Working-Mom Series Week 4: Brenda

Monday, March 31, 2014

{You can read the Intro to the Working-Mom Series here}

I would like to introduce you all to Brenda. 
I met her only recently, but already think she is incredible! 
Brenda and I are both part of the MBA Spouses Association. That's right. Us spouses have our own club.
And it's awesome ( but I'll save that for another post). 
She has three young children, her own graphic design business, and consistently writes on her personal blog...all while her husband is a busy MBA student. 
You can probably understand why I think she's incredible, right?!
You can read more about Brenda and her graphic design business here


What inspired you to start your own business after having kids?

I have always loved creating. After I had my first baby, I felt like a part of me was missing. All my time was spent on my baby and my home. There was little time spent on my hobbies and that was really tough on me. My husband and I decided that it would be good for me to take some classes and refine my techniques in graphic design. I loved it so much that we decided to turn it into a business. It wasn’t a decision that was taken lightly as my first “job” was that of a mother. But for my sanity’s sake and my family, dedicating some of my time to something other than my home and family was the best decision for us.

What has been the easiest part of keeping up with the demands of work and family?

I happen to have the most supportive husband in the world that believes in me and believes in my talents. We have set up a time (naptime) that is “work” time and if the kids wake up early and he is home, he will take care of them. He also helps me a lot with the business aspect of my small business. I am a creative and don’t always think in a business savvy way but he steps in and tries to help me get the best benefits. Having a supportive person or people in your lives really makes a difference. My husband understands that sometimes I cannot get to certain chores and he’ll just get them done or we’ll do them after the kids are in bed. It isn’t always so cut and dry and we’ve struggled in finding the right balance but the important thing is that we are both trying to make it work.

What has been the hardest part of keeping up with the demands of work and family?

The hardest time for me is knowing when to stop: stop work and start being a mom. My mind still races after I am done with work and need to be in “mommy mode.” Sometimes I don’t finish all the work I need to do because my kids wake up early from their naps or I really need to get some cleaning done. My responsibilities as a mother and wife are sometimes viewed as an interruption to my work but I have had to work really hard to remember what my first and most important job is. The most awful times I have experienced is when I let myself think my kids are a burden. When I let myself think like that it seems like things backfire or go wrong and my life is unbalanced. In reality, my kids aren’t a burden. They are often the inspiration to much of the work I do. But I let these awful ideas creep into my mind that not only harm me and my family but my work as well.

What are your current childcare arrangements and how do you feel about them?

I really only work when my children are sleeping. I have major guilt issues if I work while they are awake. Sometimes I have to work for a little bit while they are awake and I just put some papers out and give them crayons and watercolor paints and let them go at it. Other times I will have my baby on my lap while I work. And if I am really lucky, my husband watches them if he doesn’t have any classes or meetings. I don’t think I am ready to get professional child care for my kids. I have yet to overcome the “mommy guilt” associated with being a working mom even though I don’t think there should be.  

If you had to pick one trick or tip that helps you make it all work, what would it be?

Everyone has to be on board and willing to help. Even though my kids don’t see me work that often, they do know mommy has to work sometimes. They aren’t always cooperative when I do have to work but they see that I  do have to work and learn to entertain themselves and help each other for a short time. Some people seem to have it all figured out and balance work and home, but I don’t. I am constantly evaluating and reevaluating what I am doing as a business owner, a mother and a wife. It’s ok to not have it all figured out or to have everything perfectly balanced. Some days call for more family time and other days I have deadlines to meet. When my family understands that some days I can’t make dinner and we need to get pizza, the pressure is off. And who doesn’t love pizza??

Thank you so much to Brenda for taking time out of her busy schedule to share her thoughts with us! 
Her words are a great reminder that it's okay to not have everything perfectly figured out when it comes to balancing work and family. It really is a work in progress.

You can check out Brenda's website at:

Whole Wheat Banana Nut Muffins

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Like I've mentioned before, I like to make snacks for Derek and I to take to work/school rather than buying them so I know exactly what is in them and so that we don't get tired of the same old things. 
This week I tried these yummy banana nut muffins for the first time.
I have a banana muffin recipe that I've used in the past, but I made a few adjustments to it.
I added peanut butter to up the protein and oats because I like the texture it gives. 
I also added walnuts because I love the crunchiness it adds and I love the combo of banana and walnuts.
We loved these as a snack! 
They aren't overly sweet and they're very filling. 

Servings: 12 large muffins

  • 3  very ripe bananas (2 1/2 and 1/2 separated), mashed
  • 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened apple sauce 
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter 
  • 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a muffin tin with liners and spray with Pam. Combine all dry ingredients (flour, oats, baking soda, and salt) in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together using an electric mixer. Add mashed banana (2 1/2), egg whites, apple sauce, vanilla extract and peanut butter and continue beating until thick. Pour in the dry mixture and mix o low speed. Add chopped walnuts and mini chocolate chips and mix with a spoon. 

Pour batter into muffin liners. Take the leftover 1/2 banana and cut it into thin slices. Place one slice on top of each muffin mixture. Let it bake in the oven for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

*Tip: Adding the banana slices on top is best if you are going to eat the muffins soon after baking them. 
If you are saving them as snacks for the week, you might want to leave them out so it doesn't turn brown.

Working-Mom Series Week 3: Christine

Friday, March 21, 2014

{You can read the Intro to the Working-Mom Series here}

Christine is a great friend and a former coworker of Derek. 
She lives in the bay area with her husband and their cute little boy.
She currently works full time in marketing for Google.

Christine was kind enough to let us interview her over skype, so we summarized her responses below. 

Why was it important for you to work after having a baby?
There are several factors that influenced Christine's decision to work after having her baby. She talked about how influential her mom was in the decision. Growing up, her mom worked full time and strongly encouraged Christine to go back to work after the baby. She said this motivated her, especially the few months after having the baby when it was difficult to think about work when the focus was the baby. Christine also said she thought a lot about her own personality while trying to decide what to do. She explained that she really enjoys social interaction in the work place. Knowing this about herself helped her rule out the option of working part-time or from home. Our big takeaway from her answer is that you really need to do some soul-searching when making these decisions and think hard about what work-family arrangements best fit your family, personality and career goals.
Tell us about how you approached the decision to work after having a baby?
Christine took 4 months of maternity leave before going back to work full-time. After a few months at that company, she transitioned to a new company and role at Google. We were intrigued by her decision to make a career change so close to having her first child. We asked her a lot of questions about how this transition has impacted her work-life demands. She mentioned first off that it was really re-energizing to start a new job. She had been at her previous company for so long that it was hard to get excited about work. While she felt pretty good about her work-life at her previous job, there were some advantages in making the switch. She was excited at the thought of a new opportunity at a new company and new role. She made it clear upfront with Google that she needed flexibility to make it work. Also, she was very comfortable about accepting the role after meeting with the head of the department and finding out she had a child about the same age. Through her interviews she also was convinced her direct manager, who was single, would also be supportive. She felt confident that balancing her work and family life would be supported at Google, especially since it seemed to be something her department head was concerned about. She talked a lot about how her research on the company culture at Google influenced her decision to accept the job.
What has been the hardest part of keeping up with the demands of work and family?
Christine said that one of her biggest challenges of going back to work after having her son was her ability to focus at work. Her whole mindset shifted after having the baby. Her work projects felt less important and she often wanted to go home and be with her son. After she started her new job at Google, she found that the challenge of a new job helped her focus when she was at work.
What are your current childcare arrangements and how do you feel about them?
Both Christine and her husband work full time, so a nanny comes to their home every week day to watch their son. They have a chalkboard in the kitchen outlining their schedule so the nanny knows what to expect each week. Either Christine or her husband are back home by 5:30pm and they spend the rest of the evening together. The nanny is flexible which is very helpful in case anything comes up or there is any kind of change in their schedule.
If you had to pick one trick or tip that helps you make it all work, what would it be?
Christine always blocks off 5:30-7:30pm on her work calendar so that people see that she is unavailable at that time. This prevents her coworkers from scheduling meetings that might cause her to get home late. This helps her get home consistently at a time that lets her spend time with her son. She also works from home on Fridays, which she found helps her get a good start to the weekend with her family.  

Thank you for taking the time to share your experience with us, Christine!

Walking Across the Golden Gate Bridge

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

I'm in California again!
Apparently I just can't stay away. 
We are moving back in 2 short months but I still seem to find reasons to visit before then.
This week I am here because my mom is turning the big 5-0 this weekend!!

On Friday we had a girls day, just me and her. 
The weather was gorgeous so we headed to San Francisco to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge.
My mom has lived in California for over 25 years and has driven across the bridge many many times, 
but she had never walked it before!
So we packed our comfy shoes and walk the 1.7 miles each way.
Actually, she packed comfy shoes and I wore sandals which I greatly regretted later.

Tip: wear comfy shoes if you are going to walk over 3 miles!

 Although I've seen the bridge hundreds of times, it just doesn't get old.
People travel from all over the world to visit San Francisco and walk across this bridge and I feel so blessed to have it so close.
I love that you can hear a variety of different languages in this city and especially on the bridge. 
I think I heard more foreign languages than English.
It's also such a fun place to 'people watch'!
You see families bringing their kids for the first time, couples walking hand-in-hand, photographers trying to capture the bridge at a new angle, and, of course, a man giving away free hugs.

We seriously could not have picked a better day.
The sky was clear, the sun was shining, and there was only a slight breeze on the bridge.
People were out sailing, surfing, biking, etc.
There were also 3 separate rallies going on in true San Francisco fashion.

Crazy surfers in the freezing water.

Can you believe she is turning 50?? I'm so grateful to have her genes :)

Of course we could not go to San Francisco on a Saturday without stopping by the farmer's market.
I loved seeing all of the flowers with the reminder that spring is right around the corner!

We ate lunch at San Francisco Fish Company in the ferry building and it was amazing! 
I highly recommend eating fish at a place like this that is right next to the water. 
Nothing like fresh fish.

And with that, we ended another amazing trip to San Francisco.
I'm sure there will be many more!

Check out our other visits to the city:

Working-Mom Series Week 2: Alina

Monday, March 10, 2014

{You can read the Intro to the Working-Mom Series here}

This week's Working-Mom is my beautiful sister-in-law, Alina! 
Alina recently moved from Texas to Beaverton, Oregon with her husband and 1 1/2 year old son, Roy. 
She is a physical therapist and works 2 days a week at a nearby hospital since having her son.


Tell us about how you approached the decision to work after having a baby?

My parents taught me that it is important for women in this day and age to have a “marketable skill” - something that could help them provide for themselves.  Even though my ultimate dream job was to be a wife and a mother, I knew it would be smart to have some other options in case life didn’t go as planned (as it often does not).   My goal when seeking an education was to prepare myself in a field where I could work part-time while being a full-time mother.  That way should anything happen where I would need to provide for myself I would be prepared and then after my kids are grown I would still be marketable in the workplace.

Why was it important for you to work after having a baby?

I’m so blessed that the decision to work after having a baby was not purely a financial one - we did not NEED my income to survive.  The extra money does help, but more importantly was the continued investment on my education, the security of keeping myself (or rather, my skills) marketable, and the enjoyment of being in the workplace.  The enjoyment factor has really played a bigger role than I expected actually.

What has been the easiest part of keeping up with the demands of work and family?

I tell people all the time that “working makes me enjoy being home more and being at home makes me enjoy working more”.  I’ve found that the workplace is pretty accommodating to working women.   Management and co-workers have been flexible and  understanding.  Plus, there is a  lots of empathy and support from other working women.  I’m not sure how things were even 20 years ago, but lots of things like special nursing rooms and even onsite childcare are becoming more prevalent to make things easier for working moms.

What has been the hardest part of keeping up with the demands of work and family?

So no matter how reliable an employee I myself might be, now that I’m a mother that reliability is all dependent on the health and well-being of my child.  And children are just very unpredictable and things come up (illness, complications with child care arrangements) so it’s hard when my ability to work is limited by that.  Also, it’s very stressful finding and scheduling child care.  And lastly, getting multiple people prepared for the day and out the door on time is much harder than doing it for yourself.

What are your current childcare arrangements and how do you feel about them?

Originally, when we he was a baby, we had a “nanny” come to the house.  Now that our little boy is older, I wanted him to have some more social interaction.  Now, he goes to a woman’s house (who has a background in professional childcare) who has a little boy around the same age as our son.   Our little guy LOVES it - he loves getting out of our house,  having a playmate, and playing with different toys!  Plus, the woman is very flexible with her schedule so it has worked out great!

If you had to pick one trick or tip that helps you make it all work, what would it be?

Well, first of all I would say pick a career that can really be accommodating to a family in the way you want.  I know that’s not always a reality, so in that case I would say do whatever you can to keep stress low at home and at work - make meals ahead of time, eat leftovers or eat out, clean less, get enough sleep, etc.

Do you think you will continue with the part time work arrangements you have right now, for the long term?

Right now my situation is ideal.  We are thrilled to be expecting another child, but more children does complicate child care arrangements (more expensive, different schedules and needs, etc) so I’m not sure how we’re going to work that out.  Plus, in the future you have to deal with school schedules and extra activities.  My plan right now is to just take it as it comes and to continue to explore the options to find the best fit for my family.  Fortunately, there are a lot of flexible part-time opportunities for physical therapists so I plan on continuing to work part-time in some capacity long term.  And if not, I will at least maintain my license and plan on resuming work when I can.

Thank you for sharing your experience and insight with us, Alina!

A Proud Wife

Friday, March 7, 2014

I have to take this opportunity to brag about my husband a little bit. 
Because, well, he is pretty awesome.
Yesterday we attended a luncheon where he and 9 other classmates were honored with the 
Hawes Scholarship.
This was truly special because, before coming to business school, he was afraid he might not be able to handle it.
Not because he is not smart or not a hard worker, but because he has high expectations for himself. 
Now, 2 short years later, he is among those receiving the highest distinction given to a MBA student at BYU.

The Hawes Scholarship is not awarded based on academic excellence (although I'm sure all of the Hawes scholars are excelling academically) or best internship/job, etc. It is awarded to the students that contribute to building up the MBA program far beyond what is expected. Each of these recipients made an effort to support and mentor their classmates, participate in leadership positions, help others get more involved, etc.

The qualities that BYU looks for in the recipients of this award sum up Derek perfectly.
He is an incredibly selfless person who sincerely enjoys helping people and watching them succeed.
Even though he's had a lot on his plate throughout the program, he doesn't hesitate to make time for others.
He is a mentor to a group of marketing students and I can see how invested he is in each of them.
He just genuinely cares about people. 

At the award luncheon, the Director of the MBA program said something that I really liked.
He said that in today's economy, we need transformational leaders.
Leaders that go beyond the incentive-reward approach and focus on collaboration and providing opportunities for their employees to grow.
Leaders who will take the time to mentor their employees and help them reach their goals.
Derek is that kind of leader.

I'll end my bragging there, although there is much more I can say. 
I'm just so proud of my husband for all of his hard work and making the most of his business school experience.
He will continue to be an amazing representative of BYU's MBA program.

Big congratulations to all of this year's Hawes Scholars!!

You can read about all of the Hawes Scholars at:

Finding a Humane Elephant Santuary in Thailand

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


I consider myself a huge animal lover. Growing up, my favorite Disney movie was Lion King and I always envied Jasmine (in Aladdin) for having a pet Tiger, Rajah. Naturally, one of my greatest wishes was to be able to have intimate interactions with these animals. Not just cats and dogs, but wild animals. 
When I was a teenager I discovered that it was actually possible to have these interactions! I learned of hundreds of places that allow tourists to pet and even 'play' with tigers, and places where you could ride elephants through beautiful forests. Even up until just last year this was a huge dream of mine.
Thailand is well known for offering these kinds of activities, and since we will be there for a couple of weeks this summer, I anxiously started researching where I could sign us up!

Don't necessarily want to go to Thailand...just want to pet a tiger!

While doing some research I discovered some things that didn't sit well with me.
I learned that some of these activities may not be so humane.
I learned that many tiger tourism companies drug the tigers so they are sedated and are less likely to cause harm to the tourists. There are companies that specifically claim that they do not drug their tigers, but then you wonder how in the world are they not attacking people?? If they are not drugged, then what kind of training and conditions do they endure to 'domesticate' these wild animals? I decided rather than trying to figure out which companies treat their tigers kindly or not (because it is very difficult to actually know), that I would just avoid it all together. 

I still had some hope for riding elephants though! 

Elephants have been domesticated in Asia for a long time and I couldn't see the harm in riding them. 
But again, I didn't feel right about what I found.
I learned that the weight of humans  can actually cause serious damage to the spine of an elephant as they are not meant to support that much weight. Hard to believe since they are such massive creatures, which I think is one of the reasons many tourists are unaware of the harm it causes. Many elephant trek camps also attach what's called a Howdah (a large metal or wooden saddle) to the backs of elephants which adds even more weight for them to carry. 


Then there is the issue of how these elephants are trained to carry people on their backs. You couldn't just go up to a wild elephant in Africa, hop on its back and expect everything to be smooth sailing. There is some training involved to insure that these animals will not cause harm to people and will follow the instruction of their masters (called Mahouts). I don't want to generalize and say that every elephant-riding company tortures or abuses their elephants because that may not be the case. But there have been documented cases of animal cruelty used and it can be very difficult to distinguish between which companies do or don't.

I recognize this post has been pretty much a big downer. Initially I was really upset that my dreams of getting up close and personal with these animals would never come true.

But there is GOOD NEWS!

I found a couple of animal sanctuaries in Thailand that care for rescued animals and allow tourist to come see them. The one we plan to visit is called Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand (WFFT) in Petchaburi, Thailand. They house hundreds of rescued animals that were previously mistreated, including bears, monkeys, elephants, etc. We will not ride the elephants, but we'll be able to take them for a walk and bathe them as part of their daily routine! We will also be able to witness how these rescued animals are cared for in this facility. So amazing!

Another one that I've heard great things about is Save Elephant Foundation in Chiang Mai which also allows tourist to feed and bathe the elephants.

I don't mean to be judgmental with this post to those who have participated in these activities before. 
I have many friends who have had these opportunities and had wonderful experiences. 
I just want to spread awareness--because I was completely unaware before--and point out that there are other options!

Check out these links for further reading on this subject:

Working-Mom Series Week 1: Suzy

Monday, March 3, 2014

{You can read the Intro to the Working-Mom Series here}

This week's Working-Mom is Suzy! 
She is currently getting her MBA at BYU and upon graduation this spring she will be working full time at Johnson & Johnson in New Brunswick, NJ in their Procurement Leadership Development Program. 
She also has an adorable 4 year old son named James.


Tell us about how you approached the decision to work/go to school after having a baby?

When I graduated with my bachelor’s degree I took a job with a company in Salt Lake while my husband was finishing up his bachelor’s degree and student teaching. I was pregnant at the time and I was the breadwinner for our family. I really enjoyed my job, and planned on returning to work after the baby was born so I could continue to support my family. I’d never thought about being a working mom before that point, it had always seemed like everyone I knew who had a baby stopped working outside the home once the baby was born. I was really torn because I wanted to give all of my time to my new baby, but I needed to go back to work financially. Once I got back to work I found that I loved having a baby and working, it was really great for me to use my talents outside of the home, and at the same time I felt like I was giving my son excellent care. Even though I wasn't with him for most of the day, when I was with him I was very energetic and happy to see him and I know that even as a baby he could recognize that.

Why was it important for you to work after having a baby?

Aside from needing to work to support my family financially, it was important to me to pursue a career because I knew the impact a good manager can have on the people that work for them. It’s always been important to me to give back to others and I believe my career is a positive influence on the men and women that I work with. I also wanted other women who enjoy a career to feel supported and not like they are in the minority because they work and have children.

What has been the easiest part of keeping up with the demands of work and family?

I have always been very fortunate to have amazing childcare providers who are loving and give him everything he has ever needed when I’m at work or school. It is amazing to be able to focus on work when I need to, and then on my son when I need to. It makes it so much easier to balance my life and I don’t have the stress that many working mothers experience due to trouble with their childcare situations. My husband has played a major role in this as well, we share the responsibility, which makes everything easier to handle.

What has been the hardest part of keeping up with the demands of work and family?

The hardest thing has definitely been learning how to feel good about my decision to be a working mother regardless of what others think or say. I’ve definitely had more people tell me negative things about being a working mother than positive things. I am happy with how I live my life, and proud of my decisions, but negative feedback is still something that I have to learn to let go of so I don’t allow myself to make decisions based on what others think I should do.

What are your current childcare arrangements, what will they be once you start working, and how do you feel about them? 

Since moving to Provo 6 months ago, my sister in law has been taking care of my son. She has two kids of her own and so my son absolutely loves being there. I trust her, and so I couldn't ask for a better situation. Before that, he had been with the same caregiver for 3.5 years, and she was amazing. Once I start working my son will most likely go to a full-time montessori pre-school. I’m still looking for the right place, but I’m confident that I’ll find a good fit. He went to an amazing pre-school this summer during my internship, and he loved it, so I am excited for him to make new friends and try new things.

If you had to pick one trick or tip that helps you make it all work, what would it be? 

I have learned to keep a positive mindset, and rather than seeing work and family as competing for my time, I keep my life at work and at home separate so I can have success with both rather than letting one dictate the other.

What advice would you give to any woman that wants to get more education after having a child? 

Go for it. I've never regretted having more options. I have really learned a lot about life, and the curveballs that can be thrown at me, and I will never regret my ability to support my family. I see so many unhappy women who feel typecast into their roles, whatever those roles may be, and I won’t allow that to happen to myself. I will always encourage women to be educated and take control of their own destiny.

Thank you so much for sharing your story Suzy!

Intro to the Working-Mom Series


I am so excited to be kicking off the "Working-Mom" series! 
This is part of an assignment for a class that my husband and I are both taking this semester called 
'Work and Family'.

I decided to take this class because the subject has been on my mind a lot lately.
I hope to have kids in the future and I've gone through many different emotions as I've thought about what I am going to do once that time comes.
I've always enjoyed working and I feel like it is a big part of how I gain feelings of accomplishment.
I have struggled with the thought of not having that same opportunity once kiddos are in the picture.

Throughout this course and by listening to the experiences of friends who are mothers,
I've learned that having kids does not mean I have to give up on my career aspirations.
Of course having children creates new challenges, but there are ways to make things work.
There is not one perfect formula for every family and that is not what this series is about.
Rather, the purpose of this series is really just to share personal experiences with each other and recognize that different things work for different people--and that's okay!

We chose to interview 5 working moms in various work accommodations (such as full-time, part-time, work from home, etc) about their experiences
I will be posting a new entry every Monday for the next 5 weeks starting with today!

Week 1: Suzy
Week 2: Alina
Week 3: Christine
Week 4: Brenda
Week 5: Erin