working mama files : ashley from our little apartment

September 22, 2014

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 feature Ashley from Our Little Apartment. I’ve always admired her simple and natural approach to life and motherhood, plus she’s just so great to know and talk to. She has a nontraditional work arrangement so I was really interested in hearing how she makes it work. Welcome Ashley!

ashley our little apartment interview

Who lives in your house?

Me, my husband Mike, and my two boys – Gabe is 4 and Theo is three months old.

Will you tell us a little about your current job and how you ended up there?

I am a web designer and blogger – I ended up here after a few years of working at a school and for myself, now I just work for myself and I love it! I’m a self-taught website designer, though I did take a few community college classes as well. I went to college for something completely different, but turns out I love the creative and problem-solving aspects of creating websites!

Working for yourself seems so overwhelming to me! What do you see as the pros and cons of the situation?

Pros: The flexibility and autonomy. I am in charge of my schedule and workload. I can scale up and down as needed. I select clients that I want. I can work early, then take my son to the park – as long as I get my work done, no one tells me I can’t!

Cons: I don’t have people to bounce ideas off of. I get no maternity leave. I can’t waste time and still get paid. I may not leave the house for days! I don’t get to wear cute outfits to work. (Silly, but it was fun to dress up for my office job!)

ashley our little apartment interview

And the eternal question of work/home balance: how do you manage that when your work IS at home?

That is certainly the trade-off to the wonderful flexibility I enjoy! I can’t ever really escape work, but since I enjoy my work so much, I don’t need to escape it. I try to just put blinders on when I’m in either mode – ignoring the dishes in the sink when I’m working, not checking my email when I’m with my family. Of course, I slip up ALL the time, which is why I try to separate the two in my mind as much as possible and child care is an essential part of that. Trying to simultaneously work and mom is just too messy for me.

Speaking of that, how ARE you handling childcare? 

We’ve had several different arrangements – since my husband has been in school and our situation seems to change every year. I wrote all about the details here, but we used to both work and take care of our son part-time, then he went to preschool while I worked.

Now we have an infant son, my husband has a full-time internship to finish his doctorate, and I still need/want to work part-time, so I’m trying to solve our latest childcare puzzle. It will likely involve two full (6 hour) days of preschool for my older son while the baby is watched by a sitter for 4 hours each day, then one more day where both kids are watched by the sitter for 4 hours. This will give me 12 solid child care hours, plus fitting it in wherever I can in addition.

ashley our little apartment interview

You are very open about how you have to live off a limited budget. What are your best money saving ideas?

We kind of have to be frugal since my husband was in school for almost all of our seven years of marriage, which he wasn’t getting into debt for – woohoo! – but also meant he wasn’t making a decent income. Plus, we always knew we preferred flexibility and freedom to having tons of money.

I think to live frugally or off of a low-income, you have to look at where your money is going, first and foremost. I swear by for keeping me on track for my budgeting goals.

Second, I think that peer pressure is often more expensive than anything else. If all of your friends want to go out to crazy expensive dinners or bars multiple times a week, or your office goes out to lunch daily, or other people’s kids seem to be enrolled in 5 different enrichment classes, you might feel like you have to do these things instead of making your own conscious decisions about where your money is spent. Being aware of that is an important step to taking control of your spending.

Another way to reset your mindset about spending is to practice a “Buy Nothing” month – I’ve heard of “No Buy November,” but you can do it any month you choose. (Read about the ‘rules’ and such here.)

One thing I’m learning as we try to live frugally is that living simply and naturally (i.e. green) is the way to go, and I know you share that conviction. What has the process looked like for you as you’ve “greenified” your life?

Yes! Being environmentally conscious is often easier on your pocketbook, as well! From eating cheaper protein sources (like beans and tofu) to using cloth diapers, it seems like the “green” thing to do is often the frugal thing to do. Choosing reusable instead of disposable  goods, cooking from scratch, buying second-hand, and making our own cleaners are a few of the ways we meet both those objectives. We pretty much look at our waste and think about how we can reduce it – both the tangible, like making yogurt to reduce plastic container waste, and intangible, like buy local produce to reduce the amount of gas used to ship it to us.

ashley our little apartment interview

What has been your biggest struggle, doubt, or resistance so far being a working mom?

Child care, for sure. I don’t really get “mom guilt” except when I’m trying to both work and be with my kids at the same time – then I have guilt as a worker and as a mom because I’m not doing anything well by trying to do both at once! And luckily I have a super supportive spouse.

In your experience, what is the best part of being a working mom?

Having an outlet to be something other than a mom – getting to feel good about what I can do and contribute outside of my little family. (When I had an office job – it was getting to be social, having time to finish my coffee, and go to the bathroom in peace!)

Do you have any tips or tricks to pass along that help you lead a more joyful, fulfilling life?

Do what you love and you will have a more joyful life. Dance to your favorite music, cook your favorite foods, and spend time with people who make you happy.

ashley our little apartment interview

Now a few questions for fun…

How do you like your coffee? Or are you a tea drinker?

With cream and a teaspoon of sugar. Real stuff, none of that fake sugar or fake cream!

What was the last good book you read?

I’m listening to the Landline audiobook and it’s really good.

What’s on your nightstand?

A pacifier, infant gas drops, a lamp, and disposable nursing pads. Is it obvious I have a newborn? :)

Favorite social media site?

Twitter! It’s fun and I love the people there. But it’s also a huge time suck so I have to be careful.

Can you recommend one blog you read?

My favorite blog is Small Notebook, but she hasn’t posted in ages. It’s so full of great practical posts. I love Rachel.


Thank you for your thoughtful answers, Ashley! Connect with her on her blog, Twitter, or Instagram.

See all the posts in this series here.

Posted in: motherhood, motherhood, working mama files

Comments on working mama files : ashley from our little apartment

  1. 1

    From Andrea:

    Thank you for sharing this.
    I don’t have kids (yet) and I admire every woman who decides to jump the bandwaggon and have kids. Sometimes I’m overwhelmed by life itself and it’s incredible to imagine how you manage not only balancing life, but also caring for a baby/toddler/kid.
    I hope to find the courage one day to join you in motherhood.

  2. 2

    From Nora:

    Great interview- makes me want to redo parts of mine (speaking of, just found out we should finally get our photos soon from my photog!) so I may do that and send it in… I’m so inspired by all the other working mamas out there. I love that you are doing this series. <3

  3. 3

    From Sarah @ Beauty School Dropout:

    Loving these interviews! I absolutely agree that I have to have childcare if I’m going to attempt to work at home. Now that I’m settling into my routine a little more, I’ll try to get my answers to you soon. (Soon-ish. Let’s go with that.)

  4. 4

    From katelin:

    Love this interview Ashley! I truly admire you’re family’s balancing act of home, life and work, it truly is something to aspire to.

  5. 5

    From Becky:

    Great interview! Love you both!

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