Meet Joan, a working mother and 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!
Joan and I are nearing our ten year friendaversary. We met through my husband as she was a coworker of his at Borders. Joan and I have been through thick and thin over the years and I can truly say that I think of her as a sister. She is my first son’s Oddmom and has been a wonderful constant in his, and my life. She is also featured all over this blog so she may be a familiar face for many of you.
I knew long ago that Joan was a fantastic graphic designer. (Check out the work she did on my first and second baby showers. Amazing, right?) I’d honestly equate her ability to turn nothing into something beautiful as magic if I hadn’t seen her doing it time and time again. On top of a talented worker, Joan is an amazing parent. I often learn tricks and tips from just watching her with her son or mine. I’m very excited that she agreed to do this interview with me.
Meet Joan, a working mother
Joan and her husband have been together for about fifteen years and have been married for ten of those years. Their son Desmond is two years old. Joan worked as a graphic designer in the printshop of a healthcare company before, during and after her pregnancy.
“I worked throughout my pregnancy, until 2 days past my due date (well into the largeness that makes people’s eyes go big with concern.) It was a big priority for me to spend as much time as possible with the kiddo once he arrived, and working right until delivery day was part of the scheme,” she said.
Joan shared about why she likes her job, “My job is a nice mix of creative work and craft. I really love working in print. I love the noise and busyness, the smells of ink and paper. I like bending technology to my will, and using the tools I have to make things more beautiful, useful, and intuitive. I love the moment when a piece of the design falls into place; you exhale, and everything is quiet and peaceful inside. In my more vain moments, I really like seeing something I designed, crisp and perfectly trimmed; or as an enormous print.”
She also has found that it is pretty difficult to beat the benefits of working in a union shop at a healthcare company.
She explained, “There is a LOT of comfort in knowing that if something goes horribly wrong with our health, that we won’t be broken financially.”
In thinking about working during her child’s early years she shared that though this is a hard time, it is ultimately what is best for their family.
“I have a lot of fears about leaving the field and not just losing ground professionally, but also losing the confidence it takes to do creative work for a living,” she said.
A typical work day in the life of a graphic designer and mother of one
“Things are winding down to a more sensible pace now that we have a toddler instead of an infant. He still needs pretty constant attention, but he’ll play independently more often. Also, no more pumping/bottle cleaning shenanigans. Or waking up at all hours of the night,” said Joan of their daily work-week schedule.
She wakes up around 6:45 in the morning. Her husband will make the coffee and pack bags while she gets Dez dressed for the day and ready to head out the door. They leave the house by 7:30 AM and she does her one hour commute that includes daycare drop-off. She typically arrives to work at 8:30 AM.
During her lunch break she typically runs errands, naps, or takes a walk and chooses to eat at her computer. She leaves work around 5:15 PM, picks up her son and is often home around 6:15 PM.
Brandon usually makes the family dinner while Joan spends time with the kiddo. They eat as a family and Joan cleans up while Brandon spends time with Dez. They finish the evening off with some family time before starting the bedtime routine of bath and books.
“Kid’s down by 9:30 and by then we’re usually pooped,” she said.
When my child is an adult and looks back at his childhood, I want them to know…
“I think our generation has had a tough time of learning how to be married with undefined gender roles. Each couple finds their own way. It’s hard to find a balance that doesn’t leave anyone feeling resentful or less than. But when a balance comes, I think it can make for a very profound partnership. As we work on this partnership, our balance right now includes us both working. Dad cooks. Mom cleans. Dad does laundry and mom folds. We take turns with the yard and garbage. We both parent. I hope that as an adult, Dez knows the need for compromise and communication in his relationships—however the norm falls for the next generation. I also hope it lets us both have a close and nurturing relationship with him as he grows up.”
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 child?
“I took 10 weeks of maternity leave, then returned part time for 6 weeks before resuming a full-time schedule. Brandon worked from home while I was part-time, and then took his paternity leave when I went back full time. Between everyone’s banked vacation time (and most of our down-payment savings…) we kept the kiddo home for 6 months before he started daycare. The first day away is heartbreaking at any age, and they get used to new routines so fast. But even 6 months felt a little young to split his whole day with 3 other babies. His caretakers were wonderful, and we’re so happy with his daycare. But he was just so small and utterly dependent. I had him in a daycare close to work, which helped a lot. I was able to visit him during lunch breaks, and spend some one-on-one time. “
What type of childcare solutions do you use in order to work?
“Dez is in a daycare center and it costs just over 40% of my take-home pay.”
What challenges do you have as a working mother?
Joan cautioned her challenges with a little explanation, “This sounds like my life is miserable, but that isn’t true; there is so very much joy. My life isn’t miserable, it’s just incredibly full right now.”
Her challenges include:
- “Time! 14 waking hours are booked solid every weekday. That doesn’t include laundry or cleaning floors or bathrooms… yard work, grocery shopping… sleep…”
- “Sickness: We have a pretty solid system for the day. But if anyone gets sick, EVERYTHING FALLS APART. It usually starts with Dez. He catches something from daycare and spreads it with the enthusiasm of a toddler. He’s suddenly double the work. It spreads to one of us. Sick parent can’t heal because there isn’t any time. Healthy parent has double the workload with a sick family. Parents swap rolls. It’s TERRIBLE.”
- “Staying emotionally close as a couple: We’ve been partners and loves and best friends for 15 years. Now we have a little one that just requires attention all the time. It’s honestly hard to get past pleasantries on most days. I know this situation of having a very small child is temporary. He’ll grow and become independent. But right now, we miss us.”
What joys do you have as a working mother?
“Bar none, the best moment of every workday is picking up Dez from daycare. The second he sees me, he drops his toy and RUNS across the room, happy shrieking, ‘Mom! Mommy! Mommy!’ Then he jumps into my arms for a hug. Then there’s the barrage of his daily recap in toddlerese. ‘Mommy! I saw bird! I paint!’ It’s wonderful.”
Daycare is an important learning tool for Joan and her son, “We’re not planning on having more children. So him having so much exposure to other kids is a big plus for us. The playing is great, but more so it’s the hard stuff. Disagreements. Learning to share. Getting angry and learning how to forgive; how to apologize. It’s a long road and he continues to learn. He’s in a situation where he’s both on a set schedule and exposed to new things all the time. I really don’t feel like I’m having others ‘raise my kid’ (something I see on forums a lot). We’re his stability and constant love. It would’ve been good for him if one of us or a family member stayed with him every day. It’s also good for him to go to a place with trained caretakers and other kids. Both would nurture his mind and spirit.”
Joan also finds more joy in her work now, basically, because she just doesn’t have time not too!
“I actually think this whole thing has made me a more effective employee. I used to bend over backwards to keep the peace, work extra hours to mitigate conflict with a hard client. I just. Don’t. Have. Time. Anymore. I’ve run out of patience with everyone’s b/s, especially mine. My fear of conflict and need for perfection have no place in this life. They still try to creep in, but I’m better at squashing ‘em now.”
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?
“Honestly, most other things in my life are on hold for the time being. I used to read several books a week; it’s a hard thing to get through 1 a month now. I am wonderfully lucky to have great and understanding friends. They love my kid, who’s along for nearly all social gatherings. They’ve also been understanding about me disappearing for a while when life gets too nutty. But really, they help keep me sane, and let me remember who I am besides ‘mommy.'”
How do you prioritize your family and children as a working mom?
“I have the great fortune of holding a job that almost never comes home with me. When I get home, I just get to be with my family, undivided.”
Joan also shared about a weekend tradition that has worked well for her family, “On Saturdays, I get to sleep in while Brandon and Dez have their morning. We switch and Sunday mornings are mommy and Dezzy time. I try to make it special. We’ll hike together, or go to the library, playground, or Children’s Museum. We have adventures; it’s fantastic.”
Fantastic Parenting Resources from Joan:
Joan shared a couple of her favorite parenting resources (which, honestly, may have to be a series on its own!) and I had to share them here as well:
- Zero to Three Science-based articles are written by child psychologists and social workers for early childhood development. I’ve found it enormously helpful with suggestions about difficult behaviors (aggression, separation anxiety, tantrums, etc…), and what normal behavior is during these ages.
- Longest Shortest Time This is a podcast that gets into parenting issues that usually aren’t discussed —like intimacy after childbirth, different parenting philosophies, and telling the stories of unconventional parents.
Thank you! A huge thank you to Joan 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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