So our next mama in our Parenting Juggle has actually met Oprah. She’s that cool. She does work at O Magazine, but meeting Oprah is still pretty impressive. She also has a long list of other impressive achievements to her name. Like being a working mama, a wife and always looking fabulous. Chereen Strydom is the Beauty Editor at O, The Oprah Magazine as well as a part-time life and style blogger at For the Beauty of It. Chereen is married to Sean who is an illustrator, artist and musician and they have a very cute little 8-month-old bubs called Noah. Here, Chereen allows us a little insight into her crazy days and how she manages to juggle her many roles with such panache!
Describe a typical working day for you
My day typically starts with delicious, sleepy baby snuggles when Noah wakes up at around 6:30am. I put getting out of bed off for as long as possible and stay in bed, playing with and chatting to Noah until about 7am. By this time, Noah and I have usually managed to wake Sean up. Noah and Sean then do their morning ‘chores’ (switch off all the exterior lights, feed the pets, make tea for dad and coffee for mama), while I get dressed and ready for work. I drop Noah off at my parents’ house between 7:45 and 8am, and I aim to get to the office between 8:30 and 9am. My work day is generally pretty varied, but usually involves a couple of hours at the office to check emails, approve pages, source suitable products to feature in the magazine, do a bit of writing, and express breastmilk for the next day before running off to attend a product launch (or three!). I usually spend one or two days each month in studio (or sometimes, on location) shooting beauty editorials. My work day officially ends at 5pm, but I rarely manage to leave the office before 6pm – although I’ve been forcing myself to leave no later than 5:30pm during recent weeks. It’s far too easy to get caught up in work or admin tasks and before you know it, you’ve missed your baby’s dinner time. Not ideal! I usually get home between 6 and 7pm, then it’s dinner and bath time for Noah, before he goes down for the night at around 8:30pm.
What does your job entail?
As the beauty editor of O, The Oprah Magazine, it is my responsibility to conceptualise, plan, and execute the full beauty section of the magazine each month. This involves hours of research (often while sipping a cappuccino and paging through glossy magazines, so it’s really not as bad as it sounds!), coming up with fresh ideas for my shoots every month, sourcing props and settling on just the right products for these shoots, booking, coordinating and styling shoots (including booking photographers, hair and make-up artists, and models, as well as sourcing beautiful locations), attending product launches, writing copy, liaising with various beauty brands and PR companies, generating content for the website, and putting together the occasional presentation for events and workshops. My job also requires me to travel to Johannesburg and other parts of South Africa on a regular basis – sometimes as often as once a week! I’ve worked in both production and the features department at a magazine before, and I’ve definitely found my niche in the beauty department: I get to exercise my creativity, write, and play with and test all the newest and best beauty products. That being said, it isn’t always as glamorous as it seems and there is a lot more to the job than meets the eye. A good beauty editor needs to have a head for business, and excellent time management skills – something I’ve had to work on even more since becoming a mom.
Who looks after your children?
My husband and I recently moved our little family out to Somerset West to be closer to my parents so that my mom can look after Noah during the day. Not a day goes by that I don’t thank my lucky stars for this amazing set up. Going back to work, although heartbreaking for the first couple of weeks, wasn’t as difficult as I anticipated because I could rest assured that Noah was in very capable hands. Noah has an amazing bond with his ‘Oumsie’, and he loves spending time with his 11-year-old twin uncles, Bryce and Byron, on a daily basis. When my brothers are on school holidays, every day is a new adventure – my mom takes them all for walks to the park, they go out for lunch at Spur and Noah comes home with a new outfit or toy on a regular basis. I really enjoy my job and love knowing that Noah is safe, loved and stimulated while I’m away during the day; it lessens that niggly ‘mommy guilt’ somewhat!
Who does the cooking and the cleaning?
My husband does most of the cooking, while I do the dishes most nights and tend to the laundry. We do have a domestic worker once a week, but given my demanding job, long hours in traffic and trying to run my blog in what little spare time I have, I’m starting to think that having Khosi come in to help twice a week might be the next step to maintaining my sanity (and avoiding an appearance on an episode of How Clean Is Your House).
What do you like the most about your current set-up?
I’m incredibly grateful that Noah is being looked after by my mom while I work; in terms of caregiving, I don’t think you could ask for a better set up (though first prize would obviously be the ability to do it all myself!) As someone who really enjoys my job, I love that I am able to get out of the house to do what I love each day. I think it’s good to have a life outside of your partner and your kids, and I find that I function as a better human being when I am able to do my own thing – it makes me a better mom and a better wife.
What do you find the most difficult about your current set-up?
I don’t spend enough time with Noah during the week and it’s something that really bothers me. On average, I spend no more than about 2 and a half to 3 hours with Noah on workdays. Since I came to this realisation, I’ve started leaving the office no later than 5:30pm, but my commute from town to Somerset West means that I still only make it home by 6:30pm on a good day, which means I have just 2 hours to feed, bath and play with Noah before his bedtime. I’d love to have more time to spend with him, but until that happens, I’m squeezing as much out of the few hours that I do have with him on a daily basis and I really relish weekends with my little family.
When do you spend the most time with your family?
As I’ve mentioned, weekends have become even more special since becoming a working mom. I also try to make the little time that I do have with Noah really count by forcing myself to close my laptop and switching off my iPhone and really focusing all my attention on him. I usually put Noah down to sleep in his cot in our bedroom, but I put him in bed with Sean and I after he wakes up for a feed at midnight – this is my way of ensuring that we have some extra time to bond with each other. This is also one of the reasons why I am so hell-bent on breastfeeding for as long as possible – every little bit of quality, bonding time helps. (Needless to say we DON’T follow most of the advice dispensed by baby experts, but we figure that life is short and we won’t have the opportunity to share a bed with our baby for long, so we might as well enjoy it while we can!)
Do you have any family rituals?
Noah absolutely hated bathing when he was a newborn, so to make life easier for us all, I introduced ‘No Bath Fridays’. So, on Friday evenings, I don’t bath Noah and I don’t bath or shower either, preferring to revel in our end-of-week griminess and opting to bath together on Saturday mornings instead. It’s bliss – especially after a long, hard week. My husband and I usually settle down to watch a movie or a few episodes of a series on Friday night, and this is the one night when we don’t put Noah down in his cot and allow him to fall asleep on one of our chests instead.
How do you and Sean make time for each other?
Oi. This is one we’re still trying to figure out. We’ve been on exactly two dates since Noah’s birth in January, and although we know that we need to make more time for each other – just the two of us – it’s difficult to do, especially when we both spend so much time away from Noah during the week. When it comes to evenings and weekends, we want to spend as much time together as a little family as possible! We also don’t want to take advantage of my parents by asking them to babysit Noah in the evenings as well, as they already do so much for us during the day or while I’m travelling for work. I recently SMSd Sean on impulse, directing him to please feed and bath Noah that evening and to be ready for dinner at 9pm sharp. I managed to whip up a three course meal (and when I say ‘whip up’, I really mean ‘throw together’: we had soup from PureGood in Gardens as a starter, mains consisted of a roast chicken and veggies from Woolies, and dessert was from Cassis), lit up some candles and Sean and I had a mini date night in the comfort of our own lounge.
Do you find any time for yourself?
Barely! And this from the queen of ‘me-time’ – before I had Noah, I used to block off three hours every Saturday morning to have a long, luxuriant soak in the tub, to do my nails, and apply my make-up. These days, I’m lucky if I get three minutes of uninterrupted time in the bath (my bathtime usually involves having to hop out and dry myself off very quickly so that Noah can have a quick feed – the boy sure knows how to pick his mealtimes). The only time I really have to myself these days is while I’m doing the painful commute from Somerset West to Cape Town, and vice versa. My amazing husband does his best to ensure that I get some down-time over weekends, though – he usually gets up with Noah and keeps him busy for a couple of hours so that I can lie in a bit on Saturday mornings, which does wonders for my soul.
Do you look at other working moms and wonder how they do it?
All. The. Time! So many women make ‘the juggle’ seem so effortless, but from conversations that I’ve had with friends, I’ve come to realise that we’re all just doing the best we can to try and get by. Facebook is an absolute nightmare when it comes to parenting – I’ve often had moments when I’ve had a near-meltdown, wondering why everyone else seems to have it so ‘together’ while I’m literally falling apart, only to have friends ask ME how I balance work, life and motherhood so effortlessly. Effortlessly? Puh-lease! It’s all down to lots of concealer (thanks to my job), a really great psychologist (seriously, there’s nothing better than having an hour to selfishly talk about anything and everything that’s on your mind, with no fear of being judged!) and many to-do lists.
What advice do you have for other moms on how to juggle all these important roles?
Lists, lists and more lists. Download ‘Wanderlist’ on your phone, buy a notebook for your handbag, and put a magnetic notepad on your fridge. I struggled to manage my time and get things done for the first two months after my return to work, until I changed the way I approached my to-do lists. I now spend 10 minutes every morning writing down everything I need to get done that day. I then number each task according to importance and get started on ticking these off, in order of importance. I try to tick off as many tasks during the first two hours of my day, and only then do I check my emails or tempt myself with Facebook. I’d also recommend getting a really good support structure in place: hire the best nanny/ au pair you can afford, or arrange for a family member to watch your child(ren) if that’s an option for you. That way, you can focus on your job with the knowledge that your children are in good hands. Don’t be afraid to get help in the form of a psychologist or couples counsellor – people often view this as a bit suspicious, but having a baby takes it’s toll on your relationship and it’s vital that you keep those lines of communication open.