local mama inspiration: jennifer hillen

local mama inspiration: jennifer hillen

as mother's day is fast approaching, we decided we would love to feature a few local mama's who inspire the magpies girl gang with their hustle, balance, and heart for their families, their friends, and our community. 

our first mom is author, entrepreneur, girl boss, and friend, Jennifer Hillen. 

we reached out with a list of questions she could answer, and of course, being the eloquent author she is, she really spent herself on each and every one!! thank you sweet friend for so honestly sharing your heart and your story with all of us!!


How has your life changed (since becoming a mom!)?

What is awesome is that it didn't change in some of the ways I thought it might (I mourned my social/adult life for a while, but that came back), and it changed in other ways I never could have imagined! From the beginning, I tried to bring Harper along with me for almost everything so I could show her a mom who has a life (sort of) and has fun and makes her a part of it! I ALSO, left her in the care of trusted loved ones from the beginning to try to maintain some sense of self. That said, waking up on Saturday morning after over-indulging in champs the night before is not as fun! I was also one of those moms that thought "oh, I'm not going to shove an iPhone in front of my kid's face......" Well, childless Jennifer, you were wrong! In all seriousness, my heart now lives outside my body in another human life that I created, and that is surreal. It breaks a lot more easily and explodes with joy multiple times a day. I have a completely new kind of love and respect for my parents. It is so fun to see our families love our child and awesome to see Reed as a dad.

What’s the hardest thing about being a mom?

It is so hard to resist going overboard doing everything I can to prepare the world for my child to have it easy. I know it is so important to prepare her for the world and anything that may come her way, so even in little moments like when she can't open a bag or put on a shoe, I try to slow down and be patient so I can see the miracle of her figuring things out for herself. Also, it's really hard to keep a straight face when trying to do some real talk with a hilarious toddler. Like, no, you cannot climb inside the oven while we are baking something and no the answer will not be different 15 seconds from now. 

What gives you the most joy as a mom?

Seeing Harper think, learn, and do things for herself is heartbreaking in that she needs me a little less each day, but also makes me overcome with joy and pride. The effortless laughter and love that children have is inspiring and it's incredible to see her little body and voice express this very mighty personality she's developing!

What’s one thing that keeps you sane?

See above: WINE AND CHAMPAGNE! (It really is hard to name just one, though. Having an outlet through my incredible job at Harpeth Hall and through volunteering in the community brings great perspective to my life. Nothing beats a night with girlfriends, steak dinner with my husband, or a quick getaway alone or with a loved one! Also: Netflix and a hot bath. Swapping war stories with other parents can also be very therapeutic!)

Lets talk about balance...

I will be honest that this is struggle for me. People are constantly reminding me to slow down and worry more about myself. I have a very "guilty" personality, where I feel like I always need to be doing something or there's something or someone I'm neglecting. I over-schedule and over-commit myself, so I'm working on that! When I do have the forethought, ease, and maturity to work on myself and relax, I love to go for walks, have a cozy night in with a glass of wine (do you notice a trend?) and movie, and I especially remain balanced by keeping up with my friendships and spending time with my family. I am a strong believer in being knowing and loving yourself first and I love alone time!

How do you pick and choose your battles?

In talking about child-rearing specifically, I've been much more relaxed than I thought I would be. It's more important to me to teach my daughter balance and moderation than have everything be black and white. For example, if she wants a sweet treat, I will usually give it to her in small doses, rather than cutting her off completely, which can cause other issues.

Favorite thing to do in Nashville with your family/ Favorite kid friendly spots?

This totally depends on the time of year, generally, but when the weather is nice, I LOVE walking to the Parthenon and Centennial Park. They have the best playground and Harper loves to feed the ducks. Basically, any playground is heaven for Harps! I really enjoy a good patio and bonus points to kid-friendly places. Harper is no stranger to daytime fun downtown on Broadway and she's enjoyed many a Preds game (donning some noise cancelling head-phones). She loved her first TPAC show over the holidays so much that she decided to narrate the entire thing for everyone around us. We'll try again next year! At Christmas, we had fun taking her to The Hermitage Hotel for the decorations and some hot chocolate. Percy Warner park is great and I'm excited to go as a family to the Full Moon Pickin' Parties this summer and fall. Cheekwood is a treasure and so is the Zoo, especially with their incredible jungle gym. The Frist is FREE for children under 18 and they have some interactive kids exhibits. Basically, feel free to use GOODNIGHT, NASHVILLE as your perfect itinerary for fun in our amazing town! :) I want to take more advantage of the incredible story times offered at places like the public libraries, Parnassus, etc. and I can't wait for her to be a little older and visit Nashville Children's Theater regularly!

Favorite kid friendly place to eat?

I pretty much venture to take Harper anywhere that isn't a Michelin star fine dining restaurant and you would be surprised at how accommodating some places are. We live in Sylvan Park, so we frequent Park Cafe and Local Taco often, and Star Bagel every weekend. Table 3 recently started providing coloring materials and you would think they handed her a pony, Harper was so excited! Desano's is another great, delicious, easy place for families. She's pretty go-with-the-flow right now since everything is still so new and exciting to a 2 year old.


What’s your most embarrassing mom moment/ mom fail?

OMG, there are too many to rank, at this point. You have to love it when you have THAT child (screaming, tantrum, throwing things, laughing uncontrollably in a quiet situation, loudly asking embarrassing questions in public, etc.) or you are THAT mom (see previous comment about using technology to silence and appease your child). Recently, we were in Mississippi for the funeral of Harper's beloved great-grandmother. Her dad, my husband, was a pallbearer for his grandmother, "Bebe", and Harper could not STAND to share him with the casket for one second. Everyone was lined up in the beautiful, somber, respectful way we do at funerals, and Harper was yelling "No, that's MY Daddy!!!" She then proceeded to pretend the tombstones surrounding the burial service were balance beams and ran circles around the event so I would chase her. Also, my sweet little angel baby girl has some mean gas at some very hilarious and inappropriate times. My husband has been wrongfully accused (by me) on more than one occasion.

Do you ever order off the kids menu?

It is embarrassing how many things I have ordered for my child off any menu and eaten myself. I've finished many a piece of pizza off her plate and have made special trips for "treats for Harper" to give myself an excuse for some ice cream.

Does going to the pool count as bath time?


How many times a day on average does your child yell “MOM”?

I'm still "Mommy" and she is definitely working on wearing that out. I'm not even kidding that every single phrase out of her mouth includes some sort of direct address my way. I've heard a few "MOM"s and those grab my attention. The funniest is that my sister has decided it will be hilarious for Harper to call me "JEN", like she does, and my little 2 year old will pull that out at the most random times. I can't help but laugh, which then means she does it more, and now I'm picturing a sarcastic teenager in my future snarkily calling me "MOTHER" or "JENNIFER". 

Why are kids sticky?

I think the better question is "what kind of voodoo magic sell-your-soul work are some parents doing such that their kids remain free of a sticky layer for longer than 10 minutes past bath time??"

How many cans of dry shampoo do you go through on a weekly basis?

I think the ratio of natural hair to dry shampoo skews so much in favor of the dry shampoo such that by week's end, I'm about 90% flaky residue! I do think that heaven in a can is the 8th Wonder of the World, though, so ain't no shame.

How many Legos have you stepped on?

Two hundred seventy nine million eight hundred fifty six thousand three hundred forty one. The latest is that Harps likes to leave a trail of blueberries on our very dark rugs and I literally smush a few every single day and trail them into shoes, onto clothes, and stain my feet for days at a time.


What is the one thing you never had but want for your kids?

     I am beyond blessed to have had an incredible childhood with my sister and brother thanks to our parents. We certainly weren't given every single thing we ever dreamed of "needing", but we never felt a lot of unmet want or need and they essentially did everything they could to make us comfortable, fostered incredible opportunities, encouraged me to chase by dreams, made me feel like the most capable person that ever lived, offered practical advice ("get a degree you can always fall back on", etc.) and a rock-solid support system through anything. SO.....I have big shoes to fill. That said, one thing I have envied in the experiences some friends of mine have had that I didn't is having grown up in the same place or at least surrounded by the same people so they've gone well into adulthood with lifelong friends who are truly just like family. My family was a very tightly knit, but small, unit, and we moved a few times when I was growing up and in college, so we had extended family and good family friends, but they weren't always in close proximity. My husband is close with nearly every single person he grew up with because their parents were all close from the time their kids were babies. We've been fortunate enough to be "adopted" by some families here that have known one other for generations and it's really beautiful to combine the old with the new. Being invited to join a family's weekly Sunday dinner on occasion and have friends whose kids I'm watching grow up with my own is more of an honor and special to us than they may ever know! I know that some of the treasured friends in our lives now will be there for the long-haul as we chart our family's future for Harper, and I'm excited for her to have "sisters" and "brothers" through them.

Who is your greatest influence?

     Honestly, what is influencing me most at this stage in life is that I am no longer only responsible for my own life, but I'm accountable for my daughter's and want to make her proud and set her up for whatever success or path in life she desires. To think about this question in more traditional terms, my mom has been a huge influence in my life. We share a lot of the same qualities and there is also beauty in some of our differences, so I love and appreciate both ends of that spectrum. Mostly, she taught me self-worth and value and the importance of being able to think for and take care of myself. She has truly pure kindness and love for her children. I appreciate the humility, pride, and self-awareness that allowed her to teach me some incredible lessons both by things she did well and others she advised that I do differently than she did so I may enjoy better results.

Best piece of advice your mom gave you?

Her advice on motherhood that got me through some long, hard, newborn nights is: no matter how bad you think it is, you were a very difficult baby and look how wonderfully you turned out! How sweet... I think? She assured me that I will long for some of the moments that seem to take forever to pass, but are so quickly gone, and she's exactly right. She is also fond of saying, though, that it only gets better and more fun, which has also been true and a great way to remember to roll with the punches and enjoy the ride.