Archive for January, 2013

The 36-Hour Day

with Amy Urquhart

I’m Amy and I’ve spent the last three years trying to strike that perfect balance between being a wife, mom and professional career woman. I’ve decided that I’ll never perfect the art of “having it all”, but this blog is a chronicle of my attempts to continue to do so. I’m a blogger (my personal blog about Canadian home life is Hearts into Home), gardener, college instructor, wife to Graham and mom to Nate. If you’re also a working mom who finds there just aren’t enough hours in the day, I hope you’ll enjoy this column!

Read her blog at Hearts into Home.

In Defense of Daycare

Categories: Career, Parenting, The Juggle

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Most weekday mornings Nate and I have our regular routine…he eats his cereal bar or toast with honey and watches his cartoons while I inhale coffee and read my Twitter and Facebook streams. When he asks what I’m doing, I tell him I’m reading my news. Among the “headlines” I encountered earlier this week was a tweet written by a woman I follow on Twitter. She wrote there about how badly she is suffering now that all of her kids are in school full-time. She is a full-time stay-at-home-mom who is feeling lost at this point in her children’s lives and doesn’t know quite what to do with herself.

I could not relate to this at all.

Whenever I hear other mothers talk about how much they would love to quit their jobs and stay at home full-time, I become uneasy. It’s not that I don’t support their wishes and goals; it’s just that their wishes and goals are so vastly different from mine at times.

I’m a very happy work-at-home (and some days outside of the home) mom. I would not be a happy stay-at-home mom. This is a notion I feel responsible for justifying all the time. For example, I mentioned to an acquaintance at the end of the last school year that I would only be working at the college one day a week this year. Her response congratulated me on the fact that I’d be able to save a lot of money on daycare since I’d be home with Nate the other four days a week. I sheepishly informed her that we’d be keeping him in daycare full-time.

“He’ll be going to school next September anyway, so we want to keep his routine going,” I said.

“I’ll still be working from home some days with my school work and I still teach those online courses,” I went on.

“He loves going to daycare…he has so much more fun there with the other kids than he’d have at home with me,” I concluded.

Nate goes to daycare

Nate goes off to daycare with his buddies.

I felt the need to explain myself because mothers are supposed to want to be home all the time with their kids, aren’t they? Activities like creating homemade craft projects and healthy lunches together and peaceful, productive outings with our children are supposed to be the epitome of mothering small children, aren’t they? Well, Pinterest lies. Life with kids at home isn’t like that.

It doesn’t matter how I try to describe the reasons why I don’t want to be a stay-at-home mom, they always come out wrong. At first, my defensive nature kicks in and my justifications for continuing to send Nate to daycare full-time while I work from home always rouse my own inferiority complex about the kind of mother I am.

Then I take a breath, tell myself to relax, and remind myself that it doesn’t matter what my reasons are…having Nate in a great daycare arrangement is what works best for all of the members of our family, even on the days when I’m at home by myself.

Five Favourite Easy Meals for Working Moms

Categories: The Juggle, cooking

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It’s my job to make sure supper is made for my family seven days a week. On occasion my husband will help out by barbecuing something for supper, but even then, the planning of that meal and figuring out what side dishes will go with the barbecued portion of the meal usually falls to me.

Most days I work from home, so the planning and execution of dinner isn’t too difficult to manage. It’s those days when I’m working at the college, heading out the classroom door at 4:00 on my way to pick up my son from daycare by 4:30, and hoping to have dinner on the table by 5:30 when my husband gets home from work that are the real challenge. Phew. It tired me out just writing that sentence!

Fortunately, I have a few tricks up my sleeve in the dinner department. There are a few meals that I like to have ready to go for those hectic days when it seems like everything has to be done and ready all at once. I rely on my crock pot a lot on the really busy days, but it’s not always necessary to use the slow cooker to make a good, quick, meal that will satisfy a carpenter’s appetite.

Here are five meals that are my favorite to cook when I know I’m going to be pressed for time to make dinner for my family.

Chili: My son Nate is a picky eater, but one food that he has always loved is chili. This baffles me, but I don’t question it because chili is one of few dishes that all three of us can sit down and eat together. My crock post chili recipe is very easy and can be put into the crock pot in the evening and turned on first thing in the morning before heading out the door. There are so many chili variations out there. Pick one, practice it on the weekend, and make it work for you through the week.

Chili Ingredients

Spaghetti and Meatballs: Is there any family who does not rely on spaghetti and meatballs once in awhile when in a pinch? I buy large jars of sauce and leave frozen meatballs to simmer in that sauce in the crock pot during the day. Then all I have to do when I get home is cook the spaghetti noodles and open the wine.

“Clean out the Fridge” Chopped Salad: For this meal, a little bit of planning is needed. The night before a busy day, I comb through the contents of my fridge for any tidbits that would make a garden salad into a deluxe, dinner-sized salad. I chop lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, celery and any other vegetable I find and store this in the fridge in a sealed container. Leftover roasted chicken, pork tenderloin or even cubes of leftover steak are wonderful additions that tend to please the meat-eater of the house (my husband). I also like to add things ingredients such as chick peas, black beans, dried cranberries or small chunks of cheese. When I get home from work, all I have to do is toss everything together and choose a dressing.

Chunky Chef Salad

Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches: Because we have a preschooler at home, we eat chicken fingers fairly often. Graham and I don’t care for them plain, so we toss ours in Buffalo wing sauce and throw them on a crusty bun with a slice of tomato, lettuce and a squirt of Caesar salad dressing. Sometimes I’ll serve it with raw veggies and dip, but sometimes I’ll just serve it with fries. The prep time on this meal is low and the enjoyment factor is high.

Pulled Pork, Burrito-Style: This combination of foods is a new one to me, as my cousin’s wife just shared it with me last week. She told me to throw some pork chops or pork tenderloin in the crock pot with a pouch of taco seasoning, a jar of salsa, a can of black beans, an onion, some garlic powder and any other ingredient I’d like such as chopped green peppers or corn, then cook on low for at least eight hours. Then I shred the pork and stir everything all together, then serve on warm tortillas. I tried out her recommendation the day after she suggested it and the meal immediately became a new favourite of ours.

What is your go-to meal for busy weeknights when you’re on the clock?

Multi-gig Moms

Categories: Career

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I consider myself to be a “Jill of all trades”. I’ve had a lot of jobs since I began working at the age of 14. My first part-time job was as a wedding photographer’s assistant. I attended weddings with the husband of one of my eighth grade teachers who ran his own business, carrying around equipment and being his general helper. I liked fluffing out the bride’s dress before the photograph was captured. This was in the days before everyone used a digital SLR camera. The photographer was Greek and this meant we attended a lot of Greek weddings, complete with obscene amounts of food for the hired people. It was the most delicious job I’ve ever had.

My next job was at McDonald’s and I loved almost every minute of it. I went from Rookie of the Month to Employee of the Month to Employee of the Year! I was an angel in a polyester uniform.

Fast forward twenty years and probably dozens of jobs later, I now find myself among the many working women who hold more than one job at a time. I’ve done stints of work in several major industries, including hospitality, travel and tourism, publishing, marketing and education.

According to Statistics Canada, as of 2009, 6.3% of Canadian women aged 25 to 44 held multiple jobs. The United States Department of Labor reports that in 2008 there were 3.8 million women working multiple jobs. It seems like few of us are working regular 9-5 jobs and calling it a day.

My home office back in 2007.

I’ve been thinking about multiple jobs a lot lately because I’m one of those women. I currently wear four or five different hats, depending on whether you count blogging as a job and depending on the time of year. The balls I have in the air include:

  • a seasonal business that my husband and I run jointly in the summertime
  • a small business with a direct selling company
  • teaching one day a week at a community college
  • teaching online communications courses
  • writing this column
  • writing my family blog

Wait, that’s actually six gigs, isn’t it?

Phew. The many small jobs I do more than equal the amount of work I’d be doing if I was working one regular full-time job, especially when you consider the work that we working moms do to maintain our homes and families, too. So yes, I do the majority of my work from a room in our house, but I’m one busy mama!

Are you a multi-gig mom, too? I’d love to hear from you if you’re among the millions of women who work multiple jobs while juggling family.

Who Needs Sleep?

Categories: Parenting, Uncategorized, Working? Living?

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It’s late. Our room is quite dark, and now that Graham and I both use our iPhones for alarm clocks, we no longer have the red or neon blue glare of the current time in our bedroom. Our son is down the hall in his bed, coughing. I can’t let it go on any longer.

I sigh, get out of bed and head down the hallway to his room, where I give him some cough medicine by the glow of his night light.

“Mommy, you snuggle me?” he asks. It’s what he always asks when I end up down the hall in his room in the middle of the night.

“In a minute, buddy, I’m going to get the humidifier for you,” I answer.

I bring the humidifier down to the kitchen to fill it up and discover it’s two o’clock. No wonder I feel so groggy…my own cold medicine is still working in full force, making me feel fuzzy as I stand by the sink and wait for the humidifier base to fill with tap water.

Once I get Nate settled back into bed, I lay beside him, but I’m restless. I’m restless because he’s restless. He’s wide awake, and coughing almost constantly. There’s no way I’ll get to drift off here beside him.

I begin to count the seconds between coughs to keep my busy mind occupied and away from other thoughts that are invading my middle-of-the-night brain. I count to twelve between coughs and begin to feel there’s a little bit of hope that I might get some more sleep that night, after all.

Finally Nate seems calm and still enough that I sneak out of his room and back to my bed. I’m not there five minutes before I hear his small footsteps come down the hallway and settle on the floor beside me.


“Come on, Nate, back to your bed,” I say quietly.

He protests.

“I’ll come with you. Come on to your room so Daddy can get some sleep.”

And there it is, the thing that creeps into my tired mind while I tend to our sick son. The need for Daddy to get his sleep always seems to trump Mommy’s in our house, especially on a week night. Graham works on a construction site all day long, so of course it is important that he is alert enough to stay safe. I know this logically but in the middle of the night it seems so unfair. I work from home most days lately, full days in front of a computer instead of on a construction site. So naturally I can get by a lot easier the day after a rough night with Nate than Graham can. It’s still hard, though, and in the middle of the night, lying down next to a coughing kid for an hour, I resent that I have obligations the next day beyond caring for our son at home.

Who gets up with your kids on a week night when they are sick? Do you and your spouse take turns?

Reflecting on the Hits and Misses of 2012

Categories: Uncategorized

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I’ve given up on making New Year’s resolutions. They always seem to feel insincere; the idea that I will exercise every day or eat salad every night or floss my teeth from now on just seems like so much personal lip service. Last year is the first year that I really gave up on resolutions and instead made a list of goals for the year.

Now that a year has passed, I’ve pulled out that list to see how well I did. One thing I learned about over this past year is reflection. I’ve learned the value of actively looking back over an experience and thinking about that experience to see what worked and what didn’t, then putting that reflection to use for the future.

As for my list of goals for last year, there were some solid hits, and some near misses, and a few items that flew under the radar in 2012, but overall I’m proud of the things my family and I managed to accomplish last year!

Three Hits:

I applied for and interviewed for one full-time position at the college where I work. I had intended to interview for an academic position, but instead I applied for a support position, but one that is much more up my alley. No word yet on whether or not I got the job…

I completed a continuing education course during the winter semester of 2012. I wanted to finish it with a grade of at least 75% but beat that with a grade of 80%.

I de-cluttered and organized the storage room in our house that we refer to as “the warehouse.” We recently picked up some shelving that was on sale and got rid of a bunch of junk and whipped that room into shape. This goal was accomplished just under the wire, on December 31, 2012. Phew!

Three Misses:

We wanted to contribute $100/month to our son’s RESP all year long. There was a snafu a few months back with the fund company we contribute to, and I didn’t make up the payments that were missed as a result. We missed three or four months of contributions. Gifts from Nate’s grandparents helped make up the difference. We’ve already got a system in place to make sure we don’t miss any contributions in 2013.

I had hoped to begin making regular contributions to my RRSP last year, too, but didn’t make any. I’ve got to get going with this one in 2013.

The last goal on my list read, “Finish off any home maintenance projects currently in progress but not yet complete.” Since I’m not the handyman in the family, I’m not shouldering the entire burden of this goal myself, so I don’t think I will make goals for 2013 that involve the use of power tools. Graham works hard, works often, has more than one job, and the projects around the house will get done when he has the time and energy. No biggie.

All in all, there were some things to be proud of, and some things to learn from. Now it’s time to make goals for 2013.

What are your family’s goals this year?

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