Showing posts with label how does she do it. Show all posts
Showing posts with label how does she do it. Show all posts

how does she do it

Alright, I'm beyond excited to share this post. I'm delighted to have the opportunity to share a little wisdom and advice from a smart and impressively talented gal. Her name is Susie Meister and since I probably won't get her bio 100% correct, I'll let her do the talking:

Left-brained Susie Meister was born and raised in Pittsburgh, but after high school joined MTV’s Road Rules Down Under for the ride of her life. She has since participated in eight shows on MTV (but don’t judge her). All Susie’s reality winnings went towards her education, and in 2014 she completed her PhD in Religious Studies from the University of Pittsburgh. In addition to her academic work, Susie has begun diversity training with the legendary activist Jane Elliott who created the famed Blue Eyes Brown Eyes Exercise. Susie now works for organizations and businesses as a diversity trainer where she uses Jane Elliott’s techniques to teach people about racism, sexism, ageism, and other prejudices in American culture and how to combat them effectively. Susie is working on a book for RothCo Press called Being Jesus on the experiences of actors who have played the iconic character. Her work has also been featured in the Huffington Post, The Good Men Project, Salon, and Maniac Magazine. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Adam, and their son Lincoln.  Even though things are pretty great, the best day of her life is and will always be when she sang on stage with the Beach Boys. (via Brain Candy Podcast)
And now after that introduction here is a little bit about how Susie balances it all.

There are lots of little sayings about women that speak to our never-ending workload, and the way our attitudes set the tone for the whole house. While these idioms seem trite and overused, they tell an important story about the important role of women and often come to mind when I’m trying to pull the old “balancing plate” routine.

I am an independent scholar of religion, freelance television personality, podcaster, and a mom to a 4-year-old. Compared to some folks I have a very easy workload—I get to work from home most days, my son has a nanny, and my husband has a job that allows him to be off for several months of the year if he chooses. Yet even with that forgiving situation, just getting me to write this post took several gentle reminders from poor Johanna.

I’ve found that the blessing of an active mind is that I’m always coming up with new ideas for my research or ways to grow my podcast, but the curse of your wheels always turning is that it can get awfully noisy in my head. Sound familiar?

You know what I’m talking about. Those middle-of-the-night torture sessions when your brain suddenly remembers that time in the seventh grade when you pants split or that fear that you’re going to end up homeless. Just me? Nevermind, but you get the idea.

In the age of social media, it can feel like everyone has everything under control. They’re getting ahead. They’re having all the fun. The truth is actually that we’re all in the same boat. We get it right some days and other days we feed our kid a box of Ho-Hos just so he doesn’t starve to death. Whatevs. He’ll live.

So, the truth is that the question of “how does she do it,” is the same for everyone. We’re all just getting through this life and trying our damnedest to have a giggle along the way. I consider any day a success in which I use the bathroom without someone barging in.

I love being a scholar of religion. I love hosting a podcast. I love being on television. And I love my crazy kid. But that doesn’t mean doing all that stuff is always easy. I’m comforted, however, knowing that time is the great equalizer. Nobody gets more than 24-hours a day.

So, for me, the big question every single morning, and one that I ask myself as a ritual is, “What are you going to do with your 24 hours today?” You can do everything or nothing, but as long as you’re making a conscious decision to use your time doing the things that bring you joy, peace, and/or satisfaction, well then that’s a pretty damn good life.

Maybe your work is never done, but at least choose to do the things that improve your life because if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.


Many thanks to Susie Meister for stopping by and telling her story. I've linked to a few (okay maybe a lot) of her written work, her podcast, and some TV clips.

> her Facebook page

> her article for Huffington Post

> her TED talk

> her Salon article

> a Vox article by Susie

> and finally, her blog

how does she do it

After a bit of a sabbatical, I'd like to add another fabulous lady to my 'how does she do it' series. Please welcome an old friend of mine, Tiffany Larsen, a fantastic mom, uber hard-working nurse, and all around good person. She's a single mom that manages to fit in time for herself while providing for her family. We've been friends since high school, so it's my great pleasure to share her story with you.

I am a single mother of three – 11 & 8 year old boys & a 4 year old girl. I work full time (plus between two jobs) working both day & night shifts. My kids & their needs are number one, but I realize that I need to schedule in quality ‘me’ time in order to be a better mom – whether it’s a weekend getaway, trail running, or a couple hours at Barnes & Noble.  I have learned to let go of the guilt when I do this & allow myself to live in the moment so that I walk away rejuvenated, ready to face another week day by day. I try to push my comfort zone & embrace what brings me joy, re-evaluating often & letting go of things/people that are unhealthy or not contributing to my well-being.

I don’t sit well, my happiness is often directly related to my productivity. I’m used to living life fast-paced. I use my google calendar for work & personal life so I can double check schedules at a quick glance. If I feel the coming week/month is overwhelming, I just take it one day at a time, not allowing myself to look too far ahead, trusting that I set appropriate timely reminders. I make lists – I love the feeling of accomplishment & satisfaction that comes from crossing off items on my list, the stress & worry instantly disappearing as the line goes through the task. I will prioritize my listed items, especially on days when I’m short on time, or for small windows of opportunity like lunch breaks.

I face each day anticipating to work hard, not expecting anything to come easy, & reminding myself to work on my patience continually, anticipating change always. I try to be prepared with a dose of good humor when the unexpected happens, especially messes caused by kids – always best to get out the camera before the temper because I can cool down while realizing it’s something we will laugh about later!

As much as I like spontaneity, I also like goals & planning.  I take moments to reevaluate where I’m at, where I’m headed, where I want to be, what needs to change to get there and what I need to do to make it happen. In order to do all of that, I've cut out electronics as much as possible. We don’t have television, Netflix, cable, etc. I even shut off my Internet if I don’t have an immediate need (ie: online classes) and I don’t put games on my phone or tablet. I do treat myself to the occasional movie with the kiddos or even once in a while by myself, but it’s a rare occurrence.

When I have a weekend free of work or other obligations, I make it a point to play hard with my kiddos while still providing structure & educational opportunities. We buy season passes for aquariums, a local amusement park, and visit art galleries when we're on road trips.  I want to give my kids more than I ever had, not in a materialistic way as much as a cultural and hands on educational way. I try to keep things as routine as possible with my children; dinnertime, picking clothes out for the next day, bath time, and bedtime stories. I do tend to burn the candle on both ends at times to make sure things are okay for my children, but this works for me! 

I also pray, a lot, especially on hard days.

I try to eat healthy, drink lots of water, and exercise. Sometimes I have to get creative with the exercise – I’ll run with my daughter in a jogging stroller while my boys ride bikes to and from errands or I'll go for a run or hit the gym during my lunch hour.

It’s been important to me to keep close friends close and never lose them. I want to give more than I take, not only in friendships but in all of life. That is my hope & desire always. I do believe in karma! ;)


Thank you Tiffany for sharing your life with us! I think I'm going to go cancel my Netflix subscription now. Or maybe I'll wait until after I've finished Stranger Things... Then I'll cancel. 

on finding a nanny

picture taken by our nanny

Feel free to skip to the bottom for my quick tips for finding the right Nanny, or follow along below for our story.

My husband and I were married the summer after we graduated from college.  We had already been together for 5 years at that point and we were excited to start our lives together. We waited another 5 years to have our first child. I was 28 (almost 29) and was thrilled to finally be having kids. I've always wanted children and knew that my husband would be an awesome father. In fact, I was ready to have kids in my mid-20s.

So why did we wait so many years? Why didn't we just get the rodeo started if we knew kids were in our future anyway?

Part of it was just realizing we didn't need to rush it and it would be great to be settled in our jobs and life before we totally changed everything by adding a little baby to the mix. But the other part of it was I was terribly conflicted about what to do after that little baby arrived in our lives. What then? Would I continue working? Who would watch my child? Could I work part-time?

At the time I knew I had to keep working. I make a very good living at my job and we decided it was best to keep the breadwinner working and find the very best childcare we could for our daughter. Luckily we were in a position to find a nanny that could come to our house while we were away to take care of our 3 month old little baby.

I knew a few gals at work that had gone the nanny route and suggested we look at the website. It was very easy to look for a nanny and to set up a job posting. Since we lived in Denver, within a week we had over 100 applicants. It was scary but relieving to see so many capable, experience ladies looking to take care of our daughter.

We choose to narrow the list to 4 or 5 that we really liked and conduct phone interviews. That way we were quickly able to tell (by asking the same questions to each) which one or two would fit best with our family. After we had narrowed it down, we asked two nannies to come to our house to meet us and most especially, meet and hold Chloe.

Our second interview was with a young gal with a daughter about 6 months older than Chloe. She knocked it out of the park. We were very excited about having a playmate for Chloe as she got a bit older and it was clear that she knew what she was doing with babies and had also worked in a daycare facility before.

Chloe and our nannies daughter

We had a wonderful relationship with our first nanny. In fact, I bawled my eyes out when we moved out of Denver and had to leave her. We saw her everyday and she had taken such great care of Chloe and our family that it was incredibly hard to say goodbye.

We set out on the same adventure when we moved to Montana. We used the same website and though we had much fewer applicants, we did find someone special again to take care of our daughters.

So far we've had great luck with our nannies. I do know of stories of nannies stealing or sleeping on the job or other horrendous things. And some of those stories have come from people I know very well. I hope part of our success has been about being very careful in our selection process and very watchful of how they interact with our children.

Thanks for sticking with me on the story telling side!  Here are some quick tips if you are looking for a nanny for your family.

tips for finding the right nanny:

1) Interview a lot of candidates. Have phone interviews as well as in person interviews. Watch them interact with your child and make sure you feel 100% comfortable (parents intuition is key here) with how they play and talk to your child. Don't be afraid to call up references or do a background check.

2) Make sure they fit into your family's style and way of life. If you like the outdoors and exercise, make sure your nanny finds that a priority too. If you are vegan, or religious, or have strong beliefs about something, make sure your nanny knows and supports it.

3) Don't be afraid to have cameras in your home, at least at first. Also make sure you tell them about it. We had a camera set up for a while with our first nanny just so we could check in on them during the day. After a while we trusted her and never checked it anymore. It gives you a great sense of security and if the nanny is doing her job right, she shouldn't care.

4) Here are a few locations (here, here, and here) to find out what to pay your nanny. I also recommend going the legal route and paying taxes for your new employee. It always gave us peace of mind that we wouldn't get audited by the IRS. Also here is a great nanny work agreement template. It outlines the basics of their job so that it's stated clearly and agreed upon by all parties.

Good luck and the best advice of all? Trust your gut.

how does she do it

It's Tuesday, so that means it's time for another installment of our 'how does she do it' series. I'm loving this new addition to Engineered Perfection, so I hope I can keep it up! Please contact me if you have a story you'd like to share about how you juggle it all!

Today Devon (you can see her other awesome post here) is sharing her story of who takes care of her kiddos while she and her husband work full time. Her eldest daughter is starting kindergarten this year and her youngest is in pre-school, oh, and they are also moving homes right now. She's a busy lady, so I'm so glad she was able to take bit of time and tell her story!

You know those moms who have their sh*t together? I am not one of them. Somehow things end up working out, but the process of getting to that point can be quite comical.

 I have two daughters, Quinn who is 5 1/2 and Zoe who is 2 1/2. They are So. Much. Fun. And so completely different from each other that it's hard to believe they are related. I work full-time and both girls started daycare when they were infants. I remember when I was on maternity leave with Quinn and my husband mentioned that we needed to start looking for child care for her. I was completely unwilling to discuss it because I couldn't imagine leaving her with someone else, and my postpartum hormones were still in full effect. So he went off on his own and visited a few places and narrowed them down and forced me to go check out his first choice. Walking in I was nervous and was certain I would hate it. But everyone was so nice and all the kids were having fun and actually following orders, so I could tell they were doing something right. By the end of the tour I wanted to leave her there right then. Which was amazing. By the time her first day rolled around I was completely confident with our decision. 

So when Zoe started there three years later it was the easiest first day drop-off ever. I knew she would love it and be happy there. Having good childcare is THE most important thing in my life, I think. And I'm not ashamed to admit it - they probably do a better job taking care of them than I do! HA! So yeah. I lucked out on the childcare front. Their daycare made me feel like I did have my sh*t together because they made it so easy. They fed them so I never had to pack a lunch or breakfast. They provide sheets and cribs/cots for them and do the laundry there so I basically just drop them off and high-tail it outta there.

Until this past week. Quinn started kindergarten and I've already lost my mind over it. My husband drops them off in the mornings and I pick them up on my way home from work. And now they are at two different schools, so that makes it awesome. I pick Zoe up first and we head to get Quinn, which is more in-and-out-of-the-car-seat action than I care for. I have to pack Quinn breakfast, lunch, two snacks and a water bottle every day. It doesn't sound that hard until you actually have to do it. She is a picky eater, so I've been killing myself trying to pack healthy things that she will actually eat. At this point I think I will abandon that and send her with Oreos and Pringles every day. At least she'll be eating, right?

We are also in the process of moving to a new house. So we have been living between the two while we do work on the new one. It's hard keeping two houses together. I've basically been a single mom since my husband is doing all the work himself. The girls are pretty confused about the whole thing and I don't think they understand that we will actually be living in the new one and never return to the old one. So that should be interesting. 

And to top it off, I had my first screw up the FIRST week of school! School started on Tuesday and they had school pictures on Friday. We got her all dolled up so she would look nice for pictures, but I forgot to send her order form to school with her. So that means no pictures. I have no idea how I will break this news to her once the pictures come in and she is the only one in her class that doesn't get any. Oops. That same week I also forgot to sign her up for her ballet recital that is happening in a few days so she can't participate in that, either.  

The silver lining is that they are healthy and happy. And not getting pictures or doing a ballet recital will not destroy their childhood. PLEASE TELL ME I'M RIGHT! Knowing my luck this will haunt me for the rest of my life. 


I think every parent out there knows that feeling of hoping they aren't permanently screwing up their kids lives. We are all just doing our best! One of my favorite quotes lately (by Jill Churchill) is "There is no way to be a perfect mother, but a million ways to be a good one".

Thank you Devon! 

If you'd like to read more stories like this, please click on a name below:

how does she do it

I'm super excited to welcome Rachel to our 'how does she do it' series. This lady is the creative genius behind Swanky and Dapper and all around awesome mama. I've been following her blog and Instagram account since we were both pregnant with our first born girls. She definitely seems to have this balancing act figured out, let's find out how she does it.


i am a work from home, work at home, work away from home mama. i spend my days working as a VP of Marketing & Communications while also working as a mama. and it is a juggling act for sure.

did you know that studies show that children of working* moms are smarter, better, faster, stronger? furthermore, studies show that children of stay-at-home moms are smarter, better, faster, stronger. hmmm. what that says to me is that if you are a mom who is doing your thing, whatever that thing may be, you can raise wonderful kids. the trick is to do your thing. find out what makes sense for you. your personality, your background, your beliefs, your family dynamic. if you are content and happy and fulfilled, your children will respond accordingly. if you are doing your best, that makes all the difference to the success of your children. and your best probably looks different than mine. and vice versa.

* and just to be clear, if you are any kind of a mom, you are working. for sure. i hate the labels we give these things. nobody wins. 

i do what i do because it makes sense for us. we make it happen because we want to make it happen. i do what i do for me. for my husband. for my daughter. for my son. i am the kind of mama that i am to be an example. i want to show my children the value of education and continued learning and contribution and passion and dedication. i work because i love it. and honestly, i kind of need it. maintaining my career makes me a better me.

BUT, i also have it REALLY good. i have a situation that makes it pretty darn easy to be the wife and mama and worker that i want to be. i really truly feel like i get to “have it all”. i can have a career that i am proud of and can build for “future me” and i can also be at home with my little ones. thats rare and awesome. i can organize my own day. i have flexibility. i can schedule meetings and calls around naptime. and i also have a supportive husband and eager/kind family members who help. 

sure, there are days when i want to just be one thing. but not really. because for me, i like the hat wearing. i like being a wife and mama and planner and director. i like business stuff. i like the busy-ness. i like begin in charge. i like the projects and satisfaction that comes from using my gifts and talents to create something. i like that i contribute financially.

i like that ben and i both work. and ben likes it too. this is a topic that we have had quite a few conversations aboutand that we continue to address. i want to have my work. and ben likes that i have my work. he wants that for me and i want that for him. we have our work lives. we have a whole set of topics that we can bring to the dinner table conversation. we do our things during the day. and when we are at home as a family at night, we both dig in. we disperse and divvy. i have my things that i tackle during the day. ben has his things that he does when he gets home. we both have our stuff after the kids are asleep and on the weekends. and if one of us has a particularly rough day, the other picks up the slack.

how do we do it?

firstly, we abide by a schedule and routine. this makes everything possible. ben and i are both control-freak schedule lovers. and when we decided to have children, we made the decision that our entire world would not come to a halt. while we would have to adapt, our overriding personalities and preferences would be the same. those little ones of ours are an extension of us. they need to adapt to our life the same way that we adapt to them. we made the decision to create a dynamic that makes sense for everybody. and that meant a schedule from the start. this has been and continues to be essential to the functioning of our family. it gives stability and consistency. it allows me to plan things properly. and it gives our little ones a sense of contentment. they know what to expect and can just go with the flow, knowing that all their needs will be met. i know this style isn’t for everyone, but it works for us.

secondly, we prioritize and organize. we wake start the day early to make time for our quiet time with the Lordfollowed by coffee and exercise. and then, once ben is out the door, i have time to tackle the inbox and organize my day and set meetings and such. once the little ones are awake, the dynamic changes. i have time to work when the baby is napping (again, that schedule. priceless.) and when our almost-three-year-old is eating her meals. i also have work time while she is having her independent play time. and a solid, uninterrupted time during the two hour afternoon nap overlap. once ben returns home at 4pm (he is in the financial industry so that means early mornings but an early end time) then i have another window to wrap things up before dinner. and of course, there are the late evenings, if necessary. i just do my thing when i need to do my thing. for me, it is all about being able to keep things organized so when i get my chunk of work time, i can jump right in and work efficiently. and really, i find that i do work better this way. i don’t have an 8 hour chunk of time. my day is divided into smaller portions and there is no time to waste. 

thirdly, we have extra hands. we have wonderful family members who help out. most of my work days are at home but there are designated “in-office” days for me to go in and touch base. it helps me stay in the loop. i also have scheduled meetings here and there. a regular week involves one day when my mom comes over to watch the kids so that i can go to the office or attend off site meetings. i love these days. and our little girl does too. it is her break from mama. she gets to do all kinds of fun and different things. and when i return home, we get to share stories about what we have been up to. it is pretty great. there are some weeks that involve additional office or meeting days, and we have other family members that jump in as they are able. we are so grateful for our “village”. and i think it is so special that my little ones will get to enjoy so many childhood experiences with their extended family. those are memories that will be cherished.

there isn’t anything special about what we do. we just make it happen. we communicate our priorities and plans and expectations and adjust things accordingly. we do what makes sense for us as individuals—for our marriage—for our children—for our family unit—for our careers. it may be a juggling act, but we sure do love our little circus.


Thank you Rachel for sharing your story! I think I might actually set my alarm a little earlier tomorrow morning and get some exercise in. Or at least I'll think about it...

Want to hear how other mama's are doing it all?  Check out Peggy and Tera's stories too.