Sarah Brown wants to go to Mars. Every day, she gets to move her team a little closer to that goal, making her a REAL Rocket Mom in Huntsville. We asked Sarah to share more about her parenting and professional adventures – she truly inspires us, and we think she’ll inspire you too!
My passion is STE(A)M – science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. The Arts are a new addition to the acronym, but so integral to the entirety of the process. I am fortunate to serve as the Chief of Staff to the Boeing portion of the Space Launch System rocket, where Boeing is partnering with NASA to take humans into deep space.
Since my background is mostly arts oriented – I’m a product of the Huntsville City Schools Performing Arts magnet – I’m in a unique position to utilize both the sciences and the arts and help others recognize the collaboration. I LOVE my job and I’m so proud of the part that Huntsville gets to play in getting Americans back into space.
Initially, I was the woman who didn’t really want kids. Then I met and fell in love with a man who happened to have a darling boy from a previous marriage, so I softened my position on that. Instant family – just add Sarah!
After that, we had two MORE boys. Jack, my stepson, is now 19 and an amazing adult; Tony is 11 and my introverted, big-hearted intellectual; and Vinnie, 6, is a whirling dervish who is larger than life in every way. It’s been both fascinating and exhausting to have kids in every phase of development, but I’ve been blessed to have such diverse and entertaining children become such amazing little people.
Her Quest for
Balance Work-Life Management
I’ve actually started avoiding the term “balance”, because that insinuates that there has to be a precise methodology or you’ll feel off-kilter. I prefer to call it work/life management, because it’s an active process every day, and there may not be perfect answers.
For our family, my husband and I both work outside of the home and in fields that are not standard 9-5 jobs. (Real talk: Are any jobs standard anymore?) Constant communication and prioritization are necessary between us. We keep a family calendar in the kitchen that everyone is required to fill in with their own activities – rehearsals, trips, appointments – and every Sunday night, I cook dinner and we talk through the week ahead. But even the best laid plans can go south, so we make sure to keep the lines of communication open.
I’ve had someone say once that a marriage with two working partners can’t be 1.0 Career + 1.0 Career; work priorities shift, so it’s often 1.5+0.5 or 0.75+1.25. (Can you tell I work with engineers?) My husband might have a show that’s opening one week, so his needs take priority that week; my job might have a milestone event that needs extra attention, and then I take priority. It’s not so much balance as it is management – never-ending, and rarely perfect.
Her Rocket City Favorites
My kids are finally old enough that I don’t have to be awake the minute they’re up – and they’re early risers – so weekends are evolving a bit in my house. Lowe Mill is a favorite for us, as are the many greenways in Huntsville. My husband’s job – teaching Technical Theatre at Lee High School Performing Arts Magnet – usually has us in a theatre or running errands on weekends. (I have conveniently not mentioned the 5-7 loads of laundry, meal planning + grocery shopping, school projects, and work that somehow manifest EVERY. FREAKING. WEEKEND.)
Funniest Parenting Moments
Everyone who knows me on social media would agree that Vinnie is living his best life, but my favorite parenting memories are with Tony. Even as a young child, he was very quiet and very thoughtful, so when something came out, everyone listened. For instance, he apparently misheard a cartoon cowboy phrase when he was three years old and joined a large family dinner by announcing “HOWDY, F*CKERS!” Yep. That happened.
But the one memory that I share every time it comes around is when he was four and playing outside while I was cooking dinner. I heard him clapping and loudly cheering, “You’re doing great! Keep going! I’ll bet you’re going to win! Keep going!” and when I went to check on him, some random person was running down the street on their daily jog. Tony simply felt that it’s important to cheer people on when they’re doing something hard. (Smug parenting milestone? ACHIEVED.)
Sarah’s Top Parenting Tip
My favorite parenting tip is this: Catch the eggs. You’ll often hear me whispering to myself in times of turmoil Okay, Sarah: catch the eggs. I was once lost in chaos and bemoaning that I had too many balls in the air, and one of my mentors shrugged and said, “Balls bounce, Sarah. Catch the eggs.” It stuck with me.
When things are insane and you’re overwhelmed – figure out what the eggs are. Balls bounce: catch the eggs.
The Super Power She Wishes She Had
This answer was changed very recently, when I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis this July. All summer, we’ve been undertaking a serious medical procedure with Tony to correct a birth deformity. I cannot say this enough: my husband has been the rock that got us all through. As a teacher, he has summers free and was the primary caretaker for all of the kids while we underwent this major adjustment. The plan was always going to be that once school started back, I’d step in and take over. But in late June, I woke up one morning to find that I couldn’t feel my fingers. The numbness progressed to my torso, my vision went wonky, and by late July, I was formally diagnosed.
Part of my new normal is that I can’t be the 24×7 SuperMom. I can’t lift Tony’s wheelchair, I can’t work 16 hour days, and I have to actually eat healthy food on a regular basis. It’s been .. a struggle, to say the least. What I am currently working to develop as my super power is to Let People Help Me. When I announced my diagnosis, a tribe I didn’t know I had swelled up around me. Things just got taken care of. I didn’t have to ask.. which is good, because I never would. At work, my team stepped in and covered for me, taking things off of my plate without waiting for me to ask. At home, friends and family made sure we were fed and kids were taken care of. At the kids’ school, the entire faculty developed a plan and helps us daily.
I am the WORST about asking for help, so I’m reminding myself every day that it’s okay to be taken care of. That’s what a Village is all about, and the Rocket City understands the value of a good team.
Parenting Book Recommendation
Dr. Seuss, hands down. His books run the gamut of difficult topics, but in a light-hearted and accessible fashion. From racism (The Sneetches) to inclusion (Horton Hears a Who) to societal norms of beauty (Gertrude McFuzz), I’ve always fallen back on the simple text of my childhood.
Name the song you think of when you need to:
- Get your Gameface on: “Power” by Kayne or “Defying Gravity” from Wicked
- Recover from heartbreak: “She Used to Be Mine” by Sara Bareilles, “I Am Moana (Song of the Ancestors” from Moana
- Energize yourself:“Dog Days are Over” by Florence + the Machine, “Goodbye Earl” by The Dixie Chicks
- Let loose and have fun with your friends:“Alexa, play 2000s pop.” (followed by a lot of: Oooh, oh no, Alexa, next song!)
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