A Few Things

gabrielle blair alt summit

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! Happy first day of summer!! How are you? I’m writing this from New York. I get to enjoy the sunshine here for the rest of the day — my flight back to France leaves tonight at midnight. I’m still on a high from Alt Summit NYC! I’m sure I’ll share more about it in a future post. But first, I’m looking forward to a nice long sleep when I get back home. : )

I haven’t had a good slice of pizza in ages, or a rootbeer, so as soon as I hit publish, that’s where I’m headed. In the meantime, here are a few things I wanted to share with you:

– The Most Interesting Cat in the World.

– Stephen Colbert’s tribute to his mother. (Watch with tissues at hand.)

– Jenny bought a new house and has big plans. I’m getting a kick out of the updates.

– I’d love your thoughts on this essay (with an obviously provocative title). I really agree with the last sentence and feel incredibly blessed to have sought out and found a flexible career from the moment I graduated college.

– And related: this letter from Harvard.

– A bright and beautiful bedroom for two brothers and a baby sister.

– My sister bought an old school photobooth! What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever bought?

– Texas water safari.

BBQ in a box. Love this! (Also, I’m hungry.)

– Thinking about Erin’s post: rethink the way you live.

I hope you have a really wonderful weekend. I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.


39 thoughts on “A Few Things”

  1. Thank you so much for the link to Stephan Colbert’s tribute to his mother. I’ve always loved him because he brings so much laughter to our home and manages to make a sometimes dark, chaotic world less tragic and helps us find laughter in simply observing the foibles of human nature. Now I have another reason to love him and welcome him into our home. xo S

  2. Thank you for posting the link to the HuffPo article. It was brave and intimate and I hope people will be respectful of the fact that she is talking about her choices, her family, her own personal regrets and not commenting on anyone else’s choices or family.

    I have a regret, too: that I read some of the HuffPo comments.

  3. I thought the Huffington Post article was sad. She sounds like a very unhappy woman who doesn’t value herself.

    I disagree with her that her children didn’t need her and that she was no better than a nanny.

    I think a great key to being happy as a homemaker is having hobbies that interest you so much that you learn and grow because of them. I find that women who haven’t made time to pursue their own personal interests are the ones who are unhappy at home. You cannot give up all personal interests and expect to be happy. Serving your family is extremely important, but you must also be busy creating. You can create things to serve your family, or for yourself, but without creating something–photographs, new recipes, a garden, artwork, sewing, etc.–you lose a certain sense of satisfaction at the end of the day.

    I homeschool my 7 children. I don’t feel like I’m wasting my degree–nor do I feel like I would be if I was sending them to school, either. I would still be helping them to learn.

    Most importantly, by being home I am helping mold their characters, which is something that I would not leave to a nanny, because I believe it is the most important part of a mother’s job. Helping your children to feel loved by being there goes right along with it.

    1. I read the article very differently. I didn’t think she didn’t value herself. And it was clear to me that she didn’t regret any time she spent with her kids. I simply see her at a crossroads — her kids are now grown and have left the house, and she’s ready to go back to work, but wishes she had kept her foot in the door all these years so that the transition would be seamless instead of near-impossible. And as she looks back, she’s realizing she could have kept her foot in the door if she’d been creative about it.

      But I do wish the post was titled differently because I think it’s really hard to read it with an open mind with that kind of title.

      1. I, too, felt she was very aware of herself and out of that respect felt she had let herself down. Women still are making decisions by placing others first and this can cause some regret, or NOT, depending on the person. I respect both sides (if only two) to this debate of stay home vs. working mothers. It is a touchy one in that I feel we all don’t always agree with the other side very much at all as if there is one wrong and one right even though it is multifaceted. I’ve judged others’ choices myself if being honest. I imagine we all yearn for what could have been but hope that in the end I hear women being content (at least) with their chosen paths but understand this will not be the case. All in all I feel the author was clearly just discussing herself openly and honestly and I felt for her.

      2. Interesting. I see what you mean, but she said her children didn’t need her to be home, that she was only home because she wanted to be. I think she was missing something there. I think children need their mothers much more than that.

        She sounded bitterly disappointed.

        I also think that not everyone should feel that they have to go back to work once the children are grown. I have envied those whose mothers don’t do that; who have their babies and their mothers can come stay for a week and help when new grandchildren are born.

        Also, she didn’t find satisfaction in unpaid charity work, because, according to her, someone else would just come and do the job after she was done. I don’t see how that differs from any other paying job. Once we leave a paid position (for any reason–another job, etc.) someone else is hired to take your spot. They might even do a better job than you did in that position. I found her comparison there lacking, because when you leave a paid position, there is someone there to take over as well.

        It felt to me that the tone of the entire article was that money and worldly prestige were more important than the role of mother. I feel that the role of mother is more important that either of those things.

        For a completely different perspective, may I suggest the following article from Ezra Taft Benson? Ezra Taft Benson, “The Honored Place of Woman,” Ensign, Nov. 1981, 104


  4. Ah, how I can relate to that article! I am currently on leave from my job to care for my two daughters and am conflicted about my role/job. It has been a challenge and a joy, but I feel like I need to find some part-time work (and quality childcare) to have a happy medium.

    Would love to hear more in this vein from other women. Any plans to continue the conversation via your blog?

    1. I would like to continue the conversation on the blog. When people ask me about work life balance, I feel like having flexible work is the key. I feel strongly that American job providers — companies big and small — need to get really creative about giving their employees flexible schedules. Allowing people to do things like work from home as much as possible, or have built in sabbaticals or leaves of absence.

      1. Great! I am fortunate to be able to take an unpaid leave from my job as an educator until my little ones are 4. I know this is more than many have, but it also creates some added challenges. First, it is unpaid. I have to find part-time work to stay current in my field as well as generate income for my family. This has been challenging, especially because it is very difficult to find an excellent part-time caregiver.

        In addition, I will have to return to work full-time, before my 2nd daughter is in kindergarten, as she is our last child. If I choose not to, I will have to resign from my position permanently. There is no flexibility there.

        I am hoping to come up with a creative solution, and perhaps as a result of this creativity, a new career.

        Can’t wait to read more on your blog!

  5. I sure did miss being in NYC for ALT this week. I have been enjoying all of the photos on Instagram.

    Love your round up, especially Erin’s heartfelt “rethink the way you live”.

  6. Loved “Rethink the Way You Live.” Made me really want to carefully consider the way I live and get rid of the excess. The Leonardo DaVinci quote “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” came to mind. Beautiful.

    The article about the woman regretting her decision to stay home made my heart ache. She seemed to only value herself in terms of what she was accomplishing publicly. To me, real success is won in the quiet battles of the heart. For me, personally, the greatest test of character comes as a SAHM because I am generally stripped of the feedback and congratulations of others…will I continue to do my very best, even when no one’s patting me on the back for it? When I am mostly unappreciated? And for others the tests of character are greatest in the paycheck-world. In that way, I think it’s pretty irrelevant what our job titles are…mom, teacher, accountant…it’s about what we’re making of ourselves in the various situations we find ourselves in. I feel like the writer of the article missed an opportunity to really value herself as a person who matters… no matter what she “did” for work. Does that make sense? Maybe I’m rambling.

    I am also looking forward to seeing what Jenny does with her new (huge!) and beautiful home. LOVE her blog.

    1. So interesting! A commenter above also felt like the HuffPo author didn’t value herself, but I didn’t read it that way at all.

      I simply felt she was encouraging women who were starting their families to think into the future 20 years, and keep their foot in the door career-wise in case of an interest in returning to work someday.

      I saw her as wishing that she had carved out some amount of time, maybe 10 hours a week, throughout her stay-at-home period to stay connected to her career.

      I work full-time now, but even when I didn’t, I tried hard to keep 1 or 2 graphic design clients, or to do design work for my friends, in order to stay connected to my field. And when my family needed me to return to work full-time, the transition was far easier than it would have been if I’d cut off all ties.

  7. Gabrielle, it was so wonderful to meet you at Alt. I had a great time and was continually inspired by what i heard and saw!
    I just read that Huffington Post article and as a parent working full time outside the home – I found it incredibly insightful. It reaffirms and confirms the choice I made for myself. It’s not right for everyone, but it was definitely right for me and my two girls. I’m actually enjoying reading the (sometimes angry, and sometimes amazing) comments below the article. It makes me sad that even today in 2013 those who dare to question the usual rhetoric are made to feel guilty and ashamed for their choice.

    1. Wonderful to meet you, too! And glad to hear you’re brave enough to read the comments below the article. : ) I tend to steer clear of HuffPo and Youtube comments — they can be awful.

  8. After reading the Huffington article, all I can think is, ” How very sad.” To have lived a life you regret is sad. I have been a stay at home mom to my three kids, who are now all grown, and I wouldn’t have changed it for anything. That said, it was MY choice and it was right for our family. My husband is a pilot and is gone half of the month, so having me home was a constant for our children. Was it hard being a single parent half the time? Yes. But I can honestly say that parenting my children is the best thing I have ever done. I have wonderful kids who actually recognize that having me home was a huge benefit to them and I’m grateful that they have figured that out on their own. And whatever choices they make when they have children, I will support and understand. I feel lucky to have been able to be with my kids as they grew up. Of course this isn’t the right decision for everyone, but it makes me sad that someone made that decision and then regretted it. I will never regret helping my children to be good people in the universe.

    1. “I will never regret helping my children to be good people in the universe.”

      I love that, Pam! And from my reading of the article, I think the author feels the same way. She just wishes for a slight adjustment to how she did things.

      I kept thinking of my friend Kacy Faulconer. I know she would describe herself as a stay-at-home mother to her 4 children, and she is. But she also writes a blog and earns money as a contributor for other websites. And she teaches the occasional writing class at BYU. I think it’s smart of her! When her kids are grown, if she’s interested in returning to work, she’ll be ready and poised to jump right back in.

      Ultimately, like you, I think we all have to make these choices based on very personal circumstances. But I think the author’s advice to figure out a way to be creative about staying connected to your career, while being a stay-at-home-mom, is very sound.

    1. Very cool, Jocelyn! I had never heard about it until I read Laura’s post. I love that kind of thing! I don’t think I would ever participate, but I would cheer people on. : )

  9. Thanks for “rethink the way you live”. It really hit a button and moved me deeply. I grew up in an anti-consuming, anti-capitalism surrounding and always fell in love with ‘things’, which was never appreciated by the people around me. I always got their point but still felt that beautiful things and design can make you a happier person. Reading this article is like reading about my own struggle and that there is a sense and a solution and that design doesn’t have to be a trap and consuming hell. It is about appreciating what you own and what you create and what you spend your money on. And also watching what other poeple own and create and spend their money on and feeling inspired.

    1. “It is about appreciating what you own and what you create and what you spend your money on. And also watching what other poeple own and create and spend their money on and feeling inspired.”

      So nicely put, Maike!

      I’m glad you like the article. Erin is such a great writer!

  10. re: HuffPost
    The implication that I waste myself being a SAHM is insulting. (from the article and some commenters there and here) If you feel wasted, you have no one, but yourself, to blame. And since when is volunteering and charity work a waste?
    Matt 6:21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

    1. I really wish the title were different! Because ultimately, I don’t think that’s what she said at all. When I read it, I felt she really liked her years with her children and doesn’t regret them. But she can look back and see that she might have been able to come up with a way to stay connected to her career while still remaining a stay-at-home mother.

      I actually like what she said about the volunteer work: “Some of this work was deeply meaningful and some of it trivial in the extreme.”

      I’ve definitely experienced that. Sometimes, I’ve spent lots of time baking or making something really wonderful for a fundraiser, but really, I could have picked up grocery store baked goods and earned the same amount for the cause — or even donated money instead of time. I would consider that sort of thing “trivial in the extreme”. When I read that part of the essay, I imagined her wishing she had spent those “trivial in the extreme” hours doing something else.

  11. Having just sent my oldest son out into the big wide world, I believe my choice to stay home and raise him was the right choice. My time with him was so short, so unbelievably short. I would not have wanted to waste one single moment of it. I feel so sad for the author of the HuffPost article, just like I would feel sad for anyone who chose to work outside of the home and felt like they had made the wrong choice as well. Life is hard enough without everyone judging everyone else’s choices. I think the take home message for me is just to love what your doing.

    1. Sounds like a great take home message! And best of luck to you, Heather, as you embark on the next phase of your life. The author of the HuffPo article is clearly feeling uneasy about what’s next for her, I hope your transition is as smooth as silk.

  12. Thank you for sharing the HuffPost article. I read it in much the same way as you did, and believe it’s smart to creatively consider the special work/life blend needed for your life currently, as well as into the future.

  13. My heart sank when I read the Huffpost article as these type of articles always end up pitching women/parents against each other in a really unhelpful way which online media loves because of the click rate boost.
    I have faced criticsm for working full time in a highly paid ” high flying” career with the help of a nanny, for working from home and not being totally focused on my career, for ” throwing away” my career to look after my children and for not keeping my career ticking over when it is hard enough keeping everyone happy, dressed, fed and watered! I have faced criticism for not returning to work now that my children are starting to fly the nest and implied criticism from prospective employers for being out of the job market. You can’t win!
    Being a parent is wonderful but tough. Most parents are doing the best they can in the circumstances they find themselves in at the time and we all need support not criticism (often disguised as advice) from the media or people trying to justify their own decisions. Putting enormous financial and social pressure on parents to return to work is no better than than pressure to give up work on having children (although more lucrative for governments). We should continue to strive for choice. The focus should also be on ageism and the predjudice people face from employers when for a variety of reasons they have not followed a conventional career path or have been out of the job market for a length of time.

  14. I found the HuffPo article to be a little one-sided for this reason: the author counted the costs of leaving the work force and staying home with her children(they were all valid points–she SACRIFICED her career to stay home) However, now I think she needs to flip the coin over and count the costs to herself and her children had she worked as an investment banker for those twenty years.
    We are terribly fortunate today that technology allows us to make flexible career choices. It simply was not the case when the author had to make her decision. Investment banking back then was 80+ hours a week or nothing.

    I think she made the right decision and maybe someday she can see that what she gained in child-raising, character-building, and precious memories is of greater value than what she missed. It was a sacrifice in the truest sense of the word: giving up something good for something better.

  15. Although I know this post is a week old now, I feel the need to comment. I have been blessed to have an unusual working situation. I am a petroleum geologist, and have managed to transition to working part time from home after the birth of my child.

    I work from home most weeknights after my husband gets home, and then I go into the office one week a month, during which my mom or mother-in-law come and stay with my one year old son E. If there is an urgent meeting I need to attend, my husband stays home with the baby.

    I know I am very blessed to have this opportunity. My husband and I were very angsty over our child going to day care, and while I was pregnant, I always told myself in moments of panic “God will show us the right way.” Honestly the circumstances that have allowed me to work from home are very serendipitous. I worked at a small independent company that was bought by a huge national oil company. The former CEO of the small company started a new company after the buy out, and my mentor became the geology manager. Since I worked with him for so many years before, he trusts me to be able to work from home and not take advantage of my flexible hours.

    It can be hard sometimes when I am exhausted from chasing E around all day and then have to work for a few hours. But I think no matter what our situation, the life of any mother can be hard and exhausting.

    Many large oil companies offer flexible hours for families. I was told that Exxon will allow new mothers to work part time for up to 2 years! There is a trade off in competitive fields like mine, you might get left behind slightly as other peers work longer hours. But at least you can spend time with your chile without totally exiting the workforce.

    Just wanted to comment because when I usually see notes from work from home moms, they are generally bloggers/writers/web-site designers, and thought it might be interesting for others to know that working from home is possible in careers that are light years different from creative internet-based jobs.

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