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Life of the Working Mom: Chelsea Springer from University of Utah

January 15, 2014


When your husband is an architect and you have two young boys in the house, it’s not unusual to have your life full of paper airplanes, buildings, forts, wrestling, snowball fights, sports, and hours of giggles. Such is the life of Chelsea Springer, Financial Aid Counselor at the University of Utah. Her boys include Aiden (3 ½),  Jayce (10 months), and husband Stephen. “My family life is full…my three boys and two puppies keep this lady on her toes,” admits Chelsea.

A nine year veteran of the financial aid profession, Chelsea has worked at three different institutions within two different states. “I started my first financial aid position with the purpose of utilizing the tuition benefits. I finished my Bachelor’s degree and loved doing what I do so much that I decided to stay.”

Following the birth of Aiden, she was able to take six weeks off of work. They were fairly new to the area and did not have any connections for daycare. She remembers searching the classifieds and online services trying to find someone to watch their baby. “I was very blessed to find an amazing caregiver. She was the first person I reached out to, and she continues to watch our children to this day.” But that didn’t make the first day any easier for her. “I cried all the way to work and probably called every hour.” Chelsea believes that one of the hardest parts of being a working mom is trusting someone to care for your children. “Our caregiver’s home has become a second home for our children, and I truly believe that it takes an army of people’s support to help raise children when both parents are working.”

Chelsea was able to take nine weeks off following Jayce’s birth. “In some ways, it was a little bit easier to get back to working as compared to the first time.” But she is quick to note that in other ways, it was more difficult. “I could see how fast they were growing up and did not want to miss a thing. It helps that Aidan is a remarkable big brother who looks after his little brother. I knew Jayce would not only have a great caretaker but also a bodyguard.” 

When asked if she had any advice for new moms preparing to return to work, she believes that BALANCE is the key. “It’s important to create a balance in your life, but it’s not always easy.” Chelsea admits that she continues to struggle with finding that right balance. “Working moms have to balance all the daily tasks for the home, the bonding time with your children, the discussions and time with your spouse, and other personal time. And all of this is crammed into just a few hours a day.” It took her awhile to accept that there are days when it all can’t be done and that she shouldn’t feel like all of it had to be done that instant. “If my husband were to read this, he would be laughing and saying this is the pot calling the kettle black. Like I said, I struggle with this from time to time.”

Another key word in Chelsea’s vocabulary is PRIORITIZE. But equally important is understanding that prioritized lists can and will be constantly changing. When Chelsea feels overwhelmed, she tries to remember what is important. “With me, my family is always first. I try to find tasks that our children enjoy doing, and we do them all together.” Her oldest son Aidan loves to clean, and she considers him a window washing pro. So they’ve turned this into a family event and make it fun for everyone. “We also have set days that other tasks are accomplished. But the schedule is flexible and we will change it if we need to create more family time.” Their Thursday nights are designated as family game night. And she has learned to focus on those things that their children love to do. “Maybe you don’t have a window washer in your family, but perhaps your child loves to cook. Let them cook dinner with you one or two nights a week and turn it into a family event.”

Her third key word is SUPPORTING, because Chelsea admits that she couldn’t do any of this without a supporting spouse. “We are able to balance our family and our employment by communication and support for each other. Luckily, my job is a pretty basic 8-5 schedule most days. As an architect, Stephen has a schedule that can fluctuate depending on the project.” And there are times when one of them is on business travel, which increases the workload on the spouse remaining at home. “The only way it can work is to have give and take from each of us. Stephen is an amazing cook and an even better daddy. It truly takes an army of people to balance our family of four!”

PREPARATION is the fourth key word in her efforts to help raise a family and be successful at work. “The children’s clothes are laid out the night before and the diaper bag is packed at the same time.” Anything that can be done the night before is on her target list of things to be done before the night is over. “We all share in these responsibilities. This leaves us time in the morning for the unexpected.” Chelsea feels blessed that her children seem to be as schedule-driven as she is. They all have a routine and stick to it as much as possible, without too many kinks.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that the share of married-couple families with children under 18 where both parents worked was 59% in 2012. And, the number one reason why both parents worked was for financial considerations. Chelsea and Stephen know this very well. “It is very difficult today to survive on one income.” And even if they could, Chelsea would work in one form or the other. “I want my children to see that working parents can raise a fun-filled family and also follow their employment and family dreams. I want my two boys to grow up to be two men that support and encourage their partners to do what makes them happy.” Chelsea takes pride in knowing that her children are watching her activate her dreams. “Children are little sponges that do what they see. I want to see my children successfully happy.”

In Ray Guarendi’s book entitled Raising Good Kids: Back to Family Basics, he notes the importance of respect among family members, teaching morals at home, and the need for listening and time spent together. A perfect example of this type of parenting centers on Chelsea’s son Aidan and donuts. It was a crazy time in the financial aid office and many were feeling overwhelmed. Chelsea thought it would be a good idea to bring donuts to the staff so the day would begin on a high note. Aiden was at the donut shop with her and asked her why she was buying donuts. She explained to him, “We do nice things for people that we are with every day to show them how important they are to us.” She further explained that when you have to work together, you have to appreciate what others do for you. To her surprise, Aidan proclaimed that he too was going to buy doughnuts for his daycare. When Chelsea asked him why, he went on to explain all the things that his friends do at daycare… like pick up after him, share their toys, and let him eat the last cracker. All Chelsea could think of was, WOW. “As I watched him proudly walk into the daycare with his dozen doughnuts, I was so happy to see that my son will grow up to be a great coworker someday. This validates me as a working mom.”

In his book, The Strong Family, Charles Swindoll notes that “Each day of our lives, we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.” It looks to me like Chelsea and Stephen have already made some great deposits in the minds of their children.

Don Buehrer, Regional Director, Nelnet Partner Solutions

Don Buehrer, Regional Director, Nelnet Partner Solutions

One Comment leave one →
  1. Marian McCosh permalink
    January 16, 2014 10:34 am

    This was a good perspective and enjoyable article, thank you.

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