Moms Make it Work: Erinn from Pennsylvania

Today's guest blogger is Erinn, one of my sweet 'internet friends' that I met through TheBump's Pregnant After Loss board nearly three years ago. I've loved watching her adorable family grow into the happy 'Two Under Two' crew they have now, and knew she'd be a great fit for this series as a SAHM who loves what she does. Enjoy!


(Find the entire series linked here to read more) 

Hi Friends, I'm Erinn from Strawberry Swing and other things.  I am so excited Julia asked me to be part of this series and I have loved reading about every one's story and how we all Make It Work in our own way.  I'm a wife of four and a half years to Pete and mommy to 21 month old Ashlynn and 8 week old Kenley.  I always imagined myself a mom, and while it's harder than I ever dreamed (I mean who really dreams of the hard parts), it's even more rewarding and satisfying too.

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

I'm a 31 year old Stay at Home Mom living in the Philadelphia suburbs.  I grew up at the Jersey Shore (except not the Jersey Shore you're thinking of, our town was dry and I'm Irish, not Italian).   Basically like I mentioned, I always dreamed of being a mom.  Of course this included lots of playing "house" growing up, but later on in my teens I can remember thinking "when I have kids... I'm going have nachos for them after school, or fresh cookies" and think of how our house would be where all the kids would hang out and I'd butter up my children's friends with the snacks and sugar and they'd tell me all the high school gossip that my kids would refuse.  I'd be "the hip mom, the cool mom" (kidding, but I have major Mean Girls obsession, couldn't resist).  

I graduated college with B.S. in Business Administration with a double concentration in Finance and Accounting.    My university offered a five year co-op program, where for three of the five years you take six month internships.  This gives you 18m of real work experience upon graduation, pretty sweet, not to mention all the networking. I was offered a full time job at a public accounting firm after my last internship.  I did sit for a few portions of the CPA exam before deciding, I really didn't like accounting at all and never had the intention of staying in an accounting position or role where a CPA would be necessary or where I would have to keep it active with annual CPE credits.

At that same job, I met my husband.  We worked together during my internship and we started dating shortly after I came back on full time.  A few months after that, he left public accounting. Three years later we were married. 

I left public accounting after about 3 years and became a Financial Analyst for a company who was bought by a very large and well known company at the same time.  By the time our company, and specifically our office, was integrated, they decided to phase our office out.  Coincidentally, this was a few weeks after I found I was pregnant (about 3 years after I started there).  My due date and release date were just about a month a part.  When Ashlynn was born 5 weeks early, I had exactly 12 weeks of maternity leave ending right when I was released (aka, laid off).  Thanks universe.

My husband and I always discussed that I would stay home after having children, however this sealed the deal.  And so here I am, almost two years later, at home with my two amazing daughters.

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

Honestly, I could babble on and on about the best parts of my situation, but you could just read my blog since that's pretty much all I do there.

The biggest challenges have to be the changes I've (and we've) made from going from a very healthy two-income family to a one-income family.  We are blessed and very lucky that we can afford to have me home with our children, but that doesn't mean we don't make sacrifices or haven't had to make changes in our spending habits.   I've had to cut back on a lot splurges I'd make without blinking when I was gainfully employed.  Salon quality (i.e. expensive) shampoo and conditioner and goodies from Sephora, shopping at Anthropologie and J.Crew on the regular, buying shoes without rubber bottoms, and grande two pump vanilla soy lattes whenever I wanted.  Turns out, I don't have many places to wear the nicer clothes, since I'm not taking the chance of getting spit up or pb and j on a dry clean only blouse.  And why would I wear anything other than my Rainbows, Toms, or Nikes when running to Target with the kids?  But I do get a lot of guilt when buying extras for myself since I still see the money as not my own. Which is silly, especially since my husband never makes me feel that way, it's just my own hang up of leaving the working world and having someone else provide for me.  In the end, the things I've given up definitely don't even come close to the satisfaction I get from being home and being just a mom.

The other challenge is something most people don't want to admit in fear of seeming ungrateful or taking it all for granted and I probably would have wanted to slap someone for saying this after our loss, but it can be hard being home all day.  There are no breaks.  Ever. I don't help the matter since I basically choose to never leave or get a  sitter, but it's hard being "on duty" from the moment the children wake up and until they go to bed... and wake up multiple times during the night.  As much as most people hate them, I used to love my commutes.  It was my time to unwind, alone, with my thoughts. Turn up the music, call a friend, or relax.  Nowadays I don't even pee by myself.  You know what I mean?... see, now I'm coming off ungrateful! Not the case, but I need to work on getting some Mommy-Free Time more often.

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

To be honest, pretty much.  Sure the day to day stuff or adult stresses... or the road we took to get here, were never dreamed of.  But yes, I always dreamed I'd have the chance to stay home while my children were young.  

There, keeping this section short.  

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

Not to say this life isn't without some bumps and sacrifices, but yes.  It's exactly how I'd pick it to be.  You know, outside winning the lottery and hiring a cleaning service or something.

-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'm still undecided.  I always thought after my kids went to school, I'd become a teacher.  Summers off and hours that mostly reflected my childrens' so I could be there for all the after school activities. While I'm still not 100% about my future career, I'm pretty sure I'm not cut out for teaching.  I'm definitely not ready to finish the credits and testing it would require to become certified at this point with two small children at home. And while I could always return to a position that would utilize my degree, I'm not sure that's really what I want.  I don't feel satisfied in that line work, and while finding the right part-time or partial work from home position sounds pretty decent - supplemental income, yet still able to remain a caregiver and active in my kid's activities, I just don't consider it my first choice. 

Last Fall, I opened an etsy shop selling children's teepees. I really loved the work, I've always found doing things with my hands - building, crafting, sewing... blogging? really therapeutic.  Of course the dream is to love what you do, and I guess I feel if my job is purely supplemental, I'd like to explore an area that brings me more satisifaction.  If we decide we need a larger contribution (ie, utiliizing my degrees in a more corporate setting), then I'll gladly step back into that role to make sure my family is getting what they need.  I just would prefer to be home when my kids get home from school and be available to take them to soccer practice or a piano recital, whichever.    

-Tips on how you make this work for you? And how do you handle mommy guilt that comes with each role?

I'm not sure I really have tips.  Advice I would give myself, is to cut myself some slack.  With having an eight week old who still nurses on demand, sometimes I have to rely on Mickey Mouse occupying the toddler so she climbing on us during a feeding.  I still think she doesn't get nearly the amount of screen time some children do as I keep the tv off during the day, but I always feel guilt when I rely on tv.  I feel since I'm a "stay at home mom" I should be engaging and teaching my children at every opportunity, which is a little ridiculous.  No one is a "pinterest" mom with constant arts and crafts, music, and calligraphy or whatever next ridiculous thing we should be teaching our toddlers is. So that's an area I (and anyone else) should cut some slack.

This also goes for some of the other roles of "homemaker".  Just because I stay at home with the kids doesn't mean I have to complete the laundry, cooking, cleaning, and errands and to have a spotless home every day.  We probably have 3-4 fresh meals a week and the other nights leftovers or easy frozen stuff, and that's okay.  So is waiting to split half the chores with my husband over the weekend.

Finally the guilt of "being just a mom" definitely weighs over me, and the student loans I'm still paying off.  That's still something I'm working on, but I cling to the fact I know I'm happier here at home than I ever was in my career.

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

If you have the means to stay home and it's your dream, don't allow the societal judgement to keep you from that.  While women have been working decades to shatter the glass ceiling and be strong career minded women, it doesn't mean you are weak or less of woman to want to stay home and raise your family.  Most female mammals nurture their young, it's embedded in our DNA and there is nothing wrong with fulfilling that urge if you are lucky enough to do so.

Thank you so much for having me Julia and readers of My Life in Transition!

(Find the entire series linked here to read more) 

Cecelia at Twenty Months

I've started telling people that Cecelia 'will be two in May' instead of saying she is twenty months old. In a lot of ways I think she seems older than her age and it's hard to believe she is still four months away from two.


Things Cecelia loves:

-Brushing her teeth approximately 8 times per day. Mostly she is just obsessed with toothpaste and tries to eat it constantly. She will say 'teeth!' and run in to grab her various toothbrushes and demands toothpaste, too. We usually just pretend to do a little bit or else we give a speck of it. The girl cannot get enough and we have started closing bathroom doors to keep her out.

-Washing her hands/playing in the sink water. Another reason we shut the bathroom doors. She has also figured out how to pump the soap and will walk around the house with palms full of soap bubbles. Pretty gross and of course she freaks out if I help her wash it off. She loves to use the step stools to reach the sink and is really good at problem solving ways to get at the sink/toothbrushes. Determined little girl can hear if Truman leaves a bathroom door open within 0.2 seconds of him exiting the facilities.

(also loves to 'color'.)

-Calling anything that is a fleck of dirt 'poop'. She is very concerned that all dust bunnies, smears of peanut butter, and old crumbs might be 'poop'. She also calls all diapers 'poop' but will deny the deed when she actually produces one.

-Playing with her big brother, especially first thing in the morning. On our days at home, we keep Truman's Tot Clock set to switch at 7:30 am. Usually both kids will actually wake up by 7 am, so now I will get CC and let her go into Truman's room to 'play' for 30 minutes. He is usually really excited about this, too, and I've heard things like, 'Good morning, baby girl! Want to play with me? How did you sleep? See, my clock is still blue so we have to stay in my room now.' She eats it up and will basically do anything he tells her....this time of the day, at least.



-Using the doppler to check on the baby. She refers to the doppler itself as 'baby' and will get very upset if I deny her the ability to help hear the heartbeat. She also likes to poke my belly and laugh (Pillsbury Doughboy, anyone?) and says, 'baby.' She obviously has NO clue what is about to happen, but it's still cute. When we ask Cecelia if she wants a sister or a brother, she will now say 'sis-ah'. When I say, 'Is mommy's baby a boy or a girl?' she will respond 'guuuurrl'. It's freaking adorable. Again, she is totally clueless but still it's fun.

-Giving kisses and hugs if we 'fake cry' upon her refusal. Meaning, we ask her for a kiss and she says 'NO!' because she is way too busy for that mushy stuff most of the time. So if Nate or I proceed to pretend cry she will rush over to us and kiss us right on the mouth, then she will hug us to make it all better. My little caregiver. Probably not the best way to coax her into affection but whatever!


-Her baby dolls, any push toys, and running in circles around our lower level with Truman.

-Saying 'roar!' to Nate when he comes home from work.

-Trying to stand up in her chair every night at dinner, despite being strapped in. She also likes to be finished with every meal in approximately 3 minutes because she is a busy body who cannot be confined for any length of time.



-Going anywhere at any time. She likes playing at home a lot, too, but if she hears us talking about going somewhere on an errand she will yell 'GO!' and runs to find her shoes. The car rides are 100x better with her forward facing, too.

-Tutus and skirts. She will often help me pick out her clothes (No, not already!!!) and likes to wear the frilliest stuff possible.


Things Cecelia despises:

-Diaper changes. They are the worst right now and she is so freaking strong, it's getting to be quite the Olympic sport to hold her down and clean her up.

-Me, sometimes. At least it appears that way. She will say 'No, Mommy!' over and over again in response to anything that irritates her. Even if I'm in a different room and am totally innocent, she will yell, 'No, Mommy!' in an accusatory fashion while her brother steals a toy from her. Or if Henry looks at her the wrong way. It's not like she is calling me in to tell me something is wrong, it's very clearly a statement made out of frustration. I don't know why I'm to blame for all of her struggles in life, but I suppose I will take that as a compliment.

(Loves her daddy, though. Requests to watch 'Foo-ball' all the time with him in the playroom)

-Getting rid of her nuk (!!) for everything except her crib. We used to be so good about this rule and she'd always throw it in her crib after a nap or to start the day, and we'd also use it in the car. But then we had a horrific week full of clinginess and whining and OMG it was awful. I still think she must have been going through a tough developmental phase combined with teething and a cold or something, but it was bringing me to the edge of sanity. She wanted the nuk ALL of the time, which was not like her, and we started giving in more and more often. But then that didn't even help with her discontentment, so eventually I put my foot down. On the way home from Lori's last week, I refused to give her the nuk in the car. Or at home that evening. Or the next day at all aside from her nap and bedtime. Let me tell you, she was PISSED at me and it was torture for us all. But after about 2 days of her asking for the stupid thing non-stop, she got over it. Now she knows it's for the crib only and will throw it in without question, and doesn't even try to sneak it back out like she did previously. Our next step will be getting rid of it for sleep and I'm not looking forward to that one, but whatever. It's going to happen sooner or later.

-Being anywhere but my hip for the first 30 minutes of the morning, and right before dinner time. Some days are better than others with this but for the most part she just needs to be held by mama. Flattering but also really challenging since those are the two times of day that require a LOT of accomplishments (i.e. work morning hustle and bustle, preparing dinner alone with two kids most nights).

-Having any help with any task. She does NOT want us to hold her hand coming down the stairs anymore, and she even tried to smack me in the face the other day when I tried. OMG. She will undress her lower body completely (including one ill fated incident at daycare involving a poopy diaper and nap time....ugh) and is not happy when we offer to help with the challenging clothing items. Cecelia hates when I carry her plate of food to the table as she wants to do it alone (and spills it every time I allow her to try). She is very independent, obvi.

(I melt over this smile)

Other random things about our girl at 20 months:

Cecelia is really the sweetest little sass-pot around. One minute she will melt our hearts with innocence and the next she will jab Truman square in the eye for no reason. Big brother never had a case of the 'terrible twos' or anything remotely close....but this one might be a different story. She can be very reserved in public and I'm pretty sure she has never ever done anything on command for strangers. If they ask her a question she will just stare. She does not like to be put on the spot, but our girl is certainly a chatter box at home. She repeats the last word of most every sentence now which can be pretty hilarious (like the time I told Henry he was being psycho, and CC said, 'Psychoooooo?').

She is still long and lean, wearing all 24 month and some 2T clothes in certain brands. Size 4 diapers just barely fit now and her size 5 shoes are really too small, so I think it's time for some 6's. I think she weighs about 23-25 pounds now because she loves to pull out Nate's scale in the bedroom and weigh her self, then laugh in the face of those numbers (atta girl!).

(still my baby sometimes)

(brother's boots)

There are some big transitions for miss Cecelia ahead, which probably make me more nervous than it's worth. First, moving her crib into Truman's room (maybe this weekend!) could be awesome or a disaster. But it's time. I want her to get used to sharing his room now and in my heart I do think they will love it. Also thinking of moving her into a big bed sometime after 22 months since that is when we moved Truman. I have no problem keeping her in the crib for as long as we need to, but just like T at this age I feel like she is showing signs of big-bed-readiness. She bumps up against her crib at night and that seems to wake her up a lot, since I will go in and find her jammed against the rails.  Then of course another transition will be becoming a big sister right after she turns two. Maybe I'm being naive but I really think Cecelia will be fine with a younger sibling because she seems so mature to me. She loves to play with her brother and does a decent job of entertaining herself (with him) some of the time.


We love you so much, Cecelia sassy pants. You are simply the best little girl we could have imagined.

Baby #3: 17 weeks

Seventeen Weeks: 1.28.14


Photo thoughts: That is one high and legit bump.

Size of baby: An onion or turnip, and 5 inches long with almost 6 oz of weight. Also? The week of the fingerprints. God, I love when they acquire those babies---so adorable.

Cravings/Aversions: Loving water lately, cereal at night, and pizza. Lots of pizza. Truly cannot believe I've only gained 6 pounds so far in this pregnancy--I know the weight will come, but I feel like I'm doing a good job of listening to my body and eating what I want without making myself totally ill from indulgence. It also helps not to weigh myself at home and made for a nice surprise at my appointment when I didn't post big numbers (yet).

What I'm loving: Daily baby kicks that can be felt from the outside!! I haven't gotten Nate to feel this baby yet but it might be soon! I'm still in a sweet spot of pregnancy and really cannot complain about anything right now, so I'm cherishing it all because it's going so stinking fast.

What I'm anticipating the most: Big ultrasound in three more weeks. Also, starting to think about the actual labor process which both frightens me and excites me. Can't wait to see how it all happens for this babe and will absolutely get that epidural as soon as necessary, no need to push it off and cause a panic attack. I know what real contractions feel like, they are horrible, my thoughts spiral downhill rapidly when I'm in pain *that* intense, and I would be thrilled to make this last go round mostly enjoyable somehow! A little worried I might progress too quickly for the drugs, since my other two have been really fast, but I plan to befriend the anesthesiologist right when I get to the hospital if needed. No shame in my game;)

Miss anything?  Not really! Big progress with the lack of booze overall but I still have my days when I could literally taste red wine in my dreams. Which brings up a good point---I know a lot of girls have strong opinions about alcohol in pregnancy. I've never been brave enough to have an actual beverage during my pregnancies but I'm feeling like a half glass of wine here and there can't hurt. Rationally I know a small amount of booze won't harm my baby but I think I'd just feel so guilty. If I finally cave, I want to wait until 20 weeks or maybe even the third trimester. Thoughts on this? I'm assuming some girls indulge in the first or second trimester and it's fine….right? Considering it, for sure.

Worries: Should hear about the Quad Screen results later this week or early next. I've always done this test since my OB says 97% of her patients do it (and I trust her opinion fully), and it's always turned out fine for me in the past. Which of course makes me worry that this time I will have an increased risk of Down Syndrome or Spina Bifida---but I guess we will cross that bridge when we come to it. I like to be prepared and would definitely want to research amazing Pediatric Specialists if needed. Of course, even a special needs baby would be loved and welcomed in our hearts, but that life would be difficult to say the least. And I'd want the best care providers all lined up in that scenario. So *that* is why I do this blood test. I decline the other screenings and save the rest of my worries about 'bad results' for the Anatomy Scan.

Also, I've read two really heartbreaking stories of loss this week: one a still birth, one baby that died shortly after birth. I can't wrap my head around that kind of sadness and it takes all of my concerted effort to avoid the negative thoughts of 'that is going to happen to me.' Statistically it's not, but anything can happen. Which is why pregnancy and babies and our current children are such blessings. Please excuse me while I swallow the lump in my throat yet again while thinking about this.

Enough of the depressing stuff. Positive thoughts! Embrace the moment! Today I am pregnant...

Differences between pregnancies: I think my belly is about the same size now compared to Cecelia's pregnancy! I was also awaiting the Quad Screen results this week of her pregnancy and excited for the upcoming 20 week US. I think I've had every Anatomy Scan *right* at 20 weeks and am envious of girls who get theirs earlier. Truman's belly pic is still laughable but I did find it interesting that back then, I felt the swing from lots of energy to no energy all in the same day (like this time). I also found it really adorable how I was so stressed over picking the correct rug for T's nursery this week. I do still love his striped rug but did not recall crying over the decision. These types of previous posts make me feel like a haggard seasoned mom of multiple kids.

How I'm feeling: I'll be full of energy and very motivated to do a ton of housework/blog work/exercise on minute, and then a few hours later I will be utterly exhausted. I even took a 2 hour nap on the weekend, which I haven't done in many weeks. That happened after Nate took both kids out of the house for a few hours, and I cleaned the kitchen floors on my hands and knees, did all laundry, vacuumed, picked up the whole house, and then organized the kids' closets. Yeah, that was probably too much at once. My back hurt for the first time in this pregnancy but luckily it felt fine after my nap.

I was able to exercise three times this week which is a good goal for me, and I have three new workout DVDs to keep me entertained. So far my 'Bar Method: Pregnancy Workout' is my FAVE. Hurts so good. It's nice to be active again although I have no desire to push it all that hard, but I would like to stay in decent shape this time around mostly for my mental sanity. I definitely love having energy again and have been ramping up my caseload at work, staying up fairly late most nights, and exercising---but I do need to chill out at times and r-e-l-a-x when it gets to be too much.

Also, I feel like I'm getting a cold with a scratchy throat and itchy eyes. Colds when pregnant are awful, so I will just down the water and rest up and pray it goes away.

Sleep: Need to get more, but comfortable at night. Peeing as soon as I wake for the day but not waking up early to pee, thankfully.

Movement: Daily kicks, still pretty low, strong enough to feel on the outside. Love it so much. I still think feeling a baby move inside of me is probably one of the best things in my life, ever. Hormonal, yes, but it's just amazing.

Boy or Girl: Everyone is saying girl and I still agree, but can also picture a boy. Very enlightening, I know. My OB guessed girl based on the HR of 154 in the office last week. I wonder if she has good intuition about these things---pretty sure she guessed correctly for my other two. Thinking a lot about names this week and trying to narrow down my favorites on my list, but still not really discussing with Nate until we know who this baby is. Cannot wait!

The Bump: Apparent to me, but not so much to strangers. I know I'm not huge or anything but it still surprises me that people have such tact when it comes to asking me if I'm pregs. I certainly look pregnant in my eyes! The bump mostly stays the same size now--fairly high and round. And I love it.

Bare belly!

Milestones: Kicks from the outside.

Best moment of the week: Two things come to mind: 1. Laying in bed one morning, I felt the baby kicking and placed my hand over my tummy to see if I could feel it from the outside. I could, and the baby kept kicking me over and over again as I just smiled to myself and felt overwhelmed with gratefulness. Nate had already left for work and the kids were still asleep, so it was a nice little bonding moment with my third baby. This necessitated a Facebook status update, so you know it was a big moment for me;)

2. Truman again. There have been multiple times he will randomly come up to me and say, 'Look at how big your tummy is getting! I'm going to kiss and hug the baby now,' and he does. He will lean in and kiss my belly so gently, then gives me a hug right around my hips. I could seriously die from his sweetness and love how much he thrives being the 'big brother' of the house. He's such a good one, too.

Moms Make it Work: Darci from North Carolina

Today's guest poster is Darci, one of my long-time 'internet friends' from waaay back in our wedding planning days. She is our first mom who works from home (full time!) and I love her take on mommy guilt and the adjustment to a baby who will NOT sleep. Enjoy!


Hello!  My name is Darci, and I am a 34 year old Mom who works full-time from home.  My husband Brad and I are Chicagoans at heart but (sort of) recently relocated to Charlotte, NC. We were married in 2008 and our daughter was born in August of 2011, not long after we made the big move.  I used to blog pretty regularly at With This Nest, but now I can be found mostly on instagram. As everyone else has mentioned, I was thrilled that Julia asked me to be a part of this series.  I've been loving all the posts so far and as I started to write my own entry I was surprised at how cathartic it was!  So huge thanks to Julia for organizing all of this and apologies in advance for the personal therapy session written out in novel form below.


What is your background story? What was your career/schooling before you became a mom? And now where are you?
For most of my life I thought I wanted to be a teacher.  I even applied to college as an elementary education major, but realized rather quickly that I don't have the type of patience required for such a demanding job (teachers are truly saints)! I switched majors two more times and ultimately graduated with a marketing degree from the college of business.  I also met my husband in college and shortly after graduation we bought a condo in the Old Town neighborhood of Chicago and quickly acquired a mortgage, a dog, and all the battle scars that come from renovating a home together (one of our biggest fights to date was over a type of toilet seat in Home Depot.  Renovation might make people even crazier than weddings). When we moved to Chicago I found a job in the marketing department of a large human resource consulting firm and worked there for two years in a role that was a mix of public relations and entry level marketing.  It was exciting in that it was my first "real" job, but I realized after awhile that I was much more interested in finding new restaurants for lunch than I was about logo placements for promotional golf balls.  I then found a knowledge management role at an executive search firm and have been there for the past seven years.  The position is research intensive and more of an analytical role than my previous job, which I really like. 


About three years ago, Brad and I decided that we were ready to sell our condo and make a move out of Chicago.  We still absolutely love it there, but my family was slowly migrating East and it was time for Brad to make his exit from a stressful job in the finance world.  After living in a condo we were very ready for more space, and honestly I was done with the winter weather! I knew that I didn't want to leave my current firm so I approached my boss about the situation and proposed the idea of working remotely from Charlotte.  We don't have offices here so I knew I would be at home full-time, but our firm is international and the way we're structured lends itself well to the flexibility of telecommuting.  That being said, not a lot of people in my roll actually do work remotely so I was a little bit petrified of making the big ask.  But you know, you miss 100% of the shots you don't take and Lean In and all that - so I asked and my boss said yes, and it was an amazingly smooth transition.  Now I work from home, in the guest room of our house.  Yes - most of the time I am in some version of yoga pants.  No - I don't always manage to get in a shower everyday.  But I can confidently say that I am far more productive in my little home office than I was in a corporate environment.  There are things I miss about being in an office for sure, but for me the benefits far outweigh the negatives.

As I mentioned, my husband needed to get out of his work situation in Chicago so he left his job when we moved.  The day we unpacked the moving van in Charlotte we found out we were pregnant, which was a huge shock because at that point we had been trying for about two years.  After a lot of thoughtful discussions we decided that Brad would remain at home once the baby arrived, since at that point he was mostly day trading and working for himself.  Given that we needed the stability of my job and that he could be more flexible with his time, he kind of fell into the roll of primary daytime caregiver after my maternity leave was up.  Definitely not something we had ever talked about prior to getting pregnant, but it's what works for us at this stage in our lives.


What are the best parts of your situation? What are the biggest challenges? 
The best part of my situation is that I am home all the time and the biggest challenge is that I am home all the time!  I really, really love the flexibility of working from home.  I get to eat every meal with my girl, and am here to snuggle her cuddly post-nap self almost everyday.  There is no commute, so when I am done with work I walk out of my office and there is my family.  I was also able to breastfeed for an extended amount of time because I almost never had to pump - I just took a break to go feed my girl and went right back to work.  That being said, it can be challenging to balance (and separate) home and work sometimes. When something is really wrong and only mama will suffice (which, in terms of toddler dramatics can mean a lot of the time) Em knows that I am just a room away.  And "me time" is pretty much nonexistent - during nap times I am working, and when work is over for the day I am right into the fray of cooking dinner, spending some quality time together and then starting the bedtime routine.  Sometimes I fantasize about a 20 minute train ride after work to sit quietly by myself and read a book.  But the same can likely be said for any role...I don't think I've ever heard a Mom complain of having too much downtime!

Is this how you expected it to be pre-kids?
I always knew that I wanted kids, because my own family is extremely close and has always been such a force in my life.  But honestly, before I met Brad thoughts of family were always in a hypothetical sense.  Once he proposed (ahem, 10 years after we started dating) my way of thinking quickly changed and I knew that I was very ready to have a family of our own.  I don't think I had a lot of expectations beyond the desire to just have kids, until we struggled to get pregnant.  During the two years we were trying we had two miscarriages, the first of which was very late in the first trimester (11.5 weeks). I took it really hard. I would be lying if I said that those losses didn't change the way I imagined I would be as a mother.  I hesitate to use the word infertility because (as Kate already said) I know so many people who have been through much worse than we have. But the thing about struggling to get pregnant is that you have a lot of time to think about (and wish desperately for) your future family.  I spent months and months daydreaming about what it would be like if/when/how and I think I actually did myself a disservice in that all that imagining lead to some VERY high expectations.  I was going to cherish every single moment with my little future cherub, and if we were lucky enough to get pregnant I wouldn't so much as raise my voice to that little person.  I am exaggerating a little, but you get the point.  I would have the kid who sat perfectly in a restaurant happily eating anything on his or her plate (damn you, Bringing Up Bebe). I was going to have an all natural birth because I would have a quick labor like all the other women in my family, and I would politely sigh out a perfectly healthy bundle of joy (oh, the fall from that high horse is quite a way down.  I had a 24 hour+ labor that ended in an emergency c-section). But the truth is? It doesn't matter if it took two months or two years to get pregnant, or how your birth story ended. Newborns are the great equalizer.  Those little people can be HARD to live with and have agendas of their own right from the beginning, no matter how much you planned to be all Mary Poppins and sing their medicine into their mouths while knitting them sweaters every night.  So I've had to spend some time undoing all of those expectations and learning to just be the best mom and wife that I can be on any given day.  I read a quote once from Anna Quindlen that I now have in my office: "Nobody really needs a bath every night. Nobody really needs a perfectly balanced meal for every meal.  I should have let the freak flag fly a bit more.  It's hard to be a Type A mom.  I wish I could have been a bit more B plus, for my sake and their own."  

Is this your ideal situation? If not, what is?
Ideally, I would love to have a four day work week (maybe even three).  I always crave a little more balance than what I have now but I can't really complain.  Brad would like to return to working out of the house again soon and Em will start preschool part-time next year, so there will likely be some changes coming in our future. Right now we're both making sacrifices to maintain a situation that overall works pretty well for everyone. So I wouldn't say it's a perfectly ideal situation but it's close!

How do you handle mommy guilt that comes with your role?
Since I had set the bar pretty high for myself, I initially had a lot of guilt about how much I struggled during the newborn days. I somehow thought I would just be pretty damn good at the whole thing and even though I would be a little sleep deprived, I would still be me....just me with a baby.  I underestimated how much my life would change (honestly, what did I do with all that free time?) and I was hard on myself for being so overwhelmed.  Looking back I think a lot of those feelings of being overwhelmed had to do with lack of sleep.  Em was not a good sleeper (we still struggle with it sometimes...I've read and researched and tried everything and at 2 we are just now hitting a bit of a stride.  It's another novel of a post in itself).  I remember when I was in the thick of it saying to a friend, "when does this get easier?" And she gave it to me straight, "nothing will start to get easier until everyone is sleeping."  It's so true.  I felt guilty about the part of me that was a little excited to return to work, close that door to my office and sit and drink a cup of coffee in peace.  To interact with some adults who just knew me as Darci, not as a Mom.  I still struggle with feeling guilty about various aspects of motherhood but I am a lot easier on myself than I was in the beginning.  I think that's the key - cut yourself some slack.  Everyone is just doing the best the can, and that looks different for all of us.  B plus.

Tips on how you make this work for you?  Advice for new moms struggling with returning to work outside of the home? Or struggling to decide if staying home is the right choice? 
As far as making the decision to return to work (whether at home or outside it) or to stay at home, it's such a personal one.  And I think all you can do is decide what is the best fit for you and your family right now - and keep in mind that doesn't mean you're deciding the next 20 years of your life.  It doesn't have to carry that much weight. Do what works for as long as it works, and when it stops working then it's time to make a change!

Thank you again to Julia for hosting this series and cheers to all you moms out there who are making it work!

Questions from the Internets: Part 2

There were a lot of questions about blogging when I did the Six Questions interview. I've never really blogged about blogging, but here it goes!

When did your blog change from a 'side blog' that a few people read, to a blog that garnered lots of followers? When did product testing come into play? Do you think you would ever want to become a full-time blogger? -Marta, long time reader

To be honest, I'm baffled when I look at my page view stats. It's not like I regularly get 50 comments per post or anything, but I suppose the number of comments doesn't always correlate with the number of readers one has as a blogger? I've thought a lot about this and either my readers prefer to just read a post and move on, without actually interacting with me as a blogger (very possible) or there is something else going on here. Perhaps blogs are not as popular in general anymore because it takes a lot more effort to click multiple places, enter in passwords, and make comments as a reader---it's so much easier to just read a post and move on. Or 'like' a picture on Instagram or some of the other more 'user friendly/EASY' social media forms. Commenting on blogs is hard and time consuming, this I know. #FirstWorldProblems

That said, yes---I do have a fairly large following according to my Blogger stats and Feedly stats. I don't really know when that changed, but I'm guessing it was just a gradual thing over time. I have been blogging here at this exact same domain for over six years now so it makes sense that more people read this blog now than they did in 2007. It definitely wasn't anything sudden but there was a jump in readership with each baby being born around these parts, too---perhaps people just like to look at pictures of babies and read mommy blogs that stick around for a few years.

I will say that I never made a dime off my blog until fairly recently, and joining BlogHer in October of 2012 was/is my biggest source of any revenue. It's not a ton but it's something, which is a lot more than what I made on this blog a few years ago. I don't post a ton for them right now, but when Target asked me to be a 'social influencer' about a year ago, that was pretty big, too. 'Pretty big' as in a gift card here and there but never anything that will allow me to quit my day job;) I've done a few other giveaways for companies which usually means I get something out of it, too. I certainly cannot complain with any of this and feel grateful that there are opportunities to make a chunk of change through this platform.

Which brings up your last point: would I ever want to do this full time? In reality, probably not. For a lot of reasons, mostly because if this became a job with actual income for my family, it would lose the aspect of 'fun' for me. Too much pressure or something. It wouldn't be the same, since I truly blog mostly for myself (selfish!) and want to keep it that way. Well, I blog for myself but I also blog because of the connections it provides, the support, the relationships I've gained. There are lots of reasons I blog, really but deep down I want it to come from my heart and be for me/my family with a public following that enjoys reading along.

Whenever Nate asks me, 'Why don't you just make your blog huge and rake in the cash?' (not his exact question, but probably something along those lines) I always tell him the same thing: I'm a wuss. I don't want to take the risk. Meaning, I am incredibly fortunate to avoid negative, hateful comments right now. I feel like the bigger a blogger gets the more she is opening herself up to criticism. Maybe I should just toughen up and grow a pair but I kind of like being in my own little bubble over here, happily pecking away at the keys and feeling mostly liked by my readers. I'm a people pleaser and want people to like me. If I started to make bank on this blog (not that I could just snap my fingers and make that happen, anyway) I know I'd probably gain a few haters along the way. Not really worth it to me, although I'm fully aware I probably have some people who dislike me already without being 'big time'. Again, I prefer to be blissfully unaware right now.

I guess I'd see myself as a 'sell out' if I tried to make a run at blogging for real. I mean, even applying for BlogHer took a lot of pep talks from my inner self. I just felt like I held out so long and part of my 'thing' was NOT going the way of ads and money making with this blog. But in the end, I realize it can't hurt to continue writing from my heart, mostly for myself, and having a small bit of money come in along with that. I try to stay true to myself and don't agree to every giveaway because I do want this blog to stay true to my roots. But evolving a bit and focusing a little more on the 'business' side of blogging is also a good thing. Change is good. Having some gulit-free 'me' money to spend on a Starbucks treat, or a few new maternity clothes is also really awesome. I don't think many of my readers would fault me for that.

As a 'mommy blogger' and working mom, how do you balance your time between your life and blogging? What advice would you give other bloggers? -Lindsey R.

Ah, another 'balance' question but related to the act of blogging and not just life in general. I make the time to blog in the evenings after the kids go to bed. Sometimes if I have a break in my work day and I'm at home, I will work on the blog a bit then, too. I will read comments on my phone during the day but don't sit down to actually approve those comments until I'm at home on the computer. So I guess I have a system of how I can work blogging into my schedule and it's working well for the time being. I've definitely had phases when I cannot put the blog at the top of my priority list (i.e. newborn phases that turn into the entire first year of my kids' lives as they have been horrible sleepers). That time in the evenings seems to get a little tighter and blogging just doesn't fit into the day with little babies. I figure that it's totally normal to go through 'dry spells' on the blog and it makes it that much more fun when inspiration and the time to blog both align again.

My best advice to any blogger trying to find time to post and balance life? Make sure it's fun and that you don't mind carving out time into your day for the blog. You'll find a way if it's worth it to you even if you need to take a major break on regular posting. If it seems too stressful and not fun anymore, then take that break. Maybe you'll find your mojo again someday.

What do you like the best about blogging? What do you like the least?-Babytakesmanhattan

I love the sense of community, getting feedback and support, and ultimately I love the 'friends' I've made through this blog. Three of my closest real life friends in Milwaukee I have because of this blog. I think starting this blog right after I got married and moved to a brand new state was key--I needed new friends and found them through this form of social networking. Fist pound to the internet for that one. There are so many other girls whom I have an 'email relationship' with (not to sound creepy) all across the USA and beyond, and I sure do love email as a primary form of communication with friends;) Getting a comment on a post that says 'I can relate to this!' or 'Thank you for sharing this part of yourself, I needed to hear this today,' makes it worth every second spent behind this computer screen. So yes, the sense of community and connecting and forming relationships with other women who would never be in my life otherwise is the best part of blogging.

What do I like the least? I guess the vulnerability of putting it all out there for the world to see. But obviously that doesn't bother me *too* much if I'm still blogging publicly, right? I could also say that I really despise html and all of the technical stuff that comes with having a blog but whatever---I try not to confuse myself too often with all of that.

In your opinion, what are the top qualities to make a successful blogger? -Eric C.

My favorite bloggers have that amazing combination of honesty, sarcasm, and a bit of quirk that makes me excited to read what they have to say. Pretty photos of adorable kids never hurt, either. I think successful bloggers have to be relatable and down-to-earth, along with being great writers and story tellers. They take risks and aren't afraid to be sellouts if they are truly successful in the monetary sense ;)

Do you ever go back and edit or delete a previous post? -rgeddy

No, not unless I publish a post and later remember additional information (ramblings) that I wanted to include. But I've never dug through my archives and deleted any of the cringe-worthy, ancient posts from another time in my life. I figure those old posts are there and they are what they are, showing how much my life has changed over time in the past six years. What was I saying about change being good?

What would you recommend to someone who is trying to make their blog more 'successful' in terms of visits? -Sylvia Y. 

Probably the biggest thing is reaching out and connecting to other bloggers. Comment on other blogs frequently. Eventually those bloggers will probably do the same for you. Keep writing, find inspiration, and then don't worry too much about the stats after that.

Do you find yourself seeing the world in a different light since blogging? For example, do you tend to notice the little things more? -bucketomonkeys

It's hard to say since I barely remember what life was like before blogging---simply because it was so long ago. I suppose I do think about events differently, as in 'this would make an excellent blog post' or 'crap, Cecelia is almost 20 months old so I better start mentally composing her monthly post.' But I don't know that I notice the little things as a blogger. I probably just think more like a blogger if that makes sense.

And now for pictures that do not make sense in this post, except that I usually blog about my kids and here they are! Can't write a post without pictures and this little photo series was almost too much cuteness for my heart to handle. Truman wanted to get in the crib with CC after her nap on Thursday. I obliged.

Plus, I'm going to miss Cecelia's pink crib and pink lanterns and nursery in general (assuming she is going to keep the crib in Truman's room, or if the baby is a boy I would considering painting it a more masculine color and moving her to a big bed). Must commemorate this nursery before it changes.


Hugs for brother.

Only a few bumps and bruises with two in the crib.

She just loves this kid.


Her big brother is pretty awesome.

Two more parts to the 'Internet Questions' await!

Winner of Pear Tree Greetings Giveaway

And the winner is comment #22, RasinKanes!

Congrats!! I will email you shortly!

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!


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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13 daddy benny

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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!
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