A Working Mamma's Account on Balancing It All
So many moms aspire to improve balance in their lives and manage all their responsibilities in a graceful manner. Although she claims not to know if there is a perfect solution to balancing work, being a mom, and a marriage, Melanie Stauffer is an example of a mother who is truly amazing at balancing it all. Melanie is married to her college sweetheart, Eric. They have been married for 13 years and have 10 year-old triplet boys. In addition, to raising three boys and being a loving wife to her band director husband, Melanie has also worked for Hill-Rom for 11 years in various finance roles, most recently a manager in financial planning and analysis. If you thought that was enough, she also attends school for her MBA.
Melanie and Eric met during her freshman year at Miami University in the marching band. She remembers actually hearing him first and thinking that he was the loudest, most obnoxious person she’d ever met. He reciprocated her negative opinion, apparently thinking she was a dumb blonde. Thankfully, first impressions are not everything and after two years of running around with the same group of friends, they began dating. They were married a year out of college on Miami’s campus, on the hottest day of the year, in an un-air-conditioned chapel. Melanie says she still finds Eric loud and obnoxious, but in an endearing way.
As most couples are, Melanie and Eric were thrilled to become parents, but when they attended her 20-week ultra sound; they were met with quite a surprise. The tech announced she thought she was seeing a third head. Not having seen triplets before, she had to get the head of radiology. At 34 ½ weeks, the three boys were born and have kept the Stauffers’ lives interesting ever since!
Many moms wonder and worry that they aren’t doing enough for their kids, their spouses, or outside of the home. As a self-proclaimed perfectionist, Melanie is hardly immune to this concern. Her biggest struggle as a mom is just that. “I worry that I spend too much time at work, too much time on my phone, too much time doing other things, and way too much time yelling,” she says.
Two things help keep Melanie grounded. The first is a conversation she remembers having with her mom after a particularly hard day at work left her drained, and she found herself yelling at her family when she came home. She complained to her mother that she didn’t have memories of being yelled at as a kid, and that she must be a horrible mom. Thankfully, her mother remembers it quite differently. Instead, she told Melanie that she in fact yelled plenty and Melanie simply doesn’t remember it. Melanie is reassured that the boys will also only remember the good times from their childhood, just like she does. “I still try to catch myself when things get out of control, but I also try not to beat myself up when I’m not June Cleaver, “ Melanie jokes.
The second thing that Melanie finds helpful is a Facebook post she read a while back. The complaint was that being a mom isn’t fair at all. From a Christian perspective, life isn’t just about us, but sometimes, we want it to be. This mother wanted to know where she was in all of this. Where was she; not the wife, not the mom, not the working woman…just her. The reply made a huge impact on Melanie.
“She is still there,” the post read, “but she has grown up into those other people. Seriously, if she didn’t exist, Mom wouldn’t. If she didn’t exist, the working woman wouldn’t. If she didn’t exist, then the wife wouldn’t. She is in everything you do and say. She is the smile behind every thank you on any given day and the thoughtfulness behind every creative solution you have. She is a superhero and a workhorse, AND she likes sassy gangster rap. Don’t worry, get some sleep, and start over tomorrow. Try to keep perspective. You have everything you need to handle your life. Don’t lose sight of who you are. Life isn’t about you, it’s about how you give your life away to others.”
On a pity-party day, this was a great reminder to Melanie that God has a bigger plan for her life than she can imagine. During this season in life, “it’s not about me, and that is okay.” Although she may feel that the Melanie she was is lost, the Melanie of today is so much more and has a lot to offer her kids.
It is with that attitude that Melanie has found the strength to balance work, motherhood, and her marriage. She jokes that there are times when she feels like she has everything together yet times when she feels like all the balls she is juggling are bouncing all over the place, and she can’t even begin to catch them. “I am the controller of chaos in our family,” Melanie laughs, “but sometimes I wonder how much I contribute to the chaos.” That being said, Melanie does have a few tips she tries to live by.
When the boys were younger, date nights were difficult to come by, but she assures moms of little ones that it does seem to get a bit easier as the kids grow up. She and Eric still try to sneak in dates where they can, even if it means a standing lunch date every week. Melanie also claims that her calendar is her life. “If it’s not on our family calendar, it doesn’t exist.” Along those same lines, Melanie tries to look ahead at her family’s week and plan ahead to balance work and life. She plans meals for the week but also allows leftovers or easy meals for busiest days.
There is also nothing wrong with saying no, and Melanie feels that she has gotten much better at this both to people outside of the family and with her own children. She understands now that they cannot participate in every activity without giving up time to be a family. At the end of the day, her family is her number one priority.
Part of finding balance as a mother is to find some time, although maybe very little, for self. Melanie enjoys the time she spends with Mom2Mom as an outlet just for her. She first heard about Mom2Mom from director Melissa Hanley when their kids were doing a basketball program together at the Y. Initially, Melanie assumed she could not be a part of the organization since she was a working mom. However, when a friend of Melanie’s was speaking, Stephanie Jones, she felt compelled to take the day off to hear her. She was greeted by several women, and it quickly became obvious to her that Mom2Mom wasn’t only for stay at home moms, but any mom. After that, she started to attend the Moms’ Nights Out and also attended morning gatherings when she could. Over the past couple years, Eric has also come with her to Parents’ Nights Out when his schedule allows. When Eric is unable to attend, true to her never-give-up personality, Melanie recruits her friend Kellie to be her “date.”
One of Melanie’s biggest pet peeves is the so called “mommy wars.” She claims, “Parenting is hard for stay at home parents and it’s hard for working parents. I think it’s important that we all have women in our lives that we can connect with, that can be mentors, and that we can mentor. I have women in my life that have been great work mentors, women in my life that have been great mom mentors, and women that have been both. There have been women in Mom2Mom who have fallen into each of those categories. Melanie’s family is important to her, but she does see the need to connect with other moms. For a while the Stauffers didn’t know if Batesville was where they wanted to raise a family. As their boys became school-aged, and Melanie met other moms, Batesville became home. Melanie says, “This truly would not have been possible without the friendships that I made with some of the moms in the group.” Melanie was nervous, as are many moms, that she wouldn’t connect with anyone in the group, but has found many incredible friends through the organization. She does say, like any friendships, these relationships take work. She cannot expect the women she has met to invest in friendships if she is not willing to invest in them herself. Even with her very busy schedule, Melanie finds that giving Mom2Mom some of her time inadvertently helps her balancing act as a mom.
There is no formula for a perfectly balanced life. There is only trial and error, learning from those around you that have found bits of success, and the strength and courage to make changes and try new things. Melanie has done and continues to do all of those things, and her family is so fortunate to have her as part of their team.