April 29, 2013

The Life of a Full-time Mom with a Full-time Job

Amy's Interview with Tamara 

Now that we've heard from a grad student turned stay-at-home momma (if you missed it, be sure to read Sarah's awesome post), here's the perspective of a momma who works full-time.  Introducing: my neighbor and friend, Tamara!  She's got three cute kids, one of which is a little boy who probably knows more about superheros than the author of Marvel comics.  My favorite thing about Tamara: she's super friendly and easy to talk to.  When I met her, I was nervous to be in a new church congregation; but she, along with some other awesome ladies, took me in like a lost puppy and helped me feel welcome and included.

My second favorite thing about Tamara: she loves books and she's willing to share! :)  She feeds my addiction and keeps me supplied with many good reads, resulting in late nights and plenty of "Ughhh...why the crap did I read till 3 am?!" hangovers the following mornings.  She's also intelligent, witty, and...Canadian!  Cool, huh? 

I'm so glad she agreed to tell us about how she balances being a mom and a full-time teacher.  Since she is so busy--and just had a sweet little babe--I thought an interview would be a better idea than asking her to sit down and write a post.  Infants can be quite demanding on the time.  Enjoy, friends!

Q: Ok, Tamara: first of all, kids and ages, please?

A: Emily is 6, Collin is 4, and Kate is 2 weeks old.

Q: What do you do for your job?

A: I teach special education, specifically remedial reading and math.  I started teaching in January of 2002 and I’ve taught special ed. for 11 years: 1st grade up through high school.  I also created a program that allows learning disabled students to meet specific requirements so they can earn an alternative diploma, since they aren't able to get a traditional one.  Now I’m teaching at a middle school.  I like this age.  Under 4th grade is not my favorite to teach.

Q: How do you make it work, being a mom and teaching full-time?

A: When Emily was born, I stayed home for 7 months.  In Canada, they give you 65 percent of your pay for maternity leave.  Landon (my husband) was able to take time off for the next 5 months.  It  made it easy that Landon could be home.  I was lucky to live a block away from the school; I'd go home at lunch to nurse.

For the next year, when Landon worked, she would go to my mom’s house, who lived about two blocks away.  When Collin was born, I stayed home for the first 6 months, then I went back to work 4 days a week.  During the day, my mom would have Collin and Emily till noon, then she would drop them off at my classroom, where I would nurse Collin in my office during lunch.  Then, when Landon got off work a little after noon, he would pick the kids up from my school and take them home.  Collin would never take a bottle--he refused--so I had to hurry home after school to feed him.

We moved to Idaho when my husband started the Radiographic Sciences Program.  He watches the kids when he's not at school, and during his classes, my sister or my good friend, Kira, watches them.

Before I had kids, Landon and I decided that because my job was so stressful, all paperwork and school work needed to stay at school.  I work through lunches when I need to, and stay after, but I work quickly and get all paperwork done at school.  My job has a high burn-out rate: 2-5 years.  I’m grateful I love my job, but I’m also grateful I have a husband who helps me to keep the separation between work and home.  We’ve been very blessed: I have always had to work, but I’ve always had supportive employers who would work around my schedule as a mom.  Like one time Emily got hurt (she tried to knock out her teeth) in the middle of a school day.  We only had one car, so I had to run home and take her to the dentist.  I left my Paras (aides) in charge of my classroom, and my boss was fine with out.  There's been a few times when our babysitters weren't available, when I've brought my kids to school.  Emily has been to my class here about 5 times, Collin a couple times.  My boss doesn't mind, as long as they don’t disrupt my class.  They like coming; I’ll give them headphones and they’ll play on educational websites, or I'll get my students to read books to them or explain their math.  Emily was showing off her math skills and they all thought she was a genius!  My students love it when my kids come.

Q: What are your future plans for work/family?

A: I’m hoping next year I’ll teach a few days a week and do paperwork at home on the other days.  If it doesn’t work, I’d like to sub, cause I don't want to go back full-time.  After Landon is done with school and is working full-time, I'd like to take a break for a few years until all of our kids are in school, then I'll work full-time again till we have our student loans payed off.  After that, I’ll work part time so I can be involved in my kids’ schools, but still be there when they are home.

Q: What is the most challenging part of working full-time and taking care of a family?

A:  It’s been difficult for me not to be a stay at home mom, because I’ve wanted to be home for my kids, like my mom was for for me.  But I just can't right now.  I’ve had many tearful times about it.  Both my kids have asked me "Do you have to go to work?"  That sucks.

It's also hard when I come home and there’s all of the mom jobs.   I’ve had to learn balance...I haven’t always been the best at balancing and getting everything done.  Now, when I come home, I spend time with my kids, then they help me make dinner.  I’ve realized I have to cut back; I can’t do everything.  I often have to cut out some of my own stuff.  And the balance changes, sometimes it's working well, then after a while, I have to re-adjust.  When things get overwhelming, it's time to communicate.  I’m talking to Landon saying, “It would be really helpful if you could..." or “Can you be in charge of…” That helps immensely.

Q: What do you do to make sure you get quality time with your family, even though you're busy? 

A: Weekends are for us. We clean the house Saturday morning, then in the afternoon do something fun as a family.  Sunday after church we usually make cookies and take them to other people, cause I don’t want to keep them in my house.  For Landon and I, we try to go on a date once a month.  And every evening, after the kids go to bed, we devote ten minutes to just the two of us, with nothing else distracting us.

Q: How do you recharge yourself?

A: I'm in a book club.  Sunday afternoons I will sew or read...but I have to be careful how much time I spend reading.  I also read during lunch at work.  (I have to limit myself because I binge read: I’ll go a long time, then I’ll read, like 12 books in a row!)  Sometimes, I’ll call friends up and say, "Let’s go for a treat!"  You feel guilty taking time for yourself, cause you feel like you should spend ALL of your time with your kids when you’re home.  But, I'm just like anybody else, after a long day, I just need a little space.

Q: What are the positives of working full-time while being a momma? 

A: I have a husband who totally understands what it’s like to be a stay at home parent.  He never asks me why the dinner isn’t ready and the home isn’t clean, cause he knows what it's like.  I’ve also learned not to judge, cause people have made a lot of assumptions about me and even commented to me that I’d rather work than be with my kids.  They have no idea.  And, even if someone wanted to work to have a vacation home, it is still their decision!

I've really learned what is important.  Life's not about keeping up with the Joneses.  When Emily was born, I wanted to be able to prove I could do everything.  I ran myself ragged and ended up with postpartum depression.  I realized I had to slow down.  I was trying so hard to do everything that I was missing everything--and I was never happy.  You start realizing where to let go, what is really important.  Now, I know that if I can’t get something done, oh well it, it’s just not going to happen.  I don't worry about it.  My sanity's not worth the stress!  We've become more relaxed with each kid.

I'm grateful that I love my work.  I like the difference I can make.  I also love making a difference in my kids' lives.  Ha...I wish there was two of me!  

-Isn't she cool?  I'm amazed at how she constantly works at balancing it all, and I love her "you can't do it all--you have to let un-important things go!" attitude.  A good lesson for us all, right?  Thanks Tamara for sharing with us! 

Your turn!  Working mommas, how do YOU balance your responsiblities and still have quality family time?  We'd love to hear from you!  (Remember, we're not here to judge anyone else; we all have different circumstances, so let's keep it kind!)


  1. I love that you'd have your students read to your kids...sneaky and smart way to get them to read aloud! :)

    I prefer the older grades, too. People think I'm crazy when I tell them middle school and jr high are my favorite, but it's true!

  2. Oh my gosh! You are AMAZING Tamara! I was really looking forward to reading your perspective on being a working mom. Balance can be so hard to do, and you give some great ideas and examples of how you balance your life. When I was going to school and also taking care of my little girl, I had a very rough time with finding that balance.

    P.S. I am SO jealous of the maternity leave that you got in Canada! That is amazing! I was so lucky as well to have my husband home when I had our little girl. It sure helps a lot!

  3. Thanks for sharing your story! I have a child in special education, do you have any quick tips to help in school and for homework in reading and math?


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