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Thursday, February 21, 2008

How I Do It


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  Originally uploaded by Foodmomiac

Yesterday, Mir wrote a post about how challenging it is to get everything accomplished for her family. She explained that it's hard to get everything done, and she's lucky enough to have a helpful husband and a very flexible (and successful!) freelance career that accommodates crazy schedules.

She got a gazillion comments from parents sharing their "hows," but I thought I'd share my "hows" here, since I am frequently asked how I manage my crazy life. Let me first state that I am not an expert on this stuff, and sometimes I feel like I don't do anything well at all - I'm just kind of treading water and hoping that things work out. But, anyway, here's how we (somewhat) manage.

First, the basics: Michael and I both work full-time. We work at the same, VERY family-friendly company, and we both have awesome bosses (Hi Janet!) who understand that we have a crazy family life at home. If the kids are sick, it is OK for one of us to work from home. If there is a recital, a ceremony, an occasional opportunity to read to the kindergarten class, they accommodate. That said, Michael travels a LOT, I travel occasionally, and we are very busy.

Our How's:

- As most of you know, we have an au pair named Paty. We found Paty through Au Pair in America and it has totally changed our lives. It's a lot cheaper than a full-time nanny (especially in Chicago, where nannies cost at LEAST $12/hour), the kids love her, and it's very reassuring to have another adult available in the house at all times. For example, tonight I'm getting my hair cut, and Michael was suddenly invited out for a work event. With Paty around, this is less of a disaster (because me missing a hair cut is truly a disaster, trust me.) Of course, the au pair thing only works if you have an extra bedroom available. We are also lucky that our extra bedroom is in the basement, so we all still have a great deal of privacy. But, honestly, I don't know how we'd do this without an au pair. Max's school gets out at 11:30, Dylan's school gets out at 1:40, and then we have all of the activities to maneuver.

- We limit activities. Dylan only gets two activities a week (Max is still a bit young for extracurriculars). Dance on Thursdays and drama on Saturdays. Michael and I pick her up from dance on Thursdays at 5:30, and for drama, we can drop her off easily as a family. Dylan is now asking to do gymnastics, but we'll hold off till next year, and if she does that, she'll need to give up dance.

- We squeeze exercise in at times that don't interfere with family time. Michael wakes up before 5 to go to the gym, and I try to go at lunch (I'm not very good at this, but I try).

- We take advantage of our company's flex time policies. We leave our house at 7:15 every morning so that we can head home before 5. This eliminates most of the major commuting traffic and is a better use of our time. It also allows me to prepare dinner.

- We are big fans of outsourcing. In addition to Paty, we have a cleaning woman, and we are now looking for a third helper (combination dog walker/housekeeper) to come in for an hour or two each day and keep the peace. We are obviously VERY lucky to be able to afford this, and we can only afford this because we both work.

- This one kind of relates to the above, but we are trying to be better about acknowledging our strengths and weaknesses. I am very good at my job, and I am a better mom when I work outside the home. I HATE laundry and straightening the house. It makes me miserable, but I'm a happier person when things are in order around me. Given that, the money spent on outsourcing is well worth my while.

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