Moms Make it Work: Heather | Full Time Working Mom in PR

Today on the blog's Moms Make it Work series we have Heather, a blog reader that offered up her story for this post as a full-time working mom in PR. I love her outlook on working, spending quality time with her girls (versus cooking or cleaning when at home), and the fact that she truly enjoys her career. So important! My favorite quote from her post that I really need to tape to my forehead: "I still look around sometimes and am totally overwhelmed by my mental to-do list. But in reality, the list will always be there. There will never be a time when everything is done. I don't want to worry about the to-dos at the expense of taking the time to enjoy life. I don't have to spend every nap time and evening doing chores or working on projects." Very well said, Heather! Enjoy her post!


Hello everybody! I'm Heather, a 31-year-old, married, full-time working mom to two young daughters. I've been blogging for SEVEN years now, mostly at my current blog, Heather Drive. I've called Western New York home for nearly all of my life, and my husband and I are now raising our family here as well. We welcomed our first child, Nora, in September 2010 and our second, Vivienne, in August 2013. I don't even remember how I first came across Julia's blog—maybe in researching cloth diapers back in 2010? It's hard to say. But I've been around as a reader for a few years now. I appreciate the opportunity to share my thoughts about juggling all of the moving pieces as a working mom.

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

I grew up with my younger twin brothers, the three of us raised by a single mom after my parents divorced when I was six years old. Growing up with my mom as my primary role model was extremely influential, as I've always been very independent and strong-willed, never feeling like the possibilities for my life were at all limited. I was a good student, and enjoyed most subjects in school. But I always had a strong interest in writing—poetry, creative stories, articles. I took a journalism class in 10th grade and liked that a lot, but then I took a psychology class senior year that I LOVED. After high school, I opted to go to a state school that was about two hours from home. It was great because it was far enough away to feel like I was really leaving home and asserting my independence, yet close enough that I could be home easily whenever I wanted/needed to be. I started as a psychology major and after three semesters of psych classes, I discovered that it wasn't all that I had envisioned it to be. Way more about research, a lot less about helping people (at least in a direct way). One of my suite mates was a public relations major, and I decided to check it out with a few communications classes during the second semester of my sophomore year. I fell easily into it, and never looked back. I excelled in my classes, and loved all of the writing. I made great friends who were on similar career paths, all of whom helped shape the rest of my college experience.

That second semester of sophomore year was extremely important to my future, because it's also when I met Michael, who I would marry six years later. Michael was also a sophomore, studying to be a web developer. We had a few mutual friends—his suite mates—and their suite was actually right downstairs from the one I lived in with my friends. We started talking one night while out at the bar with everyone, and discovered that we had a ton in common, including living only 10 minutes apart at home. We had actually grown up in the same town, but in different school districts. It was meant to be.

Michael and I both graduated (on time!) in May 2004. I started my career a month later with a company I had interned with during the summer before my senior year. It was a high-pressure, busy environment and after a little more than two years there, I questioned if I had made the right decision with my career. I toyed with the idea of going back to school to get a master's degree in elementary education, and in the process of searching for a program, I stumbled upon a job opening at one of the colleges... for a public relations professional! It was fate. I put my resume in, interviewed, and was offered the job. Changing jobs and working at the college taught me that I really did love public relations. The setting made a HUGE difference in my overall job satisfaction. In the meantime, Michael and I bought a condo together in June 2005, got engaged in June 2007 and married in June 2008. We like June, I guess. :)

Since then, I've switched jobs two more times (!!). After three and a half years at the college, I felt that I had sucked everything I could out of that position. Opportunities for growth were very limited, and although working on a college campus has so many benefits, it also has its drawbacks. For instance, every year was more or less the same for those of us working there. Students come and go, they grow and leave, but we were constantly welcoming new students who hadn't been through any of it before. So I was writing press releases and pitching the same stories every year—freshman move-in and orientation, fall speaking series, spring concert, graduation, etc. During my fourth time through it all, I decided I'd had enough.

{Pregnant with baby #1—Nora—in 2010} 

{Pregnant with baby #2—Vivienne—in 2013} 

I made the jump to a new company when I was 12 weeks pregnant with my first child. I was there for four years—through the pregnancy and birth of my second child, too!—and I just recently made a change again. This time, the change was driven by a lot of personal reasons as well as professional. Once we had two kids to care for, I started to feel very trapped by the confines of my 8:30 to 5 job. While it certainly wasn't the least flexible situation ever, I was really hopeful that I could find something offering even more flexibility. Somehow, the right doors were opened for me at the right time—again!—and I found a good fit.

I started my current job in March. I still mostly work 9 to 5, but I have the flexibility I want/need to feel like I can be a better mom.

What are the best parts of your situation? What are the challenges?
The best part is definitely the flexibility I just mentioned above. My boss doesn't make me feel guilty for staying home with a sick child, or if I have to leave early or come late. I can pretty much come and go as I please, with the expectation that I'll somehow put in my hours, and all of my work will get done on time. My boss doesn't really care when we do our work, as long as we do it—and that is KEY for me. Of course, my girls still go to daycare and most of the time, I'd much prefer to get work done while they're there. But on days when my workload is lighter than usual, I have the option to go in late, leave early, or work from home to pick up some extra time with my girls. And if I have to, I can make up for lost time by doing more work after they're in bed at night. It's been great.
{Mother's Day 2013}
The challenges are that despite its flexibility, I still have a full-time job. My kids are both naturally tired and ready for bed between 7-7:30 p.m., so that means that we are always fighting a time crunch on weekday evenings. Pick up the girls, get home, make dinner, baths and bedtime... and hopefully we have some time for play in there. It's tough sometimes. I would say that the biggest challenge, though, is definitely getting dinner on the table. We don't want to stand over a stove, we want to spend time with our girls. But dinner is obviously a necessity. Before kids, we used to eat a lot of different meals, trying new recipes often. Now, we stick mostly to old favorites that are easy, quick, and that we know so well that we don't have to even consult a recipe.

Is this how you expected it to be pre-kids?
I don't know what I was expecting, to be honest. I don't think I have ever felt shocked by what parenthood has been like, or by how it has changed our lives. I think I was ready for all of that.

{Getting to know Nora - September 11, 2010}
One thing I've thought about a lot is my career choice. I really like what I do. At the same time, if I had known at 19 years old what I know now—how it feels to be a working mom, how important work/life balance is, how drastically your priorities change when you have children in your life—I probably would've picked a different career path. It's so much pressure to put on a teenager to choose what they're going to do with the rest of their lives before they've ever really lived them. And similarly, I imagine that for most people, choosing a career that is going to work perfectly at every stage of your life is probably damn near impossible. Looking back at the first 10 years of my career, I liken it to a marriage—I've had my ups and downs with it. I've had my days when I thought I could not possibly do it for another day. It's grown and changed as I've continued to learn how best to do it. But through it all, it's hard to imagine doing anything else.

{Meeting Vivienne - August 2, 2013}

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

At this stage in my life—no, it isn't ideal. In a perfect world, I would be able to work part time. Financially, I think it would be fine. But in public relations, it is really, REALLY difficult to find adequate part-time positions. If you are lucky enough to find one, it's likely that you're actually signing up to do full-time work for a part-time salary, because it's generally not the kind of job where you can walk away at the end of the day and leave the work at work. It's not always a 9 to 5. If I was only working Monday-Wednesday-Friday, how would I handle that with my clients? Suddenly, they can't request anything on Tuesdays and Thursdays? THEY work Tuesdays and Thursdays, so how can I not be available to them? And with the media—who are largely "on" 24/7 in this day and age—I can't just NOT respond on a Tuesday or a Thursday.

I want to work. I don't think I could be a full-time stay-at-home mom. There are times that I observe SAHMs in our neighborhood, out pushing strollers or dropping off the kids at the bus stop. I think about all of the positives of that lifestyle—especially this time of year when the weather is beautiful and I would give anything to be able to spend all day outside my kids. BUT I also recognize that it's just a glimpse. The reality of stay-at-home motherhood is not all sunshine, warm weather, and play with the kids. I know it is the hardest job there is, and I know I'm not cut out for it.

So as far as being a full-time working mom is concerned, I do think that I've found the best situation that I can be in right now. I work full time, but I have that flexibility when I want it and need it. I don't feel particularly rushed to get out of the house in the morning, so if my daughter wants to do an extra puzzle or serve me another fake hot dog from her kitchen, we can take the time to be present in those moments. I am grateful for that.

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?

I think I will always be in this field, in one way or another. I've toyed with a major career change a couple of times in the past 10 years, but both times, I ended up making changes to find happiness again within my chosen profession. There is a lot that I love about what I do—the writing, the task management, the strategic thinking, the people. There is always something new to learn. I've had the opportunity to become knowledgeable about so many subjects that I never imagined I would know anything about—telecommunications, contract furniture, reverse mortgages, eye care, medical devices, and more. When I have the opportunity to work on such a variety of things, it's hard to ever really get bored.

I'm also pretty good at what I do. When I wrap up a big project, place a big story, or otherwise make a client happy, it's personally satisfying. I love the feeling of checking things off the to-do list. I think I made a good career choice when it comes to my strengths and my personality. My career is meaningful to me; it's part of who I am. I want to keep moving up the ranks, gaining experience, taking on more responsibility, and of course, making more money (because it's always nice to have more money, right??). But I also feel like I have my priorities in check, because I wouldn't do ANY of that at the expense of my time with my family. Right now, my career is definitely secondary. You know that saying, "Work to live, don't live to work"? I totally abide by that at this stage in my life.

Tips on how you make your situation work for you:

I try to remember to just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and tackle things one at a time. Prioritization is extremely important in my line of work, and I carry that skill over into my personal life as well. The master bathroom may remain filthy for two weeks before we actually get to it, but no one ever sees it except us—so it's low priority. In the meantime, the kids are fed, lunches are made, dishes are done, the grass is mowed, toys are picked up (sometimes). We've learned to cut ourselves slack on the things that don't truly matter. I'm not perfect at this—I still look around sometimes and am totally overwhelmed by my mental to-do list. But in reality, the list will always be there. There will never be a time when everything is done. I don't want to worry about the to-dos at the expense of taking the time to enjoy life. I don't have to spend every nap time and evening doing chores or working on projects. Some weeks, I feel like I'm doing everything—being a wife, a mom, an employee, and more—but doing NONE of it well. Because of the various roles that I'm required to play in my life, there are times when I feel stretched too thin. I can't give any one area enough of myself to feel like I'm succeeding at it. It's a horrible feeling. But that's where the prioritization comes in. Head down, keep going, and eventually the burden I'm carrying is lightened.

The other thing that is instrumental—and I know this has been said by other moms in this series—is that my husband is an equal partner. In some areas of our life, he does even more than his fair share. For instance, he gets both of the girls out of bed every morning and gets them dressed for the day, then takes them downstairs for breakfast... all while I'm showering and getting myself ready. I'm not a morning person AT ALL, so he makes up for my weakness in this area. He picks up the slack. Would I be different if I had to be? Of course I would. But we are "making it work" and right now, the ebbs and flows, checks and balances, give and take... it's working in that we are all surviving! :)

How do you handle mommy guilt?
I handle it a lot better now than I used to. Since I've made my most recent job change, I have the ability to tend to the mommy guilt a little better. If I have a work dinner one night that requires me to miss time with my kids? I feel guilty about that, but I can make up for it by going in late the next morning.

{Obsessed with Frozen! In her "Elsa cape," gloves, and crown}
Nora has gone through several phases during which she has a really hard time with me dropping her off at daycare. Those phases are the worst. There is nothing more heartbreaking than when your child cries, begging you not to leave her, pleading for extra hugs and kisses. She's brought me to tears a few times, and it's HARD. It's so hard. But usually, I drop two happy girls off at daycare. Nora kicks off her shoes, gives me a kiss, and runs off to play with her friends. Vivienne smiles at our daycare provider and allows me to hand her over without issue.

When I pick them up at the end of the day and hear Nora's stories about her friends, her games, her artwork? I know that she's getting things at daycare that I truly can't give her. That's not to say that staying home with me or my husband wouldn't be good for our children—the benefits are just different. There isn't a "right" or a "wrong" in the working mom vs. stay-at-home mom argument. To me it's no different than choosing to live in the country or the city, choosing public school or private school, or raising kids Catholic or Jewish (or any other religion!). These choices don't ruin any of us. Instead, they are pieces of the puzzle that makes us who we are. And thankfully, most of us turn out to be decent human beings who live pretty happy lives. For my children, that's all I can really hope for.

The guilt comes in because we all just want to make sure we're making the best choices possible for our kids. As with most things in life, the grass is always greener on the other side. I try not to let guilt encroach on my day-to-day happiness, because it's just not worth it.

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?

Do what you need to do for your family. Follow your heart. Know your own limits. Each of these things may lead you to return to work, or stay at home. It's not up to anyone else but you and your partner. What's right for one family can be wrong for another.

{With sweet newborn Nora, just a few days old - September 2010}
If you're at home on maternity leave with that sweet newborn baby, chances are that you can't imagine leaving him or her to go back to work. It's gut wrenching, heartbreaking, unnatural. It feels like someone is asking you to cut off your arm. But it's true what every working mom tells you—it does get better. You settle into a new normal. I have always said that I just wish maternity leave was longer. I think it would've been a lot easier to go back to work if I had 6-12 months at home with my kids, instead of only 12 weeks.

{Nora—just shy of 3 years old—with her newborn baby sister, Vivienne}
The other thing that I always tell new moms that are struggling with coming back to work? It's hard to believe now, but eventually, there will be days when you are actually happy to drop off your kids. I'm just being brutally honest. Tantrums, attitude, backtalk, potty training, crankiness, teething, food strikes, hitting, biting, fighting, timeout... parenthood is not fun all of the time. There have been times when I've been glad to let someone else deal with it for eight hours. There might be some who judge me for feeling that way, but I hope that the majority of moms can take a step back and think, "Yep. That's the truth." Because the whole "enjoy every minute" advice that more seasoned parents like to throw in the direction of parents with young children? It's said with good intentions, but it's also complete crap. Parenthood is hard, and there's no way anyone can enjoy every minute of it. That's why I admire stay-at-home parents the way that I do—they don't get the same breaks that I do.

 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?

Pre-kids, we used to be the hit-up-the-grocery-store-several-times-a-week type of people. Five items here, 15 items there. We would fly by the seat of our pants as far as what to make for dinner each night, and if necessary, get ingredients for it at the store on the way home. That all went out the door when we had Nora.

We are big meal planners now. We don't stick to a rigid schedule, so there is still some flexibility about what we eat on any given night. But every weekend, we sit down and pick 4-5 meals that we'll make over the next seven days, and add the ingredients for all of them to the grocery list. We try to do only one grocery trip per week, on a Saturday or Sunday morning. And we might be crazy, but we actually grocery shop as a family. Maybe it's because we have the greatest grocery store ever—Wegmans—but grocery shopping is pretty enjoyable for us. Wegmans is Nora's favorite store, if you can believe it. She sits in the cart and munches on a mini apple, helping us inventory our items in the cart and check things off our lists (She usually will make one of her own, as pictured below. So cute.). And we give her important jobs, like picking the flavors of the yogurt we buy. ;)

{A sample of Nora's grocery lists}
On the typical night, Michael gets home from work before I do since I am usually the one to pick up the kids from daycare. And because we have a plan for what we're making, he will almost always have dinner started—if not done—by the time the rest of us arrive home. Our "weeknight meal" repertoire is admittedly somewhat limited, since we stick to meals that are very easy to prep. I figure we will cook fancy meals again... some day.

How do you keep your house clean? Power cleaning after bedtime? Staying out of the house as much as possible? Cleaning while kids are awake? Purging often? Cleaning schedule?

The short answer is that we don't. I mean, we don't live in a pig sty by any means, but cleaning is by far the hardest thing to keep on top of. We don't live in a Pottery Barn catalog, that's for sure. We will usually do light cleaning after the kids are in bed in the evenings—dishes, bottles, toy pickup, general decluttering. Deeper cleaning—like bathrooms, floors, dusting, etc.—almost always happens during nap times on the weekends. I'll sometimes bang out a bathroom after the girls are in bed at night, but that's only if I'm really disgusted by it. I have no cleaning schedule; we just clean when things get gross. This is one area where I could definitely use some improvement! I would be lying if I said I haven't considered—on more than one occasion—what I would be willing to give up in order to hire a cleaning lady. Ahh... I can dream, right? Wow, this post was so much more challenging and time-consuming to write than I originally imagined! Thanks to Julia for giving me the opportunity to participate.

{Thanks, Heather! Find the rest of the MMIW series here}


  1. This is awesome. All of it. Thanks for posting!

    1. Thanks, A.! I'm glad you enjoyed the post. :)

  2. I really related to this mom! I am also a full time working mom of 2 girls, and really enjoyed reading how she makes it work! Flexibility has been why I have been at my company for as long as I can. As a working mom, it's almost more valuable than a raise!

    1. Hi Randi! It's so great to hear from other moms who also have the flexibility they want/need. And I agree with you about it being more valuable than the money—work/life balance is HUGE! I'm glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for reading. :)

  3. I love the humor and the honesty of this post! "We don't live in a Pottery Barn catalog"! Love it.

    1. Haha, thank you! It's the truth. As soon as we all realize that we can't all live in the pages of a catalog (or even Pinterest photos!), the happier we'll be. :)

  4. Loved this post and reading more about your career, Heather! It's so true that being in the right environment makes ALL the difference for work satisfaction. I'm glad you've found a good fit for you right now!

  5. Great post! So many awesome points: what works for one family may not be best for another; you only get a glimpse when you see your mom counterparts (working mom to a SAHM, vice versa), and sometimes you can't wait to get the little munchkins off of your hands ;)

    1. Lindsay, I used to feel like a little bit of a bad mom for thinking that way—but we're human. We need a break sometimes. And sometimes going to work IS the break! :) Thanks for reading.

  6. This is awesome and I cannot wait to read the rest in this series! I love Heather Drive and am an avid reader but seldom commenter. I'm excited to be introduced to this blog too!! I'm in full time ministry, my husband is a full time pastor and attends seminary full time as well, we have a biological 2.5 year old, and 5 months ago were chosen to adopt a baby girl. She's 2.5 month old baby who has been in our care since birth - and the adoption was finalized 2 weeks ago. After her adoption, in the midst of my generous maternity leave, I accepted a new position. Still in ministry but no travel, 15-20 hours less per week (although still full time!) and a much better fit for our family. I make the switch on October 1st. I am so excited about the flexibility you write about. Thanks so much for sharing - this is very validating for me!!


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