It's a Boy!

2.23.2020


We are so incredibly thankful to share the safe arrival of Baby BOY Bumgarner on Tuesday, Feb 18, 2020, at 10:42 pm. This was by far my shortest labor at just about 8 hours, and we couldn't be more excited to welcome Baby F to our family.

Birth story to come! We took Fresh 48 pictures at the hospital, and our photographer was honestly the absolute sweetest. Below is a sneak, and I can't wait to see the rest! Thank you for praying for us during this pregnancy. There just really aren't words for how blessed I feel to be gifted this sweet little life.


Let People Help You

2.06.2020


Last week was, shall we say, not the best.

I mentioned in a previous post that I had the flu last week, which I don't think I've had before and it was so awful. I don't know if it was more the flu itself or the fact that I was 37 weeks pregnant or a combination (probably a combination), but I felt completely miserable.

While that was going on, Jordan got whipped in the eye with a giant piece of wire at work and had to go to the emergency room and then see an eye doctor. For two days he couldn't see, and I had to lead him around the house like he was a blind person. I got cold rags for his eye and gave him his antibiotic drops, and I had the flu, so it's not like I was feeling 100% myself. A few people told me that they were surprised how well I was taking it, but honestly I  just kept laughing because it was so ridiculous.

R also spent a full day throwing up on Wednesday, and once was in the car with me when I was headed home from picking up my Tamiflu prescription. I think it was a random virus thing, and she was okay the next day, but I called my mom in actual hysterics while R was sitting in the backseat covered in vomit. That part I did not laugh about. I think we can all agree that vomit is never funny.

My personality is not one to suffer silently. I texted our family and friends about me having the flu and R throwing up and Jordan's eye, and I asked for prayer and vented because I'm a verbal processor and not an entirely private person. Some people are not those things, and it's uncomfortable for them to let others know when they are having a hard time. Neither way is wrong, just different, and to be honest I sometimes wonder if people think of me as a dramatic person or annoying for being so outgoing and open.

Jordan and I are extremely blessed with a really supportive and loving community. I know not everyone has that, and it's something I try not to take for granted. Jordan's mom was immediately open to helping out, taking the kids to stay at their house so they could hopefully avoid catching the flu from me. She drove Jordan to his eye doctor appointment because he couldn't drive himself, and I was still contagious and didn't feel like getting out of the house even if I could have.

Friends texted and asked what they could do for us. I had someone drop off a vanilla shake (totally hit the spot because my throat was aching so bad from all the coughing); another friend brought over a frozen lasagna and two cans of soup (so awesome because for a few days the sinus pressure made my jaw lock up and I could hardly open my mouth to chew anything). Another friend brought over some Gatorade (which Jordan and I both enjoyed since I was tired of just drinking water). Jordan's mom picked up a few things at the store for us and brought us leftover chicken tacos she'd made for dinner.

Gift giving is my top love language. I love sending mail, thinking of the perfect present for birthdays and Christmas, and showing people I'm thinking about them with the offer of a gift, big or small. I'm not in any way trying to pat myself on the back or ask for praise. I'm just saying that for me, gifts are  a way I love others, and receiving gifts is a way I feel loved myself.

I've found over the years that it can sometimes be hard to get people to accept help. I definitely think it helps to be specific (when this week can I bring you dinner? is much better than an ambiguous let me know if you need dinner.), but even then, people often say no. And as the person reaching out, this makes me sad! I'm asking because I do want to help. I want to bring you something. I want to make you feel loved and supported. When people say no, I think, Just let me do something, anything! 

But after last week, I have to say, I get it.

It's not uncommon to set up a meal train after someone has a baby or offer to bring a meal when someone comes home from the hospital after having surgery. That seems worthy of attention. But, honestly, I felt silly having a friend bring me a shake or soup just because I was sick. I felt like a problem asking Jordan's mom to watch my kids all week or pick him up to take him to the doctor. I felt like a whiner telling my friends about how bad I was feeling and how worried I was about Jordan's eye (he's mostly recovered! such an answer to prayer!).

I was so, so grateful for the support, but I felt like I was just being a problem.

I realized that's probably why people say no when someone offers to help. It's easier to say no than feel like a burden. You convince yourself that they didn't really want to help anyway, that they are just asking to be nice, and that you should be able to handle this on your own.

And sure, I could have handled last week on my own. I wasn't going to die if I didn't have a vanilla shake. I have things in my house I could have eaten other than soup. I could have gotten out and driven Jordan to the eye doctor by myself if there was no one else around. I technically didn't "need" anyone's help, but I'm glad I said yes.

Let people help you. That's what I learned last week.

It's vulnerable and awkward, but it also builds friendships and inspires community. Life isn't always easy, but I think we often make it harder than it has to be because we aren't always great at asking for or accepting help. 

There's a balance, of course. I don't want to be (I hope I'm not) the kind of person, the kind of friend, who is always complaining and negative about everything. We are all struggling, and we shouldn't be a burden to others by constantly asking for help over and over again. 

But it's okay that sometimes it's just nice when someone stops by with a can of Campbell's soup and a bar of chocolate. It doesn't mean you're failing at life. It just means that you're sick and soup sounds really good and you don't happen to have any in your house.

New Big Kid Room + Guest Bathroom

2.01.2020


While I'm sitting here being quarantined, I thought I'd take a break from Netflix and share some house updates! Nesting hit me hard and I spent basically all the fall and holiday months purging and cleaning and organizing all the things (not that you could tell if you came over right now, but we won't talk about that).

As many of you know, R and J have been sharing a room since J was 6 months old (before that he was in a bassinet in our room). We had them in the nursery, which we painted mint green before R was born. My thought was to paint a gender neutral color so that the room could be adapted to a boy or girl later on, and so far it's been perfect! 

I still love the color, and we plan on keeping that room the nursery and putting Baby Bum there when he/she comes home. I haven't updated any artwork or basically done anything to the room since we had R, which honestly is fine with me. I like how the room looks and is set up.

We have a 3-bedroom house, and the back bedroom has been Jordan's man cave slash extra storage space since we moved in. We had a bookcase and Jordan's computer and desk in there, and my running goal was always to make sure everything was always at least somewhat organized so it wasn't just a total junk room.

When we started talking about a third baby, we knew we would need to make the back bedroom R and J's room so the baby could have the nursery. Jordan went through a bit of struggle giving up his man cave, but we eventually moved his desk/computer to the corner of the playroom, and I actually think it's been okay so far.

Once we moved Jordan's desk out, I went absolutely crazy cleaning and organizing the back bedroom. I completely cleared off the bookcase (which we moved into our bedroom), and I cleaned out the closet and unpacked every single box and bin we had in there. I made piles, and Jordan and I each went through all of our stuff to decide what to purge and what to keep. Then I bought clear bins and labels and organized everything into categories so that we knew exactly what was where. Some stuff went up in the attic, and other stuff got moved to the nursery closet, which is going to be half the baby's things and half storage, since the back bedroom is now R & J's closet with all of their stuff. 

I took a huge box of books to Half-Priced Books, donated giant bags of clothing, and threw away so much old crap that we shouldn't have even been keeping! It was awesome, but for a couple of months the house was a complete disaster (I mean a worse disaster than normal lol) because boxes and stuff were everywhere.

For a little while it felt like we were getting packages delivered every day. We had to buy two twin beds, two mattresses, and two sets of comforters, sheets, and pillows for both the kids in their new big kid room. I bought artwork (which I still need to hang up, but I'm waiting for my mom to come help me decide were it should go). I got them a new laundry hamper since they really didn't have one, bins for clothes, and more hangers for their closet. AND, last but not least, I bought paint!

This project was a true labor of love for both my parents, Jordan, and for me. I wanted something colorful, but I didn't love the idea of painting the entire room one color. I searched Google and Pinterest for "boy/girl shared kids room paint ideas" and found an idea of painting geometric squares that I instantly fell in love with. I showed it to Jordan and said I really really wanted to try and do this in the kids' room. I LOVE how it turned out! Like, it is exactly what I envisioned, and I'm obsessed with it.

From start to finish it took one evening to paint the gray/white walls, one entire day to paint the squares, and another entire day off and on doing touchup work. It was not a simple DIY, but I love it so so much. Here are a few pictures showing our progress!

All the nesting made me to want to redecorate other areas of the house, and I decided I really wanted to update our guest bathroom, which is the kids' bathroom! It's looked the same for a while, and I just wanted something fun and kid-friendly in there. I bought a new shower curtain, artwork, bathmat, and I had the kids make handprint art for the wall by the sink. It's so colorful in there, and I love it! 

Not for any reason other than I had the paint on hand, I used the same yellow, mint, and coral paint for their handprints in the bathroom as I did for the squares in the bedroom. The paint didn't cost that much actually because we were able to do all the squares using just one sample tin of each color, which cost about $5 at Lowe's! Then one gallon each of white and gray.

Now here is the part where I pretend to be an actual home decor blogger and share sources! ha ;) *some affiliate links are used below; I do get a few cents!

BEDROOM
Beds (twin)
Mattresses (twin)
R's comforter (geo print)
R's sheets (ballerina)
J's comforter (blue striped)
J's sheets (campout)

BATHROOM
Shower curtain (polkadot)
Bath mat (splish splash)

37 Weeks with Baby Bum 3

1.30.2020


We took maternity photos at the beginning of January, and as usual I'm so glad we did. I debated about what to wear for a while but ended up going with jeans, booties, a t-shirt, and cardigan, and I'm really happy with how they turned out. I love taking maternity photos because it's such a special time, and I take advantage of the opportunity to get a few shots of each of the kids, our family, and Jordan and I together.

I've felt so thankful for a routine, healthy pregnancy so far, but this past weekend I came down with what I thought was a terrible head cold only to find out that I somehow contracted THE FLU. I don't think I've ever had the flu before, and let me tell you it's awful. If no one else in my house catches it, it will be a miracle considering I showed symptoms for 3 days before I went to the dr to get tested. Not because I was trying to put everyone at risk but because I honestly thought it was just a bad cold!

I mean, can anyone really say "achy" is an abnormal symptom at 36.5 weeks pregnant? The dr was like, do you feel achy? Um, YES WHY DO YOU ASK. I tried to roll out of bed last week and got the worst side cramp of my life. I'm peeing every 8 seconds and basically need to just move my desk into the bathroom at this point. Oh yes, and the waddling is very real. 

Totally over all of it.

I was supposed to have my 37wk checkup today, but of course they said not to come in since I'm contagious with the flu, so I guess I'll just wait and see what's up with Baby Bum next week. R came at 38w5d, so that's like a week and a half from now IT'S FINE. The infant car seat is in the attic covered in dust but anyway.


I never once worried about how R was going to do once J came around, but I have to say, I am a little anxious about this little guy now that he's about to become a big brother. He still asks me to hold him constantly, wants Mama around always, and can be pretty aggressive, so I'm just not sure. I hate to be annoying and say it's a boy thing, but we have definitely noticed that for our kids, at least, J is much more aggressive and physical than R was at this age. But he is also so sweet and is saying more and more words and sentences every day. He's hilarious! My MIL has been watching him since I found out that officially and the flu, and I haven't even seen him in almost two full days now. I miss his sweet face!

It's strange to me that people know the gender of their babies and can call them by name before they are born. I sometimes forget that we knew with R and J! Not knowing honestly hasn't been that hard, but as my due date gets closer I am getting so excited to see who has been in there this whole time. Of course, I'd like Baby Bum to wait just a bit until I get over the flu... and until we solidify our name choices. Ha! What is wrong with us? I think we've decided on 2 girl names to choose from, and I think we have a boy name we both like, but we can't come up with a good middle name yet.

Among other things I'm feeling anxious about is going on maternity leave and then going back to work. I've done it twice, so obviously I have an idea of the challenges and how it works, and I know I can survive it and will figure out a good routine. But that will take time, and I just really dread the process of a new routine, because going back to work has been so hard for me both times, and I don't expect it to be magically easier this time.
Pregnancy is such a long process, from trying to get pregnant to getting pregnant to being pregnant to having a baby to recovering from having a baby. By the time it's almost over, I do want it to be over, but I also find that, for me at least, it's also really hard for everything to be over. Because there isn't anymore this One Big Thing you're focusing on but just that thing called life, which is beautiful and wonderful but also pretty hard sometimes.

Every time I think about actually having this baby I get surrounded by a swirl of emotions and usually end up crying. Happiness and anxiousness and excitement and gratefulness and also, I admit, fear because I really really want to be able to bring my baby home, and it's just a fact that not everyone gets to. SO. On that happy note (I'm just a treat to be around right now!), I'm going to get some more tea, blow my nose 800 more times, and sit on the couch while Baby Bum moves around--on the inside for now, but very soon (though not too soon, please!) to be on the outside.

Employed Mom/Stay-at-Home Mom Interview: Part 2

1.25.2020

Welcome to Part 2 of our interview on motherhood with my friend Laura, who is a SAHM of 4, and me! If you haven't, go back and take a look at Part 1, where we answer questions 1-5! Part 1 also includes a little intro to this interview, so if you missed that click here.

6. What is the hardest time of the day for you? What is your favorite time of day?


AMANDA
(Amanda: This is me one morning at daycare dropoff. R and I were matching, and she wanted to take a picture, and J wanted in too!)

As with everything else in motherhood, I’ve found that answering the question of hardest time of day is a phase. It also depends a lot on the day. Sometimes everyone is in a great mood and things go smoothly; other days it’s a hot mess express at my house!

Daycare drop-offs are never my favorite because I always feel sad to leave the kids, but it’s definitely gotten easier as they’ve phased out of the screaming and clinging to me and shouting “mama!” after me as I walk out (edit: I wrote this answer a few weeks ago, and this past week J just started doing this again to me uggggggh). There have been many days I’ve cried all the way to work because I felt so horrible leaving them. When they were in their biting/scratching stages, I dreaded pickup because I didn’t even want to know what kind of incident report I’d need to sign.


Evenings are both my favorite and least favorite time of day. I get home from picking them up at daycare between 5:20-5:30, and they are all wound up, tired from the day, and cranky and hungry, and I am too! But at the same time I’m SO excited to see them. It’s a rush to settle in after being gone all day, get dinner on the table, clean up, do bedtime, and try to get them down at a reasonable hour while still getting in some quality time after being apart all day. So it’s super challenging but also my only solid few hours with them each day, so I try to get in as many hugs and stories and “I love yous” as I can. Sometimes I feel like we balance that pretty well, and sometimes I’m just sad that I get so few hours with them each day and we spent it rushing around.

But truly, my favorite time of the whole week is Saturday morning. We don't have to rush out the door, I make breakfast, and we just stay in our pjs and sing songs and play cars. It's wonderful and fills my tank for the week.

LAURA

(Laura: This is me feeling torn between folding the laundry and holding the baby.  Also pictured are three children who always like to occupy the same square foot as me.)

When my husband is gone (which is usually 1-3 nights a week right now), bedtime is often the hardest. I’m exhausted, the house looks like we’ve been robbed, and I’m somehow trying to help four tiny people let go of their troubles and fall asleep. Even with our predictable bedtime routine, people (self included) can get way off track. 

When my husband is home, bedtime is much easier, and school pickup wins hardest time of the day. My baby or toddler or both have to go right from nap to the car, and that can be a tough transition. I learned pretty quickly that giving everyone a snack on the ride home can help prevent some hangry drama. Even still, there are a lot of tired personalities in one minivan.

My favorite time of day is…bedtime. I know I just told you it’s the hardest. If we can push through the hard parts, it’s often the sweetest time I have with them. I love reading stories, chit chatting, and cuddling. They say some funny and endearing things in those few minutes when we’re alone. And then they go to sleep. ;)


7. How do you prioritize time with your kids?

AMANDA


I truly believe that quality of time is more important than quantity of time. It’s extremely important to me that I take time every day to intentionally sit and talk to my kids, play with them, and hug them. And honestly doing this doesn’t take me any focused thought. I miss them and I just want to do those things! 

Sometimes on the way home from daycare I’ll stop at the park for a bit. We eat dinner together at the table as a family almost every night, and we ask the kids what they learned and did that day. We rarely turn on the TV in the evenings, which I think helps us all be able to interact together (we also just don’t really have time to sit in front of the TV!). I read to them before bed every night. Sometimes if the morning has gone well, we snuggle on the couch and read a book before getting in the car for daycare dropoff. There are a lot of ways to take advantage of small moments that can add up to a lot even if I’m not with them for the majority of the actual work day.

LAURA

On school days, I try to get on the floor with my two-year-old and do whatever he wants for a few minutes. With the school kids, I lean in to quality over quantity. My oldest son loves to cuddle/wrestle (it’s a fine line), so when he gets home, I invite him in for a hug, and that turns into a few minutes of some kind of close contact. Sometimes on the weekends, my husband will take one or two kids out for an errand, which makes them feel special. We also outsource some of that to grandparents. Sure, it’s not the same as special time with us, but it’s a great alternative.  

8. When do you get things done as far as household chores, meal planning, grocery shopping?

AMANDA

Short answer: whenever I can fit it in! Longer answer: I’m awful at household chores, and it’s hard to even keep the kitchen from descending into madness. I usually unload/load the dishwasher in the mornings while the kids eat first breakfast (before real breakfast at daycare). 

I toss in a load of laundry and set the delayed timer so it starts around 3 or 4:00 and is finished when I get home, so I can move it to the dryer immediately. I usually end up having 3-4 loads of laundry to fold all at once, so I knock that out in an evening once or twice a week while watching something on Netflix or catching up on my Marco Polo videos. 

I typically either do a quick grocery store run during my lunch break or immediately after work with the kids (if I go home, I won’t leave again, so I just go straight from pickup; and honestly I’ve always loved taking them grocery shopping with me… I know, that sounds so strange!). Jordan and I also often go on a big grocery store run on the weekend as a family. If I meal plan, it’s typically right before I go to the grocery store so that I have a list ready. I’ve never done grocery pickup (I know, I’m nuts, right? Maybe that’s another post for another time lol).

LAURA

Some of it gets done during the day, and some of it happens after the kids are in bed. About two years ago, I told Amanda that I was getting our groceries delivered, and I'm pretty sure she thought I was crazy to pay extra for something I could easily do myself. When she told me she enjoyed grocery shopping with her kids, I thought she was crazy. Actually, she is crazy and selfless and joy-seeking. One of the gifts of friendship is realizing ways I can change my perspective. 

I'm back to doing my own shopping now, and I do find that it can be a fun way to connect with my toddler. He gets excited about his favorite foods, and he makes amusing observations. It’s not always fun, but it can be when I have the right frame of mind.

I sure thought it would be easier to stay on top of chores as a SAHM. Alas, I was wrong. I haven't logged the minutes, but I think there's about a 1:3 ratio of time spent doing a chore and time spent cleaning up what happened in the other room while I was doing the chore. I do little bits during the kids' wake time, but it often gets finished or redone when they're asleep. And my husband frequently reminds me it’s okay to let things go.

9. What are 1-2 practical tips you’ve found helpful in your day to day?

AMANDA


Regarding meal planning/prep, I try to always have staples on hand that I can use to make simple recipes when I just don’t have any other ideas. Frozen chicken; cans of corn, beans, and diced tomatoes; taco seasoning (I make my own! So easy!); pasta noodles; cheese; loaf of bread. I’m pretty good at throwing together a meal using things in my pantry if I haven’t been to the store in a while. So I guess my actual tip here would be to get comfortable enough in the kitchen to figure out what things to make sure you have stocked so you can almost always put something easy together even if you’re completely out of ideas and out of time to prep anything.


I also HIGHLY recommend pre-cooking hamburger meat and chicken and freezing them in portions of 1-2 cups. I can easily pull out a bag of frozen (but cooked!) hamburger meat to thaw for tacos or put in the crockpot for chili. Or frozen (cooked!) chicken for a salad or a broccoli bake or fajitas. It’s not as easy to pull out 1 pound of frozen meat that I now have to thaw and cook (drain the fat, etc.) before I can use it in a recipe. This has saved me so many times!

And really, just embrace frozen nuggets + mac 'n' cheese. Sometimes Kraft really hits the spot, and I have no regrets.

LAURA

I try to involve the kids in cleaning, but I cannot yet trust them with a bottle of Windex. Enter E-cloth. Any microfiber cloths are probably fine, but I can vouch for this brand. Anyone who can walk can take a cloth and hunt for dust and dirt. They clean marvelously, they won't poison anybody, and the kids mostly have fun doing it.


(Note from Amanda: the above is an affiliate link because I haven't linked to anything in a while, and Laura said it was ok to make a few cents off her recommendation ;)

I love @busytoddler's Instagram feed. Her activities are low-prep and use stuff we almost always already have, and she’s not pretentious. You know what I mean. She’s an educator who promotes play over academia. That’s my jam.

10. 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)

AMANDA


Laura has been a really great encouragement to me over the past couple of years, and I’m so thankful for her friendship. It’s obviously easier make and stay friends with people in similar stages of life, but it’s important to also have friends who can offer a different perspective. I could write many things about what Laura has taught me (practically speaking, she’s been super helpful with all sorts of random kid-related questions!), but what comes to mind—and what I’m grateful for—is that she’s taught me a lot about how to be a good friend.


It’s no secret that my first year back at work after having R was extremely challenging. R was born in August 2015, and Laura’s second child was born just a month or two before, so we were in the same stage as far as having babies the same age, but completely different situations since I was working full time and she was at home. She was supportive and encouraging, and she really helped me feel like I wasn’t alone. 

She taught me that where we spend our work day doesn’t eliminate mom guilt, household and marital stress, or mean that life is easier. We all have good days, and we all have bad days. We all struggle with difficult toddlers and keeping our house clean. At times we all question if what we are doing is making a difference. Our employment status doesn’t define our motherhood, and it doesn’t have to create walls between people who might otherwise be friends.

LAURA

Amanda has really helped me see that no mom fits in one box, and some labels are inaccurate and diminishing. Employed moms don’t all work for the same reason. “Full-time mom” isn’t only reflective of SAHMs. Moms who are doing “the most important thing” are actually just all moms. Where we spend our time isn’t reflective of our worthiness or caliber of motherhood. 

She’s also taught me what vulnerability and personal growth look like. Each time she’s gone back to work after maternity leave, she’s been very open about how hard it is. When I’m going through my own struggles, I look at my journey through a microscope, and that makes it seem like there’s never any change. Seeing Amanda move from agony to peace over the last few years has shown me that every mom has big battles, and the growth is just as big even though it takes time.
____

Laura and I really hope you've enjoyed this two-part interview! We'd love to hear from you if you have any comments or feedback. We might even be open to a Part 3 if there are other questions we didn't cover here. (I haven't actually asked her about that, but maybe I could convince her haha! ;) 

Of course, we know that every family and every kid and every person is different, and we are not in any way trying to speak for everyone with our answers. But we hope this gave you some insight into the life of a mom who stays at home and one who is employed. 

We had fun working on this, and not to sound super cheesy, but we hope you had fun reading it too!

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)


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