1. Tell us about your life (loaded, we know):
I moved 16 times in 17 years.
Both of my parents served in the military, so moving is assumed to be a part of life, but these weren't military related moves. They were infidelity related moves; he'd cheat, she'd leave (we move), they get back together and try to "start fresh" so we'd move again. Stability felt like a myth, marriage a cruel joke, and the idea of starting a family was like signing up for misery.
It took rejecting the things that I saw in my own home, the beliefs I carried, and getting clear on what MY version of relationships and parenthood could look like. Challenging everything you think you know is both scary and liberating.
There's more to this story, but it catalyzed developing deep empathy for women and the tough decisions that we face. It also taught me that although our indecision may be understandable, it does not change the fact that it also keeps us stuck and unfulfilled.
2. Why did you start On The Fence?
I started On The Fence after the topic of motherhood kept coming up in my personal life. I'm a strong advocate of women doing what they want and have never questioned the reasons between wanting or not wanting children, but women in my circle had questions for me! I realized that there isnt a space for conversations around "why" a woman may have a tough time deciding things like "do you want children," "why don't you leave your unhappy relationship?" or "why don't you quit that job thats making you miserable"? These are loaded questions that can be impacted by finances, emotional and physical well being and more. There are "mom blogs" and "mom groups" but what about the women who feel out of place in those spaces (because they don't tie their identity exclusively to motherhood) what about the ones who do NOT want children and are faced with intrusive and downright rude questions about it?
3. What kind of women do you see benefiting from On The Fence?
Any woman who has ever felt like she was the only one struggling with making a major life decision. My events are first to show you that you are not alone, and second, provide resources and access to experts to ask the questions you've been afraid to speak out loud. And for women who have made those decisions to show up and support.
4. Who are some women you admire?
Ayanna Kimani / @ayannajkimani- I adore her, she is a dear friend and rule breaker after my own heart. She studied biology in college but made the ultimate pivot into fashion. When a woman goes from biology to costume designer you know the magic is strong!
My mother - It took me years to understand her reasons for staying married, her quiet strength and ride or die support for the people she loves taught me how to be a good friend and show up for people.
Cardi B - She’s taking everything we have been taught about being a wife and mother and rewriting the rules. Yes, paint yourself like a tiger and twerk on a boat (I hate the narrative around somehow being boring because you’re a wife/mom).
5. IG accounts that you love to follow:
@alaiyowaistbeads - Jasai (the woman behind the brand) showcases beauty in all body types and is reimaging what is "sexy."
@werenotreallystrangers - I live for debunking the myth that we are all special unicorns with special unicorn problems that nobody else will understand!
@crimson_fig - Telling birth stories of black women, showing options that many of us are not aware of.
6. What’s your life mantra?
Do what you have to do so you can do what you want to do.
You can keep up with Jess on Instagram and at On The Fence.