Mothers carry many roles both at home and in the community—chauffeur, chef, coach, chaos coordinator, and more recently, teacher during the COVID-19 pandemic. As we celebrate Mother’s Day on May 10, we wanted to share an intimate panel discussion between four local moms about how they coordinate their time between family, self-care, philanthropy, and career.
Margot Barber is the mom behind The Hinsdale Area Moms group—an affiliate of The Local Moms Network and a hyper-local resource for parents and caregivers in the Hinsdale area—served as the moderator during our panel discussion at local hotspot Vie. Our panelists include Dr. Mira Albert, Katie Mueller, and Stephanie Sposito. Each mom may work outside the home in a different field—Mira is a pediatric dentist and owns Brush Pediatric Dentistry; Katie is the owner of Plate28 fitness studio; and Stephanie is the Director of Operations of Virant Restaurants—but the common thread of motherhood and balancing life brings them together.
Margot: How do you balance raising a family while excelling in your industry?
Mira: Time is most valuable; happiness is most imperative. I think time management is important, as well as having a village of friends and moms.
Katie: Balance can be tough, especially after being at home for 10-plus years and then jumping into a startup scenario like Plate28. I feel like I have so much to prove. However, the mission at Plate28 is to build a stronger community and I apply that mission to both home and work. When I’m struggling, I ask myself questions like, ‘Is this going to matter in five years?’ I then use my intuition to prioritize what needs to get done. I make outsourcing the “chores” or what I don’t like to do my first priority. Then, I tell that little voice inside my head to ‘Shut up, let it go, you’re doing the best you can.’
Stephanie: I have to pick and choose what is most important. It’s important to figure out what you’re really capable of and to do that.
Margot: What advice do you have for moms struggling to balance it all?
Mira: I’m not sure if balance actually exists—maybe it averages out? You really need to focus on the things that make you happy and generally it’s a small percentage of things. I think in a very social community, you can start to get involved in many things and you really have to peel back the layers and figure out where your priorities lie.
Katie: Release the guilt; it’s a useless emotion. Figure out what is most important to your children through their eyes—at my house, it’s sit-down dinners a few times a week, bedtime stories, and making an effort to do school pick up and drop off when I can. I’ve found if I can make a quality connection with each of my children once a day, I’m doing OK. The quality of the time connecting with them is more important than the quantity. Additionally, constant communication is the key to success. When I get my children involved with what is going on at the studio and in my work life, they tend to be more understanding as to why I can’t be everywhere all the time.
Stephanie: Finding balance for me is trying to be present where I am and focusing on what I’m doing in the moment. I try to be 100 percent present and not distracted by work when I’m with my daughter, and 100 percent focused on my colleagues and customers when I am at work.
Margot: When it comes to choosing activities, if it’s not a ‘hell yes,’ it’s a ‘hell no!’
Margot: Since starting your family, what are some of the things you’ve had to take step back from that you miss?
Stephanie: I got married and started a family right out of a good year of traveling. I thought there would be a lot more of that in the future, but that came to a temporary halt. I also used to be able to just jump on a bike and go for an hours long ride or go to a yoga class or meditate at any time. After becoming a mother, I needed to hire a sitter and prioritize that. I miss that freedom to just go out and do the things I love, but still enjoy those opportunities as I can. As far as international travel, I just decided to bring my daughter with me. This is a temporary time.
Mira: I’m ok with the way things are. If I want to do something, I figure out a way to do it. I try to make it work for my family.
Margot: Katie, your business is self-care, but that may not always tie in for you. Do any of you find it hard to practice self-care?
Katie: I’m incredibly lucky because the environment and culture at Plate28 feels like a daily self-care opportunity in itself. The way we—my team and I—help people, the fun we have, and the ongoing positive feedback we receive feeds my soul each day. I’m not exaggerating, I always say we have this really unique, reciprocal relationship with the Plate28 tribe—where we gain so much inspiration and encouragement from the people who walk through our doors each day. I’m in a fulfilling industry. Individually, my self-care routine is engaging in enjoyable movement everyday which I know gives me the confidence and energy to make good, healthy choices 90 percent of the time.
Mira: I like that we’re seeing beauty industries going in a different direction. It’s nice to see our kids growing up in time where there are very real images and different types of people being represented. That said, self-care for me is nothing crazy; a little exercise, a manicure, and a trip to Ten Friends.
Margot: It’s important that we set that example too. If you’re talking negatively about yourself, your children will talk negatively about themselves. I also think it works in a positive way. I like for my kids to know I work out and take care of myself.
Margot: In terms of this work-life balance, what makes you feel accomplished in that space?
Katie: When I started out, I had a very clear vision of what success looked like for me. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t micromanaging but facilitating an environment where both my family and my team can grow. Although sometimes I lose my way, when I do, I revisit that vision. For me, the ultimate reward is being able to step away from both of my roles as mom and business owner and watch everything successfully function.
Stephanie: I think it’s important to approach your staff like another family and make sure that everyone’s needs are met. It’s about putting everyone in their place, trusting your partners and your staff, trusting your intuition, and watching the plan work. Also, building loyalty with families and the community is important. I’ve had those moments at the end of the day, just thinking, ’Wow that went really well.’
Mira: At home, accomplished is seeing my kids react to challenges head-on and with integrity. They’re getting to the ages where they see things, and when I see their responses and they’re very direct and full of integrity, I feel accomplished. At work I think the variety of things I’ve been fortunate to be a part of, such as some of the charity work that I do through our national organization to make sure all children have access to dental care. Also, I love the bonds I’ve formed with families—the long relationships and watching their kids grow up over the years.
Margot: You have all created these businesses that are such important pieces of our community, and we are all so thankful for your hard work and the example being set for all of our children.