I’m thrilled to be kicking off my guest interviews today by “chatting” with sweet reader, Stacy. Stacy and her husband live in a rural Virginia in an old farmhouse that they are halfway through renovating and are raising twin 15 month old girls – Rebecca and Hannah. (Obviously, she is already my hero. Who better to talk about “making it work” than a working mom with TWINS!) As if that doesn’t keep her busy enough, she works full time for the Virginia Department of Transportation in public affairs. Here’s what she shared… (P.S. I put my own little commentary in parentheses throughout. I hope that’s not annoying, I just couldn’t resist.)
1. What is your typical day like?
Full! In the best sense of the word.
I get up at 5:30 a.m. to get to work by 7-7:15. I am lucky to have a job that allows me to work adjusted hours and a husband who can handle the morning routine and drop-off. My morning contributions are picking out the girls’ clothes (David told me yesterday that he still doesn’t understand their closet, haha) and packing lunches.
My workday is mostly spent at my desk, where I do a variety of tasks — answer questions from the media and the public, design newsletters and other publications, manage content on the VDOT website and our electronic bulletin boards, plan special events, write speeches and a variety of other less exciting tasks like approving time sheets and invoices.
There are times, though, when my job looks quite different. Let’s just say that “snow day” has the opposite meaning for us at VDOT as it does for the teachers out there! Those days, I get up before 4 a.m. to be ready for the local news stations’ sunrise shows, keeping motorists updated on road conditions and the progress of our snow plows. It’s exhausting but very rewarding to support the highway crews who do the real work and keep us all safe. (Side note: SUCH a good reminder to me that not everyone gets off on snow days!!!)
I leave work by 4:00 to pick my daughters up from the babysitter. She watches just one other child, so Rebecca and Hannah are thoroughly loved on and spoiled. I am spoiled too; it is a daily gift to know that my children are so well cared for when I’m not there to do it myself. (TOTALLY agree! I love this.)
We get home by 4:45 and have some playtime before I start on supper. Lately we’ve been getting outside to enjoy the fall weather, but sometimes just play inside. Blocks and other stacking toys are the favorites right now.
We eat supper around 6:00. I love to cook but don’t have time for complicated, so it’s usually a one-pot type of meal — fried rice, fajitas, a simple pasta dish or something in the crockpot. We supplement with a veggie on the side and fruit that’s washed and ready in the fridge. The girls are eating more and more of what we eat, which makes things even simpler, but they still make a huge mess, requiring immediate floor and high-chair cleanup (usually with the help of the dog) as well as a bath.
Rebecca and Hannah go down at 8:00, and praise the Lord, are wonderful sleepers. David and I spend about 30 minutes cleaning up their toys, finishing the dishes, and getting ready for the next day — setting up the coffeepot, restocking the diaper bag, etc. I usually multitask and call my parents, sister, or friends while I’m doing these chores. Then we wind down and watch TV or a movie. We usually stay up way too late (11:00), but I value that time together to reconnect as a couple.
2. Why do you work?
If we could afford it, I would be a stay-at-home mom — but at this point in our lives, I have to work. I’m not one to feel sorry for myself… The Lord has richly blessed us, including providing me a secure job with good benefits, and I am thankful. “Perspectacles,” says Glennon, right?! (Such a great attitude. And, love Glennon!)
I also enjoy what I do, which is itself a gift. Yes, technology tethers me to my email at all hours, and I sometimes have to stay late due to weather or a big project, but there are many benefits to my work. I learn something new every day, get to work with great people, and never feel bored. Knowing I’m helping the public makes a difference too. We hear a lot of complaints at VDOT, but most days just one compliment of our work is enough to give me a smile and a second wind.
3. What’s the best thing about being a working mom? What’s the worst or hardest thing?
The best is knowing that I am contributing to our family. My husband is a realtor and is paid entirely on commission, so my job provides our stability — a steady, if not large, paycheck and health insurance.
The other best thing? Seeing the look on my girls’ faces when I arrive to pick them up. They’ve recently started squealing with delight when they see me too. I know that is short-lived — soon they’ll prefer to stay and play than go home with mom — so I intend to relish it. (Ahh, I forgot about this stage. It really is the best!!)
For me, the hardest is feeling like I’m always booked up, and always having to rush. Any extra activity, even getting a haircut, feels like it cuts into my precious time with the girls. These are the times when, as I sit under my cape at the salon, I begin to daydream about staying home. But, I am not foolish enough to think that naptime is all bonbons and soap operas for stay-at-home moms… Every situation is hard and requires strategic planning and scheduling. (YES. Totally get this.)
Mom guilt is a universal problem too. The reasons may vary between working moms and SAHMs but we all feel it. I pray about that a lot and try to remember that the solution isn’t more time in the day… As Gloria Furman wrote in her book Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full, “Moms have a strategic role in allowing the gospel to shape their home by expecting we are always in need of God’s grace.” (Um… I need to get this book right now.)
4. What items or tips do you recommend to help “make it work”?
- Learn to cook in batches, and stock your freezer! Whenever you prepare a more complicated recipe like lasagna, make two and wrap one up to freeze — it’s double the ingredients, but not double the work. When you are tired or crunched for time, grab something out of the freezer and throw it in the oven. It will take longer to bake, but it requires little effort — and very little cleanup. An added bonus is that you’ll have a meal ready to take to a friend or neighbor when they need it. (This is a great idea!)
- Be flexible when it comes to balancing responsibilities at home. We are constantly adjusting to make it work… David covers for me in the winter when I work overtime, and I cover for him in the spring when he’s putting in long hours as a high school baseball coach. For us this mostly happens ad hoc, but it might work better for your family to sit down periodically and compare calendars.
- For efficiency, do your errands alone when possible. Let me just say, twins are not portable… I’m the one that has to use that giant red plastic shopping cart at Target just to get inside and buy toothpaste 🙂 So instead, I do my errands at lunch or on the way back from meetings. I don’t ever have time to browse anymore, but at least that saves us money! Also, thank goodness for Amazon. (Amen for Amazon! We are on a first-name basis with the UPS guy.)
- Take advantage of your vacation and sick days — you’ve earned them! Until recently I’d always tried to schedule my doctor appointments to conflict with work as little as possible. Now, I put our family’s routine first, and if that means leaving in the middle of the workday to get my teeth cleaned, so be it. I’ve also taken off a couple of hours for lunch with a friend in the middle of a workday, and to be one of the first shoppers at my favorite children’s consignment sale! (This is so true. I think because we like our jobs and because of our personalities – at least it seems like you and I are alike – we never want to let anyone down – including our employers. You are exactly right though – those things come with the job and we should never feel guilty about using them!)
- Ask your childcare provider to send you texts and pictures during the workday. I get these almost daily from our babysitter, and it is a wonderful treat. (Me too! They always brighten my day!)
- Finally, surround yourself with encouraging, genuine women. I have a handful of mom friends who are a source of grace, support and great conversation. I am also heavily influenced by what I see on social media, so I’m careful not to follow women who portray themselves as perfect. Don’t fall down the trap of idolizing another woman’s gifts or talents at the cost of forgetting your own. (YES!)
5. What encouragement, scripture, etc. has been important in your life and might be meaningful to another working mom?
I have a couple. The first is more like a mantra: “Do the next thing.” Hannah and Becca were preemies (33-weekers) and did not readily take to nursing, so I became an exclusive pumper. My goal had always been to breastfeed for a year, and I distinctly remember thinking at about six weeks postpartum, how can I do this for another 46 weeks? The answer was to just “do the next thing”… Do the next pump, make up the next set of bottles and so on, right up until 11 months when I discovered I had a freezer stash large enough to get us to their first birthday. (Way to go mama! And, I love this mantra. It is the only way to go.)
For me the verse that sums up what it means to be a mother is Luke 2:19. This is the midst of the Christmas story, when the shepherds arrive to meet their King. In this verse, Luke writes, “Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” As many times as I’ve read those words, they did not sink in until Christmas 2012, when I was pregnant. I sat next to my mother-in-law at the Christmas Eve service, and as the pastor read those words, she patted my hand as if to say, “You’ll soon understand.” And I do. (Beautiful. I teared up a little just reading this in your email. I think especially as a working mom, we hold tight to the little treasures we do get in the midst of all the crazy.)
Stacy, thank you! What a blessing to read these wise words of experience and faith from a fellow momma! (Check her out on Instagram at @stacylondrey for more glimpses into her everyday wild.)
Another great interview coming tomorrow…