Words of Wisdom From Chicago Area Moms: Sarah Abrams

Sarah Abrams (Photo by Little Click Photography.)

When we asked local moms about their best tips and tricks on “making it work,” the response was overwhelming. Forget mommy wars! These moms were eager to share their words of wisdom. Here are a compilation of tips, sure to give you a little boost when you’re having “a day” and need to hear that you’re not the only mama out there who’s navigating the sometimes rocky waters of motherhood.

Keep Things Organized 

Make a weekly schedule on Sunday in PAPER form. This will require confirmation of appointments, play dates, etc. While there may be some changes during the week due to illness/conflicts, it’s best to have everything laid out and visible day by day for the week. Mine is a saved Word document that just requires minor tweaking from week to week.

Plan and pack meals for all family members as early as possible.

-Sarah Abrams, Glencoe

 

Be organized, keep to-do lists handy, plan ahead and prioritize each week what needs to get done. Being present when you’re home is better any day than perfect!

-Kristi Witherow Fischer, Glenview

 

If you don’t have time, GO ONLINE. My time is precious and I want to use it wisely. In the past, I’ve spent hours after work driving around looking for a specific calculator that my daughter needs for math or hunting down blue-and-white tube socks for spirit week. Amazon Prime saves time, and sanity. You might have to pay a premium, but as a working mom, it’s worth the price. Amazon is open 24/7 and you can shop from your office or mobile. I sometimes tell my kids to find the exact item online for me (I know there won’t be tears or fights if they picked it out).

Genius Scan. I love this free app! It allows me to take pictures of school forms, medical forms, etc. with my phone. The app turns the image into a PDF and allows me to send the required forms to the school, camp, etc. It’s been a life saver as I don’t need to struggle with faxing or scanning docs from my printer.

-Dana Hughes, Highland Park

Words of Wisdom From Chicago Area Moms: Dana Hoffman Hughes

Dana Hughes

Shower at night. I’m not a morning person, so I don’t like waking up extra early to shower before the kids are up.

-Ashley Pearson, Hinsdale

 

Buy enough $20 gift cards for kids birthday party presents for the entire year. Get a stack of gift bags/tissue paper and custom labels. You’ll never stress about birthday party gifts.

-Eve Feinberg, Highland Park

 

I am strict on early bedtime and very routined. My kids know the routine well and can anticipate going to bed. This allows for an easier transition, but also assures I have some free time at night with my husband or for myself.

-Danielle Schiff, Highland Park

 

“Have an arsenal of easy dinners,” says Kim Rapp-Hanretta. Skokie mom Elline Eliasoff stays organized by ordering in dinner a lot. “I used to cook on weekends and freeze, but now I just keep it simple. The best advice is to ask for help when you need it and try to unplug when you are home with the kids,” Eliasoff says. Schiff plans and prepares meals that can be easily heated or quickly baked/prepared later in the week so she doesn’t have to spend extra time cooking upon getting home from work. Samantha Harris favors Peapod or FreshDirect to skip a trip to the grocery store, while Hughes favors Instacart. Harris says, “One of the biggest tips I have is to create a family meal plan. Everything is quick and easy. Planning simple meals ahead of time lets me spend less time in the kitchen and still allows us to have a healthy family dinner most nights.”

Words of Wisdom From Chicago Area Moms: Samantha Harris

Samantha Harris

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Create that village of friends and acquaintances who you can call when you’re in a bind to get your kids because your babysitter is sick … and as hard as it is, know things will never be perfect and that has to be okay.

-Sasha Diskin, Wilmette

 

Marry a man who cooks and cleans! In all seriousness, I meal plan/grocery shop on the weekends and we tag team cooking depending on schedules. When we have dinner nailed, somehow the rest of the home life seems to go a bit more smoothly. Be sure to find a network and trade favors with other parents as much as you can — you will need them at some point!

-Elisabeth Dalton, Wilmette

 

Co-parent as much as possible with your support network (spouse, nanny, au pair, parents, etc.). This means divide and conquer housework, schedules, play dates, carpools, discipline wherever possible. Also, hire a housekeeper to clean at least once a week (once every two weeks is a stretch with littles) and launder at least the bedding.

Take on car pools when you can (weekends, later in the evenings) from stay-at-home-moms so that you can rely on help during the work day if needed.

-Sarah Abrams, Glencoe

 

Divide daily responsibilities and logistics with your partner. You cannot do it all working full-time. For example, Monday through Friday, I drop off our son at daycare and my husband picks him up. If I’m caught at work even a few minutes late in the evening, I’d miss the daycare pickup deadline. I don’t need that added stress.

Send calendar reminders to your partner when you will be traveling for work, have after-work drinks, etc.

-Leah Rosenfeld, Chicago, Vice President, Zeno Group, A Daniel J. Edelman Company

 

I always have my nanny bathe the kids before she leaves and before dinner. This allows my husband and I to spend time/play with the kids after dinner and not have to spend time bathing, which is typically not quality time.

-Danielle Schiff, Highland Park

Make Time For You

“Make time during the early morning/lunch/evenings to exercise. Remaining healthy is critical,” Sarah Abrams says. Danielle Schiff carves out an hour per day to exercise. “It allows me time to attend an exercise class for some adult interaction and stress relief.” Samantha Harris agrees that exercise is key and finds it easiest to hit the gym early in the morning. “Before I made that switch, I was really having trouble fitting in regular exercise. By the end of the day, I would be too tired or I wouldn’t want to sacrifice the time with the kids. Now I go before everyone else is up, and by the time the rest of the family’s day is starting, I’ve already gotten my workout in.”

 

Realize that you can’t. Pick and choose what’s important.

-Pam Handmaker, Deerfield

 

Pumping at work was wildly challenging. If you can, watch videos of your little one and look at photos. It will make the time more bearable.

Communicate your new schedule with colleagues upon returning to work. It will be an adjustment for you both, but a groove will come. My general rule is that my phone is away when I’m getting my son ready for daycare (breakfast, snuggles, changing) and the same goes for at night with the bedtime routine. Post sleeping baby, I often hop back online to finish outstanding items from the day and address pressing items. It’s just not possible to stay late at the office anymore (without planning ahead). I don’t expect replies to emails I’m sending at, say, 10 p.m. at night, but they understand my new schedule.

-Leah Rosenfeld, Chicago, Vice President, Zeno Group, A Daniel J. Edelman Company

 

Learn to say “no” when you are too busy for things. I think this is often something that does not come naturally to us as women. So we’re working, and raising kids, and volunteering at our kids’ school and our synagogue/church, and schlepping our kid(s) to every birthday party on the weekends even when they’re not particularly close with the kid in question … and so on and so forth … and there’s no time left for us. This one is not easy for me, but it really makes a big difference.

-Samantha Harris, nonprofit attorney

 

Don’t be a hero. You cannot win at being a working mom. Only take on volunteer opportunities offered that you can meaningfully participate in and which make you happy.

-Sarah Abrams, Glencoe

When Interacting With Your Kids…

Realize your kids are little only once. Don’t let work get in the way of family time too often. You won’t be on your death bed wishing you worked more.

-Sandy Wolner, Evanston

 

Try to have a family dinner a few times a week and engage with your children about their day. No electronics at the dinner table!

-Genevieve Sagett, Highland Park

 

Give your child a debit card — not a credit card. Debit cards teach your children to manage money. The best reason working moms should get kids debit cards is for the times when you’re at the office and your son needs $20 for the mall. I used to panic and figure out how to drive the money over to him or beg another mom to lend him cash. Now, I simply go online and transfer the necessary funds from my Chase mobile app.

Think quality versus quantity. You might not physically be around as much as non-working moms, but that doesn’t mean you don’t care or think about your children. Especially with texting — send a text at the end of the day and check in. When you get home, be there. A good one to two hours at the beginning or end of the day might have the greatest impact. We are all busy and technology driven. Check out for a couple hours and be present and your kids will appreciate it.

 

-Dana Hughes, Highland Park

 

Try to connect with your kids in a meaningful way each day — it doesn’t have to be about quantity as much as quality. My 7-year-old and I have a daily dance party in the car on the way to his school and my oldest son and I have a pow-wow every night on the rundown of his day. I think it’s most important to stay connected.

-Christina Sotelino, Evanston

 

When they are little, spend as much time as possible with your family on the weekends. Soon enough activities/friends become a priority. Plans are fun, but family is better.

-Sarah Abrams, Glencoe

 

Make time to volunteer at your children’s school even if it’s only for 30 minutes every few months. I swear every time I show up at my kid’s school as a room mom or just go eat lunch with her or volunteer at the book fair, I’m like a glittering unicorn to my daughter. She knows mommy has many other responsibilities during the day at work besides her and her sister. But me taking the time to show up at her school is such a powerful affirmation to her that she is always the number one priority in my life. And bonus — it helps me keep up-to-date with school activities and schmooze with her teachers.

-Purva Singla, Glenview

Give Yourself Credit 

Feel comfortable saying no. Don’t feel obligated to take on every task, at home or at work. And stop reading all the articles that make you feel like you failed if you can’t run a meeting at work and make a healthy nutritious dinner for your family from scratch all in the same day.

-Alma Perez-Dynia, Northbrook

 

Be proud of your status as a working mom! Don’t apologize for gaining pride and satisfaction for your work outside of the home. Continuing to work after my children were born helped me maintain my professional skill set and contribute to our family’s financial stability.

-Chris Beer, Wilmette, Partner, Second Wind Capital Partners

 

It’s really hard to be a great mom, a great partner, and great at your job. Cut yourself some slack, ask for help when you need to, and if you can, farm out things you don’t like to do. And, make sure to take care of yourself too.

-Rachael Carlson, Evanston

 

There are not enough hours in the day for working moms. Done is better than perfect. Carving out time for yourself (and committing) is an absolute must.

-Lindsay Hubert, Highland Park

 

Lower all your standards and go easy on yourself.

-Marcy Pawlak, Northbrook

 

Let things go. It’s OK if the kids have cereal for dinner one night or there are dust bunnies under the table or your PowerPoint presentation doesn’t include an opening joke. Reset your definition of having it all.

-Jackie Kadin, Winnetka

And Finally, Remember…

No kid ever died from cheese sticks for dinner.

-Enna Allen, Glencoe