I am always trying to come up with new and interesting topics for this blog, and recently I had a dream that I was interviewing my friend Pam and that I wrote this amazing article about her, everyone read it and the world cheered! Well, not exactly, but I did dream that I was interviewing Pam about being a mom. As with all great dreams, my insightful questions and her inspirational answers were lost when I awoke, but the idea remained. I have polled many of the moms I know and put out invitations to be interviewed for a new feature I am calling Each Mommy Matters.
The point of Each Mommy Matters is to show how we each have our own unique challenges, strategies and beliefs, but every mother I have ever met ultimately wants to raise her children to be great people to the best of her abilities. I have as yet to meet someone who wants to raise little a-holes. I have been interviewing my friends via email because so many of my mom friends are spread far and wide across the country and across the globe. As the feature continues on a “whenever” basis, hopefully we will begin to have a broad range of fabulous and interesting articles.
Of course, my first choice, go-to mom, is my mom, but she’s on vacation, heh. I have asked my best friend, Tara to answer a few questions for us. You might just be surprised at how quickly she can move you to laughter or tears, which is one of the many reasons I love her. Tara is the mother of two amazing children, Burke (6) and Cassidy (5) – who I would take home in a heartbeat if they fit into my suitcase – and the wife of Don, who she says is the male version of me (as if that’s not confusing…). She and her family moved to Knoxville, TN just about 4 years ago.
Is this where you grew up? If no, do you prefer where you are now to your hometown? What brought you to your current location?
No, we moved here from Southern California in January of 2008. We (me, my husband and our 2 children) moved for many reasons. We were concerned about the school system in Orange County and weighed the risk and expense of moving against paying for a private school for two kids. During this, my husband was laid off. Before having him begin the hunt for new employment, we toyed with the idea of me going back to advertising and him being a stay-at-home-dad. He just didn’t want to do that. So, he was out of a job and while I enjoyed my job, lay-offs were constantly rumored and the pay was just okay. Finally, we were missing a lot of the support two working parents with little ones could really use. Knoxville came up as our best option because there was a ton of family in the area, the school systems are stellar (seriously, check them out), there was huge economic growth and we both loved what we saw during our visits here.
This move, although one of the hardest things we’ve ever had to do, was the best decision we ever made. Don and I both agree that we would never move back to where we grew up (the OC). In Knoxville, we’ve found a community that supports young families, a school system that blows away anything we were facing in Orange County and we completely fell in love with the people. I have made more friends in the past 4+ years than I did in the past 20 years in California. People care about each other here…they reach out…they embrace the values many of us have forgotten as we get older and more successful. Heck, they hold doors open and courtesy wave! (It really is the little things, isn’t it?)
Quite simply…we’re home.
Tara brings up something very important to a family, and that is a good support system. I myself have been blessed with family who is close by and who want to be a part of Melody’s life. Otherwise, I don’t think I could have maintained my sanity these past 5 1/2 years. Sometimes the best thing really is to drop your kids off at Grandma’s house and go shopping, just because. I also asked Tara about being a working mother.
What did you do before you had kids? Have you continued doing that as a mom? If not, would you want to return to that at some point?
I was a Director at an advertising agency before I had kids. It was a pregnancy that convinced me I had to make some adjustments in my professional life. I can still have a career (I wouldn’t be happy any other way), but 16 hour work days and press checks at 3 AM just won’t fly anymore. I took a tremendous pay and status cut to find a position with much less hours and stress.
In retrospect, that first pregnancy saved my life. If I kept going on the path I was, I would probably be a 3-pack a day smoker with an ulcer the size of Oklahoma.
Although I do miss elements of advertising, I couldn’t go back to that stress level. If consulting work were possible some day in the future, I would be open to exploring that option. As it stands now, I have a position that not only pays very well with great hours, but I enjoy what I do and am respected. You really can’t beat that.
I know that Tara and I feel the same way, that working is what we enjoy in addition to parenting. It’s sometimes difficult when you have people in your ear, trying to convince you that “this way” or “that way” of raising your children is the “right way” whether it’s staying at home or going to work, but the only right way for a family is what is right for that family. The right way for another family would likely be completely different, but neither one is wrong! Most importantly, we are all working toward the goal of bringing up our children in a healthy, happy home. Sure, it can be frustrating at times; that’s parenting.
Probably the biggest frustration I’ve faced is actually other moms. There seems to be a one-upping thing going on with many of them. I admit to falling into that trap. Honestly, it doesn’t matter if you’re a working mom or a stay-at-home mom, a mom of a single child or you’re juggling many children, if you breastfeed or don’t, if you co-sleep or don’t. It simply doesn’t matter because life is NOT a competition. Can’t we just all just enjoy the ride? Let’s support each other more and judge each other less. We ALL work our a$$e$$ off, right?
That’s a tough one for many of us to learn. It doesn’t matter who has the biggest birthday party or has the most popular kids in school. Especially with competitive, goal oriented people around you, it is easy to get caught up in the game. We all work hard but probably ought to stop and smell the roses more. Taking that step back is something we all should learn.
What is something you have learned about being a mom from another mom?
Our time here is brief. Keep focused on your priorities and keep your perspective in check. A good friend of mine, Lori, is dying of inflammatory breast cancer. As I type this, she’s at the hospital having her lungs tapped in an effort to drain some fluid and aid her breathing. Her children are the same ages and genders as mine. We shared both our pregnancies together. Seven years ago, I met several women during my pregnancy with my son (Lori being one of them). Now, 73 of us share a private Facebook page.
One night, I was having a tooth-brushing battle with my youngest. I angrily wrestled her to bed and marched away with my body seething in irritation. Then, I signed on to feel the support of these special friends and stumbled across a post from Lori. She was looking for feedback. You see, Lori is writing notes to her children…for them to read as they age without her. How can you possibility feel overwhelmed or angry at anything your kids do when you realized how blessed you are not to have that knowledge hanging over your head? Can you imagine KNOWING you won’t be at your daughter’s wedding or see your son graduate from high school? The agony of that awareness would be so staggering. I can’t even comprehend it. I promptly signed off and crawled in bed with my daughter, I held her until she fell asleep that night…and then held her for another 30 minutes.
That’s bittersweet and so important to accept, all at once. Focusing our priorities on family, children, the little things is difficult in this crazy, competitive society we live in. How do you do it?
Despite the career, the housework and the husband…one belief has always worked for me. The kids are my #1 priority. That means if someone is sick and I have a huge meeting…no contest. If I’m trying to make dinner, but my daughter wants me to watch her dance…no contest. Even if I’m running late for work, but my son needs me to simply cuddle him for a bit…NO CONTEST. By single-mindedly following this belief, the stress of decision-making is removed. Life becomes much simpler. Heck, this is why I took that pay cut anyway, to have a boss who understands my kids come first and doesn’t penalize me for it.
Any final words of wisdom for other moms out there?
They’re YOUR kids. Advice is great, sure…but for some reason, advice among moms can turn into preaching. Pave your own way. Only YOU know what’s best for you and your family. Only you are going to have these memories and make these decisions. During my first pregnancy, I wish I had a penny every time someone told me to rest up because “newborns are so hard”. Are you kidding me? I loved, loved, loved having a newborn. I LOVED being the only one up with her/him in the middle of the night…it was just us against the world and they couldn’t escape my snuggles. Hard? Ha! Dropping your child off at Kindergarten, knowing that now the school system “owns” them. From that day on, they’ll be in the mix with hundreds of other kids all striving to be the best, to become something special…and you can’t take up the fight for them.
Dang. THAT’S hard.
Just because everyone has an opinion and advice to share doesn’t mean you need to take (or listen to) any of it! You’ll make your own decisions about what to do in each situation and what you memories to take with you. And you know what? Your choice will be right every time.
Thank you Tara, for your willingness to participate in this project and for sharing this peek through the window into your life. Tara was the first person I really knew well to have a baby and I just remember that moment when I held her son Burke for the first time and thinking I could not wait to do it myself! What an amazing thing a woman can do…make a baby! It’s what we do with that baby after s/he is born that really impacts the world. Our tiny little person could grow up to be a big important muckity-muck for the world…or just the most important person in the world to their own children.