Review: I Know How She Does It by Laura Vanderkam

“When you arrange tiles to create a compelling mosaic, one with work, family, and your own sweet time too, life can be pretty good.” ~ Laura Vanderkam

I Know How She Does It

One of the biggest struggles that I have as a working mom is the juggling act: even if a lot is thrown our way–work, home, and self needs–we make sure that all areas are covered, without breaking anything fragile.

Yet, how do we find the time to accomplish all these?

Time usually runs on a different course for working moms. There always seems to be a shortage of minutes or hours to do everything! How do we squeeze all our to-do’s in just 24 hours a day?

In this book, Laura offers some best case practices on time management from actual working moms. In her study, she recommends looking at each week, as a whole mosaic of 168 hours, instead of just a day of 24 hour tiles. Admittedly, there are days that we may focus on one area more than the other, and that’s fine. We find time to put effort in other areas, other days of the week.

Based on her study, an average working mom works 46 hours a week, or 6.5 hours a day. That still leaves time for rest and time for family. In fact, even if working moms claim that we don’t have enough sleep because of our never ending task lists, Laura finds that the average (American) working mom still has about 6-7 hours sleep.

So how exactly can we manage 168 hours and still do meaningful work and spend meaningful time with our families and with ourselves?

Laura offers the following time management tips which she learned from her mosaic participants, and which I find personally useful:

On Work

Split Shifts

Working on shifts, and not straight 8-hour work time, allows us to be present for our kids when needed. Most moms either resume work after the kids are put to bed, or early morning before the rush to school. In these cases, they are able to leave work on time to pick kids from day care or be there during school presentations, and still churn out deliverables needed for work.

On Families

Be There When It Matters

Our children, and even our husband, demands our time and attention the most. So working moms need to build in the habit of using free time to give these much needed attention to the family. It can be as easy as a stroll or a talk in the evening with your husband to catch up, or a morning snuggle-and-cuddle with your kid before the morning rush. Most importantly, be there physically and mentally when it’s family time. No work, no social media, no distractions.

On Self

Use Travel Time

My work usually requires me to go on field visits or attend conferences abroad. Usually, I look forward to this time to attend to my self-needs, either to catch up on blog writing or a book or even a few more hours of sleep. Even during drive time, I found useful audiobooks to keep me company so my mind can still learn through traffic. Nurturing your learning and developing your passions is also important, and must be given their own time.

 

Time Management is composed of planning and priorities. Knowing what is important helps you schedule and move tiles around those activities or those goals. Yet learning how much time you actually have, and what you can do meaningfully with that time, helps for better planning. What matters most, to working moms, is being able to maximize what we have, so we can maximize also what we can give to our work, to our families, and also to ourselves.

 

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Tired

“Being a mom has made me so tired. And so happy.” ~ Tina Fey


There are weeks that are busy, and then there are weeks that are crazy busy. This was one of them.

Daughter had a big arts and crafts project due this week, so we had to buy scrapbook, printer ink, and design papers over the weekend, then do all-nighters just to finish cutting and pasting each picture page. This was on top of her quarterly reviews, of which we also had to review for every night.

This week also meant brand presentations for work, as well as financial reviews. We also launched our new drugstore campaign going live this week at Bicol. So lots more emails, meetings and follow ups were scheduled too.

Condo was scheduled for kitchen backsplash tiling this week, as well as cabinet and grill sizing and consultation. So I had to buy all materials and cleaning equipment in preparation for the construction ahead.

Husband, on the meantime, was scheduled for a store opening out of town, which meant that he was away for most of the craziness. It was me, myself and I left to do the dirty job.

Naturally, this took a toll on my already overworked body, and I had to work despite my flu in order to do all of the above. 

Sometimes, a mom’s gotta do what a mom’s gotta do. Being tired does not even begin to describe how I feel about all this flurry. I’m reminded of the juggling act we all have to play everyday as working mothers, and the reminder seems even more resonant this week with all that is happening. 

What does it mean to be really tired? This mom was able to capture mommies “being tired“, so others would start to understand. 

Because more than saying, “this too shall pass”, all we need is a kindred soul saying yes, we acknowledge that being tired is part of the package, and we do understand. 

Traffic Conflict

“Traffic is only one of the side effects of growth.” ~ Roy Barnes


Most people say that if you can drive in Manila, then you can drive anywhere in the world. The traffic system in the city has become notorious, especially in the recent months, when the long hours on the road became the subject of memes, sarcastic tweets, and random rants of commuters and drivers alike. 

Yes, manila traffic is horrible. It gets me cranky and tired, and it takes away precious time I could have spent at work or with family. So what’s a working mom to do? Here’s my survival plan to still be productive while stuck in a standstill:

Listen to Audiobooks.

I’m currently subscribed to Blinkist, an app which summarizes books and captures the highlights in blinks or mini-chapters. Wide range of topics include business, time management, relationships, even parenting tips. This way, you can still enjoy the take away messages in just minutes. Plus factor is their audiobook version, so you can plug this in and listen to a “storyteller” read through the blinks while navigating traffic. 

Clean the Clutter.

There’s always some old receipt or expired item left in the car. So what better way to practice konmari than by letting go of these articles during a traffic stop? Always bring a handy bag or plastic you can use to store these items, then throw it all away once you reach your destination. Cleaning the car is also clearing your mind.

Call the Clients. 

This I will only advise using hands-free, speakerphone calls. I usually sneak in follow-up calls to clients, suppliers or office assistants for quick reminders on tasks to do. Sometimes I also call home to check on my daughter or my husband, who I was not able to bond with more as I leave earlier to go to the office. Quick calls lessen the checklist, and still make up for productive time while on the road. Don’t do this while in moving traffic. 

Retouch the Makeup.

Quick dab of lipstick or powder, and we’re good to go. When I have more time, I keep tweezers also in the car so I can clean up my brows as well. 

Run through the Day.

When there’s nothing to do, the mind can easily wander aimlessly to all directions. I usually use this time to think about tasks I have to do for the day, or even, for the week. This can even include grocery lists, personal errand reminders, or people I have to call back. The mental checklist helps me remember what I have to do both at home and the office, so that I can hit the ground running already as soon as I get to my destination. 

Pray the Rosary.

It only takes about 15 minutes, and you can pray for a miracle to power through the traffic. Otherwise, you can also use the quiet time to meditate and clear your mind.

There are many other ways to use the traffic time wisely. What matters is that we stay patient and stay positive, and that we can rise above the seemingly useless situation to still be productive, working moms. 

GoodJobPH: The Radio Interview

“I try to see interviewing as performance art, and just take it as it comes.” ~ Liz Phair

A friend was looking for a possible candidate to be interviewed on radio for a feature on Working Moms, so I grabbed the opportunity with a resounding YES! I’ve dreamed of being interviewed on air, and what better way to fulfill this dream than by talking about my passions and life as a working mother.


I was nervous leading up to interview day. I wasn’t sure if I was “good enough” resource material to be interviewed. I talked to my husband about my concerns, and he reassured me to just speak from the heart, and everything will follow. I agreed, but made him promise to tell no one (except a handful of close friends), so I wouldn’t have to deal with meeting certain expectations, and I can freely share anecdotes without offending anyone.

My husband drove me to the station early, and we chatted a bit with another interviewee. There were three of us working moms to go on board that day, and it helped to get that rapport started early so we would all be more comfortable with each other during the actual show.

The program started around 10:30am, and we all got a chance to tell our stories as working mothers. I told them about the juggling act, knowing your priorities, and setting up support systems, both at work and at home, that you can rely on when things get tough. I spoke about Breastfeeding as an advocacy, since August was Breastfeeding Month, and how this helped nurture bonds between moms and babies, and also cultivate emotional intelligence early on. It was empowering and exhilarating to speak about our lives as working mothers, and I hope I was able to reach out and tell others that this choice, to work and be a mother at the same time, is not easy… but believe, ask help, and pray. It can be done. 


Two hours went by fast, and before we knew it, the show was over! The adrenaline was so high, and my heart was beating fast the whole time, but I truly enjoyed the experience. 

I’m thankful for my family’s support, not just for this interview, but in taking care of Sofie as well. So I dedicate this interview to them, my rock and support system. Without them, I wouldn’t have believed that it could be done. So cheers to all working moms, and to all the families behind their success! 

Lunchbox Diet

“When you eat mindfully, by paying attention to what you eat, you get more pleasure with fewer calories.” ~ Dean Ornish

With the smorgasbord of restaurants offering all the cuisines you can think of, today’s adults are tempted to try all that’s new and visually instagrammable. With the rise of tasty options, there has also been a clamor for delicious yet healthy meal solutions. But because of busy schedules, the healthy options often take the back seat in lieu of fastfood, ready-to-go meals. Enter meal preparations. 
Meal preparation plans have been the fad for the past couple of years, and several suppliers have ridden on this bandwagon. The meals are already portioned to the desired calorie per day, and even delivered to your doorstep — easy, hassle-free, and healthy! These have appealed to yuppies and millennials who want to stay healthy but are too busy to shop, cook and prepare their own baons. This includes us, working parents.

So we decided to try LunchBox Diet. We got the 1500 cal plan for two weeks, consisting of breakfast, lunch, dinner and 1-2 snacks or tea and coffee. The meals are delivered to our house the night before. On the day, we just reheat the food in the microwave and we’re good to go! The food is actually delicious. Most days we have brown rice, fish, chicken breast, wheat bread, and a featured item from sponsors every Wednesday. Our favorites are pasta nights, and fruit-based  M desserts. 


After two weeks of Lunchbox meals, I was able to lose 6lbs! Not bad. More importantly, my appetite was not as strong as before. I can easily curb my cravings for junk food (my favorite cheat day snack!) and even desserts. Most of the time, I eat less during dinner as well.

The relapse is usually the hardest after finishing the meal replacement plans. So my husband and I have to rely on each other, so we can stay away from temptation and still maintain healthy food choices later on.

My Kid is Weird

“We’re all a little weird. And life is weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness—and call it love—true love.” – Dr. Seuss


Is your child weird

Does she display habits that are out of the ordinary?

My daughter is a classic example:

1. She likes to rub and touch my elbows while breastfeeding. It helps to put her to sleep. She kisses my elbows first when greeting me, before kissing my cheeks.

2. She doesn’t like stamps on her hands, so the teacher gives her cut out stars instead for great job in school work.

3. She likes to put shoes on her left foot first, before the right foot.

4. She says “No Kiss”, then proceeds to kiss all her stuffed toys and miniatures.

5. When she makes number two, she finds a corner, squats down and does her business. And no one should talk to her while she’s busy. (Good luck with our toilet training!)

No matter what her quirks are, I don’t think it makes Sofie any less different. I know I have mine too. I guess knowing these little things makes her funny and endearing all the more. And it makes her personality so unique and much more colorful. 

So here’s to discovering more weird and quirky sides to my daughter. This means I can spend more time bonding and discovering these together with her. 

Montessori Mode

“The goal of early childhood education should be to activate the child’s own natural desire to learn.” – Maria Montessori 


As my daughter turned three this year, I knew I had to look for preparatory schools soon. Her age was ripe for nursery, and the challenge was to find a good place that would build a solid foundation for her elementary school.

As we shopped for schools, there are so many factors we had to consider:

1. Location

Traffic in Manila is really tiring and time consuming. So we wanted to find a place that was nearby so that Sofie won’t spend hours on the road just to get to school. Also, being nearby is an advantage to the yaya and Lola who will bring her to school, as they can easily go back home and do other things, then just come back for her during dismissal time. The proximity would also help us go to her quickly in case of emergencies.

2. Transportation 

For working parents, transportation is a big factor to consider. We needed to find a school that would be near enough to transport our daughter by walking or by tricycle, as we cannot bring her to and fetch her from school all the time. The nearer the school, the lower the cost as well for service fees.

3. Classroom and School Size

Do you want a big school or a small school? How many students are in one class? What is the teacher- student ratio? A smaller class is better for us, as teachers can give more attention to toddlers who might be easily distracted by toys or play time. Teacher aides are also a plus, especially for toilet emergencies.

4. School hours

What time are her classes? How many hours will she be in class? This would help us work around prep time (breakfast, bath time, rush hour, nap time, etc) and ensure that our daughter is alert, active and ready to learn in class.

5. Tuition Fee

Enrollment fees today are no joke, and they do take up a major chunk of your income and savings so the fees is a big factor to consider. Miscellaneous fees such as books, uniforms, school supplies, field trips should also be added to the total enrollment fund, so parents are better prepared.

Payment schemes also come into play. Of course, paying in full is encouraged by the school as it means cheaper fees, but installment mode of payment would also be comfortable enough for the parents to financially fulfill, weighed in with all other daily expenses and investments.

6. Security

Is the school located on a busy street? Are there gates in place? Is there a guard at he entrance? We need to ensure that our daughter will be safe in her school grounds, especially from strangers.

7. School type and curriculum

Would you want a traditional, progressive or Montessori type?

I knew at the onset that I was looking for a Montessori— a school that would help kids learn about ABCs in a more intearactive environment, and also teach them basic life skills and independence. Most of my mommy friends were products of Montessori themselves, and their testimonials only pushed me to look for a similar school curriculum for my daughter.

And so look for a Montessori we did. Lo and behold, there was a nearby school near our village, about ten minutes away: Montessori at Work. The school is near the house, so we can worked arrangements with a neighbor tricycle driver so he could bring Sofie to school and fetch Lola and Yaya as well when class is over.


Classes are from 1030 am to 1230 pm, not too early and just enough for traffic to pass after rush hour. Her nap time would also be right after class, so the schedule is just right. Grounds are secure enough as there are gates and glass doors so only authorized fetchers will be allowed in the premises, and only during fetching time.

Fees are not too expensive, and already covers uniforms and school supplies. For tuition fee, we chose the middle ground – semestral payment. This would help us save enough for the next payment, with the least amount of installment add ons. The time would also help us to evaluate if Sofie would adjust well to her new school enviroment.


Sofie has been enjoying her stay at Montessori. She has two teachers in a class of seven, together with a teacher aide. The school uses didactic objects to facilitate both learning and play. Books are converted to drill sheets, so teachers can assess and personalize exercises based on the child’s readiness and grasp of the lesson. Plus the environment and faculty are supportive and encouraging. (Sometimes, a mother’s intuition or vibe, though unfounded, is usually accurate!)

Hope Sofie would learn a lot from Montessori at Work. Here’s to the start of our schooling adventure!