How I (Try to) Balance Work and Motherhood

"I would say the hardest part about being a mother who works from home is that you are expected and feel the pressure to fulfill two roles to the fullest: a full-time employee and a mother (thinking of a SAHM). Finding the balance is hard and just because you have the option to do both things from the same place doesn’t magically help you create more hours in the day." Source

I remember going to classes in college that were a part of my "Gender & Women's Studies" minor, discussing and writing about feminism and thinking ahead to when I would eventually become a Mom. I always knew I would battle an internal struggle, feeling torn between having my job (or at least some sort of work I was passionate about), and being fully dedicated to raising children at home because that's what my Mom did and I loved every second of her being with me.

The thing is, I've always wanted to "have it all" in many different respects: See the world but be a homebody. Practice a healthy lifestyle but indulge in ice cream. Have close access to a downtown area yet live a small town lifestyle. Live near my Family but move to the mountains one day. For me, it just seems like there's a constant push and pull to try everything and BE everything. Now that I have been a Mom for a year and then some, I still struggle with these things but over time I think we've found a healthy balance of it "all."

A Little Bit of Background...

I've never shared much about my job much on the blog (Sisters Marie OR here) because I've always felt they were separate entities but I have worked there for 9 years now so it really is a significant part of my life and a big reason I'm allowed to lead both of the "lives" I want. I am the Director of Marketing at Katherine Frank Creative, a Family-owned boutique design agency who specializes in custom trade show displays, temporary and permanent installs and signage/graphics. We are a team of just under 20 so it's a small (but mighty) force and over the years, my co-workers have become a second Family to me. It sounds strange to say but the owners moonlight as a third set of parents in a way and they are two of the people I most admire. I have also made some lifelong best friends, one in particular who is my "call at 3am with anything" person and I know will grow old alongside me, while we quote OC episodes well into our 70's 😂

2 of my longtime co-workers and our babies, all born within a year of each other

When I started here as an intern, I never expected to be here almost 10 years later but I'm of the mindset that a lot of things happen for a reason. The company is very supportive of a work-life balance and generously agreed to letting me work from home a few days a week after Ro was born. As my maternity leave came to an end, I was having a very hard time with the thought of leaving him and missing all of the milestone moments as he grew up so I am very thankful they trusted and respected me enough to create a new schedule that would benefit us both.

Our Weekly Routine

I work two full days in the office and three part-time days at home. While there are days where it would definitely be easier to be one place over the other, this is working for us right now in this stage of our lives. My parents take care of Ro when I'm in the office and we are endlessly appreciative of everything they do for us. He feels so comfortable at their house and I feel equally safe knowing he is in the best hands. Daycare was never a consideration for us - It's a personal decision and it was mostly based on the fact that I wanted Ro to be taken care of by someone close to us. He is making memories with his Grandparents, which is a blessing and a privilege.

My 3 work from home days are a luxury but certainly are not easy. Even though I'm working half-days, there are a lot of moments where deadlines come into play so I am juggling graphic design files and keeping Ronan from climbing on our toilet at the same time. When he was a newborn, it was much easier to schedule conference calls and work on our loft computer because he wasn't mobile and slept - a lot. Now, these things require some extra prep, whether it's loading up a few Daniel Tiger's from our DVR (this is survival, my friends), or crossing fingers that he's either napping or eating lunch in his high chair at this time, which is basically the only 2 ways he is contained and quiet. 

It can be very stressful - some days, I just count the minutes he goes to bed and I can turn my brain off for a little while. He is extremely inquisitive and busy, more-so than I expected him to be at this age so a lot of my energy goes towards trying to keep him out of trouble (aka from opening the gate to the basement, pulling things down from the counter, trying to climb in the oven --> Yes, SERIOUSLY!) all while answering emails, finishing up marketing blast designs and trying to find a moment to eat/breathe.

On the OTHER hand, I am very grateful of the part-time schedule at home because it still allows us to have some special time together which we make the most of. This Summer, we were at the park almost every day and on extra warm days, we enjoyed the water table on our deck or hit up a local splash pad. Now that it's getting cooler, we spend a lot of time at the library (checking out/returning books) and playing in their kids area, as well as enjoying morning music class with Tiny Toes and becoming official members of the Dupage Children's Museum which by the way, is going to be super helpful on freezing Winter days when going outside isn't an option and we're feeling cooped up in the house.

Now that you know a bit more about our weekly schedule, I wanted to share a few tips that I find helpful when it comes to balancing working from home and watching a baby/toddler:

Wake Up Earlier

I know, I know, we're already beyond tired so the thought of getting up early can seem repulsive but sometimes, it makes all the difference. If I wake up an hour or two before Ro gets up, I'm amazed at how much work I can get done in so little time without interruptions. Sometimes, I will have sent an entire morning's worth of emails before my co-workers even get in the office and it makes me feel ahead of the game. Not to mention, some quiet time to yourself in the morning isn't bad at all, especially because you can sip your coffee and eat something in peace! 

Make the MOST of Nap Time

Naps are a work from home Mom's dream! Ro is still napping twice a day (usually) and both of them happen on a pretty regular schedule so I know exactly when they will happen and can plan out the most important things on my to-do list around these moments of quiet. Whether you have a kid who sleeps for 40 minutes (like mine sometimes does!) or 3 hours, learn how to utilize every minute of this time to finish assignments that require your complete focus and concentration. Most days, I don't even shower until 8:30 or 9pm, when I've gotten my work done and my son is asleep and I have time to breathe. It's not ideal (after all, pillow air dried hair isn't always pretty) but it just comes down to a matter of prioritizing. 

Expect Chaos

It's just inevitable that you will run into unexpected interruptions or sh*t show moments while trying to work and take care of a tiny human being at the same time. For example, there have been a few conference calls scheduled when Ro has a sudden diaper blowout or decides now is the perfect time to learn to crawl on top of our toilet and try to touch the light switches. These moments my friends are what the mute button is for! I try to spare my co-workers and/or clients as much background noise as possible so by muting until it's my turn to speak. This way, I can be actively listening and keep it professional at the same time. I just try to be prepared for anything to happen and have solutions for said situations that can be useful in a pinch.

Keep the Kid(s) Entertained 

      Easier said than done, right? I know. Ro is only 14 months old so he isn't quite ready to entertain himself just yet but I have found that if I dedicate a little time to getting him started with something, he may continue playing after I walk away, even if it's for 10 or 15 minutes. I consider those blocks of time to be good progress in his independent play and sometimes, it's just the amount of time I need to answer emails. In addition to his bin of toys in our Family room (which is where I'm often stationed with my laptop), we keep a box of books readily available, which I rotate regularly, a few Montessori activities (shape sorters, stackers) and as much as it pains my pre-parent self, we have a lot of his favorite shows DVR'd because he really enjoys them and they can often buy us an extra few minutes. 

Even though most days I'm exhausted and falling asleep with a book on my face in bed, I consider myself one of the lucky ones. My son is only going to be little for so long and I love that we get to spend this time together. It's also nice to have something that is my own, a job where the work is interesting, the people are great and the balance is respected. 

Mom's: What is your Family/Work balance like? 
Whether you are a full-time SAHM, career woman or both, how do you manage each role? 
I'd love to hear from you guys!


Life Lately: Easing into Fall

The first days of Fall are hard to beat. The air feels crisp but it's warm in the sun and everything smells so fresh, especially up north. Summer in Lake Geneva will always be the time when I feel most alive but there's a sense of calm when the leaves start to change and you can smell the wood burning of a neighbor's fire. Our recent Family weekend at the lake was the perfect kick off to the new season...

We ordered breakfast from the tiny convenience store down the street and ate it outside on the patio in sweatshirts and blankets. We walked around the neighborhood under the most amazing blue sky with not a single cloud. My parents hosted our first ever "Fall Fest," (in place of our usual 4th of July event), complete with cherry & apple brats, Oktoberfest beers, golf cart rides and pumpkin decorating. We put on our pajamas at 6 o'clock one night and snacked on leftovers and poured champagne. Ro and I spent a warm afternoon at the park followed by a snack at my favorite coffee shop. Mike and I checked out an open house down the street and fell in love, as we do almost every time we look. FYI - we're not actually hoping to move, it's just something we've come to love doing on weekends - It's great for gathering ideas and it's fun to imagine different scenarios that could play out in the future. We ate until our pants no longer fit...everything from my Mom's DIY nacho bar to the taffy apple salad was quintessential Fall and we didn't want to miss any part of it. 


If we're being totally honest, I spent most of this weekend in sweatshirts, overalls and leggings but I did manage to spend one day looking like a real human by putting on a swipe of bright lipstick and taking this new denim skirt for a ride, which btw, I now want to wear on a daily basis. I usually have trouble finding skirts that are just the right length - Either they're too short for going out in public or too long for being 31 years old but this one is high-rise and still fits just right. It's got frayed edges and I love pairing it with long sleeves or sweaters & booties so I will be doing that as much as possible in the next few weeks while I can still get away with bare legs. On another note, I'm not into all of the Fall trends (not too keen on the wide leg denim just yet), but I AM happy that belt bags (aka, fanny packs!) are having a moment because they're actually so much fun. I love this leather one from J. Jill - like, it might be the cutest one I've seen but I own the iPhone 8+ which is massive and unfortunately, doesn't fit in the bag so if I'm wearing this, I usually stick my phone in my back pocket or the diaper bag. 

Since my style was this weekend was mostly cozy chic, I reached for this open front cardi quite a bit. It's textured and runs fairly long so it's awesome for pairing with leggings on cold mornings and I've been wearing it daily for early walks with Ro and the dog but it was also a nice addition to this skirt/blouse combo.

We have so many fun things coming up, I can't wait to recap it all including a mini trip to San Fran (baby free!), the pumpkin farm, dinner with good friends and planning Ro's first trick or treat outing!

How are you enjoying the first week(s) of Fall? 


A Coloradical Weekend

We recently got home from a long weekend in Colorado and to say we’re still thinking about it often would be an understatement. We may or may not be over here researching home prices on Zillow (far fetched, but fun nevertheless) and reminiscing about our favorite parts via our shared photo albums. The reason for the trip revolved around my cousin getting married in Golden but CO has always been on our visit list so we were excited to extend the trip a bit, especially since my immediate (and extended) Family was coming with. 

My Family (8 of us) stayed in an adorable Air B&B which was one of the MOST fun parts of the trip. The house was a perfect setup because we all had our own rooms and there were multiple common areas where we would gather throughout the day including a sitting area with a fireplace, the kitchen island, downstairs game area and outdoor patio, which was my personal favorite. The white lights turned on at dusk so we would make a frozen pizza and enjoy a late night snack while discussing/recapping the days. 

It was the first time we left Ro for any extended length of time and because of this, the months leading up to our trip definitely stressed me out. I changed my mind 100x about this, debating whether he should come with or not but as hard was it was to leave him, there were so many reasons why it was better for him to stay home in the loving care of his Grandparents, because there were so many parts of this trip that weren't toddler friendly. I missed him terribly but I MUST admit, after the first FaceTime where I got to see how much fun he was having, I was able to relax a little and from there, the rest of our responsibility-free time felt very rewarding. It was a great reminder of how important it is have time together, not spent discussing sleep schedules or diaper changes and just acting like ships passing in the night. For a few days, we weren’t Mom and Dad...just best friends on an adventure, hiking in the mountains and dancing at the wedding and it felt felt deserved.

Speaking of those mountains, our Friday spent at Rocky Mountain National Park was one of the best days we have ever spent together and just happens to be #1 on the list of my favorite things we did on our trip...

  1. Hiking the Rocky Mountains
bear lake

My husband did a lot of research and narrowed down the best things to see in the limited amount of time we had. He planned a down-to-the minute- itinerary for the weekend and first on the list was hiking Rocky Mountain National Park, which was one of our bucket list items. Since we were staying in Golden, I was a little discouraged by the fact that we would be in the car for a total of 3 hours this day (getting there and back) but there wasn't going to be another opportunity to do this for a while so even though we were tired from getting in late the night before, we woke early, made pb sandwiches for the car and hit the road.

The drive from Golden to Estes Park was beautiful, making the distance seem so short. We parked at the visitors center and from there, took a shuttle to the trail head at the park, at which time you have multiple different options for trails, depending on what you're hoping to see. We were debating between Emerald Lake and Mills like, seeming like we couldn't go wrong with either one, but we were running on a time clock due to evening activities so we chose the shorter path to Emerald Lake. But don't let that fool you - shorter does NOT mean it feels short because so much of it was up and down, nor does it seem less difficult because even though we consider ourselves to be semi-in shape, it was a challenge and required multiple granola/water/sit breaks. The altitude was hard to adjust to but stopping along the way helped us catch our breath. One of the best parts of this path is that on the way to your final destination, you get to pass three other GORGEOUS alpine lakes including Bear Lake, Nymph Lake and Dream Lake, all which offer great views of the rocky peaks including Flattop Mountain, Hallett Peak and Glacier Gorge.

nymph lake

I am not exaggerating when I say that about approx. 7 minutes into our hike, my husband turned to me and said, "I think this is one the best things I've ever done." We were both completely taken aback by the unspoiled beauty surrounding us, each step and view being better than the last. I couldn't get over how wonderful the trees looked, stacked to the sky in the mountains, making for a gorgeous green and blue backdrop. The air smelled and FELT so clean and there were few clouds in the sky.

emerald lake

emerald lake

Emerald was absolutely breathtaking and worth every step it took to get there - Once we arrived, we climbed to the highest point of the mountain and sat down for a while in silence, trying to let it sink in. It was a surreal experience, the kind that makes you appreciate everything you have. Though this was an amazing moment, my husband and I both agree that Dream Lake (the one prior to reaching Emerald) was our favorite. We crossed a wooden bridge to reach its clearing and once we came upon it, our mouths were hanging open. I have never seen trees like this - Again with the trees, I know! But I was truly stunned and so happy in this moment.

Not to mention, it felt so good to spend this time alone with Mike. As parents of a one year old, our time together is dedicated to him 95% of our awake hours, so to be this secluded, in a quiet, serene place with just each other to talk to, was a break we were both in need of...We were able to feel like our pre-baby selves for a bit.

We can't wait to come back the this park. We actually tried to devise a plan to hike it again on the last day we were in Colorado but there just wasn't enough time, so until we meet again...

dream lake

2. Seeing a Concert at the Red Rocks Amphitheater

Other than the wedding, this is the Family activity we were all looking most forward to. Luckily there was a fun show happening on the day we were in town (1964 - a Beatles Tribute) which was something we could all enjoy so we bought tickets pretty far in advance. I think I speak for all of us when I say it was even better than we imagined. As soon as Mike and I walked in the door from hiking Friday, it was time to leave for the Amphitheater so we changed faster than I ever have before in my life, I did my makeup in the car and we grabbed sausages and drinks at the venue (both of which were actually pretty good!).

We wanted to be there a few hours before the show started so we could watch the sun go down, because while the music is a bonus, the best part is the gorgeous red rock formations that line each side, complete with mountain views in the distance. The place gets prettier as the night goes on because the uplighting highlights the rocks and makes the entire space feel like it's glowing. The whole evening was just wonderful - The band sounded SO good and I like that it's not just another tribute band - They actually perform AS the Beatles, offering the experience you would have gotten when the real band performed more than 50 years ago. *Fun fact - The Red Rocks Theater is one of just TWO places left standing in the US where the real Beatles actually performed. Cool, right?

Side note: Prior to even planning our trip here, I had read about Red Rocks Yoga and thought, could there possibly be ANY better place to practice? Downward dog on the rocks during sun up? This is a must for future trips and now that I've been there, it has moved even higher up in the ranks so I look forward to crossing that one off someday.

red rocks theater

3. Spending the Day in Breckenridge

Our (very well-thought-out and color coded 😂) itinerary had a few different options for our last day in Colorado and waking up still tired from the AMAZING wedding the night before, we were unsure of what route we wanted to go. Everyone had different things they wanted to see so we decided to split up and half of the Family went to Golden State Park for a Hike (see some of Lisa's pictures here, so beautiful!) while the rest of us made the drive to Breckenridge, per the recommendation from some of our Family who lives in the state. I am SO glad we went because it ended up being one of my favorite parts of the trip. Though the town is known for its ski resort and alpine activities, we had such a fun time exploring Main Street, looking at all of the colorfully painted buildings from the 1880's, checking out the shops and eating our way through town. By the way, our drive TO Breckenridge was awesome in and of itself! It is amazing views the entire way from Golden and it made me think how much more I would appreciate road trips if all of them at home were this good. 

drive to breckenridge

It was 90 degrees when we left Golden that morning so we all arrived in tank tops and shorts. As soon as we pulled into town, we noticed everyone in long pants, hoodies and some even in winter coats. We had driven about 50 minutes and in that time, the temperature had dropped about 30 degrees! We didn't really think about this possibility ahead of time (Guess we forgot where we were!) but this was the perfect excuse to buy our trip souvenirs, "Breck" hoodies! By the way, that's actually how everyone refers to the town - At first, we thought it was more of a joke, mocking it in many of our conversations but the more places we went, the more realized that it's a real thing and it made us laugh. 

Breckenridge is about 10,000 feet above sea level and I would say this is the part of the weekend where I noticed the altitude change the most. All 4 of us experienced difficulties at point or another on this day, even just walking down the street. You don't realize how much it can affect you but it's quite a change of pace from us coming from flat Illinois so we just took sit breaks whenever we needed to. Sit and eat breaks I should say... we had lunch on the patio at the Kenosha Steakhouse which was delicious. It was sunny when we sat down but actually rained multiple times during our lunch, which was a frequent occurrence in general throughout the weekend. It's funny how we were questioning running inside while everyone else just continued eating their meals and having  their conversation...they are used to it, no doubt. 

We all enjoyed being able to try local craft beers everywhere we went (there are SO many choices) and one of my favorite parts about the town was how many coffee shops there were...MY PERSONAL HEAVEN! Every 5 feet or so, there was another opportunity for a coffee, pastry, ice cream or lunch. Yes, I can definitely see myself here ;) 

Other Details:
  • My cousin's wedding was held at Mount Vernon Canyon Club in Golden which was one of the coolest venues I've ever seen. The ceremony was held on the outdoor terrace which was covered in white lights and overlooked the mountains, so when it was time for the sun to go down, it felt pretty magical. Mike and I made sure to steal a few beers (and kisses!) out there during the night. They served Voodoo Donuts which are some of the best we've ever tasted and kept the party going all night thanks to the guests and wedding party members who traveled all the way from Germany - Those guys know how to rage for sure. Congrats again Amy & Tobi! 💓

voodoo donuts
  • Mike, my Dad and I ventured to Boulder on Saturday morning for lunch and a little exploring. We checked out Chautauqua Park first which seemed like the ideal way to start a weekend morning - There were so many young 20 and 30-somethings (many presumably hailing from CU Boulder) getting ready to hike with their friends/dogs which I would do every Saturday if I lived there. Imagine that and then heading into the downtown area where there is literally an opportunity to drink, eat and shop at the cutest places every 2 feet - That is everything I live for in a weekend. We grabbed lunch here and sampled some of the delicious local brews, walked up and down the promenade area and grabbed iced lattes for the road home.
 our coffee stop!

chautauqua park trails

  • And just ONE last shoutout to our house because I think I miss that the most. I'm sure any house would have provided us with great memories, it was just being able to wake up and have breakfast together, go on our adventures and meet up in the evening to tell stories until it got late and we realized we had to get up and do it all over again the next day. Doesn't get better than that!

Thank you for checking out my recap!
We are counting the days until we can return.

Have you been to Colorado? What were your favorite spots to visit? 
I will add them to our list for next time!

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