FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Motherhood: A Rewarding Priority

with Sandy and Ken Calwell | July 9, 2015
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If a job is worth doing it's worth doing well. That's what Sandy Calwell thought when she decided to stay home with her son instead of pursuing her career as a media executive. Sandy and her husband, Ken, talk about her transition from media guru to full-time mom.

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  • About the Guest

  • If a job is worth doing it's worth doing well. That's what Sandy Calwell thought when she decided to stay home with her son instead of pursuing her career as a media executive. Sandy and her husband, Ken, talk about her transition from media guru to full-time mom.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Sandy Calwell decided to stay home with her son instead of pursuing her career as a media executive. Sandy and her husband, Ken, talk about her transition.

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Motherhood: A Rewarding Priority

With Sandy and Ken Calwell
July 09, 2015
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Bob: Sandy Calwell had a new baby boy and an offer for a job—the job she had always dreamed of. So, she got ready to juggle.

Sandy: I really didn’t know any stay-at-home moms. All the other women that I knew did both. I don’t think I really thought too deeply about the idea of it. We had discussed it, and I thought that that was probably the way that we should go. I was going to try it; but in the back of my mind, I thought, “Well, I’m going to give this a good couple-years’ run and see how it goes. I’m not really expecting it to be that much.” 


Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, July 9th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine.  Sandy Calwell had never stopped to consider that she might choose to stay home and be a mom. We’ll hear today how she wrestled with that choice. Stay tuned.

And welcome to Family Life Today.



Thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition. You know, based on what we have already heard this week from our guests, I’m just guessing there have been a lot of interesting moments in this relationship. Wouldn’t you think?


Dennis:  [Laughter] They did say they had a lot of stories. [Laughter]  Well, you heard earlier on the broadcast—you heard the story of Ken and Sandy Calwell—a most unusual dating relationship where Ken started leaving a rose outside on Sandy’s car after each church service for six weeks. He built up from one rose to, finally, six roses.

It’s a great story because Sandy turned the tables on Ken—had him investigated—found out who he was, and then, left her card on his windshield. Then, he gave her a ticket; and then, finally, gave her the invitation to get married—along with a 90-day invitation—


Sandy: —timeline.

Dennis: —to prepare for the wedding. The rest, as they say, is history. Ken/Sandy, welcome to the broadcast.

Sandy: Thank you, Dennis.

Ken: Thank you, Dennis.

Dennis: It is a great love story, no doubt about it. Sandy is the author of a book, What if Parenting Is the Most Important Job in the World?: 20 Lessons You Want to Teach Your Own Children. She’s had ten years in the broadcast television industry. She’s a full-time wife and mom, and they live in the Portland area.

You had a great career going as you started your marriage and this blue-eyed, handsome guy swept you off your feet. For a couple of years, things went pretty well; right?  You were just continuing to climb the corporate ladder; right?

Sandy: Well, like I said, we got married; and about nine months later, we ended up moving. I worked for a short time at a different station, right before that happened.

Dennis: Right.

Sandy: But yes, moving to a different market meant I had to look for work all over again—that started the process again.


Bob: And when he came home and said, “They want to move me to Dallas,”—you were living in Wichita.

Sandy: Well, it was funny. He actually—the way I found out is—I came back from a sales call. I went back to the station that I was working at, and my boss was standing at the back door. He goes, “So, you’re moving to Dallas?”  I just looked him; and I go, “What!” because the news department had already heard about it. They heard about it before, really, Ken even had a chance to talk to me about it.

Dennis: Well, there was a reason why they’d heard about it first—it made news.

Sandy: Right.

Bob: This is Pizza Hut corporate headquarters moving from Wichita, Kansas, to Dallas, Texas.

Sandy: Dallas, Texas; right.

Bob: Do you remember how you got the news of the transfer?

Ken: Well, I got it on the radio.

Bob: Really?!

Ken: Yes. Basically, what happened was the news department got a leak on it—found out about it. I had just come back from—out looking at test markets for Pizza Hut—had landed at the airport, gone back home, and turned the radio on. I heard, “Pizza Hut moves its headquarters to Dallas.”  I called the headquarters and I said, “I think I just—



—“did I hear this?”  The PR guy had his day full that day, and he confirmed it for me.

Bob: Was there any question, at that point?  Did the two of you talk about: “Should we stay in Wichita?  I’ll find something else to do around here. You’ve got a good job at the TV station.”  Did you have that conversation; do you remember?

Sandy: I don’t think it was really ever a thought because, I think, pretty early on, it was easy to see that Ken’s career was doing really, really well. Even as happy as I was, and as well as I was doing, really, I just couldn’t compete with what Ken was doing. Really, just as leader of our family, even as new at it as we were, it just seemed real—I don’t know. I don’t think we gave it a lot of thought. I think it seemed just reasonable that we would do this.

It was unfortunate that it had to happen as quickly as it did. I think we had 30 days to respond to it. But, you know—when they skimmed the top executives out of there and we all moved to Dallas—to a certain degree, it was kind of an adventure because we had just been married.



I had been in Wichita—I loved Wichita—but I had been in Wichita my whole life. Moving to Dallas sounded fun.

Dennis: Right.

Ken: And I think, too, Dallas is a huge media market.

Sandy: It was.

Ken: It has that reputation. So, I think there was a little bit of an, “Oh, boy!”  Sandy was a very strong performer within the Wichita market—so, I kind of the thought of, “She’ll probably do well in finding a position there as well.”

Sandy: Yes.

Dennis: So, you left your business card at the top ABC affiliate; right?

Sandy: Yes, I put résumés out everywhere in Dallas.

Dennis: You had the ladder—the corporate ladder—that you were climbing. You still had it leaning against the wall, at that point; right?

Sandy: Yes. That was the direction I was heading.

Dennis: You moved there; and six months later, you get this phone call of really a phenomenal job offer.

Sandy: Yes.

Bob: Had you been working somewhere else in the six months in between?

Sandy: No, I had not. We had just moved there / we had built a new house. Really, six months—for anybody who can appreciate moving, it goes pretty quick—there is a lot to do.

Bob: Did you like not having to get up and go to work? 


Sandy: No, I mean, I think it was good that we were busy enough with everything else; but I missed it. I was busy interviewing—so that was a job in and of itself. It was me just getting out and meeting folks and—

Bob: But you were itching to get back in the game.

Sandy: Absolutely; absolutely. I was working, full-time, at getting back into the industry.

Bob: Before you get the call about the job opening, you got another little call—this one in the form of what I would imagine was one of those little white sticks?

Sandy: No, actually, I just went in for just a normal—just a normal checkup. She came out of the office and said, “Do you realize you’re pregnant?”  I go, “Really?”  She goes, “Well, yes.”  “No, I had no idea.” 

Bob: You guys weren’t trying to get pregnant / you weren’t not trying?  What was going on?

Sandy: We weren’t not trying—

Bob: Okay.

Sandy: —but I guess didn’t realize it was going to happen quite that quickly.

Dennis: So, were you excited, at that point?

Sandy: Oh, yes, absolutely. I was thrilled, but—


Dennis: Did you immediately go to the career-thought, though, as you found out you were pregnant?

Sandy: I think that I had just assumed, at that point, that all the other women that I knew did both. I really didn’t know any stay-at-home moms. I don’t think I really thought too deeply about the idea of it. We had discussed it, and I thought that that was probably the way that we should go—

Dennis: Meaning to stay home?

Sandy: To stay home. I was going to try it; but I think, to be completely honest, in the back of my mind, I thought, “Well, I’m going to give this a good couple-years’ run and see how it goes. I’m not really expecting it to be that much; and I’ll probably jump back in, at some point.”  I think that’s really where I was, at that point.

That’s really where the book kind of came out of—is that fact that I was just so pleasantly surprised at how rewarding staying at home was, and how much of the gifts and talents that God gave me—



—that I think made me good in broadcast sales—translated to running a home and raising a child. I could take all that energy and focus it on something that was far more important. I think this book comes out of that whole idea that I was wrestling with the decision and not having a lot of resources to help guide me through it.

Dennis: Ken, as a husband, and now as a new expectant father, how did you handle the news?

Ken: First of all, incredibly excited that we were expecting a baby and thrilled with that. At the same time, yes, I think there was a little bit of a—you know, at that point in your marriage, you’re starting to know each other pretty well. I knew how important career was to Sandy. It’s interesting. The very first thing I learned about Sandy was actually back at that church that I met her in—the day that she became a new member—it was Sandy Totten. One of the very first lines—you have two lines to describe yourself—



—and the line she used in there was “media professional executive”—it talked about her career. That’s how she—that was a big part of how she defined herself, at the time. So, I knew this was going to be challenging—I didn’t know how challenging.

I think, like a lot of things in life, it was really a journey. Sandy could talk about it far better than me. But I think it was, at the time—once she made that decision that she was going to stay home—to me, it is like, “Decision made”; you know?  What I didn’t realize was that was just the beginning of a journey that she had to fully—maybe, at the time, it was a decision more in her head, and it had to become a decision in her heart.

Bob: Right. Sandy, I have to ask, “You had already determined before your son was born that you were going to, at least, try this stay-at-home thing for a while.”

Sandy: Correct.

Bob: I’ve talked to so many moms—who have had that experience of the baby is born/ placed in their arms—



—it’s transcendent / it’s an epiphany. It changes everything; doesn’t it?

Sandy: It does.

Bob: What do you remember about that?

Sandy: Exactly like you said. I mean, you can never expect what happens to you—it’s just a change of heart. A friend of mine told me, when I was pregnant, she said that, “You think that you love Ken as much as your heart can hold,”—now, I’m going to get emotional [emotion in voice]—she goes, “But when you have a child, your heart expands; and somehow you have this capacity of loving even greater.” 

I didn’t understand what she was talking about, but it does. It happens instantly because, as soon as you see that little baby—or even back it up to when they start kicking you or you see them on a sonogram or something—I’m still amazed. I look at my 15-year-old’s size 12 feet, and I think, “That’s the same little foot that kicked me in the ribs.”  It brings you to tears because it’s so precious!



It does—it just changes your heart / changes your focus. To that degree, it makes it somewhat easier.

But once you’re in the thick of having a newborn at home, and you feel like you don’t have an owner’s manual, and you’re not living in a town where you have friends and family nearby, you’re like: “What am I doing?  I didn’t go to school for this. I have a little boy. I come from all sisters. I don’t know the first thing about it, and I’m going to really mess this up!  I don’t want to mess this up. I want to do this right because I don’t know how many chances we’re going to have at this.”  As it’s worked out, we had one—we didn’t know that, at the time.

Dennis: Sandy, just speaking back to what you’re talking about—the emotions of that baby being placed in your arms, as a mother—someone has said, “A child is a mother’s heart walking around outside her body.” 

Sandy: Yes. And you still feel that way, even when they’re grown, I’m sure.


Dennis: Oh, no doubt—no doubt about it. Then, it becomes grandchildren—so, it really is a—

Sandy:  Right. You’ve got a lot of heart going around!

Dennis: You’ve got a lot of heart going around. But there is the reality of moving from the corporate community, where the payoffs are instant and sometimes immediate, to now beginning to build into the life of a human being—that is like a forest—it takes a long time before you see the fruit of your hands.

One of the things you mention in your book—you have 20 lessons you want to teach your own children. It’s interesting—the first one begins with yourself—you said, “Lesson Number 1: Our Work Is Not Who We Are.” 

Sandy: Right.

Dennis: “Our Work Is Not Who We Are.”

Sandy: It may be I’m writing that book for myself; you know?  I’m reaffirming—

Dennis: Did you go through an identity crisis?  Did that happen?  Ken was talking about you being goal-oriented. There’s a lot of parenting that doesn’t fit into three objectives and wrapping things up at the end of the day.

Sandy: No, and I think—



—I write in my book about there was one of those moments, where we were applying for the house loan. They have it on the line—what your occupation is. Well, I’ve never not had an occupation to put down. I’m just sitting there, kind of stammering like, “Ah, what do I put down?”  The lady leans over; and she goes: “You know, you stay at home—just ‘homemaker.’”  She goes, “That will be fine. Just put ‘homemaker.’” 

Somehow, it just seemed so dismissive; you know?  I sat there; and I was like: “Whoa, okay. That’s who I am now. It may not be who I am 20 years from now, but it’s who I am now.”  It was kind of a moment like: “Alright, well, if that’s who I am, then, I need to give it my all. I need to figure out what I’m doing and how I’m going to do it.” That’s when I went in search of—because I’m a big reader—I went in search of materials out there that would help me navigate this new role—



—because like Ken said, whatever the goal is, I’ve got to figure out quantifiable, measurable ways of getting to it or I feel like I’m lost. I went to the library / I went to bookstores—and perused them quite a bit—and could not find anything.

Dennis: You’re speaking now of books—

Sandy:  Books, yes, anything—

Dennis: —that speak to women who have—

Sandy: —that were having that decision to make—that were walking away from that kind of a life and trying to reinvent themselves and redefine what their purpose in life was.

Dennis: Even though there are an increasing number of women who are doing this.

Sandy: Absolutely, but 15 years ago, I think that—at least, my impression was that the culture was still not quite there yet.

Bob: Well, 15 years ago, the books I remember are the books that said: “You can do this!  You can be in the boardroom every day, and be a great wife and a great mom, and raise your kids.”

Ken: Supermoms.

Dennis: Yes.

Bob: I’m sure you had some thought, “Maybe, that’s what I’m supposed to be doing.”



I mean, you had said you were going to give this stay-at-home-mom thing a try for a while.

Sandy: Right.

Bob: Was there a period when your son was six months, or a year, or two years when you started thinking, “Maybe, it’s time to get back in the game”? 

Sandy: Actually, no. I think it became—like I said, I had these goals set up; and I had given myself two years. I’m glad I gave myself two years because, if it had been less than that, I may have done that very thing. But I knew I needed some breathing room. I needed to step away from it in a long enough period of time, where it would give me a perspective; and it did. At the end of two years, I was already committed to what I was doing.

Bob: Ken had a good job—was doing well. You guys weren’t financially-pinched.

Sandy: No.

Bob: But at the same time, you had to stop and think, “You know, if I was making some decent money here, we could accelerate our lifestyle a little bit.” 


Sandy: Oh, yes.

Bob: Did that factor in on some of this?

Sandy: It’s tempting—I mean, it’s very tempting. You see how much money you can make in certain arenas. Broadcast sales can be a very lucrative position. It was tempting because it was difficult for me to switch gears from providing for myself to having—being—what I felt was being provided for. Even though Ken, from the moment I met him, it was all about “us,” “us,” “us,”—“our money” / “our plans”—and “What is mine is yours,”—it took me a while before I could really adopt that, truly in my head, because it just felt like I wasn’t contributing. I thought, “If only I was making this kind of money, think of what I could do and we could do.”  It was just so wrong-minded. I don’t know—I was just so trapped in the way that I’d always thought.

Bob: Yes. There is also the sense that, if you’re in the workplace, at the end of a month, you can look back and say, “This is what I did,” and, “Here’s the scorecard,” and, “I succeeded this month.” 


Sandy: Yes. That’s where a lot of the frustration came, early on, as any parent can attest—is when they’re little—and the toddler years, in particular, were a challenge for me because I’m like, “Am I making any difference here?”

Bob: “These are the diapers I changed. Look at here—wow!”

Sandy: Yes, it just didn’t seem like you were—the checks on my list were not very many. I had a lot that I wanted to accomplish, and it didn’t feel like I was really doing that.

Dennis: Ken, as a husband and a provider of your family, what coaching tips would you have for another husband/father as he’s attempting to love his wife, and really care for her, and maximize who she is?  What would you say to him?

Ken: I think it’s a couple of things. One thing is listening really well—really listening and trying to understand where she’s coming from on things. I think, also, it’s easy to come home from work—



—and you haven’t been there all day—you haven’t been there all day. I think it’s easy to come, right from work, and be in that mode. So, I think a tip is just being able to come home—and in your trip home, if you can stop and think a little bit about: “Okay, what’s her day been like today?  Where has she been?” Try to guess what her day—where she’s coming from. So, when you walk in the door, you’re trying to think: “Get in her world as soon as you can. Try to understand what she did today,” and “What does she think are the high points and low points?” and things like that. It’s having a time, between work and home, to think about that so, when you come in the door, you’re asking questions—not telling her about you. [Laughter]

Dennis: Yes, exactly. I think what most men really miss is—they miss the power of words—that they can esteem their wife and the mother of their children for the value of investing in the next generation and investing in our family and children.

I remember, on more than one occasion, I’d come home, and I’d find Barbara—



—it was the equivalent of her being tied up in a corner by the kids. They had mugged her, emotionally, and had gotten the upper hand. She just needed someone to say: “You know what, Sweetheart?  You’re doing the most important job in the world. You are investing in our children. Thank you for keeping our home a place of peace,”—even though, at points, it may not seem like it, with a family—but “Thank you for investing in the next generation.” 

I think a man needs to realize, with his wife, he has to esteem her because the world is not going to applaud her rescuing a two-year-old from throwing a fit on the floor.

Bob: No, but of course, our focus ought to be, not on what the world will give us accolades for, but on: “What will honor and please God?  What is it He’s called us to?”  That’s where you’ve got to wrestle with the decision: “What are you going to do, as a mom and as a family?  How are you going to make this work once you have kids?” 


Folks may come to a conclusion that is different than the one Sandy came to. There may be circumstances in your life that are very different; but it does help, I think, to have the wisdom and counsel of others who have wrestled with this decision to try to decide what is right for you to do.

And Sandy has written a book that’s called What if Parenting Is the Most Important Job in the World?  It’s a book that walks through how she processed the choice in her life. We’ve got copies of the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go to and click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER.”  You’ll find Sandy’s book there; and you can order it from us, online, if you’d like.

Again, our website is Look for the link that says, “GO DEEPER,” to order a copy of Sandy Calwell’s book, What if Parenting Is the Most Important Job in the World?  You can also call to order. Our toll-free number is 1-800-FL-TODAY—1-800-358-6329.



That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.” 

You know, I was just recently with a friend of mine. His daughter and new son-in-law had just come back from one of our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways. He was smiling—he said: “After the event, the couple came over to Mom and Dad’s house. They sat down, and they were talking and debriefing.”  He said, “My daughter could not quit talking about the getaway—what she’d learned and the things she’d realized.” 

He was smiling and laughing as he was telling the story; but then, he looked at me and said: “I’m just so grateful for FamilyLife. I’m grateful for all that you guys do. I’m grateful that there is a Weekend to Remember to send my daughter and son-in-law to—to help them get pointed in the right direction as they start their marriage together.” 

And this friend, by the way, is somebody who I know is also a financial supporter of this ministry.



He is somebody who has said, “I am grateful for what you do, and I want to express that gratitude in a tangible way.”  Of course, that’s encouraging to us because, as a listener-supported ministry, we couldn’t do all that we’re doing without folks, like you, who pitch in, from time to time, so that FamilyLife Today can continue. We’re grateful to have you as part of the team.

If you’d like to make a donation to help support this ministry today, you can do that by going to Click the link in the upper right-hand corner of the screen that says, “I CARE,”— make an online donation. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Make your donation over the phone. Or you can mail a donation to us, if you’d like, at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR. Our zip code is 72223. And we’re always encouraged when we hear from listeners. So, “Thanks,” in advance, for getting in touch with us and for whatever you’re able to do in support of this ministry.


Now, we hope you can join us back tomorrow when we’re going to go in a little different direction in our conversation with Ken and Sandy Calwell. We want to hear about an event that took place in Ken’s life—I think this was before the two of you even met—but this was a life-altering / actually, a life-threatening event—and we’ll hear about it tomorrow. Hope you can join us back for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.

Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.


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