Hi, friend. Thank you for being here for another episode of So Why Not? This episode is about creating intention, finding purpose, finding what lights you up, and creating the life you want to live. Today’s episode is titled: “So why not… prioritize your own interests as a parent?” And there are two big points I want to make before we get into the interview. Number 1: I don’t think you necessarily have to be a parent to find something useful and applicable in this episode. Before I had kids, I would kind of get turned off by the ever-abundant flow of topics in talks and articles and plot lines that involved being a parent. I have always wanted to be a mother but I didn’t necessarily know how long or complicated the road to parenthood would be. No matter if you have kids or not, there will always be competing priorities vying for your attention. We’ll talk about the importance of finding out what you value and what it takes to prioritize those things. I also think that it’s a natural part of maturity in finding what you are interested in as you age and grow and develop, with or without having children. Number 2: in no way do I think that children are a hindrance to your own self-discovery. My husband, Julio, and I were married for eight years prior to having children. We got married very young and did a lot of growing up together. When the time came, I had finished pharmacy school and residency and had a job. And we were in a pretty good rhythm. Having a baby certainly rocked our world. I felt, especially for the first few months, that I was on a time clock between breastfeeding and diaper changes and trying to figure out a nap schedule and sleeping. Like everything, that was a brief season. We figured out a new rhythm as a family of three and then four. Along the way, I have continued to work on developing my own interests. Some are intertwined and revolve around my family. Others are more on my own. I think that personally I am a better spouse and parent when I intentionally make time for things that bring me joy and I can spread that on to others.
We all have our own interests and competing priorities in our own circumstances, so throughout this episode, I hope you can think of ways these general ideas might help you sort out how you can prioritize your personal interests. So on with the show.
So in today’s episode I have my cousin, Lacey Parr, and she was one of the first people I thought about when I wanted to start this Podcast, about all of the ways she pursues her own interests even with four kids in tow. So we’ll get into it.
LAS: Lacey, can you tell us a little bit about where you are in life right now?
LP: Yeah, so like you said, I have four kids. I live with them and my husband in northern Minnesota and we’re just doing life together here in the Arctic. Yeah, we homeschool and I actually really enjoy that. I enjoy having them around and sharing in our interests and curiosities together.
LAS: That’s awesome. It’s good to see the whole picture of how someone’s life has led up to where they are now so if you could, tell me about your childhood, how you were raised, kind of family dynamics, how you grew up…
LP: So I grew up on a farm in northern Florida with four siblings and lots of family around—aunts and uncles and both sets of grandparents. Super supported childhood, just like probably one of the ideals that you could think of. Running wild and free outside. I loved being around and I really idolized my older sisters. I went to smalls schools and had good teachers, wonderful parents. And then, you and I, in high school, just had a great time.
LAS: Yeah we did.
LP: I looked up to you so much and we just had these shared interests and I think as a teen it’s just so common and natural to want to stretch your wings and do bigger things. Do something different. Get out of where you’re at. So anyway, with you as an example in a lot of ways, went to school across the country—the first of my siblings to do that. To leave the state really, I guess, for school. I went to BYU in Utah and just loved it and my world just opened up.
LAS: So when you got to school, what led up to picking your major? What was involved? Where did you see yourself? What made you decide to pick your major?
LP: So I went to community college for my first semester there in Florida and I had a really great humanities professor. He gave me a lot of attention and he made me feel really good about my writing. And I was like, “Well I’m going to be an English teacher.” So I went to BYU thinking I was going to do English teaching and I spent a lot of time doing English classes and then I just got really tired of all of the reading… all of the assigned reading. I just wanted to read my own stuff and not everything else that someone else picked for me. So I happened to take a child development class and just loved it. I had a super great professor, just really engaging. I just got super interested in how children grow up and the choices that they make and how parents can influence them, how they can’t and just how they develop—you know, the different stages. And I was just fascinated by that. So I switched to human development focus, so I guess the major was Family Life, emphasis in human development. It was a short major and it gave me time to start a minor in international development. It’s kind of a common thing at BYU, and I’m sure at lots of other universities, is like this general desire to help the world. To just want to change things, make things better. I felt like I could do that with the right training. That’s just like the main goal I had. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I had not seen much of the world and I just didn’t know what was out there. I just chose a major that had interesting classes, you know?
LP: So that’s kind of where that went.
LAS: And then when did you meet your now husband?
LP: We met when I was a sophomore. I was 19. You know a little bit about young love too. We met in the fall. It was pretty quickly. He surprised me and came to Florida for Christmas. And that’s when we were pretty much like “Yeah, this is it. We are going to get married. This is really what we want.” And then it was the following Christmas is when we got married. So when I was a junior. So we knew nothing about each other or what marriage was supposed to be like or what the world was and we grew up together.
LAS: I can relate to that a lot.
LP: It’s great having a… There’s no wrong way to do it, you know? It was great to have a partner in discovering what was out there together.
LAS: So that was junior year you got married, right?
LAS: And by the time you graduated, you were expecting your first child, right?
LP: I was. I walked across the stage pregnant. I’ve always wanted to be a mom and we just felt like it was the right time to start our family. And I had no idea what I was going to use my degree for and we had this big assumption that Nate was going to have this great job and make all this money and we would be fun. And I would stay home with the kids for the first few years and then at some point, go out into the world and contribute to our income. But anyway, it was hard at first because, you know, it was post-recession. But here we are, through blessings and luck, he found a job and I was able to stay home with them, well I have been forever so…
LAS: So you had a little over a year between your first child being born and school and all the things going on and looking for jobs. Did you find time for yourself and what were some of the things that you were interested in during that time?
LP: At that time, when I was young and married, I think that—college, I think, that whole period—was starting to appreciate the outdoors more. I grew up in a beautiful place but I don’t think I appreciated it. But moving to a completely new place, with mountains, everything was so new, I just wanted to gobble it all up. I just wanted to be out.
LAS: And it’s so beautiful in Utah.
LP: Yeah. I just wanted to be out all of the time. And I had great friends and roommates that showed me a lot of beautiful places and then Nate, who loves the outdoors, really just opened up my world even more to what was available outside. It just wasn’t something that I had really appreciated before. You know, I grew up in the country so the outdoors were interesting to me and I loved it but also I turned myself against that in high school. I was interested in style, you know? I just, I don’t know… but once I was on my own, I was able to reach into that new area of life that ended up really interesting me.
And you know, like in college, you don’t have time for interests. You’re just finishing papers and studying for tests and finding a little bit of time in between for yourself. So I just feel like I had so little time between student, wife, and mother, that I didn’t know. I was just growing up. I didn’t have a lot to lose. You know?
LAS: Yeah. Kind of waiting for life to start.
LP: Yeah. We were always just looking for the next step. Waiting for everything to settle down.
LAS: So when your first child was born, I think that it’s fairly common and I can relate, that I just felt overwhelmed and like everything had changed. My world had turned upside down. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I lost myself but I do hear a lot of young mothers say that. How would you describe that transition for yourself?
LP: It was an interesting time for us because I had just graduated in April and Nate graduated in August. And Bridger was born in August. So I think there just wasn’t a lot of time to lose anything. But I think having Bridger really gave me purpose and I think I found myself. Like, I just didn’t know what was out there but by pouring myself into motherhood in those first few years and trying to learn what it meant to be a family, I think I found who I wanted to be. And once I felt rooted in that, I was able to branch out, at the same time, learning, finding new interests and being free with my time in that way, but having a good foundation of who I was, if that makes sense.
LAS: Yeah. I can only relate with the transition from 0 to 1 and then 1 to 2, but I hear other mothers with more kids talk about some transitions are more difficult than others. Can you talk about how that transition evolved throughout your motherhood with the birth of each child? Did that change?
LP: Yeah, I think two to three was the hardest.
LP: It could just be the gaps. Our gaps were… it started at 20 months and then 25 and then almost three years. But yeah, two to three was the hardest. And three to four, a little bit more so but they’re all hard!
LAS: And I’m sure circumstances are different. You know, your life was a little different each time, too.
LP: Yeah. Totally. And you just don’t know what to expect. But two to three, you run out of hands. You’re outnumbered.
LAS: So what are some ways that you said you found yourself and started to prioritize your own interests again after your children were born?
LP: I think a big change happened when I was pregnant with my second.
LP: It really changed with the birth. With Bridger, I hired midwives at the hospital and I really liked them and I just did whatever they said. I had friends who tried to give me books about natural birth or whatever and I was like, “I don’t… No. Uh-uh. I’m not interested in that.” But with Colden, I don’t know, something changed. I read a bunch of books and I got really interested in wanting to learn more about it and I hired a doula. And I was like, “Maybe this is something I can do. Why not? I’m in the hospital. I can change my mind if I need to.” And I just got so excited about it and it really changed me in a lot of ways. And I was just so empowered; like this is something my body can do. Like, I can do. I’m in control of this. And rather than feeling like I was just kind of being swept along, like so many other decisions, I found control in being in charge of my birth and being in charge of those choices.
And so after I gave birth to Colden, I had a great experience. When he was six weeks old, I took him to a doula training to learn more about how to help more moms have a good experience, helping them feel like they have choices. At that training, I met a woman who worked at WIC as a peer counselor for breastfeeding. And I was like, “What?! I did not know you could help women with breastfeeding if you weren’t a nurse.” And that opened up a whole other thing. So a few months later I got a job at the county health department as a peer breastfeeding counselor and got more training with them. And that was just so great. That was my first job outside of a student job at the university. And I just loved that. I loved breastfeeding always. You know, after having kind of a poor experience starting with my first, I wanted to help other moms figure out how to have a good experience. For me, it really changed me and really helps me feel really empowered. Anyway, I just loved doing that and I’ve stayed involved in that world and tried to increase my knowledge since then.
LAS: You saved me. When Izzy, my oldest, was about nine months old, her top teeth were coming in, she was teething. We were moving, we were under a lot of stress and she just stopped nursing. So I panicked. I thought, “Oh well. I gave it a good shot.” I thought nine months, ok that’s better than six. And I remember reaching out to you, just exhausted and feeling like I had lost hope and you gave me the best tips and just trying different ways to get her to nurse and she did. And we were fine and kept going through another pregnancy and almost to two years because of your help. I was ready to throw in the towel. You were such a big help. I can only imagine how you would be in person.
LP: Oh my gosh. That makes me feel so good. I am so happy to hear that. That’s wonderful. Yay! That’s awesome.
LAS: So you mentioned being a doula and being a peer counselor to other breastfeeding mothers. What are some other of your current interests at this time?
LP: I think they all kind of center around that. I’m really interested in maternal healthcare. You’ve seen the news articles in the disparities in maternal healthcare for Black women and women of color. So I’m kind of a news junkie, too. I love following politics and I love following the news. So I’ve tried to stay up to speed on different proposals that are going on and laws and stuff. And different groups that are trying to make changes in healthcare for moms, especially for women of color. So I’ve tried to stay involved that way. I started to become a nurse last year, thinking that I really wanted to do that, but I think I’m more interested in policy than one on one. I actually do still help moms one on one, more informally, in town with breastfeeding and I would still like to become a lactation consultant (IBCLC). But I’m really interested in policy. I’m kind of a nerd.
LAS: Do you see yourself being involved in politics?
LP: I’ve thought about it—something small. But I think what I’m really interested in is helping write policy, like doing research for policy. At some point I think I’d like to get a Masters in Public Health and help do research and write policy for politicians. Make some good stuff happen. But I don’t see myself running or anything.
LAS: You’re not going to run for mayor?
LP: I don’t think so.
LAS: So along with that, you said you took 6-week old Colden to doula training. What are some ways that while you’ve had everything on your plate of having four young children, homeschooling, being a spouse, and being involved in your community, how have you involved your kids during all of this?
LP: I try to keep them involved in everything we’re doing. It’s easy for Nate and I to have adult conversations—well it’s not easy to have adult conversations when you have little kids—but it’s easy to let them have screen time or whatever so that we can have a serious conversation. But sometimes I try to be more intentional about it and tell them, you know, this issue is happening and I think it’s really interesting and what do you guys think about it? And my oldest is eight and the next, he just turned seven. They are interesting people. And they care about things. And so if we explain it to them in a way that they can understand, I think they get interested. And it’s really great to share with them what we’re doing. So sometimes that means, since I’m a nerd and I love legislation, sometimes they help me write letters to our senators.
LAS: Oh, I love that.
LP: And that’s really fun. And there’s been times that I’ve taken them to… We have an organization in town that was worried about some clean water issues and I took them to a meeting. And they learned about that. And we take them to vote. You know, everybody does that. But just including them in what’s going on because they do care. And they pick up on what’s going on. And rather than leaving them anxious to their own thoughts, let them know what the solutions are, I think, can be really empowering. And they are less scared about what’s happening in the adult world.
LAS: And you guys took a trip to D.C. in the last couple years too, right? Can you talk a little bit about that?
LP: Yeah. There was a group (Moms Clean Air Force) and I helped with a couple things in town with them and they reached out and wanted to take a couple of families and talk to our senators about clean cars, about some legislation that was happening a few years ago. And so we got to go! We met our senators and got to hang out in D.C. It was wild and crazy having kids around the Capitol.
LP: But it was really neat. Everyone was really welcoming, really excited to see us and very open to having kids around and stuff. It was a really great experience for us and I hope we can do something like that again. That was one of the first times in a while that I felt very patriotic. Like, there’s just so much happening. Like, D.C. is amazing and it’s just so great to see the wheels turning of our government and what really happens and how things change. I hope the kids took away some good things and I think they did.
LAS: Do they still talk about it sometimes?
LP: They do. They do remember it. They do remember it a little bit. Especially Bridger—he’s the oldest and remembers more. But our senators are still the same as they were a few years ago when we went. So it’s cool to be like, “We met them! We were there.” And one ran for President so that was cool.
LAS: That’s really cool.
So touching back on what you just mentioned about difficulty with having adult conversations with Nate… How do you prioritize that? Having time together: is it after the kids go to bed? Kind of work it in throughout the day? How do you make that work?
LP: Sometimes we put them in the car and we tell everyone they can’t talk to us for a little while. Yes, that happens. Or we let them… where I used to be very strict about screen time, and we are more lax about that because there are so many of them. There are so many children.
LAS: They’re just everywhere!
LP: They’re everywhere. And the youngest—he will watch a screen now and thank you, Lord, for that because we can talk to each other now. But, yeah, just throughout the day, at bedtime… We schedule out a date night or two every month. Before the pandemic, we were really good about that. We had a babysitter once a month and then we switched off with another family once a month. So we watched their kids once and we watched theirs the next week.
LAS: So since you don’t live near family, can you talk about how you decided or how you determined how you were going to find childcare?
How you found your babysitter?
LP: We found a babysitter through church. I was serving with the youth at that time. And I was teaching the youth and I had little kids in and out of the class all the time. And there were a few girls that were just so good playing with them and stuff. And that’s when I was like, “OK. I think they could come over.” Because I really never had a babysitter before and that’s kind of how we did it there; just kind of happened naturally, thankfully, through our church community.
Before, when I worked, I used care.com and interviewed several people but since moving, we haven’t done that—mostly been through church.
LAS: That’s something we definitely need to prioritize again after life is becoming a little more back to normal.
LP: Yeah, it really makes a big difference. If you have a big decision coming up or just something you’ve got to talk about. If you know that it’s at least on the calendar, you can make it. You can make it until then so you can have a conversation.
LAS: So a lot of the the things you’ve talked about—your interests—a lot of them, not all, but a lot of them you can do together as a family and with your spouse, but when there are things that you feel you need a little more time on your own, what are some ways that you appreciate being supported by your spouse?
LP: That’s such a good question because there are definitely ways that you can include your family in your interests but it’s so important to have alone time. Especially as a parent, their needs are so often and all the time. They are so needy. So it’s just so good to have your own time. Sometimes it helps just to have that time just to figure out what it is that you’re interested in, what it is that you want to spend your time doing. But Nate is really good about, like, he will literally just push me out the door sometimes: “You really need to go do something.”
LP: “Goodbye! I’ve got it.” And I do the same with him. And he has so many interests—too many sometimes, I tell him. But we’ve got to have that time alone to do our own thing. We’re happier when we do. Better parents for sure.
LAS: So once you moved to Minnesota, it seems like you have a good friend group there. What does friendship look like for you these days (being a parent and being busy all of the time)? How does it look? How does it fit into your life?
LP: It’s another one of those things that you just have to decide is important. When we moved here, I just kept showing up to stuff. I just kept coming to anything. Especially in the homeschool community, there’s always playdates and stuff happening, and stuff at church, you know, in whatever community that you’re in. I just kept showing up and hoping that I would find friends. And eventually, I did. And we have a monthly thing; we paused a bit during COVID, but we did a lot of fires and stuff—camp fires last summer. But we have a monthly night that the ladies get together and we just put it on the calendar. We make it happen because otherwise if we don’t make it a priority, then it won’t.
LAS: Yeah. There are other competing priorities all of the time.
LP: All of the time. So just like with date night, or alone time, you just have to put it on the calendar. And it’s just so good to meet with people who have similar priorities as you and similar values in parenting and everything. It can be really rewarding and I feel really grateful for the group that I’ve fallen into here.
LAS: That’s so good and I’m so glad. So you mentioned, maybe you’re not going to be running for mayor, but you have some aspirations for being involved in policy. Are there any other things you’re looking forward to in the future, maybe as you’re kids get a little more independent, a little older… What are some things you’re looking forward to in the years ahead?
LP: Like I said earlier, I think I want to become a IBCLC, a lactation consultant. I’d love to support parents more that way. And I’d love to do more doula work. That’s really my goals right now. I struggle with having a vision for the future. It seems like when I… All last year, I was planning out that I was going to go to nursing school. I had like five to ten years planned out—super excited about it. I had lots of signs that this was the right choice. And then I started doing training; I did this CNA course and I even got offered a job. And I was just like, “You know what? I don’t want to do this.”
LAS: Good thing you figured it out then.
LP: Yeah. And I felt really dumb that I had spent some money on getting that far.
LAS: Why is it “dumb” though? You don’t know until you try, you know?
LP: I think that’s true. I’m dealing with some shame over it but I think I just had to take those steps until I realized that that’s not actually what I want to do. I don’t know if I… I don’t want to work in a hospital. I don’t want to own my own practice but I do want to support families. There’s a… I consider her a homeschool mentor; she’s a writer. Her name is Julie Bogart and she’s written a couple of great books about home schooling. And something that she talks about is just being responsive to the current moment and that has resonated so much with me because there’s been more than once that I had that experience where I had this great plan and it just didn’t work out. But I feel like my job right now is to be responsive to what’s happening right now. Not just with my children, but with my community and my own interests. And that has been lately like helping families with breastfeeding, kind of informally. And it just kind of keeps falling into my lap and I just feel like that’s been the sign, like: “You just need to focus on this right now. You don’t need some giant big plan. But just take one step at a time.” So that’s kind of where I am right now with the future.
LAS: So not knowing much about it, besides my own experience in the hospital with a lactation nurse, I think they were, do you need a specific degree or is it more of a certification and training to be a lactation consultant? What’s involved with that?
LP: So if you are a nurse, it’s easier. So what you need to do…. Everyone who wants to become an IBCLC has to have 90 hours of lactation-specific education. So I’ve done half of that when I worked at WIC but I think I need to do it again because it’s been so long. So that will take about a year (maybe less than that if I compress it) and then you need 1000 hours of in-person support. So, like working at WIC or something or working at a hospital if you’re a nurse. Like, if you worked in the mother/baby ward, and you helped with breastfeeding, then those hours would count. And I would need to go back and take some more college courses like anatomy and physiology and I think maybe a chemistry. I can’t remember; there’s a whole list. And then a handful of others that I can take online that are pretty simple. So it’s not easy. It’s not simple. But it’s straightforward. I just have to get started.
LAS: It’s not something you’re going to get done tomorrow but it is doable when you break it down.
LP: And like I was telling you earlier, my husband is going to hopefully have a more predictable schedule soon—work schedule—and I’m hoping that that’s when I can fit this in more.
LAS: You can do it.
LP: Thank you. I’m excited.
LAS: Do you have any parting advice for maybe new or expecting mothers in prioritizing your own interests in the years to come or even ways that we can support new mothers? Maybe you’re not thinking about having children ever or in the immediate future, what are some ways that we can support other mothers?
LP: I think when it comes to just supporting women as a whole is giving them space to be curious about what it is that lights them up. What is it that makes you happy? I remember early on in our marriage, or early on when our kids were really tiny, like “What do I care about? What makes me happy?” And just giving yourself time to figure that out. And then sharing it with people, you know, being vulnerable and asking for when you need help. It really helps so much, just knowing what it is is the first step.
LAS: Sure. There are so many things. Especially with social media now, I want to do all the things and I don’t have time to do all the things. So it helps to kind of narrow down your focus and see what really makes you tick.
LP: Yeah. For sure.
LAS: So where can people find you?
LP: My Instagram is @motherhoodmantras.
LAS: And I love it. You have beautiful writings on there.
LP: Thank you. I just try to post some encouraging things and help women connect.
LAS: That’s awesome. Well, thank you so much for spending time. I know, like we’ve talked about, you have a lot on your plate so I really appreciate you and am always inspired by you and the things that you share online and with me personally and I just love getting to catch up. So thank you so much for your time.
LP: Thank you for having me. I have always looked up to you and I am so excited that you’ve started this.
LAS: Thank you.
I just love getting to chat with Lacey. For someone who didn’t know what they were going to use their degree for, from my external perspective, it’s pretty obvious to me that she’s using it every day. She and I were always very close growing up and someone I have always genuinely enjoyed being around. I love seeing how her interests have evolved and how they oftentimes do revolve around her family but I can also see that she is developing herself as a whole person.
I hope that you were able to find some ways from this discussion that you can show up for yourself and identify areas of your life that you may want to shift in your priority list. Try something new or try to get better at something you’ve been doing. Maybe it’s a success, maybe it’s something you put on the back burner for another time, or maybe it’s something you decide to cross off the list for good. You don’t know until you try.
As always, I hope you can use these ideas as tipping off points to channel the ambition, curiosity, and desire to create the life you want to live. Thanks so much for listening. Our time is so important and I am so appreciative that you spent some of it with me.