Working Mom Life is an interview series featuring real working mothers who are figuring out how to get the job done. Because there are more ways to be a working mom than there are ways to fold a cloth diaper, we can all learn from each other. Join the conversation #WorkingMomLife.
Amy Bradley-Hole is a force of nature. I know, because I've been in a room with her. Her energy and ideas seem to be never-ending. She's got two young sons and a resume full of stops and starts and start-overs. I really relate to her squiggly career path, and so admire her tenacity and her ability to lead with her talents and let everything else fall away. I know you'll enjoy getting to know Amy, but if you'd rather fake it, here are three takeaways you can use right now:
- Remember that fathers are fully capable of running households.
- Ask for help, and accept help.
- Become brilliant at saying no.
LD: Going back to work is different for every mom. How did you do it?
AB: I worked up until about the sixth month of my first pregnancy. At that time, my husband's job had us relocate from Reno down to the Vegas area. As much as I would have liked to have gotten a job when we moved, no one was going to hire a visibly pregnant woman! So I enjoyed the rest of my pregnancy and stayed home with my first son for the first 18 months of his life. When we relocated to Florida, I found a great daycare and went back to work on a part-time basis. I carried on with the part time work after my second son was born. THEN we moved to Arkansas. I was eager to earn more money, so I went back to work full-time for a few years.
LD: You've worked for yourself for a while now, first as a freelance writer/editor/publicist and now as founder of Bonta Toscana food company. Why did you decide to go out on your own?
AB: I enjoyed the income of working full-time for someone else, but the stress was terrible. I hated missing my kids' activities or school programs, and I hated that they were in after school care every evening and all summer long.Trying to juggle everyone's schedules got more difficult the older they got. So, I quit working for other people, and started working for myself. I work a ton of hours now, but I can at least set my own schedule, and that's what matters most. My boys are 10 and 8 now, so we're pretty busy, but they're also more capable of doing things for themselves, so that saves me time.
LD: Every successful working mom I know has a few tricks that keep her sane and keep her family fed and out of jail. What are yours?
AB: We are creatures of habit and are very routine-oriented. I have been like that since the day my first son was born. Our morning routine, our after-school routine, our evening routine -- they're very ritualistic, even when we throw things like sports practices or special events into the mix. I've found that the more we can keep a steady routine, the calmer everyone is. Everyone knows what to expect.
I couldn't live without the Cozi Family app and website. It's where I keep everyone's schedule, and grocery lists and notes to each other, etc. It's always at my fingertips whenever I need to update anyone's calendar, and it makes it easy for me to send messages to my husband about schedule changes.
LD: That's a great resource, and speaking of your husband, would you say he's an equal partner on the domestic front?
AB: We're pretty much 50-50, but honestly, we don't even think about who does what. We both just chip in and do whatever needs to be done. Whoever is available, whoever has the free time, whoever will be close to the store -- that's who does the chore. We've hardly ever had a conversation about doling out duties. And when one or the other of us has to travel, the other just steps in and makes it work. I've never been one of those wives who has to make meals, lay out clothes, or arrange for sitters for a week before going out of town. I would lose my mind. My husband is fully capable of running our household beautifully in my absence.
LD: I have been that wife and it's part of the reason I did lose my mind a little when the kids were young. I think it was part of my mommy guilt, which I believe is an inevitable part of motherhood. What's been your experience?
AB: I really struggled when I was working full time during the summers. The kids would get invited to go swimming, or got to a movie, or go grab pizza for lunch with a friend, and I had to say no, because they were at daycare or day camps, and the logistics were too difficult for me to make it happen. They used to literally cry because all their friends got a summer vacation, but they went to school all summer (their care programs were at their school). I couldn't accept that, so I overcame it by quitting full-time work. (Paying a nanny or sitter to stay with them every day and drive them places was too expensive.)
LD: What is the best advice you have received about thriving in the #WorkingMomLife?
Your kids won't remember the stressful times or the bad times as much as you do. They'll just remember the good stuff. So don't worry too much about those rough periods. It won't do lasting damage.
LD: Any terrible advice you'd like to forget?
I'm not the kind of person who gets mad at unsolicited or bad advice. I truly think there's something helpful to be gleaned from all advice. That said, I remember being told that the income I was making when I was working full-time would make the stress and the time spent away from my kids worth it. It wasn't necessarily bad advice, but it simply wasn't true for me.
LD: What would you like to tell new moms who plan to work, or moms headed back to work?
Ask for help. Always. Don't be afraid to tell people you need assistance. And if anyone ever offers help, take it! Whether it's your mother-in-law offering to clean your house and do laundry after you've had a baby, a friend offering to take your kids for the afternoon or your husband offering to cook supper, say yes. This was difficult for me at first, because I'm a control freak. I like things done MY way, and I'd rather just do something myself rather than have someone else try but screw it up. I've learned to let a lot of that go. The stress of having too much on your plate is worse than the stress of someone else doing things differently than you'd like them done.
Also, have an in-case-of-emergency friend. I have one friend I know I can call on no matter what. If I'm running late and can't get the kids from school in time, she'll pick them up. If I need a last minute babysitter at midnight on a Wednesday night, she'll do it. I'm her ICE friend, too, so I can always return the favor. Knowing that you have a safety net is a wonderful feeling.
LD: Running your own business takes a special set of skills. So does motherhood. I believe you can acquire and hone those skills over time, but stamina can't be learned. What's your secret?
Not giving a f*@$. I don't care what the latest parenting trends are. I don't care about how other families do it. I don't care about SAHM/WOHM/WAHM competitions. I don't compare myself to other moms. I just do what works for us, and that's that.
Also, I'm brilliant at saying no. I don't volunteer too much of my time, I don't sign up for stuff, I don't take on commitments I can't handle. And I don't feel one bit guilty for saying no, either.
That's the perfect place to end, because we all could be better at saying no -- to the wrong things -- so that we have more time to say yes to the right ones. Thank you, Amy Bradley-Hole!
Learn about more working moms' lives here:
- Working Mom Life: Living Full
- Working Mom Life: You Belong Here
- Working Mom Life: Expectations Are For Suckers