At Home With: Carrie Parker
Photos by Emily Hart, www.ninaandbphotography.com
If you've been to a children's event in Oklahoma City in the past few years, you've probably run into Carrie Parker. Carrie's husband, Brendan, is one half of the children's musical duo Spaghetti Eddie, a band known locally to draw big crowds of kids. And in addition to being the band's biggest fan, Carrie is a mom and business owner.
Carrie and her husband, Oklahoma natives who briefly lived in Los Angeles before moving back to Oklahoma City 10 years ago, live in a 1954 ranch-style home in the Belle Isle neighborhood with their sons James (6) and George (4) and their two dogs: Murphy and Rio.
She describes her sons as "total opposites and the best things ever” but admits becoming a mom and building a career have been anything but easy. Carrie shared her experiences building a small business and a family, her parenting philosophies and how she’s working now to ensure her sons still want to hang out with her when they’re older.
What made you decide to move back to Oklahoma after five years in Los Angeles?
When we were out in LA, it was exciting and there was a lot of personal growth. But there's a hole there when you're far away from family. People who have kids in LA have to put so much effort just into daily life. A lot of the women there have nannies, they sit in traffic one to two hours a day. I wasn't willing to do that with kids. I wanted to be close to my family while raising kids so it was a natural transition.
You and Brendan co-own Always Greener, a synthetic grass company. What inspired you to start the business?
Synthetic grass was big in LA when we left. Oklahoma City is always a couple years behind trend-wise so I thought it might be a good thing to bring back. I've always been really interested in design, landscape and outdoor living and this business just made perfect sense. Our first two clients were huge. That really gave us the confidence we needed because my fear at first was just wondering if anyone was going to want this. But people were really open to it. We've done more than 500 yards now and we're getting a lot of calls. It's clearly taking off.
You had your first child, started Always Greener and Brendan started Spaghetti Eddie all at the same time. Describe that time.
The first three years of starting Always Greener were brutal. Imagine the most stressed out you could possibly feel. It took me about three years to balance it all out. James was born the year we started the company. Then throw George in there two years later. They'll never know how stressful it was, which is good. But we just kept our noses down and put our family first. You read about a lot of people who have successful businesses and they put their business first. So I was constantly questioning if I was doing the right thing in putting my family first.
I always pictured myself as a really hands-on mom. I always wanted to be a mom and a career woman. I call myself an in-betweener because I just wanted both. I would have to ask myself, "Are we going to be able to strike while the iron is hot if I'm putting my kids first?" It was really, really, really hard.
Around the same time, Brendan wrote a song for our goddaughter. Everyone loved it and encouraged him to make an album. We were putting a lot of effort into Always Greener, then his music was taking off. We had to consider where to put our energy. His music was well-received but it was very time-consuming. We also needed him with Always Greener and we needed him as a dad.
How do you find balance with work and family?
After I finally really defined the company's goals and my role, I was able to set my work schedule around my kids. They're going to school now so I work solid 9:30 to 2:30 and then I spend the rest of the day with them. As a mom, I can get so much more done than before. I can get nine hours worth of work done just in one morning. It was hard to manage at first but I can finally see the benefits and it allows me to be the kind of mom I want to be. It's good. I'm allowed to do both.
Looking back at all the stress you endured to be a business owner and a mother, would you do anything differently if you could do it again?
I'm really big on not ever regretting your past. There were a lot of hard lessons I really had to just learn myself. I was always told "progress not perfection" and "give more, receive more." Those were great things I always told myself. We took a lot of risks but it worked out and I wouldn't change anything. It humbled us, it taught us major life lessons. It set our priorities and values in place. You think you know your priorities but until you're thrown into something like that where you have to be really intentional, you don't know them.
How do James and George feel about their dad being in a band?
They really love it. They're quiet about it but then I'll have a mom tell me they overheard them telling their friends about how their dad can sing. They think he's so cool. Having these small children and him doing Spaghetti Eddie, it's been really healthy for our whole family. We meet really great people who put on these children's events where he plays and we get to meet other families. It's been really positive.
What's been the best and worst stage of motherhood so far?
The best stage is right now. I can finally talk to them and see who they're going to be. I take them everywhere so they're my little buddies. They're emotionally more connected and they're super fun. I can see how I might get a little sad when they're older and don't need me as much. When they were around 2 it was pretty rough. But honestly I think the hardest stage will be the teenage years. I'm already researching how to handle that. We might just move to a farm.
Do you have any tips for sharing a house with two young boys?
We're outside as much as possible. We built a little play workshop for them outside and they love being back there building stuff. For my own sanity, I keep toys inside hidden. All the toys are in containers and that's helped me. I like to walk into the house and feel calm and I just never could do that with toys everywhere. It's a small space so it helps it feel open and clean when the boys know their toys have a place to live. Also, they sleep together in one room and the other bedroom is their play room.
Do you have any advice for other people raising sons?
I was told by a mom once that for boys to want to hang out with you, you really have to take an interest in what interests them. So I've really tried to get into sports with them. We go on runs, we play tennis and a lot of soccer, go on nature hikes. I'm hoping these are things they'll still want to do with me when they're older.
What's your parenting philosophy?
I feel like I try to parent like my Mom did. I'm kind of old school about not letting them watch TV and stuff like that. I want them to be very comfortable outdoors, have good manners and be functioning young men of society. I want them to be independent and always feel really free. Chris Rock once said our biggest role in parenting is to equip children with everything they need to become successful adults. I think that's easy to lose track of when kids are small. But I try to remember that.
What's the biggest lesson you learned from your own mom?
We always felt really loved and we could come to her with anything. Still to this day I tell her everything and there's never any judgement. She's always rooting for me. She's my biggest fan. I want my kids to feel that way about me.
[Editor's Note: This interview has been edited for style and clarity.]