful.

It's really bonding. Some of the most precious fulfilling moments of my life are from nursing, my children, but it can be other things too, like really fricking oppressive,

[00:18:47] It's a Good Thing You're So Cute

Kimber: Have I read you my children's book, Jen,

Jen: No,

No send it to me.

Kimber: My children's book is called, it's a Good Thing You're So Cute. And it's really a picture book for parents

Jen: Can you put it's a good thing. You're so could you, and then parentheses or you'd be dropped off at a fire station.

Kimber: That is what's implied. Right? So

It's my goal to illustrate this book. I'm not there yet, but what I have in my head is it starts with this mom laying in bed and she hears her baby screaming from the other room.

It's like 2:00 AM some ungodly hour of The the morning.

and it starts at sometimes I wish I were a slumberous spaceman drifting off to sleep and I want it to show her imagining being totally.

alone in outer space where no one's going to bother her and asleep.

And, and then the next page it'll show some kind of bonding moment with her baby. Like, it's a good thing. You're so cute.

And it goes through this, like, her kid makes this horrible drawing all over the wall and she imagines herself as this queen in a palace and everything's clean and everything's perfect.

Then she finds some reason, like, but I love my kid and that's what motherhood is. It's this push pull between , oh my gosh, I just want my space. I want to be my own person, but I love you. And I wouldn't be anywhere

Jen: Yes. Yes. I feel like shortly after Ruby's birth, where I did have some pretty crushing postpartum depression a few months after she was born and the sleep deprivation really set in, you know , I felt like the best description for my experience was the, it wasn't even day to day when people were like, oh, there's good days and bad days I'm like wrong.

No, no, no. My life phase at that time was good moments and bad moments every day. And in the good moments, it was this really intense feeling of please. Don't let her grow up. Let this moment freeze in time. Please just let it stay this precious and so perfect. Please. Don't change. And then the next moment thinking I hate this phase.

I can't wait for them to grow up. I hate that I have to deal with this. That's right now, you heard the description, like what is pain? It's wanting, what you don't have and not wanting what you do. It's just like this constant, you know? So I was totally in the rat race. That was my mindset at that time, and trying to battle that and just appreciate the good moments and the bad, but sometimes it's hard when you're tired, when you're so tired.

[00:21:16] Trying to Find Balance

Kimber: Yeah, have you heard that poem? Oh there's a poem about , the laundry can wait and the Cheerios on the floor. All of that can wait because I'm rocking my baby to sleep and just appreciate this moment. And , I was taking some online little motherhood course, and this lady, I love it.

She's like, that's not a very helpful poem. She says, sometimes yes.

You want to be there with your kid, but no one wants to live in a house with Cheerios all over

the floor all the time.

Like you have to do, you have to do it all. It can't just enjoy this moment all the time.

Jen: it's, it's a really nice concept sometimes, but I, I don't know if you've heard the phrase. Do you like sleep when baby sleeps do laundry? When baby does laundry do dishes when baby does dish.

Kimber: Yup. Yup.

Jen: Yeah, there is this balance. There's this balance of needing to get shit done. And then also just trying to treasure the space that you're in right in that moment, it's just not all rosy all the time, at least

that's my


Kimber: If someone listening to this has this figured out, got the balance, totally locked in. Please let us know

Jen: Oh, yeah. I'm I'm all ears,



Jen: tell me.

Kimber: I guess let's wrap things up. If

[00:22:33] How to Contact Jen

Kimber: people do have these awesome raw motherhood pictures that you're looking for, how can they get them to you?

Jen: My Instagram name is Jen dot pug dot olson O L S O N and my email is

I would just love to paint the real moments and motherhood right now. I'm really excited about that.

[00:22:56] Takeaway

Jen: I very recently read in the book the seven necessary sins for women and girls. There's a whole chapter on attention seeking. And it sounds like a really simple thing and it may not resonate with other people, but man, it stopped me in my tracks and the phrase is my ideas are important and they deserve attention.

That's my message to myself, to other women, to other people that are in this role, your ideas are important and they deserve attention. For so long, if you are the stay at home lead parent, it just feels like you don't have a community and you don't have a voice. And for me, this creative platform of trying to show those moments in an expressive way through art , it's made me feel so alive for the first time in a while

so join me, join me on this project


[00:23:50] Outro

Kimber: Thanks for joining me today. If you want to interact with me and get more nurturing around living an authentic life, you can follow me on Instagram or Facebook at just be your bad self, your assignment this week. Do something to express yourself in a way that feels true to you. That might look like painting a picture, writing a poem, dancing or singing a song that might look like journaling.

It might look like a hard conversation with someone you love. Whatever you do. I'd love to hear about it. You can get in touch with me via social media or leave a message for me by calling (7 2 0) 8 0 5 -7 3 1 3. I'd love to feature your stories at the beginning of the next podcast to inspire and encourage others who may be listening.

If you enjoyed this podcast and want to leave a review, subscribe to the podcast or share it. You have my heart. That's it from me now. Just be your bad self.

Jen OlsonProfile Photo

Jen Olson


Jen is a stay at home mom of two and former choir teacher who is now starting an art business. She is passionate about capturing the human experience through art and is diving into exploring honest elements of motherhood. After experiencing postpartum depression, her passion project is giving a voice to women who find motherhood to be many things: joyful, painful, boring, whimsical, exhausting, all of it.