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I Don’t Know How She Does It: Lynnette

This entry is part 1 of 10 in the series I Don't Know How She Does It

Every mom’s got one: another mom in her life who is even busier, even more active, even more involved – and is seemingly more energetic, less stressed and more accomplished.We frequently have conversations about moms who seem so much busier than we are and ask, “How does she do it all?” Then, we realized that sometimes we wonder how we do it all, too!

A few of us Reno Moms Blog contributors have been talking about doing posts along the lines of the movie/book I Don’t Know How She Does It.  Borrowing also from a great series by blogger Joanna Goddard at “A Cup of Jo,” here is the first in our series by Reno Moms Blog contributors sharing how they (attempt to) balance their busy lives. 

-Jenny & Annie

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I recently had a friend comment on my Facebook wall, saying, “There must be five Lynnette Bellins, because I don’t know how you possibly do everything you do.”

I had to chuckle, but I also think it explains why I feel pulled in 20 different directions most days.  I’ve always been this way.  In high school, I was a joiner – I was in every club you could imagine, from swim team to French Club and Key Club.  I like to be involved.  I also think that part of the frenzy is that as a working mom, I don’t want to feel like my kids missed out on anything because I do work full-time.

That means our weekends are usually jam-packed with all of the fun activities we can’t do during the week, and I show up at work on Monday morning utterly exhausted.

For this series, the Reno Moms Blog contributors will all be answering the same set of questions.  Here are my answers.

1. What’s your work schedule?

I am the typical 8-5er, though I have to admit that with getting two kids up and ready and delivered to childcare or school in the mornings, 8am often feels like an Olympic feat.  Thankfully, I work for an employer that is more concerned about your work getting done than watching the clock, and I am also able to make up any missed time in my office from my laptop once the kiddos are in bed.  (That is assuming that I don’t pass out from exhaustion in a kid’s bed upon giving nighttime cuddles.)

2. How do you handle childcare?

It feels like a constant juggling act.  During the school year, my daughter goes to elementary school, and thankfully our neighbor provides after school care.  My son either goes to the neighbor or to preschool.  Things get completely thrown out of whack on school holidays or summer break, though, as dropping off and picking up two kids at two separate places gets to be a lot to handle.  I’ve also recently discovered the challenge of piecing together an entire summer’s worth of camps for my daughter.  I am very picky with my childcare, and will choose the care for my children based on whether or not I’d want to spend the entire day at the establishment.  This means I have played the daycare and preschool lists in town like a game of blackjack, getting on all of the wait lists so that I could switch if I ever decided it was necessary.

3. Where do you work during the day?

I work in my office without windows, but I often deal with people all across the world.  I found that sitting all day was driving me crazy, so I ponied up to get myself a Treadmill desk.  I am the only person in our office who has this set-up, but I swear it keeps me healthy and sane.

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

My employer is very flexible and family friendly.  I’m never questioned if I have to work from home with a sick kid or get them to a doctor.  I can also flex my schedule a bit to get kids to activities (because it seems so many of them are scheduled for families with a parent who isn’t working, right?!).

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?

The thing that is so hilariously bad is that being a working mom requires me to in essence be working two full time jobs.  When I leave my job at the office, I’m simply switching gears to start the next one.  And honestly, it is exhausting.  I think this is a wonderful time of my life, where I truly have everything I ever dreamed of, but trying to juggle it all and meet the demands of home and work completely drains me.  Of course, I am trying to live up to the role model of my mother, who was the ultimate stay at home mom…that means homemade meals, shuttling the kids to activities, and volunteering at school and in the community.

I highly recommend reading the book Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg.  She described a challenge I face daily, that even though women’s roles in the workplace have evolved, the roles within the home haven’t evolved as much.  When Ms. Sandberg was asked by a man once how he could help women to advance in the workplace, her response was, “do the laundry.”  Amen.  That says so much.  I think many of us would “Lean In” more if we weren’t saddled with housework.  I’m not ashamed to say that there are certain chores I outsource, as I’d rather be spending quality time with my kids than scrubbing toilets.

I know that my obsession with healthy, clean eating definitely causes me a lot more work.  I am a firm believer in cooking meals for my family from scratch, and I pack lunch for the kids every day because I want to provide organic, unprocessed food for them.  This also means that I do most of the grocery shopping, as my husband and I don’t see eye-to-eye on the whole organic produce thing.  There are definitely people in my circle (including my husband) who think I’m a big masochistic in this regard, but at the end of the day, I feel better as a wife and mother if I feel I have done the best to nourish the health and vitality of my family.

You know what else is hilariously bad about my current situation?  A few months ago, I decided that we needed a puppy.  Can I just tell you how much chaos having two young children and a puppy adds to your household?  I swear potty training a puppy with kids around is a thousand times more difficult, and I am constantly hearing screams because the puppy views the kids’ toys as prime chew toys.  It’s a fun chaos.  The puppy is so unbelievably cute, but man, I’m just asking for a bit of crazy in my life, aren’t I?!

If I could wave a magic wand, I would work part time, but that hasn’t been an option at my current employer.  One time I suggested working part time to my boss, and he said, “Well, that would be counter-intuitive, wouldn’t it?”  I suppose to a man it would be, but for a woman, it would provide a lot more balance.

6. Do you have any time for yourself?

I do.  I think this is required for sanity.  My lunch hours are sacred.  Most lunch hours, you’ll find me at the gym across the street from my office.  I just love having an hour a day where no one is wanting something of me, and I can just tune into my thoughts and my body.  I am a firm believer that stepping away and exercising at lunch makes me a more productive employee.  I also read almost every night before I go to sleep.  I have friends who say, “I don’t know how you find the time to read so much,” and honestly, I can’t imagine not finding the time to read.  I love having that 20-30 minutes at the end of the day to escape to another world until I just can’t hold my eyes open anymore.

I also get away once a year with my best friend from high school on a child-free girl trip.  On a trip to San Diego, we mused at how nimble we felt without having to bring kids along on our activities.

6. How do you and your husband fit your marriage into the balance?

I have to admit this is a challenge, and that having kids can truly be the ultimate test of a relationship.  On the weekends, we usually switch off to ensure that each of us gets our workout time alone, as we both go stir crazy without it.  I also keep a Rolodex equivalent of available sitters so that if we decide to do a date night last minute, we’ll be able to do that.  We also try for a kid-free vacation once a year.  This past March, we did a road trip to Utah to ski.  We had been on the road about 45 minutes when I looked at my husband and thought, this is what we were like before kids!  We had so much fun! 

7. Do you ever wonder how other women manage the juggle? Have you talked to other women about it?

I often look at the more senior women in my organization who have children around my kids’ ages, and the competitive part of me feels like I should be there, too.  But then again, I have set certain boundaries in my career that have limited my choices.  Namely, I choose jobs that require 10% travel or less (because in all honesty, the wheels come off the bus in our house when Momma is gone for too long), and I also choose jobs that don’t require a lot of early mornings and late evenings (as I only have childcare during normal working hours).  That is how I’ve drawn the line – when I leave work at 5, I shift gears and am totally devoted to my family.

Yes, I talk to other women about this.  Often girls’ nights are spent musing on how other women do it, and the comedy in our lives as we try to keep all the balls in the air.  I am a firm believer that talking to a good girlfriend is just as good as seeing a therapist.

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

I’ve been doing a yearlong seminar with some executive coaches based on the book The Inner Edge, by local coach Joelle Jay.  We have been walking through the exercises in the book, which have had me write a vision statement for my life (encompassing work and personal), and writing out goals to help me bring my vision to reality.  This has helped me get crystal clear on my priorities and where to say no.  For instance, my personal vision has pillars of family, work, community and creativity.  I have goals in each of those pillars, and I find that while one month I may be leaning in to one priority more, the next I can shift gears and focus on another.  So my advice would be to do a similar exercise, writing out your vision for what you want your life to be like, and defining measurable goals to get there.  The key is holding yourself accountable to achieving these goals.  I have accountability buddies who I meet with monthly to report out on my progress to my goals.  That structure has pushed me to completely new levels this year, professionally, but even more personally.  I’m making time for writing and volunteering in the community, and it makes me feel so much more balanced as a person.

Some of the best advice I’ve heard woman to woman is to “be kind to yourself.”  If your friends talked to you the way you talk to yourself, would you still be friends with them?  Keep that in mind.  Don’t feel guilty for going out with your girlfriends or getting a massage.  Be your own best friend.  The rest will come if you love yourself.

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About Lynnette Bellin

Lynnette Bellin
Lynnette Bellin is the owner and site manager of the Reno Moms Blog. She is a married mother of a tween girl and a rambunctious little boy. Lynnette moved to Reno in 2001 after choosing to live in a place that she loved for its natural beauty. Lynnette has written four children's books, including The Kindness Ninja and a series of three books called Adeline’s Magical Moments Collection. She has been obsessed with blogging since 2002. She is also on the board of Think Kindness, a local non-profit that inspires measurable acts of kindness. Lynnette loves to experience the outdoor adventures in our area, including skiing, hiking, camping, and open water swimming. She is especially thrilled to have her kids starting to love the same hobbies, and spends a lot of time shuttling them to the pool, Lake Tahoe or the ski area depending on the season. Lynnette’s life is a blur of kid activities, mediating sibling arguments, making homemade meals, and hugs and kisses, mixed with days of working in content marketing.

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