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I Don’t Know How She Does It: Gemma

This entry is part 5 of 10 in the series I Don't Know How She Does It

Up next in our popular series, “I Don’t Know How She Does It,” Reno Moms Blog contributor Gemma Hartley of Journey of Love takes a turn sharing how she balances her busy life with two kids under age three. We hope you’re enjoying getting to know our contributors through this series as much as we are!

-Jenny & Annie

You know, no one ever asks me how I “do it all.” Should I be offended? Probably. But then I ask myself, am I wearing pants? And the answer is usually no, and therefore I can’t really be that offended over the fact that no one’s hunting me down for my momtastic advice.

I actually put off writing my “I don’t know how she does it” post for a while, thinking I would get into some sort of extremely productive schedule and wow everyone with my super-clean house and fully dressed kids and Pinterest-inspired crafts and freshly baked breads (okay, I actually do make my own bread, can I at least get a pat on the back for that?). However, my supermom aspirations are yet to turn into a reality. Quite frankly, I’m not sure if I’m actually going to reach that pinnacle point of supermomhood.

So I decided to write out what I actually do. All you moms out there who are reading this in your sweatpants or bathrobe or what-have-you, just know that I’m giving you a virtual high-five right now. Pants? Who needs ’em.

  1. What’s your work schedule like? Right now, I’m a stay-at-home mom and work as a freelance writer. It takes a very carefully orchestrated balance to do both successfully, one which I have not yet figured out. I’m slowly but surely working on getting up before the kids do so I can get breakfast ready, have a cup of tea and get some work done before they wake (the getting work done in the morning part is yet to happen, I feel super accomplished if I get an e-mail out before 8 am).My first “work” priority is my kids, and my schedule revolves around keeping them fed, clothed and entertained while simultaneously trying to keep up with the house. Actually, scratch that, my son is pretty much never wearing pants (apple, meet tree) – if they’re fed and entertained all is well in my world. I have a cleaning schedule with rotating weekly chores that sort of helps me stay on top of everything, you know, if I could actually stick to it for a week straight. I keep telling myself I’m a work in progress and I’ll get to that apex of total household control someday (ha!). I’ve finally gotten really good at menu planning and budgeting, so sometimes when I’m feeling out of control I’ll go stare at my freezer full of chicken enchiladas and lasagnas and feel disproportionately accomplished in this one area of my life. My second “job” is freelance writing, which fits into my schedule whenever I find the time. I’m not a morning person despite my valiant efforts, so most of my work is done during naptime or late at night while my husband’s working on homework or his car. I run a personal blog and write as a contributor on Reno Moms Blog and on Early Mama, in addition to endlessly pitching for freelance work. Trying to pull together the hours of a part-time job while keeping up with everything else is super hard, but it’s worth it if I get to be a writer (which was always my dream job) and watch my babies grow up.
  2. How do you handle childcare? Since I’m a stay-at-home mom, childcare has never been an issue. I’m home with the kids 99% of the time, and if I schedule anything I make sure it works with my husband’s schedule. When we want to go out together, we’re very lucky to have my husband’s family nearby to babysit.
  3. Where do you work during the day? “Work” is such a four letter word. I don’t really work. I cross the household chores off my list, play with and care for my babies, and write and create in the evening. I’m pretty blessed.
  4. What do you like best about your current set-up? I love getting to stay home with my kids. It’s not always easy but it is always worth it. I’m very grateful for all the hard (paying) work my husband does in order to support us, and very thankful for the opportunity to stay home because I know it’s not a choice everyone has.
  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? If I had a magic wand I would definitely get myself an office with a door. The computer I do most of my work at is in the living room, which means constant distractions. But beyond my desire for a quiet organized workspace – I’m pretty sure the number one thing I’d use my magic wand for is making my cat disappear. Or at least poop in his litter box. Or stop fighting with the neighbor cat at 2 am. We have the worst cat ever, you guys.
  6. Do you have any time for yourself? I always try to find little moments throughout the day to fit in me-time. Sometimes it’s painting my nails or taking a shower or a few minutes of reading here and there. Some days I’m lucky enough to steal a quick nap with my little ones in the afternoon. Honestly though, I don’t mind not having tons of time to myself. I try to think of my whole day as me-time. I enjoy the time I get to spend with my kids, I enjoy writing, I enjoy cooking and even cleaning. I try to stay present in whatever I’m doing and that keeps me happy and grounded. I don’t pity myself for a lack of “alone time.”
  7. How do you and your husband fit marriage into the balance? My husband and I have very little time together since he works full-time and goes to school full-time for Mechanical Engineering (which means lots of extra on-campus hours). Right now we’re lucky if we get a couple minutes to drink tea on the couch in the morning before the kids get up, which some days is our only time to relax together. We aren’t regular date-nighters either, though we’ve agreed to do Vegas getaways every other year to compensate. Even so, we’re keeping our marriage alive and kicking. We enjoy our family time, we stay up late to steal some alone time and we’re really good communicators. We know this sort of schedule isn’t going to last forever, and having the end in sight really helps too (only nine months until graduation!).
  8. Do you ever wonder how other women manage the juggle? Have you talked to other women about it? Of course I wonder how some women manage the juggle. There’s always those moms out there who pack organic homemade school lunches and dress their children all retro-chic and have eco-friendly clean houses and grow huge gardens and raise backyard chickens and have rewarding careers and do all these super crafty Pinterest projects and still manage to get dressed every day (another feat I am yet to accomplish for a whole week straight).Tell me your secrets! Actually, never mind. I’m not sure I’m ready for those secrets. I’m still in the “working-on-wearing-pants-every-day” phase.
  9. What advice would you give to other moms about how to balance work and life? I think organization is paramount to keeping yourself sane and your family alive. I keep my daily cleaning list on a chalkboard so I can check off my chores every day (it’s so not as Pinterest-inspired as you’re imagining, I can’t write in a straight line to save my life. Calligraphy and artsy doodles? Forget about it). I’m constantly making lists and Excel spreadsheets for all sorts of things. Getting organized has really made my life easier, and it gives me more time and energy to focus on my family.Also, I think it’s really important to focus on being present in whatever you’re doing. Try not to run through to-do lists in your mind while you’re at the park with your kids or feel guilty about not spending time with your kids while you’re working. It’s such a waste of energy to focus outside of the present moment. You’ll be much happier if you allow yourself to live in the “here and now,” rather than projecting your thoughts somewhere else.
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About Gemma Hartley

Gemma Hartley
Gemma Hartley is a stay-at-home mom of two: her wild-boy toddler, Lucas and newborn daughter, Avery. Gemma and her husband are high school sweethearts who moved from Dayton to attend UNR, and soon fell in love with Reno – settling into a cozy house in the Northwest shortly after they were married. In 2010, at 22-years-old, Gemma graduated from UNR with her BA in English Writing, then gave birth to Lucas the next week. Gemma loves being a young mama, especially in Reno where she has plenty of opportunities to explore and play outdoors with her babies. She also loves cooking (especially baking), running (slowly), and crafting (sporadically). You can read more about Gemma and her family’s adventures on her blog Journey of Love.

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