Recently I sat down for a cup of tea with Amanda Carroll and her adorable baby girl Zoe to talk about the joys and challenges of raising three children (Emily 4, Andy 2, and Zoe 5 months) while co-hosting the WGTS 91.9 Morning Show, volunteering at church, taking time for herself, and spending grown-up time with hubby. It is definitely a challenge and Amanda makes it clear that she does NOT have it all figured out. But you could have fooled me...from all appearances she's managing extraordinarily well. Arriving bright-eyed and all smiles with baby carrier on one arm and bags on another, you'd never guess that this mother of three had already put in a morning's work on the radio, squeezed in a work-out, and managed to arrive at the cafe by 10:00 a.m. looking terrific. Remembering back to the days when I was still toting around my third baby, I assure you, I could not have pulled all this off with a smile, on time, and certainly not with matching clothes and lipstick. So where do her supermom powers come from? Let's find out...
The Gift of Stay-at-Home Time
Before her husband's job transfer brought them to the DC metro area, Amanda, her husband, and their baby girl Emily lived in Texas where Amanda hosted a Christian music radio show. When the radio station eliminated its flexible work hours, however, Amanda made the difficult decision to quit and stay home full-time with her daughter. Unexpectedly finding herself without the career that she loved, Amanda had to adjust to what others sometimes dismissively call being "just a mom."
Although leaving journalism had not been "the plan", spending time with her daughter was a revelation that made Amanda appreciate the gift of time with her daughter. New motherhood is never easy, but Amanda found that her daughter had much to teach her about taking it slow and living for the moment. As she wrote in her blog following her station departure,
Thank you God, for changing our plans. Forgive me for ever protesting and thinking that my plans were better. Maybe someday later Mommy will get invited to the White House Correspondents dinner, talk over the announcements, be bored, and eat dry chicken. For now, Mommy will stay home with Emmie and learn about deep love, commitment, stability, and experience the ultimate joy that comes from laughter with your children.
In spite of her appreciation for the time with her daughter, Amanda's dreams of journalism didn't disappear all together.
The Dream Job
After moving to the DC metro area Amanda and her husband were blessed with their second child, Andy. And although Amanda was now committed to staying at home with her children, she recognized her need to express herself creatively. So, when Takoma Park's WGTS 91.9 called Amanda in search a cohost for their family morning show, she knew immediately that it was an opportunity sent from above. Thankfully, this time around her employer understood her family's needs. "The station wanted a real mom to do the show and was prepared to make the necessary accommodations to make it work." To enable her to work from home WGTS set-up a full studio in Amanda's home, including a webcam and a highspeed connection so that she could broadcast live and interact with her co-host right from her basement.
Now, instead of leaving the house before the crack of dawn and commuting to work, she can happily broadcast her show, in her pajamas, while folding laundry. Brilliant! And she wouldn't have it any other way. By getting most of her work done in the morning, she still gets to "play tea party, put diapers on Elmo," and "sing made up songs in the car on the way to the grocery store" with her kids.
Working Mother Guilt
As ideal as her arrangement seems, it is not always smooth sailing. Although Amanda has a wonderful nanny to take care of the children while she is doing her morning show, she definitely has Mom-guilt at not being there when the kids wake up, being able to help them get ready for school, or give them a kiss goodbye in the morning.
There have been "oops!" moments too, like when Amanda got a call from her daughter's preschool teacher informing her that Emily forgot to wear underpants under her dress that day. Of course, that could have happened even if Amanda had been the one getting her children off to school in the morning, but it didn't make Amanda feel any better that her daughter's bare bottom had been "hangin' out in the breeze."
Small misses like that hit the core feelings of guilt for all mothers when they cannot personally care for their children every hour of the day. Still, work has also helped her to project a strong role model for her children. "I'm not sure they even know I work now, but one day they will," and will surely be proud.
Countering Depression With Joy
As she candidly discusses in her blog, there have been very difficult times too. Even before the hormones of motherhood hit, she confronted chemical imbalances that caused depression.
I lived for years with depression and was literally miserable every day, until I took action. I got help from a doctor and work everyday to be happy!
These days, when things get hard its her children's joy upon waking up each morning that gives her strength and renewed positivity. Especially when she finds herself rushing through the days activities, it is often one of the children who will bring her back to the simple joys and of the world: whether it be stopping to inspect an insect, sing a song, or watch a construction site in progress.
Taking Care of Herself
Work has also become a kind of therapy. She is grateful to have a career that allows her a creative outlet while helping others. By sharing her experiences and talking about family issues both on her radio show and blog she does just that. "Sometimes," she says, "you can just look at another mom and tell she is having a hard time, not getting enough sleep, or spending enough time taking care of herself." Helping other moms to feel good about themselves is one of the reasons Amanda is committed to doing the radio show. To ensure she practices what she preaches, Amanda exercises regularly (and loves that her gym has childcare!) and as a special treat enjoys a manicure-pedicure, sometimes together with her older daughter. "It is SO important to feel good about yourself." As any family knows, if mommy isn't happy, nobody is.
Mentoring Mom's Advice: Get Out!
Amanda also stressed the importance of having the support of a "mentor Mom". Amanda's mentor mom, Patty, is a wonderful neighbor and mom of four who is always there to prepare her for the next "phase". Patty has "been-there-done-that" and so it's reassuring to have her advice along the way of motherhood's unexpected challenges. Once, when Amanda was feeling particularly blue, Patty recommended a "field trip" day.
She reminded me that just because you are labeled as a stay-at-home-mom...doesn't mean you actually have to stay at home all the time! It's so great to get out and experience something new with your children...especially nature. Forgo the routine of motherhood for a day, get out of your rut, and give your family an experience.
After an exhilarating outing to Great Falls in Virginia, Amanda's spirits were lifted and she resolved to take regular field trips with her kids. There is so much to do in the DC area that is accessible to kids, so her family tries to go on a field trip to a museum or park whenever they can. Yes, it's a huge hassle getting the three kids in the car, parking, dealing with diapers, snacks, and all of that. But, there is nothing better than having a wonderful time with your kids as they explore something new. What makes such outings with three multiple children possible, of course, is Amanda's much adored Bob double stroller. As she confessed, "I cannot imagine life without that stroller. I worry about the family car being stolen not because I care about the car, but because I REALLY LOVE that stroller!"
As for her parenting style, Amanda is not into flash cards or creating the perfect baby genius. Instead, her family spends time together riding bikes, playing soccer, and generally enjoying the outdoors. There is a lot of pressure in the DC metro area to achieve and succeed, but she wants her kids to relax and enjoy childhood while they still can.
Reading time is also very important and she likes to share the books she loved as a child, especially the Berenstain Bears. They also enjoy the Llama books, the Anansi the Spider series, The Kissing Hand, and of course, as most little girls do, Emily really likes Pinkalicious.
Although it's sometimes bittersweet watching her children grow-up so fast, Amanda strongly believes in encouraging their independence. That includes helping themselves around the house. At the suggestion of her mother-in-law, she brought a mini-fridge into the kitchen so that the kids could easily help themselves to snacks. She warns that she ends up buying a lot of juice boxes, but having the kids learn to help themselves is worth it. As with all families, getting the kids to help pick-up their own toys is a challenge. But having a place for everything and making a game of cleaning up certainly helps.
In addition to her career, wonderful nanny, mentoring friends, and strong faith, her husband gives her ongoing strength and support. Amanda acknowledges she is blessed to have a husband who is truly engaged with their children and present in their world. Does her home-life make into onto the air? "Absolutely, but my husband has veto power. Not EVERYTHING needs to be out there." But, "obviously," she reveals, "there are some things that are fair game." Like the time he suggested to save money on a baby gate he installed a bungee-cord rig at the bottom of the stairs instead. "That was too good to pass up and definitely made it on the air!"
So what is Amanda's secret? Everyone has their own sources of strength, but clearly what she and other happy moms have in common is a strong support network AND a sense of humor. Thanks Amanda!
For more inspiration check out Amanda's radio show weekday mornings on WGTS 91.9 and her blog athttp://amandacarroll.wordpress.com/.
For the Holidays: Amanda's Tips on Encouraging Kindness and Gratitude in Children
Although her children are still young, Amanda has already started gently guiding her children towards expressions of kindness and gratitude. Because the holidays are approaching we asked her to share some of the ways her children are learning to help others during the holidays and throughout the year:
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