August 16, 2011

Naptime Chef Work/Life/Kid Balance {Naptime Simple Tips}

Lake Otsego

Vacation on Lake Otsego = Balance

This vacation I’ve been resting up in preparation for the busy year to come. While “out of the office” I’ve been reading interesting blog posts, chipping away at my stack of novels, and spending time with my family. Today I am borrowing the idea of a work/life/kid balance post from the lovely Joanna Goddard of Cup of Jo. Last month her blog featured an amazing series of work/life balance articles with all sorts of interesting people. I thought it might be fun to pose the same questions to myself. This is not the first time I’ve written about my schedule, but this is a new perspective. Hope you enjoy and please share your own work/life balance stories below!

1. What’s Your Work Schedule? 

I work pretty much every day of the week. I try to take at least one day a week off, but that rarely happens. Weekday mornings are dedicated to my daughter. I am usually focused on getting out of the house to her morning activity and to the gym so I can work out. In the early afternoons she naps, goes to school, or has quiet time in her room with books, and I consider that the start to my workday. I use that time to cook (obviously), test recipes and catch up on email. I usually save photography for later in the day since she loves to help me stage photos on the back porch.

In the late afternoon we go out for bike rides, to the parks or play with friends. It is a fun time of day for us. Everyone is in a great mood and the big gulps of fresh air are so revitalizing after working inside. Dinner is usually already set so I can get it on the table quickly when my husband gets home.

After she is asleep is my most productive time of day. I write articles, send emails and draft new recipes. I always feel bad that my husband has to watch his favorite TV shows by himself, but night time is so peaceful without any ringing phones or the deluge of incoming emails. Before bed I always factor in at least a half hour of reading time. Reading novels is my great escape and is the best way for me to wind down. I try to read at least a chapter of something interesting, usually some kind of mystery or adventure novel, every single day.

I try to keep my work on the weekends minimal since my husband travels a lot during the week. We like to plan special family excursions together and rest up for the coming week, but a lot of times I factor in some good cooking and photography. I will also sneak in some writing and email time when he takes our daughter out for their traditional Saturday morning breakfast.

2. How Do You Handle Childcare?

I had no (as in zip, zero) childcare until last fall when I started working on the book. When we lived in NYC sitters were a special treat reserved for date night or doctor’s appointments. My daughter and I developed a very intense bond after spending all day with each other for two and a half years and it was nice to factor in some regular help when the time came. She needed to learn to trust someone else and I needed some time for myself. Our sitter only comes for six hours a week which is not a lot of time, but it gives me some much needed daylight hours for work. If I had a full-time sitter I would never have to work on nights or weekends, but I just can’t envision how I would do that. I would miss the days with my daughter so much, plus a full-time sitter is way out of my budget!

3. Where Do You Work During the Day?

I have a cute little desk set up in our guest bedroom. I am a compulsively organized Virgo so my little workspace is tightly managed. I keep photos and momentos on my desk that make me smile and I have a bulletin board of interesting clippings, business cards and artwork I love. I like to work in clean, bright spaces with a modern design feel. We got my IKEA desk off of Craig’s List, the chair from Office Dept and a rolling file cabinet from CB2. I love the modern, clean aesthetic of their furniture. Someday I hope for a real home office filled with lots of light, a clean desk and a huge wall of bookshelves. I would fill the shelves with my novels, cookbooks and the hundreds of photographs I take of my daughter and husband. I even know what color I would paint my office, but I am not going to write it here!

4. What do you like best about your current set-up?

When my sitter comes during the school year I am able to pop upstairs and shut the door while I work. I like the discipline of being in my office, but being able to go downstairs to take my daughter to school when our sitter leaves. Also, my husband travels a lot for work so it is really nice that my schedule is slightly flexible.

5. What do you find so-so/tricky/hilariously bad about your current set-up? What would you change if you had a magic wand?

A lot of my work is in the kitchen and we currently have an open kitchen/living room which I hate! I can’t cook when my daughter is with her sitter unless she is out of the house. I wish I had a separate kitchen and living room, it would make my life so much easier. I also wish I had lots and lots of bookshelves.

6. Do you have time for yourself?

Not a lot. In the mornings we go to the gym where my daughter is in childcare while I workout, but that is really it for my alone time during the day. When I have my sitter, or my daughter is napping or at school, I am fully engaged with work. When my daughter is home I am fully engaged with her. It is intense to transition between the two several times a day, but I love what I do so I am happy to do it. When my husband is home I try to leave at least one weeknight free to hang out and NEVER work on Friday or Saturday nights.

A lot of wonderful things have come my way in the past year and I worked hard for them. I am at a point in my career when I am happy to put the pedal to the metal and keep moving forward. I still have many visions for The Naptime Chef and never want to miss a moment with my daughter so I am happy to forgo hours to myself in favor of my priorities for work and kid.

7. What advice would you give to other moms about how to balance work and life?

While the answer to question #6 may seem intense, it is important to take care of yourself each and every day. I do my best lead a healthy lifestyle and do what works best for me. This means daily exercise, lots of outdoors time, reading each night and taking time to write down dreams and doodles in my journal each day. It is important for moms to remember to do little things each day to take care of themselves. We all are doing the best we can and none of us are perfect. The littlest things can make all the difference.

When I am in need of a boost I am a big fan of retail therapy or a little pampering. Nothing big or extravagant, but take note, ladies, a new pair of costume earrings or a $10 manicure can do wonders (wonders!) for the soul!

I don’t know what I would do without my friends. Last summer when we moved to Connecticut I didn’t know anybody. It was very hard and lonely for me because I didn’t have my close girlfriends nearby anymore. During the year I lucked out and met some wonderful people at my daughter’s school and they’ve become a real support system. I still talk with my friend’s from high school, college and New York every week and am so grateful for all of them.  My advice to moms on this point would be to always lean on your friends because that is what they are there for. Being a mom is hard, and achieving work/life/kid balance is super hard. We should all try to support one another and be each others biggest cheerleaders!