I have a love/hate relationship with writing the Smarty Mom article. I love when I get to interview someone who has done some incredible things in their life and every single person I have interviewed for has fit this mold. I hate when I interview someone that doesn’t think they are incredible because they haven’t climbed Mt. Everest or given a stranger a kidney. Kristen didn’t want to be interviewed and within 10 minutes of the interview turned it around on asking me questions. But, that is just one of the million things I love about Kristen Williams. She is the most humble and caring person I may have ever met. Within the first 5 minutes of meeting her, I realized that I might actually like this person. (And it’s hard for me to click with women so that was rare.) While she is an amazing mom, wife, friends and co-worker… she is quite possibly one of the funniest people I know. Her humor is dry and sometimes inappropriate which rings a bell with me. She will also take a bullet for anyone she knows, as well as strangers and I’m sure will break for animals. I dig the stink out of this girl and look forward to getting to know her more, kidney donation or not.
Meet the awesome sauce of Kristen Zimmerman Williams.
Smarty Mom: Kristen Williams
Children: Two girls, Kaylin 8, Leah 6
Husband: 11 years married to Rob Williams
Years in Charlotte: Concord – 10 years
Neighborhood: Winecoff Hills (downtown Concord)
Hometown: Graduated high school in Charlotte, NC (Providence Senior High School); born in Dayton, OH
College Alumni: UNC – Chapel Hill
Occupation: Torrent Consulting, People Director
Tell me how you and your husband met and eventually made the move to Concord? Rob and I attended UNC-Chapel Hill at the same time but we didn’t start dating until we were both living in Charlotte after graduation. A mutual friend introduced us – there was a group of us that would hang out all the time and I have very fond memories of those days. We lived in Charlotte for a year after we got married and then he dragged me to Concord. Rob is from Concord and was also working here for Wachovia at the time. Cost of living was more affordable and we also thought Concord would be a great place to raise a family. Honestly, it was a tough transition but I have come to appreciate life in a small town.
Tell me about living in Concord. For someone living so far down South, that seems like a universe away. I moved around a lot growing up. I lived in 6 different towns/cities, but none of them were small. So when we moved to Concord, I had a lot of concerns about life in a small town. What I discovered is that Concord has a lot to offer. And no, I’m not talking about Concord Mills (not that I don’t love the J.Crew outlet…). Social and charitable opportunities are endless. And Concord has a ton of fun traditions that make it unique – like the kid-friendly Christmas parade followed by the adult-friendly Oyster Roast. For our girls, Rob and I love that we have a great variety of schools here – private, magnet and charter. Our girls currently attend a STEM Elementary school 2 miles from my house.
If we’re being honest here, I have to confess that I miss the amenities of Charlotte – specifically shopping and dining. And I’d give my right arm for Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods in Concord. But these are all just things – and the life-long friendships we have built in Concord are better than a package of Joe-Joe’s any day.
Tell me about some of the causes that you are involved in and why? We mostly support local causes here in Concord. We are actively involved with the local Boys & Girls Club and the Cooperative Christian Ministry. As a parent, we want our children to learn the importance of giving back – and we want them to understand the difference one person can make. My second-grader and two of her friends recently completed a canned food drive for a project at school – they collected almost 1000 pounds of food. For my husband and I, this made us more proud than any report card she could bring home.
You chose to stay home with your family for 8 years and then decided to go back to work. How has that experience been for you? What are you learning about yourself? For me personally, there was never a question of whether I would stay home with my children. The ultimate question was for how long. My children and husband have been and always will be my number one priority in life. What I didn’t realize until I went back to work is that even though my family is my number one priority and I love them dearly, I was not completely fulfilled. It was amazing to me that taking care of the most important thing to me (my family) was not enough to make me completely happy or satisfied. Torrent Consulting is a special company – the founders believe in helping employees discover their purpose in life. The founders are very supportive of life outside of work – we are truly a small family of people that honestly enjoy working together. For these reasons, and thanks to the support of my husband, transitioning back to work has been relatively simple. (Shameless plug…we are hiring! Check out our job opps at www.torrentconsulting.com!)
You have 2 daughters and your oldest daughter is reaching those pre-teen years. How are you handing the social media aspect as a parent? And how are you trying to raise a daughter in this society now that so much has changed?
This seriously keeps me awake at night. That and ‘The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon’. The thought of being responsible for guiding two girls through young adulthood is terrifying. So much of being a pre-teen and teen is the same as when we were young… awkwardness, drama, dating. And yet, so much is different – social media, bullying, greater academic pressures. My main focus has always been on my husband. I feel strongly that he is the key influencer. My theory is this: if the first man they love and adore teaches them what it means to be and feel strong, beautiful, caring, smart and giving – then they will settle for nothing less from anyone else – especially boys. I want my girls to leave my house every day not needing validation from anyone else but feeling strong and self-assured. It is what we all want for our children… and if anyone has the magic potion for this, let me know.
Who are your role models? In some ways, a lot of my friends and family are my role models – I have discovered that in both my personal and professional lives, I am surrounded by people who have amazing stories. Single parents. Friends who have endured unimaginable loss. Friends living with chronic pain or illness. My husband’s cousin passed away from brain cancer about a year ago. The way he lived his life – especially the 7+ years when he was living with inoperable brain cancer – and the grace with which he passed is something that will live in my heart forever. His wife Courtney is also a true inspiration to me. Despite everything she has been through, she is not bitter or sad – her deep faith gives her a strength and peace that is hard to describe but amazing to witness.
What do you and your husband like to do in Charlotte on your date nights? I commute to Charlotte for work and Rob commutes to Mooresville, so usually our date nights are local. We have a great Italian restaurant – Gianni’s Trattoria – 1 mile from our house. The bartender knows our favorite drinks and the waiter knows our favorite dish – this is the part of living in a small town that I love.
What are some of your guilty pleasures? Sour Patch Kids. Walking up and down every aisle of HomeGoods. The Today Show. Staying in my PJs late enough that it would be really embarrassing if anyone came to my door. Margaritas. SNL. Maroon 5.
What is your summer plans to stay busy as a family? Work. Camps. Beach. A trip with friends. Apparently, it has been my daughter’s lifelong dream to have a summer “Nanny” so now that I am back at work, her wish will finally come true. (Side note: Nothing like staying at home with your kids for a few years only to have them tell you they dream of having a nanny. Always good to feel appreciated.)
What topics in the news do you feel get too much attention? How about too little attention? Honestly, I don’t watch the news. It is so incredibly depressing – and inevitably, there will be a story not appropriate for little ears and I will find myself trying to explain what “genocide” is before I even have two eyes open in the morning. I do love NPR – and enjoy the more informative, uplifting stories they share with me on my commute to work.
What should get more attention? Education, and especially our underpaid, underappreciated teachers. What should get less? Overpaid, over- appreciated professional athletes. Can we swap the salaries of the two?
What is something about you that would surprise people? I graduated college a semester early and spent 6 weeks traveling in Australia and New Zealand.
What are two of the products in your life that you can’t live without? My Ninja blender for my daily smoothies and my face wash. I can count on one hand the number of times I have gone to bed without washing my face.
What is your biggest pet peeve? Only one? This is an article in and of itself. If I had to pick one: Waiting. I’m a “cross it off my list” kind of girl and I can’t stand spending time in waiting rooms. (Noisy eating – slurping and gulping especially – is a close second.)
What is the first thing you think about when you wake up in the morning? When are my children going to learn the art of sleeping in?
What is the hardest thing you have ever done? Physically, run a half-marathon. Emotionally, say good-bye to a dying loved one. Most of us have done this. Nothing can prepare you for this. There are no words to describe it.
And maybe being interviewed for this article…