At some time in your life you probably were asked, “What do you what to be when you grow up?” Deciding what you want to do with your life is no doubt one of the most important decisions you have had to make. Maybe you had a few ideas of what you would like to do and maybe that final decision worked out for you. Some do, some don’t.
For Kelley resident, Sally Bartlett, the decision on which direction to take her life took place when she was attending high school in Clinton in 1995.
“I was always good at math and I was really interested in how roads were constructed and city planning,” said Bartlett. “I found it interesting concerning the logistics of road placement. There is lots of research that goes into road placement regarding the environment and restrictions.”
Bartlett decided to attend Iowa State University and study civil engineering. During that time, she was able to obtain her degree and begin an internship with the Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) in Ames. She passed her civil engineering exam on the first try and when the IDOT had an opening she was able to work in her dream field in the road design department.
She was on her way to her dream career. With just a couple of years into her dream job road bumps in her road design took her on turn in a different direction career wise.
“I met and married my husband, Joel, while in engineering school,” tells Bartlett. “Joel was studying mechanical engineering. Not long after we got married I was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes. In 2005, while still working at the IDOT and dealing with diabetes, our first child, Reagan was born. I was trying to work 30 hours a week.”
Bartlett explains that she became a working mom, she ran the household and then Grant was born. Still working 30 hours a week, it became a lot harder with two children and child no. 3 on the way, taking children to day care, she admits that she had a meltdown one morning.
“Life changes,” she said as simply and direct as that. “I went to work crying and told my supervisor that I needed to quit my job and I needed to quit right now.”
Although she didn’t quit that very day, she knew that somehow she needed to slow down.
“Joel and I looked at our priorities and we wanted our children to feel secure,” she explains. “We were never seeing them, dropping them off at day care and working all day. We always made sure that we all sat down to our family dinner at the end of the day. We all just needed a slower pace of life.”
Sally became a domestic engineer. Staying at home with now five beautiful children, ages 4 to 12 years, her days are full of a different kind of road design. Her road development falls into her children’s lives and not the highways and byways running around central Iowa.
“My days consist of managing the laundry, the cleaning, cooking and baking most days,” she said. “Activities, sports, music, band and church activities which include all seven of us can be a juggling act.”
Meal preparation that would include something that everyone, especially five children, would like could take an entirely different degree.
“They are good eaters,” she said about the Bartlett children. “I try to fix meals with food that there is something on the table that they will eat. If you are a picky eater in our home, you need to be able to find something in the meal that you like.”
Getting four of the five children to school on time, (Caroline is the four-year-old not in school yet) involves time management.
“They all go to the school in the Ballard Schools,” she explains. “We carpool with a neighbor to get them all delivered to different schools and then they all ride the bus home together. Once they all get in the door after school it’s constant talk. They all have ‘talking time’ and they all have something to tell me. Sometimes, if the weather is nice, Caroline and I will walk up the road to meet the bus and then we all walk home together and talk. It’s such a valuable time after school.”
Bartlett said it’s important that they are able to be around their children as much as they can to give them proper direction in their young lives.
“I am so fortunate that Joel has a good job so I can stay at home with our children,” she shares. “I felt that I could not train them, or be able to Shepard their hearts. As a parent I need to be around them especially when they are little.”
Moving from road building to building children is a challenge in itself according to Bartlett.
“Challenges with children change as they grow,” she added. “When they were babies and small children it was very physical, like carrying them around. Now the challenges are changing from physical to mental. With different ages come different challenges.”
Making a life decision to give up, even temporarily, your career to stay home and be a stay at home mom wasn’t a decision made in a hurry.
“I spent at least a year, that’s a long time thinking about giving up my career to stay home with our children,” she explained. “I thought about what we would have to give up with just one income and I needed to put my priorities in order. And it was the right decision to invest my time in their young lives. I just wish that I would have done it sooner.”
Giving up one thing to get another? You bet. Worth it? Yes, again.
“Yes, we have had to give up certain things,” Bartlett concluded. “But we are happy to do what we do in order for me to stay home.”
Many of the roads that you may travel in your personal life don’t have to be the ones that you literally helped to build. In the case of this Civil Engineer taking the road to becoming a Domestic Engineer was the choice that actually defined many futures. The road to and from the Bartlett home in rural Kelley wasn’t built by the engineer that lives there. The wellbeing of the children living there was built by love and skills to enhance the growth and success of those children.
I don’t have a “9 to 5”, I have a “When I open my eyes to when I close my eyes”!