This month I’m going to kick off a new series I think you will enjoy. I’ve wanted to feature some amazing Moms in my world that I not only adore but truly admire for how they keep it all together. Whether they are high powered execs or the “stay at home” variety like myself, I’ve always been curious about what makes these women tick and how they manage to prioritize family, career, home, and friendships while still maintaining their own identity and sense of self. What does success mean to them? How do they handle failure, disappointment, and cope with disaster? We are all acutely aware that each day is a dance, so I wanted to find out the steps these incredible Moms take to stay on their toes and remain somewhat graceful at the same time.
I thought the perfect person to begin this “series” with would be my oldest and dearest friend on the planet- Molly. Besties since we were eight years old, Molly is known as the keeper of the memories. She is the hard drive of our friendship that remembers everything from the color of my third-grade snow pants to what was on our Christmas list in 1985 because our holiday desires were, of course, the same. We did everything together, from babydolls and Barbies to Saturdays at the local roller rink, Cheap Skate. We were bullied together in elementary school by two sisters more frightening than the Grady twins in The Shining. Away from the playground, we were lucky enough to spend summers at horse camp, and every Friday night of the long Minnesota winters at ski club, where we spent more time chasing boys in the lodge than practicing our slalom technique. High school weekends meant football games, double date nights, and days on our local lake drinking Bartle’s and James and maybe getting grounded once or twice. In 1988 Molly got a car that was the brightest turquoise blue you’ve ever seen, and of course, she had to have the quintessential teenage girl keychain to match. Complied upon a single keyring, Molly had no less than five mini acrylic photo frames, several initialized trinkets, the essential bottle opener, and perhaps a pom-pom or two in our high school colors. Said key ring held maybe all of two actual keys. This “keychain” was so enormous and weighed so much it nearly tore her ignition straight off the steering wheel every time she started the car. Molly was (and still is) over the top in the best way possible. She is adoringly goofy, hyperbolic to the core, and completely hilarious, just like that keychain. That girl grew up to earn two degrees, marry her college sweetheart, have four babies, and nurture a long and impressive career, all while keeping the lid on her fort with fun, firmness, and a whole lotta help she’s not afraid to ask for. Meet my friend Molly. I think you’re going to like her.
First of all, thank you for being my first “interview”! It’s pretty appropriate, being you were my first bestie when we met in second grade. Hard to believe we’re all “grown-up” and have families of our own. You and your husband of 24 years (amazing!) have four fantastic kids, Zoe (22), Channing (18), Will (14), and Brooks (8). How in the world do you handle it all and keep the ship sailing smoothly?
Help, help and more help keep this house running in an organized and efficient manner. I ask for it, arrange it, pay for it, and definitely take it! The kids have chores and know everything has a proper place. Coats are hung, backpacks are put away, garbage is thrown away, dishes go in the dishwasher and their rooms are 75% acceptable on most days.
I definitely do my part daily. I recycle the daily papers, sort the mail the minute it comes in the house, keep the kitchen very clean and hate clutter and piles. I sweep pretty much every day and like things pretty tidy. I love fresh flowers and good candles everywhere.
I have to run a tight ship or we could have a very chaotic house!
Also, my biggest secret is going to bed with everything organized and cleaned up–especially the kitchen and great room. I love to wake up to a clean house and it starts my day off in a wonderful way.
Amen to that. Let’s talk career. What is it you currently do and who do you work for? Is this where you thought you would be at this stage in your life?
I’m currently Product Marketing Manager, Education at Jamf Software. Although I’m exactly where I want– and aspired– to be, it was not the journey I thought I would take to get here. The analogy that success is not a straight line, but a very squiggly and convoluted one is completely accurate.
I’ve had four very different careers and three “retirements” along the way, but am truly thankful for each position and experience as they definitely led me to the next phase. I started teaching in graduate school, started my career in advertising and public relations and ended up selling EdTech and migrating to Product Marketing in education.
I also took substantial time off after our three younger kids without any damage to my career. It’s been very organic growth, and proof the world works in mysterious ways.
I couldn’t agree more and I’ve always admired your ability to “pivot” with the circumstances; whether a move, children, economy, you always land on your feet, and very successfully, I might add. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up, other than one half of the very successful “Marcy & Darcy Travel Agency” we used to play in my basement as kids? God, we were weird. And if you could be anything you wanted to be RIGHT NOW, what would that be?
I wanted to be a grocery check-out clerk with blue eye-shadow initially, but I always knew I wanted a career that would help me make something–or someone better–I just was never fully sure what that was exactly. Today, I help educators succeed with their students with Apple–and help with educational equity in eight countries by helping students use iPads to get internet connectivity so they can continue to learn in any learning environment.
If I could do anything different, I would be a Labor & Delivery nurse. Along those lines, I’m planning on being a postpartum doula in my retirement.
This response is everything! And sums you up to a “T”. Frivolous, fun-loving, and totally goofy on the outside, with a nerdy, book smart interior that wants to change the world for the better. So how do you balance it all and what is the single most important thing FOR YOU to keep things harmonious?
Communication with my husband and kids! I have an incredible husband, and we co-parent the kids as partners 100%. We are very communicative about rules and expectations and that eliminates a lot of friction. We also keep a pretty tight schedule and there is dinner on the table every single night so we can eat as a family if sports/activities allow.
I love that, and most of my good recipes have come from you and your old school cookbooks! Shifting gears, how do you separate your “Mom” identity from your professional identity?
My Mom identity needs the sense of achievement and accomplishment my work identity provides to be balanced and whole. I’ve spent years trying to change that and feeling guilty about it and finally learned to embrace it. What I’ve figured out is that it’s good for my kids to see me happy, fulfilled, and achieving my professional goals. They are very proud of me and definitely see how it’s possible to have both a family and a meaningful and purpose-driven career. My work identity definitely incorporates part of my Mom identity and vice versa. I’ve spent the last 12 years in Edtech sales, and I am now on the product side–so the maternal part of me feels like I’m making a difference in improving educational equity globally. When done well, they blend nicely on both fronts.
We all know that parenthood isn’t all sunshine and roses. What has been your most difficult or heartbreaking experience as a Mom?
Will was born on May 27, 2002, and we just expected to take home this perfect, healthy baby like we’d done twice already. Instead, he was very frail and very ill. He suffered from RDS or severe respiratory distress caused by underdeveloped lungs–even as a full-term baby. With the best medical care possible during my pregnancy, we still had a critically ill baby. We were stunned and petrified. He was taken immediately to the NICU and given oxygen, and soon put on a full ventilator. We could not see him for quite some time, and when we could see him, we could not touch or hold him. Going home to an empty nursery was heartbreaking. Taking shifts at the hospital while caring for a six and four-year-old was very difficult, to say the least. My mom basically moved in with us out of state. Thank God Will made a full recovery. For years, his birthday was sad for me. We have since moved, but every year, I send the NICU a Christmas picture to update them on our family.
I can’t begin to imagine how terrifying and stressful that time must have been, but you clearly have incredible support and serious coping techniques. Over the years, we’ve talked a lot about keeping our “Xi” in balance and what this means to keep everything flowing. What is the most valuable thing you do for yourself to make sure your “Xi” is centered? How do you know when it’s beginning to get depleted?
My Peloton, fresh air, reading, family fun, and remembering how fast the years go with my kids–even when the days can be long. We are launching our second kid to college next fall, so I’m acutely aware lately!
What is the one “Mom Mantra” you preach to your kids?
Keep your priorities straight: family, faith, school, friends/sports…in that order. It’s very easy to flip them around. And life is too short not to follow your heart.
I love that. You live that mantra by always leading with your heart. Speaking of heart, how do you secure quality time for you and Chan as a couple?
Pre-COVID, we used to travel about four times a year alone to get away and remember what it’s like to just laugh and experience new things together. Thankfully, my parents are an enormous support system for us (they live four blocks from us now) and we are so lucky they love to help.
With COVID, we walk the dog, sneak out for the occasional lunch or dinner date alone, and just appreciate this time together with our kids. With another one going off to college, we realize how fast the time goes and appreciate the boys have never had Channing home this much during the week–ever! We play crazy games of cards, board games and binge watch TV shows. We enjoy the simple things more now.
How do you guys balance/prioritize “couple time”, “family time”, and “social time with friends”?
We are always family first. We try to keep nights out without kids to one weekend night per week so we have one family night. When Channing was traveling pre-COVID, weekends were sacred.
We love to host, go out with friends, and are so lucky to have the best groups of friends from many stages of life. We also socialize a ton with our kids through sports, and we feel so lucky to live in a great community that focuses on family. That blends all three nicely!
I know you’re a huge reader- what is your favorite book or novel of all time and what have you read more than once “just because you love it so much?”
Two older: The Poisonwood Bible By Barbara Kingsolver and The Red Tent by Anita Diamont.
Most recently, Untamed by Glennon Doyle.
Fave podcasts, shows, and music:
Podcasts: Goop, My Perfect Murder, This American Life, On Being with Krista Tippett
Shows: The Queen’s Gambit, The Undoing and Schitt’s Creek
Music: Pretty much anything 70’s (I’m pretty unadventurous so thankful for a cool husband and my kids).
Whose opinion matters to you most, and why?
Molls: My family…. without a doubt.
Olivia Palermo, Princess Olympia of Greece, Aerin Lauder.
Kelly Wearstler, Mary McDonald. Classic with color!
Dinner party for ten (I get to be there), who’s attending, dead or alive?
Of course, you and Brian are there! Channing Schmidt, the Original Shah’s of Sunset Reza Farahan, Anderson Cooper, Channing’s late father, Russ (whom I’ve never met), Brené Brown, William Shakespeare, Marie Kondo, Marie Antoinette, and Ina Garden is cooking!
Again, what a splendid mix of cerebral, humorous, historical, and fun! I love it. And I love you for sharing who you are, what you love, and how you’ve learned to keep “Molly” and “Mom” sacred, separate, yet lovingly the same. And thank you for filling my life with forty years worth of incredible friendship!