Working Parents: The Smolik Family
● By Digital Media Director
Kids: Brandt (10), Emerson, (8)
My husband, Matt, passed away in February 2016 at the age of 40 after suffering a fall that resulted in an unrecoverable traumatic brain injury.
What is your job title?
I work for Friessen Development, Inc. as the Lake Lorraine Community Director. I also freelance as a copywriter and take on projects as my schedule allows.
1. What is a typical day like in your home? I’m usually up by 5:30-6 a.m., and enjoy some quiet time drinking coffee while reading or planning my day. Emerson is an early bird and she and I get time to connect before the day begins. Brandt is NOT a morning person and needs a few reminders to get out of bed.
I drop the kids off at school and then may head to work or to the gym, depending on the day of the week. I’m fortunate to have a flexible work schedule that can generally be done anywhere, including home. If needed, I may do some dinner prep in the afternoon if I’m at home. I don’t have a set time that I get the kids as I often have afternoon meetings, so they attend the afterschool program.
Right now, we’re in the midst of basketball for both kids, which means games every weekend and practices three to four times a week. Sometimes we can have a leisurely dinner at home. Sometimes one kid needs to eat before practice to have enough energy while the other kid won’t eat until after practice.
At the end of the day we often huddle together to watch TV or read.
2. As a working parent, how do you juggle a busy schedule?
Plan and be flexible. These things may seem like opposites, but I think are at the core of not letting your day or your week run you. I also think communication between the three of us is key. Either in the morning or at night, I try to explain what our upcoming day’s schedule is and if there are any changes from the norm. It’s an opportunity for me to get their buy-in and for them to share with me anything special or unique about their day or what is coming up.
I grocery shop weekly and plan what we’re having for meals, which are often easily prepared items or work well as leftovers, accounting for my work schedule and any evening activities we have. I also leave room for flexibility if I forgot to check the school lunch schedule — tacos may turn into sloppy joes, for example.
I give myself permission to wave a white flag — sometimes I just can’t find a way to be in two places at once and we aren’t able to do everything.
And pizza always works when we’re out of time or energy.
3. What do you find to be the most challenging?
More often than not, it’s doing everything solo, even though I am so lucky to have a village of friends and family who help me. This summer I had to navigate two kids with overlapping baseball/softball practices and games that were sometimes on the same nights in two different communities. My parents and Matt’s mom are close enough to help.
The day-to-day stuff (getting everyone where they need to be on time, keeping up with laundry, making sure we’re all fed, checking homework, maintaining a house, etc.) can be overwhelming sometimes, too, as can the bigger questions, like, “Should I let my son play tackle football or do one more year of flag?” There’s lots of people who I can bounce things off of and who love my kids, but I’m their only parent here on earth and the decisions rest with me. It’s an awesome responsibility.
4. What's your trick to stay organized?
I do laundry once a week, typically on the weekends, so I know that everyone has plenty of clean clothes to wear during the week. I grocery shop usually without kids or take advantage of online ordering. I use shortcuts like precut vegetables. My kids eat school lunch every day because it’s easier and they’re exposed to different foods they might not get to eat at home. I pay for a cleaning service, which is worth it.
5. What tips do you have for other busy working families?
- Ask for help when you need it! This is easier said than done for me at times.
- Carpools make so much sense.
- It doesn’t have to be perfect. Whether it’s loading the dishwasher or mowing the lawn, chores get done faster when everyone participates. It may not be done the way that I would do it, but it gets done and that leaves more time for us to do fun things together.
- The biggest thing we’ve learned is don’t sweat the small stuff and it’s all small stuff. I know we may have a different perspective then most people because we’ve already experienced one of the worst things that can happen to a family. None of us is promised tomorrow and I want to make sure my kids start and end every day knowing they are loved.
6. How do you find time for yourself?
I know I’m a better parent (and person) when I can also do things that keep me happy and sane. I think it’s a great example for my kids, too, because I’m not just “Mom.” They also see me as a person who has interests of my own and that it’s OK to be a Mom and an individual. I am a huge fan of hot yoga! The hour or so after the kids go to bed is my quiet time, where I can read or watch a movie. I also have a great group of friends. It’s fun for us to get together and let the kids hang out while the grown-ups get to do the same. I love live music and travel, and am grateful that my parents’ help has enabled me to have some adventures of my own.
7. How do you plan your days/weeks?
I live and die by my Google calendar. I plan one week at a time, while trying to stay ahead of what’s coming.
8. How might you motivate other working families?
There’s clichés: “Nobody else has an instruction manual, either. Or “This stage of life won’t last forever.” While true, I’m not sure how motivating they are.
It might sound silly, but I picture having conversations years from now with my adult kids where they tell me how much they appreciate everything I did, that they understand how hard it sometimes was for me, but that we all survived and even thrived even if it wasn’t perfect. I believe some day they’ll understand that we’re all just doing the best we can. But most importantly, every day is a new opportunity to do better; to be a better parent, to be a better kid, to be kinder, to listen, to learn from past mistakes.