MaryAnne Kochenderfer is the hero mom behind Mama Smiles, a blog that will increase your wanderlust, let loose your creativity, and help you with some parenting tips, among many others.
MaryAnne is a true survivor, experience which made her realize the true importance of prioritizing the things you most care about and doing things that make you happy and satisfied. Her family and blogging are among these, so read on and find out more about this supermom.
Source: Mama Smiles
1. Let’s begin! Care to tell our readers a little something about yourself?
I live in California with my husband, Mike, and our four kids: Emma, Johnny, Lily, and Anna. I am passionate about parenting, crafts, education, and play.
You’ll see those interests in my blog as well as my life before blogging. I spent a lot of time in school pre-kids (and briefly, post-kids). I have a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance, a master’s degree in education, and a Ph.D. in medicine (looking at art therapy for kids with war trauma).
2. What’s the story of Mama Smiles? What determined you to start a blog and how has it evolved since your first post?
My oldest daughter was born while I was in grad school. After juggling her babyhood with school, I decided to take a break from academia. I wanted more kids, and I wanted to spend time with them.
But it was a huge switch from being a student and teacher to staying home all day with a toddler and then a second baby.
I started my blog on a whim, and really just as a hobby. Pretty soon companies were contacting me and I realized this was a way for me to stay home with the kids, earn some money, and do something I really enjoyed.
3. What have you learned from blogging? How did it impact your life, and what motivates you to keep it up and running?
I’m amazed at the connections you can build with blog friends! Blogging buddies are the equivalent of modern penpals for moms, with an entrepreneurship piece thrown in.
I have blog friends where we have read one another’s blogs for a decade now. When I moved from Massachusetts to California, a blog friend brought us dinner. It was our first time meeting in real life!
Then, last summer, I was in London and met up with blogging friends who showed me around the city and met up for dinner.
These connections along with my passion for what I write about keep me going. For me, blogging is the ultimate win when it comes to a job that allows the flexibility I want so I can spend time with kids while also allowing me to do something I find engaging and meaningful.
4. You blog, you’re a mom, you are an entrepreneur, how do you manage to stay organized throughout the day and make time for everything?
Making time for everything is really tough! I started homeschooling some of my kids last school year, and then we moved into a new house. Life was hectic, and for a while, I had to really scale back on blogging because there just wasn’t time for everything.
I’m a childhood cancer survivor, and that experience left me acutely aware of just how short life can be. I have a personal policy of working hard but always prioritizing the things I care about most.
I don’t always get the balance right, but it’s an approach that works well for me. Sometimes, I make professional progress slower than I would like, but it all seems to work out in the end.
Kids grow up so fast, and I have yet to regret spending extra time with them.
On a more practical level, I love Google Calendar for keeping me organized. I also hand write out commitments in a paper planner. I find that I get more done when I have a paper record as well as a digital record; the physical act of writing it out helps me get more organized.
I set aside time just to organize the following week every Tuesday.
5. Do you have any advice for our readers on that matter
It’s truly impossible to do everything all the time.
Pick your top priorities that always have to happen and add in around those.
6. Want to share a funny kid-work balancing story or event?
I was being interviewed for a podcast on positive parenting and my kids kept interrupting. The third time they showed up I yelled, “Get out, get out!” Not very positive!
It’s still in the podcast, somewhere online.
7. Confession time: what do you consider to be your biggest parenting success? Would you also share your biggest parenting failure?
Right now, all of my kids are doing well and I feel like I have a pretty good relationship with all four of them. I do really struggle with getting healthy meals on the table every day. And I could do better at having outdoor adventures with my kids.
8. On the same note, which were your best and worst days as a mom?
The absolute best days are the days I met each of my kids – that first meeting moment is pure magic. Since then, I have enjoyed some wonderful days out in nature, traveling, and making things together.
The worst days were times when my kids were seriously ill or injured. Thankfully, they are all fine today.
Early on, there were many days when several of my kids would wake in the middle of the night, constantly disrupting my sleep.
9. What helps you decide to post/not to post pictures of your children on social media?
My kids get to okay or veto photos, and I never post anything that I think might embarrass them. You will notice that some of my kids show up in social media more than others, and that is very much linked to their personalities and how often I have a photo they want shared.
10. Would you share your opinion on a controversial parenting subject?
Parenting is hard enough without judging others about these types of differences! We need to find a way to tolerate and respect others’ choices. I breastfed all four of my kids, including in public.
I was a bit of a ninja nurse, and I think people often didn’t know what was going on, but I actually really appreciate the moms who nurse in public in a very obvious way because they pave the way for more shy moms like me.
I wanted to breastfeed and that worked out for me, but there are some very good reasons to bottle feed. Formula feeding can and does save lives.
11. Tell us all about your favorite baby or child accessory or product.
My Ergo carrier was an absolute lifesaver! My second child especially lived in it.
12. While it might sometimes be hard to find a moment for yourself, what are your favorite “Me time” indulgences?
I still love to sing, and I started taking voice lessons again a couple of years ago. I don’t have plans to do anything with it professionally, but it’s a hobby I find therapeutic and enjoyable.
I’m also in a book club, and I love learning new crafts and spending time with friends.
13. Want to share your biggest achievement/what you are most proud of?
I love watching my kids grow into independent people with interesting ideas and opinions. I am proud of their ability to think through problems and work hard.
I’m proud of finding a job that is rewarding and challenging and that feels useful to others and allows me to spend my days at home with my kids.
14. To wrap things up, do you have any advice you want to offer our readers?
Happy parents make happy kids.
My blog features one approach to parenting that works really well for me. It’s not the only way to parent. Find your priorities, identify dreams, and work towards those. When the going gets rough, find small joys to focus on to keep going.
Have another question to ask MaryAnne or something you’d like to find out about these Moms? Then leave it in the comments, and we’ll be sure to ask it next time around!