Friday, March 04, 2005

Hearts at Home--my interview with Jill Savage

Jill Savage

"I think the most important that we have to realize is before we can take care of others, we have to take care of ourself. Because we really can't mother out of depletion...we need to mother with a full cup."--Jill Savage

Is motherhood a profession? Definitely, according to Jill Savage, founder of Hearts at Home and author of Professionalizing Motherhood. Not only that, motherhood is a fine art, according to Jill.

With the 12th annual Hearts at Home National Conference slated for March 18 and 19th in Normal, Illinois, I was able to interview Jill, who is really a remarkable woman. Here are some excerpts of our interview.

CINDY: How did Hearts at Home come about?

JILL: Well, Hearts at Home really came out of my own need as a mom. I was at home with my children, and had always actually anticipated that I would be working. My degree was in music education, I was going to be a music teacher, and yet where we were living didn't really have any jobs available in that profession, so I ended up being at home for a season of time, actually doing child care in my home.

And as I cared for other people's children as well as my own children, my heart began to realize and change about the fact that "You know, maybe there's some value to me being at home for a season of time."

But then I was thinking "OK, if I'm home for a season of time, quite frankly
I don't know how to do this job very well." So I would think back to the teacher conferences that I used to go to, and I thought, "OK, where's the mom conference?" and couldn't find it anywhere.

And we had a great mom's group that was growing, and I went to our mom's group and I said, "Hey, guys, what if we did a mom's conference, and you know, we just took a day away, and it was, in essence 'Mommy School'?"

And they really were responsive to it, so we started thinking about it and praying about it and we decided to launch our own conference. That was 12 years ago. We anticipated 400 women attending...however, when 11-hundred women walked thorugh the door, we realized that we were in way over our head (laughs).

And since that time the events have just grown so much and so quickly. This year's conference will host over 6000 women from over 40 different states

CINDY: Amazing.

JILL: It is, it's absolutely amazing that there is a need, but we really take what we do seriously, we take motherhood seriously. And really, for the women of the Rockford area, this is right in their backyard. So, we really want to encourage moms to take advantage of "Mommy School."

CINDY: Jill, is there a lack of respect in some quarters for what you call the profession of mothering--especially for women who choose not to work outside the home?

JILL: I don't know if it's so much a lack of respect, but certainly a lack of value. I don't think we value it because it doesn't have anything monetary attached to it. And I think our society places value based upon monetary value.

And I think even those of us that are in it don't value it the way that we need to. And you know, one of the changes that I made...someone would ask me what I did, and I would say, "Oh, I'm just a mom." Well, the word "just" actually indicates that it doesn't have much value.

And so, I really felt when I'd been in it two or three years, and I kept thinking, "OK, eventually I'll go back to teaching..." And all of a sudden I began to realize, "You know what? I need to stop looking at this carrot dangling out in front of me and I need to do what I'm doing well. I need to think of motherhood as my profession and stop thinking of teaching as my profession. That's certainly one option for me, but what I'm doing now is valuable, and I need to think of it as a profession. I need to approach it with goals, with strategy, with some education...I need to parent pro-actively rather than reactively, and so, I need to approach this more professionally."

CINDY: What are some of the benefits of being a stay-at-home mom, in your view?

JILL: Well, I think they're are a lot them. Certainly finances is not one (laughs). But I do believe there's the benefit of availability. You know, recently--all my kids are in school now, and people say, "What do you do now that your kids are in school?"

I'm available.

My sister is pregnant with twins, and I have been making meals for her, and cleaning her house--you know, somebody has to do that, because she can't right now, she's on bedrest and in her final weeks. She recently had to go the hospital unexpectedly, and I spent the afternoon sitting with her. That's valuable.

Recently-- we have an adopted son, and our son, all of a sudden, three-thirty in the afternoon, he began just drilling me with questions about his birth family, because something had happened during school that day and it had made him think about it. And I thought, "You know, these are not questions that would wait till six or seven o'clock tonight." I needed to be able to maximize this moment.

And so, I think availability is just huge. I also think of less stress level. You know, being able to think about dinner earlier in the day...being able to do laundry in the middle of the week and not have to cram it into weekends...there's just some value in the environment that that creates.

CINDY: You know, I know that there are a lot of women who would love to stay at home with their children, but they really feel trapped in the working world because of finances. What advice do you have for those women who it may be tough financially to stay at home?

JILL: Well, you know what, I actually think that for the majority of us that are at home, it is tough financially to stay at home. Most of the time people say, "You know, I wish I had the luxury of staying at home." And I'll tell you what...for our family, it's never been a luxury,'s been a sacrifice. It's been a huge sacrifice. We've sacrificed driving new vehicles, we've sacrificed purchasing things that we would have loved to have purchased, we've sacrificed lessons for our children...for the trade-off of being able to live a different-paced life.

And you know, not to say that there are not situations, there are certainly situations and circumstances that absolutely do not lend themselves to that. But I also think that we, particularly the media drives us and says, you know, you have to have two incomes to make it happen. And the truth of the matter is there's many of us that are doing it on one income.

Challenging? Absolutely. Do you learn to value Aldi Foods or any kind of discount store? Absolutely. Do you shop the thrift shops for everything from your children's jeans to what you might neeed? Absolutely. I mean, you have to live a different lifestyle many times. But to look back on it and to realize that sometimes time and energy is more important than having things.

CINDY: And then again, there are those women who are able to form their own businesses at home or do some work at home, and those are options as well. But I want to talk about the conference that's coming up. What will people learn, what will people come away with from this conference?

JILL: Well, the biggest thing about our conference is, first, it's high energy and lots of fun, just lots of fun. Several years ago there was a song that was out, "Who let the dogs out?" Well, we opened our conference with "Who let the moms out?" So you can only imagine where it goes from there.

We have a lot of fun. This year we're featuring a comedian, Ken Davis, as one of our keynote speakers. We have over 30 different workshops to help women design the day to meet their needs. They can take workshops on marriage, parenting, their personal life, finances, every aspect of their life that they feel like maybe they just need to have a little bit of encouragement in, little bit of new perspective
workshop on that.

The conference is still available--our pre-registration period is over,
however, we are offering walk-in registration for the Friday event. This is a twin event, so we do the same conferene on Friday, March 19th. So we're able to host more women that way.

They can still find out more information on our website. And we have a lot of women who work outside the home that attend our events, and they tell us, "This is the best place for me to remember to keep my heart at home."

CINDY: So this isn't just focused completely on full-time stay-at-home moms, then?

JILL: Our target audience is certainly women who are doing motherhood full time, but we do have women who attend the conference who work outside the home and they tell us, "You know what? I know I may not fall right in your target, but
and I come back to help me keep your priorities straight."

CINDY: Well, I know that there are women out there who are listening, and some of them may be a tired mom who's kind of at the end of their rope..Any advice that you may have, Jill, just to the moms that are listening now?

JILL: Well, I think the most important that we have to realize is before we can take care of others, we have to take care of ourself. Because we really can't mother out of depletion...we need to mother with a full cup.

So sometimes the best thing you can do for your family, the best thing you can do for your marriage, is to step back and take a day for yourself... to step back and do some things that will fill up your fuel tank so that you can give to your family and those that need you.

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