Name: Jeanne Wu
How many kids? 5 What ages? Nicole (14), Natalie (11), Noelle (9), Emily (lost to Trisomy 18 in 2009), Joey (5)
What city do you live in? Tustin
What is your favorite thing about being a mom? I’ve always loved being around children. I think that children of all ages make life brighter and fuller. I actually enjoy the loudness, the energy, and the constant chatter and noise that come with a house full of kids. With it comes all their different personalities, and I am amazed at all the vastly unique dynamics that happen between each child and parent interaction and each sibling to sibling interaction.
What is your least favorite thing about being a mom? I think it’s a reality that being a mom often times brings out the worst in me. My kids are little beings with unpleasant habits, uninhibited impulses, and straight-up amnesia. So, on any given day, I have my mommy bouts of frustration, irritation, tiredness, and impatience. My kids have probably seen the ugly side of me more than anyone I know. I definitely have plenty of nighttime prayers and conversations with God about it, having to really reflect on my own shortcomings. But, just like anything, motherhood is a learning process. And, learning to be a better mom each day requires an honest look at who I am and what I am doing that needs to change, and then just doing it. That takes hard work, growing pains, and a lot of sacrifice.
Motherhood is full of surprises, what is one thing that has surprised you the most about being a mom? I know this is totally obvious, but the one thing that has surprised me the most is that kids grow up. I have now entered the pre-teen years with my two older daughters, ages 14 and 11. This is a brand new phase of life that comes with a whole new set of rules and parenting skills that is so very different from the early years. How we talk with our older children is different now because they really can reason and have their own legitimate opinions that actually make sense. What we do now together is actually fun for me too, and we can enjoy things together that my younger children are not that interested in yet. I find that I am truly enjoying the added camaraderie that comes with older children.
Do you have a career? Yes. In 2006, my husband Sam and I opened up Bridges Reading and Writing Institute, an after-school reading and writing program in Irvine, and I have the privilege and great joy of teaching reading and writing to students 2nd through 8th grade (www.brwi.org). I love teaching. I love reading. I love writing. I love children. It’s the best job for me! I also consider homeschooling my own children a career as well. So, I guess I am in the business of teaching children pretty much all day long.
If so, any advice you can share on balancing the work/family life? In my earlier years, when I was juggling my desire to be a stay-at-home mom with the call to teach, I remember the dissatisfaction of feeling like I was compromising in both areas. Being pulled by both responsibilities, I just didn’t like the fact that I was not able to give 100% all day long to both my own children and the responsibilities at work. When I was at work, I would be thinking that I was sacrificing too much time and energy away from my children. When I was with my children, I would have my to-do-list for work at the forefront of my mind that I couldn’t get to right then and there. I have had to learn to separate the two as best as I can. When I am with my children, I choose to be completely with them – heart, mind, and soul. The phone calls, emails, teacher needs, and student work have to be set aside for the apportioned times I have allotted them. And, the set times that I have devoted for work-related responsibilities, including the hours I am out of the house at Bridges, are completely focused on work. That clarity allows me to put as much of me as I can into both responsibilities. I think it is so important to walk away from the day able to say I am satisfied with everything I committed to, whether it was for my family or for work.
Give us your “inner Yoda” advice. What is that one thing you want to share with other moms? Teach your children early on how to help out around the house. Three year olds can sort laundry or put them away. Six year olds can wipe down the table and tidy up the shelves. Ten year olds can sweep and vacuum. 14 year olds can cook simple meals on their own. Build into their “system” the understanding that it takes a team to manage the house, and everyone can help out. I think this has been such an important piece to our family structure that has allowed our family to stay sane during our busy days. We only have 18 years, at most, with our children. Giving chores and responsibilities to your children not only saves you from having to do everything, but it also teaches your children how to take care of themselves and those around them.
When not with your kids, what do you like to spend time doing? going to the beach, spending time out with close friends, treating myself to good food and desserts.
Date night: Any great finds or places you like on date night? One of our easiest and most frequent date night “finds” is right at home. Sam or I will bring home a special dessert or treat that is reserved just for us. The kids have learned they are not to touch our date night treats! I am talking about the kinds of snacks and desserts we don’t eat on a normal basis. For me, my favorites range from a big bag of cheesy Doritos to the white chocolate peanut butter crunch cheesecake AND milk chocolate bomb cake from Zovs. After the kids are in bed, we pull out our treats, snuggle up on the couch, and watch a movie.
What’s for dinner? Favorite meals? the ones where everyone is in the kitchen helping out with food prep and cooking. Easy meals that our kids love to help out with: chicken and bacon zoodles (Get a spiralizer. It’s the best!), tacos, roasted vegetables and steak salad, homemade pizza.
Five year plan. Where do you see yourself five years from now? In five years, I hope to be doing the exact same thing I are doing now, homeschooling my children throughout their high school years and teaching the next generation of students at Bridges. I’d love, love, love to write children’s books if time allows for it.
One of the hardest battles I have ever faced was finding out at 18 weeks that our fourth daughter Emily had a 60% chance of Trisomy 18, an abnormal extra chromosome 18. Many Trisomy 18 babies do not survive the womb, and most cannot survive outside of the womb. There was no doubt in my mind from the first phone call with our doctor that we were going to carry her the whole way, no matter what the outcome. Emily, by the grace of God, made it to 37 weeks, and we joyously held our beautiful and fighting baby for three full days, with our three daughters embracing their little sister every moment she was alive. She ultimately had the full Trisomy 18, so we knew our time with her would be limited. I can’t fully explain to you what it is like to lose a child; but I can say that I’ve definitely changed, for the better in many ways. I believe wholeheartedly that God used this experience to show me at least two things: (1) I have to trust Him with the things that are completely outside my control, and (2) Every minute of life He gives to us is a gift and every minute with the people in our lives is so precious. Right now, my family and Bridges are my life. These life lessons, I believe, still resonate in me, every day, as I homeschool and parent my children and as I strive to give my all to each and every student, parent, and teacher that walks through Bridges each day.