Our next Parenting Juggle guest holds a special place in my heart. You see, when I was still very young and naive and dying to work in magazines, Justine Stafford must’ve seen the burning desire in my eyes and gave me the chance that I needed. So my career in magazines started out with me as the receptionist at seventeen magazine when Justine was editor. About a year later I managed to land the sub-editor position when the current sub left to pursue work in London (thanks Ingrid ;-), I’ve never looked back!). Having Justine as a mentor was at times very tough but mostly very rewarding. She taught me too much to go into detail here. Now, after 10 years and some different jobs for both of us along the way, we are back working on projects together at John Brown Media. Justine is the Content Director for Fashion Retail at John Brown. Her husband, Paul, is the National Sales Manager at Mimecast SA, and together they have two super cute daughters, Erin, 5, and Isla, 2. Here, Justine shares her daily juggle…
Describe a typical working day for you?
I am not a morning person – in fact I totally resent waking up, especially in winter when it’s still dark at wake-up time. My husband, Paul, and daughters, Erin and Isla, are all three bonafide sun-risers – the bonus is that I generally wake up to both girls giggling as they jump into bed with us: my favourite part of the morning. By 7am, Paul has left for work and I’m still in my dressing gown, trying to ensure that the girls don’t feed their breakfast to the dogs, have a packed lunch for school and that I win the obligatory negotiation around hair and teeth brushing. At 7.30am, my nanny Lucy arrives and I rush upstairs, sprint through the shower, dress and do make-up by 8am, which is when I’m out the door, both kids in tow to lift them to school and then race to work by 8.45. I work a busy 3-day week so I generally put my head down and don’t lift it again until lunch time when I run out to do more school lifts, and then again at 5pm when I flee the office for home. Even if I’m on deadline, I try to always get home for dinner and bath time with the girls. Any additional work (and there is always a lot of it) gets done after they are asleep, on the couch, generally with a glass of lovely red wine – my treat for surviving another day.
What does your job entail?
I was hired two and a half years ago to re-launch and edit Edgars Club magazine – which is received monthly by 800 000 members of the Edgars Club loyalty programme. I was recently promoted to Content Director: Fashion Retail and now manage and direct any fashion-related creative/content project or strategy for John Brown Media SA, including the Edgars account. Fun recent projects have included a cool new advertising and in-store campaign for Edgars Shoe Gallery, a stand-alone footwear store and pitching for a new fashion account in Dubai. So basically I am a jack-of-all-trades that runs around like a headless chicken and is thankful to still be sane. Next question?
Who looks after your children during the day?
Both girls are at school or playgroup in the morning. I pick Isla up at 12.15 and she then sleeps until about 3pm. Erin gets home via a lift club three days out of five – I pick her up on the other two days. On the days that I work, my amazing, couldn’t-live-without nanny looks after them in the afternoons, I organise play dates or extra-curriculars or my mom-in-law arrives and hosts baking marathons with my kids and other cousins all in tow – it’s hilarious! On the days I don’t work, I have my mommy hat firmly planted on my head and we do cool stuff together, visit friends or just hang out and get creative at home.
Who does the cooking and the cleaning?
My nanny cleans the house in the morning while the kids are at school and she’ll cook the kids’ dinners on the weeknights that I work. My husband and I both love cooking but are often stretched time-wise so generally I cook on the days that I don’t work and then make sure that there is always left-overs or ingredients in the fridge that one of us can whip up quickly. We both love entertaining so weekends include fun dinners with friends and family, braais or linger-longer Sunday lunches.
What do you like the most about your current set-up?
The flexibility – I have mommy days, working days and even ‘me’ moments when I drag my sorry behind to yoga or for a walk on the mountain.
And what do you find the most difficult?
The flexibility! Haha. Seriously, I am always juggling a million balls and that can be exhausting.
When do you spend the most time with your children?
Weekends and non-work days.
Do you have any family rituals?
Morning snuggles, I can’t live without them. Reading bedtime stories every night. And of course the long and involved ‘goodnight’ ritual that involves hugs, kisses, more hugs, more kisses, giggles and whispers, more hugs and kisses and eventually threats of death if they don’t both go to sleep!
How do you and your husband make time for each other?
We email each other. Jokes! It’s not always easy but we’re pretty good about date nights and also doing stuff like longboarding or mountain biking together.
Do you find any time for yourself?
I really try to – some weeks are better than others. Probably the most rewarding thing I’ve done since becoming a mom is planning a trip to Amsterdam and a year later to Paris – both with my sister. This was ‘me’ time at its best and I think I came home a better mother – inspired by the incredible art, fashion, spaces and people I’d experienced. Missing my family didn’t hurt either.
Do you look at other working moms and wonder how they do it?
Sure, I’m envious of any mom who doesn’t look harassed, tired and slightly insane. Jokes aside, I call my bestie my ‘Oracle’ because she always has the right answers at the right time. Sharing with other moms is what keeps me feeling real – some of them work and some don’t but at the end of the day, we’re all moms dealing with similar situations so we really do need each other’s unwavering support.
What advice do you have for other moms on how to juggle all these important roles?
Hold on tight and enjoy the ride. And while you’re doing that, try to find equal balance in every sphere of your life: family, work, friends, your relationship with your partner as well as yourself. All these elements need to vaguely align to avoid meltdown.