Leap Day: 24 things you should do with your extra 24 hours

Leap Day too busy

How often do you claim to be too busy to take on a new project at work, join another committee, meet up with a friend, indulge in a pedicure, or even just finish simple household chores?

I know I’m guilty of dropping the “I don’t have enough time” excuse more often than I’d care to admit.

But that’s exactly what it is: an excuse. The reality is that we do make time for the things that we value the most at the moment.

What we really mean when we say “I don’t have enough time” is that the thing we’re too busy to do simply isn’t a priority.

We’ve all wished for just a few more hours in the day, but have you ever thought about how you’d spend that time if you actually had it?

Well, every four years we get our wish on February 29. Leap Day quite literally boosts our year with an extra twenty-four hours. Are you making the most of your bonus day?

Here are 24 things I’m going to do today that in a typical 365-day calendar year would probably fall off of my to-do list. {Hint: saying, “I don’t have enough time” isn’t one of them.}

1. Wake up early

If I’ve got an extra 24 hours to get things done, I’m certainly not going to waste it sleeping. As my husband would say, “Carpe Diem.”

2. Meditate

If you know me, being still and quiet takes some serious focus. It means clearing some time in my schedule when I can be by myself. While I rarely create time and space for this, the reality is that it leaves me more calm and more creative.

3. Research a house project

Neither my husband nor myself are super handy when it comes to housework, plus it would take us triple the time it would take a professional. So for today, I’m going to prioritize which project needs to come next {likely freshening up our exterior paint job} and start researching the man {or woman} for the job.

4. Listen to a podcast

I love Podcasts. I think it’s a great way to sneak in some professional development. If I’m honest, I actually do this most days anyway, but I’m typically multitasking while I listen {either cooking dinner or jumping on the elliptical}. Today I’m going to sit back and relax while I check out this new podcast a friend recommended.

5. Read a book

My husband loves to read. He works much longer hours than I do outside of our home. Then he has to pay bills, take out the trash, help with bath time, play with the kids, fix the broken toys, etc. when he gets home. But he always makes time to read. Because for him, it’s a priority. I, on the other hand, am the worst at making a date with a good book. I’m going to snuggle up with a new read {it was a Christmas present I have yet to begin} with my extra 24 hours today.

6. Go out for lunch

I’ve always been guilty of eating lunch at my desk. While this is a habit I will likely return to tomorrow for productivity’s sake, today I’m heading out to a restaurant and fully intend to enjoy my time away from my computer.

7. Put laundry away

Based on conversations with other moms, I’m doing okay in this category. Regardless, my lag time from dryer to laundry basket to dresser drawers is still about 1.8 days. Some families do just fine ditching the drawers altogether, but this mom is going to set aside some time to put the laundry away while the kids are at school.

8. Enjoy a cup of coffee outside

If you live in Kansas City, you know the weather has been absolutely gorgeous lately. With another cold front on the way; however, this morning I’m going to soak up the sunshine with a cup o’ joe on my back deck.

9. Take a bath

I love to take baths, yet I probably only do it a handful of times a year. Maybe it’s because our children use our bathtub and so it’s filled with toys and God knows what else, but today I’m going to light a candle, grab a glass of wine and relax with some bubble bath.

10. Drink a glass of wine

See No. 9. {Sauvignon blanc, please.}

11. Light a candle

See No. 9. {I usually only light a candle when we have company coming over and I want our house to smell cleaner than it really is.}

12. Support a cause

I mailed a gift to a local charity that’s close to my heart. It wasn’t the hands on approach I wish I’d planned for today, but having worked for a not-for-profit, I know that every gift matters.

13. Call a friend

I got a jump start on this over the weekend, but plan to follow up today. If you have a friend who lives in a different city than you, it’s time to pick up the phone and call them. Leave a voicemail. Follow up with an email if you need to. Just remind them how important they are in your life with something a little more personal than an emoji text or Facebook post like.

14. Stretch

Whether I pop in a yoga video or just do some simple stretches, this activity brings me the same calming benefits as meditation while making my body feel stronger and more bendy. While stretching is something I know is good for my body, it almost always gets overlooked.

15. Throw a dance party

Kind of like the podcasts, this is something my family does almost everyday anyway. We love to turn up the music and just be silly together. It gets us moving, interacting with each other and having fun. Every family should throw a dance part every single day!

16. Give a compliment to a stranger

The great thing about making other people feel good about themselves is that it has the powerful ability to make you feel better, too. I plan to fill my extra 24 hours with a lot more warm and fuzzies.

17. Take a different route

Driving down the same road everyday is incredibly mundane. My children’s school, dance class and grandparent’s house are all down the exact same road. Today I’m going to switch it up, even if it takes a bit longer. Plus, it’s actually good for your brain to take different paths!

18. Paint my nails

I don’t typically splurge on pedicures. The problem is that I also rarely take the time to properly self groom. With spring just around the corner, I’m going to spend some time polishing my piggies before someone notices the same coat of paint from the last time I wore sandals.

19. Try something new

I’m not exactly sure where I’m going to squeeze this in today {maybe I’ll order something I’ve never had before at my lunch out today?!}, but getting this extra time seems like the perfect opportunity to try something new.

20. Plan a vacation

I have a jump start on this one. My husband and I are heading to California this May for a close friend’s wedding. The plane tickets have been bought, but that’s about it. Oh, and we’re flying out of a completely different state than we’re flying into. Road trip! Time to start working through some of those details…

21. Learn about my city

Kansas City is an amazing place to live. Because I’m from here, I’ve always told my coastal friends what a great city we have here in the “flyover states,” but the truth is that I’ve only experienced a fraction of what KC has to offer. I’m going to spend some time researching my hometown and plotting our next date night or family outing.

22. Get involved

That’s right. This blog post started with me saying how busy I am, but I’m going to get more involved. Let me explain. My husband and I joined the Kansas City Chamber last fall, and I’ve only been to one event. What a waste! As an overly involved individual, I should know first hand that you get out of any organization what you put into it. It’s time to get involved.

23. Get ahead

I love to-do lists. I’m going to pick something that I hadn’t planned to work on until later this week and tackle it today. Man it feels good to get ahead!

24. Reflect on the day

I’m excited to find out if any of these activities make such an impact today that they stop being something I’m too busy to do moving forward.

Well, I’ve got a lot on my plate so I better get started. I want to know, how do you plan to spend your extra 24 hours today?

“Typical days begin with coffee and end with wine”

moms who work

Q&A with Erin Gregory

I knew all about Erin Gregory before I even met her. The company I was working for at the time partnered with her then-boyfriend’s {now-husband’s} PR firm. He was clearly smitten with this smart woman with a southern accent and clever sense of humor.

When I finally met Erin I could immediately see what all of the fuss was about. She’s genuinely kind, a great people-connector and incredibly talented in all things Communications.

Now that we’re both moms who work, and living on opposite sides of the city, our paths seldom cross these days. {I did babysit her daughter once on New Year’s Eve when I was pregnant with my son and clearly not going anywhere fun. I can also count on bumping into her at least once a year at the Junior League‘s Holiday Mart.}

Maybe it’s her southern charm working its magic on me, but I knew I wanted to reconnect with her through these #workingmomwednesday interviews and inquire about her exciting career and the beautifully busy life she’s built with her family.

Welcome to The Free Mama and thanks for playing along in this week’s Working Mom Wednesday 🙂 Let everyone know who you are and what you do.

I’m a wife, mom, stepmom, daughter and friend and get paid to do what I really enjoy (communications and public relations work) at a cool company – AMC Theatres. I’m manager of corporate communications there.

Before that you worked with your entrepreneur hubby. What was that like?

It was the perfect fit at the right time to have it all, per say – I worked full-time, with a great balance between at-home and meetings with clients, and had lots of flexibility to be able to pick up and drop off my daughter at preschool, spend more time with her in the evenings when she was little and attend all of her preschool celebrations and activities. This balance and flexibility was really important to me when my daughter was so young.

What prompted the job change?

In the 13 years I’ve lived in KC, at whatever level I was at in my career, there have only ever been a couple of openings at AMC; when I saw one, I was immediately intrigued and had to learn more. Turns out, it was an incredible opportunity and great fit.

I’m assuming you’ve become a bit of a movie buff then. What’s the best film you’ve seen lately?

Spotlight had me on the edge of my seat, and the acting was really captivating. I enjoy taking my daughter to every kid movie, and she’s spoiled by AMC’s red recliners.

If PR wasn’t your gig, what do you think you would be doing?

I’d probably be a counseling psychologist.

That doesn’t surprise me at all. You’re so involved in the community and constantly helping people; how do you manage your busy schedule and still find time to give back?

It’s a priority, and one that has shifted up or down at different times in my life. I try to focus on organizations or causes where I can make an impact and that are close to my heart and ones that allow me to work alongside the best and brightest {and most fun} people from whom I can learn.

What is a typical day like for you?

Typical days begin with coffee and end with wine. I’ve gotten back into working out a few mornings a week, which really helps kick-start the day and calibrate my mind. At work, it could be a day focused on projects at my computer or one spent mostly in meetings or catching up with colleagues on ideas and projects. We have family dinner at the table most nights – could be something in the Crock-Pot, or if I’ve not planned ahead stuff from the freezer or cupboard paired with a fruit and vegetable. I also read to my daughter most nights I’m home, a favorite way to wind down and enjoy time with her.

What keeps you sane?

Coffee, wine, exercise, mindless TV, travel, prayer, my friends and most importantly, my husband.

You also have two step children. Tell me how you all spend family time.

With two teenagers and a 5-year-old, this varies from board games or movies at home to afternoons at a park. We like to be on the go and check out all the family-friendly fun KC has to offer, and we like to expose the kids to these things – the Nelson, Plaza Art Fair, KC Parks events like Ethnic Enrichment Festival and Santa’s Wonderland, Mavericks games, etc.

Has there been a mom-moment you’ve missed that you regretted due to work?

Yes, and I think moms just have to accept it’ll happen. I was out of town for a theatre opening that was both exciting and important for me at work, and unavoidably it coincided with my daughter’s preschool Christmas program, and her last one, to boot. Thank goodness for modern technology and sweet friends who took lots of photos so I could feel connected.

It definitely takes a village. Who helps you with your kiddos?

We’re fortunate to have supportive, awesome, hands-on grandparents – sadly, my parents are in Tennessee, but my husband’s live nearby. It also helps to have a great babysitter or two and neighbor-friends who don’t mind helping in a pinch.

What do you hope your daughter takes away from you working?

I hope she sees an example of both hard work and education and seeking the opportunities to apply those in a way that brings personal fulfillment, professional growth and my own contribution to the household income. I also hope she’s gaining her own sense of independence and blazing her own trail in life. I hope she knows that I miss her {most} every day and cherish our “stay-at-home day” playtime.

What’s your best piece of advice for other moms who work?

Do what you want to do – don’t let someone else’s choices, opinions or norms dictate yours. A one-size-fits-all approach for what is important or functional for one mom or family isn’t reasonable.

I’m on a quest to having it all. Do you think you have it all?

Good question! I trust my own female intuition and mom instincts in trying to achieve balance. Sometimes that balance feels out of whack – too much time spent here or needing more time there…I think needs and priorities shift as far as how big each piece of the “it all” pie goes. We might not have to make sacrifices, but we do have to make choices and to own those choices.

Don’t just take Erin’s daughter’s word for it, you too can experience the cozy red recliners at an AMC near you.

Want to be interviewed for #workingmomwednesday? Contact me to find out how.

Balance doesn’t mean perfect

balance doesn't mean perfect

Yesterday I realized that all month I’ve unintentionally been blogging around the same theme: not being so hard on myself.

Maybe it’s because my house has been decorated with store-bought Valentines that remind me February is about love. Or maybe it’s because my children have been sick for what seems like months and so I haven’t been my usual productive self. {Note: Daphne is home sick today as I write this!}

Whatever the reason, I have obviously been struggling to find a balance between my new business and my family lately. As a result, I’ve felt the need to compensate my shortcomings with a little personal TLC.

For some of you, that may mean a pedicure or a new outfit. But if you’re like me, it may be simply acknowledging that you’ve done your best, abandoning the critical voices in your head, and feeling grateful that tomorrow you get to try again.

Then today I came across this quote while reading an article about momtrepreneurs:

Balance doesn’t mean perfect.

Wow! For someone who can be incredibly hard on herself {ahem}, this really hit home.

It’s so easy to compare ourselves to other women. When we look through the social media lenses at others it often leaves us with an unrealistic {and often unattainable} version of how perfect their lives must be. In turn, we harshly criticize our own flaws when we aren’t fulfilling this “perfect” version of ourselves.

Last time I checked, I’m far from perfect. I snapped at my husband. I let my daughter watch too much television. I didn’t clean up the cereal my son managed to dump out in every room in our house. I forgot to feed the cats. I was late to a meeting {which never happens}. And that’s just what I recall from before 2 p.m. today.

As moms, I’m sure we can all agree that we make mistakes all the time. We are imperfect. We don’t expect everyone around us to be flawless, so why do we expect it from ourselves? I’ve frequently told my friends that the best part of having toddlers is that they’re so forgiving {and it doesn’t hurt that their memories aren’t always stellar}. I almost enjoy the moments when I take my daughter aside and tell her that mommy was wrong and she’ll do better next time. I want her to remember those times so that she learns to take ownership of her own bad choices, too.

This got me thinking. Why do moms, especially working moms, talk about balance like it too is an unattainable thing, just like perfection is?

Why are we pursuing a work-life balance?

What is balance?

Balance is the ability to move or remain in a position without falling. It implies shifting, wobbling, wiggling and sometimes, yes, even staying still. What better metaphor for taking on all of the ups and downs and back and forths that both a career and a family bring?

I envision a woman walking around trying to balance a bunch of books on her head {stay with me here…}. She has her “work” book. Her “family” book. A book for friends, her hobbies, her guilty pleasures. Each book is a different size and different weight. Sometimes new books have to be added to the stack and sometimes books fall off. And that’s okay, too.

A work-life balance isn’t a destination; it’s about how we walk through life balancing books on our heads. Balance has nothing to do with perfection at all.

Maybe it’s because I’ve committed to going easier on myself this month, but when it comes to balance I think I’m doing a pretty good job. I spend quality time with my family every single day; some days more than others, of course. I invest in my work through business development, strategy creation and client relations, which brings me professional satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment. I make efforts to connect with my friends, schedule date nights with my husband, and I even try to squeeze in some time for exercise these days.

I see balance as carrying your favorite books with you {not worrying about how many books everyone else has} and doing your best not to drop them.

And even if you do, load the important books right back on top of your head again. Shift, wobble, wiggle or even stay a little more still this time until you regain your balance. Then be grateful you get to try again tomorrow.

After all, balance doesn’t mean perfect.

Working Mom Wednesday: I wanted to be a mom, but I also wanted a career

Working Mom

I can’t tell you how many times a week I have an “it’s such a small world” moment, especially living in Kansas City. Well, that’s exactly what happened the first time I met working mom, Mary Moore. First, we realized we had a mutual friend. Then, we put together that we’d actually met before – probably more than once – at the birthday parties of another friend’s sons.

Mary and her husband Tim could quite possibly be the coolest people I know. They are both hilarious, genuinely kind, and super fun. Like, there is no way my husband and I could possibly hang with them, fun.

But one of the things I find most intriguing about this couple is their family dynamic: Mary is a career woman and Tim is the primary caregiver. While there is no doubt that there’s been a huge increase in the number of stay-at-home-fathers {16% and rising}, it’s still often presumed to be mom’s gig.

I couldn’t wait to interview Mary and find out how this arrangement works for her.

TFM: Self-promo time. Tell me what you do.

Mary: I’m the Director of Marketing and Business Development for Pulse Design Group.  Pulse is an architecture firm that focuses solely on healthcare design. Very niche, specialized market. Been there almost a year. Love it!

TFM: If you weren’t doing that, what would you be?

Mary: I’d be independently wealthy and sitting on a beach somewhere. Obviously. But…when I lost all my money on a risky bet, I’d rehab furniture. I love reviving ‘drab into fab’ as they say.

TFM: That sounds like a dream. The beach part. Now, you’re in a unique–but growing–role of being the breadwinner while your husband is home with your three kids. What is that like?

Mary: Ummm….it’s freakin’ awesome and totally works for us. The role reversal wasn’t much of an adjustment for us and has been awesome for our family. I can scoot off to work feeling 100% comfortable knowing that my kids are in great hands. Something I was just never quite comfortable with in the daycare setting. If it can’t be me, I’m sure as hell glad it’s him. And sometimes, more often than not, I’ve realized that he does a better job than I do, or did, or would do. My husband totally rocks the stay at home dad gig and embraces it. I love hearing about his day when I come home from work and everyday is different. Today, the highlight of his day was taking ballet lessons from our four year old daughter. I have to admit, there are times when pings of jealousy run through me that I’m missing out, but I remind myself how lucky they are to have special bonding time with their dad. A time that they will always remember and remember fondly….at least that’s the hope 😉

TFM: I’ve met your husband; they’ll definitely remember 🙂 We know each day is different for dad, so what is a typical day like for you?

Mary: Typical? What’s typical? I’m a mother of three kids (age 6, 4 and 2), work full time, have a food truck business on the side, and sit on several boards of philanthropic organizations. Every day is different. Drastically different. Sure there are the norms of getting up and going to work, but what happens before, during and after are always different. That’s one thing I’ll say about having kids is there is never a dull moment. Never. And if there is, it’s usually a bad sign…..or so I’ve found to be true for us.

TFM: You mentioned that at times it’s hard not to feel a smidgen of jealousy for your stay-at-home hubby. Have you ever missed a moment in your child’s life that you regret?

Mary: Oh, hell yeah. Of course. Who hasn’t? I hate it. I’ll never get used to it but it’s part of life. I’ve missed a party at school or a field trip or two, but I make absolutely certain that I’m there for the main ones. Big or small, it doesn’t matter. I know my kids, and know when they really need me there. Sometimes it’s to be the room parent volunteer for a special event at school and I’ve been there. Sometimes it’s as simple as just playing chase or having some one on one time. It’s taking the time to make those things count, so that they know I’m there….even when I can’t {physically} be. I just have to balance it as best I can and be okay with the fact that I’ll miss things from time to time. Does it suck? Yes. Do I like it? No. But that’s just the way it is and I’ll drive myself bat shit crazy if I don’t constantly remind myself that I’m doing the best I can.

TFM: And the forgiving part about parenting is that no one expects you to do it alone. It takes a village. Who’s yours?

Mary: Should I name names? That list would be a mile long. We have help. So much help. We need help and aren’t afraid to admit it. Parenting is hard. Damn hard. Hectic schedules, a messy house, non-stop chaos, unruly toddlers, and the thought of trying to organize a date night seems like a huge feat. Luckily, we have help. We live in a super awesome neighborhood where there are lots of young families. We have all become friends. Good friends. One family became our business partners. We all walk right into each other’s homes without knocking and make ourselves at home. We watch each other’s kids. But ‘watch’ isn’t the right word. We are all a huge part of each other’s lives and help each other because we want to, not because we have to. It’s good to know that there are many sets of eyes watching over all the kids at all times. Other than the neighbors, our family helps us out a TON. Two sets of grandparents babysit often along with extended family members. We have a large network that is always willing to help. We would be screwed without them. Royally screwed!

TFM: So a divide and conquer approach. I love that. Is there any product or service you love so much you could be a brand ambassador?

Mary: Duct tape. Kids break everything. Duct tape fixes everything. Problem solved!

TFM: Creative! So what keeps you from losing your cool at home?

Mary: Wine. Chocolate. Then more wine. And my husband. He’s the best sounding board and the voice of reason. And he’s funny. Really funny and finds humor in everything. Even when there’s poop on the floor (which happens more than I’d like to admit-our 2 year old has learned to take off his diaper). It’s made life interesting as of late. But no matter what’s happening, there’s always laughter in our house. That keeps us sane. Oh, and more wine!

TFM: So now that we’re talking poop, what is your favorite thing about being a mom?

Mary: That’s a loaded question. Too hard to answer so I’ll give an example.  Recently my 6 year old son asked me to be his Valentine. Of course I accepted. Being a mom has its ups and downs, but being my kid’s Valentine is one of the greatest honors and privileges I’ve experienced in 32 (okay fine, who am I kidding, 37) years. Those special moments, even if they seem few and far between, far outweigh the sleepless nights, potty training struggles, terrible twos, etc. When your child asks you to be his Valentine, you know you’ve done something right. Being a mom is amazing. But it’s amazing because my kids are amazing. Of course I’m biased, but they truly are. But you asked about my favorite part about being a mom. It has to be those tiny moments in time when you see your child for the first time, when they catch your eye and smile at you from across the room while they are busy playing with a friend, when you watch them learn, see them being helpful or empathetic, playing with their siblings, developing new skills, and the list goes on and on. And did I mention when you get asked to be their Valentine? That’s a killer. God help me if he ever asks to marry me!

TFM: So sweet. I love my mama’s boy, too! Now, you have two sons and a daughter; what do you hope they take away from mom working outside of the home?

Mary: I hope they understand that I did it because I wanted to. I wanted to be a mom, but I also wanted a career. I like to work. I’m actually a better mom because I work. When I get home, I focus on them and we get quality time. I hope they learn that you can have both if that’s what you truly want.

TFM: What’s your best piece of advice for other working moms?

Mary: Do it. Embrace it. Own it. Let your children see that you are working and explain to them why it’s important. If you have to leave them, leave them for something that you love. Let them see you rock your career and achieve success. They may not quite understand it, but they know it’s important. And don’t beat yourself up about being a working mom. Be proud of who you are, what you do and that you can have a career and be an involved parent. It’s not an either/or.

TFM: I’m on a quest to having it all. What does having it all mean to you?

Mary: Man, that sounds great. Really great. Unfortunately, it probably doesn’t work for me and my family in the traditional sense. I work hard, damn hard. Long hours. Then I come home and continue to work-but it’s a different job. The mom job. I’m not much for fancy houses and flashy cars or “keeping up with the Joneses.” Why would I need to keep up with them? That’s too much pressure and for all I know, they’re up to their eyeballs in debt, on the brink of divorce and they don’t have strong bonds with their friends or kids….and likely as not, they’re probably jerks. Okay, that’s probably not fair, and I’m sure The Joneses are perfectly nice people, but I just want to work hard, provide a comfortable life for my family, spend time with them and be real. I don’t want to try be something I’m not. That’s too much work and really exhausting. I don’t need another reason to be exhausted. And when I go to bed at night with dishes in the sink, laundry piled high and a messy house {at least I cleaned up the poop}, I know my kids and my husband know that they are my world. So in that regard, I do have it all!


Remember that food truck Mary mentioned? Her husband Tim takes turns operating Pie Hole with co-owner {and fellow stay-at-home-dad} Chris Knowles. This daddy-duo has figured out job sharing for care givers turned entrepreneurs. On top of everything else on her working mom to-do list, Mary does their marketing. Bravo, team!

Want to be interviewed for #workingmomwednesday? Contact me to find out how.

I bought my kids’ Valentines for school, and that’s okay


Have you been on Pinterest lately?

It’s brimming with the sweetest Valentine’s Day crafts for you and your cuties to do together. Even my Facebook news feed has been full of links to videos and blogs with heart-inspired DIY.

Last year, I spent a full episode of The Bachelor cutting out little tags I’d printed that read “Sip-sip horray! It’s Valentine’s Day!” and fastening them to crazy straws. My daughter was two and half and not exactly a huge help. But I didn’t mind. They were adorable! The kids were going to love them.

And they did. But they also viewed the darling tags I’d spent hours on as an obstacle to getting to what they really wanted: the straws. The tags ended up in the trash.

Would I have done it all over again? Absolutely! It brought me joy to feel as though I was doing something special for my daughter and her friends.

Here’s the thing.

Rather than spending hours painting, cutting, glittering, sticking and/or packaging with Daphne this year, I decided to swing by the store and let her pick out a bag of prepackaged snacks for her friends.

And that’s okay.

The truth is, I have a love/hate relationship with DIY. As in, I hate that fact that I love it, because I’m not particularly good at it.

Whatever the craft, recipe, fill-in-the-blank, the photos always look so perfect. The directions make it seems so quick and simple. And it should definitely be less expensive than something store bought if I’m making it myself, right?

Well, if you’re not a regular DIY-er {I’m not}, you probably don’t already have a craft room full of supplies to pull from {I don’t}, which means you’ll need to hit up Hobby Lobby before you get started. Consider how those little buttons, stickers, clothes pins, and ribbons add up and try to think of ways you may use the leftovers so you don’t waste, or you could end up spending way more than you’d planned.

And then comes the actual Doing It Yourself….Is it just me, or does it rarely look as good as the example? I usually end up disappointed or frustrated or regretting that I didn’t just go buy whatever it was that I was attempting to create myself.

As moms, we put a tremendous amount of pressure on ourselves to be perfect parents. But parenting isn’t a one-size-fits all job description. And social media has only perpetuated the idea that the grass is greener in other moms’ yards.

While I’ve loved looking at the beautiful photos online of Valentine’s Day crafts, I’m also comfortable in sitting back and saying I don’t have time for that. And knowing my kids aren’t going to be worse for it.

Are you a DIY mom? I totally envy you, especially if it comes easily for you! Handmade gifts are cherished because they are personal. Kudos to you for your artistic vision and patience. I’m sure your kids will inherit both from the time you spend creating together.

But this year, I’ve aligned myself with the store-buying Valentines moms.

My daughter was so proud to pick out her treats for her class all by herself. She even gave me an unprompted hug and thank you! And while I cannot be certain, I’m pretty confident that she wouldn’t have done the same if I’d spent hours cutting out tags again.

Plus, the time not crafting was spent riding bikes around the neighborhood and playing outside with my daughter instead.

This Valentine’s Day, I wish you a stress-free day to cherish your family and friends and do something together that you all enjoy. Whether you spend the day crafting, shopping, riding bikes or just sitting at home, make sure you’re surrounded by those you love

Working Mom Wednesday: do what is right for you

Today is my mom’s birthday, so I could think of no better woman to feature in this week’s interview than Pam Gyllenborg!

Like many women, my mom’s career path hasn’t always been straight and easy. She’s been a Spanish teacher, a travel agent, a stay at home mom.

She’s dedicated her life to philanthropy regardless of whether or not she was working outside of the home. From the Kansas City Symphony to the Children’s Center for the Visually Impaired and a hundred organizations in between, my mom has always worked hard to improve our local community through service.

But with her children out of the house {and now married with babies of our own}, my mom dusted off her briefcase and headed back to work as a real estate agent. She’s grown an impressive business through her philanthropic and social networks and her outstanding reputation.

While building her career, my mom’s also managed to set aside time to care for her grandchildren {my children} one day a week. This has been an incredible blessing in my life to allow me to work while keeping childcare costs in check.

She is truly an outstanding wife, mother, grandmother, friend and businesswoman!

TFM: Hi, mom! Happy Birthday! You don’t look a day over 40 😉 Why don’t we start with you telling everyone what you do.

Mom: I am a Realtor, a Senior Sales Executive for 12 years with Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate.

TFM: What do you enjoy about working in real estate?

Mom: The favorite part of my job is the many friendships that I have built with my clients. These relationships are multi generational now. Nothing pleases me more than to have helped a parent and now their children in their real estate needs.

TFM: You’ve always been a people-person. I don’t think we’ve ever left the house without you bumping into someone you know! But no job is perfect, so what has been the hardest part?

Mom: Thanks to technology, I can be reached 24/7. I’m constantly at the “beck and call” of my clients no matter what day or time it is, which can make it difficult to make plans.

TFM: That makes sense and I think a lot of working moms face the same challenge of never being able to turn off work. So give me an example of a Realtor’s work day?

Mom: Each day is different except for Thursday which is my grandson, Henry’s babysitting day. The entire day is about him!

TFM: Henry sure does love his Gigi 🙂

Mom: However, most mornings I start by addressing my emails and texts. It is important to keep on top of the market so I check MLS for new listings, changes in price and status. Then I take time to communicate by updating current clients and touching base with past clients. I do that by phone, email, newsletters, snail mail, and in person lunches and coffee dates. I spend afternoons working on marketing, listing presentations, staging homes for showings, previewing homes or attending price opinions for agents. I end the day by going to an exercise class.

TFM: Now, you reentered the workforce after two decades of raising children. Why?

Mom: My nest was empty, and I was tired of being a professional volunteer. I wanted to enter the work force one more time. I wanted a job with time flexibility and not to be chained to a desk all day. Real Estate seemed like a good fit and a way that I could join forces with my husband who has been in the construction business for 30 years {Gyllenborg Construction}.

TFM: Were there any struggles when you first went back to work?

Mom: When I first got into real estate, I joined a top KC team in order to learn the business from the best. Technology was and continues to be my biggest challenge. Now my husband and I have partnered together in the business. He builds the homes and I sell them, or I sell the homes and he remodels them. I think that we are the only ones in KC that offer the services of a licensed contractor and Realtor together. And so far, we have not had one fight or disagreement!!

TFM: High school sweethearts to business partners. You two love birds! If you hadn’t chosen real estate, what do you think you would be?

Mom: Well, I love clothes and fashion. My closets are stuffed full! I worked in a very trendy clothing store in high school and college selling, modeling and doing window and store displays. I also enjoy interior design which I utilize when staging my clients’ homes. As you know when I babysit, I am always rearranging your furniture. You are never sure what your house is going to look like when you come home!

TFM: This is a true statement. While we’re usually not pleased when we get home, we also never move it back. You must know a thing or two! You also held a few jobs before staying home with kids…do any of them stand out to you?

Mom: I was a travel agent and a Spanish teacher at Barstow School. I loved to travel so the travel business caught my interest out of college. I started at a time with no computers. We hand wrote the tickets in first class and coach fares only established by a book that came out once a month. The industry would give us free “Fam” or familiarization trips to fly to and review their resorts. It was a fun career until the airlines became deregulated. Discount fares and computers changed the game.

TFM: A lot of working moms decide to stay home for the early years. What’s your best piece of advice for those deciding to go back to work?

Mom: Do what is right for you!

TFM: That’s right. Parenting {and working} is not one size fits all. One thing we do all have in common? We’re not perfect. Tell me about a time you messed up.

Mom: I still have nightmares about this one! When I was doing event planning for not-for-profits, I hired a friend to do the catering for a large car show and auction for 300 people. She failed to provide enough food or staff for the evening and half the guests did not get any dinner! Very embarrassing!

TFM: How did you overcome it?

Mom: I try to follow the Frozen philosophy of “Let it Go!” I learned here that you must check and double check references and past performances, even if they are your friend.

TFM: You’ve been watching too many Disney movies, mom. Be honest: parenting vs. grandparenting?

Mom: Grandparenting is the best…just unconditional love and spoiling! You do not have the worries and the day to day grind of parents.

TFM: Yeah, yeah. Well, what would you say is the best part of being a mom?

Mom: Giving life, nurturing that life with your heart and soul, and then watching that life grow and succeed in the world is the most beautiful thing. I could not be prouder of my daughters and the wonderful women and mothers they are today.

TFM: {Blushing} Thanks, mom! But I’m sure I still drive you a little nuts after all of these years. What keeps you sane? Besides QVC….

Mom: Of course, my family and friends are my greatest blessing. I also enjoy exercise like Zumba, Tai Chi or Curves. I do think it is important to be good to yourself in this busy, hectic life. I recommend everyone treat themselves to a massage or mani/pedi once a month!

TFM: You’re buying, right? Just teasing…this month is on me. Happy Birthday, mom!

If you’re looking to buy, sell, build or remodel a home in Kansas City, I highly suggest you get in touch with my mom {and dad, John}. I may be bias, but they are total real estate rock stars.

Want to be interviewed for #workingmomwednesday? Contact me to find out how.

3 things to remember when your little ones get sick

sick kids

Last week was a long, runny-nose-filled sick one. In fact, I can’t recall a day when someone in my family wasn’t feeling a little {or a lot} under the weather since Thanksgiving.

Remember when the school called me last Monday about Henry’s fever? Well, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday came and went, and poor Henry still wasn’t quite looking ready to go back to school. I spent Friday morning taking him the pediatrician and the afternoon snuggling with him on the couch.

While he was incredibly cute and cuddly, I couldn’t help but feel distracted by the huge amount of work I had originally planned to do that day. And then I felt guilty that I felt so distracted. And then I felt stressed.

I mean, just as you cannot {or should not} bundle up your sweet sniffling toddler and send him off to daycare sick, you also cannot {or should not} neglect your work responsibilities, right?

My husband and I are incredibly lucky when it comes to sick days. We’re both self-employed, which means we don’t have anyone to call to request time off and we don’t have to eat away at our vacation time in order to be there for our children. This definitely is not the case for many parents.

But with this great flexibility, also comes an enormous amount of pressure.

My husband is fortunate that he has some great employees who can temporarily pick up the slack in his absence. I, on the other hand, am a one-woman show. If I don’t do it, it doesn’t get done.

Fortunately, I’m a planner and typically schedule out my clients’ needs days if not weeks in advance. But what about those emails? What about that meeting? What about this blog post?

Here’s what I want all working moms to know when their little ones gets sick:

1. Keep your guilt in check

The reality is that there are times when you will need to get work done in order to meet an important deadline and there are meetings that you absolutely cannot miss. But there are also times when you will need to be better at letting it go to be there for your child who needs you. No matter which situation you’re in when your little one gets sick, try to remember that you’re exactly where you need to be. Let the guilt go – whether it’s about the kids or work.

2. Know when to call for back up

We live in a society that assumes that mom will stay home. Maybe this is still true for some families, but that doesn’t mean it will always be true for you. Know who your alternates are ahead of time, because that nasty cold likely won’t call you in advance to schedule a babysitter. When you wake up in the morning with an unexpected sick kid and cannot be the one to stay home, you need to know who may be able to help you.

For me, it’s usually a matter of my husband and I comparing schedules. Can we trade off throughout the day? Does he need to stay home today so that I can be at that event and then we will switch tomorrow? I’m also incredibly lucky to have my parents just down the street as a plan B {although they too work}, as well as some fabulous neighbors.

3. Life happens

My kids coming down with a fever has hardly been the only reason for a work day gone awry. I’ve had my car break down on my way to work {before dropping my kids off}, inclement weather {I remember spending hours in the basement of the building I worked in during a tornado in the middle of an incredibly important meeting}, power/internet outages at the office, and on and on.

A sick kid is hardly the only thing that gets in the way of a productive work day. As working moms, we make adjustments all the time. {See? This blog post still got written.}

At the end of the day, someone has got to take care of the little one when he’s not feeling well. And I, for one, am glad it was me.

Working Mom Wednesday: no excuses

business owner

I’ve known and admired Jenny Kincaid for all of my adult life. I met her within my first week at my first big-kid job after my husband and I moved back to Kansas City. At the time, we were both working our tails off for someone else.

If you’ve had the privilege of meeting Jenny, I’m guessing you left the conversation feeling empowered. She has a knack for lifting up other women and genuinely wants to help those around her find success. With her independent attitude, fierce work ethic, and outside-of-the-box creativity, I knew Jenny had bigger things ahead of her.

Since then, Jenny has built her own public and social relations firm committed to Kansas City companies. {I also coaxed her into joining Femfessionals Kansas City.} During that time, Jenny also took on her newest role – mom.

TFM: Tell the people what you do.

Jenny: Socialworx PR is a lifestyle and niche public relations firm. We work with a variety of clients, from ideas that started out on a napkin to companies that have been in business for more than 150 years. Our “niche” seems to be companies that are locally owned, woman owned, and those that don’t have a strong brand awareness or presence in the area…yet. We specialize in “social relations” which is just our term for community involvement. Being social is beneficial for you personally, professional and philanthropically.

TFM: What made you want to take the leap to start your own company?

Jenny: I wanted to do things my way, on my own time and in my own unique way. Having had a great experience in this business for 5 years with another PR firm, it was just time that I make a change. I wanted to own my own business again and I liked the idea of being challenged everyday, scaring myself to commit to something, to be successful. I wanted to call the shots.

TFM: What is the best part of being a business owner?

Jenny: Like all things, there are ups and downs, and the same goes for owning your own business. Not everyday is ice cream and lollipops, but you can’t learn if you don’t fail. The best part of being a business owner is the freedom to take those chances to see if something works, the freedom to make your own schedule and not have to rely on someone else for your own success.

TFM: Speaking of failing, tell me about a time you really messed up

Jenny: I have missed deadlines, I’ve launched a campaign without everyone’s permission, I’ve been way off base on a story angle and completely missed the storyline for some major outlets…

TFM: I’m sure when dealing with clients those mistakes can be a tough pill to swallow. How did you go about making it right?

Jenny: I was honest and owned up to my mistake, then learned from it and spent more time in those areas.

TFM: Very professional advice. What is a typical day like for you in the world of public relations?

Jenny: There is no typical day in PR, I’m sure you’ve heard that before. Some mornings start at 6 a.m. with texts from a client followed by 7:30 a.m. calls (then play for a bit with my daughter and drop her off, kiss hubby goodbye), head to office, talk to the team and get the run down for the day, head to coffee meeting, maybe a luncheon, sit it on a photo shoot…all the while checking emails and exchanging texts. Maybe go to a horse barn for an interview with KCPD Mounted Patrol then run behind a bar to try a new cocktail or wine, drop by the tv station for a few photos of a client interview, try to get in a 30 minute workout. Finish up the day brainstorming about our new products and services and how they will actually help our clients, plan ahead, answer phone calls and check all social media sites (schedule posts for the next day) and at least one day a week head to a board or committee meeting for one of the non-profits I volunteer for.

TFM: Sounds like a very full, but exciting plate! I bet you never get bored. If you weren’t in PR, what would you be doing?

Jenny: Good question…it would depend on where I was in my life. I’ve always been one to thrift and refurbish furniture so that’s one thing I’ve got. I’ve also thought about going back to school and being an ER nurse…then again, I like being around people so as long as I was keeping busy I would be happy. More philanthropy, helping friends with their businesses? Who knows?

TFM: Since launching Socialworx PR, you’ve also become a mama! What is your favorite part about being a mom?

Jenny: Like many, I can’t name just one. I love when she laughs, says “I love you” and runs to me at the end of the day. Who can get enough of that?

TFM: Who helps you with your daughter while you’re working?

Jenny: I have the most adorable husband…I tell everyone that he’s the best thing that ever happened to me. From day one of our relationship, he has known that I’m really independent, a natural busy-body and am involved in a lot. He helps with Ellis in every way and days when I leave at 7 a.m. and don’t get home till 7 p.m., I always get the same response “No problem babes, I know you’re a busy woman. You’ve got a lot on your plate, besides that, we’re a team.” He is the perfect balance. To add to that, I have my parents who are beyond awesome. They are retired and take her two days a week. I’m pretty sure this is more fun for them than anything, but again, I feel lucky that Ellis can spend time with them, learn from them and it helps keep them young. They also help out when we’re in a pinch. We are very lucky to have that support. I can’t forget about my older brother Kyle, either. He lives just down the street and can’t go a day without a picture of her or seeing her. He watches her occasionally when he’s not on the railroad and they’re the best of friends. Again, lucky!

TFM: Have you ever missed a moment in your Ellis’s life that you regret?

Jenny: Not yet…I worked from home for the first 14 months of her life so I was able to see her everyday. This is also where owning your own business comes in handy too…if I want to stay home with her, I will.

TFM: That’s awesome. If your daughter takes away one thing from you running a business, what do you think {or hope} that would be?

Jenny: The ability to smile at the end of the day and feel good about having a good work ethic, being humble and kind and knowing that working hard pays off.

TFM: What keeps you sane?

Jenny: My hubby, stepping away and laughing with friends, a little dancing now and then, peanut M&M’s and a Sailor Jerry’s & Coke.

TFM: Good to know 🙂 What’s your best piece of advice for other working moms?

Jenny: You can do it. Women have been doing great things for hundreds of years and without the resources we have now, so focus on the end goal. Focus on living the type of life you want and then take the steps to make it happen. It’s not going to happen overnight and you’re not Superwoman, be realistic, but be bold, be you and learn to love the fire. Surround yourself with other like-minded people (men and women).

TFM: Any tips for women wanting to start a business?

Jenny: Go for it. You’re one step closer to living the life you want than you were yesterday and as fast as time flies, 6 months from now you’ll be that much closer to being a #bossbabe! Again, be realistic and think about what you’re doing and what the outcome is. Ask questions, do your research and surround yourself with people who will be honest with you. Get feedback, take criticism in stride, make mistakes and learn from them. But don’t ever say you can’t or give excuses…no excuses.

TFM: I’m on a quest to having it all. Do you think you have it all?

Jenny: I have all that I need and that makes me happy.

Jenny will celebrate 6 years in biz next month! For more about the amazing company she’s built, the KC clients she works with everyday, and the fabulous Jenny herself, check out Socialworx PR.

Want to be interviewed for #workingmomwednesday? Contact me to find out how.

Don’t treat me like the default parent

default parent

Ever since my husband and I welcomed our daughter into the world, I’ve been talking about my role as the “default parent.” I actually coined the phrase at home before realizing it was an actual thing.

Early on I’d have to plan ahead for an evening out {I was still nursing/pumping} and we’d joke that my husband was “babysitting” that night. As both of our responsibilities grew at home and at work, the babysitting comment became less funny.

To me, it was frustrating to have to coordinate with his schedule to make sure he was available to watch our child when he seemed to come and go as he pleased.

And to my husband it was condescending, as if he wasn’t worthy of the same parent title I held {which is ridiculous and untrue}.

So how did I become the default? Is it because I chose to breastfeed and was immediately – and physically – tied to my children since birth? Is it because I’m the planner in the family and coordinate everything from doctors appointments to holidays? Or is it simply because I’m the mom?

I have no doubt that there are a handful of daddy-defaults out there. But I’m also willing to bet that the majority of the time the default parent is the same person who carried around that sweet babe for 9 months in her uterus, regardless of what her story is afterwards.

Just yesterday I had an eye opening experience with my children’s preschool. Now that my work-week is a bit condensed so that I can spend more time with our tiny tots at home, I take those working days very seriously. I typically do not answer my phone and have even nearly forgotten to eat lunch {gasp!} because I was so focused on what I needed to get done.

Around 2 p.m. I heard my phone go off in the kitchen, but figured it was likely A. a sales person reminding me for the 3,000 time that the deadline is approaching for health insurance through the exchange, or B. my husband. I decided that both could wait until I left the house an hour later for carpool line.

Around 2:45 I popped up to freshen my water and glanced at my phone. Crap.

It was the preschool calling to say that poor Henry had woken up from his nap with a high fever and needed to be picked up as soon as possible. I immediately grabbed my keys and headed to the garage.

Before calling the school to let them know I was on my way with my parent-of-the-year award, I called my husband to make sure he wasn’t heading that way already, too. As it turns out, the school didn’t call him. Or either grandparent listed as a family contact. Just mom. The default.

For some reason, this made me really, really frustrated. The school is well aware that I’m a working parent. They request that information on all of the paperwork. So why did they assume I was the only one available to pick up my son in the middle of the day? {Disclaimer: we are very happy at our kids’ school and do not hold them accountable for relying on the default.}

At home, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will likely always be the one in charge of our children’s whereabouts, school paperwork, appointments and activities unless otherwise communicated with dad. And let me be clear that this isn’t because my husband wouldn’t be capable of doing so if he’d been coined the default, because he would totally rock it. Just like he rocks trash day, making breakfast every morning, reading books with my daughter every night and a million other things he does for our family.

When it comes to the bigger picture, however, I think it’s time for others to stop relying on the default. In a world where women comprise 50% of the workforce and nearly 3 out of every 4 moms are working outside of the home, maybe we could start calling dad on sick days.