Tag Archives: working women

A Woman’s Work: Samantha

Samantha is my baby sister, but she’s not a baby anymore.  She is thirty, a new mom, and an entrepreneur, although she probably hates that term.  Sam was born when I was just shy of my 8th birthday, so I’ve always thought of her as little.  She’s not though, she’s a full-fledged grown up.  (She probably also hates that term!)  It’s really amazing from my perspective as the big sister to look at how she’s made these unexpected and really cool decisions about what she’s going to do and how she’s going to do it.  She just impresses me. 

She’s not necessarily doing something she expected to do, but she’s doing something she loves — which is way more important.

1) What is your job?

I am a new mom, and also one of the owners of a restaurant called Dillon’s Local in downtown Plymouth, MA.

2) How did you wind up in that job — was it something you always wanted to do, a career change, etc?

I double majored in history and political science at Umass Amherst — and I have the student loans to prove it — but after college I worked for years as a bartender and waitress.  I was employed at so many different places, and always thought I would eventually leave the service industry, but I was having fun and not ready to stop doing what I was doing and look for a 9-5 job.  I figured I would use my degree eventually, but the longer I worked in restaurants and the more I learned the intricacies of the business, the more I fell in love with it. I did not, however, love working for absentee owners or in huge restaurants with way too many employees. While working at a nearby bar & grille, I met my now-fiance, Colin.  Together we decided to try this whole restaurant thing for ourselves. For years we essentially ran bars and restaurants for other people…so we figured, why not do it our way?! 

3) What other jobs have you done in the past?  What was the path that brought you where you are now?

In high school I worked at Dunkin’ Donuts, then during and immediately after college I worked at low-paying or volunteer internships and I substitute taught for a while.  But I always had the bar industry as a fall back — it’s hard to walk away from leaving work with cash in hand and switch to waiting for a paycheck!  I worked at small bars, huge restaurants, dives, fine dining establishments, and everything in between. One year I worked at at least five different places. I was sick of bouncing around, and so was Colin. So we worked together and saved up all our money and took the risk!  We are now co-owners of our own place (along with our Head Chef), and we work for ourselves and do things the way we think they should be done.  But, just to complicate our venture, I found out I was pregnant about one month after we opened our restaurant.  Surprise!  Colin and I had to shift gears a bit — we went from opening a business and a follow-your-dreams mentality to working for something even more important: our son.

4) What do you love about your job?

I love everything about my job — both jobs!  I love being a mom, even though it’s still new to me. John Francis is only 7 months old so I am definitely still learning.  My outside job is the most rewarding one I could have ever imagined for myself.  I never thought I would be a business owner, but it suits me (and Colin) well.  I get to socialize and talk to my friends and strangers all day.  I get to run a restaurant with my partner how we think it should be run.  It’s nice not to have to follow someone else’s rules.  We get to be creative and we get to set the standards ourselves.

5) Have you faced any challenges/struggles to get where you are today?

I was broke for years after college! I’m still broke, but it’s for a good reason now. Money is always a struggle, but when you do something you love it doesn’t seem to matter as much. Bouncing from job to job was torturous. Working for someone else was never what I wanted. I do not like to be bossed around!  So now that I get to make the decisions, I am much happier.

6) Has becoming a parent changed your perspective on work?

Becoming a parent has changed my perspective on everything in life!  Gone are the days when I came first.  Now everything I do is for my little guy.  I’m still up all night, but it’s a much different scene.  I went from a pretty carefree existence to one that is way more worthwhile and I wouldn’t change a thing. 

7) What advice or inspiration can you give to other women — about anything — jobs, work, family, parenting, life in general — what do you want other women to know?

I’m new to the whole mom thing, but so far I think the best advice I’ve received is to RELAX.  I’m going to mess stuff up in work and at home, and it’s going to be okay.  I’m still struggling to balance my schedule, so I’ll take any advice I can get on that!  I’m pretty much winging it…but so far it’s going pretty well!

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Sam is managing a crazy new life in a pretty chill way — in the course of a single year, she became a self-employed business owner AND a new mother.  But she is happy and content and confident and it’s so clear that she loves her life.  Even when things get stressful, she gets over any momentary freak-outs, straightens up, and moves on to make things work.  And you know things can get stressful when you’re running a business and taking care of an infant!  (In my highly unbiased opinion, though, John Francis is basically one of the sweetest and cutest babies ever to grace the face of the earth, so that has to make things easier!)

The thing that makes me happiest reading Sam’s words is this: “Money is always a struggle, but when you do something you love it doesn’t seem to matter as much.”  It is absolutely true that doing something you truly enjoy makes all the hardships worthwhile.  And I love seeing my sister so happy and so fulfilled. 

And you guys, Dillon’s Local is seriously awesome — right on the water in Plymouth, MA, it’s a cool, cozy, unpretentious place and the food and drinks are seriously AMAZING.  They’ve already won awards for best local bar and been featured in the Boston Globe and at the Phantom Gourmet Food Festival at Fenway Park in Boston.  So not only are Sam and Colin happy, they’re also killing it in a very competitive industry.  I’m so proud of them both.  If you’re ever in Plymouth, MA, you should totally go eat there.

Thank you Sam for taking the time in what I know is an insanely busy life to answer these questions!

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Do you know someone I should interview for “A Woman’s Work”? Shoot me an email at

jessica@littlenestingdoll.com and let me know.

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A Woman’s Work: Alexis

Alexis and I were roommates in college.  She is one of those women who always seems to know what she’s doing and is confident and calm in all her decisions.  Since we graduated, she’s done some pretty amazing stuff — she’s lived in Japan, Manhattan, and Istanbul and traveled all over the place.  She spent a summer traveling alone in Turkey, where she met the man who was to become her husband, then had one of the coolest weddings on earth that Matt and I were so lucky to be able to attend (which included my favorite wedding story ever).

Alexis is smart, chic, and strong and she uses her talents and her grace to create a new generation of thinkers, readers, and writers.  Read on… 

1) What is your job?

I am a teacher.   Currently, I teach high school English in a private school in Istanbul, Turkey, but I started my teaching career in the New York City public schools.

2) How did you wind up in that job — was it something you always wanted to do, a career change, etc?

When I was very young, I used to “play teacher”: I would line up all my dolls, get out my own small chalkboard, put on my pink plastic glasses (because that gave me more authority, of course) and teach my class.   A few of my elementary school teachers even gave me the teachers’ edition of textbooks at the end of a school year when they were changing books for the following year, and those spiral-bound pages with all the answers inside became some of my prized possessions.

As I entered university, though, I really was not sure what I wanted to do as a career.  But I knew I loved reading and writing, so deciding to major in English was an easy decision.   For a period, I entertained the idea of going to law school after college, but I soon realized that my heart just was not in law.   This did leave me wondering what to do when I graduated (even once graduation was upon me)!

3) What other jobs have you done in the past?  What was the path that brought you where you are now?

My mom jokes that I have been working since I was 10 years old, but that’s not too much of an exaggeration really.   Over the years, I have been a candy store clerk, gardener, dog sitter (which really amounted to watching “The Price is Right” with the dog during the day while his owners were at work), nanny, catering sales assistant, and a waitress.

After I graduated from university, I needed to earn money and, still doubting what profession I wanted to devote myself to, I took a job as a waitress (at Boston’s famous Cheers).   It was good fun, low stress and the hours were flexible, but I wanted to do something more.   I applied to work in a language school in Japan and was offered the position, so for one year, I taught English to children and adults with varying degrees of English proficiency.   It was a great adventure that introduced me to life as an expat, with all its thrills and frustrations.  

It was during that year in Japan that I decided that teaching was, in fact, what I wanted to do professionally and so, upon my return to the States, I immediately started pursuing that goal.   I applied for the New York City Teaching Fellows program and was accepted; soon, I was immersed in intensive training, teaching 8th grade and studying for my Master’s degree at the same time.   In those first six years, I taught at two different middle schools in New York City.

Then I took a solo trip for most of the following summer break.  On that trip I met and fell in love with my now-husband.  Soon after my return to New York, I applied for a job near him, then packed up and moved again, this time to teach in his native Turkey.  I am currently in my sixth year of teaching here in Istanbul.   

4) What do you love about your job?

There are many things I love about my job, but the biggest one is the connections that I make with students.   I enjoy so much when students stay after class to chat about the lesson, or about something else going on in their lives.  When I was teaching in New York, I regularly had students who stayed with me in my classroom for lunch rather than going to the cafeteria, and even though I sometimes wished I could take a break, I appreciated that they wanted to be there and I enjoyed getting to know them outside of class.

I also absolutely love those moments when students are engaged and getting it and taking the lesson even further than I had intended.   Yesterday, for example, a few students in my 10th grade English class got into an unprompted, lively debate about Prospero’s motivations in Shakespeare’s The Tempest.  While other students were telling them, “Okay, that’s enough,” I let it go on because that is exactly what we are hoping for as teachers: that we can lay the groundwork for students to access and engage with a text or topic, but that they will then develop their own ideas about it.   Here are kids who groaned about reading Shakespeare, who are reading it in a foreign language, and they were now having a thoughtful debate about some of its central themes.  Those are the moments when I love my job most.

5) Have you faced any challenges/struggles to get where you are today?

When I first started out as a teacher, I was also taking classes in the evening for my Master’s degree.   It was a two-year program and those being my first two years of teaching, it was exhausting and stressful.   I was also teaching in a school that had only recently opened and I was not only the lone 8th grade English teacher there, I was also the first 8th grade English teacher the school had ever had.   That meant I had to design the curriculum from scratch, so I spent endless hours outside of school planning lessons and gathering resources.   Since my school did not have a library and much of my curriculum depended on students having access to a wide variety of books on their independent reading levels, I also spent time going to secondhand book shops and book fairs to buy books for my students.   On top of those challenges, the school also had no deans, no established discipline procedures and lots of discipline problems.   It was a real baptism by fire for me, but I think it helped shape me as a teacher.

I was also living in Manhattan, which is notoriously expensive, and trying to survive – and have fun – on a teacher’s salary was no easy task in the Big Apple.    

6) Has having children changed your perspective on work?

Before I had a baby, I never thought I would want to be a stay-at-home mom.   Fast forward to 16 weeks after my little girl was born and I had to go back to work full-time and I was longing to just stay home with her.   Nothing other than our little family felt like it mattered at that moment and I just wanted to be there to teach her everything and witness her every milestone.  I felt so sad to leave her because I knew I would miss her so much during the day, but I was also sad because I felt like those 4 months when I was on maternity leave would be the last time – perhaps ever – that we would be able to spend every day together, just the two of us.   That was a very depressing thought.   I can now fully appreciate all the Superwomen I know, who juggle so many things personally and professionally.   And all the stay-at-home moms.   I have been back at work for 4 months now and I have adjusted to the situation a bit more, but I still run home at the end of the day, scoop my baby up, and plaster her with kisses.   

7) What advice or inspiration can you give to other women — about anything — jobs, work, family, parenting, life in general — what do you want other women to know?

I am a new mom, so the advice that is on my mind right now about parenting is this: read, listen to friends and family’s advice, but then really listen to your own instincts and to your child.   I have already found myself getting caught up in the differing approaches to everything parenting — from breastfeeding to sleep training to introducing solids — but when I come back to listening to my own instincts, it seems to make so much more sense.

And forge strong female friendships because those will get you through the tough times. 

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Basically, Alexis is brave and independent — she took a solo trip to Turkey, met and fell in love with her husband, and transplanted herself across the world to make that work.  Istanbul is an amazing city, different from anywhere else I’ve ever been, so living there must be an incredibly unique experience for an expat.

Alexis also truly loves her job and I cannot think of many careers more influential on the future than that of a teacher.  She is literally shaping the minds of the future, teaching kids to think and comprehend and apply what they’ve learned to their own lives.  And I can also tell you that Alexis does all that with a calmness that is truly impressive.

Out of the whole amazing interview, though, the last line struck me hard: “And forge strong female friendships because those will get you through the tough times”.  I’m so lucky to have Alexis as a strong female friend that I can rely on!  If nothing else, as a mother and a woman, you need those friends that you can turn to when you have questions or complaints or worries or, even better, fantastic news to celebrate.

Thank you Alexis!

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Do you know someone I should interview for “A Woman’s Work”?  Shoot me an email at jessica@littlenestingdoll.com and let me know.

A Woman’s Work: My Story

To start this new column off, I thought I better be willing to answer the same questions I’m posing to the amazing women who have already agreed to talk about A Woman’s Work. I tried really hard to answer the questions as though I were being asked by someone else and I hope that’s clear in my responses.  Interviewing yourself is hard, you guys.

Matt asked me the other day what the point of this column is, and it’s a good question.  My hope is that in writing about the work women do, I can showcase the many, many roles that women fill, I can tell the stories of women who do some really cool and important things — whether those jobs are high-profile and glamorous or down-to-earth and close to home — and I can maybe offer inspiration to any woman looking for it. 

So without further ado…A Woman’s Work, with Jessica Rushing.  That’s me.

1) What is your job?

In addition to writing here, I work as the Communications Director at the national non-profit The Officer Down Memorial Page.  ODMP is the largest law enforcement memorial in the United States, honoring the more than 22,000 law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty in U.S. history.  My role is to manage all aspects of ODMP’s communications, from social media to blog posts to outgoing emails to website content to donor letters to coordinating internal and external fundraising events to writing product descriptions for merchandise we sell in our online store.  We are a small organization, so everyone who works with ODMP kind of picks up tasks and roles as they come along.  I’ve been with ODMP for two years now and I truly love my job.

2) How did you wind up in that job — was it something you always wanted to do, was it a career change, or something else entirely?

ODMP is an organization I feel really strongly about supporting; when I was in high school, my aunt’s brother, who was a Massachusetts State Trooper, was murdered in the line of duty and that event had a huge impact on me at age fifteen.  In early 2015, I had been working as a freelance writer for a while doing product descriptions and web content for clients here and there.  Matt’s cousin has worked with ODMP for years as a graphic designer, and when the Director of ODMP started talking about needing a social media/communications manager, she recommended me.  When I heard about the position, I was pretty set on working for the organization and was so honored and excited when I got the job.

3) What other jobs have you done in the past?  What was the path that brought you where you are now?

I graduated from college in May of 2001 and got a job working for a PR firm in Boston.  My first day of work was September 10th, 2001.  My second day of work was 9/11.  In the aftermath of that tragedy, advertising and PR firms took a huge financial hit–understandably so–and by early November of 2001, I was laid off. 

Before that even happened though, I knew that I was going to change my career trajectory — within a week of 9/11, I had started researching enlisting in the military and talking to recruiters.  I enlisted in the Army as a reservist on December 7, 2001.  I went to Basic and AIT in 2002, then went to the Defense Language Institute in January of 2003 to study Russian.  While I was there, I met Matt, got married, and got pregnant with my first child.  I took a medical discharge from the Army in 2004 just before Bridget was born.  When Matt got out of the Army in 2005 and we moved to Virginia, I began working as a Defense Analyst for a government contracting firm outside D.C., first full-time, then part-time after Owen, my third child, was born. 

After we had our fourth child, though, and my paycheck barely covered the cost of day care, it made more sense for me to stop working.  I struggled with being a stay at home mom, so I started a small business teaching mommy-and-me yoga classes.  I did that for a few years, but when Quinn outgrew the class, I closed down the business.  Then I started working freelance as a copywriter/editor.  And then I got the job with ODMP.

All along, though, I’ve been writing too.  Although I would never have called myself a writer until probably pretty recently, I have been writing my whole life.  It’s sort of how I figure things out, how I process my feelings, how I interpret the world.  So writing this blog has become a form of self-care where I get to talk about my kids and my life and stuff that matters to me in a way that lets me really be honest.  Plus I love that I have this record of what our little family has been doing for the past few years.  Without it, I would probably forget half of what happened.

4) What do you love about your job?

I love that my job is flexible and allows me to both work from home and work from anywhere — when I interviewed for the position, I told my boss that there was a distinct possibility that we would be moving to Europe within the year.  He said that as long as they had WiFi where we moved, it wouldn’t matter.  That willingness to have me work from anywhere was huge — it lifted a massive potential burden right from the start.  I have complete control over my schedule, too, which means that I can plan work around travel, which we do a LOT now, and around the kids’ events.  It gives me the freedom to be a good mother and have a fun life while still doing work I really care about.

I also love that my job is so varied; I listed the things I am responsible for above, but that list changes all the time.  As I said, because we’re such a small organization, everyone who works with ODMP sort of takes on tasks as they come up.  I really love the people who I work with.  My boss is very cool and laidback.  He started this organization while he was still in college and has made it into a national memorial.  Plus I work with Matt’s cousin, who I love, and get to talk to her all the time. 

Most of all, though, I love that the work I’m doing makes a difference.  There are thousands of people who visit ODMP every day either because they lost a loved one to a line of duty death, or they want to support a good cause, or they work in law enforcement and line of duty deaths is a topic that really hits home for them.  To know that my work matters to those people, makes a difference for those people, is fulfilling in a way that not many jobs are.

5) Have you faced any challenges/struggles to get where you are today?

When I stopped working when Quinn was born, I struggled mightily with my own self-perception for literally years.  “Stay at home mom” did not fit in to my self-identity and I had a lot of trouble reconciling the role I was living with the ideas I had in my head; it was just really difficult to adapt to a new way of life and a new way of seeing myself.  I felt really frustrated for a long time;  after years and years of working outside my home and feeling at the end of the day like I had “accomplished something”, it took a lot of effort to adjust my expectations.  I felt like I spent every day in constant motion, taking care of my kids, cleaning up the house, cooking and food shopping and running errands, playing games and reading books and being a mom, but at the end of each day I felt like there was nothing really to show for it.

I loved that I was home with my kids and I truly enjoy spending time with them and being a completely hands-on parent 24/7.  But it took a lot of time to get to a place where I was also happy with myself.  Matt always tried to help me and support me and I know he appreciates what I do/did as the person mainly in charge of running the household, but I had to get to a place where I was okay with that being my main role too.  That took some work.

In truth, I think where I am now is a pretty ideal situation.  I have a job I love that allows me to also be present for my kids pretty much constantly.  I also have time to write, which I’ve realized is a necessity for me.  And I get to travel and live this cool adventure while still working in a role that I feel makes a difference and has a positive effect on the world.  I can’t ask for much more.

6) Has having children changed your perspective on work?

Becoming a mother is, without question, hands down, the best thing I ever did.  Having children changed my perspective on EVERYTHING.  Had I not had kids, I think I would happily have been a career woman.  Being a “working woman” is part of my self-identity, so I could see myself pretty easily having taken that track.  But having had kids, I can now see how they’ve made me a better person all around, and that being a mother has also made me a better worker. 

I am smarter about organization and time management because having four children forces you to figure that stuff out.  I am more aware of the massive struggle that most mothers face when it comes to choosing how to work and balance parenting.  In fact, I think that if the U.S. could just get better at making it easier for women to work AND have kids, the whole country would reap the benefits.  And I am more attentive to the fact that whatever job I do must be something that matters to me; I don’t want to waste my precious time on a job that I don’t care about. 

Having kids also makes me aware that the example I’m setting will shape my children’s views on women and work for their whole lives.  I need to be a role model for my daughter so she knows that she can do anything she puts her mind to, and I need to be a role model for my sons so they grow up to be the kind of men who, like their dad, know that women can and should do anything.  I have to show them how it’s done so they can go out and do it.

7) What advice or inspiration can you give to other women — about anything — jobs, work, family, parenting, life in general — what do you want other women to know?

First, figure out what you love and what matters most to you and make that what you do, whether you build a career around it or a hobby around it, find something you love and make sure you do it as often as possible. 

Second, know you can have it all, you just can’t have it all at once

And third, travel — seeing new places and new ways of doing things opens you up to new possibilities in every part of your life.

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And that’s it, you guys.  What do you think?  What else do you want to know? 

If you know someone I should interview for this column, please send me an email at jessica@littlenestingdoll.com.  I promise it’s easy and fun!

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