The Road to Our Twins

Note: This post was originally written in March 2011 as we were expecting our first two babies, boy/girl twins. Since that time, we have been lucky to welcome three more sons. I have re-posted the text as it was originally written because it captures how we were feeling at that time so well.

We could not be more excited to be welcoming our twins this fall, but the journey to these two little ones was bumpy at best. It all started in the fall of 2007. I began having intense pain and knew that something was not right. My doctor recommended physical therapy, which provided no relief after two months. I convinced myself that maybe the pains I felt were normal and tried to ignore it for the next several months. The following fall, however, the pain refused to be ignored any longer. The next doctor I saw informed us that she believed I had endometriosis, a condition in which tissue that normally grows only inside your uterus begins growing elsewhere. The only way to diagnose this disease is through surgery, so we moved forward. During my surgery the diagnosis was confirmed, and the endometriosis that could be seen was removed.

Being diagnosed with endometriosis was terrifying…Andrew and I had always wanted kids, and one-third to one-half of all women with endometriosis have difficulty getting pregnant. Endometriosis often damages a woman’s fallopian tubes, and without working tubes pregnancy is basically impossible. We were hopeful, though, that the surgery would cure the pain issues and give us a good chance of conceiving down the road.

Unfortunately, the pain did not subside. For the next two years, we consulted multiple doctors and tried everything from muscle relaxers to bladder medications and special diets. Nothing worked, most likely because there was additional endometriosis that was not treated in the initial surgery. After more than three years of attempting to cure the pain issues, we decided to toss in the towel and try to have a baby. After all, being pregnant is one of the best treatments for endometriosis.

Having watched friends and family get pregnant instantaneously, I was sure that we would be expecting in a few months. Instead, within just a few months, we learned that I would definitely need medication to help me ovulate in a way that could produce a pregnancy. Basically, after you have a “quality ovulation,” your body should produce progesterone. Without enough progesterone, a pregnancy cannot begin or be sustained. So, we began using Clomid in the hopes that it would help my body create the correct hormones.

During our second month of Clomid, we saw the holy grail for all couples trying to conceive…a little plastic stick with two lines! We were pregnant! Initial testing, however, revealed that something was not right. My hormone levels were extremely low, and though we prayed and prayed that this would be our baby, things only got worse. After having my blood drawn every other day for about two weeks, an ultrasound showed that this pregnancy was most likely in one of my fallopian tubes. The same day, bloodwork revealed that the embryo had stopped developing. On what I will always remember as one of the worst days of my life, we saw three different doctors, had two ultrasounds, and ended up in a chemotherapy ward to get a shot that would increase our chances of not losing one of my tubes.

The drug I had was very strong, so we took a month off from doctors and drugs. Somehow, at the end of that month, we saw two lines again…our second pregnancy. The initial testing was again troubling, and within a few days the little one had stopped developing. My doctor recommended a rather unpleasant test to see if my tubes were open. They appeared to be open, but he still had concerns that they weren’t working. If we had one more loss, we needed to move on to more aggressive options.

The following month we upped our Clomid dosage and crossed our fingers…and again got pregnant. This baby was due the week after our fifth anniversary–this had to be it. A week later, we were facing the same nightmare. The baby had stopped growing. Based on our history, my doctor was fairly convinced that my fallopian tubes did not function properly and that it would be virtually impossible to get pregnant without more aggressive assistance. After much prayer, consideration, and two “second opinion” appointments, we decided to go for it. We officially signed up for IVF. On New Year’s Eve 2010, I gave myself my first set of injections. After 36 shots, a little anesthesia, and a lot of hope, we found out we were expecting our two little miracles!

As I said before, it’s been a bumpy road, full of the deepest heartbreak we have ever known. But this terrible road led us to the most wonderful gift…a double gift more precious than we could have imagined. God’s plan is always good, even when it doesn’t seem that way.

So why are we sharing this? First, pregnancy loss is a taboo subject. After losing our first, I longed for a community of women my age who understood my experience. Unfortunately, this is a part of life that many women experience but few talk about. If sharing our story can make just one couple feel less alone, then it’s worth it. Second, infertility, recurrent pregnancy loss and IVF are so misunderstood. IVF is often portrayed as a way for couples to get pregnant when it’s convenient for them. In reality, IVF is a final option for couples who have been through incredible loss and excruciating pain, both physcially and emotionally. It is a last resort when nothing else has worked, when your quest for a biological child has nearly reached its end. It is not glamorous or fun…it is a sacrifice made by men and women who long to be parents, who long to know the love of a parent for a child. Our hope is that as more people open up about their struggles to conceive, the stigma often attached to infertility will change, and people experiencing infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss will feel able to leave the shadows and receive the support they so desperately need.

On control and quarantine.

This strange chapter we’re living through is one our kids will remember. When they’re grown, they’ll recall the time their schools and sports and lives were shut down. And while there is so much we can’t control right now, there’s also much we can.⁣

We can control the tone in our home. While we’re all going to get tired and cranky, we can lead our family with positivity and fun.⁣

We can control how much news and information our kids are exposed to. I’m a firm believer in telling kids the truth, but bombarding them with details is unnecessary.⁣

We can control how we frame our quarantine. Instead of approaching this virus only from a place of our own safety, we can use this moment to teach our kids about their responsibility to the greater good. We can explain how our own sacrifices are helping the whole country.⁣

We can focus on the good. We can express gratitude for extra time together, sunny days, music that’s perfect for dance parties, and family members to be quarantined with.⁣

When our kids look back on this chapter, they probably won’t remember how well we kept a schedule or how much screen time they had, but they likely will remember how they felt. Let’s make sure that their memories are ones of security, love, and family fun.

My Masterpiece

Growing up, I had plans. Plans to succeed, to create. Plans to use the brain God gave me for something big.

I was sure these plans would lead to happiness. I would make something of myself. I would write my own success story. I would do well by worldly standards–big house, nice car, great shoes–and all would be well.

Yet here I sit, a very well educated stay-at-home mom to five very young kids. If I wrote my resume today, my special skills would include watching plays that don’t make sense, preparing meals no one eats, and negotiating household peace.

I would be lying if I said that this is exactly where I imagined myself at 36. Even in college, I remember recoiling at the idea of being “just” a mom. And I’m sure I’m not alone. I think many moms end up on a path that takes them a bit by surprise.

But I don’t believe I took the wrong road. I don’t regret a single choice. I’m not unfulfilled. In fact, my soul is more full than my childhood visions could have possibly imagined.

You see, I’m certain that at this particular moment I’m creating exactly what I should. I’m creating a stable home for our family. I’m creating a place of joy and peace for my kids. I’m making fun and rest and adventure. I’m cultivating five little spirits, five people that can grow up and add good to our world.

Hopefully I have many years ahead of me. My success may lie outside our family in the future, and perhaps I’ll be creating something more closely aligned to my old dreams at some point.

But no work I’ll ever create will compare to the work of raising these kids. These five kids, these five incredible people, are my masterpiece.

Our NICU Journey

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Three of our five kids were NICU babies. That’s 60%. And while we were lucky to never stay longer than three weeks, those NICU days still stand out as some of the hardest, most stressful days of my life.

When you picture having your baby, you imagine cuddling in the hospital room, taking a zillion pictures, introducing your new little one to family and friends. For NICU moms, that storybook hospital stay is quickly interrupted, replaced by extra wires, tubes, and monitors. You’re thrown into the deep end of a pool you didn’t ask to swim in, forced to learn a different language and how to advocate for your child. Worst of all, you are separated. This being who has been a part of you for nine months is no longer within reach. Being discharged and leaving your baby behind at the hospital is gut wrenching.

Our twins were born at 34 weeks at 3 pounds 13 ounces and 4 pounds 15 ounces. They stayed in the NICU for three weeks as they learned to eat, breathe, grow, and maintain their body temperature. We held Barnes for the first time when he was four days old, and Frances at eight days old. Those eight days were excruciating.

Ellis was born via c-section at 38 weeks. He was scheduled for 39 weeks, but I had a broken rib and honestly couldn’t take the pain an extra week. When he came out, he seemed perfect, but that night he ended up in the NICU on a roller coaster journey due to a pneumothorax (an air leak in his lung). His 7 days in the NICU were a different kind of difficult than our days with the twins. For one, we had three very young children to take care of at home. Also, he was there due to an actual medical condition rather than just prematurity, which was honestly much scarier. I will never forget the morning that the neonatologist told us that he was the sickest baby on the unit. We were not allowed to touch him or to even talk to him, as any stimulation could upset his condition, and there was a chest tube kit by his bed constantly at the ready.

Now Barnes, Frances and Ellis are all thriving, perfectly healthy children, and we couldn’t be more thankful. We are forever grateful for the care they received, and so glad they were born in a time where medicine could give them the extra boost they needed in their earliest days. We are also mindful that many families’ NICU days don’t have such a happy ending.

Having had two different NICU experiences, I learned a little about what was and wasn’t helpful. If you have a loved one with a child in the NICU, I hope this short list can help you support them.

  • Remind the mom that it is not her fault. So many NICU moms deal with extraordinary guilt. We feel like we could have kept the baby in longer or done something different in pregnancy that would have lead to a better result. Speaking truth into a NICU mom’s life and encouraging her to release her guilt is a huge gift.
  • Give the mom (and dad) grace. A NICU mom has just been through labor, experienced a million hormone changes, is probably engorged, and has had her baby removed from her care. Expect her to be a little difficult, and offer her grace upon grace upon grace.
  • Do not, under any circumstances, try to point out the benefits of the NICU. I still remember people saying things like “at least you can sleep as you recover” or “at least the NICU will get them on a schedule.” These comments are definitely not helpful.
  • If the family has older children, offer to help with them. Balancing the desire to be at your baby’s side with the needs of your other children is tough. Offer to take the big kids to the park or out for ice cream and give the parents a guilt-free afternoon with their newborn.
  • Give them gift cards. Meals are wonderful, but when your baby is in the NICU your schedule gets super whacky. Knowing that you need to be home to receive food or get it out of a cooler in time can actually add stress. You know what doesn’t add stress? Gift cards. Think about places near the hospital or near their home where they can swing by and grab a snack. Chances are they are putting their physical needs last, so a gift card to a place with a drive through (or delivery) can be a Godsend.
  • Don’t be afraid to offer to visit. The thought of visiting a NICU can be intimidating, but sometimes NICU parents could really use a friend to chat with. Our days with the twins were long and quiet, and I still remember the friends who came to just sit with us. We even had two friends drive 3 hours to meet our babies, knowing they couldn’t hold them yet! Having someone bear that weight with you for even a few minutes is priceless.

The Altar of Busyness

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Mom 1: “What do you have going on this weekend?”

Mom 2: “It’s going to be insane. We have three games, two parties, and we’re volunteering at church.”

Mom 1: “Oh, us too. We have family visiting, four games, a music lesson, a baby shower, and we’re digging for dinosaur bones Sunday.”

Does this sound familiar? What mom hasn’t been caught in one of these conversations? The kind where you’re both lamenting how busy you are, yet also somehow competing about who is the busiest? Be honest, we’ve all done it. We’ve all listed our commitments, trying to sound exasperated with our lack of free time but also feeling a little boastful of just how busy our family is.

Fellow moms, may I make a proposal? A suggestion that might free us all a bit? Let’s stop worshipping at the altar of busyness. Let’s blow out the candles, remove the crowns, and move past the concept that busyness is a goal for which we should strive.

We all have commitments. Some are unavoidable, some are voluntary, and many fall somewhere between the two. But let’s stop believing that commitments are gold medals meant to be collected as some sort of badge of honor.

Friends, some seasons of life are going to be busy. Super busy. There will be seasons when you need three different color-coded planners just to make sure you don’t forget a kid. But other seasons will bring calmer waters. Easier afternoons. More time for slow walks, board games after dinner, Saturdays with nothing on the docket. Let’s learn to bask in those slow seasons. Let’s learn to use them as a time of rest and rejuvenation for our families, knowing that busy seasons will inevitably return.

When our life gets less busy, let’s not try to fill all the holes. Instead, let’s leave room for spontaneity, for family dinners, for utter quiet. Let’s walk away from the altar of busyness, recognizing the disconnect it can so often bring, and let’s choose to embrace the slow when we can.

 

Back up moms.

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The big three in the middle became friends when they were two, and because of their little posse I found one of my favorite people. There’s a rare magic that happens when the moms click, all the kids get along, and ages and parenting styles match up. I’m lucky to have found that magic.

When we moved to Nashville almost six years ago, I thought my friend group would look a certain way. I thought my days would be filled with old friends, but that’s not how life happened. And honestly, I was disappointed. I had dreamed of coming to Nashville and reconnecting with my college girls, and I felt a little lost and rejected. But I knew that finding my people was a critical task, so I kept trying. I said yes to play dates and park meet ups. I volunteered at preschool. I went through the awkward friend-dating moments that precede any good relationship. And in the end, I emerged with a few treasured old friendships and a few amazing new ones, my own ideal motherhood support crew.

Motherhood can be a lonely place. Maybe you’re the first one of your friend group to have a kid and you’re having trouble connecting. Maybe you’ve just moved cities or schools. Maybe you’ve lived in the same place for 15 years but still feel like you’re the only one at the pool without a mom friend.

Please know this—every mom has felt that tinge of loneliness, that nagging feeling that they don’t belong. You are not the only one. But also know this—keep putting yourself out there. Keep having the awkward, broken conversations between saving your respective children from life-threatening danger. Keep plugging away until you find that one mom you connect with, because it is so so worth the time and effort. Mothering is immensely better with a back up crew.

Childcare Changes

Today I turned in a contract for my littlest guy to start mother’s day out in August. He’ll be over one, and he’ll only go two days a week, but I’m feeling some serious mom guilt. None of our other kids started until they were two, and I feel like I’m failing him a little bit.

In my former life I was an attorney, and I still work a little. As the big kids have gotten bigger and busier, finding time to squeeze in my work has gotten harder. That, plus the difficulty of finding a reliable sitter, made starting preschool seem like our best option.

Whether you work full time, work part time, work from home, or only work in your home, making childcare decisions is hard! Whether your child had to go to full time care from the time they were born or has never had a sitter a day in his life, I feel like we all second guess our choices. What childcare options have worked well for your family?

The Traveling Mom- Part Four: Rachel Hubbard

For our last installation (for now) in our traveling mom series, we’re hearing from Rachel Hubbard, a busy, successful mom of four. With four kids ranging from six-years-old to just one, Rachel is great at balancing work and family, and she was gracious enough to share some insight with us below.

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Tell us a little about you and your family (ages, what you do, etc).
Hello, I’m Rachel! I am married to my favorite person and we have four little kiddos – three girls (6, 5, and 3) and one boy (1).  I am in technology sales covering our key strategic accounts, which means large demanding companies!
I understand your job includes some travel. How often do you travel, and how long is your average trip? What is the longest you’ve been away from your kids?
I recently switched to a role that allows me to travel a bit less (although I’m typing this from a plane to Miami), but prior to January I was traveling about ever other week for the past few years. The longest I have been away from kids is a week, but that is a rarity. I really try to limit my trips to two days and one night away.
What are some things you do before you travel to keep your household running smoothly? Any tips for other parents who need to travel?
Since my husband and I both work in pretty demanding jobs, planning is crucial to keeping our household going. I *try* to make sure we are stocked on groceries, the meals are planned, the clothes are clean, and the house is somewhat orderly before I leave on a trip. We also make a point to talk about anything upcoming that we need to be aware of so we can prep for things like snack days, gymnastics events, friends over, 100 days of school events, etc. Also, we live and die by our family google calendar. It is truly the brains of our operation.
What about once you are out of town? Is there anything that you try to do from afar to help your kids and spouse?
I try to facetime every night so I can stay connected. If there is something that is coming up, I typically try to text my husband and remind him the morning of or night before, but if we’ve planned properly it’s pretty smooth sailing.
Do you ever find it difficult to get into work mode and out of mom mode? Any tips for utilizing your time well and learning to compartmentalize? 
I don’t know a mom that doesn’t suffer from mommy guilt on some level! Of course, I struggle with being away sometimes. But in terms of getting out of work mode and into mom mode, I don’t struggle with that too much. I view it as these are just two facets of who I am as a whole. I love being a mom more than anything, but also firmly believe that working makes me a better mother, wife, and person.
I do set some rules for me, but they are less about work related activities and more about distractions in general. For example, I minimize the amount of email and phone interaction from the time the kids get home until after bedtime. My bosses, clients, and co-workers know that if they email me during this time that I will not respond until after the kids are in bed. That is my time with them. And I am a big believer in quality over quantity. I get a limited amount of hours with my kids each day so that time is critical that I am completely focused on them.
I do share some high level details about my job with my kids. They know my boss’s name and I’ll tell them if I have a big meeting or am working on a big project. I think it’s so importantly for kids to understand that parents feel the same emotions as they do. I tell my kids when I’m nervous about a big meeting, frustrated about something that I didn’t get right, or excited for a big win. I think open communication with kids (on their level of course) encourages open communication and sharing of their emotions.
Plus, the feminist in me loves my girls seeing their mom have a career.  I am still shocked how many meetings I am in where I am the only woman at my level – and very often the only mom. I love showing my girls that you can be both a mom and have a career.
Have you ever had a total traveling parent fail? Anything that didn’t work or that went really poorly? 
Of course! I’ve forgotten permission slips, snacks, special outfits, etc. I think my biggest parenting fail was my initial attitude that my kids would just be dying to tell me all the details of their day. In reality, their attention span for facetiming with me at the end of their busy day is about 35 seconds. A few years ago, I would leave every conversation a little disappointed. What I realized is that I have to set realistic expectations and now I’m happy if I just get to see their little faces. I’ll ask them to tell me one thing that happened that day. It’s hilarious. Some days that leads to full conversations and other times they say, “I ate lunch today”.
Do you have any advice for parents in general, but especially moms, who find themselves balancing a demanding job and parenting? Any words of wisdom? 
Give yourself a break. I think as parents, especially moms and wives, we are so hard on ourselves. We want to be everything for everyone, especially our children.  But that is not reality and, I believe, not a healthy standard to set. Relax. Your house is going to be a wreck and laundry will pile up. Sometimes you need to pull an audible and give you kids PB&J for dinner.  You have lots of balls in the air and inevitably sometimes something will drop. Just pick it up and move on.
Ask for help. In that same vein, ask for help. I learned this the hard way. I can’t possibly keep everything going and there are certain things that I can outsource – house cleaning, groceries, etc. Once I realized this, I felt my anxiety level instantly come down. I also have a great network for friends, family, and sitters that I call on frequently for help. Amazon prime everything. 
 
Team work makes the dream work. Having a supportive husband has been one of my biggest blessings. Work as a team with your husband and trust him to parent the kids while you are away. He’s been doing this just as long as you have!
Take care of yourself. My pediatrician has a sign in her office that says, “You can’t pour from an empty cup”. This is SO true. Take some time for yourself. It can be something big like a girls trip or something as small as a 20 minute walk by yourself. Take time to recharge.
Do what you love. I love my work, and I think that is crucial to balancing being a working, traveling mom. My philosophy is that if I am going to spend 40+ hours a week away from my kids, it’s going to be for something I enjoy. Find something that makes you happy and that will spill over to your family.
Happy travels!

The Traveling Mom- Part Three: Julie Morris

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Today we’re hearing from our third “traveling mom,” Julie Morris. Julie has been very successful in her career, and she’s a fantastic mom to her two adorable boys. Julie’s job has high travel demands, and her years on the road have taught her valuable lessons that she shares below.

Tell us a little about you and your family (ages, what you do, etc).

My husband and I have been married for 13 years and have two beautiful boys.  Our 7 year old is in 2nd grade – he is the funniest kid in the class, and loves playing with his friends.  Our 5 year old is in Junior Kindergarten – he is so excited to learn to read and gives the best hugs in the world.

My husband and I both work, so finding balance is often difficult.  Balance for our family, for each other and for our careers is like spinning plates in the air.  Kirk works for the USDA and I am VP of Brand Research and Strategy for Scripps Networks.

I understand your job includes some travel. How often do you travel, and how long is your average trip? What is the longest you’ve been away from your kids?

Last year, I assumed a larger position in the company, responsible for research for six cable networks.  This meant doubling my workload, my team, and my travel.  In 2017, I averaged travel about every two weeks.  Typically, I am gone most of one week – typically missing 4 mornings and 4 bedtimes.

I have been gone for a full 8 days before.  It was when a last-minute work trip backed up to my 20 year high school reunion.  It was a really long time and having both of us away for a portion of it made it even harder.  I attempt not to do anything like that, but like I said balance is important.  My husband and I both believe that doing things for ourselves can make us better parents.

What are some things you do before you travel to keep your household running smoothly? Any tips for other parents who need to travel?

In our house, I am responsible for laundry and groceries (I do more, but those are very delineated).  So I always make sure that every stitch of clothing, sheets, etc are clean before I leave.  I also stock the kitchen and sometimes do an online order of groceries for my husband to pick up.

Typically my goal is to cause the least amount of disruption to my kids’ and my husband’s schedules.  Obviously, it’s not 100% possible, but I plan for what I can.

Another rule we have in our house is that there is no judgement for what it takes to survive a week alone with the kids.  I don’t gripe about Chick-Fil-A being a major source of nutrition or the iPads being in overdrive while I’m gone.  As long as everyone is happy, safe, and gets to school, I’m happy.

What about once you are out of town? Is there anything that you try to do from afar to help your kids and spouse?

I’m a backup scenario planner.  I am lucky enough to have a “tribe” of people that are more than willing to jump in to help.  So I’ll create back up plans if it looks like pick ups could be tight or sports practices will overlap, etc.

My one suggestion for this back up scenario is to make sure and not overstep your spouse.  I was away during a snowstorm once and school was being cancelled and I stepped in and made plans from afar.  My husband had already made alternative plans and my stepping in just caused confusion and frustration.

It goes without saying that FaceTime is an absolute must in my life.  My kids enjoy “traveling” with me.  They want to see the hotel room, Times Square, the skyscrapers, etc.  Because this is fun for them, they have less anxiety about me being gone.

Do you ever find it difficult to get into work mode and out of mom mode? Any tips for utilizing your time well and learning to compartmentalize? 

The Mom guilt is real, as all Moms know!  Leaving my kids in tears on the way to airport is hard and it still sometimes happens even with frequent travel.

I think you have to be the best you can be wherever you are at the moment.  When I’m home, I attempt to be home – be present with my kids.  The same is true at work – everyday and on trips.  I’m not 100% successful, but it is something I work toward.

I’m lucky enough to work at a place that has my kids’ birthdays, school holidays, and other milestones on the working calendar.  They know that I can’t be at everything and appreciate that sometimes I just have to say no.

As much as possible, I try to let the guilt go and feel confident that my husband and I have made good decisions for our family.

Have you ever had a total traveling parent fail? Anything that didn’t work or that went really poorly? 

When my youngest son was a baby, he was a really tough baby.  Having spent an extended time on maternity leave, he and I were in a groove together.  My husband did not have as much practice in comforting him as I did.

Mistakes were made on both ends.  I went on a business trip right after I was back at work after maternity leave, which likely was too much schedule change at one time.  Secondly, my husband called me multiple times every day with the baby screaming in the background saying he didn’t know what to do.  This basically just left both us arguing and in tears, with no solution to any problem.

We now try to make sure that trips are timed appropriately if at all possible.  And my husband tries to avoid calling with problems that I cannot fix from 900 miles away.  Obviously, if he has questions that I can answer – call as often as needed.  But if it’s something that will just cause an argument or make me feel guilty with no solution, he does not call (though we address later).

Do you have any advice for parents in general, but especially moms, who find themselves balancing a demanding job and parenting? Any words of wisdom?

Give yourself grace.  It’s a simple directive, yet oh so hard to do. I’m going to miss things at home, my kids have a different relationship with me.  We are close, but they often choose Dad over Mom because he is ALWAYS there.  It does hurt, but it is what they need and it is NOT the fault of my husband.  I fully believe that I was not built to be a stay-at-home mom.  I am a better mother because I walk out of the house each day and successfully do a job that I love.  Again, it’s about being wherever you are at the moment.  I’m great at my job and I hope that I’m a great Mom, I work hard at both.

I also have a group of working moms surrounding me, whose shoulder I can cry on when the guilt is overwhelming.   I’m not sure what I would do without this kind of support – I found my group at daycare, but I know there are groups for professional mothers in many cities.  I also enjoy my adult time away from home – I used to just go back to the hotel and FaceTime the kids and feel guilty about being away.  I now make sure that I meet friends and have good dinners, and make the best of the time away from my family.

Finally, your partner has to be in lockstep with you on this front.  My husband and I talked a lot about my position before I took it.  We ultimately decided it was the best decision for our family for me to take the job, even with the travel.  We work hard at making sure that we are being supportive of each other, even when the idea of another business trip makes us both groan.

The Traveling Mom- Part Two: Adele Hixon-Day

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Today we’re bringing you our second of four “traveling moms,” each with their own perspective on balancing family and work. Adele Hixon-Day is a fundraising professional, mom of four, and resident of Memphis, Tennessee. She’s a fellow mother of twins (though hers are her two middle children), and she works hard to be a successful businesswoman and mother. Though a new position has allowed her to travel less often, she has some great tips for working parents.

Tell us a little about you and your family.

My husband and I have four kids; 9,5,5,18 months. I am a Director of Development (fundraiser) and my husband works in banking. Working in fundraising there are a lot of nights and weekends when I have to be away from home. I am fortunate to work for a family oriented non profit where I can bring my kids to some events to help out or they can hang around the office when school is out. My 9 year old is officially a Jr. employee with all the help she provides (child labor???) :^)

I understand your job includes some travel. How often do you travel, and how long is your average trip? What is the longest you’ve been away from your kids?

The longest I have been away was 7 days and it was terrible. When traveling for work I had to learn what my threshold was for being away from my kids. Most of the time they cared that I was gone, but I also need their hugs and kisses to make it through the week. When I was traveling for work I would be gone for 3-5 days a month every other month. There is a bright side to traveling for work that I miss. Quiet nights in a hotel room by yourself is quite restorative.

What are some things you do before you travel to keep your household running smoothly? Any tips for other parents who need to travel?

Being a tightly wound “type A” individual I would set their clothes out for the week for my husband, make the meals and freeze them, (always something easy for him to throw in the oven) and ask my mother-in-law to check in on my husband and the kids. Most of this was to make me feel better about leaving them. My husband enjoyed the ability to have cereal or Eggos for dinner while I was gone.

What about once you are out of town? Is there anything that you try to do from afar to help your kids and spouse?

Facetime is KEY. I would call to wake them up, or they would call me, and I would call to put them in bed. With four kids in three different after school activities, I would reach out to some of the other moms to check in in case my husband needed help with drop of or pick up. Sometimes we would choose to skip activities that week if it was too much.

Do you ever find it difficult to get into work mode and out of mom mode? Any tips for utilizing your time well and learning to compartmentalize? 

I am always in mom mode. Sometimes when I am super stressed at work I send old pics of the kids when they were babies to my husband to reminisce and make me happy. My cell phone (apple watch) is always on and the school or daycare’s number are set to ring no matter what. It can get incredibly stressful; working, mom”ing” and being a wife. A lot of my kids classmates don’t work so I feel additional pressure to attend their events at school so they won’t be the only one without a parent there. I missed a Valentine’s Day party once and I still hear about it today. I also try to manage my kids expectations. When I know I can’t be there at a program I lean on the teachers or other moms to send me pics so I can still see it and let the kids know that even though I wasn’t there I know what happend. I try to let them know ahead of time that I won’t be a parties or programs if I know I can’t make it. I also love bringing them to (family friendly) work events so they can see me in action and see that work is important and fun for me as well.

Quiet time is very important to me. As a mom and a supervisor I am constantly solving problems, putting out fires, and keeping an eye on what is coming up. I like watching TV to decompress (Scandal!!). I also try to carve out time at work to get personal stuff done. It’s hard to pay bills or review homework at home because everything is a coloring book with my toddler and any paper is fair game for my son to turn into an airplane. I also find I am in a more organized mindset sitting behind my desk than I am at the kitchen table.

I also depend on my friends and other moms A LOT. I believe it takes a village to raise a child and it takes a tribe to support a mother. I am never afraid to ask for help or check in to see if I’m being crazy. Above all I try to remember what is most important and that time is fleeting. I want to enjoy every laugh, tear, and sibling squabble.

Have you ever had a total traveling parent fail? Anything that didn’t work or that went really poorly? 

Being gone for 7 days was a fail for me. I was a complete mess couldn’t concentrate on my work, and I was really grouchy because I just wanted to be home with my family.

Do you have any advice for parents in general, but especially moms, who find themselves balancing a demanding job and parenting? Any words of wisdom?

My advice is you can do it! Stay organized and be flexible. Being a working mom is so hard, but for me it is so worth it. I love what I do, I love my work team and I absolutely love being a mom and a wife. I couldn’t do any of it without my husband and I try to praise him every chance I get. Also never be afraid of asking for help. Reach out to people on FB or other moms and dads at the kids school. Teachers are a good resource too because they have seen it all!