The Homeschooling Writer: A Guest Post by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur

Welcome, Tomato Pie Fans! I’m taking a hiatus from blogging to finish the sequel to DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME. Meanwhile, I have a series of guest bloggers taking care of the place. Let’s hear from today’s guest, Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur.

Finding Time to Write as a Homeschooling Mom

I am the mother of three children, two boys ages 14 and 12, and a 4 ½ year old daughter. I started writing on a professional basis over ten years ago, when my boys were both very small. I had a Masters Degree in Applied Theology and through the process of working with a spiritual director discerned that God was calling me to write. Eventually, God called me to be not only a work-at-home writing mom, but also a homeschooling mom.

I will soon be starting my eighth year of homeschooling. My oldest is starting high school this year. I feel almost as scared about homeschooling high school as I did when I first took the plunge and began homeschooling my second and first grader so many years ago. If you feel so inclined, please say a prayer for me. I can definitely use the help.

So, that being said, how do I find time to write, given that so much of my life is spent taking care of my children? Here are some tips that work for me:

1) Start every day with prayer

There are people in this world who can wake up before their children and spend quality time in prayer before their day kicks into high gear. I’ve been blessed with children who are light sleepers and have supersonic hearing. If mom’s up, they are up as well. (Note: this is no longer true of my teenagers whom I frequently have to drag out of bed.) I know that I need that twenty minute prayer time in the morning. If I don’t get it, the day will go downhill quickly. I’m not above allowing my daughter some screen time first thing in the morning so that I can have some relatively uninterrupted time. Once I’ve prayed, I’m ready to be a better mom and to deal with whatever they day is going to hand me. One of those prayers is that I do the work I should each day. I’m not always satisfied with the amount I accomplish each day, but I have to trust that I’ve done what God wanted me to.

2) Take advantage of every available minute

Over the years, I have worked in many unusual places while waiting for my children at an activity. I have written in the car, in the hallway of a social center, sitting on a stairwell, by the side of a soccer field, and in a gymnastics gym. I write many book reviews, so I always have a book close by in case I get a few minutes to read. I carry one in my purse. I have one on the kitchen counter. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve read utilizing five and ten minute windows of time. I do the bulk of my computer work after my daughter goes to bed at night. The teens entertain themselves. I work for a couple hours and then go to bed around 10 p.m. It probably goes without saying that I don’t watch television. I also don’t spend a lot of time on social media.

3) Keep a to-do list

I have one notebook on my kitchen counter for my household to-do list. I have another for work-related items. If I get an idea for an article, I write it down. If there is a deadline to meet, or an on-going project, it goes on the list. It gives me a great sense of accomplishment to cross items off that list. Every Sunday night, I start fresh with a new page of the notebook, carrying over items that still need to be completed. This keeps me organized and on task.

4) Keep a Sabbath rest

This probably seems to disagree with taking advantage of every available minute, but I have found it to be a great blessing in my life. From 5 pm on Saturday to 5 pm on Sunday, I don’t do any work-related activities. I don’t check my email or Facebook. I watch a movie with my husband and teenagers on Saturday night while I work on quilting or scrapbooking. We go to Mass on Sunday morning. I might read during the day, but I read purely for pleasure. This day of rest gives me a much needed mental break. God made it a commandment for a reason. Yes, we moms never truly get a day off from our mom duties, but we can try to take it at least a little easier on Sundays. I have found that God allows me to accomplish more in my other six days since I began this practice a few years ago.

How do you balance homeschooling and whatever outside work you may do? Please share. I’d be happy to hear your tips.

MacArthur PhotoPatrice Fagnant-MacArthur is a homeschooling mom of three. The editor of todayscatholichomeschooling.com, she blogs at spiritualwomanthoughts.blogspot.com. She has been a longtime columnist for Catholicmom.com and is the author of “The Catholic Baby Name Book.”

Interview with Working Mother Jessica Roseborough

Here at Tomato Pie, we’re celebrating the release of my biblical historical fiction ebook “Working Mother” by celebrating the working mothers among us.  Today marks the start of the novena to St. Jerome Emiliani, patron saint of orphans.  In honor of St. Jerome, let’s meet working mother Jessica Roseborough!

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Jessica Roseborough

Tell us a little bit about your family. 

My husband, Rob, and I have been married for 13 years.  We have 4 children, ages 11.5, 10, 8 and 5.  Our children are active, smart and fun.  They keep us very busy!! We have 2 dogs as well.  We own an adoption agency that we operate together, Rob has a full time job and I also work per diem hours in the ER as a social worker on the weekends.

 

Imagine you’re at a dinner party.  Someone asks the question, “So, what do you do?”  What’s your answer?

My primary job is a mother to 4 active children between 5-12.  Professionally, I am a social worker.  I work in both child welfare and as an emergency/medical social worker.

 

How do you think God uses your job to help shape you into all He made you to be? 

That is a big question that could have a long answer.  In a nut shell, as a mother and a social worker I feel that I have an impact on lives every day, which is something that I believe God wants from me and gave me talents and endurance for.

What benefits (besides the economical) have you seen to your family that are a direct result of your work away from home? 

I feel more fulfilled and can therefore be more engaged and present when I am with my children.  As part of our work with the adoption agency we foster newborn babies from time to time while the adoption details are worked out.  My children absolutely love this and have learned a lot about how families are built, how God works through us to help babies be where he wants them to be and in general how to make sacrifices in their own lives to help someone else.

How do you balance any guilty feelings you might have in the tension between your workplace and your homespace? 

I don’t really feel guilty because I know that for me working outside the home is necessary to be fully engaged when I am home.  I would say my bigger struggle has been to create a lifestyle and set of professional responsibilities that can meet my needs as a person while not interfere with my needs as a mother.  For example, choosing to own and operate an agency allows me the freedom to have total control over my own schedule and that is worth the challenges it causes me because I would have a great deal of guilt if I missed birthdays or school shows (etc.) due to work.
What is one thing that you would ask the people in your life to do to support you more? 

The children: put your shoes and clothes away!  I am lucky to feel very well supported and would say that the biggest struggle is feeling like there is not enough of me to go around.  I think the only thing that would make me feel more supported would be to hear “don’t worry about it” when I am stressing about not getting to the housework, laundry or home cooked meal because being a mother and social worker at the same time has to come before all of that.

 

Too true.  Thank you, Jessica!  

Are you a working mother?  So was (and is) the Blessed Mother!  If you enjoyed this interview and would like to celebrate working motherhood some more, please consider getting a copy of my $.99 historical fiction ebook, “Working Mother.”  

Interview with Working Mother Melanie Weiler

Here at Tomato Pie, we’re celebrating the release of my biblical historical fiction ebook “Working Mother.” Today is the Feast of a working I didn’t meet until I went searching for Dominican working moms:  Blessed Villana di’Botti.  Bl. Villana balanced her duties to husband and family along with a great love of and devotion to the poor and disadvantaged in her neighborhood.  I see the same balance in an old friend of mine, Melanie Weiler.

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Melanie Weiler

Tell us a little bit about your family. 

My husband and I have been married for 23 years with two children. Our son is 15 and daughter is 13.

 

Imagine you’re at a dinner party.  Someone asks the question, “So, what do you do?”  What’s your answer?

I tell people that I manage a small nonprofit in Kennett Square, [PA], which consists of a food pantry and emergency assistance program. We focus on providing quality nutrition and securing resources for our clients to increase their self-sustainability.

 

How do you think God uses your job to help shape you into all He made you to be? 

I will always feel compelled to strive to be the person He made me to be. Through my experiences, I have been shown compassion and kindness that I know is His love. Every day I am given the opportunity to pay that forward to our brothers and sisters that are struggling. I have found the voice that we all have to speak for those that can’t speak for themselves.

When I took on this ministry, I didn’t realize how many in the community want to help, but feel powerless to do so. Through helping others, we find our humanity. I feel honored to be able to deliver that opportunity to many people and wish I could do more.

What benefits (besides the economical) have you seen to your family that are a direct result of your work away from home? 

The kids are at an age when our society sweeps them into a consumption-based system of values. At a time that friends and peers can easily influence their values, my children have grasped an understanding and appreciation for their blessings. They are well grounded.

I will never forget the surprise on my daughter’s face the first time she helped a person select groceries in the cupboard.  At first, she thought the person was another volunteer. She quickly learned that not only were they a client, but they were also experiencing homelessness.  Homelessness has a unfair stereotype that must be broken and at the age of 13, she understands and shares that with her peers.

How do you balance any guilty feelings you might have in the tension between your workplace and your homespace? 

After multiple attempts at being a stay-at-home parent, I realize that is just not in God’s plan for me. But I always felt that if I needed to be away from my family, the work needed to be meaningful. At this point in my career, I don’t feel particularly guilty. My husband and I have always managed a balance of housework and family time. Of course I couldn’t do my work without him.

What is one thing that you would ask the people in your life to do to support you more? 

Just to respect that I am compelled to do this work and to make allowances for that. And understand that my house may be a little dirty and know I don’t care as long as my family is happy.

 

Love it.  Thank you, Melanie!  

Are you a working mother?  So was (and is) the Blessed Mother!  If you enjoyed this interview and would like to celebrate working motherhood some more, please consider getting a copy of my $.99 historical fiction ebook, “Working Mother.”  

Interview with Working Mother Tiffany, the Catholic Librarian

Catholic Librarian

Tiffany the Catholic Librarian

Here at Tomato Pie, we’re celebrating the release of my biblical historical fiction ebook “Working Mother” by celebrating the working mothers among us.  Today is the feast of my Dominican patron, St. Thomas Aquinas.  In honor of this saint who spent plenty of time in the library (and whose work has sent several of us there), let’s meet working mother Tiffany, the Catholic Librarian!

What’s your name?

Tiffany, and I blog at Life of a Catholic Librarian. I write about my Catholic faith, my family, the liturgical year, librarianship, crafts, my love of Middle Eastern dancing (which I started studying as a once per week timeslot of pure “me time” to charge my batteries a bit), and generally amusing things that happen in my daily, and ordinary, life. J

Tell us a little bit about your family. 

This coming January 8th, I’ll have been married for 10 years to my adorable husband, Mike. The date sounds a bit unusual for a wedding anniversary, I know, but we enjoy winter and thus had a snowy wedding day! Our anniversary also falls during Christmas season, which is a liturgical fact I just couldn’t resist. J Mike is an adjunct professor of philosophy and mathematics at several local colleges, two of them Catholic and one a community college. We have two children. Our son, Henry, just turned 9, and our daughter Anne is 3. Henry attends a local Catholic school and is in 4th grade this year. He enjoys reading, crafts, Legos and video games, and recently joined the school wrestling team. He is a very gentle and reserved child, in fact his quiet personality reminds me so much of myself. Anne is *very* precocious and outgoing! She loves to have books read to her and to color, and is such a sweet, loving little girl. Mike is at home with her during the day while he is on semester breaks, and several mornings per week, and she stays with her grandparents while he is teaching and I am at work.

Imagine you’re at a dinner party.  Someone asks the question, “So, what do you do?”  What’s your answer?

I am a librarian at a large state university, and I am a wife and mother. I do not see those things in that specific order in terms of their significance in my life, but when someone asks me that in such a setting, they are generally wondering if I work outside of the home, and if so, in what capacity.

How do you think God uses your job to help shape you into all He made you to be? 

I think that God uses my job to teach me things every day. Patience, perseverance, compassion, understanding, clear communication, all of those things and more. For the most part, I am helping students each day, and I think that we can learn a lot from each other.

What benefits (besides the economical) have you seen to your family that are a direct result of your work away from home? 

I think that working outside of the home makes me a better mother. This is certainly not the case for everybody, but for me it is. When I was home on maternity leave with my son, I did not know any mothers who stayed at home with their children, and so I had no support system during the day. I found myself very depressed from the lack of adult interaction and it was a difficult time that I find painful to reflect back on. Now, I do have a few friends who are home with their children during the day, so that would be a huge help to be sure. But we do need my salary and benefits for our family finances, so that isn’t an option for me at this time. That aside, I do find that the social interactions and interesting challenges deal with each day at work stimulate me such that when I return home in the evenings, I am ready and able to spend that quality time with my children and husband.

How do you balance any guilty feelings you might have in the tension between your workplace and your homespace? 

This is the conundrum for all working mothers, yes? It is difficult, but has gotten easier over time. I know that I am doing what I have to do for the good of the entire family, and that certainly helps. I also think that I am setting a positive example for my kids in that women have options and prayerful choices available to them depending upon the needs of their family. It is obviously a beautiful and good thing for women to be at home with their children. That situation, however, is not possible for everyone, and so long as a woman has discerned her role in prayer and with her husband, other possibilities are good too.

What is one thing that you would ask the people in your life to do to support you more? 

I think that my family is very supportive of my working role. My husband, who works less hours than me due to his status as adjunct faculty rather than full-time, takes care of SO much around the house and for the kids, and my in-laws help out so much with childcare. I really do not think they could do more, truly. They are wonderful.

Thank you so much, Tiffany!  

Are you a working mother?  So was (and is) the Blessed Mother!  If you enjoyed this interview and would like to celebrate working motherhood some more, please consider getting a copy of my $.99 historical fiction ebook, “Working Mother.”  

Interview with Working Mother Emily Davis

Here at Tomato Pie, we’re celebrating the release of my biblical historical fiction ebook “Working Mother” by celebrating the working mothers among us.  Let’s meet working mother, Emily Davis!

What’s your name?

Emily Davis

Tell us a little bit about your family. 

I am married to Marque Davis, an RF Engineer. He spent 22 years in the Army and still works for the Defense Industry. I left my career in 2005 to stay home with our son (Marque has three children from a previous marriage). I had Christopher at 40 and he has Aspergers. I homeschool him and run our home. I teach a Saints Class @ Co-Op and am looking for a PT job to do at home after the first of the year.

Imagine you’re at a dinner party.  Someone asks the question, “So, what do you do?”  What’s your answer?

I worked in corporate America for 15+ years. Now, I’m a wife, mom and teacher. I think my job now is harder and WAY more beautifully time-consuming.

How do you think God uses your job to help shape you into all He made you to be? 

Through homeschooling, I get to revisit our Faith. It’s so enlightening and beautiful to teach my child and be called to live my Faith in a different way. It’s about being a good example. When your child is Aspy, they hold you to the exacts. So please – don’t break a Commandment or you’ll be scolded. HA

What benefits (besides the economical) have you seen to your family that are a direct result of your work away from home? 

I do not work away from home [now]…. But when I did work away from home, the obvious benefits were my paycheck and the fact we could take a vacation, not stress about money and in some ways, just being away from my child on occasion, rather the memory of it, sounds great.

How do you balance any guilty feelings you might have in the tension between your workplace and your homespace? 

When we lived in MD, I had to work. My child was very young and I knew there would be a someday I could stay home. I was so blessed to have an understanding boss and could work from home from time to time, when my child was sick.  I am odd, I never really felt guilty. I just didn’t. And if I had to go back to work tomorrow, I’m sure I’d have a period of guilt, but it would wane. Life is what it is. Though I am called to be home now, I look forward to a day when I can put my child into a Private School and go back to work… SERIOUSLY!

What is one thing that you would ask the people in your life to do to support you more? 

Give me time to rest. Everyone needs it. Sure, I’m superwoman. I went back to work while Christopher was in public school. And I realized how hard it was to work all day and come home and clean. I think when both people work, it’s about pitching in and everyone doing their part.

Thank you, Emily!  

Are you a working mother?  So was (and is) the Blessed Mother!  If you enjoyed this interview and would like to celebrate working motherhood some more, please consider getting a copy of my $.99 historical fiction ebook, “Working Mother.”  

Interview with Working Mother Terry McDermott

Here at Tomato Pie, we’re celebrating the release of my biblical historical fiction ebook “Working Mother” by celebrating the working mothers among us.  Today is the feast of Canadian St. Marguerite Bourgeoys, so let’s meet a working mom from the Great White North, Terry McDermott!

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Terry McDermott

Tell us a little bit about your family. 

My husband and I have been married for 29 – 1/2 years. We have eight children, six young men, two young women. The oldest is 26, the youngest is 12.

Imagine you’re at a dinner party.  Someone asks the question, “So, what do you do?”  What’s your answer?

 I am a registered nurse in independent practice as a certified foot care nurse. I own a small business, McDermott Footcare, and I provide nursing foot care services to  patients who are living with medical conditions that require the expertise of a foot care nurse . I also provide nursing foot care clinics in a number of retirement residences where I am contracted to be the certified foot care nurse.

 

How do you think God uses your job to help shape you into all He made you to be? 

The patients to whom I provide care are among the most vulnerable in society. All of them suffer from a number of complex medical conditions and the majority of them are elderly, many of whom live alone or are in care facilities. My younger patients often have limited mobility or are confined to a wheelchair.  I think God calls on me to serve people in their affliction, to be a loving presence in their lives, and to give compassionate care that transmits His love. He calls me to be a servant but at the same time, He wants me to see Him in the suffering of my patients, and He asks me to relieve His suffering through the care I give them.

What benefits (besides the economical) have you seen to your family that are a direct result of your work away from home? 

My kids have had to learn to do household chores, do the laundry, and cook meals. My kids tell  that there is a heightened sense of responsibility because we have to work together as a team so the home runs smoothly.

How do you balance any guilty feelings you might have in the tension between your workplace and your homespace? 

Honestly, this is a constant battle with me. Whenever I feel guilty that I do not give my kids attention or that I am preoccupied with work, I try to find some time that I can give to them. Since I am self-employed, juggling my schedule is easier than for most women but there are times when the needs of the business threaten to overtake family life. It takes a lot of work and a strong will to not let work get in the way of family life. I’ve learned that it is important to prioritize tasks that need to get done.

As much as possible, I schedule my day so that I am home when my youngest child, 12 years old, returns from school at 4 pm. I make dinner, talk to the kids about their day as they come home from school or work, and eat dinner together on most evenings.  Any documentation or administrative  tasks are left for later when the kids are doing their homework. It’s important for my husband and me to spend time together at the end of the day.
What is one thing that you would ask the people in your life to do to support you more? 

Tidy up the kitchen before leaving the house in the morning. We have a sign hanging over the kitchen sink as a reminder that everyone is responsible for their breakfast dishes, pots, pans, etc. The sign has proven largely ineffective and the family still rush out the door without cleaning up after themselves. 

 

Thank you, Terry!  Your interview also drew me to reflect on how your job is literally washing the feet of our brothers and sisters.  What a special calling! 

Are you a working mother?  So was (and is) the Blessed Mother!  If you enjoyed this interview and would like to celebrate working motherhood some more, please consider getting a copy of my $.99 historical fiction ebook, “Working Mother.”  

Interview with Working Mother Ashley Anderson

Here at Tomato Pie, we’re celebrating the release of my biblical historical fiction ebook “Working Mother” by celebrating the working mothers among us.  Let’s meet working mother, Ashley Anderson!

 

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Ashley Anderson

Tell us a little bit about your family. 

My husband, Paul, and I have been married for six and a half years.  We met my last year, his sophomore year, at Missouri State University and have been planting our roots here in Springfield, MO, ever since.  He’s a senior manager at Accenture and my understanding of this position is that his brain is so full with technical knowledge about computers and programming that they pay him to perpetuate his nerd status.  Don’t tell him I told you that though because I’m sure he would like to offer a more accurate depiction of his job. I taught high school English for six years but am currently at home with our three wild boys: Thomas (nearly 5) and identical twins, Alistair and Emerick (18 months).

Imagine you’re at a dinner party.  Someone asks the question, “So, what do you do?”  What’s your answer?

I’m home with the kids right now busy with lots of fun things.  I homeschool Thomas, tackle home maintenance stuff, feed all my guys as much good stuff as I can, and squeeze in freelance work in the margins.

How do you think God uses your job to help shape you into all He made you to be? 

My job here at home strips me of my selfishness.  Who doesn’t need more of that?

 

On a practical level, I teach my sons all day.  Almost all of the teaching is natural and prompted by the boys, but I’m also able to draw on my experiences as an educator to provide resources for my kids, and that part of my work at home is incredibly rewarding.

 

In addition, I do a bit of freelance work for the company where my husband works.  I’m contracted to essentially grade tests. It’s not a ton of work and the work is not steady income. However, I’m a firm believer that every little bit counts.  When I see the money I earn deposited into our account, I am joyful to have the opportunity to help us out with flex funds for things like extra traveling, big medical bills, or maybe a gift for someone.

 

What benefits (besides the economical) have you seen to your family that are a direct result of your work away from home? 

I taught for six years with three of those years as a mommy to my firstborn.  I’m grateful that we were blessed with six years of dual-income so that we could pay down debt and experience a great deal of financial freedom as well.

 

My freelance work, my “work away from work” (even if I’m doing it during naps and late nights), is a wonderful experience for me.  Transitioning to full time mom has been difficult for me.  My role feels overwhelming and at times, even invisible.  I’m working on my heart and my humility. In the meantime though, having a side job that I can feel really great about, that has parameters of work I can walk away from because it is “done” feels really gratifying.

How do you balance any guilty feelings you might have in the tension between your workplace and your homespace? 

Now that there is primarily one breadwinner and one homemaker, the tension looks different than when my husband and I were both working.  When I feel overwhelmed at all there is to balance at home, some things turning over quickly like dishes and toys carried across the house by toddlers and other things very slowly like projects chipped away at day by day, I think of how overwhelmed by husband could feel being the one we are all relying on financially.  I try my best to first think of how I can show my husband appreciation for the big role he wakes up to each day.

 

I also have learned that it is extremely effective to privately, honestly, and calmly tell my husband what is on my heart.  There is nothing I have once brought to him that he has not responded to with gentleness and action.  But barking orders and complaining when everyone is searching for socks and trying to get out the door (which I’ve also been guilty of committing)–it just doesn’t work.

 

From what we’ve experienced with our different roles, it’s that tension sneaks up when we aren’t actively trusting each other.  Sometimes I just say:  “We both work hard.  We both are stressed. If we need something, we should say it and we should be eager to both help and accept help.”  I think that reminder cools our jets a bit.
What is one thing that you would ask the people in your life to do to support you more? 

I have the most supportive family and friends. My cup is completely full when it comes to having a good network of people who I can be honest and real with about the joys and struggles of my life right now.

 

Maybe I can use this space as my opportunity to send out a bit of support to other moms:

 

Moms with full-time jobs: Please cut yourself some slack.  Buy semi-prepped food. Hire a house cleaner from time to time. Unfollow groups on Facebook or blogs that are advertising a lifestyle that is not part of your family culture and plan.  Rejoice in the gift that you have to provide for your family in the way that you do and rest in God’s provision and wild, unforeseen plans for your life!

 

Moms at home: It’s okay to pray for and seek out friendships.  That’s not a waste of time: it’s important.  Call out to Jesus in the messiness and close your eyes and think of Mary’s beautiful humility when you feel your invisible work begin to drain your joy.  Your work matters and maybe you should look in the mirror and say it.  It really does! Rejoice in the simple blessings as if you are harvesting fruit from the field and be joyful know that God has wild, unforeseen plans for your life!

 

Thank you, Ashley!  

Are you a working mother?  So was (and is) the Blessed Mother!  If you enjoyed this interview and would like to celebrate working motherhood some more, please consider getting a copy of my $.99 historical fiction ebook, “Working Mother.”