Steamboat Springs Luanne Feldmann loves being home. It's where little boys are superheroes, little girls play dress-up and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are the order of the day.
Feldmann knows what it's like to be away from home. She worked 10 years as a meeting and convention planner in Southern California and Denver before she and her husband, Charles, had their first child.
Now she's got three reasons to stay away from the office -- Chas, 5, Isabel, 4, and John Henry, 3.
She and her husband decided many years ago that she would trade her full-time job for full-time parenting. "I decided to stay home because I wanted to raise my kids," she said. "It was something that we decided to do, no matter what."
Feldmann doesn't regret trading handshakes and clients for hugs and Buzz Lightyear.
No matter how much she enjoyed her work, she was replaceable in the professional world, she said. Motherhood is different.
"It's the only role you'll ever have in your life where someone can't do it better (than you,)" she said.
Feldmann understands her choice to stay home with her children is not every woman's choice. Some women don't want to put their careers on hold. Others work because they must.
"It's a really personal decision," she said.
"It gets harder with time," said Cynthia Vaida, president of the Colorado Federation of Business and Professional Women and former chairwoman of the local BPW chapter.
Vaida estimates that working moms represent up to 90 percent of the Yampa Valley's membership. They face the same challenges that mothers faced in the workplace 20 years ago, she said.
Women want to give 100 percent to their dual roles and
sometimes fall short because they're going in two different directions. "We put on a very positive face all the time," Vaida said. "Women are to be given a lot of credit for giving their all to everything."
Peggy Mulvihill works six days a week. Exhaustion hits by Sunday.
"It's hard when you're tired," she said. "My daughter doesn't understand how much energy it all takes."
At one point this spring, Mulvihill taught high school students at Christian Heritage School, coached track at Steamboat Springs Middle School and worked at a sporting goods store -- all while trying to squeeze in quality time with her 13-year-old daughter, Megan.
She didn't have a choice. Living in Routt County comes with a hefty price tag, and Mulvihill is a single mother.
"A single mother feels guilty coming or going," she said. "When (you are) at work, you are worried, and when you are at home you need to do work. It can be relentless without the support of listening friends and a very centered spiritual relationship."
A child means putting off until tomorrow what could have been done today. Mulvihill completed her second degree after Megan was born.
She remembers graduation day.
"I was the only one in line with a baby," she said.
Juggling a job and children is not uncommon in the Yampa Valley, where both parents in 70 percent of two-parent families with children younger than 6 work. The percentage of working single mothers is higher, according to 2003 KidsCount statistics released by the Colorado Children's Campaign.
"You have a heavy working parent population," said Bruce Atchison, vice president of the Colorado Children's Campaign.
That creates a huge demand for quality child care, Atchison said.
Knowing their children are in good hands affords working moms some peace of mind, said Tami Havener, executive director of Discovery Learning Center.
Havener daily sees mothers who anguish over their decision to entrust their children's care to someone else.
It's an expensive and emotional choice. One month of care, five days a week, costs about $800, she said.
Day care can be taxing on mothers, who harbor guilt over their decision to work, and children, whose parents aren't around a good part of the day. "It's a difficult thing for a child and a parent," Havener said.
Some families go without certain luxuries to keep children out of day care, Havener said.
Parents are increasingly trying "convoluted" work schedules to cut down on child-care demands. Spouses work split shifts so at least one parent stays home with the children.
Knowing her children were in good hands soothed Kim Vogel's uneasiness about working.
She embraced the challenge of raising three children and moving through the professional ranks many years ago.
Today, Vogel oversees the Hahn's Peak/Bears Ears District of the Routt National Forest.
Her oldest son is married, and 18-year-old Courtney just graduated. Beau, 16, has a few years of high school left.
"The job demands a lot," she said. "It's not one of those 9-to-5 jobs."
Neither is motherhood. Work often takes Vogel away from home. "I've had to constantly be aware of what's going on and pay attention to my kids," she said.
She's grateful for husband Don's support -- and hindsight's invaluable lessons.
Vogel regularly stayed up until 2 or 3 a.m. when her children were younger to finish work around the house.
She wanted everything done so she could focus on her children in the morning before she left for work. But burning the midnight oil to spend more focused time with her children was an expensive tradeoff -- she was too tired to enjoy her children.
"I found out that you can't do all that," she said. "It's a hard thing to learn, though. For women, the expectation is that you have to do it all."
Child Or Career?
Psychotherapist Karen Post noticed a unique trend when she moved her practice from Los Angeles to Steamboat in 1991.
Her female patients didn't feel guilty about putting their children in day care or regret forgoing their careers to stay home with their children.
They struggled with having children at all.
"I see a lot of women up in Steamboat who are choosing not to have children," Post said.
Local women, particularly those in their 30s, wrestle with giving up their active lifestyles for the pleasures and pains of parenting.
They worked hard to establish themselves in a resort economy and worry that children could cost them what they worked so hard to achieve, she said.
Their concerns reflect a national trend.
Women are increasingly delaying or forgoing childbirth altogether to pursue careers and other interests.
The decision to wait doesn't come without guilt.
Post's patients often feel selfish for playing instead of parenting.
And regret often sets in when a woman discovers that she has waited too long to have children.
"They've bought into the myth that it's never too late," Post said. "It does get too late."
Sue Birch had her first child when she was 29.
She left behind the corporate world to stay home with now-13-year-old Katie and 11-year-old twins, Connor and Emi.
She didn't return to work until Katie was 5 and the twins were 2.
"I am in complete awe of these moms who can go back to work after six weeks," she said.
Her timeout from business suits and morning meetings wasn't permanent.
Today she directs the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Assoc-iation.
Women who want a career and children shouldn't fear the repercussions of having children, she said. Birch thinks it's unfortunate that many professional women who held off on childbirth to concentrate solely on their careers discover late in the game that they waited too long to have children.
Women shouldn't feel like they have to choose between career ambitions and maternal desires, she said. They can have both.
"I hope women aren't afraid of the challenge," Birch said. "They're (children) an amazing gift. It's the best adventure I've taken."
More Than Money
Susan Ogden was teaching full-time when she lost her first child. The miscarriage changed her perspective about work and family.
When she and her husband, Clay, learned she was pregnant again, she decided to cut her workload in half.
"The financial piece isn't the only piece to consider when you're looking at raising a family," she said. "No one else is going to raise your kids like you."
Today Ogden is one of a few teachers in the Steamboat Springs School District who teach half-days.
She takes over her class of 22 third-graders at Strawberry Park Elementary School at 12:45 p.m. Her children, Hannah, 10, and Sam, 8, head to her classroom at the end of the school day to work on homework while she prepares for the next day.
Ogden doesn't like to bring work home.
"When I leave school, I'm Mom," she said.
Job sharing cut the Ogden's daycare needs in half when their children were younger and now gives Susan time to volunteer in Hannah and Sam's classrooms.
There are still days Ogden wishes she could do more.
"I'm not an ubermom," she said.
She knows the extra time with her children won't last forever.
Finances likely will dictate that she eventually return to full-time teaching.
Feldmann also has thoughts of returning to work when superheroes, dress-up and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are childhood memories. "When (my children) are grown, I don't think it will be difficult."
That day will come faster than she would like.
Though she sometimes misses the things she could do before she was a full-time mom, Feldmann has no regrets about her decision.
"I may have given up my freedom," she said, "but in the process I found myself."