In the past year, I have learned being a working mom is not easy. Working in the sport of racing with the demands of travel, time away from home, a long season and chaotic hours makes the balance even more challenging. This month, I did a Q+A with two women in the business on these exact topics. There are only a select few women in the sport of racing that travel the circuit and operate as full-time career women and mom’s, but I just so happen to work alongside two of the best at both.
KV: Jamie, you have a lot of responsibilities at FOX Sports between pit-road and studio work for both NASCAR and Supercross while also being a mom of two — how do you go about balancing everything on your plate?
Jamie Little: Balance is the key word. It’s so hard to accomplish that yet it’s so important to be able to succeed at both. The only way I can work as much as I do, travel as often as I do, and be a “present” parent is having my husband Cody at home. It’s truly a team effort. He handles everything when I’m away. When I’m home he can focus on our businesses and the things he needs to do for work. It’s never easy though, especially when the kids cry when they know you’re leaving and sometimes it feels like you see them on FaceTime more than in person. But I believe that if I had a regular 9-5 job I’d see less of my kids than I do with this job. As far as the job, there’s a lot of prep involved every week. Sometimes in order to get everything done, you just have to wait until the kids go to sleep or get up at 5am to get the work done. Whatever it takes.
KV: Shannon, you are a full-time host for FOX Sports NASCAR coverage and also a mom of twin boys, how do you manage the different roles you have?
Shannon Spake: I am really organized. Maybe to a fault. I rely 100% on my daily calendar and I make sure everything I have to do that day/week/month is on the calendar and updated. Every night before I go to bed, I check the calendar and cross check it with my workout schedule for the day (I am training for an Ironman, and some days that requires me to bike and run for up to 4 hours). Once I know what my days look like, I know what time I have to get up in the morning in order to get everything done. I can’t even tell you how many mornings my alarm goes off at 4:15am, and the only thing that gets me out of bed is knowing I have to “try” to get everything done.
KV: How does travel affect your family dynamic?
JL: My husband and I know our roles when I’m away. It’s easy for us to balance the home/work balance together. The kids are still too young to understand why “mommy has to leave for work and not come back for 3-4 days.” Also, I find it takes a little adjustment when I go from independent working woman on the road to “mommy” and “wife.” It takes an adjustment for the rest of the family too. My son acts out as soon as I get home. I know it’s because I’ve been gone and he knows I can be a push-over simply because of mom guilt.
SS: I’ve always traveled so its part of our routine, but as I mentioned above, it’s all about being organized. My sitter and husband need to be on the same page about my kids’ schedule with school, homework, sports, etc. I also like to help my husband as much as possible before I head out of town. I try to get the grocery shopping done and school lunches ordered — that way there’s less for everyone else to worry about. Sometimes the hardest part about traveling is just the “mommy guilt” that all working moms/parents deal with. I just remind myself that I am setting an example for my boys and try to maximize the quality time when I’m not working.
KV: Shannon, you recently brought your boys to work and had them visiting with you in the studio, what is their reaction to what you do?
SS: They loved it, in fact my son Liam now wants to be a reporter and an actor! They love watching what I do, and its so cool for me to see the pride they have when they spend time with me at work.
KV: Jamie, you were pregnant with your son while working on pit road regularly, what was that experience like? What things did you do to make the job a little easier?
JL: I can’t believe I did that! Especially the fact I worked and traveled until four weeks before my son was born. I was 36 weeks pregnant, working in a fire suit, in 90 degree weather. I didn’t know anything different. I wanted to prove I could do it, and I didn’t need to be treated differently. I just made sure I hydrated extra, I wore a mini backpack with my broadcast equipment in it, and I continued to work-out until the end so I didn’t get tired while on pit road. It was an amazing experience. Empowering to be honest. But going back to work when Carter was just five weeks old was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It proved to myself that I was capable of doing anything, but it was so hard to leave that baby. It was the start of the “Chase” at the time and ESPN needed me.
KV: Why do you think it’s important to demonstrate to your children the importance of a working mom?
JL: My upbringing was by a single working mom. I don’t know anything else. My mom always said “yes” to a task or a promotion, even if she wasn’t sure she could do it. That taught me about hard work, sacrifice for your family, and the importance of having a job in order to have a good life for your children. I think for me, I am a better mom because I have the balance of work and the role of supporting my family. Plus my kids get to have me or my husband around every day. We rarely ever have a sitter. That’s something that makes me proud.
SS: There is no way I could do my job at the level I do it at without the support of my husband, and my children see that support. I hope one day they are able to support their wives the same way. They also see how hard I work and the sacrifices I make. I hope they one day carry the same ethic.
KV: My daughter is approaching the 1 year old mark, any advice on what to expect in the next phase?
JL: The older they get the more amazing kids become. I think it gets harder in some ways, yet easier in others. It’s nice when they get more mobile so you can take them on the road sometimes for work. But they also understand more, and it gets harder to walk out the door and focus on your job at hand. I know you take lots of pictures and include her in your travels quite a bit, I think you’ll appreciate those memories more and more as she gets older.
SS: Hold on tight. Everyone told me how “fast they grow up,” and there was no way for me to fully understand that…until now. Cherish every moment, even the tough ones, because it goes by so darn fast!
Thank you to both Jamie Little and Shannon Spake for taking some time to share their experiences. #supermoms