Moms Make it Work: Erin from Wisconsin

Today's post in the Moms Make it Work series is from one of my best friends in real life, but she also happens to be a fellow mommy blogger and I knew she would be a great fit for this series even if she *weren't* my good friend. Erin and I met six years ago through our blogs, and as she says below--we've enjoyed riding the highs and lows of motherhood along side each other. Her post is full of positivity and is inspiring, just like the mom behind those words. I've always known her to love the role as a working mom and her post reflects this well. Enjoy!


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Hi! I'm Erin, Julia's internet-turned-real-life-friend who's made a good number of appearances around these parts over the past few years.

I'm thankful that the internet and blogging allowed me to meet Julia and several other of my dear friends. I feel like we met at just the right time, as we were about to embark on this wild, incredible adventure that is parenthood, and I feel that the experience thus far has bonded us pretty tightly for the long haul.

I'm 32, I married Dave in 2006 and we have two little boys - Henry, born in October 2009, and Ben, born in February 2012. I work full-time as a marketing manager for a group of high-end restaurants in my city, and Dave works in the mortgage industry. I blog at Peanut Butter Sandwich and I Instagram (daily!) under the name erinmich82.

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I have a lot of thoughts swirling in my head every day about my role as a working mom, and I'm happy to be able to share some of them here. I feel there's a lot of noise out there when it comes to our roles as moms, and I try my best to ignore a lot of it, since I think it can devolve very quickly into mean-spiritedness - and ain't nobody got time for that. I have a feeling this series will continue to bring out the positive, though, and I think that's so important - to see *real* women in different roles and to see so clearly how all of us, no matter what our situation, just love our kids more than anything and want to do right by them!

I've always, always wanted kids, for as long as I can remember. I didn't think much about what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I sure did think about being a mom. One thing that never crossed my mind, though, either back then or as I started to think more seriously about having kids, was the idea of staying home with them and not working. I don't know why, actually - my mom stayed home with us for eight years, and I know that other women give this thought before having kids. I guess I just always assumed two things - that I'd be a mom, and that I'd have a career. It didn't concern me how I'd 'balance' both - I just assumed I'd figure it out. Dave and I obviously discussed kids before getting married, both agreeing that one of us not wanting them would be a deal-breaker. But we never discussed whether I'd stay home or not. I discovered later that he, too, simply assumed I'd always work. So I'm glad we fell on the same page on that one!

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I always knew I wanted three kids, and that desire hasn't changed as we've added one and then two kids and moved forward in our careers. I actually made it public earlier this week - baby #3 is set to arrive in late summer! I think I'm going in with my eyes open when it comes to how challenging it'll be working and raising three kids. I've read all the stories about how three is the most stressful number of kids, and that moms of three or more are the most likely to 'opt-out' of the workforce.

Still, I remain very excited and optimistic. I know there are plenty of women out there who do it, and I want to be one of them. I want to be an example for other women that, while it certainly doesn't come without its challenges (but what parenting journey does?), it IS possible to have a big family and a big career, and it's even possible to thrive and be happy while doing it. Fingers crossed, anyway.

So onto Julia's questions ...

What is your background story? What was your career/schooling before you became a mom? And now where are you?

I graduated college in 2005 with a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication. I spent more than seven years at my first job at a small PR agency, working my way from the bottom of the totem pole to nearly the top. I made the leap to my current job just about a year ago now, and it felt like a big jump after having been at one place for so long. It was worth it, though, as I absolutely LOVE my new job. I got a nice raise, I REALLY like the people I work with and the restaurant industry is one I've always loved, having waitressed for about five years before, during and just a bit after college. I've been able to implement a lot of positive changes in my department and throughout the company this past year, and it's exciting to be able to have that kind of impact.

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What are the best parts of your situation? What are the biggest challenges?

I feel like I could write a book on each of these questions.

For the most part, I'm really happy being a working mom. I've never had a desire to stay home and even now that I have two boys whom I adore, I still don't. I enjoy having a job to go to each day and all that goes with that: getting dressed and putting on makeup and heading out the door each day. Drinking coffee at my desk and catching up on the internet in peace. Having relationships with coworkers. Meeting new people (including internationally acclaimed chefs and handsome TV chefs!), coming up with new ideas, meeting challenges, contributing to my company's success, earning a paycheck each week, feeling accomplished. Eating lunch on my own, going out to lunch; running errands or meeting a friend or going to an appointment without having to worry about childcare since my kids are in daycare.
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Picking my boys up is the highlight of my day. And as much as I wish I had more time with them each day, each week, the time I do have with them is absolutely precious. I savor it like crazy. And I think daycare is a good thing for my kids. I don't think I'd be good at coming up with new and stimulating activities for them each day. I don't think I'd have the patience to deal with their messes and fights and whining all day, every day. I think it's ok to love someone with all your heart and still not want to be with them 24/7.

I love that their world, like mine, is big, at least compared to what it'd be if I stayed home with them. They have another person who cares about them and for them and who provides structure and meets their needs during the day. I like that they have friends to play with and different toys to play with. Henry comes home with crafts and songs and stories, and Ben comes home with new words and tricks. It's fun to say 'where did you learn that?' and hear a different answer every time. When the boys were babies and I felt like a clueless new mom, I really appreciated having a childcare provider who'd been doing this for 30 years who could help me figure a few things out.

I told this to a close friend of mine before she had kids, and she's told me that it's really stuck with her. It may sound harsh, but I believe it to be true: I think parenthood - while completely amazing and the best thing I've ever done in the large scheme of things - is, on a day-to-day level, kind of a lot of drudgery (I may or may not have used the word 'crap' when talking to her) surrounded by moments of incredible joy and awesomeness.

Some days there's more joy, some days there's less, but parenthood is, frankly, made up of a lot of mundane, gross, annoying, frustrating tasks, and I'd like to think that I'm not a terrible mother for not really minding that I miss out on some of it. I feel that having my kids in daycare means that, yes, I miss out on some of the joy, but I also miss out on some of the crap. Dirty diapers, making meals, cleaning up meals, cleaning up messes, breaking up fights - I'm ok missing out on that for part of my day. Because I come home and I still get so much of the joy. And the crappy parts don't seem quite as crappy since I haven't had to deal with them all day long. Changing a diaper, making a meal - they feel like privileges (usually anyway) instead of chores.

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Onto the biggest challenges ...
As with any setup, there are plenty of drawbacks, too.

I miss my boys with all my heart. I long every day to have more time with them. I don't wish to not work, I simply wish there were more hours in a day to spend with them outside of work. I feel a tug at my heart every day leaving them in the morning. I talk with Dave often about what a ridiculous leap of faith and trust it is to leave your children - your most precious, precious gifts - with another person every day. Even when referred by someone, even with background checks, even when you 'know' them for a few years, you don't really *know* them the way you know your family and friends. You don't really *know* what all goes on when you're not there. You can only do your due diligence in finding who you think is the right person (or center as the case may be) and then hope and pray that your children are well taken care of each day. It is nice now that my kids are a bit older now and could tell me immediately if anything were amiss. But still, anything can happen at any time and it's terrifying to let go of that control that comes with having your kids with you at all times.
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I took this photo as I leaving the boys at daycare one day last spring. Look at that face. Tear my heart out, why don't you?

Mornings are a whirlwind. I feel like I've mostly mastered them, but I still feel as though I've already run a marathon by the time I get to work some days. I have to be completely ready myself by 6:30 a.m., since that's when Dave leaves for work, and I want to be able to focus completely on the boys for that hour before we have to be out the door. I have to make us breakfast, get us fed, get us all dressed and get us all out the door. There are days when it feels impossible, like we'll never make it to daycare, and winter throws another whole annoying, stupid wrench in it all. And on the days when it's super cold, I feel just terrible that I have to take my boys out in that weather. That's an example of a time when the guilt starts to creep in ... if they had a stay-at-home mom like some other kids do, they'd be curled up on the couch in their jammies right now.

And I think the hardest part for me, still, aside from missing my boys when we're apart, is the lack of me time. I think life has gotten better and better in so many ways, but when I think back to all the luxurious ME time I had before kids and how little I have now, I get a little bummed. I so long for a day all to myself to relax and do whatever I want, and yet I'd never choose to have one on a weekend and take time away from my kids. I could take a day off work to do that, but I'd feel guilty, and I want to save my days off for extra time with them.

If I stayed home, there'd be nap time. Or the time after they're in bed. Even time with them to do other things for myself since I'd be with them so much more. I'd feel less guilt about leaving them on the weekends since I've been with them all week. Instead, every minute I do have with them, I really want to just spend with them. (Though I have gotten better about realizing they don't *need* my attention every moment we're together and that I can work and do other things around the house when we're together. It took me awhile to get there.) That leaves the time they're sleeping to get other things done. My "me" time pretty much consists of 8:15-10:30 p.m. each night, sometimes a little more on each end if the kids go to bed early or I stay up too late. But there are SO many things I want to do in my "me" time, so I really have to prioritize and plan my time out well. On any given night, I'd like to work out, have some internet time for emailing and blogging, maybe work on my 2013 photo book, do some reading, do a little housework or organizing to try and stay on top of things, AND watch some TV. But usually I have to just pick one or two of those and then plan the next night a little differently.

Is this how you expected it to be pre-kids?

I don't think I gave my life with kids much thought before I had them. I was excited about it, but since I just had no idea what it'd be like, I didn't put very much actual thought into it. I do know that when I pictured having kids, I mostly pictured a baby and then a teenager, not really all this in between. Ha! I didn't think about what multiple kids would be like, even though I always planned for three. I assumed I'd be a mom who kept her same identity, and for the most part, I think I have. I just have a much busier, more chaotic, but also more fulfilled life now.

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Is this your ideal situation? If not, what is?

This is almost my ideal situation. I think in my perfect world, I'd work four days, or about 30-35 hours, per week instead of five days and 40 hours. I know 40 isn't *that* much compared to what some full-time people work, but for me it's just a little bit too much. By Friday I am just aching for some extended time with my boys, and two full days with them each week just isn't quite enough. I am envious of moms who have jobs that allow them to work part-time. I think that's absolutely having the best of both worlds - having a career that fulfills you, gets you out of the house and helps pay the bills, but that also allows you to have a lot of time with your kids.

I realize, though, that I didn't choose a career path that easily allows for a part-time schedule. If I wanted that, I could have gone down that path, but for me, I chose the path that most interested me, and I do really enjoy my work. I do have faith that I will be able to cut back my hours slightly within the next few years, simply because it's important enough to me that I will find a way to make it happen, whether it's with my current employer or another one. For now, though, when my kids aren't yet in school and when I'm still fairly early on in my career, I can swing full-time without too much trouble.

Do you see yourself making a career change (whatever that means) in the next 5-10 years, or is this current set up staying put for the long haul?

This is hard to say since PR/Marketing/Communications is such a broad field. I assume I'll always be in this line of work in some capacity, but what that looks like, I have no idea. I was at an agency, now I'm in the restaurant industry, and who knows where I'll be in the coming years. Maybe with my current employer, maybe at a big company, maybe at a small nonprofit, maybe starting my own business - who knows! I actually really like that about my career path - I feel the possibilities are endless. I'm not one to have a clear vision or a plan for my future - as long as I'm moving forward, feeling fulfilled each day and making decent money, I'll be happy!

Tips on how you make this work for you?

I think my situation works well for a lot of reasons. I've had two employers now that have both been pretty flexible and family-friendly. If my kids are sick, I stay home without having to worry about how many sick days I have. If I have a doctor's appointment, I go, and I don't have to take time off. If I say I need to leave early for one reason or another, that's more than fine. I don't think I could ever work at a place that treated me like a child and demanded that I be at my desk from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. every day.

A few other people have said this in their posts, too, and I think it's absolutely the NUMBER ONE reason I can balance working and being a mom so well: I have a husband who is an equal partner in everything. Dave is amazing and I am so lucky to have him. He adores our boys as much as I do, and he does his fair share - probably more a lot of the time - in parenting and around the house. We tag-team on pretty much everything. He does most of the grocery shopping and most of the cooking. I do the family maintenance like finances, scheduling appointments, buying gifts, clothes and toiletry shopping, etc. We share in daycare duties, though more of it falls on me because of his earlier schedule and longer commute.

We have a really good relationship and it makes our home a happy place. We talk, we laugh, we delight in our kids together - and we look at each other wide-eyed and sing "Lord have mercy on my souuuuul!" when things get particularly frustrating or chaotic. We just take it day by day together, but knowing we're both in the same boat through it all really helps us both.

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Also, coffee in the morning and a nice glass of wine or a mixed drink in the evening are two of my saving graces, as well.

Finally, I think I have a (mostly) positive attitude about it all. I get tired and frustrated and annoyed. I wish there was more time, more money, more sleep. And yet? I don't lose sight for one second how freakin blessed we are in this life. How lucky my kids are to live where they do and have what they have, with two parents who love them and each other. How lucky Dave and I are to have jobs that pay the bills and that allow us to be together as a family a lot - by 5:15 p.m. every night as well as every weekend.

How do you handle mommy guilt that comes with each role?

That is a tough one being a working mom, because often you feel like you're not *quite* measuring up, at home or at work. But to combat that, I simply focus on doing the very best I can do at each place when I'm there. Sure, I sometimes feel guilty heading out of work by 4:30 on the dot every day when coworkers are still there - but I also feel confident in the work I put in for the day. And yeah, I sometimes feel guilty being away from my kids a good part of the day - I know they must miss me. But I remind myself that when they look back on their childhoods, they won't remember the hours we were apart each day. They'll remember the time we spent together, the wonderful moments, the happiness in their home, and how loved and secure they felt when they were around me and their dad. That is what truly matters.

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Plus, my kids get to do a lot of cool things because their parents both work. And I think it sets a good example for them, to show them that their wife, their girl friends, their daughters can work AND have a family if that's the path they choose, and that that's a positive thing.

Advice for new moms struggling with returning to work outside of the home? Or struggling to decide if staying home is the right choice? Both can be so hard and overwhelming for new moms.

My advice would be to go easy on yourself and realize that EVERY mom struggles in some way, whether she's going back to work or staying home. It's so easy to second-guess yourself, but know that as long as you try do your best each day and LOVE your kid(s), you're doing just fine. And notice that I said "try" your best - we all fail, every day, in some way. My personal area of failure is probably a lack of patience with my boys when they do something naughty. I go into "mean mommy" mode much too quickly sometimes, and it's something I'm working on. Tomorrow is always a new day and a chance to do better!

Going back to work, if that's what you choose, isn't as horrible as we make it out to be in our heads when we're on maternity leave. Each time, I couldn't even imagine being apart from my sweet little baby for a whole day. And yet, I did it and it was just fine. I missed them, I shed a few tears at first, but they were well taken care of, I felt good getting back into a groove, and the time we had together was precious beyond measure.

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My first day back to work after maternity leave with Henry - January 2010

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My first day back to work after maternity leave with Ben - April 2012

And finally, it helps to remember that everything is a season. If you're in a tough stage - with sleep, with discipline, with work, or whatever - know that it will pass, and more quickly than you can even imagine. It's hard to keep that perspective when you're in the throes of it, but when you look back, those tough stages are but a blip in the whole scheme of things. I nursed both my babies for the first year, and while it was an unbelievably rewarding journey each time, it also meant that they did not sleep through the night for that entire first year. I went to work on many a day on barely two or three hours of sleep. It was rough, but looking back, I already hardly remember those days.

And when I get discouraged about my lack of 'me' time right now - and probably for the next 10-20+ years - I remind myself that, God willing, I will live a long life and someday I will have more me time than I'll know what to do with. And I will long for these days, for the time when my kids were young and needed me so much, when so much of our future was still stretched out before us.

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These days, even when they're hard, are priceless. I believe that with all my heart. Embrace your situation, whatever it is, and if you're not happy with it, work to change it. Whether it's your job, your marriage, the way you parent - reflect regularly and make sure you're doing all you can to live your best life. I sound a little like Oprah here, but it really is true. You only get one life, so enjoy it as much as you can. That's my best advice!

35 comments:

  1. Thanks for letting me share my thoughts here, Julia! Love the series and am glad to be a part of it. :)

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  2. Not shocking of course, but I loved this post!! I almost started crying at the end!? What is wrong with me?? Someone who was on the jury with me pulled the "these are the best years of your life" line when I told him I had a 2 and 4 year old - but I'm starting to get it - they really probably are, in a lot of ways. But I know that I will enjoy the CRAP out of all that me time in 15 years ;)

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    1. You must be getting soft, girl! ;)

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  3. First time commenting - but I really am enjoying this series! It's so refreshing to hear the decisions and thoughts of real mothers who choose to stay at home, work part time, or full time. Since I work full time, it's been fulfilling to relate to posts like this one, which help alleviate some of the insecurities we full time working mothers have.

    Great series - looking forward to the rest!

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    1. Glad you can relate and feel like this series is a great one---that's what it's all about!

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  4. I laughed when I read the comment about much of the day being "crap." I have a 3.5 and 2 year old, and while there are so many very sweet, funny moments during the day with them, there is a lot of not so much fun stuff to do. Making meals and cleaning them up, and doing laundry feel like they take up a huge amount of my time. I wouldn't trade the girls for anything, but I would love to have my house magically clean itself :)

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    1. Lots of crap, for sure---among the great stuff;)

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  5. This is also my first time commenting, but Julia, I've enjoyed reading all of your posts (especially your very informative series on pumping and being a working mom!). My first baby is two months old and I'm preparing to head back to work part-time in February. She will be in daycare and I feel like I could have written this post -- at least it reflects my hopes and goals for this season of life. Thank you, Erin, for being honest about not missing the "drudgery"! Of course I will be heartbroken to leave my girl, but I'm not-so-secretly excited about a full 8 hours full of adult conversation and free of poo-splosions :)

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    1. Hi! Glad you came out to comment and happy to have you reading along, finding support here.

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  6. This was a great read! I always marvel at families that function so well with both parents working full time. I don't think I could do it with nearly as much grace as you, Erin. When I was working part time it was just so much WORK to GO to work. Once I was actually there, it was fine, but the preparation would stress me out for the entire day prior. And as much as I'd like to get out of the house and work a day or two a week now, it just doesn't make sense at this current stage in our lives. But like you said, everything is a season and we will reevaluate later!

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    1. Definitely the WORST part (for me at least) is getting out the door on workday mornings. Totally understandable!

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  7. Great post, Erin! I so appreciate your honesty (and always have) in your approach to parenting. You offered me a lot of great advice when I was straggling with returning to work after Michael was born and I've always viewed you as a mom who "has her shit together" (can I say that in a comment on someone else's blog?) and I really look up to you. So, rock on with your bad self! :)

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    1. Sweetest comment ever, Sierra. I emailed Erin to make sure she is checking these;)

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  8. Agree with so much of this! I love this series and that it captures so many different perspectives.

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    1. Glad you are reading along---so many more posts in the works, so stay tuned.

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  9. I am absolutely loving this series and this post really speaks to my heart. I'm pregnant with my first child and also always assumed I would work. It's best for my family and best for me. But, I'm getting so many questions and puzzled faces about it! These well-meaning questions from friends are definitely making me wonder if I'm insane, so reading this post is calming. Thank you!

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    1. Happy to hear this---that's what this series is all about!

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  10. Loving this series, and loved this post. This is so identical to my situation, it's not even funny how much we mirror each other. Her outlook is so fantastic and it's true that attitude makes all the difference in the world.
    Thank you so much for this series. It's so great to get these perspectives of different moms, without bashing moms who make different choices. I come across the bashing so much in the blog world and in real life, and it's absolutely disheartening. It's great to see a group of women saying this is what works for us, this is our choice, and I'm glad that your choice works for you. Thank you for this!

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    1. no bashing allowed here ;) So happy to hear your thoughts on this series.

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  11. I think it's so cool that while we both choose differently, we had similar ways of approaching our current lives. Like we both sort of intuitively knew that staying-at-home or working was the best choice for us and then we (luckily! happily) matched with spouses who had similar thoughts.

    Enjoyed this post!!

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    1. This is a great point. The families that I know that have it "work the best" if that is possible are the ones where the mom and dad (or mom and mom or whatever fits...) are in the roles they pictured themselves in. I always knew I wanted to continue working. I have friends though who have to work as a result simply of finances and this causes their lives and relationships to be a bit harder and that makes me so sad.

      I have appreciated all of these posts and post reading all of your blogs individually and following you all on IG. That being said, if someone can figure out how to not have your heart absolutely rip out when your kid freaks out almost every single day you leave him at daycare, please let me know. (Not just daycare... whenever I go ANYWHERE even to pee). My heart hurts so much on those days.

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    2. Bryn~sounds like a tough 'separation anxiety' phase and I've been there with both kids. Especially miss CC---she has weeks when only mommy will do and even cried at daycare drop off for a solid month or so when she was littler. Truman had two different phases of doing the same. It will pass! I always tried not to think too much about it as I pulled away from Lori's house---I knew my kids were well cared for, and Lori always said they stopped crying as soon as I was out of the driveway. Still hard, but it will pass!

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  12. This post is SOOOOO good! I love the message in this post and agree whole-heartedly. I want to copy and paste entire sections of this directly into my post because that's EXACTLY how I feel and exactly what I need to hear. I love this! Thank you again, Julia for this awesome series.

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  13. I love that you are doing this series Julia. And I sure loved reading your story Erin. I just recently started a m-f job 830-5 after working two nights a week. I miss being home with my little one so much

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  14. Sorry got cut-off.

    I was saying I worked for over two year overnight and although it was perfect schedule with my boys I felt that something was missing and I missed my husband. Not to mention I worked to pay insurance because that's how they get you in my job. Work full time get super cheap and even free insurance work part time and they take 75% of your income. Either way now I'm learning how to adjust and work out a routine that meets all of our needs and keep us happy. Hearing from you mommas makes you feel not alone and that it is doable. Thank you ladies :)

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  15. LOVE LOVE LOVE This post :) I needed to read that last oparah quote today haha :) Thanks ladies for all the uplifting encouragement!!!

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  16. I have to admit that I laughed when I read what Erin wrote about "me" time. As a SAHM, my "me" time is also from about 8:15-10:30 p.m. While I'm home all day with my kids, I certainly don't get much time to for me. :) I think working moms and SAHM moms are more similar than we'd care to admit.
    Love that all of the moms in this series are willing to open up about their choices and what works for their families. Thanks for hosting it, Julia!

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    1. Ah, me time. Is there ever enough?? I somehow think I didn't even have enough 'me time' BEFORE kids----maybe this is just the most common issue all moms face now, regardless of work situations. So interesting!

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  17. Love love reading these! I work from home one day a week and outside the home 4 days. My desire changes so often. One day I would give anything to be able to stay home and the next I can't wait to get to work! It's so wonderful hearing other women's stories and seeing how they "make it work!"

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  18. I love all of these posts and think that Erin's commitment to her kids, her hubby and her family is evident to anyone who follows her blog and her Instagram. I think that being a mom is something that is hard and fun and scary and awesome. And that's regardless of whether we work or not. Isn't it interesting that we have so many of the same struggles and emotions, no matter whether we are working outside the home or inside.

    Anyhoo, lots of great stuff here. Keep it coming!

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    1. I love that motherhood is the common denominator, regardless of HOW we do it differently. So fun to read our similarities an differences!

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  19. I am loving these posts! Erin's take on things is so similar to my family's situation. I'm so glad I "met" her through your blog (and you too, Julia!). Your post awhile back on whether to go for three kids (and her comment on it) hit the nail on the head and so closely echoed my thoughts at the time. I have enjoyed reading your blog ever since we were both on The Nest's decorating and renovating message board as newlyweds years ago! (FOREVER ago!) Oh, and just so you two can put two and two together - I'm cvannahmen on IG. My family blog is private, but I would be happy to extend an invitation to you and Erin. Cheers to mommyhood!

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    1. Hi, Cathy! Glad you commented, I recognize your IG name! Such a sweet invitation to read your blog. Go ahead and send me an invite, I'd love to read along!

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  20. I love what you have to say about embracing your situation or working to change it if you don't like it. I'd add that there are times that we don't think we can change it in the way we want so we never try, but we should. I work at a company where the schedule is NOT flexible in my department, but I finally asked for a change after years of not asking. Although it took a long time to work out I now have what I needed. I, too, want to work, but was looking to shave off a few hours of work time so I had more time with the family. It's amazing what a few hours will do to create more balance.

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  21. I love what you said about your want your child's life to be big and by you working that kind of allows for that. You really vocalized something I feel. I am a working mother of one. We have a sitter who comes to our house to watch our son and she brings her 18 month old daughter as well. I offers him different stimulation and perspectives than my husband than I do. I love that he has a second mom who loves him too! When it comes time for him to go to pre-school (he is only 10 months old right now), his world will be even bigger and how fun is that?

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