The job of being a working mom is tough business. For 97.5 WONE’s afternoon DJ, Sandra Miller, she’s learned that it’s all about relaxing and finding a happy medium. I got the chance to sit down and talk with this cool, rock-star of a mom and get her thoughts on parenting, the work/life balance and why she loves Akron.
AOM: Tell us a little about you and your family?
Sandra Miller: I married my high school sweetheart and we’ve been married for 12 this summer. We have three kids, a boy and two girls. Our oldest will be 10 in September; our girls will turn eight and six this summer. The boy is easy. The girls fight constantly (laughs) but I love them. My husband and I were both born and raised in Akron, in the Ellet area. We met in high school, graduated from Ellet High School, and we’re still in Akron today. I started in radio when I was a kid and at WONE when I was 21.
AOM: Why did you choose to stay in Akron?
SM: I like the community feel of Akron, the neighborhoods. You have these nice little neighborhoods but you’re still close to the city. You’re so close to everything. There’s just so much to do in the Akron area for families that’s so affordable, and I really love that.
When I was growing up, my parents didn’t have a lot of money. They owned their own business and things were really tight but we did so much. [We went to] all the concerts in the parks, and the art expos and the AARP truck that pulls up into Davenport Park…that’s what I spent all my time doing when I was a kid. I was always surrounded by entertainment and music and it was all free. And my mom would take me to the Akron Civic to the ballets and the plays; we would go to the theater and Weathervane and all of those things when I was a kid.
So Akron was just a really neat environment to grow up and in and it’s really cool that I can do all this stuff with my kids now. My kids know live music and theater and being outdoors in all the beautiful parks. The area offers a lot and we really, really enjoy the fact that we can take advantage of that stuff right in our backyard. Now, my brother and my sister both are out of state now and [Akron is] something they are so jealous of because they don’t have [what we have] in other areas.
AOM: What are some of the events that you can’t miss?
SM: I cannot miss the Akron Arts Expo. I love the homemade, funky, neat, unique stuff [offered there] and my girls are now really into that, too. I love the Taste of Akron. We do a lot of stuff at Hardesty Park.
The Home and Flower show. I’m a huge gardener and I love doing DIY stuff in my home on the cheap; putting some elbow grease into it and making my house unique to us, our home. So I always do the Home and Flower Show and the art expos and all that kind of stuff.
But the Taste of Akron, that’s one of those that it’s just my husband and I. We go and eat fancy food and enjoy music and drink wine. It’s a nice adult night out.
And we spend a lot of time at the Akron Zoo all year round, too.
AOM: Being a DJ, you probably get to experience a lot of cool stuff through your job that you can take your kids to.
SM: I do. My kids love the Pet Expo that [the radio station] does at Hardesty Park every year. They always try to convince us to bring home something cute and fuzzy and they did convince us to get a dog a couple years ago. So we now have a golden retriever running around our house in addition to our cats. So they love the pet expo.
But down at Lock 3 when we do Rock the Lock, my kids LOVE going down there for the free music. They love the music. They love to dance. They have that open field where kids can run around and play and just be crazy. So when I do Rock the Lock, my husband or my mom is always out on the lawn with the kids. And they’re just like, ‘Oh yeah, there’s my mom up on stage.’ They think nothing of it.
AOM: I wondered what your kids think of your job. I would think it’s pretty cool to have a parent who’s on the radio.
SM: I would think it would be really cool, too but my kids are totally unfazed for the most part. Now my son is nine and in just the last year he’s started to grasp the fact that ‘My mom has a cool job.’ He’ll say, “Do you listen to WONE? Yeah, that’s my mom.” (laughs) You know, it’s not a big deal for me and I don’t think its special but to see your son think its special kind of just renews everything for ya and makes it feel new again. So it’s kind of neat.
AOM: Is it hard to balance your job and being a mom?
SM: It is actually really hard. I worked the 7 to midnight shift for many, many years. So when I had my son, it was nice because I was able to stay home with him all day long. And then my husband came home from work, I handed the baby off and I went on to be the rock-and-roll DJ. And it was kind of neat because I didn’t lose myself. I could still be this fun, cool person [on the air] when at home I was covered in baby vomit and changing diapers. So it was wonderful working evening. And as we had more kids and they got older, I would take them on adventures all the time. We would go up to Memphis Kiddie Park for the afternoon. We would go to the Akron zoo for the day. We would go to the park and go hiking. We would just make a big mess in the yard. We had so much fun during the days. And we knew that at 4:00 mommy has to go and get cleaned up and daddy comes home and feeds them dinner while mommy goes to work.
But as they started to get older, working that night shift got a little bit harder. While we had fun during the day I could only stay for an inning and a half of the baseball game before I had to rush off to work to be on the air. I was missing some of the school plays and the musicals but I was available for the preschool parties. So it was a lot of, I’m missing this but I go to do that.
And then when they switched my shift [to mid-day in September 2011] my youngest was still in preschool and all of a sudden I couldn’t do the preschool parties and I couldn’t pick her up but I got to find out what it was like to sit with the kids and do homework with them after school and sit around the dinner table together and go to games and run them to practice. And then I looked at my husband like, this is what you’ve been doing all these years?! It’s insane. (laughs) And he’s like, yeah this is what normal people do. So I had a whole new appreciation for everything that my husband had been doing all these years.
And after switching shifts, all of a sudden, being married for 10 years, we had to really learn how to be married. We almost had separate lives that met up on the weekends so we had to learn how to parent together, instead of me doing my thing and him doing his thing. It was a very tricky thing that took us a little bit of time and we’ve really come a long way. It’s neat. And it’s messy. It’s not perfect but it’s perfect for us.
AOM: What do you do just for you?
SM: Every Thursday, for the last five years, I go to a meditation class. This started when my husband lost both of his parents about 22 days apart from each other. It was very stressful and neither one of us really handled it very well—just constantly bickering and biting each other’s heads off. So that’s when I started going to this meditation group at the Y. It was one hour where I could sit and do absolutely nothing. But it has turned out to be so much more, life changing actually.
And then the other thing that I absolutely love is gardening. Working out in my garden and digging in the dirt and creating something beautiful; I absolutely love that. And all the scents of the flowers and the bees buzzing; I get a real just sense of peace and satisfaction out of that. I get a high.
AOM: As a mom, what are you are some things you can’t live without?
SM: Since the iPhone came out I love the calendar. If it doesn’t make it into the calendar then it’s not going to happen. Because my husband and I can share the calendar and we know that this one has to be here and this one has to be there and to have all of that at your fingertips. Immediately. It makes life so much easier. And I never thought that I could love technology like that but I do.
AOM: Speaking of technology, how to you handle technology and your kids?
SM: I try to limit it but I’m not too extreme one way or the other. My children are so upset because I won’t let them have TVs in their room but I don’t want them vegging. Yes, there are days when the TV is on for or hours because mommas trying to get something done. It happens. But I do try to limit it. I do try to get them to use their imaginations. Get outside. Have fun. Read books. I think trying to find a happy medium really is a big thing.
I think it’s very helpful for the kids to know the technology so that they’re not left be hid but I don’t think that the technology should rule their day and dictate their lives so that they can’t function without it. I don’t want to raise idiots.
AOM: As a mom of three kids, a wife, a career woman—what is your advice to parents?
SM: I am not mother-of-the-year and I never claim to be, but to be able to just relax and realize that it doesn’t have to be perfect is really the best thing that I can say to somebody. Your kids are allowed to look like circus clowns when they go out. As long as their bodies are covered and they’re not going to hurt themselves…you really just have to relax.
And you have to allow them to do stupid things. Think of the stupid things we did when we were kids. I don’t want them to do those things but at the same time, in the back of my mind, I know they need to experience stupid stuff. So, I don’t want them to get injured and I want the stupid things to work out well for them but I really, just to be able to relax and just let them be kids and to not be so worried about everything being perfect.