Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Multi-taskin' Mamas: {Amy from Chicago}

{{{A little about this blog series: I'm super excited to announce a new blog series I am doing called Multi-taskin' Mamas. I was trying to think of a way to share stories of other moms. Working moms, stay-at-home-moms and working-from-home-moms all sharing their stories about how the heck they juggle it all. So we can feel comfort in hearing the stories of other mamas who bust their tails and somehow get it all done at the end of the day, not knowing if they are doing it all right at all. So we can support one another by empathizing versus judging and casting our mommy guilts on one another.}}}

I'm really excited about this week's Multi-taskin' Mama, Amy. When I read Amy's story, I can really relate to her on several levels - being a step mom, having a young child, and also having a demanding work schedule. Thanks Amy for your story and sharing with us how you balance it all!

Amy's Story

I am very lucky to be stepmom to Joshua (10) and Rebekah (6), mommy to David (2), and wife to Alex (I’ll spare you his age). When I’m not at my first job as mom, I am at my second job as a program officer at the Spencer Foundation. Spencer funds research for the purpose of improving education. This means that I get to decide which research projects to fund, develop initiatives around important issues in education, and conduct my own research on the transition from high school to postsecondary education for urban youth.   

I love my job and it offers a very good work-life balance with an eight hour day and great benefits. But the downside is that I have a decent amount of travel, plus I spend about three hours per day commuting from the burbs to the city. I try to use this time productively, but most of the time I end up playing on my phone! On weekends I try to put work aside and focus only on my kids—but truth be told, between all the activities, play dates, and birthday parties, I wouldn’t have time to do work even if I wanted to! Every other weekend and half the week the big kids are with their mom, so that’s when we try to pay a lot of attention to David. It’s nice to be able to give him that one-on-one attention, but he sure does miss his brother and sister!

I also take on most of the responsibilities for the house and paying the bills. There’s really not much time left for doing anything for myself! Before I had kids, I did a lot of volunteer work. I definitely miss that. But I also know that when my kids are a bit older, that is something we will be able to do together. Other things that have fallen to the wayside include most of my hobbies, like reading, knitting, sewing, and watching movies. It takes me months to get through a book because I usually fall asleep after two pages! I can’t remember the last movie I saw! I also miss spending time with my friends, and I definitely don’t spend enough time with my husband. I know that this will all get better with time.

I have figured out a few tricks for managing it all. Being organized is essential. I always lay out my clothes the night before, as well as the kids’ clothes. The kids’ school bags are ready to go and on their chairs in the kitchen, along with their coats, hats, and gloves (in the winter). Alex makes the big kids breakfast the night before. David eats breakfast at school, which makes life a lot easier when your toddler is picky. We try to make our own lunches the night before, but we also factor into our budget that we are going to eat lunch out a few times a week. We also make space in our budget to have our house cleaned every week, which is totally essential to my sanity. I definitely don’t have time to go to the gym, but instead I walk the two miles each way from the train station to my office, which adds up to 20 miles a week! On Saturdays I work out in my basement with a trainer at the crack of dawn, before anyone else is awake.  I don’t mind waking up early on a Saturday because I love the chance to have some quiet time before the chaos begins!

One of the hardest things is keeping everything we have to do straight, and Google calendar is totally essential. We started using this because it helped us keep track of whose house the kids are supposed to be at, but now I schedule pretty much every obligation, event, activity, etc. My iPhone then syncs my work calendar with my Google calendar and I can see everything I have to do in one place. When there is something that either my husband or I really want to do on a weekend, like a date night or some time to ourselves (Alex likes to go cross-country skiing in the winter and kayaking in the summer, or if I want to have coffee with a friend or take a long walk), we put it on the calendar. This way the other person doesn’t schedule anything, and it’s much more likely that it will actually happen. (Which reminds me, I must schedule time for Alex to do our taxes this weekend. ;))

There are definitely days where I feel like I’m just not winning! There’s no doubt that I can’t be as good a mom, wife, employee, citizen, etc. as I want to be. I am definitely not very knowledgeable about the situation in the Ukraine. I haven’t seen Scandal. I didn’t vote in my local primary. I eat more chocolate than I’d like to admit. I have sent my kid to school wearing his pajamas on more than one occasion. But at the end of the day, I’m doing the best I can and that’s enough. There are three little people at the center of my world, and in the blink of an eye they won’t be so little anymore. One day I’ll have time again to do the things I love to do, but right now my focus is on my kids, my husband, and my work.

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