Parent Interview- Holly (Gnewikow) Spencer

Today I am launching a weekly feature of a parent on The Stay-at-Home Sociologist. These features are in the form of an interview. Initially I am going to focus on mothers, inspired by a course I am teaching this semester called Motherhood.  I am interested in learning more about the philosophies and inspirations of parents, how they manage and parent for concerns about society and social issues, and their personal stories.


  Holly (Gnewikow) Spencer is originally from Danville, VA. She currently lives in Dickson, TN, with her husband, Jeremy, and two sons, Jude (11) and Liam (8). 


Biographical Information

I have a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and German from Lipscomb University and a MS in Molecular Biology from University of Maryland, so naturally my husband Jeremy (with a degree in English) and I own a coffeehouse, café, and catering company (, because that makes sense, right?  I also do use my formal education as an adjunct biology professor at Lipscomb University. We have been so blessed to be able to build a business working together, doing something we love and being a part of the community we live in.  In our spare time, we love to travel, whenever and wherever, kids in tow!



What it is easiest about parenting?  Loving your children, no matter what.

What is most surprising about parenting?  How much more I have grown to love my kids as they have gotten older.  I try VERY hard not to lament the passing of ages, as each year my kids grow more into their true selves. It is fun and amazing to watch, and I can’t wait to see the people they become. 

What is hardest? Watching your children hurt.  Helping them learn hard life lessons when you would rather just make the bad things go away.

What keeps you up at night worrying about your kids?  I used to be a real worrier, but Jeremy helped me very early in our relationship to let that go.  To let go of things out of your control and know that God is in control through the good and the bad is very freeing.

What is your biggest challenge as a parent? Letting your children become their own people, not who you think they should be.  It’s hard when something comes naturally to you but not to them and vice versa.

What is your greatest triumph as a parent?  Potty training my first child, Jude, at 19 months.  I thought it was superior parenting—evidently it was just a large bladder and a little dehydration.  It took everything in me to get Liam trained by 2 ½!

Of what are you most proud with regard to parenting?  That my children love God and love other people.  This will always be my first goal.   I’m also proud when they are willing to take risks, especially ones I might not have been willing to take as a kid.

If you have a parenting philosophy or list of go-to guidelines for parenting, what are/would they be?

  • Stick to your guns. 
  • Let your yes be yes and your no be no, even when that’s not the easiest thing for the parents (this comes from having to enforce punishments that you threaten).
  • Truth –always.  My kids know they will always get in a lot more trouble for lying about it than for telling the truth about something they did wrong.  We always have tried to answer them truthfully as much as possible about everything. 
  • Manage your very different children in different ways. 
  • Do not be influenced by other parents around you (that’s peer pressure too!) unless it is people that you deem as mentors.
  • In that same vein, surround yourself with like-minded families/friends.  I credit our good friends as being great influences on my children.

How are you addressing social and political issues in your parenting? Especially in the election year and since, we have tried to discuss a lot of issues and why we feel certain ways, and why other people have strong opposing feelings.  It has provided a lot of good family discussion, although they might have been a little too opinionated and informed in school discussions.

What would you like to have help with as a parent? Laundry.  But I am teaching my kids to do that. 

What do you like about being a parent? What do you dislike? I love most everything, but I hate to see them worried and upset.

What is your fondest memory of your parent(s) or family as a child? I had a great childhood and despite things I disliked at the time, I tend to do a lot of things the way my parents did.  I love that my parents always treated me like I was important and capable and empowered me to do anything I wanted!

What motivates you as a parent? Raising self-sufficient children who still like me and will want to spend time with me when they are grown, and will actually want to take care of me in my old age.

Do you have a spiritual or religious belief/practice? If yes, do you incorporate it into your parenting? How?  Yes.  We are Christians and that is first and foremost in everything that we do.  We love because God loves us, we forgive because God forgives us.  If you boil everything down to the simplest command of Love God and treat others like you want to be treated, the world would be a much different place.  I’d like to live there.

What are your favorite things to do with your kids?  We love to play board games, and we relish that we can still beat them at most. We love to watch them play sports, and love to hike at our nearby state park. We love to travel—that is definitely our number one pastime.  Our motto is Work hard, play hard and we take it seriously. J

Are you married or partnered? How do you split parenting responsibilities? Married. 15 years. We just try to accomplish everything that must get done every day.  We text each other a lot when we are not together, but it’s a lot easier when you work together every day.  We do not have a “wait til your father gets home” mentality, but we do make the kids talk to both of us about anything that needs to be dealt with seriously.

How do you recharge yourself? I know it seems unusual for a parent, but I like to sleep 8 or 9 hours every night.  I know most of the world is exhausted all the time, but I am not. I’m tired at the end of the day so I go to bed and sleep well!  I wake up in the morning and I’m ready to take on the world again. 

What inspires you? Nature, Science, Art, Great food, People who are very good at what they do

What question do you wish you could ask your own mom/dad/parent/caregiver? I ask them things constantly.  And I am so thankful for that.  They probably wish I would quit asking.

What is a goal you want to achieve in the next 10 years? Send my kids to college with no student loans!

What was your life like before you had kids? It was great! We loved it, and we try to remind our kids that too! Yes, we will be sad when they grow up and move away (not too far!) but we love each other and love being together and we will send them postcards!

What do you wish you did differently when you were a new parent? Took more videos.  Took more naps when the kids napped!

 What's one thing you wish you did differently before you got married or had kids? Would have loved to live in a big city for a couple of years as a couple.  We love small town life, but we could have been city people too!

Favorite/least favorite/most interesting parent portrayed in literature/film/television? I HATE the portrayal of the bumbling, idiot father.  Jeremy and most dads I know are super-heroes in so many ways, and have so many gifts to share with their kids!  And they cook and they clean, and they help with homework and they juggle schedules.  I want my boys to grow up with that kind of example!