Employed Mom/Stay-At-Home Mom Interview: Part 1

1.19.2020

Welcome to Part 1 (of 2) of an interview on motherhood and being employed/staying at home! I’ve asked my good friend Laura to do these two posts with me, and my hope is that these can give you a glimpse into the joys and challenges of two moms—one who is employed full time and one who stays at home. 

Laura and I have known each other since 2008, where we met at a previous job. She is a fellow editor now stay-at-home mom of four! We actually weren't super close when we worked together, but since leaving that job, we've stayed in touch and text/Marco Polo weekly, if not daily. She's been a great encouragement to me, a good friend, and such a wise sounding board for random motherhood questions and advice. Plus she's hilarious!

Together we put together a list of 10 questions based on ones we thought would be interesting and those submitted when I posted an Instagram poll for questions. We will both answer the first 5 questions in part 1, and the second 5 in part 2. We've read each other's answers.

I felt it was important to put our answers together instead of having one post of all 10 answers from me and one separate post from Laura, because the point is not to compare, to argue for whose situation is harder, or to appear like we are on opposite sides of something. 

We are just two friends, two moms who love our kids, and two moms who are doing the best we can to love our family and make the best choices we can with the skills and passions and goals we’ve been given. We hope you enjoy reading our answers, and we would love to hear from you! Feel free to leave a comment or email me with feedback or even any additional questions you'd like to see us answer.

1. Describe yourself, your family, your past/current work situation.

AMANDA

I’m Amanda, creator of The Lady Okie Blog. My husband, Jordan, and I have been married for almost nine years. We have R (born in 2015) and J (born in 2017), and I’m due with Baby Bum #3 in February 2020.

I have had 3 formal jobs since I graduated college in 2008. I was a conceptual editor at a small book publishing company for just over 4 years (where I met Laura). After that I worked for less than a year for a small family-owned online retailer running their social media, writing ad copy, and writing product descriptions.

I’ve been employed at my current job since 2013. I’m the publications editor for a small nonprofit membership organization headquartered in downtown Oklahoma City. We have 3 publications that I’m in charge of; the one that takes up the majority of my time is our monthly publication—a scholarly research journal that goes out to our 20,000 members. I am head of the editorial board, handle all submissions and reviews, and schedule and edit all the articles. I also do a few things on the side for fun spending money: I do freelance editing, run this blog, and take family photos for friends.

LAURA

Hi, I’m Laura! I love books and hate crowds. I’ve been married for ten years and have four kids—a six-year-old daughter, and sons who are four, two, and seven months. [Amanda insert: if you couldn't tell from the ages, Laura and I were pregnant with 2 of our kids at the same time! This picture is a couple of years old :) ] 

My oldest two are in school from 8 to 3, and the youngest two stay home with me. I met Amanda at work, where we were book editors. She was actually my boss, and I truly loved working with her and a team of people who are still my friends. It was in many ways a dream situation, and it makes me look back on office life quite fondly. I am now an unemployed stay-at-home mom by choice, and I have been since my first child was born. I do occasional copy editing and tutoring, mostly for friends. For a little while last year, I taught English online to Chinese kids at night. It turns out that I like sleep.

2. What’s something positive about being employed/staying at home that you didn’t expect?

AMANDA
I honestly don’t remember thinking too much about what it would be like to go back to a job once I had kids. I definitely never thought it would be as challenging as it is, which I’ll touch on more in the next question, but there are thankfully a lot of great things about being employed that I never expected. 

One thing I appreciate is how being employed has helped me not take my time with my kids for granted. And I don’t at all say that to mean that a mom who stays at home does take that time for granted, but I can see how personally for me, if I were home with my kids all the time it might be easier to miss how special it is to actually have a slower morning and not rush to get out the door to work five days a week. Or how wonderful it is to just sit and watch your kids play. I don’t get to do that during the work day, and so evenings and weekends I really am just constantly grateful for that time with them. 

It’s really caused an awareness of intentional time with my kids. I rarely get tired of being around them, and often I get too busy playing in the evenings and Jordan has to remind me it’s time to start bedtime stuff. One of the things I tell moms who are newly back to work is that quality time is so much more than quantity of time, and I truly believe that and personally found that concept so encouraging when I was going back to work.

LAURA
There are tons of enjoyable things about staying at home that I did expect. What I didn’t expect is a paradox. Staying home can be isolating, but on the other hand, being available for weekday playdates has paved the way for some strong bonds. I started attending things like story time and MOPS as a way to pass the time, but I wound up making such good friends that I’m sometimes more excited to go than my kids are. I have friends who started out as “mom” friends (we met taking our kids to the same place) who have become true friends that I want to be around even without our kids.

3. What’s something challenging about being employed/staying at home that you didn’t expect?

AMANDA
Like I said in the answer above, this could be an entire post. Basically I just didn’t expect it to be as challenging as it is period. That first year back at work after having R was one of the hardest of my life, and looking back I was not in a good place emotionally and mentally. I didn’t expect to be so jealous of moms who stay at home. I didn’t expect to be so angry that I had to work. I didn’t expect to never feel like I was actually doing a very good job at being a mom or being an employee.

It’s so challenging both physically and emotionally to juggle caring for your family while also trying to do the best you can at your job. I think being a working mom is the hardest when one or both of my kids is sick. I want to be able to just stop what I'm doing and take care of them, but instead of being 100% focused on their health, I also have to figure out work stuff. Whether that's contacting my office to request a day off, trying to work at home, scrambling to find childcare if I absolutely have to go to the office, or worrying about deadlines and the things I needed to accomplish that day, it's extremely difficult to balance, and I just wish I didn't have work stuff swirling over my head when the thing I care about the most is making sure my kid is okay.

LAURA
I don’t think I gave much thought to the change in mental stimulation, but it is quite significant. I love learning, being challenged, and collaborating with like-minded adults. Now for most of my day, I’m expending lots of mental energy, but it’s not usually the kind that makes me feel accomplished. I miss doing work with clear goals and tasks that can be checked off. I miss performance reviews and team meetings (again, I know I’m looking back with very rosy glasses). I miss working with individuals who respect my desire to use the bathroom… 

It’s hard to describe how I can now work all day but have so little to show for it. I know in the grand scheme, I’m doing something important, but sometimes it just feels like I’m abandoning one fire to put out another, and the people I’m doing it for don’t even notice. 

4. How can others make you feel seen/encouraged?

AMANDA
There are words and phrases that can be so insensitive that I see all the time, and I don’t always think people are trying to be hurtful, but what they say can sting. One way I feel encouraged and seen is when people validate the unique challenges of being a mom who is also employed. 

Social media is full of people arguing about which job is “harder,” and in my opinion it’s a ridiculous argument. You can’t compare one person’s life to another like that. But I also think it’s so important to really listen to someone when they are explaining a difficult or hard aspect of their situation, and it’s okay to validate that what they are experiencing IS hard. It doesn’t make what someone else is doing less hard. 

I hate blanket statements like “being a mom is hard” when someone is talking about how being a working mom is hard. There are specific aspects of being employed that are harder than those a mom deals with who stays at home, just like there are specific aspects of staying at home that are more difficult than a mom who has a paying job. We can be different and have different struggles, and all of those struggles are hard, but we can speak into the unique challenges of our situations and encourage people who are struggling instead of just trying to sweep everything into a broad category of “being a mom is hard.” 

I’ve also had a few comments over the years along the lines of “I’m sorry you miss your kids during the day, but there are so many women who wish they could have children at all.” I am very aware that infertility and loss is a real pain many feel, and I do want to be sensitive to that. But it doesn’t have to mean that I am not allowed to miss my own children when I’m away from them. These types of comments are hurtful because they invalidate my feelings and make me feel guilty for missing my kids because I do have children to miss in the first place.

LAURA
If you said to me, “What you’re doing takes a lot of energy, patience, and self-sacrifice. You’re making a difference in the world,” I would be your friend for life. Much of my day-to-day work goes unnoticed and feels trivial to me. 

On good days, I know when I calmly hold space for my toddler who is melting down because the yellow car doesn’t fit on the green truck, I am modeling emotional regulation and promoting secure attachment; but on bad days, it just feels like I’m being punished. I know these years are precious, and I know babies don’t keep. I’m so thankful I get to do this work, but it can be exhausting, monotonous, and lonely, and it lifts my spirits when someone acknowledges that and reminds me that what I do does matter.

5. How do you find/maintain friendships?

AMANDA
I’m grateful to have a number of friends I consider close. I use the Marco Polo app to chat with friends while I’m at home doing laundry or washing dishes. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s basically a video chat app, and I love it! I also am pretty good about checking in with friends via text or a phone call. For me, friendships are extremely important, and I make it a priority to reach out to people or plan a hangout every so often. 

I have been doing a once-a-month girls’ night with several friends for two years now, and that’s been really fun. We meet once a month at 7:45 for coffee or ice cream for about an hour. I also have a wonderful church group, and as couples and just girls we have a number of hangouts throughout the year. 

Getting together with friends or even just staying in touch in general takes planning and being intentional. It also can be so hard to make new friends as an adult. I’m pretty extroverted, so I realize that I don’t have quite as hard a time of this as others might, and I also admit that I love being social and getting out to do things. Not everyone does! (Jordan does not lol.) But the reward is a community of friends (both locally and across the country depending on where you live) who can support you and pray for you in all the various ups and downs of daily life.

LAURA
Becoming a SAHM has pushed me to be quite a bit more outgoing when meeting new people. I’ve made several good friends at the library, MOPS International, and Bible studies. It totally feels like dating. I’ve come home and told my husband, “That mom and her girls were at the library again today. We really hit it off. I think she likes us too. I’m going to give her my number next time.” Scary? Yes. Worth it? Definitely.

Play dates are a great way to see friends, and my availability to have them is hands down a huge perk of getting to stay home. But to really fill my friendship bucket, I also have to get out without the kids. My husband is really supportive of that. I put girls’ night on the calendar, and he puts the kids to bed or makes sure one of the grandparents can come over if he’s out of town. It took me about five years to start doing this, but now I realize how important it is.

Questions? Comments? We'd love to hear from you! Send me an email or leave a comment, and if it's for Laura I'll make sure she sees it! Thanks for reading. 

Part 2 hopefully coming soon!
Here are the questions we answer:

What is the hardest time of the day for you? What is your favorite time of day?
How do you prioritize time with your kids?
When do you get things done as far as household chores, meal planning, grocery shopping?
What are 1-2 practical tips you’ve found helpful in your day to day? (go-to recipes, toddler activities, social media accounts to follow, etc)
What’s one thing you’ve learned about staying at home/being employed from being friends with the other person? (So one thing Laura has learned from Amanda, and one thing Amanda has learned from Laura)


Giant Bubbles

1.17.2020


There's no point to this post except that I wanted to share these photos because I think they are fun :)

My sister-in-law brought a homemade bubble wand to my parents' when we were there for Christmas this year (I guess it's last year at this point!). We took advantage of the warm weather and headed outside to play with it! I've never seen one of these before, and it was so much fun watching the kids running around screaming and chasing giant bubbles. There was so much liquid coming out of them that everyone got baths when we were done. R's hair was completely soaked. 

I guess there are perks to having crazy high temperatures on Christmas!
Have you ever used a giant bubble wand? My SIL's mom made it! So cool.

2019: 10 Photos that Shaped My Year

1.05.2020

I did a post with these same photo prompts for 2017, and I thought I did it for 2018 also, but apparently not. I keep having all these things to blog about and no motivation or extended time to sit down and write them, so instead I'm just going to ignore my messy kitchen (messy living room, messy bedrooms...) and look back on 2019 with 10 photos that shaped my year.

Find a photo from the year's greatest adventure, big or small
Can't wait to meet Baby Bum 3 in 6.5 weeks, give or take!

Find a photo of a significant moment
Wedding dress shopping for my sister with my mom and 2 sisters-in-law

What photo makes you feel most alive?
Back under 2 hours in a half marathon since before I got pregnant with R!

Pick your favorite photo of you and the people you love.
My people.

Search for a photo of a morning you want to remember.
Strawberry picking + ladybug release at a local farm.

Find a photo that represents joy.
R's favorite Christmas present: new markers + crayons.

Locate a photo of the people who shaped your year.

Find a photo of you trying something new.
Minivan life is here. We are the coolest.

Identify an image of something you are proud of.
Training for and running half marathon #12!

What is a photo that you'll want to pass down for generations to come?
My grandma, mom, me, R


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