8 tips for working from home with kids

Working from home with kids

Today is Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. For one very special day, professional men and women are encouraged to parade their sweet darlings around the work place to expose them to interesting experiences, help them discover new careers and provide them an opportunity to share how they envision their futures.

While far from a traditional office environment, I quickly started to think about how cute it would be to see my kiddos running around my husband’s detail shop with shammies {Henry} or bossing around “the guys” {Daphne}. Justin, too, would be smiling proudly as he shares his passion for cars {something which already seems pretty inherent in both of my children}.

Then my mind shifts to my own at-home office and how uninterested they’d be in what I do all day at my desk.

One of the reasons I founded my own business and began working from home in the first place was to spend more time with my kids while they’re young. Yet, once I got started I realized that navigating my life as part stay-at-home mom and part career woman was going to be trickier than I thought.

Working from home with kids can be stressful at times.

Some days you feel as though your attention is divided, the interruptions are frequent, the productivity is lacking, and the guilt is on overdrive.

Whether you work from home regularly or you’re home with a sick kid for a few days while virtually checking in at the office, these strategies will help you get your job done when your kids come to work with you every day.

1. Create a work space

When my daughter was young, I read that you shouldn’t send your child to time out in her room, because that’s supposed to be a safe place. Ever since, we’ve used a bench in the front entry for mild to moderate infractions. I’m not a parenting expert, but I do think that there’s truth to the idea that people need safe places to decompress without being bothered. Your work also needs a safe place. Set up one spot in the house that can be designated as your work space. Maybe it’s an actual home office, a guest bedroom or a desk in the kitchen. Keep all of your work-related items nearby, just as you’d be set up if you were in an actual office. Then let your family know that they shouldn’t be meddling in your work space.

2. Set realistic expectations for yourself

If you don’t learn to keep your roles as mom and career woman separate, you’ll never feel like you’re doing either well. Don’t overestimate what you’ll be able to accomplish in a day while your kids are around, or you’ll likely feel stressed or disappointed when your work isn’t complete. Likewise, don’t over promise attention to your children if you won’t be able to follow through. You won’t quickly forget those puppy dog eyes when you let them know you won’t be able to take them to the park anymore because you haven’t finished your work yet.

3. Set realistic expectations for your children

My daughter, who just turned four, does really well when I tell her that I have work to do. If I give her an approximate time frame {and a snack} she is pretty independent and will play by herself quietly until that time is up. I explain to her what I’m working on and that mommy needs some quiet time in order to concentrate. Letting her know up front what I’m going to be doing prevents her from snooping around my work space.

4. Plan for interruptions

My son on the other hand just turned two and can barely make it through the opening song on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse before needing attention from me. If I have him home and am unable to put off a task until nap time, I won’t take on anything that requires a higher level of concentration. Typically I use short bursts of time to respond to emails, work on my calendar for the week, or check in on social media.

5. Work around their schedule

If you’re a mom of babies or toddlers, you’ve likely already learned to capitalize on nap time. Do not spend this time doing household chores! If you’ve got a good sleeper, that’s a solid 2-3 hours of productivity right there. If your kids don’t nap, pay attention to when they need and want you throughout the day. Maybe your kids don’t wake up until 9 a.m. If you can avoid the snooze button, you could hit the computer at 6 a.m. for three full hours of work before anyone asks you to make breakfast. If your kids are early risers, that may mean opening the laptop after bedtime for an hour or so to get the most out of your workday.

6. Make time for them

One thing I learned quickly when I began working from home was that ignoring my kids {or trying to} certainly wasn’t going to help my business. Quite the opposite actually. We began planning weekly excursions to the zoo, children’s museum and library that bought me leverage in the morning {“give mommy 15 minutes at her computers and we’ll go to story time!”} and a significantly longer nap time, because they were worn out from our adventure. This also helped me feel less guilty about the time I did spend working, because I knew they had spent quite a bit of quality time together with mommy unplugged and undistracted.

7. Send them outside

There’s no shame in using technology to entertain your kids for a period of time so you can jump on a conference call. But you also don’t want them to be television zombies by the end of the day either. One of the things I’m going to miss the most about our house is the backyard. I frequently kick my kids out of the house and bring my laptop to the window-covered breakfast nook. Our backyard has a swing set and a sandbox and my kids will play back there for an hour or more before starting to bicker. Maybe your backyard isn’t suitable, but you have a big driveway for riding bikes or an enviable playroom. Find a place where you can encourage your kids to imagine and play and entertain themselves while you watchfully work. If all else fails, turn Disney Junior back on.

8. Ask for help

There will inevitably come a time when you have an important project or deadline and you just can’t afford the distraction of having your kids at home. Drop them off with a neighbor or call a babysitter and head to a local coffee shop. You’ll know when you need to make work a priority and ask someone else to keep your kids safe and happy for a bit.

Hopefully these tips show you that you can spend time together and still stay on track at work. Who knows? Maybe your kids will even ask to come to work with you one day.

“It is the best job in the world”

go back to work

Q&A with Amy Conway

There are two traits that I really admire in a business woman: passion and ambition. Amy Conway is a woman who is lucky enough to possess both. It’s a good thing, too, because after years at home raising her four children Amy is back in the workforce and is a force to be reckoned with herself!

I have known Amy as a stay at home mom, and while there’s no doubt that her family comes first, I’ve enjoyed cheering her on as she’s grown her business over the last year. Which is why I couldn’t wait to collaborate with her on today’s Working Mom Wednesday and Mother’s Day Giveaway!

Self-promo time. Tell me what you do.

I am a mom to four awesome kids: Molly, Kate, Nora and Liam, and lucky wife to Billy for 17 years. It is the best job in the world. My paying gig is with Visage – a promotional marketing solutions company. We get to work with clients to customize their branded apparel and promotional items. It is the second best job in the world.

What’s the coolest order you’ve placed?

A branded putting green for one of my clients to give to their top executive clients. Very fun!

{Want to see the second coolest order? Check out the cozy tee we’re giving away to one lucky mama just in time for Mother’s Day!}

If you weren’t selling swag, what do you think you’d be doing?

My passion is running, so I would love to train for a destination marathon. I am also known as the “baby whisperer” in the family, so I would volunteer at a children’s hospital and just hold babies all day.

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

Honestly? It was time to go back to work.  My kids were in school all day and, let’s face it, they become more expensive the older they get.  I loved my time as a stay at home mom and going back to work is just the next step in taking care of their needs and growing list of wants. This opportunity found me and it has been a perfect fit for me and for my family. I have the flexibility I need to keep this family running along smoothly and I get to experience the thrill of the hunt and the satisfaction of closing a sale!

What has been the biggest challenge in growing your business?

I love the prospecting piece of finding new clients and developing creative ideas for their marketing plans. However, balancing that with the time spent taking care of my existing clients can be challenging. It works best when I am deliberate about carving out time for each piece.

What is a typical day like for you?

I start with a run-without fail! It’s really the only part of the day I can be sure to get it in! After a quick shower it’s time to herd the cats through breakfast and out the door to school. I’m a lucky gal that my kids are early risers so our mornings are usually fairly peaceful. I am then “all in” for work while the kids are at school, meeting with clients and cranking through the sales process. Then, depending on the season, we hit it hard after school with soccer, baseball, basketball, or track practices along with homework and dinner for the crew.

You have 4 kids. Surely that comes with a bit of chaos?

In order to minimize the inevitable chaos I plan our weeks with the precision of a military attack. I think it is my responsibility to the family to remain calm in the face of crazy. One recent weekday was triple-booked with activities so {after losing sleep over the prospect of a stranded child} I worked out the master plan and engaged all necessary parties. It was completely exhausting, yet successfully executed. At the end of the day, my daughter Kate said, “see mom, it wasn’t so crazy after all!” {If only she knew!}

What’s the best part about being a mom?

Looking at my kids’ happiness and knowing I play a large part of that. To see Molly beam with happiness in high school, to know that Kate “comes to play” at every soccer game. That Nora would spend every waking moment doing art projects, and Liam would never miss a soccer or baseball practice. Each of our children is such a unique blessing from God. Taking a brief moment of each day to pay attention to that is simply a privilege. It makes all the mean girl drama, endless rides to practice, calming of nerves, art project messes, quickly eaten meals and late night worries all worth it. Knowing they look to me to gauge their response to each new day is a huge responsibility and I do not take it lightly. Anne Lamott says it best: “Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.”

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

I have a fabulous support network of friends and family. We are blessed to live close to my husband’s family who eagerly helps out and never says “no.” I have learned over the years that it is NOT a sign of weakness to ask for help and that carpooling makes all kinds of sense, even if it is a pain to organize! Although my family lives in other cities, they are great with offering virtual support!

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

I love our embossed leather journal. Ever since I was a little girl I’ve always loved a fresh journal or notebook!

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

Be organized. It drives my husband absolutely crazy at times, but being organized helps calm the chaos in our lives. I find it the best go to survival skill in my working mom tool belt.

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

This question reminds me of something I read recently.  It puts “having it all” in perspective:

Early wake ups = Children to love
House to clean = Safe place to live
Laundry = Clothes to wear
Dishes to wash = Food to eat
Crumbs under table = Family meals
Grocery shopping = $$ to provide for us
Toilets to clean = Indoor plumbing
Lots of noise = People in my life
Endless questions about homework = Children’s brains growing
Sore and tired at the end of the day= I am still alive!

Amy is my partner in crime for our first giveaway here at The Free Mama! Check out the details and you could win some mom swag just in time for Mother’s Day. Looking for some custom goodies of your own? Contact Amy at Visage to get hooked up.

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

Working moms are better together

working moms are better together

When I launched The Free Mama four months ago, I was simultaneously adjusting to my new work-from-home mompreneur lifestyle. I happily traded in slacks and blouses for yoga pants and cozy tees. I also had to say goodbye to some amazing colleagues who helped make the daily grind much more fun.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that working moms are better together.

Every since I made my transition, I’ve had to make some serious effort to maintain and expand my personal and professional relationships. Sure, it’s comfortable here under my blanket staring at my computer screen, but it can also be lonely and ultimately won’t do much for the growth of my business {or my sanity}.

So I’ve made a point to reach out to as many women as I can to further my mission of supporting working moms. I’ve had the opportunity to share bits and pieces of the lives of the women I interview in each week’s Working Mom Wednesday. It’s such a privilege to learn more about these mamas, and then be able to share their stories to inspire others.

What started with celebrating working moms on the local level, quickly led me to reaching out to more and more women I admire from all over the country. I’ve connected with other writers, entrepreneurs, and activists through emails and phone calls {although not everyone has responded}. These conversations are encouraging me to think bigger about the future of The Free Mama, my business and my family {more on that…}.

Recently I was fortunate enough to join up with two extremely influential working moms. One is a Public Policy Analyst for Mom-mentum, a non-profit whose mission is “Engaging Enriching and Empowering Women.” She’s doing amazing things in Washington, D.C. for women.

Image courtesy of Motherly

The other is an editor at Motherly, a website that shares stories to give women a better way to be a mother with encouragement and support. This week they even featured me as a guest contributor to help moms be more productive. {Pretty please, read it!}

What these weekly interviews and virtual connections are really about is forming relationships. Work is hard. Motherhood is hard.

As women, we put a tremendous amount of pressure on ourselves to be the best at everything all the time. It can be incredibly isolating to try to achieve this impossible standard of perfection.

The truth is, there are many reasons why working moms are better together.

Two mommy minds are better than one

If you’ve ever met me, you know that I’m a pretty confident person. I feel like I have a good grasp on my strengths and am self-aware of my weaknesses. In the workplace, it took me a long time to realize that collaboration could lead to some amazing results; ones I wouldn’t have arrived at on my own, for sure. When it comes to parenting, on the other hand, I’ve always been one to read websites, ask questions, observe others and listen carefully.

When I first decided that I wanted to do the Working Mom Wednesday interviews, it was selfish really. I wanted to learn from other women I admired. Find out how they juggle a family and career and see if I could learn a few tips along the way. Ultimately, every mom will choose to do what’s best for her family, but we can learn so much from one another by judging less and sharing more.

You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours

My neighbor and I have this incredible system. She watches my kids when I need to get work done without frequent interruptions for more snacks from the pantry. I watch her kids when she needs to take a shower or run to the store without a toddler attached to her side. It’s seriously amazing. Moms should be each other’s best friends and allies.

Similarly, the weekly q&a’s became a way for me not only to learn more about working moms, but also to promote their businesses and my new blog simultaneously. I just like a good win/win!

We rise by lifting others

Men may love their sports, but women seem to be the more competitive gender. What I have come to know is that there is plenty of room for all of us to be successful. We can be great without stacking up against one another. In fact, we can all help each other reach higher if we band together.

Without a doubt the best part of posting a new Working Mom Wednesday every week is when I see them go viral on social media and the comments explode. People can’t wait to cheer on their friends as they read about how amazing they are for all that they do. It’s not about being perfect. It’s not about doing it all. It’s about candidly sharing how we navigate a sometimes stressful life and choosing to celebrate each small victory. Girl power!

Thank you to all of the working moms who have inspired me thus far. I have absolutely no doubt that the best is yet to come. I also know that it will be much better if we stick together.

Our BIG news

Moving to houston big news

Are you ready? Do you think you can handle it? If your guess was that I’m pregnant with triplets, please lower your expectations.

Nope, our family isn’t expanding right now; we’re relocating!

The Goldens are moving to Houston, Texas. This unexpected news follows a great job offer to my husband, and my ability to do what I do from anywhere.

The truth is, this wasn’t a decision either of us took lightly. Not only did we have our two children to consider, but also my parents, the best neighbors in the world and a city we know and love {with a world series champion baseball team, might I add.}

This decision weighed heavily on our hearts, but it also brought up some great conversations and made us ask one another {and ourselves} some extremely thoughtful questions about what we wanted out of life. Ultimately, we decided as a family that the benefits of the move outweighed the familiarity of staying put.

They say everything’s bigger in Texas. We decided we wanted to find out for ourselves.

When opportunity knocks

My husband was initially approached by a recruiter who found him on LinkedIn through a professional automotive association to which he belongs. The phone call came completely out of the blue, followed by a trip to Houston two days later and an offer the following day.

This wasn’t a matter of being in the right place at the right time, this was opportunity knocking. We needed to decide, and quickly, whether or not we were going to answer.

I had to ask my entrepreneurial husband in every way imaginable if he was confident that he could go back to working for someone else after running the show at Pit Stop Auto Detailing the last two and a half years. The truth is, owning your own business is hard work! There are days he is more like a guidance counselor than a business owner. I would have understood if he said he wanted to take the back seat and let someone else sweat the small stuff day to day for a while.

But that wasn’t the appeal of the position. He didn’t accept the job because he was running away from the pressure of owning your own business. He took the opportunity being offered to him in a newly created roll at a remarkable company and saw the potential to build it into something even better. Just like he has done as a business owner. I know this because Justin has decided to keep Pit Stop and is implementing management strategies and outsourcing things like accounting to keep the company moving forward in his absence. Plus, it gives us a reason to come back to Kansas City often. And business expense it.

Money doesn’t buy happiness

A few years ago I went to a Mary Kay meeting with my neighbor. One thing was said that evening that has resonated with me ever since, so much so that it was part of the reason I decided to trade in my 9-5 to do the freelance hustle. Someone said, “We all know money doesn’t buy happiness. But it sure does buy us opportunities.” I suspect that it’s statements like this that drive so many women into direct marketing in the first place.

Think about it. It’s totally true. Remember when the lottery was in the billions not too long ago? {I know you do, because everyone bought a ticket.} It’s funny, but when my husband and I fantasized about what we’d do with our winnings, I told him I would want to go to a friend’s wedding across the country we otherwise couldn’t afford to attend. No private jets {although that would have gotten us to the wedding, too}. Just the ability to say yes to more experiences without consulting our bank account first.

The job offer was flattering, no doubt. In less than a week my husband had been flown out of town to meet with the CEO and was offered a well-paying position at a successful company in an industry he loves. I felt like it was my job as his wife to make sure his ego wasn’t getting in the way of his rational thinking. Did he like the idea of getting back on someone else’s payroll? There isn’t anything wrong with that, as long as he was truly going to find enjoy the work he was doing and the people he was doing it with

You can always change your mind

People are so afraid of change. I get it, change can be really hard. Especially when you haven’t had any input in the new and different. I think one of the reasons my husband and I are so willing to change {and change often} is because neither of us have any problems turning back and saying, “well, that didn’t work.”

When we were discussing whether or not to move to Houston, we imagined what it would be like not living close to my family and our friends. When it came time to actually tell those closest to us and the reality of disappointment set in, the conversations became more emotional for us both. While making our neighbors and family upset with our news didn’t convince us to stay, it did remind us how cared about we are here. We know that if the job or the city isn’t a good fit for our family, we will be welcomed back with open arms if it came down to it {plus, we’ll still have Pit Stop to fall back on}. Accept and embrace change, because you can always change your mind.

So I guess it’s time to dig out the bug spray and sunscreen and start teasing my hair {what do they say? The bigger the hair, the closer to God?}, because the Goldens are moving to Houston! Have you been? I’d love to hear any tips or recommendations in the comments, ya’ll!

3 reasons why you should always respond

why you should always respond

I’m a firm believer that you should go after what you want, because the worst anyone can tell you is no. But what happens when that person you’re reaching out to isn’t saying no, they aren’t getting back to you at all?

It can be frustrating if you’re on the receiving end of the phone that doesn’t ring or the email that never gets answered. Maybe you’re even guilty of being the one failing to respond from time to time.

I’ve written about why I think it’s important to care about what other people think before, but I think it’s even more relevant in the workplace, especially if you own a business. By failing to respond, you may be doing some permanent damage to your reputation.

How do you resist the urge to ignore? It can be tough. For one thing, sales calls can be extremely irritating. If you’re like me, you may not pick up when an unknown number calls. For two months straight I received a call at the exact same time every day on my cell phone. I complained about it to anyone that would listen. Why wouldn’t they take a hint? When would they stop calling? The nerve!

Then one day I answered. It was a very nice salesperson. Person. There was actually someone being paid to harass me everyday at the exact same time. I kindly told him that I wasn’t interested and could he please remove my phone number from the list. I never received another call. The worst he heard was no.

We live and work in a highly distracting world full of social media networks and open office floor plans. Achieving efficiency is hard enough, and now you’re supposed to carve out a part of your day just to get back to people? Yup.

While not every group email requires a reply all, it’s important to consider whether any damage could be done {to you or the initiator} by not getting back to the people who reach out to you.

Here’s three reasons why I think you should always respond when people contact you.

Responding makes you reliable

I used to work with someone who was notorious for not responding to emails. I’m not sure if he never read them or actively chose not to reply. Either way, he quickly earned a reputation for not being a very reliable employee. People began questioning his ability to do his job and stopped soliciting his contributions to projects.

On the flip side, Facebook actually rewards businesses with a badge when they have an impressive response rate. Who wouldn’t want to work with a business that’s been endorsed for their dedication to customer service?

Responding builds relationships

We all know the saying, “treat others how you want to be treated.” I’m not sure why, but most people don’t seem to be applying the golden rule when a phone or computer come into the picture. Do you like being ignored? Me neither!

The truth is, communication builds relationships, and these days a large majority of our communicating isn’t taking place face to face. Get comfortable on the phone, learn email etiquette, and understand what is {and isn’t} appropriate to put on the internet. Then take the time to respond and engage and watch your relationships flourish.

Responding creates opportunities

There is a lot of junk mail out there, so I understand the temptation to send to spam. About a year ago I received a pretty generic sales pitch on LinkedIn about bringing a women’s organization to Kansas City. Other than my name, nothing about the message was customized. And it was sent from a complete stranger from halfway across the country. I almost deleted it. I think about my decision to respond all the time. The messages turned into phone calls which grew into an amazing community for local professional women and business owners and has contributed to my personal and professional growth one hundred times over. Imagine the opportunities missed by not getting back to someone!

I’m not saying you need to chime in at the end of an unnecessarily long email chain that lost it’s productivity nine emails ago. In fact, please don’t. But before you decide to leave someone hanging, I do encourage you to ask yourself if turning a blind eye could come back to bite you.

Do you ever think it’s appropriate not to get back to someone? Tell me in the comments.

“There was no guarantee that I would be successful, but I still took the risk”

took the risk on bridal business

Q&A with Dede Palmer

When I first met Dede Palmer, I immediately found myself admiring her confidence. Something about her truly says, “I’ve got this.” After learning more about her background as an accountant and complete 180 degree turn into the bridal industry, it became clear that any sense of accomplishment that Dede portrays is because she’s earned it.

Dede is smart and savvy, sure, but it’s her drive to be great at whatever it is that she decides to take on that is truly inspiring.

But being a numbers gal with a keen eye for ivory gowns is just one piece of what makes this working mom a success. She takes care of her family the same way she operates her business – by giving them 110%.

Self-promo time. Tell me about your business.

I own Altar Bridal, a boutique that specializes in selling designer wedding gowns and wedding day accessories. The store opened June 1, 2010 in Kansas City, MO, just south of the Plaza. I made the decision to move the store to Leawood, KS July 2014. We opened with and continue to focus on carrying a collection of gowns by designers that are up and coming, have a unique flair about them, are made with high quality in mind, and that are not carried by other boutiques in the Greater Kansas City area. We also LOVE to support local Kansas City designers. We currently have 2 local gown designers that we work with as well as numerous local accessory designers.

If making brides look good wasn’t your job, what would you doing?

I love teaching and helping others problem solve. So, I could go for teaching classes at the college level or small business consulting.

What is the best part of being a business owner?

Freedom {for the most part}. And not just freedom from the day to day grind of the office job I used to have, but freedom to choose how I run my business. Freedom to decide what my day is going to look like…or at least how I think it will look. You never know what the next phone call or email will bring you in the bridal business.

Tell me about a time you failed or really messed up.

Oh boy. Failure is like a demon to me. I’ve never really wanted to do or try anything that I might fail at until I started this business. And even then the early mantra was “Failure is not an option.” Since then, I’ve been trying to be ok with the possibility of failing. And so while I don’t really have any massive failure to report, there have been lots of mistakes along the way. I’d say the biggest one was over-hiring early on for the store. I thought I needed numerous employees – but really that was just a cash suck. I’ve loved everyone that has worked at the store at one time or another, but if I could go back in time, I know I would do things a bit differently when it comes to hiring and managing my payroll expenses.

How did you overcome it?

I now run the store pretty lean. But try to recognize when we do need the extra hands on deck. I’m also better about managing hours being worked and only hiring and having staff work when I need them.

What is a typical day like for you?

Hmmm, doesn’t exist. But I think that is one of the perks of owning your own business. Now that I have a staff at the store that I can fully trust and rely on, I don’t have to be at the store every day. Which is life changing. If I want to go to the gym, get laundry done, work on some store marketing, take my daughter to violin, balance the store checkbook, get dinner started, promo a trunk show on social media…I can. All in one day.

They say it takes a village. Who takes your daughter to violin if you can’t swing it?

This is where my family is so blessed beyond measure it’s hard to even explain. About 6 years ago we became friends with two other families that had kiddos about the same age as ours. Over the last 6 years all of us have truly become friends that are family. We eat dinner together 1-2 times a week on average. Our kids are more like siblings. And whenever someone needs backup, it’s a no-brainer, they will be there. It’s awesome. I can’t imagine getting through life without them.

Have you had to miss a moment in your child’s life that you regret?

Of course I’ve missed some moments here and there but nothing that I deeply regret. But if I didn’t have the freedom that I do because of owning my own business, and was back in the cubicle crunching numbers…I fear I might have a different answer.

What is your favorite part about being a mom?

Just knowing what it’s like to love a human being like you love no one else in the world. I know that sounds cheesy, but when I truly stop the world around me and intentionally look at my kiddos, it takes my breath away. In those moments, it’s when I feel the overwhelming feelings of love and responsibility for these two human beings.

If your kids take away one thing from you running a business, what do you think that would be?

I hope that they realize that there was no guarantee that I would be successful {still isn’t}, but that I still took the risk, put myself out there, and did the hard work. I don’t want them to ever second guess their ability to follow their passions or fear failure without even trying.

What keeps you sane?

Time off. Like off the grid, time-off.

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

Don’t worry about the other moms. Do what works for you and what makes you feel like being a good mom to your kiddos.

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

Yes. I have a loving family, amazing friends, food in my belly and roof over my head. What else do ya really need? Well, besides a few cute outfits to make you feel fashionable on a gloomy day.

If you know someone getting ready to tie the knot, I can think of no one better to outfit the bride to be in the gown of her dreams than Dede and her staff at Altar Bridal.

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

“Helping every kid be active, be social and belong”

Q&A with Deb Wiebrecht

I first met Deborah Wiebrecht when she was stepping into her role as Executive Director of a local chapter of a not-for-profit. She set up a meeting to ask for some free promotions and left with a new member of the young professional leg of the organization. Not only is Deb an incredible mom making a difference, but her ability to make you want to be a better person is also a persuasive recruiting tactic!

Deb is a refreshing burst of energy {when asked what her biggest challenge is professionally she admitted to making a few mistakes as she’s always going 100 mph!} and someone who lives and breathes the mission of her work. If you know Deb, you know who she serves for a living.

Self-promo time. Tell me what you do and how long you’ve been doing it.

I’ve been the Executive Director of Variety Children’s Charity- Variety KC for 5 years. Variety KC has been helping local kids with special needs for 80 years. Helping every kid be active, be social and belong!

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

It’s funny. This is the perfect job for me because it includes everything I love: kids, helping others, marketing, selling promoting and making an impact and difference that is tangible in other’s lives! I love children because they are authentic and their hearts are true and to see them shine is energizing. But if I had to choose another dream job….hmmm. I was Miss Wisconsin-USA and being Miss USA would have been my earlier dream job. Traveling around the United States making a difference and impacting others lives with a platform- that’s a Dream Job. I was also the host of a National TV show and that was super fun. Combining those two would be the perfect job, a national title for exposure and credibility on a TV show. Making a real difference to a large audience and motivating others to do the same. Maybe I should create a realty show with Variety KC on TLC!

I would watch that! You get to work with amazing kids every day. Does any particular story stand out?

Every day I hear of a life changing story. People post on our Facebook and write blogs on how we have changed their child’s life, from providing a communication device so a child can communicate with his parents for the first time {telling them pain levels, how they feel, or that they love them} to riding an adaptive bike for the first time to get exercise and belong like the other neighborhood kids. My most recent story was a Facebook message from a mom that I will share with you:

You probably don’t remember meeting us, but we were at Arrowhead for the Taylor Swift concert September 2011. You and your husband approached us with Ethan and you asked about him, talked to him and were so kind.

What you don’t know is how much that meant to me. Ethan had been discharged from Children’s Mercy earlier that same week after having a heart valve replaced and we weren’t even sure until that day that he could tolerate going to the concert. He had been in heart failure for months, and we had spent all summer fighting it with hospital stays and meds and he had missed so much school and events due to his condition. And the thought of him having to possibly miss seeing his favorite singer in concert broke my heart. I was angry and struggling with the whys of everything surrounding Ethan’s illness and his life struggles and the difficulty of being a special needs parent. Then you came up to him and acknowledged him when most people look away or avoid him. You treated him with such respect and kindness, my heart soared. And my whys were answered that night. Why I was given the honor of being Ethan’s mom-struggles and all-it was so I would meet some of the most amazing people, and you are definitely one of those people.

Thank you for all you do for our special kiddos. And thanks for taking those few moments, on your personal time with your family, to stop and make Ethan feel special. It did not go unnoticed and will never be forgotten.

I would love for my family to get involved with Variety’s events and continue to foster their goal of inclusion for all our special kids. Please let me know how we can help.

Ethan’s parents

The best part of Variety is the families we serve that become an extension of our family, and many of them give back with time and volunteering. It’s amazing that I may fundraise to provide medical equipment for a child, but the families feel the gift is much bigger than that. We provide inclusion and a sense of belonging for their family, so they give back to Variety twofold.

Moms making a difference

What is a typical day like for you?

No day is the same. I am an early bird. I walk 4 miles at 5:45 a.m. with a friend for my girl time, exercise and free talk therapy. Then my day is surrounded by meeting interesting people. It’s a lot of meetings, organizing events, creating social media posts and newsletters, writing grants, communicating with board of directors, creating fundraisers, and ordering equipment. I try to meet 1,000 people a year to connect into our mission, write hand written thank you notes {if possible} and I always make time to drive thru for a Starbucks Venti Skim Latte!

You’re working on a big event right now. Tell us about it.

The Annual Variety Show 2016. We called it Variety Show to help promote our brand, which is to work with a variety of kids with a variety of special needs. So we host a fundraising event that uses a variety of talent to help entertain and to raise funds for these awesome kids. It will be this Saturday, April 9th at the Midland presented by HyVee. Comedian Gary Gulman, singer-Drew Six, artist Mike Debus, a Photo Bus, a Kendra Scott Jewelry Pull, local restaurants, open bar and a variety of fun Silent and Live auction items!

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

You are always a mom, whether your kids are babies, teens or adults, you never stop worrying, praying and celebrating their highs and lows…ever! My husband is amazing and funny! We had a pact that I raise the kids from ages 1-7 and he got everything over that age. He is calm, understanding and so smart.

What’s the best part about being a mom?

Loving on your kids and showering them with attention and surprises. Trying to create happy memorable moments for their personal history. Being a mom is the most rewarding journey in life, and you’re not limited by being a biological mom. You can be a positive inspiration to any child you come in contact with, sometimes it just starts with a genuine smile, kind words or act of goodness that may be that moment that inspires someone forever.

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

Use every experience or volunteer opportunity, good or bad, and learn from it, save it and use it!

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

Wow! I’m impressed with your goal. I do not have it all, but I do have what I need!

There are a number of ways to get involved with Variety Children’s Charity both in Kansas City and other cities nationwide.

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