Jenny's Interview with Mothering Wildlife

Jenny Curtis, our Founder and animal expert, was recently a guest on the Mothering Wildlife podcast. She shared how her love for wildlife since she was a kid shaped her career and gave insight into her experience of juggling being a mom and running a business. Dive in below to discover more about Jenny's journey!

Prefer to listen? Listen to the episode here

Creating the Next Generation of Conservationists with Jenny Curtis of edZOOcation

Mothering Wildlife PodcastHosted by Elizabeth Johnson

Release date: December 14, 2023

"Elizabeth Johnson (podcast host): Welcome to the Mothering Wildlife Podcast. I'm Elizabeth, a zoo professional working full-time and also a mom to two little boys.

I know firsthand how challenging the zoo field can be, physically, mentally, and emotionally. I also know how much work it is to raise tiny humans. I want to share the stories of those moms who are out there caring for wildlife and caring for kids.

My hope is that this podcast can build a community of moms sharing ideas and supporting each other because we're all in this together.

We're all just mothering wildlife.

[Music ends]

Elizabeth: Welcome back to another episode of the Mothering Wildlife Podcast. My name is Elizabeth and I'm your host.

Before I forget, I just wanted to tell you all that I'm actually going to be taking the next two weeks off from the podcast. So, this podcast that comes out today is the last one of the year.

There will be no episode on December 21st or 28th but then I will be back on January 4th with a brand new episode and a brand new story, and we'll be rocking and rolling from there on out. I just want to take the next couple of weeks to spend time with my family, and this time of year is always so busy.

It's nice to have a little bit of a break and to be able to kind of truly be present. I know that you moms out there will totally understand what I mean when I say that. So, two weeks off, and then I'll be back.

Make sure that you are subscribing or following to the podcast so that on January 4th I'll just automatically pop up in your feed.

All right, today, the mom that we're talking to is Jenny Curtis. She is the owner of a really cool company called edZOOcation and they offer a variety of subscription boxes for all ages that are dedicated to wildlife.

They usually have a theme each month based on a single species and the boxes themselves are really kind of cool. They've got informational booklets in them, fact sheets, a stuffed animal, really neat crafts, all sorts of things that are included.

Basically, as a way to kind of teach your kids all about endangered species, all about wildlife, all about conservation. The company themselves is really neat.

They donate about 50% of the profits to wildlife organizations. According to their website, so far, they've donated over $43,000 to wildlife conservation and related areas.

So, overall, a neat company; overall a very cool mom. She has a really neat background.

She's done a lot of different things in her life, all of which have kind of culminated into this company. And I was really excited to kind of talk to her.

I hope that you guys will enjoy her story as much as I did. We're just going to dive right on into it.

Without further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Jenny Curtis from edZOOcation.

[Short musical transition]

Elizabeth: Hi, Jenny. Thank you so much for joining me today. I'm excited to have you on the podcast and to get to hear a little bit about your story. So, welcome.

Jenny: Thank you so much. I'm really excited to be here and I love the podcast so far. Excited to see where it goes.

Elizabeth: Awesome. Cool. Well, thanks. So, let's start a little bit and go into you first, and a little bit of what you've done kind of professionally the past few years or so, and let's talk about how you kind of got into this field of wildlife conservation and animal and stuff like that.

Jenny: Yeah, so I feel like probably just like every other animal lover I started out real young and just was dead set on animals my whole life. I was definitely the black sheep of the family in that regard.

Elizabeth: [Tiny laugh]

Jenny: But in high school, I started to realize I wanted to work with animals in a capacity that was not like veterinary—because when you're little, especially like, I don't know, back in the 80s/90s, there weren't a lot of—there wasn't a lot of information out there on what you could do with animals besides like be a veterinarian.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Jenny: In high school, I realized I probably wanted to do something a little different than that. Math was not my strong suit.

Elizabeth: [Tiny laugh]

Jenny: And so, I decided I wanted to be a zookeeper. So that's kind of where my journey started as I started looking at what can I do for college related to working with animals.

I started going to college for zoology and during my undergraduate, I was accepted into Moorpark College's Exotic Animal Training and Management program, which is kind of like a draw system.

Elizabeth: Nice.

Jenny: So, if you get in, you kind of, you have to go.

Elizabeth: Oh, wow!

Jenny: So, I stopped—I went in between finishing my undergraduate, I left and went to the associate's program at Moorpark and did that 2-year program, and then afterward went back to getting my bachelor's.

Elizabeth: Oh my goodness! [Tiny laugh]

Jenny: So, my educational history is like all over the place, but very long and drawn out. But it’s alright.

Elizabeth: [Tiny laugh] I didn't know that about Moorpark.

Jenny: [Tiny laugh] Yeah

Elizabeth: I didn't know that is kind of like a draw, you said, and then you're just off; you're off to the races.

Jenny: Mhmm.

Elizabeth: Basically, you're going.

Jenny: Yeah. I mean,there's people who wait years to get in, and they keep putting their name in and applying and it's, uh, it’s very competitive for sure.

Elizabeth: Wow. Okay. So, um, graduate college now with lots of education under your belt [both laugh] and what was your next step?

Jenny: Yes. So, after I graduated from Moorpark, my husband and I moved cross-country. We lived in California, we moved to Florida, and that was to start my educational outreach that I wanted to have.

I didn't have my undergraduate yet, so I had my Moorpark College degrees, and then I had a little more than half my undergraduate done. And so, I wanted to start an outreach program, basically going into schools, libraries, you know, birthday parties, and all that with live animals.

So, we started a—I hate to use the word rescue sometimes, but a rescue of sorts, because all the animals that we did use for our programs were rescues.

Elizabeth: Mhmm.

Jenny: Probably like 90% of them. And we worked closely with Fish and Wildlife. Florida obviously has a huge problem with people having exotic pets and then releasing them into the wild.

So, we worked with them through their amnesty program, which is a program Florida has, which is really cool. And basically, anyone can turn in an exotic animal with no penalties on these specific days, and the state will find them appropriate homes.

Elizabeth: That’s nice.

Jenny: So, we would get a lot of their animals that way and just work with them, get them used to being handled, and move them into outreach programs as we could. So we did that for four years.

I think we had over 250 animals that we received and placed because a lot of them were domestics also, so we were able to re-home a lot of them as well, working with the shelters and the state wildlife.

We were able to take in exotics, but then also domestics and re-home. So over 250 animals in four years. And then that's where I had kids.

Elizabeth: [Laughs]

Jenny: And I don't know if you know, but things change sometimes when you have kids. [both laugh]

Elizabeth: [Laughing] You don't say!

Jenny: [laughing] Just a smidgen. Just a smidgen. So, we had two kids. Two of them under two, so it was, you know, a lot going on at one time for owning your own small business full of exotics, and at that point it was still a startup.

We were only four years old when we decided to close it as far as the business goes. So, we ended up closing the business, kind of restructuring our family in a way.

We moved back across country. I like to say that I learned more in closing the business than I did in starting the business because it's a whole different world relocating animals and closing things out.

Elizabeth: Oh, I bet.

Jenny: Permits don't transfer. We were moving from Florida to California, so none of those permits transfer across state lines. We'd have to start all the way at the bottom again, which California is more strict on their animal regulations.

Elizabeth: Mhmm.

Jenny: So, it would be like going back to the drawing board if I wanted to start up my outreach again. So, we decided not to. We placed all the animals in zoo homes, and education facilities, a couple of them as pets if it was appropriate, and kind of attempted the stay-at-home mom life, is what I'll call it.

Elizabeth: [Tiny laugh]

Jenny: I made it about two months [both laugh] before I was ready to get back into business of some sort. I never thought I would be a business owner, but I ended up really liking the day-to-day operational aspect of it.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Jenny: And that's where edZOOcation comes around.

Elizabeth: And that’s where edZOOcation comes around, yeah!

Jenny: Yeah.

Elizabeth: So, I was so intrigued whenever I first saw your Facebook profile, and I was like poking around.

Jenny: [Tiny laugh]

Elizabeth: And I was like, oh, look at this really cool company and these subscription boxes and the stuff they're doing.

So yeah, I would love for you to tell us a little bit about edZOOcation and kind of like you said, it came about when you came back to California and dive into that.

Jenny: Oh man, so came back to California; we were living with my in-laws when we moved back to California because obviously there's a steep [tiny laugh] home value change in going from Florida to California.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Jenny: So, moved in with the in-laws, was starting a business, started selling things, and I loved focusing on anything animal-related. So, we started out selling stuffed animals and pretend play costumes for kids.

It was personally what my kids were super into, and I loved seeing them learn about the animals while dressed as them. They absolutely loved making the sounds and running around like a monkey or whatnot and so that's kind of how we started the retail aspect of our wildlife education branch, I’ll say.

So, we revived our Wildlife Tree name, which was our original outreach, and that's where we started edZOOcation from.

It combined things we had learned from the retail side of things with my obsession and passion for wildlife education and conservation.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Jenny: Also at this time, I was working at Moorpark College. So, I tend to overdo it.

Elizabeth: [Laughs]

Jenny: I tend to have way too many things. So, I was running two businesses, had two kids, and then was called in to help out at Moorpark College.

I helped them out for a bit during some maternity leave; it started as someone was going on maternity leave. And so, I helped out on the zoo operation side.

Then, a faculty position opened up for part-time faculty. So, I interviewed and went in for that. And I did some faculty work for them as well. And from there, we kind of—I learned so much about conservation, and having to teach a conservation class, you learn so much about conservation.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Jenny: So, I took over for one of the professors while they were on sabbatical. I had a whole different set of classes than I would normally work on and teach. I was usually more of like the lab side of the zoo.

So, doing the academic side of the classes was really different. And I learned so much about conservation, as I said, but I also learned that I don't think I'm a super great teacher for adults. It wasn't my comfortable spot.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Jenny: I never felt like I was doing it enough justice for how important teaching conservation to college students is. And I really figured out at that point that I loved teaching kids.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Jenny: I loved working with kids. I loved engaging kids and working at that level, on the education side.

So, we brought it all together with our wildlife education brand being reborn as edZOOcation and we do a monthly subscription box for kids.

We have three ages now. We have three to five, our zookeeper box. Our zoologist box is ages six to eight and our conservationist box, which just launched a couple months ago, is ages nine to twelve.

Elizabeth: Nice.

Jenny: We're definitely working towards getting kids that, you know, initial understanding of just loving animals, being empathetic, being kind and caring, to hopefully one day having them be interested in a role in conservation.

Elizabeth: Yeah. It's come full circle then; all of it put together.

Jenny: It has. [laughs] It really has, yeah.

Elizabeth: Yeah, that's amazing, I really love that. I love that mission and I think it's great. I mean, inside of those boxes, you have a plush animal, a stuffed animal, and you've got information. They're very species-specific. I believe I saw on the website each one is different.

Jenny: Yeah, we shoot for endangered species because, again, we're partnered with conservation organizations. So, each box gives you a book, a specific book that is focused on those ages. I talked about an age-appropriate book for the reading levels about the animal.

Elizabeth: Mhmm.

Jenny: There's arts and crafts about the animal. There are, you know, we try to talk a lot about ecosystems and try to kind of pull everything full circle for the kids as well. We have the stuffed animal, which is really great for especially the kids who are struggling to learn to read a little bit.

Elizabeth: Mhmm.

Jenny: Having that little reading buddy with them while they learn has been a fantastic asset. Plus, kids just love stuffed animals.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Jenny: I think it's so fun to tote them around and helps them share their knowledge as well.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Jenny: We have the books, so we have coloring pages, we have fact pages, we have a recipe either somehow tied into that animal or from the animal's native habitat area, like the local communities. And it's just really fun. It's been so amazing to hear the feedback that we get and how much people love them. I do feel like we are making a positive impact in kids’ lives.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Jenny: Then on top of that, we donate 50% of profits to conservation organizations. So, each month we focus on an animal.

In November, right now it's Spectacled Bear. So, we're working with the Spectacled Bear Conservation down in Peru. They're our donor for the month. 50% of all profits will go back to them, as well as we're trying to help tell their story to kids in the boxes, but then also on social media and spreading word of mouth awareness.

Elizabeth: Amazing, I love that. That's really, really cool.

Jenny: Yeah, thank you, we love it.

Elizabeth: And just so our listeners know, I will put in the podcast show notes, and we will give a shout-out to the website later and how people can come check out all about edZOOcation because yeah, that's very cool.

So, we've got two children. You mentioned you had two under two when you moved back to California. [laughter]

Jenny: Yes.

Elizabeth: Tell me a little bit about them.

Jenny: Yeah, so my daughter, she is eleven and she is very much a combination of my husband and I.

She has all his sporadic-ness and then my obsession with science and animals. And so that's really fun.

And then my son is nine, and he is all art, all the time. That's all he wants to do, is draw and color and craft. And he wants all the recyclables so that he can build everything in the world. It's, it’s, truly…truly amazing having kids.

Elizabeth: Yeah, that sounds like my son. He's constantly going into our recycling bin and taking out  the things, like the toilet paper roll or the boxes, and I'm like, "What are you doing?" And he's like, "We could use these for something!" I'm like, "I'm sure we could but okay."


Jenny: Yep. I have to preface it. If I bring something in, I have to preface it. Like, you cannot have this box.

Elizabeth: Yes. [Laughter]

Jenny: Please do not poke holes in this box. I need this box. Because he wants it.

Elizabeth: Yeah, but I love to see the creations. I love to see all the creations he comes up with though and that they come up with.

Jenny: Absolutely.

Elizabeth: Those artsy kids are just amazing.

Jenny: Yeah.

Elizabeth: So very cool. You know, moving across the country with two small kids and trying to find, you know, cultivation of all of your passions; as you said, you tend to just dive right in and to give yourself a lot of things on your plate.

What are some tips and tricks that you have? How do you manage so many things at one time?

Jenny: Well, I've definitely learned to slow down and enjoy things as much as I can. Obviously, I'm still obsessed with animals, so we have a gazillion pets, you know, as well to add to the workload, I guess. But just taking time where I can.

I think when you become a parent, so much of your life revolves around realizing how much you can teach your kids, and how much—where you want to teach them, and where you want them to grow on their own. And I think that's just been the best part; slowing down to teach them.

Like, for instance, I hate cooking. I absolutely loathe it. It is the bane of my existence. My husband hates cooking. We're not in a good situation for that. But lately, my kids have been more into it and it's so much more fun If you can involve them, as painful as sometimes that can be.

Elizabeth: Yeah, [laughter], and messy.

Jenny: Yeah, if you can involve them, it's made it so much more enjoyable for me. And so, I think just taking time to realize, okay, this is something I'm overwhelmed with or overloaded on. How can I use it with them into something that maybe they'll be able to use in their life someday?

Elizabeth: Yeah. Yeah, and then along the way, you know, you can maybe find joy [laughter] in trying to get that task done or something like that.

Jenny: [laughter] Absolutely. Absolutely.

Elizabeth: Yeah, I have a hard time—those things that I don't want to do either, or that I'm maybe not good at or just not my skill set.

If Silas, who's my oldest, who's eight, is taking an interest in it, and like, okay I know this is the right thing to do.

Jenny: Right? [Laughter]

Elizabeth: I'm gonna try—you know, we're gonna do it together because, you know, trying to—I don’t want him to also avoid doing those tasks or trying to, you know, grow that little person into someone who's competent and able to do those skills. So yeah, that can be hard though.

Jenny: Absolutely.

Elizabeth: As a business owner and also as a mom, what have been some of the biggest challenges that you have faced?

Jenny: Oh my gosh.My college experience has always been science and animals. So, the world of business has been an ever-changing learning curve for me, is what I'll say.

And just learning leadership capacities, you know, abilities and managing teams, and…really working with people in a way that I didn't expect has been very rewarding and challenging at the same time. It's, as I said, such a learning curve because it's, it’s not anything I was prepared for in that sense.

I probably should go back and get official training on it. We've talked about maybe I'll go get my masters in it, but at this point, I don't have capacity for it.

Elizabeth: Yeah, yeah.

Jenny: It's just…learning as you go for us. And we've made huge mistakes. I say we, my husband helps a lot in the business. And he's a serial entrepreneur as well. So, he's had several businesses of his own. But…you learn as much in business starting as you do in closing things, as well, and making mistakes.

 Elizabeth: That's true. There's something to be said for diving right on in, and doing something, and doing it with what you know and learning along the way. Like, I think those are valuable skills.

Jenny: Yeah, it’s like parenting!       

Elizabeth: Yeah, it is like parenting! [both laugh] There are so many parallels. [laugher]

Jenny: Yes, yes!

Elizabeth: It's true, you're thrown into parenting with no owners manual, no one knows what to do, and you're justiguring it out. So yeah, it's exactly the same thing! [laughter]

Jenny: You have no—well, I had no idea what I was doing with either.

Elizabeth: Same.

Jenny: So, I mean, somehow, we've survived [laughter] and thrived, so I'm happy for it. [both laugh]

Elizabeth: Do you feel that because you're so heavily involved, your husband you said is involved, in the business—do you feel that you have a hard time having, like, a little bit of a balance between work and life, or is that, you know, not a concern?

Jenny: No, I absolutely did. I would definitely classify my previous self as a workaholic a bit.

I really liked to be busy. I was kind of—I grew up in the chaos of that at home, and so that was very normal for me, and it wasn't until…COVID and therapy, because who doesn't love therapy, right?

It wasn't until COVID and therapy, where I really learned to slow down and find interests, and literally, like, force myself to take a break.

And that's been amazing. So, I'm a big gardener now—well, I say big, but, like…my garden doesn't look big, but I enjoy [laughter] gardening. I'm learning.

But things like that where I can completely detach from the business world, from the—not the home world, because I mean, my kids are still there, but, but detach mentally and take that break. I definitely have come a long way in my abilities to do that.

Elizabeth: Yeah, that's nice. And that's awesome that you found an activity that you can do. Because I think that that’s one thing I feel like moms struggle with, is they just don't know, “what do I even like to do? What is something that I would like to do if I were to put my time and energy into something else?”

Jenny: Absolutely, and it's very hard and…I mean, I have binoculars, I like to bird too, but I'm not super great at all the little ones. So I wouldn't—I don't know if I'd call it a hobby yet. But I take them if we go on vacation.

Elizabeth: [laughter] Yeah, I would—similarly to you, I would have classified myself definitely as a workaholic even pre-kids I mean, just working constantly all the time.

And then, you know, you have kids and it's all of a sudden like, ooh, the brakes are pumped. And I don't feel like I can be a workaholic as much as I was a workaholic.

And, you know, I, personally—I don't know how you feel about it, I struggled so much with that in the beginning of having children, especially when they're young. And, you know…

Jenny: The mom guilt is so serious and it's…it's such a weird…thing. I was never one of those people that like knew for sure I wanted kids.

I…I don't know, I guess I just—I was always thinking about animals  and we had kids…we, you know, planned to have kids, and then we did and it still was like somehow a shock for me that like I couldn't—these two things were still so separate but I wanted both of them.

I couldn’t—it was hard in the beginning. I didn't know what I wanted to do. I didn't know if I wanted to continue my business or be home with the kids. It's just very, very challenging having both aspects of those desires.

Elizabeth: No, I agree. I felt very much, like, same—I wanted kids, but it was never a thoughtful decision when we ended up getting pregnant.

And it was...was like, now that I have this child and I can't have the life—I mean, I can, but in that moment with the newborn, I couldn't continue on with life the way it was, even though I drastically was trying to and wanted to.

But then I have this new life, which was so incredibly hard. And, you know, questioning, was this the right decision? Like, did we get ourselves into something that, you know, was way over our head that we weren't expecting? And honestly feeling like am I gonna ever be able to…to work again at the capacity that I…that I, was? Is this just my new normal?

Jenny: It's so hard and it's…it's just incredibly hard and I don't think I ever—I didn't give up on it for a really long time.

I would say, even through working at Moorpark at the zoo, I just couldn't make up my mind which—where I wanted to land; I couldn't land somewhere where I had a happy balance.

And it wasn't until after I left actually, after I left Moorpark and just focused on growing this business of edZOOcation and fully focusing my skill sets towards wildlife education in this realm, working with kids in this realm, where I have found like a harmony in that.

I can be home with my kids when I need to. I can be here working when I need to. And yeah, I still work a lot, but I'm home a lot too.

And so, I really have that happy balance that I didn't know how to explain or describe what I wanted. And, you know, and now I'm working on scaling back even a little more because we want to foster and I know I'm gonna need more capacity for these kids, and so I'm working on scaling it back little bits as we go. Little bits.

 Elizabeth: [laughter] Little bits. Are you open to talking about, you know, what the process of fostering looks like for you all? Or is that something you're still keeping very close to yourselves right now?

Jenny: Well, we're still in the process, so I'm happy to talk about it. We haven't had placement yet.

We…have, actually this afternoon, we have our final read-through of the official report that will go to the county for them to say yes or no.

Hopefully, [laughter] they say yes. And it's…it has been a lot. I mean, there's—we've probably spoken to 15 different people who are involved in the process of getting you approved.

We've gone through 15 to 20 hours of video training, and in-person—not in-person, Zoom training… and…it's a ton of paperwork; more questions than anyone has ever asked me.They have all the answers; super, super personal, intimate questions with people but I mean it's a kid's life.

You really have to look through someone that deeply, especially because of situations that kids have been in in foster care before.

You know, they want it to be the right choice. We went into it not actually looking to foster, but looking to adopt.

We always said we'd have two, and if we wanted more kids, we'd adopt. But the way that California, at least, is set now, you have to foster for six months before you can adopt.

So, you go through the training and everything of fostering. And the more I learned about it through all the classes, the more of a need it is. The point isn't necessarily adoption anymore, but reunification with the families and how can we be a support system for the child and the family while the parents get better?

Because that's traditionally what has been the most successful. And I'm all for it so sign me up! [both laugh]

Elizabeth: Well, good luck with you guys and that process. I hope that it turns out favorably for you all. That’s pretty amazing.

Jenny: Yes, I think it will be crazy but I'm in for it.

Elizabeth: You're in for it. Sounds like a trending theme [laughter] amongst your life. Oh, that’s pretty cool. Do you think that you've developed skills in your career that are applicable to being a mom?

Jenny: Oh gosh, it goes both ways, absolutely.

Everything from parenting translates to the business world and everything from vice versa. It's, I mean, flexibility…huge. You have to be so flexible. You have to be able to structure other people and lives around you. Just being understanding and empathetic with people's…shortcomings, but also their skill sets and working with people in different ways.

Team building is huge. I mean, you have to do that in your family too or your kids are gonna drive you nuts. [laugher]

Elizabeth: [laughter] Yeah, yeah. No, it's true. I 100 % believe that, you know, having children has definitely made me more sympathetic, more empathetic, to others' needs and others' ways of thinking.

And I considered myself, you know, pretty open-minded and able to see another person's point of view prior to having kids. But since having kids and really trying to, like, understand the emotions that are coming from these little tiny humans, and why they're feeling the way they're feeling, and trying to put myself in their shoes—that skill in my book has just like exploded, especially recently.

Jenny: Absolutely.

Elizabeth: Yeah, because you have to, I mean, it's…it's very hard to understand in that moment why when you have a toddler who's having a meltdown or even an eight-year-old who is starting to have this, like, sass and trying to talk back…like where that's coming from. And I think being able to stop and reflect upon that without it triggering your own past [laugher] is challenging.

Jenny: Absolutely.

Elizabeth: Kids just do that to you. I mean, they do.

Jenny: They really do. And, you know, you learn so much about your parents and your upbringing through parenting, and probably regretting things you've done to your family.

Elizabeth: Oh yes, I tell my mom all the time —I'm like, I'm so sorry. Or now I totally understood where you were coming from when you were upset about me doing like X, Y, and Z because I totally feel that now. If only…

Jenny: I mean, the preteen energy is so real. [laughs]

Elizabeth: [laughs] Oh, I bet. I bet!

Jenny: It’s, uh…it’s definitely taken me back [laughs]

Elizabeth: [laughs] Now that you have older kids, you know, nine and eleven, who have their own little mini social lives and activities, I'm sure, and things that they're interested in—how do you and your husband…how do you guys try to manage, you know, their little lives along with your family lives? Do you have any tips? Because moms are always asking me, oh, I've got a giant calendar, or I do it this way.

Jenny: So, [laughs] my husband is very involved. I'm very lucky. And so, we try to like…divide and conquer something.

So, I do school. I'll do all the school calendar planning and volunteering and all of that. And then he does all the, like, sports. So, he'll do sports, and I'll do school, and then, as awkward as it is, like, what we found that works best with, like, friends and them creating friends and making's, like, if we get…if we get a contact…it's like, it's like, who wants to…who wants to do the activity?

I guess is what I'll say. So, like, nowadays, it's like you get the parent’s contact and you have to store it, and then the kids want to talk to each other through your phone, and at some point that gets to be too much. That's when my daughter got a phone—is when I was, like, I can't do 350 text messages from your friend group right now.

So, she has a phone now—is super, you know, like protected and everything, I guess we'll say. And my son still doesn't, he's not old enough. But now he wants to be on the phone calling his friends and meanwhile, I don't have a phone! [laughs] because they have it now, but it's a…it's just, I don't know. It's…it's crazy. It's…it's just a constant struggle of who's doing what, where, where's the calendar? Who knows what's going on on the calendar? 

What day of dress, special dress day, is it at school, and sport day and then bringing friends in to the picture is really different from when I was little. Like, we would just go play with our neighbors and we would be gone and come home. Not like we weren't, like, full, like, when the street lights come on.

I'm probably a little older than that—or a little younger than that generation, I would say. But it's hard to get kids to play sometimes. Like we've been living in this neighborhood now for—this is our third year…and just this year, just this last—I mean, it was COVID-ish too, but just this last year, kids like came out of houses and now they're playing in this safe little area and it's totally fine.

But it's sometimes hard to navigate the friendships for them with all the devices sometimes, I would say.

Elizabeth: I agree, I almost feel like those devices just get in the way, they're just—

Jenny: Right, go play!

Elizabeth: Exactly, go play! But on the other hand, it's like in this world, I feel like they're so necessary sometimes, you know?

Jenny: Oh yes.

Elizabeth: Like the phones and being able to connect through the computer—and my son likes to play with his friend across town on the computer, but it's like, [Jenny: Right.] can we go out and play? Can we, yeah, it is a different hard world to be a kid nowadays. It's definitely not the same to make friends.

Jenny: It was, like, we saw a little girl across the street and I literally, like, ran to my daughter and I was like, like, there's a kid, go introduce yourself, go say hi! Because it's so distant. And it's all on video chat or group chat. And so luckily this year they've made a little group of friends down the street, which has been really, really nice to see that grow.

Elizabeth: Yeah, the neighborhood gang. It’s nice to have a little neighborhood gang. Yeah, that's nice, that's cool. Do you feel like, you know—have you…has there been anything that's ever come up in your career, your life, that you're like, "Oh, right now, because I've got children, I just don't know if it's the right time to go after this project or to do this?"

Jenny: So, I finished my bachelor's pregnant with my second, and that was one of the hardest things I've ever done because I had the outreach; I had all the animals, I had—and the outreach was…was at my, at my residence, at my home, so I mean, it was a full house.

 I had the two kids. I had my daughter…was one and a half and I finished my bachelor's eight months pregnant, and…and this was like before virtual classes really so it was…I was walking down the campus every day, you know, and that was one of the hardest things I ever did.
Because at that point the outreach was growing and my husband too was like why are you wanting to finish this right now when we have the kids and, like, you already have, like—what are you trying to prove by finishing your degree? And I'm like, I just, I need it for me.

I've always said I need it and…that was one of the hardest things because I was literally taking, like, one class at a time, trying to get through it all, and finally finished, which was a big accomplishment for myself, just with where I was in my season of life, I'll say.

Elizabeth: Yeah, yeah. That is an accomplishment, because that's a lot going on. [laughs]

Jenny: [laughs] It was. It was.

Elizabeth: Do you think that, you know, if you didn't have children, and—do you think you guys would have tried to stay in Florida and continue with this, you know, rescue and educational business, or do you think you would have always moved back?

Jenny: [sighs] I don't know. I think I would have loved to continue the outreach. It definitely got trickier when we had kids and I was more overdone, more burnt out. But…but I think we really moved back to be closer to my husband's family and have support with the kids because  that is really hard when you are—some of my family was out in Florida, but most of all of his family was here in California, and he's from a really, really big supportive family.

And so, it was just the logical thing to do for our family, our relationship…and everything I think works out. You never think it's gonna go the way it goes, but it all tends to work out in the end, I think.

But maybe that's just a positive attitude. I’m not sure [laughs]

Elizabeth: No, no, no, I feel like things work out the way they're supposed to work out, you know?

They're meant to be, they're meant to be. We're in a similar situation where we're considering, you know, do we move back closer to family right now?

Because we're in Florida and we don't have family in Florida, but all of our family is in Texas, and, you know, as parents get older, and now we have two children, and we want to be closer to family for the support, primarily, and just be able to kind of like incorporate them into our lives [laughs] so that we're not just out here in no man's land, you know.

We have considered it. I feel like I've talked to a lot of moms who have mentioned that moving for them, whether it's back to a home state or a home city or somewhere else—the driving force was definitely to be closer to family and friends.

To have that community because it's…it seems to be, you know, every family for themselves sometimes nowadays when you're far away and don't have your own little kind of, like, tribe around to help you

Jenny: Right. And it's hard; parenting is no joke, it's intense. [laughs]

Elizabeth: [laughs] Yeah, it is.

Jenny: You need all the support you can get. [laughs]

Elizabeth: [laughs] You do; 100%, 100%. Oh, well, let's see, as we wrap up here tell me a little bit about what your biggest piece of advice for moms would be. And it doesn't have to be necessarily a working mom or mom as a business owner, but in general.

Jenny: I think the best advice that I've gotten is actually from my mother-in-law, and she just says “whatever works…whatever works, works”. 

There's so much—especially for new moms, there's so much conflicting information out there—what's the best way to do this or which bottle should you buy, or…whatever works. Whatever works, is what works, and everyone will carry on and everything's going to be good.

I just think that you have to go about it with flexibility, and compassion, and understanding, and everything will work out if you do.

Elizabeth: I agree. I love that. The flexibility is key because if you are in it to be inflexible and want it done a certain way, you're just fighting yourself at some point.

Jenny: Yeah, absolutely. And you're fighting for support from others.

Elizabeth: Same, yeah.

Jenny: Absolutely.

Elizabeth: Yeah, you kind of have to, like, change course [laughs] frequently, it seems like, with children. Yeah. Well, I love that. If it works, it works. [both laugh] So that was nice. Jenny, thank you so much for talking to us today and telling me a little bit about edZOOcation. And then also a little bit about your motherhood journey. I really loved your story. It's quite varied. It's always nice to hear people's journeys. I really love it, so…

Jenny: It is and it's, you know, it's fun to hear about all the other women out there working in the animal industry, animal professionals, and just know that there's people out there that support you and, you know, find your tribe and run with it, you know.

Elizabeth: Yeah, yeah, find your people. Well, thank you so much again. I really, really appreciate it.

Jenny: Absolutely. Thank you so much, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth: You're welcome.

[Short musical transition]

Elizabeth: All right, thank you so much to Jenny for sharing her story and for coming on the podcast I really appreciate it.

Also, I'm really glad that she got to talk about edZOOcation and share a little bit about her company and its mission and a little bit about their product. They're a pretty cool company. I'm really glad that we got to highlight that a little bit.

I will put the link to the website for edZOOcation in the show notes so you guys can easily access it there. You can go online. You can check them out. You can check out those subscription boxes and you can see all about the company and all about Jenny. There's a little blurb of her on the website as well.

So, as a reminder, like I said at the beginning of this episode, I won't be here for the next two weeks. I'm going to take the next two weeks off, but I will come back on January 4th with a brand new episode and a brand new mom story, and then we will go from there.

So, make sure, like I said at the beginning, that you're subscribing or following to the podcast. That way, I'll automatically show up in your feed whenever we come back on January 4th.

Other than that, everyone have a good holiday season, and I will see you in a couple of weeks. Bye!

[Upbeat theme music plays]

Elizabeth: Thanks for listening to the Mothering Wildlife podcast!

I’m your host, Elizabeth Johnson.

This podcast is produced by Jon Rossi. Check out his podcasts, Rossifari and Conservation Tales, wherever you listen to podcasts if you really want to learn all about the amazing people that work in zoos.

Theme music by Jon Rossi and Taylor Isaac Grey. Visit us on Facebook and Instagram at @motheringwildlife to like and follow us. If you are a mom that works with wildlife and you want to share your story, reach out to me at"

Thanks for joining us and enjoying this podcast with Mothering Wildlife and our amazing founder, Jenny Curtis! Her passion for wildlife and her journey balancing family and business is truly inspiring. Stay wild, and keep exploring!

Listen to the podcast audio from Mothering Wildlife.

Encourage your kid's passion for animals and nurture the next generation of conservationists with edZOOcation

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