As mom to Hudson and Brooks, partner to Dave, and co-founder of NeighborSchools, sometimes I already feel like I’m spread too thin. In the most unassuming way, Janelle Mangiante reframed the whole situation for me. We talk about her commitment to working with a big family, the inevitable inklings of mom guilt, her Instagram presence, and how it’s not about counting the hours at home, but making the hours at home count.
Every morning Janelle hops in her car and drives an hour to the hospital, where she manages a team of 150 essential workers. Every evening she drives an hour home, where she’s mom to 4 children and partner to an equally busy husband. If that routine sounds grueling, that’s not how Janelle would describe it. She likes to work; always has, and has always done well. And she loves being a mom. Followers on Instagram may know her as “Her Fabulous Mess” but Janelle’s approach to working motherhood is nuanced,impressive, and inspiring.
You shared that you had your first child early, how has your thinking on being a working mom evolved as your family has grown to six?
I always knew it would be chaotic. I always knew that I didn’t want to give up work. It really is a part of me and who I am. I need to work because it just fulfills something within me that I feel like I just can’t give up. I’ve had a lot of conversations with myself over the years about this and I’ve had to really learn and grow. I think as moms we always feel so guilty about leaving our kids and making that choice to go back to work. So it was a lot of self-teaching and learning that it’s okay. But I always knew it would be a juggle. I always knew that it wasn’t going to be perfect and quite honestly there were a lot of times that I was taking it hour by hour instead of day by day just because anything could really be thrown at you.
Your schedule seems crazy. How do you make that work for your family?
I’ve learned that I can spend all the time and not really be there – and be present. I’m always thinking about the quality of the time I’m spending with my kids instead of the quantity. I know that when I am with my kids and really focused on them, whether it’s a movie night together as a family with all electronics away, or bathtime with the babies, I think what helps me get over the guilt is knowing that I am there and I’m giving them one-on-one time. I feel like it is really important to give each kid individual time with you. Sometimes you’re just exhausted and you feel like you can’t give anymore- but it’s just the simple cuddles before bedtime and all the little moments. They mean everything and it helps.
But you have 4! How do you balance finding quality time with each of your children?
Each kid is so different because they’re different ages. My thirteen-year-old does not require as much time with Mom because she would much rather be on her cell phone or her electronics and hanging out with her friends. But the time that I do spend with my thirteen-year-old is filled with conversations and trying to understand where she is right now and what’s going on in her world. With my eight year old, it’s all about ‘mom! play with me!’ She’s my little free spirit and she loves drawing and showing me all the things that she created. Then the other two are so little- so they want attention. Bathtime is a good time to connect with them. It just depends on your child’s age. Each child is going to need something different from you.
How do you make time for yourself and your husband?
As all the moms in America- laugh. Time alone with your partner? Prior to COVID my husband and I used to have gym dates together and that was our time. We would put all the babies to bed and our gym is open 24 hours. So in pure exhaustion, we would head to the gym at like 9:00 at night and my oldest would be home.So we would just go to the gym and that’s our date night.
What do you do for your own self care?
I can tell you an exciting part of the day for me is when the kids are in bed and I get to shower. That’s my time. Peaceful showers or waking up before anyone else. That first cup of coffee where the house is just silent is everything- just the silent sips of coffee mean the world. I don’t really I don’t require a ton. I can get a trip to Target by myself, that’s everything. Sometimes I just need to go grocery shopping or something just alone and that’s enough. They say you cannot pour from an empty cup.
How do you keep up with your social media presence along with everything else?
It is so hard to keep up with everything on social media. You know how labor-intensive it can be to respond to everyone. The engagement piece really takes a lot of work. It can feel like a lot with a full-time job and a family on top of but it’s my outlet. I really need to have something that’s more creative where I can connect with people.
I really think there’s beauty in the real moments in our lives. I think showing those raw moments is really where you can connect with people. That’s what people feel like when they can look at your page and think ‘Oh, she’s a real person. She’s not staged all the time.’ I feel like looking at people’s Instagram accounts and myself included, you know, too many people only show the good polished moments. Sometimes showing the chaos really helps other moms feel like they’re not alone.
It was such a pleasure to sit down with Janelle. Our full conversation is now out on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and you can see highlights on our IGTV. Subscribe and follow to make sure you don’t miss next week’s conversation on Work Like a Mother.
Co-founder & COO
Bridget is mom to two little boys, Hudson and Brooks, and a champion of working moms everywhere. NeighborSchools itself was borne out of Bridget’s challenge to find high-quality yet affordable child care, and the realization that so many parents struggle with these same issues every day.