“Do what makes you happy”

work from home mom

You know when you’ve followed someone’s career for so long you feel like you know them? {Kind of like my lifelong obsession with the Olsen twins and subsequent delusion that we’re friends?}

Well, that’s how I feel about Melanie Knopke. Her familiar face can be found describing the newest style trends on local news stations or sharing her latest fashion finds in magazines.

Not only does she know her stuff when it comes to her way around your closet, but she’s also a savvy working mom who has taken her passion for fashion and her experience in the industry to create a work from home business that works for her busy family.

Self-promo time. Tell me what you do.

I am a wardrobe stylist, freelance writer, on-air personality, blogger and photography enthusiast.

Which came first, the fashion or the blog?

The fashion! Since I was young, I knew I would make a career in fashion. I have worked in the fashion industry for almost 20 years. I moved from sales into management at Nordstrom in Chicago then on to buying for Mark Shale and after kids I started my own styling business. I started the blog 7 years ago after I had my first child and quit working to be at home with him. I was missing my creative outlet, so I started Scout-A Mom’s Guide to Stylish Living to fill that void in my life.

What’s your must-have fashion item right now?

A great handbag! I am a big believer in the high-low way of dressing; mixing budget items with investment pieces. I always invest in good bags, because clothing trends may come and go, or your size may fluctuate but a great bag never goes out of style!

If styling wasn’t your gig, what do you think you’d be doing?

This is a hard question because there are so many things I am passionate about and would love to do. But, I always dreamed of designing swimwear. Especially approaching 40, it’s hard to find great fitting/age appropriate swimsuits!

Tell me about a professional roadblock you’ve had.

When I moved to Kansas City from Chicago I applied for a buying job and didn’t get it. I was devastated; especially coming from a big city with unparalleled buying experience. But, it just wasn’t meant to be, and I feel like everything happens for a reason. Not getting that job pushed me to start writing my blog, starting my personal styling business, and doing on-air promotional work for big brands in Kansas City like the Legends Outlets and Park Place.

How has your professional life changed since having kids?

My job is unique because I am a work from home/stay at home mom. So, now instead of working a full day like I did before kids, I now have to schedule my work around my kids {and my husbands job}. When my daughter is in preschool 3 days I week I cram all my work into those days. Or, I will work with clients on the weekends when my husband is home. Somedays I wish I just had a pre-set schedule, 9-5, but for now this is what works for us! I am going to try to take advantage of this small window of being home with them before they are both in school full time.

work from home mom working mom wednesday

What is a typical day like for your family?

I wish I had a typical day! I wear a variety of hats, so every day is different. Because my husband runs a fitness studio he is gone in the mornings, so I am hustling to get everyone out the door. I then will go workout right after I drop my daughter off, then it’s a race to fit in work between 10 and my daughters pickup time which is 2:30. Somedays I am pulling for a styling job, or I am helping a client clean out their closet, or I may be photographing looks for my blog. It’s rare that I have just a day for nails and lunch with friends, but I do like to squeeze that in when I can! After school I juggle car pool to and from practices, getting homework done and cooking for my family. Kids go to bed early, and typically my husband and I enjoy dinner together when he gets back from Health House after teaching class or training clients.

So your hubby is also an entrepreneur – what’s that like?

It has its pros and cons for sure! Pros being that we are always bouncing ideas off one another, and we both understand the hustle it takes to get your own business off of the ground. We are very supportive of one another, and we juggle both of our schedules to be able to do what we love and raise a family at the same time. The cons would be the stress of running your own business…we have risked a lot to follow our dreams, but it is totally worth it! There is nothing more rewarding than being your own boss and watching your business succeed.

They say it takes a village. Who else helps you with your kiddos?

When my husband isn’t working he is a huge help! He often will pick the kids up from school if I have a client, or in the morning he will take them to school if I have a news segment. Since my kids were young we have had a large pool of babysitters to call. I always have 3-4 girls on speed dial. I couldn’t live without my great crew of sitters!

What do you hope your children take away from you working?

I hope that they are proud of their mom. I want them to be able to go back and read my blog, or watch old news segments and say “my mom had a really cool job.” I hope that they will be inspired to follow their dreams; whatever they may be.

What is one product or service you love so much that you could be an ambassador for it?

Ok, I am picking two…when it comes to fashion the ladies that look the most together have their basics irrefutably right. If you shop at J.Crew, you can’t go wrong. They are classic, affordable, and you will always look like you aren’t trying too hard. Second, Lasers! I don’t believe that face products will turn back the hands of time, but lasers are proven! The Halo or BBL laser is one of the best things you can do for your skin.

What’s your best piece of advice for other working moms?

Do what makes you happy! If you aren’t happy that will trickle down into every aspect of your life. Especially how you treat your husband and your children. Figure out what works the best for you first and then everything will fall into place. Happy Wife {Mom} Happy Life!

I’m on a quest to having it all. Do you think you have it all?

I have a wonderful and supportive husband, two healthy and hilarious kids, a job that allows me to do what I love and still raise my kids…I feel very lucky! Would I like to be making more money and working more consistently? Yes…of course. But for now what I am what doing fulfills me and keeps me well rounded. So, I am going to be thankful and just keep hustling and hope that my business will continue to grow and that my job will continue to evolve as it has over the past 10 years.

Keep your closet cool with Melanie’s wardrobe styling services or check her blog for some fashion inspiration!

Want to be interviewed for #workingmomwednesday? Contact me to find out how.

Why I’m not buying my kids birthday presents

It’s a big week in our house. My son Henry turns two years old tomorrow and on Saturday my daughter will be four. This weekend we’re throwing a joint birthday party {something I intend to do for as long as I can get away with it}.

Daphne is incredibly excited. She keeps going over the guest list at the dinner table and has already brainstormed where she’d like to host next year’s birthday party {at home} and her 17th birthday party {at Gymboree…I’ll be sure to remind her of that when she’s seventeen…}.

birthday party

Ever since Daphne’s first birthday {an over the top ONEderland theme complete with a professional photographer and the photos to to prove it}, I’ve made a pretty big fuss over my kids’ birthdays. {Although this year I did decide to trade in the DIY house party for a venue rental. It’s a tad more expensive, but way worth the time I’m saving not cutting out Etsy bought theme designs.}

I have no doubt that this year will be something she’ll continue to talk about for a long time. Bowling, balloons and a birthday cake {that she picked out} with friends is a pretty big deal for a little kid!

As much as I love a good celebration with family and friends, I far from splurge when it comes to the presents. We already have a house full of too many toys. As a mom, I’m in the business of making memories. That doesn’t happen over a bunch of stuff, it happens when we do stuff together.

Birthdays are no exception! In fact, they are the perfect opportunity to create those Insta moments you’ll be talking about years down the road. Here are my tips for making the most of your kids’ birthday presents….or lack thereof.

Daphne {3} and Henry {1} at their Toy Story themed bash last year.

Buy Experiences Not Things

Have you ever been home with a bored kid? It’s the worst. They become whiney and needy and you’re looking around at a mountain of toys wondering how boredom is even possible. It’s because they need something to do.

Research has been telling us for years that spending money on new experiences yields more happiness than spending it on new products. It isn’t a new concept, but for some reason I think we have a more difficult time applying it to young kids.

In lieu of gifts for Christmas and their birthdays this year, we’ve opted for a Wonderscope membership and zoo membership. Then the important part is to get out there are actually use them. I feel happier already!

Ditch the “No Gifts Please”

Have you ever gotten an invitation to a birthday party or shower that says “no gifts please” or “your presence is present enough” on it? {Guilty of sending, BTW!} While it may be incredibly well intentioned, it can be confusing or even stressful for your guests.

When it comes time for the event, you have the rule followers strolling up to the door next to the etiquette police with a perfectly wrapped package in tow and suddenly the empty handers feel badly.

The reality is, people like to bring gifts! And, truth be told, no one wants to be the only one showing up without one. I say, let them.

Teach Gratitude

Since you have all of these thoughtful friends coming with gifts, you have the perfect opportunity to teach your little birthday darling how to be appreciative. First, start with basic manners. No matter what anyone says, hand written thank you notes have not gone out of style.

Second, consider using the presents as leverage to purge some of the gently used toys collecting dust around your house. Allow your children to be a part of the process. They can help decide which items get donated and even go with you to drop them off at a local charity.

I’m looking forward to splurging on donuts for breakfast tomorrow morning with Henry before heading to the zoo for his big day. While my now two year old may not recall every detail, I still know our family’s birthday week memories will last longer than the four minutes he would have spent playing with a new toy before tossing it aside.

What do you think of the rising trend of “no gift” and charitable gift parties?

“We shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves or other moms”

stay at home moms turned working moms

Q & A with Katie Galicia

I am so excited that Katie agreed to do today’s Working Mom Wednesday interview.

Our paths crossed after I reached out via email about a collaboration with Femfessionals and was invited to a meeting to discuss the possible partnership further.

I was a tad disheveled and didn’t want to be late after forgetting the rules of downtown parking {a massive SUV without a single quarter in it for the meter! I finally gave up a valet parked at the hotel across the street. #suburbanmom}. Katie made me feel welcomed and at ease. She is an amazing listener and incredibly kind, both of which make her great at her job and a great mom!

When I learned that she had four boys and was new-ish to the workforce, I had a million questions running through my mind. Luckily, she let me ask a handful of them and shared her answers with you all.

Self-promo time. Tell me what you do.

I started working full time last May as the Membership Coordinator at Central Exchange; it is a non-profit organization that provides a venue and voice for women seeking to reach their full personal and professional potential. I provide support to the Chief Membership Officer along with managing and maintaining over 1,100 memberships. I am usually the first person that a new member hears from and I work closely with them to ensure they are utilizing their membership to the fullest.

Along with membership I oversee Emerging Leaders; it is a yearlong female focused leadership development program; it gives me the opportunity to meet and learn from high profile female executives.

If that wasn’t your gig, what do you think you’d be doing ?

I’ve secretly always wanted to be a police officer. The thrill, the rush, helping people in our community and making it a safer environment not only for my boys, but the community. Yet, I’m also scared of what comes with putting your life on the line. I’ve never shot a gun, let alone held a gun!

What is it like working with a bunch of women?

It’s not what most would think or imagine; I wasn’t even sure what to think when I started. I am a mom of four boys with two brothers, so I am not use to being around women. I love it though. I’ve always wanted sisters and this is as close as I will get! I work with an amazing group of women. We are here to support, help and build up each other in so many ways! I have built what I see will be long term friendships with these women and can’t imagine not being around them.

You took a hiatus from the workforce to raise your children. Why did you decide to go back?

My youngest was 9 years old {oldest 16} and I started to notice I wasn’t needed as much as before, whether it was at school or at home. I guess you could say I raised them too good! They were very independent, which was hard for me to face.

I found things to do {don’t get me wrong, because with four boys there is always something that needs to be done}; however, I was starting to feel that I was missing out on something and needed to do more for myself. I had given so much of my life and time to my boys and the household that I knew my time to venture out was near.

What was the biggest challenge when starting the job search again?

My biggest challenge was where to begin? What had I missed out on and what I was lacking compared to others that had been in the workforce the entire time I was away. I needed to find out what I liked to do, wanted to do and what were my skills. Realizing all of this and what I was up against definitely busted my confidence bubble! And it was scary.

How did you tackle it?

I started looking at job posts, doing some research and seeing what was out there, what caught my eye. From there I decided on easing my way into the workforce by working only part time. Finding what worked for me and still allowed me to be involved with my boys’ lives, because that was still a huge factor for me. I knew that this was a major change not only for me but for my boys, as well.

What was the best part about going back?

Meeting new people outside of my boys’ lives.

What is a typical day like for you now?

I get up around 5/5:30 a.m. to shower, get ready for work, and listen to the news as I prep breakfast for my boys. It’s what I’ve always done and want to continue doing. I sometimes prep dinner in the morning depending on what our evening looks like.

I wake my younger two up around 7 and that’s a job in itself! My older two are great about getting up and ready on their own. I’m at work by 8:30 and right away I check emails and see what is on the calendar for the day, whether it’s programs at our office or I’m needing to attend a meeting, event or program outside of the office. This is a major part of my job, meeting new people and informing them about CX.

Around 3:30 I call home to chat with all four of my boys to see how their day went, if they need any help with homework and assign them their daily chores. My older two sons are a huge help in taking turns to pick up their brothers from school. {If they can’t then I will take my lunch around the time they get out and pick them up from school and either bring them back to work with me until I get off or drop them off at home with my dad or one of their brothers.}

We make it a point to sit and have dinner together as a family no matter what! It can be over take out, dinner on the go or us sitting at the dining room table. It’s the important part of our day that allows us to catch up on each other’s lives and know what is going on. We live busier lives now that I work and they are involved in so much.

Most nights one of my sons has either soccer practice, soccer game or an activity that we need to attend. If help is needed with homework we fit that in as well. Showers are usually on a nightly basis with four boys! This process begins around 8:30 and works its way to bedtime which is somewhere between 9:30 and 10 for my younger two. My older ones have a rule they follow, they can stay up as late as they want as long as they get up and are at school on time.

Once my younger two are in bed, I tend to the house whether it’s sweeping, vacuuming, mopping, starting the dishwasher or finishing the load of laundry I may have started that morning, ironing and anything else that may come up from living in a house with four boys and a dog.

And usually by 11 or midnight I’m ready for bed and start all over again the next day.

You have four sons. What’s the best part of being a boy mom?

There are so many good parts I could go on and on. My boys are all mama’s boys! I’m a tad bit overly obsessed with them. They are easy going, fun, happy, energetic, and loving and there is never a dull, boring moment in our home! Each one is different in their own unique way and I love it, I love being a mom to boys. I don’t have daughters so I don’t know what I’m missing out on, but I do have nieces and I can honestly say I don’t regret not having a daughter. {I have two boys that love shopping and shoes as much as I do so that fills that void!} Even at their ages they will still hug, kiss me good night and cuddle with me without feeling embarrassed.

Speaking of shoes, what is one product you couldn’t live without?

This is probably very silly but I have really thick hair and it is a pain to wash, blow dry and fix on a daily basis. I have had to find ways to ease the time. I even chopped off my long hair {total regret}! I’m a huge fan of Tresemme dry shampoo! If I don’t wake up at 5 a.m. I won’t get a shower in and that time in the shower is my time to re-energize and trust me I’d rather take a long hot shower than to spend that time on blow drying my hair. So I will go days without washing my hair thanks to dry shampoo!

What’s your best piece of advice for other working moms?

Being a working mom doesn’t make you any less of a mom. I have always commended working moms, especially when I was a stay at home mom. I was blessed to have that opportunity and I do miss it, but I also enjoy working too.

I have realized that I’m not super woman and finally coming to terms with it. I have missed field trips, school programs, class parties, being able to care for my sons when they are sick, not able to spend days off of school with them and I felt so guilty because I attended everything and was with them all the time in the past. My boys know that I am working and that it’s to better our lives. They have seen me as a stay at home mom and a working mom. I value the time with my boys so much more now because I’m not as accessible as I was before and thankfully my job is understanding of my family and putting them first.

As moms we shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves or other moms. Support each other, it’s not easy. It may look like we have it all together, but trust me we don’t. We are doing the best we can!

I’m on a quest to having it all. Do you think you have it all?

I felt I did at one time, but it was time to expand my “having it all” to something bigger. I feel like I’ll have it all once I know that my boys are happy, healthy, and successful and doing what they love. For me, then I know that I have done my job and I can then focus much more on myself and changing my definition of “having it all.”

What a strong, brave, hardworking woman! I learned so much from Katie about how us moms are constantly reinventing ourselves. {She also confirmed that a mom’s job is never really done!}

Want to be interviewed for #workingmomwednesday? Contact me to find out how.

“Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn”

career and mom in kansas city

Q&A with Rachel Sexton

This week’s Working Mom Wednesday interviewee is no stranger to the spotlight. Rachel Sexton’s professional and philanthropic accomplishments have caught the attention of local magazines and news stations over the years.

According to her company profile, she’s been honored as one of KC Business magazine’s “Most Influential Women”; named a “Forty under 40” by Ingram’s Magazine; recognized as a “Rising Star” by KC Business magazine {where she rocked the cover photo}; selected as a “Next Gen Leader” and member of the 2013 class of “Women Who Mean Business” by the Kansas City Business Journal; chosen as one of KC Magazine’s Top 100 People of Kansas City; and recognized as a PharmaVoice 100 in 2014.

While proud of her {many} accolades and the hard work that got her there, Rachel is more concerned with serving others than talking about her own awards. As inspiring as she is to many, Rachel can usually be found telling stories about the patients, friends and colleagues that inspire her. Above all, her biggest honor so far has been the role of mom.

Self-promo time. Tell me what you do.

I run VPR POP, a company that creates patient-to-patient programs so people who live well with progressive or rare diseases can share health education and messages of hope with others who may be struggling with the same condition.

You’ve worked there quite some time. How’d you get started and what’s kept you there?

I started as a writer/producer fresh out of Journalism School at MU. I’ve stayed nearly 18 years because it’s so incredibly rewarding to work with people who have been handed a scary diagnosis but have chosen to live an empowered, purposeful life. It really puts it all in perspective.

If that wasn’t your gig, what do you think you’d be doing?

Move over, Kelly Ripa! I realized during J-School that I did not have the passion or hairstyling skills to work my way up the reporting ladder, but I could totally handle a glam squad, doting audience who would appreciate semi-boring stories about my kids and a parade of celebrity guests.

What is a typical day like for you?

Wake up around 7 with a baby in my arms {I’m a co-sleeping hippie}; thank God for a husband who is a morning person and gets the oldest 3 ready for school before I open my eyes {and brings me Starbucks on the weekends}; go to the office; take someone to basketball/soccer/tennis/ballet/drawing class/STEAM camp; go to a Junior League meeting or out for a run…then do a little dance, make a little love and get down tonight {or just watch some Bravo and go to bed}.

Tell me about a professional set back.

When I started at VPR, we were heavily focused on the advertising/marketing side of health care. When the economy recessed, there just weren’t as many dollars to go into those promotional tactics. Many companies that did what we did fell apart, but we forged a new path and branched into patient-to-patient outreach.

How’d that work out?

It’s the classic lemons to lemonade principal. We looked at what was truly important to the health care industry in this changing time – the patient – and how we could use our core strengths in communication and creativity, plus 30 years of knowledge, to develop something that would help educate and empower patients. The result was something better than we ever imagined.

Rachel Sexton on the cover of KC Business Magazine

Your resume includes VP {VPR}, President {Junior League} and even marathoner, not to mention mom! How do you juggle it all?

I’m glad you brought up the marathon. It was a HALF marathon and I only did one. I did well for a first race {1:47}, but it wasn’t worth it. Training for it was such a regimented approach to running vs. my usual practice of just getting out there after work and blowing off some steam that it actually took me a few months to enjoy running again after it was over. Which answers the question about juggling – I just DON’T do what I don’t enjoy. I don’t love to read, I don’t love to go to the movies, I don’t love to cook dinner. So I don’t. I love my job, I love volunteering and I love decorating birthday cakes. So I do. It gets a lot easier to juggle when you are salivating over everything on that full plate and not trying to pick your way around the icky stuff.

So do you ever find time to relax?

I hate relaxing, but I do love recharging. Nothing motivates me more than hanging with smart, witty women who lift each other up. I am so lucky to know so many who inspire me with their accomplishments between the KC Business Journal’s Women Who Mean Business, the Junior League of Kansas City, Missouri and my incredible girlfriends.

How has your professional life changed since having kids?

Over the past 10 years, I’ve learned to work smarter but not longer. I used to liberally apply this sentiment to tactical execution: “it will take me longer to teach someone how to do it than to do it myself”. It was really an excuse for me to be a control freak and poor delegator. Once I had kids and had no choice but to share the load, I realized that I was far from the only one who could execute up to my standards and that I was much more valuable to my company when I wasn’t bogged down in the weeds and could focus more on strategic operations. It was a win-win that I might have never realized had I not become a mommy.

They say it takes a village. Who helps you with your kiddos?

My amazing mama who watches the kids at my house 4 days a week, my mother-in-law who watches them at her home the other day, and my husband who does more than his share of everything and doesn’t make me feel selfish for not pulling my weight.

Has there been a mom-moment you’ve missed that you regretted due to work?

Not one specific moment that keeps me up at night, but I know I have short changed a lot of experiences: from being back on email hours after giving birth to working on reports during family dinners to taking conference calls from Animal Kingdom, I’m definitely not always 100% present when I’m with my family. While my family is unquestionably my top priority, after putting 18 years into my career, it’s also one of my babies.

rachel sexton career mom kansas city
Rachel with her husband, Brian King and their four children: Will (10), Grayson (8), Kitty (4) and Bibi (4 months)

What do you hope your children take away from you working?

I hope when they look back, my career is just a side note – “oh yeah, and she did some great stuff at her office too.” I hope I instill my sense of humor, healthy habits and volunteer spirit in them more than my commitment to work. I’m the product of a stay-at-home mom and a workaholic dad. They were both incredible at what they did, and equally inspiring to me. As long as my kids are contributing to society, feeling fulfilled and not asking me for money, I don’t care if they raise a family, run a company or both.

What’s your best piece of advice for other working moms?

Surround yourself with women who validate and inspire you. There’s no room for a vampire who wants to suck the positive energy out of you or the Debbie Downer who wants you to wallow in mommy guilt with her. Whether it’s a volunteer organization, a mom’s group or a professional organization, there are lots of strong, positive women out there and they’re one of the best resources we have.

Also, PLEASE don’t be afraid to toot your own horn. We can’t afford to be humble or modest. Not only are you’re sharing a message that working moms can be successful, you never know when your accomplishments will inspire someone to take that leap outside of her comfort zone.

Tell me about a goal that you’re working on right now.

I’m at an interesting point in my life: after 3 pretty intense years of Junior League leadership that have taken up a lot of my free time, I will become a Sustaining member of our 1,400 member organization this spring. The organization has invested so much into making me a leader and I feel a great hunger and a sense of responsibility to use those skills to benefit the community… but I’m not sure in what capacity. I’m open to ideas!

I’m on a quest to having it all. What does having it all mean to you?

I love your attitude. Too often I read articles about how it’s not possible to have it all or how the pursuit of it can ruin your life. NOT TRUE! For me, having it all means having a career I love, children and a husband who know I love them, giving back to the community and making “me time” to run and recharge with friends. If there was something else I wanted to pursue, I wouldn’t let my full plate scare me from doing it.

You’re right that we don’t have it all at once. “Can women have it all?” is a trick question. It’s like saying, “Can you have Mexican, Chinese, pizza and sushi?” Sure you can, just not all in the same night. Now, I’ve been to some sketchy Las Vegas buffets where you can make that vision a reality, but when you’re cramming it all into one meal, none of it is that enjoyable. With some realistic expectations, thoughtful planning and a solid support system, having “it all” is not only possible, but actually pretty delicious.

I want to sincerely thank Rachel for participating in this week’s interview. Not only did she make me totally hungry {Mexican food anyone?}, but I learned a lot about leadership and prioritizing.

Want to be interviewed for #workingmomwednesday? Contact me to find out how.

My miscarriage story: I’ll always remember you

miscarriage due date

This Thursday is the due date of my miscarried baby.

When you’re pregnant, your growing belly is an obvious indicator for the people in your life to check up on you. How are you feeling? Getting any sleep? Are you ready?

But when you lose your baby, there’s no easy way for those closest to you to remember an important day is approaching.

For nearly a month now, I’ve felt nothing short of emotionally unstable. Even the quickest thought about my baby will leave me in tears.  I haven’t been sleeping well. I’ve felt anxious and ready for the due date to come and go, hoping that with it some of my grief will also finally pass.

I remember taking the pregnancy test at my parent’s house. I was dropping off my kids so my husband and I could go on a quick weekend getaway. I was bouncing around the bathroom just feet away from my entire family trying to keep quiet while I waited.

I remember smiling after registering the pink plus sign, and then feeling so proud of myself for keeping it a secret from my family while I said my goodbyes before heading out to pick up my husband from work and hit the road.

I didn’t tell him the entire three hour drive. I thought about it a million times, but this was pretty big news and I honestly wasn’t sure how he was going to react. The last thing I wanted was for him to drive off the road. While we had been talking about baby number three for a little while, we were intending to wait until our other kids were a bit older.

I remember his reaction when I turned down a margarita {my favorite} when we went out to dinner later that evening. I told him to drink up, because he was set with a designated driver for another nine months. He laughed. He asked if I was kidding. Then he shuffled between excitement and panic throughout dinner before settling on genuine happiness. It didn’t take us long to start throwing out baby name ideas.

I remember the first time I woke up and ran to the toilet to vomit. Just like my two other pregnancies, morning sickness came early and aggressively. I quickly got back on my anti-nausea meds that I was all too used to and settled into a routine of puking and rallying to head to work or chase my kids.

I remember my neighbor coming over after work with her two kids so that our children could play together and she could supervise while I lay on the couch trying not to throw up on myself. I was so happy that I had someone I could count on when my husband wasn’t home.

I remember when I stopped being able to make food for my family because the odor was unbearable for my pregnant nose.

I remember thinking it was amazing that my husband had to take care of our kitties’ litter box. It was a small consolation prize for all of the vomiting I was doing.

I remember when I called to make my first doctor’s appointment and found out that they no longer accepted our insurance. I was incredibly frustrated. This was my third child. The last thing I wanted to do was start over with someone new. What choice did I have?

I remember the doctor’s appointment like it was yesterday. It was my first time at a new OBGYN. It was supposed to be a 12-week check up. I was feeling pukey, but fine. Within the first few minutes of meeting me, the doctor had to give me the worst news of my life. At the time, I wasn’t sure if I felt worse for her or me.

I remember thinking how crazy it was that my husband had made accommodations at work to be at that appointment with me. He went to maybe three other appointments between our daughter and son, and most likely just for the ultrasounds. But for some reason, he was with me to receive the devastating news. I remember being so thankful that I didn’t have to sit in the room by myself. Or drive home.

I remember struggling to decide if I wanted the baby to pass naturally or if I wanted to have the procedure done. How was I supposed to decide something like that? What way would you like to lose your baby? Quickly or slowly? Risky or messy? I remember thinking that it was the worst day of my life. I felt sorry for myself. I finally decided to have the procedure. I wasn’t going to begin any sort of healing process with the baby still inside of me. I couldn’t change what had happened. I wanted to move on. My husband called the doctor for me and scheduled an appointment for the following morning.

I remember my three-year-old cuddling with me in bed. She cried with me and asked if she could touch my tummy and say goodbye to the baby. She told the baby she loved him. I’ve never been so amazed by my daughter – her maturity and empathy – as I was that night.

I remember not sleeping. I was scared for the surgery. I was nervous about something going wrong and thought of my two beautiful, healthy children being without their mom.

I remember being surrounded by women. My doctor, the nurses, the anesthesiologist. All women. Several of them grabbed my hand as if it to say they’ve been there. It will be okay. It was overwhelming.

I remember giving my baby a gender and a name. I talked to my husband about it. We understood that we both needed to grieve in our own ways and that naming our baby was a connection that made the loss more difficult for him. It made it easier for me, more personal, so I keep it to myself. It’s just between me and my baby.

I remember going back to my parent’s house after the surgery so that I could rest. Like my pregnancy, my miscarriage became incredibly public. Not because of any decisions I felt liked I’d intentionally made, but when you’re as sick as I am during pregnancy it’s pretty hard to keep hidden for long. Just days before my doctor appointment, I finally put our pregnancy out there on social media, but it was hardly news to anyone at that point. I sat in the dark in the guest room of my parent’s house composing an email to my coworkers. I shared the email on my Facebook page. It wasn’t news I wanted to share for my own benefit. I was trying to prevent an awkward foot-in-mouth moment for everyone in my life.

I remember going outside to play with my kids that afternoon when I got home. Surprisingly, my nausea and exhaustion subsided immediately after the procedure. I wasn’t pregnant anymore.

In the days that followed, I received hundreds of private messages, phone calls, emails and text messages. Dozens of women reached out to offer sympathy or even share their own miscarriage stories with me. Some I knew about and others were complete surprises. It was strangely comforting to not feel so alone. As my mom said, “it’s a really big club, but one I’d hoped you would never have had to join.”

I remember secretly wishing that people would stop saying things like, “God has a plan for you” or “everything happens for a reason.” The truth is, while I’ve attempted to console friends with those same cliches, I just wanted to feel sorry for myself. I wanted to be sad. And angry. And confused. I wanted someone to say, “this totally sucks.” I didn’t want any reasoning. An explanation wasn’t going to bring back my baby.

I remember thinking that life is uncertain. All of the plans we had made for the new baby over the months we knew about him shifted out of view. This lack of control gave me an inexplicable amount of courage; I quit my job the next week. {Something I had been thinking about for months but was too afraid to do until the timing was “right.”}

I remember the first time I brought up my miscarriage casually during a conversation with friends. I could see them growing uncomfortable, shifting eye contact or body language, not sure how to respond. But I still did it. It helped me to acknowledge what had happened.

I remember the first time I felt simultaneously happy and heartbroken. With each baby announcement or gender reveal photo that pops up on social media, my body aches a little bit and I wonder what if my baby’s story had played out like that. It’s strange when someone else’s joy can bring you joy and pain, but I’m getting used to feeling it.

I remember when I got to hold my neighbor’s new baby for the first time not even a month ago. We told each other we were expecting at the same time last summer. We were supposed to go through out pregnancies together, our babies’ births together and all of the milestones to follow. Except I won’t. Her son is healthy and beautiful and I am so happy for her. But it also reminds me that I am sad for me.

Throughout the last seven months, I’ve come full circle. I had stopped crying every day and now I cry every day again. In the months in between, there were even some days with the chaos of day to day life that I didn’t think about my miscarriage at all.

It really had gotten easier, but then my due date crept closer. The day that would remind me of the baby that I’d lost. The baby that I will always remember.


“There aren’t enough words to describe how grateful I am to be a mommy.”

working mom Wednesday interview

Q&A with Jenny Matthews

I can’t tell you how honored I feel that I got to do today’s Working Mom Wednesday interview with Mix 93.3’s sweetheart, Jenny Matthews!

I ba rely know Jenny in real life {I met her in passing a few times years ago during my KC Weddings, SPACES and Ink magazine stint}. Yet, thanks to her bubbly and open personality on her radio show and as the occasional event emcee around town, it’s hard not to consider her a friend.

This is exactly what makes Jenny so popular with her fans. She shares her experiences with her listeners and then takes the time to get to know them, too.

Between our own shared stories of loss and her kick-butt dream job, I knew I wanted to dig a little deeper into Jenny’s working mom lifestyle.

You hardly need an intro in my book, but let’s start with some self-promo. What do you do?

I’m a wife and a mama of two. I’m also a radio personality at Mix 93.3, Monday – Friday 10am – 3pm!

What’s your all time favorite song?

This is hard because I have so many favorite songs. But, if I had to pick just one… only one… I would sayyyyy… oh gosh, this is tough… Where the Streets Have No Name by U2.

If radio wasn’t your gig, what do you think you’d be doing?

I feel incredibly lucky to be able to say that music/radio is my passion and going to work every day isn’t really like a “job.” It’s fun and it’s what I’ve always wanted to do! That said, I do have a secret dream job. I want to be the reporter outside of the courthouse for huge trials! I’m a trial junkie. I think I was a detective in a former life. Ha!

What is a typical day like for you?

Is my husband at home or traveling for his job? He travels a lot. On those days, I am running around like a crazy person from the minute my eyes open until the minute I lay down at night! When he’s home, it’s definitely a little easier. I am thankful he’s a hands-on-daddy.

My OCD comes in handy sometimes. I get as much done the night before as humanly possible so mornings are a little less hectic. But, even with that – mornings are always rushed and we are always at least 10 minutes behind schedule no matter how hard we try! Drop the kids at school, head to work to prep and catch up on all of the latest news and celebrity gossip, on-the-air until 3, rush to school to pick up the kids, run errands, dinner, prep everything for the next day, play with the kids, clean up, read to them – my favorite part of the day {I hope they always share my love of books}, put ‘em to bed and on a good day, head downstairs to our gym to workout.

Tell me about a time you messed up at work.

Oh, I mess up all of the time. Kinda stinks messing up on live radio because there is no erase button. It’s out there. No going back. I’ve really learned to not be hard on myself – just forget it, move forward and make sure the next thing out of my mouth is 100% better.

How has your professional life changed since having kids?

Having kids changed not only my professional life, but just about every other aspect of my life as well! You know what? I wouldn’t change a thing. I have cut way back on emceeing and appearances outside of my show. I just have to be a little more selective now because we are deep in the “birthday party circuit,” busy with kids’ activities and school functions. I am so, so super duper thankful for my work hours. I’m on the air the exact hours my kids are at school. I feel like I get to do it all and I never take that for granted.

You have several side gigs. How do you prioritize?

My family comes first. The rest manages to balance itself. I’ve gotten better at saying “no.” It took me a long time to stop being a people-pleaser. Once I started doing that? My life changed for the better!

You are so involved in the community. Do any organizations you support stand out as a favorite?

Kansas City Infertility Awareness Foundation is SO close to my heart. I was a board member for a while. Unfortunately, I had to give that up because my plate was overflowing and something had to give. I still emcee their events and will forever promote them because the work they are doing in Kansas City is awesome and needed.

You’ve always been very open about your own fertility struggles. How come?

My daughter, Julianne Faith {5} and my son, Miles Parker {3} are not only my biggest blessings, they are absolute miracles. My husband, Matthew, and I went through an extremely difficult three-year fertility struggle. I had six miscarriages {two of which were life-threatening ectopic pregnancies}. I put my body through just about every fertility procedure imaginable, many of which failed. Ultimately, it was our 2nd and 3rd rounds of IVF which were successful and gave us our precious babies.

There aren’t enough words to describe how grateful I am to be a mommy. It is even better than I imagined in those dark days of infertility. It was such a lonely road and at the time I was going through it, no one talked about it. I am a believer that we should use our struggles for the greater good. I started talking about it on the radio, social media and in my HerLife Magazine monthly article. I was blown away by the response. So many women are struggling with infertility. Too many. I knew that I had a voice in the community and it became so clear to me that I was supposed to use it for this purpose.

To this day, I chat with listeners on the phone, email, Facebook – “counseling,” supporting and cheering them on as they desperately try to have a child. I’ve been there. I get it. Sometimes that’s all someone needs – to know they’re not alone.

They say it takes a village. Who else helps you with your kiddos?

When they were babies, we had a nanny come to our house every day while we were at work. Now, they go to an incredible school with the most amazing teachers! In the summer, a nanny helps us out. Outside of work, my husband and I don’t want to miss a moment with the kids, so we are guilty of not having as many date nights as we should and we rarely travel without them. We figure we’ll have lots of time for that when they get older and don’t think we’re as cool as they do now. Ha!

Has there ever been a mom-moment you’ve missed that you regretted due to work?

I keep using the word “grateful,” but that’s how I feel about my boss. He has kids. He gets it. And, he knows the journey we walked to have our kids. He knows it would break my heart six different ways if I had to miss a school program, class party or field trip. So, typically, I get to go to almost all of those things!

What do you hope your children take away from you working?

I think it’s important for my kids to see me still being “me.” They know that they come first. They know that they are the best part of every day for me. I literally tell them that on a daily basis. But, I think it’s cool that during our time apart every day, they are establishing a little world of their own. They are independent. They are social. I think we all appreciate each other more because of it. I also want them to be proud of their mom someday. That maybe she made a difference in their community.

What do you do to relax?

Relax… remind me again what that means?! I don’t have nearly enough down time and my mom reminds me of that during every catch up session. She’s right. But, again, I know someday I will long for all of this chaos!

Working out and cleaning are actually incredibly therapeutic for me! I love to read. My favorite way to chill is to sit outside on a warm day and just immerse myself into a great book.

What’s your best piece of advice for other working moms?

Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for it. You are either working because you need to or because you want to. Either one is ok. I’m actually open to any advice anyone might have for me as a working mom. Bring it on, because I’m winging it!

Too funny you mention that, because I just wrote about winging it last week! I’m on a quest to having it all. Do you think you have it all?

I’m almost scared to say that I think I have “it all” because I’m an anxious and superstitious person! But, yeah, I can honestly tell you that at this very moment, I do feel like I have it all. My family is in good health, we have food on our table and I’m doing what I love every day at work. That’s not to say life doesn’t have its challenges. But, for this moment, I can say that I’m really happy and… there’s that word again… grateful.

If you don’t already spend your midday listening to Jenny, check her out on Mix 93.3 on weekdays from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. I highly recommend The Fit Mix with Jenny and the Synematix at 1 for a post lunch jam sesh.

Want to be interviewed for #workingmomwednesday? Contact me to find out how.

Do you ever feel like you’re just winging it?


It’s March! While Kansas City may be susceptible to a later-than-desired snow, spring is definitely in the air. {My tulips are already popping up!}

This is my absolute favorite season of the year.

Maybe it’s because the flowers and trees come back to life with beautiful colors and smells that are so welcomed after feeling cooped up indoors all winter.

Maybe it’s because both of my springtime babies {who are no longer babies} are celebrating birthdays in the next few weeks.

Or maybe it’s because after two months of my new work-from-home life I’ve finally settled into a bit of a routine and am ready to start expanding my business.

Whatever the reason, I’ve decided to dedicate this month to all things growth.

Last week I had the pleasure of sipping green juice with the owner of Hello Big Idea. Ashley is one of the newest local small business owners to join up with Femfessionals Kansas City and I was excited to get to know her better.

As we shared our personal and professional journeys with one another, what kept weaving in and out of our conversation was doubt.

I told her about my insecurities with my new solopreneur gig, my fear that no one was going to read this blog that I cared so much about, and my frustrations for not having everything perfectly figured out already.

I don’t know if she meant it or was just trying to make me feel better, but she said something that really resonated with me.

She said that we’re all just winging it.

Sure, we can plan. We strategize and make goals. And then we look at what someone else is doing and think they’ve got it all figured out and then question our own actions.

The problem with that is that we’re comparing our insides {our fears and doubts} to other people’s outsides {their well edited final product}.

But the more I thought about what Ashley said, the more I started to take a closer look at some of the businesses, blogs and people I admire and realized she was totally right.

You can call it trial and error. Or fake it ’til ya make it. But the truth is the same; we’re all totally winging it until we make something stick.

But if you’re an off-the-charts Type A personality like me, how can you take control of your doubt and make sure that “winging it” still leads to growth?

Surround yourself with people you trust

Since I started working from home I’ve realized that I miss those moments where you can easily bounce ideas off of one another like in an office environment. I knew I’d need to establish {and cultivate} relationships with people whom I trusted and had the knowledge to help me grow.

I have a mentor who gives me great, honest feedback. He doesn’t always tell me what I want to hear, but I trust his advice and it plays an important role in how I make decisions about my business.

My husband is my biggest fan. I can have a complete breakdown about anything and he is there to talk me through it. There isn’t any judgement, just support.

The thing that my husband and my mentor have in common is that they both really want me to succeed. So when you wing it, don’t ever fly solo and make sure your people want the same things for you as you want for yourself.

Know where you want to go

While winging it may imply that you have no idea what you’re doing, you should at least know where you’re headed. You may deviate along the way or maybe the route you chose will land you in a totally different place altogether {maybe one you didn’t even know existed}.

Having a child, changing careers, starting a business all involve venturing out into the unknown. This is why we start to doubt ourselves. If you know where you want to go – raise a family, work for a non-profit, be an entrepreneur –  then even if you’re just winging it, at least you’ve decided to take action!

Get out of your own way

Sometimes the only person holding you back is you. It may be fear. It may be intimidation. But sometimes getting started is the hardest part. If you’ve got your people and your roadmap, then it’s time to let go of the doubt and quit getting in your own way. You have really big plans for yourself. I can’t wait to watch you grow!

“It’s okay to do things for yourself”

Working mom Wednesday

Q&A with Michelle Henderson

I’ve only met Michelle Henderson in person once. She came to the February Femfessionals event after learning about our community from another member’s post on Instagram.

Besides being gorgeous {jealous} and fit {double jealous}, she’s clearly a go-getter. One of the first things I learned about Michelle is that she simultaneously began a new career and welcomed her first baby in the last few months.

I was both awe-struck at her ambition and curious about how she was doing three months in to her new endeavors. Meet new mom turned Realtor in this Week’s Working Mom Wednesday.

Welcome to The Free Mama’s Working Mom Wednesday, Michelle! Tell everyone what you do.

I am a real estate agent with Keyzio – a local startup brokerage. It is such a cool company and they are doing really exciting things in real estate from new technology to challenging the conventional pricing structure {cheaper!} all while offering premium service.

You mentioned this gig was new. What else is on your resume?

I worked at an event planning company buying gifts for incentive trips for the past couple of years. I have also done pharmaceutical sales, interior design and marketing.

What prompted the job change this time?

When I found out I was pregnant, I knew immediately that an 8-5 wasn’t going to make sense for me. My husband travels a ton and I needed way more flexibility and to be able to set my own hours.

If real estate hadn’t worked out, what would you be doing?

A friend, Ashley Kappelman, and I started Damage Control and it is all about the pursuit of wellness with a glass of wine in hand. We post recipes, workouts and, of course, wine on our Instagram account (@damagecontrolblog). We have big dreams to create a wellness experience in Kansas City in the future so stay tuned!

What is a typical day like for you?

Every day is definitely different but generally it involves cooking and eating breakfast with my husband {I love that we both work from home!} and then squeezing in work during nap times on the days that I don’t have childcare. On the days that I do have childcare, I generally will have a client appointment and get a workout in. Oh, and a lot of pumping.

They say it takes a village. Who else helps you with your son?

My husband and I are both from Oklahoma and almost all of our family is back home. I would give anything to have my mom or his mom here. Thankfully we have some cousins in town who are willing to help out and our friends are like family – we would be lost without them!

What has been the best part of motherhood so far?

The gummy smiles! I was just telling my husband that I don’t want him to get teeth because I will miss those smiles!

On a scale of 1 to 10, how sleep deprived are you these days?

Let’s call it a 5. Though I will say it isn’t as bad as I expected it to be. I think I slept more after he was born than at the end of pregnancy. That was a rough few weeks!

What did you not know about parenting that you wish someone had told you?

How hard it would be. People kind of tell you but they talk more about the exhaustion or the fussiness. No one really mentions that you won’t feel like yourself {still waiting!}, the sheer fear you feel when your husband goes out of town for the first time, or that you will question every decision you make, always wondering if it’s the “right” one.

What is your favorite part about being a working mom?

It helps me feel more like my old self, which makes me a better mom.

What’s the hardest part?

The scheduling. It’s a nightmare. Last minute appointments come up all the time and figuring out the logistics can be hard.

What do you hope your child gains from you working?

I hope he learns to go after what he wants out of life, whatever that may be and that it is ok to do things for yourself.

What keeps you sane?

Working out, wine and my husband – he is pretty good at talking me off the ledge.

What one product or service do you love so much you could be a brand ambassador?

Class Pass – genius idea. It allows you to visit most boutique fitness studios in the KC area four times a month for $79. Now if they could just figure out the childcare situation…

What’s your best piece of advice for other working moms?

Hire out what you can so you aren’t spending the limited time with your kids cleaning or doing yard work. And HyVee grocery delivery…game changer!

I’m on a quest to having it all. Do you think you have it all?

Having it all to me is working part time – it is definitely the best of both worlds. I am still working on the right balance, but I am headed in the right direction!


Whether you’re looking for help with your next home purchase or sitting back and perusing Instagram, be sure to hook up with Michelle at @keyzioinc and @damagecontrolblog.

Want to be interviewed for #workingmomwednesday? Contact me to find out how.