Working Mama Files is an interview series designed to support and encourage working moms along the path to having a fulfilling life.
Today I’m excited to share with you Erin from the blog Mischief Managed. She has such an interesting story of motherhood involving infertility, twins, pumping, childcare, and she is also super passionate about her job. I encourage you to read the whole interview and get to know her because I know she will be helpful to you in some way!
Who lives in your house?
My husband, Ted, my almost 4-year-old twin daughters, Charlotte and Evelyn, and our dogs, Rufus and Kaya. And me. I live there too.
Will you tell us a little about your current job and how you ended up there?
For eight years, I worked as an early childhood special educator teacher. I taught 3-5 year olds with some pretty intense needs. Last year, I made a big change. I stepped out of the classroom and into the role of instructional coach. I feel a little like I stumbled into this role, but I’m so glad I’m here. I interviewed for the position originally because part of the work was supporting teachers with technology integration, which I am hugely passionate about. I quickly learned how much I love working with adult learners and being a part of systems change. I work with a team of coaches to support 11 schools in our district that are considered failing as a part of No Child Left Behind. It’s tough, exciting, fascinating, and powerful work. I’m kind of a geek about teaching and learning, so I love it.
You were open about your journey of infertility and how you became pregnant with your girls via IUI (just like me with Meredith!). What was it like undergoing treatments while working?
Oof. It was tough. Going through treatment is so emotional to begin with, and then you are pumped full of hormones. Oh. And there were 3 pregnant women in my building at the time, so everything was all about babies. Plus there were the fun comments like, “Don’t drink the water or you’ll be next!” Or the helpful advice like, “Eat a cookie.” No, seriously. My boss told me that would help.
Still, work was also a welcome distraction. My students helped keep my mind off of things and gave me a sense of purpose. My best friend worked in the same building with me, so I always had a shoulder to cry on. I was also very lucky because, at the time, students didn’t arrive until 9:30, so I had plenty of time to go to my early appointments for blood work and ultrasounds.
You ended up having twins! Usually the thought of twins gives me anxiety, but seeing your updates makes it look so fun. :) What would you say are the unique issues surrounding twins and working?
Having twins is the best! Nothing thrills me more than hearing that someone is having twins. Not that it isn’t hard, but it’s so magical.
Aside from the obvious child care issues, I think that the most unique issue as a working twin mama is not having a support system of other working twin mamas. I thought about this question for a long time, and it made me realize that most of the moms of twins I know don’t work. Most people who meet me outside of work assume I don’t, and most people who know me at work are shocked to learn that I work full-time and have twins. I would love to know more twin mamas who work. If that’s you…call me!
One thing I am super impressed by is how you pumped exclusively for your girls when they were babies. What led to that decision, and what were your feelings about it?
When I found out I was having twins and began thinking about how I would feed them, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. I also knew that this could be a challenge, and so I made my goal to feed my babies in whatever way best met our needs. I wanted to breastfeed, but I also wanted to be realistic with myself in regards to issues surrounding prematurity, nursing two babies, and working. I never imagined I would have ended up exclusively pumping for over 6 months.
So, how did I get there? The girls were born 5 weeks early and quickly proved to be slow, lazy eaters. They had to learn to master the art of sucking, swallowing, and breathing. It’s a tough skill for teeny babies. They were largely tube fed early on, so I started pumping right away to get them breast milk. After two weeks in the NICU, they were eating decent enough on their own to go home, but from a bottle. They really struggled at the breast, but we left the NICU with plans to work on it. Unfortunately, it’s virtually impossible to work on anything when you have two infants at home. Our lives quickly became a dance of pumping, feeding one baby, feeding the other baby, and starting all over again. Working on nursing one screaming baby while the other baby screamed? It just wasn’t happening. So, I continued pumping.
Around that time, I developed an awful thrush infection. It lasted for nearly 8 weeks. I won’t tell you all of the gross details, but my nipples were a scary sight. Again, working on nursing with nipples that couldn’t even touch fabric without reducing me to tears just wasn’t happening. I was willing to grimace through pumping, but I wanted to enjoy feeding my babies. And before long, it was time for me to go back to work. Pumping had just sort of become what we did. It wasn’t a choice so much as the result of our circumstances.
I have FEELINGS about pumping. Proud that I did it, sad that I never nursed my girls, frustrated that my body failed me again, angry that pumped milk is referred to as second-best milk. It was hard. I’m glad I did it, but it was so, so hard.
Pumping is a reality for many working moms, so what advice or encouragement do you have for them?
Take care of yourself. Sleep, drink water, eat. You are working full time and being a mama full time, and that’s a lot already, but if you neglect yourself, pumping is going to be that much harder. Also, know your rights as a pumping mom. If you don’t have a clean, private space to pump that isn’t a bathroom, speak up.
You are incredibly passionate about your job, which is so awesome. But how do you keep your work/life balance when work can take up so much time (isn’t that the eternal question)?
This really is the eternal question! For me, balance is all about prioritizing. I have a lot of lists…lists for work, lists for home, lists for my graduate classes, lists for everything. It’s a daily dance of looking at what is most critical to complete and making choices about what I can let go of. Sometimes, I really rock it. Other times, it’s so overwhelming.
You guys manage to only need ten hours of childcare per week despite you both working full time! Will you tell us some more about that?
Crazy, huh? As a teacher, I work pretty traditional hours, but my husband works for Trader Joe’s, so his schedule is much less traditional. He is also able to work four 10-hour days which gives him three days off during the week. So, he’s home with the girls three full weekdays. The other two week days, he closes, so he’s home with them in the mornings and the sitter comes in the afternoons until I get home. We are really lucky that childcare currently costs us $120. We are also so lucky that we can both work full time and have our daughters be cared for by a parent most of the time. There are sacrifices, of course. I solo evenings and bedtime 3 nights a week, and my weekends are basically all solo parenting. Ted solos wake-up and getting the girls to school. We don’t have as much time as a family as we would like, but we make it work.
What has been your biggest struggle, doubt, or resistance so far being a working mom?
Definitely the mom guilt thing. I always feel guilty when I have to let something go. For instance, I waited until the last minute to book the park by our house for the girls’ birthday, so it wasn’t available. It was the beginning of the school year which is just a crazy time, so it slipped my mind. I felt like I’d let the girls down, when in reality it was really no big deal. I think sometimes it’s not so much my own guilt as that little voice from society that says I’d be a “better” mom if I stayed home.
In your experience, what is the best part of being a working mom?
For me, the best part of being a working mom is continuing to pursue my passion and modeling that for my daughters. I want them to grow up knowing they can do anything if they work hard enough. I want them to see that their mama is doing her best to help others on a daily basis.
Do you have any tips or tricks to pass along that help you lead a more joyful, fulfilling life?
Do something for yourself every day. As moms, we almost always put everyone else’s needs before our own. I think self-care is so vital, so care for yourself daily. For me, reading is my self-care. I also love to paint my nails, be crafty, and nap.
Now a few questions for fun…
How do you like your coffee? Or are you a tea drinker?
After having been a tea drinker for my entire life, I’ve recently become a complete coffee addict. I still love my tea, but my morning cup of coffee really helps me get going in the morning. I like my coffee with cream and a little hazelnut syrup. Yum!
What was the last good book you read?
I just finished The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, and I loved it. I am a huge reader, so if you want to see more of what I’m reading, come find me on Goodreads!
What’s on your nightstand?
Allergy meds, vitamins, water, nail polish, nail files, the girls’ monitor, and a teddy bear made out of my dad’s old shirt. Next to my bed is my giant pile of books.
Favorite social media site?
It’s a toss up between Twitter and Instagram. Twitter has been my lifeline on many occasions, so it has a special place in my heart. Seriously…how did moms do the mom thing before twitter? I adore Instagram because I love pictures. I love the little snapshots into the lives of my friends.
Can you recommend one blog you read?
We Still Read! It’s my favorite place for book recommendations and to connect with other mamas who love to read. (Confession: I wrote this recommendation before they asked me to be a contributor!)
See all the posts in this series here.