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Confessions of a Working Mother

candy duncanToday’s guest post was written by Candy Duncan, who is the mother of three adult children and grandmother of seven. She retired in 2012 after 22 years as the Executive Director of the Carson City Convention and Visitors Bureau. She currently works as the marketing and sales coordinator of the V&T Railway’s newly restored tourist railroad from Carson City to Virginia City. This time of year finds her working her dream job: The Candy Elf at the Polar Express, running through the 22 of December. Candy also serves as a volunteer board member for Advocates to End Domestic Violence and the Carson Valley Pops Orchestra. Her number one passion is planning adventures with her grandchildren, followed by travel and golf.

working momYou never seem to get enough sleep.  The laundry is never done.  Finger prints cover everything.  What are you going to fix for dinner?  What are you going to wear to work?  Are you ready for that meeting?

I am writing this because I feel compelled to speak to the young moms out there who are struggling with their dreams of a successful career and a happy healthy family, wondering if having it all is really possible, or even worth it.   I can look back on those days fondly now, from the vantage point of being a survivor.

I had a great career, I traveled to places I never would have seen on my own, met some amazing people, accomplished many things that I know made my community a better place to visit and to live and along the way I raised three  incredible children;, two daughters and a son.  I also had a partner, my husband, who shouldered his share of the parenting duties while I was working, which made all of this much easier.

Did I have any second thoughts about my career path?  You bet!  I felt guilty when I missed my children’s school events, or stayed late at work for a yet another meeting and got home after they were in bed.  It was difficult to pack up and head for the airport, knowing I was missing valuable time with my family that I would never get back.  Fast food dinners, too much pizza, sleep deprived, short tempered… guilty on all counts.    I tried to be as present in their lives as much as I could when I was home, and I cherish those years and my memories of our adventures together.

They were great kids, but they weren’t perfect.  We had our share of troubles, of teenage angst, skipping school, meetings with counselors, and a dark period when the ugly specter of drug use entered our lives.  It was hard and it broke my heart and I always, always wondered “would this have happened if I had been a stay at home mom?”

But we survived.  They grew up to be impressive hard working adults, creative and career oriented, with healthy, happy children and I couldn’t be prouder of them, which brings me to why I felt I needed to write this post.

Out of the blue I opened an email from my oldest daughter that contained an essay she had written for a mentoring program that she hopes to join.  I was stunned and touched in a way that I never expected when I read her words.  But let her speak for herself.  Here is her essay:

There have been a few key people in my life whose inspiration has proven to be invaluable in shaping the person I am today, the most important of whom is my mother.  As a child, I watched my mother get ready for work every morning. “She’s so beautiful,” I remember thinking.  My mother is beautiful. She balanced a big, important, demanding job and raised three children as if it was simple. She never forgot to kiss us before she left for work, even if she had to chase us a bit before we surrendered and fell into her embrace.  She traveled weekly for her job, and though we did not see her every day, we knew she was always thinking of us and never questioned her love or parental commitment.  Even at a young age I could tell how much my mother loved her job.  It made her happy, it made her whole.  Her career fulfilled her, and even though it kept her away from us at times, that fulfillment seemed to make her a better more involved mother when she was home.

As I grew older, she went to great lengths to ensure that I knew no boundaries as a female.  She would banish stereotypes every chance she got, even refusing to let me take a home economics class in middle school, because she felt it was demeaning. She made sure I felt as if the world was mine for the taking. Through her own lifestyle, she inspired me to pursue every dream I had, every hope, every wish. She showed me that a smart, ambitious, career driven woman could have everything she wanted.   I wanted to be just like her.

Today, as a mother of three with my own blossoming career path, I can happily say that I owe a lot of it to her.  She gave me the courage and strength to be able to strive for what I desire.  She gave me the confidence to accept my failures and shortcomings and learn from them.  She proved to me very early on that being a mother does not mean you have to sacrifice your aspirations or your passion.  She taught me to be strong willed and careful minded, and to live with purpose.  She taught me that the best things in life are worth working hard for, and the feeling of accomplishment that follows is like nothing else on earth.

Thanks to the loving guidance of my mother, I am now confident and driven with a clear set of career goals of my own.  I am currently finishing my first full year as the Director of Guest Experience, and plan to learn and grow in this position for a couple of more years. My passion is food, beverage, and hospitality, and this new role has proven to be an excellent stretch, taking me out of my comfort zone and challenging me in ways I never knew possible.   My five-year plan is to become a director of food and beverage, and during this time, I wish to take and pass the Court of Master Sommeliers Certified exam.  I am very interested in continuing my tenure with MGM Resorts International well into the future, and would love to be on the corporate food and beverage team within the next ten years.

Wow!  Every time I read it I am still amazed at her words.

It was all worth it.  It was so worth it!

So fellow working mothers, her essay is my gift to you.  Keep going, keep working, and keep loving your kids, keep doing the best you can.  It is working!  We are producing an amazing generation of women and men, who are strong, capable and nurturing contributors to our society.

Editor’s note: I’ve seen Candy at the Polar Express the past two years, and this year, her Christmas dress was absolutely stunning. I asked her to include a picture of her in her Candy the Christmas Elf costume, as it truly is spectacular! It lights up at night, too!

candy duncan 2


About Guest Contributor

Guest Contributor


  1. As I near my 34th week of pregnancy with my first child, this post could not have come at a better time. I have a demanding job and career that I am passionate about, lead a non-profit and want to always do more. In the last week I had been questioning my capacity and what my world would look like as a new mom. How I would feel going back to work and whether I could still live up to my own expectations of being a capable, dedicated career “mom”. I think this completely reaffirms my thoughts of, “Yes, it’s possible.” I am printing this out so it can serve as a constant reminder to me when things get out of control, and they most certainly will, that with my team of supporters and my own motivation it’s possible. Thanks for posting!

  2. What a great love letter from a daughter to her mom.

  3. Thank you for this!

  4. Wow! And Thank you. I had the pleasure of going to school with one Candy’s daughter! What an amazing gift to us, thank you. My kids are 9 and 11 and I often struggle with this issue, but I remain strong, happy and fulfilled!

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