Balancing a career and family is a circumstance shared by most women nowadays. With households requiring two incomes, the stay-at-home mom is a rarity. But, there are some mothers who have taken a slightly different approach to balancing work and family. They somehow maintain their sanity while managing hectic households because they have the opportunity to blend the two. There was a time when women would be asked: Would they go the career route or the mommy route? Now it’s clear that a woman can have both, sometimes by choice, but just as much by necessity.
“The time I spend with my kids is special,” said Carrie Coyner, a law partner/owner of Rudy, Coyner & Associates. “I’m not the type of person that would be happy staying home all day.” Coyner says she thinks she’s a better mother because her work keeps her happy.
Coyner has been called the go-to person for zoning cases in Chesterfield. She manages her law practice, which calls for a fair amount of evening work, as well as tending to her board position at the Chesterfield Chamber of Commerce and Chester United Methodist Church, and as a member of Chesterfield County’s comprehensive plan steering committee.
Elizabeth Howard, a working mother and owner of The Cordial Cricket at Chester Village Green, agrees with Coyner that both mother and child have a happier attitude when mom works.
“I wouldn’t be a good stay-at-home mother,” Howard said. “It’s healthier for me to do things outside the home and it’s healthier for Will [Howard’s 7-year-old son] to be with other people. I think he’s more rounded that way.”
Coyner attributes much of her success in balancing family and career to her husband, Matt, who cares for their three children – Hayden, 3, Mason, 21 months, and Delaney, 4 months – on evenings when she works late or tends to her community commitments. Matt’s job allows him to be home at 5 p.m., when he takes over from their nanny, who handles daytime duties.
“My husband’s a Godsend,” Coyner said. Although, even a Godsend gets rattled every once in a while. “I called him on my way home from a steering committee meeting and he said we’re having a meltdown, get home,” she said.
Howard said that since Will is in school, she is able to circumvent a childcare service. She takes him to school in the morning and his grandmother or her husband, Randy, cares for him after school. Will also spends a fair amount of time at The Cordial Cricket. Randy is also a self-employed accountant/advisor, so the independent spirit has rubbed off on Will already.
“For Christmas, all he asked for was his own desk and office supplies,” Howard said. “He’s already developed that entrepreneurial spirit.”
Coyner also accredits balance to her career choice. She took ownership of her law practice from Oliver “Skitch” Rudy who had a successful 45-year law practice in Chesterfield. Coyner said clients remained faithful to the practice after his death a few years ago.
“I’m not a black-suit type attorney,” Coyner said. “I enjoy seeing people I know when I’m out of the office and I can take time off to do something with the kids or take them to the doctor.” Coyner said all of her children spent the first few months of their lives in a crib at her office.
Challenging stereotypes is a not always the tonic that soothes a woman’s need to nurture. “As a mother, you still have this guilt that you’re not with them all the time because you’re the primary caregiver, but I have this desire to continue to find a balance,” Coyner said.
According to Working Mother magazine: “The challenge over the past few decades has been to refute those who say motherhood compromises a woman’s ability to achieve professionally. We’ve worked to convince [people] that the working-mother choice can be more interesting than simply opting for either the fast track or the mommy track.”
Coyner and Howard are exceptions to the rule. They have more freedom than a working mother in the corporate world. Howard said she was lucky to have worked telecom when she worked a corporate job; now, her challenge is to distinguish home time from work time.
“I have to really watch that our time is our time and not work time,” Howard said. She has spent some time combining the two, though. She and Will have just completed a book.
Howard worked on the project with her son in her spare time, which as she says, “...is next to non-existent as a mother and entrepreneur.” The children’s book, titled The Cordial Cricket, after Howard’s retail store, tells the story of a young cricket who learns a valuable lesson about what it means to be “cordial” during the planning of his birthday party. Will was the illustrator for cover.
Coyner has shared her state of motherhood at Chesterfield public meetings right up to the last weeks of her pregnancies and Howard has demonstrated that building a business can be a family affair. Both women have demonstrated how mothers can balance work and family.