Working Mama Files is an interview series designed to support and encourage working moms along the path to having a fulfilling life.
Today’s episode features one of my favorite bloggers, Sarah from Beauty School Dropout. She and I have a ton in common: professional careers with creative hobbies and small children. She’s a great one to follow for goal inspiration and managing life as a working mom. I’ll let her introduce herself to you in more detail, but be sure to check out her blog!
Who lives in your house?
I live with my husband, Matt, my two boys, who are 4 1/2 and 1, and my old grumpy dachshund, Lucy.
Will you tell us a little about your current job and how you ended up there?
I am a municipal attorney. My primary job is to represent the Planning and Zoning Commission and work with the Planning Department, but I also represent the Health Department and Information Systems Department.
I started off my career working for a small law firm, but I hated tracking billable hours, always feeling like I should be billing more, and having to work on weekends to catch up. (And I didn’t even have kids at that point!) I worked there for about three years, and I was really ready to make a change but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.
I applied for a job with the City that I felt completely unqualified for, and didn’t get it, but they kept my name on a list of potential hires and called me when there was another opening. I’ve now worked there for almost 7 years.
Your situation seems very similar to mine in that you work in a non-creative profession but then make time to be creative in your personal life. You also seem to have a lot of projects going on at any one time. How do you manage your time so that you can fit everything in?
That is definitely a challenge! I have always had that dual nature – creative and academic – but throwing kids into the mix makes it a lot more difficult to do everything I want to do. Lately, I find cooking to be a creative outlet that I can totally justify spending time on, since we have to eat! And I’ve always scoffed at those people who make elaborate bento-box lunches for their kids, but I recently tried something similar by arranging all the pieces of my son’s lunch really artfully on the plate, and he devoured it. (Which never happens!) And it was kind of fun to play around with it and make it look pretty.
On nights when I manage to get both kids in bed before 9pm (which are sadly rare – my children are night-owls like my husband!) I will sometimes knit while I hang out with my husband, talking about the day or watching a TV show. Most of my scrapbooking (I’m a Project Life-r like you) gets done during lunch breaks at work.
How has goal-setting been influential in your life?
Thinking through what I want to accomplish, breaking it down into smaller steps, and working towards it is the only way that I get anything done that takes longer than 30 minutes. Whether it’s a long-term goal like training for a half-marathon, or something more mundane like feeding my family healthy meals each night, it takes planning ahead to accomplish.
With two little kids and a full-time job taking up most of my time and energy, I use goal-setting to get myself back into balance. Maybe one month it’s focusing more on fitness if I’m feeling sloth-like, or trying a few new recipes if I’m in a rut of making the same meals all the time, or making prayer or Bible study more of a priority when I let other things creep into that time.
Your family is in the middle of a move and you are currently “living” in two houses. Can you describe that situation to us?
My husband is a pastor and he recently changed jobs from a church that provided a housing allowance to one that provides a parsonage. Originally we were planning on splitting our time between the two houses so my husband and I could take turns commuting and we could keep the kids at their same preschool and babysitter, but a space opened up in the public preschool in our new town, and I found a new babysitter there amazingly easily. After a lot of prayer and discussion, we decided that the right thing to do for our family was to move into the parsonage and sell our old house.
So because of the move, right now you have a lengthy commute. I can relate, as I commuted for 2+ hours each day for six years and only recently made a change. Although I resented the commute at times, I also tried to see it in a positive light as “me time.” What’s your take on that? Do you have any thoughts or plans on how to cut back on your commute?
It takes me about an hour and ten minutes to get from home to work these days – longer if I’m running late and hit morning traffic. It IS a lot of time spent in the car that I could be using to do other things, but I am an avid reader and the silver lining of the situation while I drive! Luckily I have a very understanding boss and I have negotiated to be able to work from home two days a week. That lets me help my husband with the morning and afternoon routine with the kids on those days, and saves gas money.
You mentioned your husband is a pastor. Do you also take on any roles in the church? Do you find that you are expected to be a leader there?
Being a pastor’s wife is definitely an interesting experience. In our current church, I feel that I’ve really been embraced, since there aren’t many young families in the church, and we’ve got two (mostly) sweet little boys that bring a lot of energy with them wherever they go. Right now we are working on building up the children’s ministry in the church, so I am helping with that even though working with children is definitely not one of my spiritual gifts. I’m also hoping to start a MOPS (Mother of Preschoolers) group at our church soon. So, I feel like my leadership responsibilities stem from wanting new programs at the church rather than any expectations from the congregation. (I have been asked to sing in the choir, which I’m going to try to do even though I haven’t sung in years, because I want to help them out. If I can figure out child care during the practices…)
I imagine that his schedule looks much different from yours. How do you make sure to fit in family time? What about time for just the two of you?
Surprisingly, I’m finding that my husband’s role as senior pastor of a small church is much more compatible with our family schedule than being an associate pastor (focused on college-age ministries) at a large church. There are fewer evening events/meetings and even when he’s got something going on (like youth group) he’s a short walk outside our front door. During youth group on Sunday nights, for example, a lot of times the kids and I will walk over and chat with the youth and watch whatever game they’re playing. I think my kids are becoming the youth group mascots (or pets?!)
Finding time for us to spend as a couple has been challenging, but that’s mostly because living in a small town, there aren’t that many options for date nights! Since I’m working from home two days a week we sometimes spend the mornings of my work-at-home days drinking too much coffee and working side-by-side at our kitchen table. It’s shocking how quiet our house is when there aren’t any kids in it! We don’t have any relatives close by to take the kids for a few hours or overnight, but both sets of parents are really great to help if we want to go on a trip and send the kids to Grandma Camp. We have a trip planned to Boston for next spring!
What has been your biggest struggle, doubt, or resistance so far being a working mom?
Unlike most working moms (at least those who are talking about it), I don’t feel a lot of guilt or sadness about going to work every day. I am a better mom because I have an identity and purpose outside of mothering. My biggest struggle is housework – I don’t like doing it that much in the first place, but it just drives me crazy that it’s NEVER DONE.
In your experience, what is the best part of being a working mom?
For my personality (INTJ), I need quiet, alone time to recharge my batteries. I have to admit, sometimes when I sit down in my office on Monday mornings, I breathe a sigh of relief (and wait for the onslaught of work craziness to begin. But it’s a totally different kind of crazy than at home, which is a good thing!)
Do you have any practical tips or ideas to pass along that help you lead a more joyful, fulfilling life?
One thing I’ve learned as a working mom is that I have to plan for fun – weekends can be short, and I hate the feeling of getting to Sunday evening and feeling like I wasted it. I don’t like a jam-packed weekend, but I try to figure out at least one fun family thing to do along with the normal chores and errands, and church on Sundays.
Now a few questions for fun…
How do you like your coffee? Or are you a tea drinker?
Coffee with whole milk. I also love tea with a little honey as an afternoon pick-me-up.
What was the last good book you read?
Shotgun Lovesongs by Nikolas Butler.
What’s on your nightstand?
So much randomness… Books (MotherStyles, The Divine Hours – Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime, Minimalist Parenting), a pair of earrings, a ball of yarn, a toy tiger, and a breastpump. (I don’t know why it’s there… I hardly ever use it anymore. I blame moving. Half our furniture is still in the old house for staging so we have things stashed in all kinds of weird places.)
Favorite social media site?
Instagram. It’s my happy place – I hardly see any of the negativity or click-bait-y stuff there like I do on facebook and twitter. (I do love a good twitter convo, though. I’m just kinda sporadic about using it.)
Can you recommend one blog you read?
Be, Mama, Be written by Cara Meredith. Cara blogs about faith and her family, and she has an awesome guest post series going called the little things. I even got to write for it – my piece was called Fresh Eyes.
Join me in thanking Sarah for her thoughtful answers! And be sure to connect with her on her blog, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook! And p.s. be sure to come back tomorrow for a special giveaway Sarah and I are participating in. :)
See all the posts in this series here.