This post is a part of a blog series of stories of working moms. I’m excited to share 13 stories from real working mothers. I also really would like to hear YOUR story and I’d love to hear it. Keep the conversation going in the comments & on social media using #wellcraftedworkingmoms. A huge thank you to the women who volunteered to share their stories, Mary Boyden of Mamma Bear Magazine for her photography and Madeline Roosevelt for hair and makeup!
I met Jenny Owens several years ago at a mutual friend’s birthday party. We typically saw each other about once or twice a year at party or two… until this past year when our mutual friend found out that both of his friends named Jenni were pregnant and due within a couple of weeks of each other. I quickly messaged Jenny and very much valued her friendship though Facebook messenger over the course of our respective pregnancy and infancy weeks. Her little man is adorable and sure looks cute with my little guy. Jenny is funny, smart, kind and—possibly my favorite thing about her— knows how to use a sarcasm well. I’m excited to introduce you to Jenny O!
Meet Jenny, a working mom
Jenny and her husband Nathan have been friends for over twenty years and have been married for seven of those years. She gave birth to their son approximately five months ago and it was not an easy road to get to where they are today.
“It took five years of trying, two miscarriages, and deciding we were done trying; and then I conceived unexpectedly. At the time we joked that it was either going to be ‘three strikes you’re out’ or ‘third time’s the charm’!” said Jenny. The third time ended up being a charmer for sure.
Jenny has worked for a a branch of Edward Jones, a brokerage firm, for the past eight hers. At the time of her pregnancy she was working full-time as an office manager— Senior Branch Office Manager. She worked right up until labor—literally!
“I didn’t think it was real labor, so I made it a point to work until market close (1 PM PST) before I had my husband pick me up so I could soak in a bath for pain-management. Five hours later I had my son in my arms!” she explained. (Check out her birth story here!)
Jenny elaborated on why she works which I hadn’t asked any of the women in the interviews, but now I wish I had! Some women have to work to make ends meet. Some women need to work to feel fulfilled. Some women feel that they need to work, but don’t feel they are in the right job. It takes all kinds, right? Jenny works for a number of reasons including feeling that it is just in her personality. But, beyond that, she has a very personal reason as to why she works.
“I work for a number of reasons, but first and foremost because I am the personality type that needs to work. My husband always says that he’d retire yesterday, if he could, whereas I’m pretty sure I’ll have at least part-time work for the rest of my life,” Jenny explained.
She continued, “Also, my dad died when I was barely a teenager, so I’ve seen that a person’s Happily Ever After can take a thoroughly unexpected nosedive, and it’s always been important to me to be able to take care of myself by myself, Just In Case. Having my own income is a large piece of that, and even more essential now that, should the worst happen, I’d also have a small child to care for.”
Jenny has chosen to work her particular job because she is good at it and that is satisfying. She genuinely loves helping people with their finances.
“And honestly? I love money. Rather, I love what money allows us to do- travel is very important to us as a family, and the extra money from my income (since we try to ‘live’ on my husband’s alone) makes it easier to go to some of the far-flung places on our list” she said.
A typical work day in the life of an office manager that is a mother to one
While she doesn’t feel quite like there is a typical for her and her family yet Jenny shared a bit of what her day may look like on a work day. She gets up just shy of 6:30 in the morning to do the wake-up routine of feeding and dressing her son. She goes downstairs and does her morning yoga routine with her son watching from his swing. She’ll then make breakfast for herself and sit on the floor as her son is working on his tummy time while she eats. He goes with her as she gets dressed for the day, but around 7:45 AM she leaves for work and her husband then takes over primary care and getting their son to care for the day.
Jenny gets to work around eight in the morning where she has half an hour of quiet time to make herself tea and review emails before the office opens for business.
She notes, “I treasure that quiet time way more than I used to!”
Throughout the day she takes two pumping breaks and one short break for a walk. She says she is fortunate to have a large break room to herself that she is able to secure for privacy while pumping. Her walk in the afternoon helps her clear her head and stay focused on her work. In addition to the breaks she sets her alarm to go off every thirty minutes to remind herself to get up and stretch.
She leaves work around 4:30 and heads home to greet her family and then immediately goes upstairs and changes into her “civilian clothes.”
Jenny explained,” That’s a tip my mom passed on to me, as a way to really mark the boundary between “Working Woman” and “Mommy”, and I find it very effective from a mental standpoint. Not to mention a laundry standpoint! I don’t care if my son blurps all over my civvies, but it’s such a pain when he manages to get my office wear, because sometimes those stains just won’t budge.”
Her husband and she trade off food-prep duties, but lately it has been him taking point on that because she is in charge of the bedtime routine. The bedtime routine stats around 6:30 in the evening and he is typically asleep by 7:00 PM. After he is asleep Jenny will head downstairs to write or possibly watch a little tv with her husband. She starts getting herself ready for bed around 8:00 PM and tries to be asleep no later than ten in the evening.
When my kids are adults and look back at their childhood, I want them to know…
“I really, really hope my son will understand that I work not because I didn’t like being around him- I actually like it quite a bit, certainly way more than I thought I would- but because it’s what’s right for me. The classic, ‘It’s not you, it’s me,’ bit” said Jenny.
She hopes that her example will show him that he can live a life that he wants—even if it’s hard— as long as he is willing to work for it.
She continued, “And I hope he internalizes the lesson that you should not make anyone but yourself the center of your Universe: it’s an unfair amount of pressure to expect someone else to give your life meaning and worth. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t devote any (or even a lot!) of your time and energy to someone you love, just that you shouldn’t let them take more than is healthy for you to give.”
Maternity Leave, Childcare & Mom Guilt… oh MY!
I absolutely had to ask a few questions about some of the topics that often come up for the working mom such as maternity leave, childcare, and the challenges & joys of working. I love the answers so much that I felt it was best to just put it in their own words. Read on to learn about the ups, downs, ins and outs of Erin’s working mom experience!
When did you go back to work after having your children?
I’m very fortunate that I live in Washington State, where there is a Family Leave Act that states your 12 weeks of FMLA is not to run concurrently with the 6 (or 8) weeks disability from giving birth- in other words, I got 20 weeks (ie four months) of job protection. I’m even more fortunate that we could actually afford for me to take the full four months off, since I didn’t get a paycheck for more than half of that time, and in fact had to pay the company for my continued medical benefits for the final four three pay-periods of my leave.
I became more and more conflicted as my return-to-work date drew nearer: on the one hand I was genuinely excited to go back to work. On the other hand, it tore my heart in two to imagine leaving my son all day. And those were two very distinct feelings, seemingly unrelated to one another.
What type of childcare solutions do you use in order to work?
I’m going to toot my “fortunate” horn again! My boss is amazing, and agreed to let me ease back into full-time work. What that translates to is that for right now I’m working three days a week, which will up to four days a week in April, and then eventually full-time that final week of April. That’s pretty useful, because the place we decided on for full-time childcare doesn’t actually have an opening until the beginning of May. In the meantime we are relying on the kindness of friends and family to get us through the next six or seven weeks. We pay a friend of ours to nanny at our house on Mondays (she is amazing and I sorely wish we could afford a nanny as a long-term solution, but alas, we cannot) and eventually Thursdays; my aunt watches him at her house on Tuesdays; and my husband flipped his schedule so that he can care for our son during the day on Wednesdays, and do his actual work at night. He still has to take calls, tho’, so it’s far from ideal. My boss’s wife is sort of our “substitute caregiver”, willing to fill in when one of the others can’t. We’re so lucky to have so many wonderful people in our tribe willing to love on and care for our son. The only stressful thing is that I don’t ever want them to feel like I don’t deeply appreciate them. I live in fear of them feeling as though I’m taking advantage of them! I try hard not to ever assume anything, because I am just so grateful.
Once the full-time child care slot opens up, it will cut my pay in half, more or less. Again, I’m fortunate- I’ve been in my role long enough (eight years) that I make enough money to still, well, make money after paying for childcare, insurance, etc etc. Not anything super impressive, but enough that it doesn’t turn my working into a poor financial decision (an important distinction for someone who works in finance!).
What challenges do you have as a working mother?
It’s actually a little difficult for me to answer this question, not because there aren’t challenges, but because I am paranoid of sounding like I’m complaining. I knew that choosing to “have it all” (ie daring to parent and bring in an income and have a personal life all at the same time) is basically signing up for An Extremely Challenging Event, so I feel like it’s ungrateful of me to say anything negative about the experience. I’m big on personal responsibility, you see? I know that there are women who have it way harder than I do: they don’t have support, or they work minimum wage jobs, or any number of factors. But then I have to remind myself that just because someone has it harder than you, doesn’t mean you aren’t legitimately having a hard time. I mean, having both your hands cut off is pretty bad, but I don’t think anyone would argue that having only one hand cut off is “good”. Right?
It’s like… a toxic part of me feels that because I choose to work, rather than having to work, I’ve rescinded all rights to say anything less than positive about the experience. Especially because I don’t really like focusing on the negative in general: I’m always hunting down that silver lining, even if I have to rip it bloody from the storm.
All that being said, it’s challenging to fit it all in. I feel frustrated that I’m not spending enough time at work (fortunately this will correct itself in a few more weeks), but I also feel frustrated that I only have a few precious awake-time hours with my son on those days that I do work, and on top of that I feel frustrated that I don’t have more time to do things like socialize and write and read and be active and oh yeah cook and clean I guess. I can do all of those things- just not as much as I’d like. As I put it recently to my mother, “I miss being spontaneously selfish.” But I think that has less to do with being a working mom and is just more of a universal parent thing.
In terms of working outside the home, it was really hard for me that first week when I’d get home and my son would sort of give me the cold shoulder for having been gone. He doesn’t do that now, thank goodness, but it was hard not to take it personally in the beginning.
What joys do you have as a working mother?
I love being a working mom because I love my job, and I love being a mom, and right now I get to do both! It’s sort of the flip-side of the challenge, you know? The days are just packed, and as frustrating as that can be from a time-management standpoint, it’s also really joyful, because they’re packed with good things.
And the thing is (as I mentioned earlier) I’m really good at my job, but I’m only regular good at being a caregiver (which is separate from being a “mom”). So it’s great that I get to spend my days doing something that I’m really good at, something that brings in extra money so my family can do more of the things we enjoy (like travel), and then on nights and weekends I can practice my “caregiver” hobby, as it were.
How do you fulfill the other needs in your life (going back to school, working on a dream business, seeing friends, being creative, etc.) while working and being a mom?
I am very lucky in that most of my friends already have kids, so they’re pretty damn understanding of the constraints that come along with trying to keep things On A Schedule. And those friends who don’t have kids… are also pretty damn understanding. Which I suppose is why I’m friends with them! As such, we all work with one another to eek out some socializing when we can, and no one is hurt or offended if plans fall through.
As for my creative needs, I make it a point to write something every day, whether I feel like it or not. I’m currently doing a 366 project where I’m creating a blog entry for every day of the year, be it fact, fiction, or photography, but on a more personal level I also made a commitment to journal every day. I just have to be gentle with myself and come to terms with the fact that this is a season of my life where I have to accept what I can give, even if what I can give is (limited) quantity over quality. It’s better than nothing; it gives me an outlet; and it keeps me in the habit for those days when I suddenly do have more than half an hour (plus some spare energy).
The other major non-family-need that I have is to stay active, and I sort of fit that into the nooks and crannies of my life. I do yoga in the mornings, ride my bike to work as weather allows, walk at least a mile on my break, and try to take my son on “urban hikes” a few days a week. I made a commitment to do a family hike (Two birds! One stone!) at least once a month, and so far we’re on track for that. As the weather gets better I’d like to get out into the Gorge every weekend, but we’ll see. No pressure, Self!
How do you prioritize your family and children as a working mom?
I am still working on this one, but for me putting down my phone and disengaging from social media is huge. Because I am out of my home and away from my loved ones for so much of the day, it’s important to me to be truly present when I am there- especially for my son. I’ve always been good about putting the phone away (or turning it off entirely) when I’m out on dates with my husband, but hanging out around the house is another story entirely. It’s been a hard habit to break, honestly, especially since I am a bit crazy for photos (especially now that I have the World’s Cutest Baby doing the World’s Cutest Things all the time…)
I’ve also drawn back from most of my outside-the-house activities (rock climbing is the biggest). This is definitely a season-of-life type withdrawal; I do hope to re-enter the world of climbing, eventually, but for now it’s important to me that the majority of my (now extremely rare and therefore extra precious) free time goes to my family. Someday my son will be old enough for me to introduce to the active things I love, but that time is not now. Well, except for hiking- you’re never too young for hiking!
Read more from Jenny:
Check out more fact and fiction from Jenny O at her blog: Oh No, Jenny O!
Thank you! A huge thank you to Jenny for sharing her story as a working mom and participating in this series. Does her story resonate with you? Share in the comments below or on social media with #wellcraftedworkingmoms !
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