One of my favorite days of the year is Mother’s Day. Not because I usually get spoiled rotten with gifts and treats by my loved ones (although that doesn’t hurt!), but it’s because it’s a day to reflect on actually being a mother, having a mother, and what it really means and the impact that it has on the world around us.
If you’ve been following me for awhile, you have seen me in different roles. Working full-time outside the home, staying home while working a business, working part-time outside the home, working full-time and part-time outside the home while working a business…..hahaha…..the one thing that has continually never changed is that as a MOM – I work constantly. Whether I have had a paycheck or not, my job as a mother has been the hardest one of all. And not because of the sleepless nights or the constant worry that I’m not doing enough for my children – but because it rests on my shoulders to mold these tiny humans to grow up to become GOOD ADULT HUMANS.
The responsbility is HUGE.
On the cusp of our state re-opening post-Quarantine of 2 months, many women are transitioning back to work or finding themselves as work-from-home parent part-time. It’s an unusual situation and I keep thinking about how we will do this. Being a strong woman is the key to handling such a responsibility and I wanted to chat with someone in my community that models that with grace while keeping it real. Because being a MOM keeps you more real than ever. (Have you ever held someone else’s poop in your bare hand???….yeah, all moms have.)
Meet Mary Straton Smith. Wife, mom of 2 adorable humans, Mississippi Native, Director at The Source, BankPlus’ Professional Network for Women in Mississippi. I met her through listening to podcasts by The Source and when I got up the courage to reach out to her and meet for coffee to pitch her an idea for an event, she was so gracious and lovely that I felt inclined to interview HER about being a working mom and how being in Quarantine has influenced her daily life and goals.
B – Where are you from/where did you grow up?
I grew up in Starkville, Mississippi, where I also attended college at Mississippi State. One good thing about going to college in your hometown is your friends who attended with you gain a similar affinity for it as adults and love it almost as much as you do.
B- Did your mom work outside of the home and do you think that this molded your outlook on working women?
My mom was an elementary school teacher, so having two working parents was a part of my world view. She was out with me whenever I was out of school, so it was the best of both worlds!
B- What did you want to be when you “grew up”?
Oh my goodness. I entertained so many dream “careers,” as I’m sure many of us do, but I wanted to be a psychologist as I began college and even majored in psychology for a while. I’m still fascinated by the complexities of the human mind.
B-What are some ways you have used the time in Quarantine to reflect on your working-mom status?
Nothing like a good shakeup to make you appreciate things! For me, being at home during typical work days has made me appreciate both family time AND work time more. I’ve learned how much I value the feeling of contribution to both.
B- Have you learned that you wanted to do things differently? What are some things that you will be implementing in the coming weeks/months?
Quarantine has encouraged me to be much more generous with grace – to my family, colleagues, the shipping department at Amazon, employees at grocery stores and pharmacies, workers at drive-thru windows… I’ve also learned what activities I participated in that I truly miss, and which ones I don’t.
B-Are you a believer in work-life balance?
I asked this question at one of our Lunch with The Source events to UMMC Vice Chancellor Dr. Lou Ann Woodward, and her response sticks with me to this day. She said she doesn’t focus so much on work-life balance as work-life energy. We’ll never be able to be 100% an employee at work and 100% a mom or wife at home. Instead, we should aim to spend our energy devoted to where we are at the time. That doesn’t mean we can’t answer a text from our child’s teacher while at work or respond to a quick email from our boss while we’re at home. Let’s take the pressure off ourselves to be perfect and direct our attention where it needs to be at the moment.
B-How do you and your husband/partner juggle raising the children and working outside the home?
I am so fortunate that my husband is also a great dad and roommate! While I’m sure each of us wishes the other did a little more here and there, for the most part, it’s a 50-50 arrangement. I typically handle most of what needs to be done with our children, and he takes over lots of what needs to be done around the house. It’s not perfect, but we make it work!
B-Did you work outside the home during quarantine? Who stayed home most of the time? How did that change the dynamics of your household?
We’ve each done a little of both. Banks are essential businesses, so there have been weeks when I have worked typical days, many times even longer hours! While I was at work, my husband was the homeschool teacher, which was a little out of his wheelhouse. Quarantine has made us all do things we never imagined ourselves doing, but it’s shown us we can do more than we ever thought possible.
B-Do you ever see yourself as a full-time stay-at-home mom?
Depends on the day! Ha! I’ve definitely gained a new respect for stay-at-home and work-from-home moms!
B-When you find yourself feeling that mom-guilt, what do you do to counteract those emotions?
I absolutely struggle with working mom guilt. It’s hard hearing my stay-at-home mom friends make playdate plans or telling my 7-year-old I can’t pick her up early from school. It was excruciating dropping off my infants in the care of strangers at daycare. But in the same breath, I love my job. I have the invaluable opportunity to connect professional women and be a catalyst for real, meaningful networking.
B–What women do you look up to or admire that are working moms?
I think I join the millions of parents now who admire teachers even more than before! As I mentioned, my mom was an elementary school teacher, so I had a concept of appreciation prior to the pandemic, but this has proven how much time and effort and love and devotion teachers have to their profession. My daughters’ teachers make them feel like they are the only child in the class, even while online! Educators in all fields never imagined their jobs looking like they do now, but they’ve gone far above and beyond.
B-What is one thing you do to treat yourself in or outside the home?
I am a huge fan of McDonald’s breakfast. For my money, there’s nothing better! I treat myself to an Egg McMuffin every Friday. I call it McMuffin Friday, and I look forward to it all week! I also love the trails in Ridgeland, and it’s so calming to me to put in my earbuds, take a walk, and just be in nature.
B-Are you a coffee drinker- what is your favorite coffee beverage?
I’m not a coffee drinker, but I love hot tea. In a previous job in the tourism industry, I traveled to the UK a great deal and learned to love it there. My very favorite is a London Fog. The coffee shop at Cultivation Food Hall at The District makes a great one!
B-What is one value that you hope to instill in your daughter as an adult?
Part of the prayers I say with my daughters every night is “have courage and be kind.” I hope they always have the wisdom to know the right thing to do, the courage to do it, and the confidence to not worry what others thing about it.
B-What would you tell a new mom who is deciding whether to go back to work full-time?
Unfortunately, like many things, there’s not a hard and fast answer. What works for one family might not work for another. In some families, there is a decision to be made on the subject, and in others, both parents need to work to keep food on the table. Whatever situation your family is in, if your children feel loved, they will thrive. Whether they’re at home with you at 10:00 a.m. or don’t see you until 6:30 p.m., it’s what you do with the time you have with them
A huge thank you to Mary Straton Smith for taking the time out to share her heart and help all of us with a fresh perspective on navigating this new-normal in the coming weeks. Happy Mother’s Day to all!
You can listen in on the podcast that she hosted with me discussing how to grow your network through social media by downloading the episode HERE.