Moms Make it Work: Piper | Full Time Working Mom in Austin

Today on the Moms Make it Work series is Piper, a long-time reader of this blog who wanted to share her perspective as a working mom. This was one of those posts whereI found myself nodding my head and saying 'yep' in response to many of her paragraphs. I want to post a few of her sayings all around my house, such as 'loosen the noose' that we tend to place around our own necks with super-high/impossible standards. And I love her sentiment that sure, we can do it all....but just not all at once. Yes. Exactly, Piper. Loved this post and hope you do, too. Enjoy!



thanks so much to julia for inviting me to participate in this series! i've been reading julia's blog since shortly after truman was born :). like lots of ladies, i've grappled with all this mommy stuff since before i even got pregnant, so it's been really cathartic to read everyone's different takes and try to articulate my own, for whatever that's worth. i'm a mostly-regular blogger at thefamilybrowne.blogspot.com and can be found sporadically instagramming @piper6 and of course on pinterest @piperleah. also, i don't like using capital letters when i write for fun, so i hope that's not too distracting :).

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

i grew up in south louisiana and headed east (and north) to DC for college. i got my undergrad in communications (concentration in film) and literature, so of course i didn't have a job out of school. i graduated in 2003 during the first "recession", so instead of moving to new york as i originally planned, i threw my mattress and clothes into the back of my old ford explorer and headed west (and south). i knew i wanted to be closer to family, but not necessarily in the deep south again, so i rolled into austin and it stuck! from a career perspective, in the 11 years since i've been here, i've been a waitress, a telesales gal, a teacher, an account executive, and (mostly) a marketer. during my sales days at a certain tech/fruit company, i went to business school at the university of texas and graduated with my MBA in 2010. since the decision to go to graduate school in 2007, i've been on the pretty straight-and-narrow "business" path, and austin has a great tech job community, so i've been a "technology marketer" for the better part of a decade (and for lack of better descriptive words around what i actually do everyday...). 
from a personal perspective, i met my husband justin in 2005 while i was still teaching. he had moved to austin that day because it was "the best city in the country for singles", and we were both acting as wingmen for some friends (who are now happily married to different people). he proposed in early 2007 and we got hitched officially in october of 2007, a month after i started business school. 
i got pregnant unexpectedly and had a miscarriage/ectopic pregnancy in july of 2009, which bumped up my desire to have a child to much sooner than my original "master life plan". we were planning to wait until after i finished the MBA regardless, but lo and behold i got knocked up again in february of 2010. i finished finals the same day as my first trimester ended and gave birth to an amazing baby girl, emme kay, in early november. emme was a total sucker baby - so easy and fun and verbal and a great eater/sleeper to boot - so we decided to try it all over again. i gave birth to our baby boy hollis taylor in early january of 2013. we've lived in three different houses in this town, but our current domicile in central austin is where we'll (hopefully) be for a while...
-What are the best parts of your situations? What are the challenges?
as with everything, there's good and bad in it all, and i can evaluate a "feature" of my life as a benefit or a detraction on any given day. ha. in general, i like that i am an equal contributor to our income and that my kids (especially my daughter) see that i am ambitious from a career perspective. i like the feeling of being in control, and knowing that i am a strong income-earner really helps with that. i like that our dual-income affords us the opportunity to put money away for the kids' school, to go on vacations, to eat dinner out when we're too tired to get in the kitchen, to live in the expensive city we live in. i love that justin and i are truly in the trenches together - we can relate to each other's struggles and successes because our days are fairly similar in that office-job kind of way. 
but, of course, there is a lot that is really hard. i think the biggest challenge for me, personally, is never feeling like i'm 100% anything. at work, i think about the kids constantly, worry that i'm not doing enough, being enough for them. i put pressure on myself to make them "feel" like i'm a SAHM - i don't want them to ever think that my career comes before them. but then of course, at home i worry about if i'm working hard enough, progressing fast enough, making an impact in the right ways. also, as much as the equal-contributor-to-household-income thing is a bond, there are some things that justin just doesn't experience the same way i do. the corporate world is tough, and as much as we'd all like to ignore it, it's super tough being a woman in corporate america. i try not to apologize for putting my family first, but i also know it's likely "hindering" my career in some ways because i'm not willing to make certain sacrifices (like number of hours spent in the office). and let's not even get into the challenge of finding "me" time or "couple" time. 
-Is this how you expected it to be pre-kids? i always expected to keep working. when i decided to get my MBA, especially from a "top tier" school, it became pretty much a given that i'd keep my career, at least until i'm done paying off my student loans in 2040. ha. what i did not expect was how much i would adore my children and struggle with not being present every moment of their lives. i didn't expect the guilt, the constant mommy-war onslaught of information and studies and articles. i expected to question my decisions, but to carefully evaluate our choices/path and then to feel confident once that path was chosen. i did not expect for the only constant to be change and to never feel 100% confident about anything. 
-Is this your ideal situation? If not, what is? yes and no. though i'm not 100% confident in all our choices (a fact that has much more to do with my nature than with anything else, i think), i do think we've got an amazing life and a fairly cushy situation. if the world were truly perfect, i would love to work 3-4 days a week, or from 9-3 every day instead of 8-5. i'd love it if family were close by or in the same city, at least for things like days when the kids are sick, but really for the overall support and feeling of community. i'd also really love it if austin weren't considered the most expensive city to raise children in the country, but i don't have any control over that. fundamentally, i think we've got it really really good and i'm incredibly grateful for our lives.
-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 could definitely see me switching companies or doing something in a different industry, but the overall setup is our long haul plan. although i tell my husband all the time that i'm retiring at 40 :).
-Tips on how you make your situation work for you: i'm not great at this, honestly, but my best tip is one that my mom gives me ALL THE TIME: loosen the noose. as in, the noose you put around your own neck. for me, i have ridiculous standards around everything. i want to be polished and a star performer at work and still have home-cooked, pinterest-worthy meals on the table every night. i want to hand make my kids' halloween costumes but also have floors that are void of dog hair. i want to have recurring, fabulous date nights but also train for a half marathon. i'm working hard to realize that we can do all.the.things but maybe not all.at.once. so, take the pressure off and just try try try to be present and enamored with how fast and overwhelming and beautiful each day is, however trite and difficult that is. 
-How do you handle mommy guilt? truthfully, i martyr myself. so, don't follow my example, because it's not the way to be. i don't do a whole heck of a lot for myself and yet i still feel guilty all the time (see above re: ridiculous pressure on myself). when it overwhelms me, the thing that helps the most is to just stop. i either go for a walk or get in the shower or try to just sit down for a minute and make an objective analysis of my kidlets. are they healthy? happy?  do they feel loved and supported and seem delighted by life and the world and their place in it? the answer is a resounding yes, and that is more important than whether their dinner was shareable on social media. 
-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 think for a lot of moms, this is not a choice at all. so i think step one is to be so so grateful that this is even a dilemma you can ponder. and then, give yourself time to breathe through it. nothing is permanent and life changes in ways we cannot imagine all the time. when you have your first child, it can be the most enormous thing ever. and each moment feels like that is THE status quo for the rest of eternity. especially when things are tough and/or emotionally draining (like making work/childcare decisions). but the reality is that kids are super resilient and they will form healthy attachments and they will love you and thrive as long as you're loving them. and you can always change your mind - it may be difficult, unpleasant, uncomfortable...but there is always a different choice if you want to make it. 
-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??
we are getting better at this (some weeks). i meal plan every weekend and usually grocery shop and try to prep on sundays. we are super good at feeding the kids healthy, well-rounded meals for the vast majority of what they eat...sadly, not as consistent on the adult front, especially for lunches. i tackle most of the weekday eating endeavors, but my husband absolutely jumps in and preps kid lunches, cleans the kitchen, makes our fancy weekend meals (he's a much better gourmet than i am), etc. we do eat out more than we'd like - almost all weekday adult lunches, and then 1-2 weekend meals. the kids both still nap, so sometimes i can squeeze in groceries while they're sleeping, which is ideal. if not, emme loves going to the grocery store with me, so that can be some fun one-on-one time for us. 

-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? oh, the elusive clean house. we have a housekeeper every other week that saves my life. we gave it a go without one for 4-5 months earlier this year (right after we bought and moved into a new home), but it was too much. our house was never all clean at one time, and i felt like i was constantly stressed about when cleaning was going to happen. so, the housekeeper changes sheets (i do all the laundry, but putting sheets on a bed makes me irate. hey, we all have our things...), scrubs toilets/tubs/etc., mops floors, and dusts. but for the most part, we try to just stay on top of it daily as much as possible. since we do have two massive, super sheddy mutts, i vacuum the floors 3-4 days/week. we cloth-diapered both kids, so laundry has been pretty much a constant part of my evenings for the past almost-4 years. we try to engage the kids in the cleaning process to varying degrees of success. we are lucky that it's lovely in austin roughly 9 months of the year (the other three are stupid hot, but even with that the kids don't mind it much), so it's easy to just let them twirl in the yard, go for wagon walks, have sandbox time, etc. but the biggest thing is just trying not to have such rigid definitions of what things have to look like, as long as most members of the family are reasonably happy. 
thanks again, julia, for the opportunity to think about all this stuff, read and write about it. i don't think anything about my situation is earth-shattering, but if it helps anyone to hear someone else's journey, then that's all that matters!

{Thank you, Piper! Find the rest of the MMIW series here}

5 comments:

  1. Love this series, love this perspective. That said, all the talk of Austin being expensive really took me out of it. It would be nice to read some articles about the struggles those of us who actually live in expensive areas.

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    1. I think Piper was just referencing the article she linked, saying that Austin is an expensive city in a survey. I have had a few contributors from the east and west coasts in the series, but I'm guessing 'expensive' might be a subjective term for cost of living anyway! Thanks for reading along.

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  2. I really loved this one! I found myself nodding in agreement to a lot of it. Thanks for sharing!

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  3. Also, loved this post. Thank you again for continuing to do these.

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