Working Mama Files is an interview series designed to support and encourage working moms along the path to having a fulfilling life.
Today I’d like to introduce you to another one of my good friends, Kessi! We attend church together and are part of the same family life group, and her son attends the same daycare as Meredith. When we discovered that we both have similar taste in books and crafts we became immediate friends, and then when we did whole30 together we became friends for life. :)
Kessi is several years younger than me but she has already been through so much in her marriage and motherhood! She’s one of those people who it’s easy to laugh and cry with, often within the same minute. I’m so glad she agreed to join me today!
Who lives in your house?
My house is home to my husband, David, four-year-old son, Caleb, our five-year-old Golden Retriever, Jude, and our 6 month old floppy-eared bunny, Jett.
Will you tell us a little about your current job and how you ended up there?
I stumbled into a job with my current company, NOV Elmar (a division of oil giant National Oilwell Varco) in November of 2013. I had been job searching for about six months, but hadn’t found anything great. I honestly had forgotten that I had applied to the position (in project management) when I got a call for an interview. I knew, without a doubt, that I would love the company and the position just minutes into the interview. Evidently, they liked me, too, because I got the job offer less than 24 hours later!
Since then, I have transitioned into a new role in Health, Safety, Environment (HSE). I have never worked in HSE before, so I’m definitely still on a learning curve, but I LOVE it. I feel like this job matters because it is completely concerned with the people who make up my facility, not just a product or a bottom line. I get paid to care about people, and I don’t think it gets much better than that!
You were pretty young when you got married and had your first son. How did you have to adjust your expectations for your life and career after such a big life change so early on?
Young seems like such an understatement, in hindsight! I was 22, David was 23, and we had no clue what it really meant to be a real-life, tried-and-true married couple. Fortunately, we found our rhythm pretty quickly and settled into life… and then along came Caleb in June of 2010.
On the career side, I was working a job at a medium-market radio station. Yep, I got paid to play music and talk to people… but it was a tough job at that point in my life. All common perception aside, radio is not a well-paying profession and the hours are long, the events can be brutal because of their duration, and the atmosphere (bars, outdoors in 100 degree heat, late night events during fair seasons). In the end, I left the radio station because the hours and effort were not mutually beneficial to the time that I was spending away from my new son.
For a good chunk of time you were the single-income earner in your family. Can you tell us some more about that situation?
For a long time, life was really just about getting by. David was working on his degree after spending his traditional college age years serving our country as an Infantryman in the United States Army. David received a National Guard paycheck once a month, but that was really chunk change. Because I was bringing home the bacon (bacon bits, really… the pay wasn’t much), most of the time we went without the “finer” things in life… no splurges on cable, we didn’t eat out unless my parents were kind enough to take us out. We cloth diapered – mainly out of necessity for Caleb’s super-sensitive skin, but we were also fueled by frugality. I learned to find sales, clip coupons, consolidate trips to town for a multitude of errands instead of running back and forth for one or two things many times.
How did you manage financially and emotionally during your single-income days?
Financial survival is 100% credited to David. He was a meticulous penny pincher and budget setter. He kept (still keeps) a spreadsheet of all expenses, created a system for our spending that involves five different bank accounts, and he somehow managed to keep my shopping habits under control.
Mainly, we learned to do without the things that I was once so sure that we needed… but no one actually NEEDS a pedicure every two weeks, and nobody actually NEEDS to see movies before they come to Redbox. We had to define luxury and necessity and classify every expense into one of those, and most of the things in the luxury column were slashed so that we could afford the things in the juxtaposed necessity column.
You experienced the loss of your second child. Would you mind sharing that story with us?
Our son, Jacob Martin Wilhite, was born on April 25, 2012 and passed away shortly after birth. My early pregnancy with Jacob was incredibly easy, especially since my pregnancy with Caleb had me mapping out every restroom within a 5 mile radius of where I was at any given moment… I seriously found my morning sickness to be all-the-time sickness with my first pregnancy.
On Good Friday 2012, I woke up to get ready for Easter festivities with my family, and something was very, very wrong. Just 18 hours after my last OBGYN appointment, where everything looked perfect, I found myself completely dilated and effaced. I had lost my cervix completely and Jacob’s amniotic sac was protruding from my body. From there, I went on complete bed rest. I did not get out of bed for anything. I ate my meals laying at a 5% decline. I did not leave my bed when natured called. We, as a family, prayed and fought for Jacob for a very, very long time.
God’s plan for Jacob was not for him to spend much time in our arms. It wasn’t for us to bring him home, to nurture him and teach him and love on him. God’s plan was for us to love Jacob for a short time on earth and for eternity as an angel in heaven.
How have you been able to move forward from that, and how do you think it has changed the way you parent your first son?
I don’t know that I’ve moved forward. Honestly, there are some days where I just consider the act of moving a victory. I continuously have to make a conscious decision to make the life and death of our son something positive, and I do that in part by staying involved in a ministry called Mommies Enduring Neonatal Death (M.E.N.D.) – check them out at www.mend.org. I also started a foundation that provides financial support for the headstones for families who experience pregnancy loss and neonatal death; information on this can be found at www.onesmallmohment.com.
Losing Jacob has definitely affected how I parent Caleb. I found myself apologizing to Caleb once because I felt like I was putting pressure on Caleb to fill the hole that I felt in my heart after Jacob died. After losing Jacob, I have made an intense effort to notice things – to notice everything about Caleb. Life is temporary and fleeting and I don’t want to miss a single moment.
What has been your biggest struggle, doubt, or resistance so far being a working mom?
The lack of time is a huge struggle. There are just never enough seconds in the day to do the laundry, cook the meal, play with the baby, catch that football game. There is always something that has to be sacrificed, even for the greatest of multi-taskers (which I am not).
I would love, absolutely, LOVE, to be able to be Mommy full-time. I would love to be a part of Caleb’s entire day, not just the first 30 minutes and the last hour and a half of his weekdays… but that just isn’t possible for us.
In your experience, what is the best part of being a working mom?
I am very blessed with my job. I have an amazing group of men and women who I work with whom I actually enjoy spending time with. The fact that I like my job and (most of) my co-workers is the best part of being a working mom, since I have to be a working mom.
I thank God for the amazing job that he’s given me, for my supportive boss and work family who understand when I need to slip away and spend time with my husband and son, and for the education I’m receiving from working in HSE – things that I can apply at home and help safeguard my family while I’m with them.
Do you have any tips or tricks to pass along that help you lead a more joyful, fulfilling life?
In the face of things that seem dire, bleak, and devastating, find something to smile about. If you find that hard to do, ask Jesus for help.
Now a few questions for fun…
How do you like your coffee? Or are you a tea drinker?
Iced coffee (Chameleon, in a Mason jar, if possible) with a small splash of real dairy creamer.
What was the last good book you read?
I recently did a re-read of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. That book is more magical every time I read it… and it tends to put me in a 20’s daze for weeks after finishing it!
What’s on your nightstand?
On my nightstand, I keep a picture of Jacob along with a poem and his footprints. At any given time, you can usually find my journal and a pen and my iPad (which for me, is my library), there, too.
Favorite social media site?
Hi, I’m Kessi and I’m addicted to Instagram… @omgitskessi. I Instagram my food a lot… #i’mnotsorry
Can you recommend one blog you read?
I read Keight Duke’s blog, www.putapuredukes.com, quite regularly. Keight is hilarious, blogging about life things from crafting (she’s pretty talented), to loving her husband in the image of God’s commandment of love, to sharing her children’s birth stories (you’ll laugh until your stomach hurts and cry until your eyes beg for cucumber treatments). Keight is inspiring and witty and devoted to all things family and Jesus.
Also, she’s a rebel and doesn’t use capitalization… When I grow up, I want to be like Keight!
See all the posts in this series here.