Occupation: RN, lactation consultant, owner of Magnolia Lactation
Children: Sean, 15; Xander, 9; Logan, 7; and Siobhan, 6
Hobbies: crocheting, knitting, reading
Being a single mom of four children sounds like an intimidating role, but this month’s Mom Next Door has made it her superpower. Amanda Western is intentional about balancing her job as a private-practice lactation consultant with her job as a mom. Oftentimes, the littlest things mean the most, like having one-on-one time with each child, discussing their interests, and taking them all to the bookstore. Amanda is also a proponent of gentle parenting and being gentle to yourself as the parent, as her job has helped her understand that each parent is doing their best for their child–even if their “best” is not your own.
WHAT DOES A NORMAL DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?
AMANDA: One of the big reasons why I wanted to work on my own was to build the day around my kids. That way, I can be with them in the mornings; I get up early, make lunches and breakfasts, and make sure my teenager didn’t sleep in and miss the bus. Then I take the other three kids to school. For work, I do home visits mostly, about three times a day. After I drop the kids off, I map out my home visits and go from home to home. If I have time, I’ll grab some coffee and catch up on charting.
I usually make it home by the time the bus goes home. We do homework and try to keep the chaos down to a dull roar. I wanted to make sure that we eat dinner together every night, and, weather depending, we’ll take a walk afterwards to burn off some energy. When the kids get settled, the little ones pick out a chapter book to read, then I use the rest of the time to be with my teenager, finish up my charting, work on blog posts, and homework for my nurse practitioner classes.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE JOYS AND CHALLENGES OF RAISING YOUR CHILDREN?
AMANDA: I think my favorite part is seeing how their personalities develop; when you’re pregnant you kinda start thinking, “this one is way more active,” or, “this one has a routine.” You see these little traits play out from when they are really small to when they are a lot bigger. For example, my seven-year-old is obsessed with turtles and tortoises and wants to be a marine biologist, and he has a very specific routine. My 15 year old is like, “I’m not really sure,” but I know he’s gonna do a lot of good things for other people.
As far as challenges go, there is only one of me. Even if it’s just movie night on the couch, everyone wants to sit on me. Sometimes I feel like there’s not enough of me to stretch out. I’m really trying to fit in those one-on-one times with them every day.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF AS A MOM?
AMANDA: I’m not originally from here; I went to college in northern California, so I’m a little bit of a hippie mom. I really like gentle parenting and all the stuff I made fun of before I had kids. The biggest thing for me is to help my kids understand themselves and the big feelings they have. I’m a conscientious mom too because I know what they’re watching and who they’re talking to.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE THING TO DO WITH YOUR CHILDREN?
AMANDA: I really like when we just pick an activity when we have a day off and I can turn my phone off and do something with them. They love going to Barnes and Noble; it’s all about just getting out, doing something with them, and seeing them get excited about things that are probably pretty simple.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT BEING A MOM?
AMANDA: It goes back to seeing how they develop. I love having those connections with each kid. It’s so different with each one, and I love just talking to them and hearing their point of views. We’ll talk about their futures and imagine what they’re gonna do when they’re older. I also love seeing my kids enjoy each other and knowing they’re there for each other.
WHAT HAS PARENTHOOD TAUGHT YOU?
AMANDA: It has taught me not to say “never.” There was a whole list of things I said I’d never do because I like to structure and plan, but you cannot do that with kids. It’s taught me to be a lot more in the moment.
WHAT ARE SOME THINGS YOU HOPE TO TEACH YOUR CHILDREN?
AMANDA: My biggest hope is for them to be able to look at other people with kindness. We talk about that every day; it’s so easy to make a judgment on someone when you have no idea what they’re going through. It’s important to take that pause and realize the other person is a human, too. I also want to teach them to value each other so they’ll grow up to maintain their good relationships.
WHAT IS SOMETHING YOUR JOB HAS TAUGHT YOU ABOUT PARENTING?
AMANDA: I get to work with families now, and one of the biggest things my job has taught me is there are a million different ways to be a good parent. When I was pregnant with my oldest, I thought there was only one way to do everything, but really there are so many different ways. You’re the expert on your child. I think that’s hard to realize because we aren’t always sure we’re making the best decisions. I see parents making the best decisions for their kids every single day, and it’s different from other families but best for that specific kid.
HOW DO YOU TACKLE ANY CHALLENGES YOU FACE AS A MOM?
AMANDA: I have an older sister, and that’s probably why I want my kids to have good relationships with each other because I talk to my sister every day. I call my sister to talk it through, plus she parents differently than I do, so it’s a good perspective to have sometimes.
WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU COULD TELL YOURSELF WHEN YOU FIRST BECAME A MOM?
AMANDA: I would tell myself to let go of those rigid expectations and to trust myself a lot more than I did. In the back of my head, I knew the right decisions, but I second guessed myself. Now that I have a few years under my belt, I learned to do what’s right for my family.
HOW DO YOU MAKE TIME TO RELAX?
AMANDA: It does not always happen, honestly. I have to schedule it when I notice I’m getting to a point where I’m stressed and need to block off time to go to bed early one night, go for a walk, take a bath, or talk with a friend.
WHAT PERSONALITY TRAIT OF YOURS DO YOUR CHILDREN ALSO HAVE?
AMANDA: Sarcasm runs deeply in my family, and they have all picked up on that quite well. Inquisitiveness and curiosity as well–I always want to know how something happened or was created, and I tend to try to research it to find out. I think my kids have taken after that, too, and I hope they apply it in their own ways.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR OTHER PARENTS?
AMANDA: My advice would be to reach out for support from the start. That was something I did not do with each kid. I needed help and was like, “I don’t want to bother anybody,” so I didn’t reach out. That’s the first thing I’d want a new parent to do, whether it’s calling a family member or friend or seeing a professional counselor or pelvic floor PT. Find someone who will help with issues you’re having.
My favorite TV show is…Psych.
My favorite dessert is…tiramisu.
My favorite food is…soup of any kind.
My favorite holiday is…Christmas.
My guilty pleasure is…too much coffee.
The first thing I do when I wake up is…making coffee.
I’m always laughing at…my kids’ jokes.