One of our favorite holidays at TomboyX is just around the corner—Mother's Day. With our mission being to empower women, there is no more suitable holiday to celebrate them than Mother's Day. Over the next two weeks, we will share stories of some badass moms and learn how motherhood has shaped their lives. You can get in on the action as well. Share your story or celebrate your mom using #TomboyXMom. We may feature you during Mother's Day weekend.
Jennifer Shepperd is a working mom with two young kids full of life. She has navigated coming out later in life, while being a single mom.
Tell us about your family.
I have two children. There's Emily—she is 16. She is an incredibly smart and engaged young woman. She takes after me in that she can be snarky, but also very inquisitive. She is a dynamic and strong woman. I can't tell her she can or cannot do something. She has to find the answers herself. And then there's James—he will be 13 in May. He's my baby. He has such a sweet soul. He is that guy who you could see going into humanitarian efforts as an adult. He is always a champion. He stands up for what is right, no matter what.
How did things change for you after having children?
I remember being so uptight about everything with my first.
I hear that's the case with most new parents.
I was home with Emily for quite a long time. It was was wonderful and bad at the same time. I was such a young mom. I was only 21 when I got married. I thought I was going to meet friends with kids, but all the moms were in their mid to late thirties. It was difficult at times. My experience with James was much different. Not long after he was born, I asked my husband for a divorce.
What was coming out to your children like?
After being with my then girlfriend for some time, I decided to tell Emily and James. They knew her, but not that we were together. Their reactions were priceless. Emily was in kindergarten and just said, "like you're gay?" She didn't seem to care. James asked what her favorite color was. It reminded me that the whole thing wasn't a big deal. From that point on, I decided I wasn't going to apologize for who I am. It didn't change my family.
How did that impact other aspects of your life?
I've always known I didn't quite fit. After I came out, here was a time when I tried to wear clothes like camouflage cargo shorts. In my head, that meant I fit the perceived lesbian look. This was with zero education or community. Now, I am in a different space. That is what I had to grow into. The more I got involved within the community as a whole, I realized gay women are very diverse and I can be exactly who I am. Now, I have my own style. I want my kids to represent themselves the same way.
What is the biggest thing you've learned from being a mom?
Just thinking about it makes me want to cry, in a good way. There's so much I've learned. Humility. Selflessness, but the kind you don't even have to think about. And such gratitude. I have learned such gratitude.
What about Challenges?
Balancing. I was in a relationship for five years. When that ended, I have dated, but my kids come first. Balancing what they need to learn vs. how they feel. For instance, James can be very sensitive. You can't control other people, you can only control your own behavior. You have to start with yourself. That has been my balance—to teach him these qualities while not losing his natural sensitivity. And with Emily, boundaries and respect.
What advice would give parents to be?
Relax. You can't get upset about every little cold or baby tooth. And no secrets. Don't hide things from your children.
What could we do better as a society?
It comes down to balance again. Our society is so about working. I don't know if it's something that can change, but we do need to change it. The family needs balance and teaching your kids that hard work is important. It makes a difference. But also, turn off the TV and be with them. Go on hikes and talk to your kids. Usually I can't breathe during the hike, but they can. So, they do all the talking.