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I Don’t Know How She Does It: Jenn D.

This entry is part 6 of 10 in the series I Don't Know How She Does It

Our popular series is back! Reno Moms Blog contributor Jenn D. is on the blog today with the latest entry in “I Don’t Know How She Does It,” our look at how a variety of local moms balance their busy lives. We hope you’re enjoying getting to know our contributors through this series as much as we are!

-Jenny & Annie

How do I do it? I dress my kids for school the night before.

Yep, you read that correctly. I was reluctant to share this tip in a public forum, but it’s true. Our nighttime routine consists of dinner, 30 minutes of “kids’ choice” time (i.e., playing with Legos or other toys, watching TV, going outside, etc.), reading a book, brushing teeth, and bath time which is sometimes (er, more often than not) followed by getting dressed for the next day before heading to bed.

I’d love to say that this (brilliant!) time saving idea was mine but it wasn’t. It was my oldest son, Matt, who came up with this unorthodox way to save time in the morning. Are my kids’ clothes wrinkled when they go to school? Sometimes, but they are boys so they don’t really care, and it sure beats the battle I was fighting with them to get dressed each morning. Problem solved and they think its fun.

I love win-wins.

What’s your work schedule? I do my best to arrive at work by 8:30 a.m. and to leave by 5:30 p.m. With two drop-offs in two different directions and a 30-minute commute to build into my routine, I don’t always make it on time. Yes, my kids are dressed when they wake up, but that only means I won a battle, not the war. Up next? Wrestling two strong-willed boys to get shoes on their feet, food in their tummies, and teeth brushed sufficiently. In between, I’m a referee (if anyone would like a healthy dose of bickering for breakfast, come to my house any week day and join us). This series of events is followed by putting lunches in backpacks, backpacks in the car, closely followed by kids in the car. Inevitably, I wrestle shoes back on my three-year-old son’s feet before taking him out of the car and shuffling (what must be the world’s slowest walker) into the preschool. Sometimes I just forgo the second wrestling match and simply carry him (shoeless, kicking and screaming) into the building under one arm with size 8 toddler sneakers under the other arm (seven-year-old in tow, of course). There are many days when I arrive at my office feeling like (and probably looking like) I’ve already worked a full day! To sum it up, I guess we’re not really morning people. Side note: Saturday and Sunday mornings are actually quite pleasant at my house, and you’re welcome to come over for breakfast on those days too.

How do you handle childcare? My oldest son, Matt, is in second grade this year. I have no idea how he grew up so fast. He attends the before and after school program (much to his dismay, he’d probably like me to add). My youngest son, Gabe, goes to all day pre-school. Although I drop off and pick up in two different locations approximately 12 miles apart, daytime childcare is taken care of pretty easily. My immediate and extended family members live in the Northeast, so when I have an evening commitment, I typically hire one of the gals from the preschool to watch the boys. A steady supply of qualified babysitters is definitely on the plus side of sending kiddos to daycare/preschool.

Where do you work during the day? I work in a typical office environment. But, I sit right next to a large floor to ceiling window which gives me tons of natural light and a beautiful view of the mountains!

What do you like best about your current set up? Everything! While I think it would be more convenient to work from home, I like going into an office each day. I like seeing my co-workers regularly and chatting with them in person. I like collaborating face-to-face. I also like being able to compartmentalize or mentally separate work life from home life. I have a 30-minute commute which helps me decompress after a long day before I start my second job (a.k.a. Mom) at home!

What do you find so-so/tricky/hilariously bad about your current set-up? What would you change if you had a magic wand? There are highs and lows in my current set-up but it is what it is and I wholeheartedly accept  and love  it. I do what I can, with what I have, where I am. If I had a magic wand, nannies would be free (so I could employ one), Tupperware lids would find their mates without any help from me, and laundry would wash, dry, and fold itself. Wait, that’s more like three wishes. I guess I’d rather have a magic lantern than a wand unless of course the laundry wish counts as three. If it does, I’ll take the wand.

Do you have any time for yourself?
My boys spend every other week with their Dad, so I do have time to myself. Although, it’s not as much time as one might think. When the boys are with me, I’m a single working mom who, after a full day of work, shuttles my boys to extracurricular activities at least three evenings a week, cooks balanced, healthy meals, supervises homework time, goes to the “big green park” in Damonte, packs healthy lunches for school days…and let’s not forget, dresses my kids for school after bath time for the following day. When the week is done, I feel like I have run a marathon (Okay, let’s face it, I’ve never nor will I ever run a marathon, but I suspect people who do run marathons feel like me when my crazy week is said and done).

When my kids are with their Dad, I try to spend some quality time with friends and loved ones that I’m unable to squeeze in during the previous week, and I get myself organized for when my boys come home the following week. I re-group. I work more hours in the office to compensate for the days when I come in a little late or sneak out a little early. I travel for work, so at least once a quarter, when the boys are with their Dad, I am working out of town. Above all, when my kids are with their Dad, I miss their little faces like crazy.

Some of my weeks are insanely busy and filled to the brim, while others have plenty of built-in alone time. It just depends on the week, the day, the season. I must say though, shopping for groceries without kids should be the house rule for everyone.

Do you ever wonder how other women manage the juggle? Have you talked to other women about it?
Yes, but I don’t compare myself to them. I try to learn from them.  I talk to other women about the juggle a lot. I am an open and honest person, and I work hard to have open and honest relationships with others. I don’t pretend to be someone I’m not, and I let others be themselves without judgment. I truly believe this is one of the best things that moms can do for each other because it can help us all establish and maintain realistic expectations. You know that mom who has it all – perfect job, perfect relationship, perfect kids, perfect body? No, you don’t – because she doesn’t exist! When I find myself starting to compare or wonder how someone else does it all, I simply remind myself that they don’t.

What advice would you give to other moms about how to balance work and life?
Live simply. A simple life has different meaning for everyone. For me, it means keeping my physical space and mind as streamlined and uncluttered as possible. I’m a minimalist. With the exception of a few indulgences, if I don’t need it, I don’t buy it. If the boys get a new toy, they donate an old toy. I stay organized by having a designated place for everything – it might not always stay in its place but the boys and I know where it belongs when the day is done. I purge (clothes, shoes, toys, week old food from my fridge) pretty regularly. I do laundry several times a week so it doesn’t pile up, and I keep basic cleaning supplies in almost every room of my house. That way, if I walk into the boys’ bathroom and the toilet resembles one that you might find in a truck stop, I take two minutes and clean it on the spot! I try my best to clear my mental clutter, too. I’m still a work in progress (yes, I can be distracted by the ultimate mind-cluttering Facebook feed). But, in general, I try not to procrastinate because if I do, a long (and constantly  growing) list of things will forever be on my mind, which ultimately competes with my ability to think creatively and to spend valuable time with what’s most important to me – my boys.

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About Jennifer Woodbury Duval

Jennifer Woodbury Duval
A right coaster now living on the left, Jennifer Duval is a mom to two rambunctious boys, and works full-time in the communications department at a Fortune 500 company. Fueled by logic, she is a no-nonsense type of gal who doesn’t buy into the latest trends, but does like to try new, trendy restaurants. An avid reader, she also loves coffee, chocolate, Zumba, and discovering new places.

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