My Story…My name is Kristin Grasso; I am 34 years old and am married to my husband Jamie and we have two amazing kiddos: Elizabeth (age 6 ½) and Nicholas (age 2 ½). Elizabeth is entering first grade and she is already reading everything she can touch. She is inquisitive and bright and we find her always caring for those who are sad, even those she doesn’t know. Nicholas is a ninja. He is our bouncing baby boy who brings a smile wherever he goes. When he is not showing off his ninja skills he is snuggling his mommy, daddy or ‘sissy’. We currently live, work and play Vermont. I grew up in New Hampshire and my husband in Connecticut for 8 years and then VT for the remaining years. I am currently a Rostered Marriage & Family Therapist in private practice, a Children’s Outpatient Clinician in community mental health, and an Administrative Assistant for Finance at Keurig Green Mountain. Yes, you read that correctly, three jobs!
I always knew I wanted to be in a ‘helping’ profession. My undergraduate studies were completed at the University of New Hampshire with a major in Family Studies. Towards the end of my degree I found a job as an Administrative Assistant that paid far more than a social worker position, and so, like many others, I got a job not utilizing my degree at all. For years I worked ‘helping’ managers and senior executives, only not to the capacity I had always dreamed of. It wasn’t until my daughter was born that I realized I wanted more, that I needed more. Every day was a personal struggle sending her into the care of someone else for me to go to a job that was not richly satisfying or fulfilling. Sending her into someone else’s care was a must, I found myself eager to get out every day and even counting the minutes they had with her versus the minutes I had with her. Since I had to work I knew I had to find a new plan.
My ah-ha moment…one night (or perhaps one early morning) when I was nursing her and fantasizing about what kind of woman she would be, and at that moment I realized that she would be the kind of woman that I showed her to be. It was then that I knew I had to re-enroll to earn my degree in mental health in order to satisfy not only my career need but my need to show my daughter that she too could find happiness and balance in anything she chose to do.
For 3 long years… I worked late nights and early weekend mornings to read, study, write papers, and answer posts while working full time and caring for 1, and then 2, children. I spent 2 separate weeks away to complete residencies; I lost more sleep while finding an internship site and then completed a year long, unpaid, internship. I now have completed my schooling and am working towards licensure, another enduring task however the stress is much less as I have given myself credit for how far I have come and have worked hard to take the pressure of reaching licensure as quickly as reaching graduation.
My good fortune…I have found that I was very fortunate to work for a large company who supported mothers. With both my children I was in a company that had a nursing mother’s room. Two separate companies, but both had very similar cultures and were both very flexible in allowing for unexpected time off. I have been very fortunate in that sense. What I have found to be the biggest challenge is my own internal battle about being a working mama. I find guilt and shame creep up on me at times when I am either vulnerable or simply wanting to stay at home a little longer one morning. Societal pressures show their ugly faces to both stay at home moms, and working moms, and thus I feel conflicted at times.
Satisfaction… It is the satisfaction I receive when I am with my clients and the instant gratification I get when completing a task that has meaning to me as a therapist, and not just a mom, that allows me to help push away the shame and the guilt of being a working mama. Even during the times when I have to cancel clients because of a sick child (which is rare since I have a very supportive husband who splits our childcare responsibilities 50/50) I find shame and guilt creep in right before the phone call and then by the end of the call I am reassured because people understand that these things happen, and so I move on.
I have worked hard… and continue to work hard, on balance and self-care. I rely heavily on my husband and my friends. My husband and my friends allow me to laugh, cry, vent, sulk, smile, and most importantly normalize my fears and worries throughout all of my work and schooling. A must have career essential for any working mom is support. Support from your spouse, family, friends, mentor, or anyone who will give it to you. Support is a must.
My current schedule… can bring me to three different places in any given day. I balance by clustering appointments to my advantage based on time and place. This leads me to another career essential – a planner. I utilize an hourly notebook planner because of clients but I also add appointments and other events to that calendar. I also utilize my smartphone calendar. These two calendars hold every personal and work appointment, from clients and appointments to birthday parties and upcoming girl’s nights. Finding a way to organize your time is another must. I book shopping trips and girl’s nights out months in advance at times because sometime that is the closest available time. For me time I attempt the gym at least once per week, I have girls night typically once per month, I see my own therapist, and a chiropractor. The better I care for myself, the more balanced not only I am, but my family as well.
Family time…is very important in our home. We do everything together as often as we can. Our philosophy is they will be young for only a short time so absorb it, laugh at it, love it, and cherish it. Birthday parties, hikes, movies, swimming, sports of any kind, reading, gardening, community family fun, and anything we can get our hands on we’ll try. My organizational skills keep us organized for fun. Both my husband and I cover meals and meal planning. My husband, thankfully, does all the bills – after a year of unpaid internship I never wanted to know where we stood financially all I wanted to know was whether or not we could go out for ice cream! The essential must have for our family is teamwork. We want our children to know that we are a team in all that we do, whether we succeed or fail, whether we are standing by each other’s side or holding one another accountable, in the end we will always be a team.
My words of wisdom… for all the working mama’s out there is to do your best and be easy on yourself. We are our own worst critic. Many times there is nobody actually judging us for what we fear they are judging us for, but rather our worry is what brings us unhappiness. Do your best, be kind, smile, let others help, take care of yourself physically/mentally/emotionally, cry when you need, laugh even more, and enjoy all that life has to offer.