I DECIDED TO CREATE MOMUMENTAL MOTHERS TO CELEBRATE WOMEN FROM ALL WALKS OF LIFE. EACH OF THE WOMEN I WILL FEATURE ARE DIFFERENT, BUT THEY ARE ALL UNITED IN MOTHERHOOD.
Today I am happy to introduce you to the seventh mom in my Momumental Mothers series, Catey.
I’ve gotten to know Catey through Twitter and by reading her blog, Olive Juice. I thought it would be interesting to interview her because of her background working with children through social work and counseling.
Catey, can you tell me about yourself?
I am 27 years old, turning 28 here pretty soon. I have my master’s degree in social work with a concentration on working directly with children, youth, and families. Right out of grad school I worked for three years as an elementary and middle school counselor, but at the beginning of this year, I made a pretty significant career shift.
Now my official job title is Pediatric Care Coordinator; my job is pediatric social work in a medical setting. I work for an integrated health system under a grant that was designed to make sure that the kids in Arizona from 0-5 years of age have everything they need to be successful when they start school. Every day I connect with families who have children ages 0-5 and make sure that they’re receiving all the care and resources they need. I make sure they have health insurance, they keep all their well-child visits from their first checkup after hospital discharge to their last checkup before they start kindergarten. If they’re referred to any medical specialties I make sure they’re connected to those resources and keeping those appointments, and I make sure that they are connected with any social resources (parenting classes, food resources, home visitation programs, Head Start, etc.) that they may need.
You are a mother; how old are your children?
I have two toddler boys – JT is my 1-year-old, and TJ is 2. They were born 363 days apart and frankly I don’t remember a bit about the last year. Things started to get a bit easier once JT started sleeping through the night, but I really don’t remember much before that. Neither one of them is in daycare or preschool quite yet. TJ spent his first year in daycare but daycare cost for an infant and a one-year-old is astronomical, and I’m not a Rockefeller (I’m a social worker, remember?) so my husband changed jobs and now he stays home with the boys during the day and leaves for work when I get home. There is talk of starting TJ in preschool after his 3rd birthday, though!
You know, as much as I do that parenting isn’t easy. What do you feel is your biggest struggle as a parent?
Time! Being a mom of two-under-two while working a full-time job is no joke. I struggle constantly with guilt because I don’t feel like I have a spare moment to just enjoy being with them. I leave for work in the morning before they’re awake, and when I get home it’s time for dinner and then chores and then bedtime routines. The weekends are a little better, and I do try and relax with them during the time off, but it always seems like we have errands and obligations and housework (oh my!) and then it’s back to work in what feels like a blink. And being strapped for time puts a load of stress on my brain and makes me impatient as all get-out, so more often than not I feel like my kids don’t get me at my best, and instead have to suffer through the best I can muster up. I wouldn’t trade it for a thing but man, I could really use a couple of extra hours every day.
That leads me to my next question. Do you think it is possible for women to have it all and how do you find a work/life balance?
Of course, it’s possible, but that doesn’t mean it’s not difficult! Like I said, my husband and I try and make up for the time we spend working during the week by spending quality time, just us and the boys, on the weekends. We work opposite schedules so that we can avoid the daycare costs, and in doing so we’re able to have our own time with our kids every day.
We’re fortunate enough that many of our friends have kids around the ages of our boys so it’s not terribly hard to maintain relationships with them because they understand the time constraints that we have. But we keep in touch, so I consider our friendships intact (just maybe not the socializing, at least not right now). And I’m happy to say that I’m able to maintain my hobbies and passions through sharing them with my kids. For example, my absolute favorite hobby has always been reading, which I’ve been able to keep up with by reading novels to my boys since they were born. We’ve read all sorts of things together – Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass, the first three books in the Harry Potter series, Holes, The Giver, and most recently we’ve started the first book in The Chronicles of Narnia – and that’s just to name a handful!
What your normal day like?
I wake up around 6:00 a.m., get ready for work, and I’m out the door by 7:00 . Unfortunately, this means I don’t get to see my kids until I’m home from work around 4:30 p.m. and I high-five my husband on my way in/his way out.
When I get home I cook dinner, then I eat with the kids. After dinner, we clean the kitchen, feed the dogs and my 2-year old’s fish, and tidy up whatever hurricane they’ve managed to make that day. At 6:00 p.m. we shower, brush teeth, comb hair – the works. By the end of all that it’s 6:30 p.mand they get half an hour to watch one of their favorite movies before we head to their bedroom at 7:00. Then we read a chapter of whatever book we’re working on (currently The Magician’s Nephew) and they’re passed out by 7:30.
After that I spend about an hour by myself, usually watching something mindless on Netflix or Hulu, and I’m passed out by 8:30. Repeat 5x until the weekend, when we do some of the bigger chores and grocery shopping, and the rest of the time we free-play. It’s not exciting, but it works!
OK: a three-part question: What do you think your parents did when you were growing up that helped you be a responsible and successful adult? What do you wish your parents would have taught or given you that you didn’t have/they didn’t? And what are you doing to try to help your kids?
My parents definitely instilled my love of literature. I wouldn’t say they “limited screen time,” but they kept a close eye on what we watched and made sure that most of the time we were doing something more meaningful – reading, gardening, we did a lot of puzzles as a family, etc.
I wish they had been more mindful of nurturing our natural passions and talents, rather than encouraging us to be interested in what they wanted us to be interested in… I spent years doing things like t-ball, gymnastics, and baton twirling when I would have been much happier doing community theater, choir, and art classes. Lesson learned – I’m keeping a close eye on my boys and what their interests are. TJ has always loved music and dancing, recently he’s taken an interest in coloring, and we’ll do what we can to start nurturing those artistic inclinations as he gets older. The younger is more aggressive and active, we probably won’t be enrolling him in any dance classes but I could see him getting very into soccer or wrestling. We’ll see!
What is your favorite thing about being a parent and also your least favorite?
My favorite thing is the way my kids look at me. They run to me as soon as I come home and give me hugs and babble as best as they can about their day. I love that they want to approach me and talk to me and I love every day watching them grow and learn and think. My least favorite is feeling constantly at the end of my rope.
I’m approaching a season of having a Terrible Two and a Threenager, which I’m definitely not prepared for because I find life exhausting enough without the attitude of tiny people intruding. But at the end of the day being my kids’ “mamum” is my favorite thing in the world, and even knowing the exhaustion and impatience, I would choose it over and over again.
How do you handle everyday stressors?
Beer and chocolate.
Nah, I’m (only slightly) kidding. I think I’m fortunate to have a background in mental health and child development, it makes it easy to get through the tougher times. I’m usually able to catch myself when I’m feeling about to explode and do whatever I need to do to eliminate unnecessary stress, whether that means skipping chores, having an extra hour of TV time, taking PTO from work, taking a break from the blog (which I have been doing for the last couple months but I plan to get it back up again soon!), etc. And for the rest of the time, there’s beer and chocolate.
What are your tips for staying sane each morning and evening as everyone is waking up and preparing for bedtime?
The only tip I have for the morning is coffee. And lots of it. I am not a morning person, I would sleep forever if that was an option, but once my coffee’s kicked in I become mildly approachable. At bedtime, I cannot stress enough how necessary it is to pick a routine and stick with it. My kids go to bed at 7:00 p.m. every night without tears because they always have gone to bed at 7:00 at night. Literally, from the time they hit about 1-month-old, their bedtime has been 7:00 and I have been very strict with everyone in their lives (husband, grandparents, in-laws) that they go to bed at 7:00, no exceptions. That’s the only way I’ve been able to maintain my sanity!
How did your career as a social worker and counselor help you when becoming a mother?
I know for a fact I would be a very different parent if I didn’t have my educational background. There is a huge misconception about social workers, that we’re baby-snatchers who are only interested in taking kids away from their natural parents. The fact is that DCS (or CPS, or whatever child services is called in your area) is such a small facet of the profession. Mostly we’re counselors, policymakers, and advocates.
In getting my degree I learned how to conduct individual and group therapy sessions, diagnose and treat mental disorders, and understand the underlying causes of human behavior. Because my chosen specialty is direct practice with children, youth, and families, I gained expertise in child development theories and relationships. I learned of the different styles of parenting and I learned how to best communicate with people of all ages. When I worked as a school counselor I was able to put those theories into practice and actually see how children responded to being treated a certain way. Now that I’m a parent I’m using what I learned in school to communicate with my kids, and I’m teaching my husband to do the same. It’s not quite the same as having the elusive “parenting manual,” but I’m pretty sure it’s as close as a person can get!
Has becoming a mother changed how you approach your job professionally or your interpersonal communications with the children you work with?
I don’t think so. I think my parenting and my professional life are pretty intertwined; I use anecdotes from my personal experience when the parents with whom I work ask me questions and seek advice, and I take what I learn at conferences and through discussions with the doctors and add it to my parenting repertoire. I wouldn’t say one has necessarily ‘changed’ the other, though.
You have two boys and I believe I read that you are trying to potty train one of them. I only have experience potty training a girl but I know soon enough my son will be ready. I have absolutely no idea where to start. Do you have any tips or advice for potty training a boy?
General potty training advice is tricky because no two kids are exactly the same, so know your kid really well before you start (that goes for a girl OR a boy). That being said, I definitely recommend you read “Potty Training Boys the Easy Way” by Caroline Fertleman. I worked as a toddler teacher at a private preschool for a couple of years and I potty trained upwards of 10 kids, boys and girls, while I was there, but it was different than doing it as a parent. This book is an easy read and encourages taking your time and going slow, which I loved because it seems like most advice you read about potty training says to start as soon as possible and “it only takes 3 days!” Yeah…no. But I implemented the advice in the book and now my 2-year-old is fully in underwear during the day, and he only wears a pull-up when he sleeps! We’re pretty certain he’ll be fully toilet trained by the end of next month, and I give full credit to Dr. Fertleman’s book.
What would your advice for a new mother be?
Don’t exhaust yourself trying to be perfect – no one is. Don’t be afraid to seek answers but also don’t feel obligated to take in every piece of unsolicited advice (and trust me, you’ll get plenty of that). No one knows your kid better than you do, and you shouldn’t let anyone try and convince you otherwise. If you get advice you don’t like from your parents or in-laws, politely accept it and then disregard it completely. If you hear something you disagree with from your pediatrician, get a second opinion. There are 10 million different ways to raise a kid successfully, just because you’re not doing something the exact same way as someone else does not mean that you’re not doing it right. You’ve got this!
Thank you so much, Catey, for allowing me to interview you! It has been a pleasure.
Please check out Catey”s blog, Olive Juice, and show her some love there. You can also find her on social media-