Gin & Zin

Interview with Mandy~ SAHM Working Overtime

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Meet Mandy~
Greetings! I am madre of our Harper clan, but most call me Mandy. My wingman is Jake and we copilot our two little people, Torin (4) and Novelle (17mo) in suburbia NorCal. We are captivated by Jesus’s relentless love for us and seek to live it out with each other and with our children.

We dream of wide-open spaces, adventures, and breathing the outdoors.  As a child of the farm, I prided myself with callused bare feet, turning abandoned corncribs into plush hideaways, creating music, and reckless climbing.  It concerned me that someday my own children might not enjoy such things, but, alas, our seed did not get tossed to the wind. My two young humans are every bit of nature-loving free-spirits that I am, and for this I give thanks.

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Prior to having our youngest, I was the primary provider for our family as an Emergency Department Nurse, but Jake and I decided to change our roles after Novi was born and I quit my job unexpectedly, and he has taken the role of provider.  We have made some serious compromises to live off a single income in California, but we embrace our mantra: Low on cash; High on love! Truly, this career as a full-time homemaker brings me such joy. It is everything I sought to find in a career but never found. Who knew?!
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There is a strength I have found in myself as a mother that is centered around embracing my weaknesses. Before motherhood, while aware of my weaknesses, I very successfully overshadowed them with my strengths. Weaknesses that couldn’t be covered, were ignored. For example, I have never been a patient person, and after working over a decade as a nurse, I had also become somewhat jaded in my compassion towards humanity. Mothering has brought me to my knees, humbly aware of my shortcomings, and in love with the raw beauty of weakness.  In vulnerability lies growth, and rather than continue to overshadow or ignore my shortcomings, I am finding much peace in growing in patience, compassion, etc. Motherhood is loud and crazy in so many ways, but it has given me the strength of quietly listening to myself in its midst.
On the occasion I am apart from my children, I enjoy yoga, mountain biking, writing, sister escapades, dating my husband, wine with friends, scoping out swimming holes, creating recipes, woodworking, antiquing, building friendships…basically, there is rare shortage of ideas for my solo time, lol. However, I have found that being a mother has helped me refine what is truly important to my well-being and happiness.
What is the best thing about being a stay at home mom?
The same adage of refining what is important applies to the way I approach this occupation of stay-at-home parent. I typically filter cultural norms through a sieve and develop the nuggets that remain true to our family and let the other expectations pass through without a bother. The best part of being a stay-at-home mama is the fact I have the ability to be FULLY here for my children to develop those nuggets without interference from an outside career. While some mamas seem to get refreshed by balancing motherhood with another career, I am at a stage of my life where singular focus is best for my family and me. After years of adrenaline, this slower lifestyle is refreshing!

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Maybe it’s easy for me to say this because I’ve already had an outside career, but being a stay at home parent is such fertile ground for character development.  It’s so easy to get swept up into our society’s expectation of finding that one career that “defines” us, and skim over the fact there is so much more to be had in the journey.  I see this occupation of motherhood as a way of investing in little lives with a bonus of it providing me the means to identify my weaknesses and strengths and refine them.  I am confident as our children grow up and out of our home, I will be left with a set of valuable skills, versatile and lifelong. 
For example, I used to view my great imagination as a weakness since it seems to propel me into trouble.  As a result, I would find ways to squelch or divert it  Now I use my imagination in a healthy way to stoke my children’s wonder of the great outdoors and world.  After our budget adjustments with me at home I’ve found I really enjoy bringing to life furniture/toys/art/food/plants from practically nothing, ultimately showing me I prefer a career that involves creative thinking with hands-on construct. The biggest challenge is taking the initiative to now put those newfound skills to use and not become lazy or comfortable! Which brings me to…
What do you miss about working? 
Being at home has shown me that I don’t really want to go back to work as a nurse–that there is a difference in who I thought I was and who I really am. This stage of being at home is evolving me.  It’s easy to feel like you’re going nowhere breastfeeding every two hours for a year and singing “if you’re happy and you know it’ a hundred times, but you ARE changing and growing as a person even at home.
What has been the most challenging thing about being the primary caretaker?
One major difficulty of being a stay-at-home parent is maintaining an optimistic outlook in the midst of the drudgery of routine.  Choosing joy is so powerful.  Whether I asked for it or not, I feel like I am always at the helm of our spaceship, and for awhile I would anticipate the weekends because “Yay! A break!,” then find myself grumpy that I still felt like I was “on the job” even through Jake’s days off. Changing my perspective of this has been life-changing. Of course I am on! I have streamlined our weekdays to efficiency, so why should I expect him to master my job on his two days off? So, if either of us needs a change of pace, we ask each other for a switcheroo, but do so with the expectation that we are not masters of the other’s craft. Voilå. It helps us appreciate each other for our strengths and solidify our partnership.  Choosing joy (not forcing a smile!) is one of the most critical steps in choosing to love each other. When I pull up my roots of resentment, he waters me with love and support in my weaknesses, and we both produce fruit for us all. 
What do you consider to be one of your best mom tricks?
One of my favorite tricks of motherhood is dangling boredom in front of my children. It cultivates independence and creativity.  It’s easy to get sucked into giving them activity after program after show (if only for our own sanity, right?) Allowing some room for boredom means more effort on my part to break through the whining, but with practice and patience, we all win with them developing a true sense of independent play and creativity.  
I replace structured play and entertainment with more open-ended situations and have done so since they were quite tiny.  When they were just newborns, I found baby wearing to be a great setup for this.  They became a part of my daily tasks and had no need to vie for my attention to help them play—they were already alongside me, watching me cook, garden, clean, etc. As they grow, they naturally step into those responsibilities alongside me. When boredom does occur, I find my phrase “go outside for a few minutes and I will bring you a snack” seems to cure or at least jumpstart their boredom. I’m not sure what inner city mamas do for sanity! With that being said, I do try to spend at least 20 minutes of alone time with each child every day in some form to focus on eye contact, laughing together and just listening to them.  Every time I do this, I am amazed at how far it goes for their behavior and cooperation throughout the rest of the day.  
Another trick I’ve found in my career is to approach my role through the eyes of a mentor or teacher rather than a disciplinarian.  Reactionary discipline breeds contempt and spirals the day downward. On the other hand, if I remove “me” from the situation, it allows me to focus on educating them. They are not trying to hurt ME or anger ME- they are merely learning the ropes on how to handle life. If I meet their tantrums with frustration and anger, nobody wins. In fact, it’s inevitable they will mimic that frustration and anger back at me. I am learning the power of inner chuckles and deep breathing to help me stay even-tempered and lighthearted when that 5 o’clock hour rolls along and the switch turn everything crazy!
If/When you return to the work force do see yourself doing the same thing? Different? what would it be?
If I decided to supplement my career as a stay-at-home mom, what would I do?
Hmmmm…maybe throw pottery for a living, 
or be a base-jumping instructor, 
or write a whole health cookbook,
or move to Uganda and apprentice for a weaver,
or (laughing) decide I miss being an ER nurse after all.
Who knows?! 🙂
Thanks for listening to my long-winded chat.  Come say hello on my Instagram @neuaura!
Mandy, what a colorful picture you’ve painted for us of your transition from the workforce to the home force. We’d like to come out and play!

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