Working Mom Life: Don’t Worry, Be Happy, Say No

Working Mom Life is an interview series featuring real working mothers who are figuring out how to get the job done. Because there are more ways to be a working mom than there are ways to fold a cloth diaper, we can all learn from each other. Join the conversation #WorkingMomLife.

Working Mom Life - Amy Bradley-Hole and Family

Amy Bradley-Hole is a force of nature. I know because I’ve been in a room with her. Her energy and ideas seem to be never-ending. She’s got two young sons and a resume full of stops and starts and start-overs. I really relate to her squiggly career path, and so admire her tenacity and her ability to lead with her talents and let everything else fall away. I know you’ll enjoy getting to know Amy, but if you’d rather fake it, here are 3 takeaways you can use right now:

  • Remember that fathers are fully capable of running households.
  • Ask for help, and accept help.
  • Become brilliant at saying no.

LD: Going back to work is different for every mom. How did you do it?

AB: I worked up until about the 6th month of my first pregnancy. At that time, my husband’s job had us relocate from Reno down to the Vegas area. As much as I would have liked to have gotten a job when we moved, no one was going to hire a visibly pregnant woman! So I enjoyed the rest of my pregnancy, and stayed home with my first son for the first 18 months of his life. When we relocated to Florida, I found a great daycare and went back to work on a part time basis. I carried on with the part time work after my second son was born. THEN we moved to Arkansas. I was eager to earn more money, so I went back to work full time for a few years.

LD: You’ve worked for yourself for a while now, first as a freelance writer/editor/publicist and now as founder of Bonta Toscana food company. Why did you decide to go out on your own?

AB: I enjoyed the income of working full time for someone else, but the stress was terrible. I hated missing my kids’ activities or school programs, and I hated that they were in after school care every evening and all summer long.Trying to juggle everyone’s schedules got more difficult the older they got. So I quit working for other people, and started working for myself. I work a ton of hours now, but I can at least set my own schedule, and that’s what matters most. My boys are 10 and 8 now, so we’re pretty busy, but they’re also more capable of doing things for themselves, so that saves me time.

LD: Every successful working mom I know has a few tricks that keep her sane and keep her family fed and out of jail. What are yours?

AB: We are creatures of habit, and are very routine-oriented. I have been like that since the day my first son was born. Our morning routine, our after school routine, our evening routine — they’re very ritualistic, even when we throw things like sports practices or special events into the mix. I’ve found that the more we can keep a steady routine, the calmer everyone is. Everyone knows what to expect.

I couldn’t live without the Cozi Family app and website. It’s where I keep everyone’s schedule, and grocery lists, and notes to each other, etc. It’s always at my fingertips whenever I need to update anyone’s calendar, and it makes it easy for me to send messages to my husband about schedule changes.

LD: That’s a great resource, and speaking of your husband, would you say he’s an equal partner on the domestic front?

AB: We’re pretty much fifty-fifty, but honestly, we don’t even think about who does what. We both just chip in and do whatever needs to be done. Whoever is available, whoever has the free time, whoever will be close to the store — that’s who does the chore. We’ve hardly ever had a conversation about doling out duties. And when one or the other of us has to travel, the other just steps in and makes it work. I’ve never been one of those wives who has to make meals, lay out clothes, or arrange for sitters for a week before going out of town. I would lose my mind. My husband is fully capable of running our household beautifully in my absence.

LD: I have been that wife and it’s part of the reason I did lose my mind a little when the kids were young. I think it was part of my mommy guilt, which I believe is an inevitable part of motherhood. What’s been your experience?

AB: I really struggled when I was working full time during the summers. The kids would get invited to go swimming, or got to a movie, or go grab pizza for lunch with a friend, and I had to say no, because they were at daycare or day camps, and the logistics were too difficult for me to make it happen. They used to literally cry because all their friends got a summer vacation, but they went to school all summer (their care programs were at their school). I couldn’t accept that, so I overcame it by quitting full time work. (Paying a nanny or sitter to stay with them every day and drive them places was too expensive.)

LD: What is the best advice you have received about thriving in the #WorkingMomLife?

Your kids won’t remember the stressful times or the bad times as much as you do. They’ll just remember the good stuff. So don’t worry too much about those rough periods. It won’t do lasting damage.

LD: Any terrible advice you’d like to forget?

I’m not the kind of person who gets mad at unsolicited or bad advice. I truly think there’s something helpful to be gleaned from all advice. That said, I remember being told that the income I was making when I was working full time would make the stress and the time spent away from my kids worth it. It wasn’t necessarily bad advice, but it simply wasn’t true for me.

LD: What would you like to tell new moms who plan to work, or moms headed back to work?

Ask for help. Always. Don’t be afraid to tell people you need assistance. And if anyone ever offers help, take it! Whether it’s your mother-in-law offering to clean your house and do laundry after you’ve had a baby, or a friend offering to take your kids for the afternoon, or your husband offering to cook supper, say yes. This was difficult for me at first, because I’m a control freak. I like things done MY way, and I’d rather just do something myself rather than have someone else try but screw it up. I’ve learned to let a lot of that go. The stress of having too much on your plate is worse than the stress of someone else doing things differently than you’d like them done.

Also, have an in-case-of-emergency friend. I have one friend I know I can call on no matter what. If I’m running late and can’t get the kids from school in time, she’ll pick them up. If I need a last minute babysitter at midnight on a Wednesday night, she’ll do it. I’m her ICE friend, too, so I can always return the favor. Knowing that you have a safety net is a wonderful feeling.

LD: Running your own business takes a special set of skills. So does motherhood. I believe you can acquire and hone those skills over time, but stamina can’t be learned. What’s your secret?

Not giving a f*@$. I don’t care what the latest parenting trends are. I don’t care about how other families do it. I don’t care about SAHM/WOHM/WAHM competitions. I don’t compare myself to other moms. I just do what works for us, and that’s that.

Also, I’m brilliant at saying no. I don’t volunteer too much of my time, I don’t sign up for stuff, I don’t take on commitments I can’t handle. And I don’t feel one bit guilty for saying no, either.

That’s the perfect place to end, because we all could be better at saying no– to the wrong things– so that we have more time to say yes to the right ones. Thank you, Amy Bradley-Hole!
Learn about more working moms’ lives here:


Got Books?

Lela Davidson’s award-winning, best-selling essay collections. Short reads for busy moms who smile and smirk. Available on AmazonNookiTunes and every other place books are sold. But probably not at your neighbor’s garage sale.


6 Book Club Books for Working Moms

You’re a working mom and you’re in a book club. Time is precious. And while it’s super fun to get together with girlfriends and drink wine and eat snacks, and have opinions about books you may or may not have had time to read, there are only so many meetings in a row you can get away with not reading the book. (In my experience this is approximately 37% of the time, missing no more than two books in a row.)

When it’s your turn to select the book, take the opportunity choose one of these 6 ideal types of books for working moms to read in book club.

The Make-You-Better Book
Book club is recreation, but all the best working moms know how to multi-task. My book club read Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project a few years ago and I guarantee we’ll be reading her new title, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives sooner than later. A great self-help book is a win-win for everyone mom in the room–working or not.

The Escape Book
All books take you somewhere, but some are better than others at immersing you in a world you’d never have the chance to experience. The 19th Wife, A Novel by David Ebershoff and The Other Bolyen Girl by Philippa Gregory are two of my favorites.

The Holy-Crap-How-Do-I-Get-It-All-Done? Book
Working moms are always juggling something, or spinning plates, or balancing on a tightrope. (Trust me, I’ve tried to come up with better metaphors, and when I do I guarantee there’s a book deal in it for me.) So when you’re wondering how others cope, check out Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time by Brigid Schulte and Good Enough Is the New Perfect: Finding Happiness and Success in Modern Motherhood by Rebecca Gillespie and Hollee Temple.

The Depressing Thinker Book
What would you do in an impossible situation? Better to play our your choices in the page of a novel. Our book club really enjoyed The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman. We didn’t agree on how we would have handled the situation. And arguing over wine about the decisions of fictional characters is some of the most fun a girl can have.

The Empowerment Book
Sometimes you just have to take on the world. But if you’re a working mom, time’s tight. If you have a fantasy (as I do) of taking a extended nature sabbatical, walk a few miles in Cheryl Strayed’s hiking boots by reading Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. It doesn’t disappoint, but it does spark very good conversations. And don’t forget that other Sheryl– Sandberg. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead is required reading for any working mother.

The Comedic Relief Book
I’ve written before about my favorite funny mom books for book clubsI Just Want to Pee Alone and You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth are anthologies by dozens of very funny ladies. But my very favorite new funny book that is the ideal book club read for working moms is, not surprisingly, Faking Balance: Adventures in Work and Life, which will be released in September!


Got Books?

Lela Davidson’s award-winning, best-selling essay collections. Short reads for busy moms who smile and smirk. Available on AmazonNookiTunes and every other place books are sold. But probably not at your neighbor’s garage sale.



Working Mom Life: You Belong Here

Working Mom Life Kellee Mayfield and family

Working Mom Life is an interview series featuring real working mothers who are figuring out how to get the job done. Because there are more ways to be a working mom than there are ways to fold a cloth diaper, we can all learn from each other. I hope you’ll join the conversation #WorkingMomLife.

Kellee Mayfield keeps hearts beating, literally, as a sales and clinical specialist for pacemakers and defibrillators. She’s also a talented painter, and writes about life in southeast Arkansas on her popular blog Delta Moxie. Kellee is mom to a 9-year-old daughter, and is married to a doctor, so schedules can conflict. Here are my 3 favorite parts of Kellee’s answers:

  • Routines make life easier, even if life interrupts them often.
  • It’s okay to let your children hang out at work (we heard this from Eileen Jennings, too.)
  • “You belong here.”

Interview with Kellee Mayfield

LD: Did you always know you’d be a working mom?

KM: Probably entering college, I’d say yes. As I aged and advanced, my answer changed with my career demands and where we were located. Now that I’m older and have options, I want my daughter to see me working and contributing. I realize that may not be for everyone, but it is important to me. For many years she assumed I was a doctor like her dad, but I’m in medical device sales. She has been with me when I’ve had to check patients in an emergency and tells her friends, “My mom saves lives (even though she isn’t a doctor)”.

LD: Do you live by routines or do you wing it? 

Our family lives by routines, however we often find ourselves winging it due to our unpredictable work schedules (which happens when you are both in health care). During the week, she’ll stay with her “second mom,” our caregiver. For the everyday juggling of schedules, she has spent many hours in my husband’s office, nurses stations, or ICU waiting rooms as we finish tasks.

We have a strict morning routine that is easy because our daughter is a morning person. It begins at 5:45. Our daughter dresses herself in a school uniform and performs the normal grooming of brushing teeth and hair, washing her face. Once she is dressed, she eats her breakfast which is made the night before with an almond milk, whole rolled oats, banana, chia seed pudding. Her school lunch is also prepared and packed the night before. Makes it so much easier to grab and go.

After school routines are structured following her arrival home. She immediately begins her homework and we work together as a family keeping her on track. She takes dance on Tuesday, piano in our home on Wednesday and tennis on Tuesday. There are times, she will share a ride with a friend or receive transport from our caregiver.

LD: How do you keep the whole family on track? 

Communication keeps our family running. Thank goodness for FaceTime, texting and mobile phones. Also, on any given day, we have a vital network of friends that we can count on in a pinch. Relaxing and socializing with this group keeps us sane. Our daughter also plays a role in coordinating our family calendars and schedules. She’s a born leader and contributes to the organization of our family. She gets her calendar out and she marks upcoming events, special birthdays. The girl wants details. She must know our plans. What time will we leave? How long will this event last? What will I wear? What are you going to wear? Who will be there? Who is hosting? What is the theme? Who’s car are we taking? Do we take a gift? When will we have a gift? And if she isn’t going, she asks, “who will be keeping me?”

LD: I love that your daughter is so involved. How do you and your husband share domestic tasks?

My husband handles so much of the transportation as well as the kitchen area (including washing dishes) and I wash clothes. I hit the jackpot in this area. I am a road warrior and drive 50,000 miles per year. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without the support of my husband.

We also have a wonderful caregiver and we lucked into the situation. Her daughter was one of our daughter’s first babysitters. Our caregiver’s daughter is now in college and loves our daughter like her own. If she hasn’t seen her in a week or two, she’ll call and see if our daughter will come spend the night or just run errands with her. To nurture the relationship…that’s easy, she and her family are part of our family. We also try to make sure we don’t abuse her generosity and we ensure she is well compensated. She is a gift from God.

LD: Have you ever received any really good advice about winning the #WorkingMomLife game?

Oh, Lela, I’m in a male-dominated field. The best advice I’d ever been given in my field was; you belong here. Be prepared and go for it. I have a mentor but she recently retired. She has become one of my best friends. On the corporate level, there are opportunities to join women mentoring groups, but I haven’t taken advantage of them yet. I did find a blogger named Marney Reed who happens to work for my company in California (different division) and I follow her blog, Stilettos on the Glass Ceiling. She is inspiring. I also learn from the men in my industry as well. There are many opportunities.

LD: Do you have any advice for new moms who plan to work, or for seasoned moms headed back to work?

Have backup plans for childcare, build a support network for yourself and your family. Allow others to help. Communicate. Invest in yourself. You are valued in the workplace. A great read is Sheryl Sandberg’s, Lean In.

Thanks so much to Kellee for sharing what works for her dual-working parent family! 

Books Make Great Gifts!

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Lela Davidson’s award-winning, best-selling essay collections. Short reads for busy moms who smile and smirk. Available in paperback and ebook on Amazon,
NookiTunes and other places books are sold.