Mommaslayer Spotlight

Mommaslayer Spotlight: Betsey Pepas

All of our journeys as mothers are entirely unique and complex.  We come from all different backgrounds, ethnicities, and socio-economic statuses, which gives every single one of us a unique perspective on life. What unites all of us though, is motherhood and more often than not we have a lot more in common than we have in differences. We wanted to shine a spotlight on some of true Mommaslayers who deserve a shout out. Whether these women are business owners, military members, working moms, stay at home moms, widowed moms, moms on weight loss journeys, or moms who just slay motherhood- we wanted to give them a shout out and share with you some of their advice in hopes that it could possibly help or inspire you!

Betsey is a proud mom to 4 year old twins. She has been married for 9 years and as of this coming May to her husband who recently retired from the Navy. Betsey graduated from Occidental College in Los Angeles in 2004 with a double major in Diplomacy and World Affairs and Spanish- but presently speaks very little Spanish! Shortly after graduating, she started working for her present employer, which is a large consulting firm. She loves working for her employer as they are incredibly supportive of women in the workplace (especially moms). Presently, she is the Quality Programs Leader for a division of Service Centers, which is a really fun and challenging role for Betsey. A typical day in Betsey’s life looks like this: She wakes up with her twins and gets them ready for the day. She drops them off at preschool and heads to work. After she wraps up her work day, she picks them up, makes dinner, and tries to get in a few hours of quality family time. After the kids get put to bed, she has an hour or two to unwind with some crap TV and a glass of wine and may even squeeze in a workout if she has time. She then goes to sleep and does it all over the next day!

How do you take care of your mental health?

I try to make time for a workout at least 4 times a week, even if it’s 20 minutes in my garage gym. I made a resolution this year that I would do a better job of taking care of my physical health when I travel (which I do a lot for work) so I’ve been making an effort at morning workouts and it makes me feel so much better, even if I do dread that alarm. I also am a big believer in therapy and have seen a therapist at various points in my life whenever I feel like I need someone to just ‘check in’ with. An outside perspective on our lives is so important, and mental health and physical health are tied together. There’s such a stigma around taking care of your mental health but there shouldn’t be!

How do you practice self-care with the demands of motherhood being so high?

It’s so hard! Before kids I worked out between 5 and 7 days a week, was able to go out with girlfriends and my spouse without having to plan for it, and so much of that goes away when you become a mom. But sometimes it’s OK to be a little selfish, because when I feel good my family feels better. Also, I do travel a lot for work, so it’s nice to get a little break from the daily mom grind. Missing my kids helps give me some perspective on all of the amazing things I have going on in my life at home.

How do you manage stress?

For whatever reason I am not a naturally stressed person. I create a healthy boundary between work life and personal life, so I don’t feel that cross-over stress that can be really hard on family interactions.

How do you maintain your self-esteem & confidence?

I feel like I really found out who I was, and what I was worth, when I was in college. Since then, I have never lacked in confidence in myself and my abilities. I think my work environment also helps with that, as it’s really supportive and has allowed me to focus on the things I most enjoy. All that said, there is nothing wrong with a little ‘mommy self-care’! The med spa is a good friend of mine – stay confident!

How do you keep your marriage/relationship strong?

Oh man, as a working mom I feel like sometimes this is the area that I’m the weakest in. I don’t need a ton of support in my day to day life from my spouse, which is probably a result of him being in the military and deploying every year and a half during the first 8 years of our marriage, so I sometimes assume the same is true of him. I do encourage him to find passions of his own now that he’s retired – when you go from having your job being the driving force in your life to a different lifestyle in a different city, that’s a huge stress. I also try and always be there as his sounding board.

How do you deal with people that trigger stress, upset you, or make you uncomfortable?

I’ve found that as I get older there are fewer of these types of people in my life. I don’t know if I’ve gotten better at identifying them, or if it’s just become easier to remove them from my life. One area where I think there is a lot of interpersonal stress is on social media. Everyone shows both their very best and very worst sides online. I’ve removed a lot of unneeded stress from my life is just blocking people from my social media feeds. If every time you see a post from someone you can feel your blood pressure rise, why do that to yourself?

Where does your motivation/drive come from? What is your why?

I’ve been very driven and goal oriented for as long as I can remember. I think a lot of it comes from my Dad. He is the definition of a self-made man; grew up on a small farm in a small town, joined the Navy, put himself through college, and became a hugely successful executive. But both of my parents instilled in me a sense of self-worth and I’ve never felt that there was a goal in life that I couldn’t achieve if I really applied myself. I try and instill the same sense in my kids now.

Who are your role model(s) and why?

I’ve mentioned my Dad already. In addition to him, I have many wonderful women in my life who I admire for their ability to handle various aspects of their lives in a way that I wish I could with such (seeming) ease. I’ve also been fortunate to work with many women who demonstrate that while the idea of ‘having it all’ might be a myth, you can be a working mom and be perfectly successful in both aspects of your life if you learn the right balance for you.

What is your form of stress release?

It’s a mix of exercise and what I call my ‘quiet time’. I need my mommy moments of zen!

How has your childhood influenced the way you parent and who you are as an adult?

I have incredibly supportive parents who made sure that I knew that as long as I was doing my very best, they would do their very best to ensure I could succeed in life. I had a very fortunate upbringing and that fact is not lost on me at all. Very few people these days can say they graduated a 4 year college with no student debt, but my parents allowed me to start my adult life with a clean slate. It’s something I hope to be able to do for my kids when the time comes. I also learned from them that the best parent is a parent who leads by example, not one who expects children to do as they say but not as they do. I want my kids to be thoughtful, patient, and kind, so I try and show them those traits through how I parent them every day. I’m not always perfect, but I can at least say I try and be consistent.

What is the hardest thing you have ever dealt with and how did you get through it?

By far it was the birth of my children and the first 4 months of their lives. When I got pregnant I never imagined that their birth would be anything other than every single other one I had heard about through friends up until that point – you go to the hospital around your due date, you give birth, your babies are handed right to you, and after 2 or 3 days you all go home together. But life had other plans for my family, and it was a true test. If you have another 50 pages, I could fill them all with our entire story, but to keep it quick I went into spontaneous labor at 26 weeks with my twin babies. They were born 20 hours apart despite the doctors best efforts to stop my labor and keep each one in longer to allow them to develop. My son was born first and spend 102 days in the NICU with various difficulties related to his premature birth, and there were days when I didn’t think he would make it home. My daughter was 2nd and was born with a collapsed lung so was given a chest tube moments after her birth. She came home after 87 days in the NICU. It took about a week to be able to hold either one following their birth. I went back to work 5 days after they were born so I could save my leave time for when they came home (don’t get me started on our parental leave laws in this country), and all throughout their NICU journey my husband was preparing for another deployment. I can’t say I handled the situation well or in a healthy way, but I took it one day at a time. Looking back, there is so much I would do differently, but it taught me the important things in life and that I can literally handle anything thrown my way. 

What are your strengths as a person and as a mom?

I think one of my strengths is my patience. I may not have patience with everyone in my life, but I typically have it with my kids (although they do their best to test me every day!) I also think I’m good about focusing on the present and not letting my work life interfere with my family life.

Where can you improve as a person and as a mom?

I really need to work on making more time for myself. Mom guilt tends to get in the way and I sometimes feel selfish when I take a few hours away from everyone (or even to spend money on myself for something I don’t ‘need’). But a relaxed mom is a good mom. I’m a work in progress.

Have you ever experienced depression or anxiety as a mom, if so- how do you manage/cope with it? If not, tell us about a time in your life when you were at your ‘lowest’?

I think my lowest was while my kids were in the hospital. As a mom there is nothing more frustrating than seeing your kids sick or hurting and not being able to do a single thing to make them better, outside of just sitting by their crib and holding their hand. I felt really alone during that time, and some of that was because I wasn’t actively reaching out to friends and asking for the help that I needed. Sometimes we just don’t want to admit to the hard things in life.

What is your advice to a new mom who has high ambitions but doesn’t know where to start?

We all have an idea in our heads of what type of mom we are going to be. I always thought I would be the mom that made baby food from scratch and took her kids everywhere with her. That wasn’t in the cards for me, both because of how my babies were born and also – that just wasn’t me! Turns out I’m more of a ‘buy baby food and maybe walk to the park’ kind of mom, and that’s ok. My biggest advice is not to set expectations for yourself. Motherhood is hard and you need to find out what works for you when it happens.

What is your advice to a mom getting ready to re-enter the workforce?

For me, being a working mom is the only way I could imagine my life. I love feeling the sense of accomplishment that I have a life independent of my husband and my kids brings, and also to know that I’m appreciated by people outside of my family. But I’m also very lucky that my company allows me a huge amount of flexibility – I can work from home if I have a sick kiddo and my daily hours aren’t set. I also came back to work on an 80% schedule, which was a real life-saver as a new mom. So I guess my advice would be to manage your expectations, don’t push too hard at work right away, and be ready for your priorities at work to change as you dedicate more of your energy to raising your kids. Also, if you try going back to work and hate it, that’s totally cool! In my opinion, being a stay at home mom is the hardest job in the world (which is why I can’t do it!)

What is your advice to a mom who is stuck in a motivational rut?

I would say, step out of your box and try something new that’s just for you. Maybe join the gym you’ve been driving by and always wanted to check out but never did. Or take some time to do something creative. Often just reaching out to other moms for a meet-up (or online support) can really help to lift your spirits. We all have struggles and I think most people are open about that if you just ask them or share your own experiences.

What is your advice to a new mom that you wish you had been told or prepared for?

I wish I had known that the sleep deprivation that you have during the newborn year really never goes away. Being tired becomes your new normal! My kids are 4 now and I still wake up several times a night because I think I hear them. I think being a mom has totally changed my biology.

Have you ever experienced ‘mom shaming’ or felt judgement from other mothers regarding your parenting?

I’ve never experienced ‘mom shaming’ in person. Sometimes I might feel like I don’t do enough for my kids, that I’m not creative enough or I should find more hours in the day- but that is all pressure I put on myself.

What was the hardest part about becoming a mom?

I always thought I was tough as nails, but being a mom has made me a total softie. I cry at the dumbest stuff, and I hate crying! Perfect example – watching the joy on my kids’ faces the first time they went to Disney on Ice made me tear up. How lame is that! It’s been hard adjusting to the fact that being a mom really does change you as a person. Your life focus changes, some of your relationships with your friends change, but in the end it’s all worth it.

What was the best part about becoming a mom?

I was never one of those women who always knew they wanted to be a mom. In fact, when I first met my husband I was sure I never wanted to have kids, and that was just fine with him. Imagine his surprise when he was on deployment and I told him that when he came home I wanted to start a family! But even on my hardest days I have never once regretted my decision to have kids. My twins are the loves of my life – I can’t imagine my life without them and I wish time would slow down so I can enjoy these years where they actually want to hang out with me!

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