Friday, February 8, 2013

The Having It All Project: Alison Kenney

This week's Having It All Project features Allison Kenney, a connection I've made through Twitter. Working alone at her own public relations company means she lacks the coworkers to turn to over the course of the day for some water cooler babble, and she's turned to Twitter to find that connection. I've done the same! Here's how Alison is having it all.

Briefly describe your life and what you think makes it unique.
Like most of us, I’m just trying hard to be good at both my career and at parenting. For me that means working in a flexible job during the kids’ school day and then being hands-on with them in the afternoons and evenings. When my first child was born I left my job at a big PR agency and started a new career as a solo consultant. A few years ago, when my second (and youngest) child entered kindergarten I changed my work hours to align with the kids’ school day so that the three of us are on the same schedule. I work primarily from a home office so I don’t have a long commute and I can hop in and out of the office very easily when needed.

What are some of your favorite tips and strategies for coping with the chaos?
I am a list-maker and list-lover. One of my newest strategies is to create lists for particular times of the day, i.e. here is the list of things I’ll do in the morning when it’s quiet and time is stretched out in front of me vs here is the list of things I’ll get done in the afternoon when kids are running in and out of the house. Because the school schedule doesn’t change—it starts and ends at the same time every day—it’s hard for me to “stay late” or “go in early” to work. But I create those pockets of time when they’re needed by getting up extra early before everyone else and jumping on to the computer or bringing my laptop out of the office to tackle something at night.

Another strategy:my daughter is a pre-teen and this school year has brought a few social and emotional challenges that come with growing up. I started taking her out to breakfast once a week before school starts, which she absolutely loves. At first it was mostly about ordering her hot chocolate and me trying just to relax and enjoy a half-hour of being together with no agenda. This morning she surprised me and asked me a bunch of questions about what I had planned for the day and what I was looking forward to.

Please share a moment where it all broke down, and how you got through it.
I think I’ve blocked out the really terrible “breakdowns” but here are several situations that cause me a lot of stress:
  • Trying to work in my home office when the rest of the family is “running free” in the house
  • Leaving work at 2 pm to get to school pick-ups. This is the middle of the day for all of my clients.
  • Having to scheduling work conference calls during family time
  • Summer!
My husband is terrific. His job is not flexible at all, but he’s been therefor so long that he has a good amount of vacation time stored up.If we run into scheduling problems, he’ll take time off and pick up the slack.

Do you have any balance role models? Anything you try to avoid because it wouldn't work for you?
I have a lot of role models. Other parents, including those who aren’t balancing work outside the home, are inspirations to me. Social media has been a god-send to me because it’s enabled me to connect via blogs and Twitter with others who share my parenting or career challenges. I am trying to be better about not comparing myself (negatively) to others and social media helps me find more constructive role models to compare myself to or learn from.

One thing that I avoid because I’ve never done it well is babysitters. We just don’t use them frequently enough. So if we find someone who’s a great babysitter, chances are they’re likely to get snapped up by a more regular gig or they move on by the time we call again. Since it’s an odd occurrence for us, my kids get over-excited when sitters come which also causes problems! When they were younger we relied on a daycare and summer camp programs and now that they’re getting older we are experimenting with leaving them alone for short periods (my daughter recently completed a babysitter training course).

Think back to your 18th birthday. How is your life different from how you expected it to be then?
At 18, I was wishing for a fun, rewarding career and to be with people I love. I definitely got both of those wishes.

Relate to what Alison is saying? Leave her some love in the comments. Read other posts from The Having It All Project here. Want to participate? Send me an email at!

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