Moms Make it Work: Erika from Wisconsin

Today on the Moms Make it Work guest blogging series, I have a local blogger that found me after Sierra's post in the series. Erika and Sierra are a part of the same mom's group in our area and although I am not in that group, it's always fun to 'meet' other local bloggers. It's a small world sometimes and I never tire of finding new connections with the old blog. Plus Erika's daughters are adorable, I love their names, and apparently we both started blogging around the same time (2007) for the same reasons (to keep in touch with out of town family). I enjoyed this post and know you will, too!


I am so grateful to be wring a guest blogger post for Julia today. My name is Erika and I live in a suburb of Milwaukee, Wis. with my three girls, golden retriever and husband. I blog over at Midwest Family Life about our life and doings. My motto-- growing, learning, loving.

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

I won't start at the beginning, but I'll start just before I got married. In 2007, I married the love of my life, Kevin, on Friday, April 13th. No, we are not superstitious! Can you believe we met on Yes-- Internet dating! It worked for us. We went on a few dates and knew it was good. We dated for a little over a year and were engaged for six months before the wedding.

That same year we got married I also finished my MBA from UW-Milwaukee; I had a previous BBA from the business school at UW-Oshkosh. I had been working at an advertising agency and quit my job to work full-time for my mom's business doing various tasks like the books, office management, veterans benefits and marketing/advertising. 

April wedding in 2007
Working for a family business had its challenges but probably had more perks in my opinion. When my first daughter, Charlotte, was born in 2009, I brought her to work with me for the first six months or so and then eventually started working part-time in the office. My mom started watching her one full day per week and I would go into the office.

In 2011, my second daughter Gretchen was born and I picked up a second part-time job that my mom actually helped me to find. I really wanted to be a SAHM but we found that money was just getting really tight. I didn't have to work, we could have eaten spaghetti every night forever, but some extra income made things so much better. The flexibility of this new job was something I couldn't pass up. It gave me the ability to still be a SAHM and work. Three years later I still work part-time for IRIS, a Medicaid-waiver program for the State of Wisconsin. I make my own hours and work from home. It's the ideal situation!

Lastly, in 2013, when my third daughter Elsa turned one, I decided to start my own business doing something that I love-- quilting. Midwest Family Life LLC is continuing to grow through social media, advertising, Etsy and local craft fairs.

As if I didn't have enough to do already, right?

Gretchen (3), Elsa (15 mo), Charlotte (5)
What are the best parts of your situations? What are the challenges?

I honestly love my life right now. It's a bit crazy at times, but I feel that I have a good balance going on. Somehow, balancing work-life has been a strength of mine. My mom still babysits one day per week and I go into her office to work. Sometimes I run errands, do work for her, or do work for IRIS. I have a lot of home visits for IRIS and I schedule them after dinner when Kevin is home or on the days I'm in the office. When I do have a conflict, I have a girlfriend that I swap babysitting with so neither of us need to pay for a sitter (she works part-time as well). I have occasionally paid for a daytime sitter and it's expensive!!

My biggest challenge right now is prioritizing my tasks. My youngest is 1.5 and she crawls on everything. I catch her on the table all the time and she's always trying to pull down my laptop. I only have about two hours when she's napping after lunch and I have to squeeze in custom sewing orders, sewing for the next craft fair, and my IRIS work. I have a quota of hours I have to meet each week for IRIS and I really struggle with getting those 20 hours in. I take phone calls during the day but at times, Elsa is just crying and screaming on my leg. My clients know I have kids so my phone calls are very forgiving.

I also think I struggle keeping the house clean. Between the dog and the kids there is always crap on the floor. I can pick up a room and there is a tornado behind me taking out everything I just put away. I swear I can clean the kitchen better in the 15 minutes before Kevin walks in the door from work than I can in the six hours I'm home all day. Sometimes I feel guilty that there is a pile of laundry in my bedroom all the time until I walk into somebodyelse's house and realize that mine isn't so bad. Clean is a relative term and it means something different to each person. I have decided that our house is "lived in" and therefore clean to my standards. This helps reduce stress.

Note: I find that having the ladies over every now and then helps me to keep the house clean because I clean before people come over. This is a good thing, because I also get wine, chocolate and good company.

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

Yes, it actually is. I was married two years out of college and had kids two years after I got married. I didn't really have any expectations and wanted to be a SAHM for as long as I can remember. I didn't have an awesome career so what I've built for myself really works.

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

For me, I'm starting to believe this is my ideal situation. It's 8am as I'm writing this and I'm in my jammies (screaming at kids) trying to get some text on the screen. We aren't rushing to get out the door and we have swim lessons at 10am. In a few minutes, two more kids are coming over for the morning and we are just going to have fun. I'll make some work calls later today and probably do a little sewing too.

With the flexibility of my jobs, I'm able to work at my own pace and on my own schedule. I can still do things with the kids, like go to the park, zoo, or YMCA, and still have time to do adult things. I couldn't imagine going to a 9-5 job-- it's just not for me.

My girls are still little-- Charlotte (5), Gretchen (3), Elsa (18 mo). I want to be home with them and watch them grow. Whatever I'm doing now works so I'm sticking with it.

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 it for me. I have a stable job that allows for growth as the kids get into school. Now that I've also started a business, I want to make it grow. I'm truly doing what I love and want to continue it. I don't have any aspirations for using my MBA or working my way to a high-level position in a corporation. I like being a Mom and look forward to PTA meetings and girl scouts at my house.

Tips on how you make your situation work for you:

When I first had kids, I really struggled with the transition. What helped me greatly was finding friends that also had kids. Weekly, I went to a mom's group at the hospital where I met other moms that had babies at the same time and we are still friends five years later. I also joined a local MOMS Club and met more moms and kids. It's been great and seriously the only thing that keeps the days moving sometimes. 

I also joined the YMCA to give me some me-time. I stick the kids in their kid-care and have me a little workout time while I watch a new episode of something on Netflix. The kids play, I'm happy-- it all works out. If I had a 9-5 job, I'd be working out at 5am instead of 9:30am and I much pefer doing it later in the morning.

Seriously though, finding other moms through the MOMS Club and the hospital as been life-changing. I have so much support and a great network of resources. For anybody that plans to stay home, I really think this is the magic key!

Trying to keep it all real.
How do you handle mommy guilt?

The mommy guilt I have is probably different than a mom who works 9-5. My mommy guilt stems from the freetime I need during the day to either sew or make work phone calls. I'll often have them watch a movie or play PBS kids on the computer so that I can get something done. The guilt sets in because I'll see other SAHM's post some awesome project they worked on with their kids at home together and I think, "I should be doing that."

Then I tell myself that we do do things together, even if it's just a little bit each day. We play board games, read, go for a walk and when it's nice, we are in the backyard playing all day long. Our mornings are usually spent out of the house doing things things so I try not to feel guilty about doing "me" things in the wee parts of the afternoon. Some of it really is true "work" and I have to do it if we all want to stay home and continue having fun.

My girls are smart and get the attention they need. I also believe that having them play together or alone helps build important character traits like indpendence and also teaches them to share and play well with others.

So, there is a little mommy guilt, but I try to push it back and ignore it becuase really, the kids are just fine.

Advice for new moms struggling with returning to work outside of the home? Or struggling to decide if staying at home is the right choice?

I can't offer advice to those going back to a 9-5 job. I have plenty of girlfriends who have done that and the first week is always the hardest. But, we do what we have to for our families and working, in one way or another, is inevitable for most of us.

Staying at home has its challenges, I won't deny that. I have friends who have tried and learned the hard way that it's not for them. Honestly, if I didn't work a little or have the network of mommy friends that I do have, I wouldn't make it as a SAHM. I would go insane!! (Yes, there are days that I DO go insane.) Being at home, you have to accept that some days are bad and you won't shower or get anything done around the house becuase you have a crying barnacle attached to your hip. 

My advice, if you want to stay home, have a network of people that you can do things with. It's really hard to keep your children occupied all day, five days per week. They need interaction with other kids and you need interaction with other adults. Hospitals usually have Mom groups now and there are also MOPS Chapters and MOMS Club chapters.

How do meals work in your family? Meal planning? How often do you grocery shop? Who is in charge of this task in your family??

I am very particular about my shopping.  It's one of the few household things that is organized. I have a list on my fridge and every time we are out of something I put it on the list. Then on Fridays/Saturdays I sit down with Pinterst and some cookbooks and write on the back of the list what the meals will be from Sunday-Friday. I always ask my hubby what he wants and usually he doesn't have a clue. I think about food all day, don't you?! I typically grocery shop on Sundays, but that's not always the case. I enjoy grocery shopping and could never send my husband becuase there is always something not on the list that we need!

Pinterest has changed my life. I love finding new recipes on it. I make something every night of the week with one night being a wildcard or leftover night. Not every night is gourmet... we still love grilled cheese and tomato soup-- with bacon and avacado too.

How do you keep your house clean? 

Are we supposed to clean the house? Really? I wish I had a maid. The cleanest part of my house is our first floor bathroom. I keep the cleaning supplies in there and it's so easy to clean. The upstairs bathroom is the least clean. I don't have a schedule but usually vacuum every day. I have a battery operated shop vac that I use to vacuum our  wood floors. There is food and crumbs under our kitchen table after every meal.

My husband is awsome at doing the dishes after dinner and cleaning the counter. Then on weekends I try to pick one thing and clean it. I feel that if I keep the floors clean, the house looks clean. And as I've stated before, I like to invite company over so I'm force to clean everything.

How do you find time to blog?

I started blogging in 2007 or so when I got married. We have family out-of-town and it was a way to keep in touch with them. Then the kids came and blogging was even more important. I usually blog when there is something to blog about. Now that the kids are getting to be out of "milestone" ages, there is less and less to blog about.

I blog in the morning over coffee while everyone is getting out of bed, or over nap time, or while the kids are screaming at me to help them with something. Very rarely do I blog at night becuase I have a hard time keeping my eyes open after 9pm.

(Thanks, Erika! Find the rest of the MMIW series here)


  1. Hi! So fun to 'meet' you! Do you ever still go to group?

    So true that having people over makes for a clean house. Definitely the case over here, too!

    I, of course, found myself nodding along with most of this...having a network is so key and makes all the difference in the world. But, don't sweat not being the "perfect SAHM". To your kids, you are the perfect mom, even if you have to do some work and you aren't doing ALL the crafts.

  2. I really enjoyed this post! I'm not a SAHM but if I were one, I think this is similar to the life I'd want to lead - time with my kids balanced with some work and me time/time at the gym! And you're right, having connections and networks is SO important, whether you're a SAHM or working one!

  3. Thanks for the comments ladies! Things actually changed the week this came out. I voluntarily (forced) to quit one of my jobs due to a demand in increase in hours. It would have meant putting the kids in daycare just about full-time and that's not something we want to do. So, now it's trying to expand my new business and enjoy summer.
    Sierra- I don't go anymore. All those new moms would be highly intimidated with my kids there (I know I was when I was the new mom there).


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