By KELLY GILFILLAN
The Time Out has invited working mothers to share their tips on how they balance their work, family time, private time and the tools they use to make their best days happen.
Today we have Claire Marshall Crowell as our guest.
Claire is the chief operating officer of hospitality group A. Marshall Family Foods which includes nine restaurants including Puckett’s Grocery, two ice cream stores called Hattie Jane’s Creamery (named after her daughter), three event venues, a farm in Thompson’s Station, and of course the hot new thing, a food trolley.
Needless to say, Claire is on the go every day but she took a few minutes to visit with us and share about her work-life balance.
BALANCE: A concept including proper prioritizing between “work” (career and ambition) and “lifestyle” (health, pleasure, leisure, family and spiritual development/meditation.
1. What convenience services do you utilize that allow you more time with your family or more alone time?
I love Subscribe and Save on Amazon. I set up a lot of my essentials for auto-delivery like diapers, wipes, toothbrushes, protein bars, etc. I just have to be careful and review that I actually need those items before they get delivered. I also love Unroll.me which helps you unsubscribe from all of those emails or gather them into a once-a-day newsletter. I tried a meal service like Blue Apron a couple of times, but even 30 minutes making dinner at night is too much commitment for me. I prefer to prepare meals ahead of time in bulk on my days off and then it’s just a few minutes to set up during that crunch time after work and before bedtime for the kids.
2. Do you have any tech tools or apps that save you time or keep you connected?
Honestly, I am trying to be less connected. In January, I made a resolution to not use social media for one month. Eight months later, I now only use Instagram occasionally (3-4 times a week), Facebook extremely rarely, and Twitter not at all. I’d say this saves me a tremendous amount of time with the additional bonus of being more present with my family. I do use Snapchat, but more as a communication tool to send cute and funny pics of my kids to close friends and family rather than the social aspect.
I also turned off all my notifications on my phone except for text messages. Not even emails. I finally realized, if it’s an emergency someone will call or text me. Emails are not emergencies. I highly recommend it.
3. Do you follow any blogs or writers that give great advice? Great book that has helped?
For working motherhood, I loved Amy Poehler’s Yes Please. I wasn’t expecting to get motherhood advice when I picked it up, but she spoke to some truths I think a lot of working moms can relate to with the added bonus of being hilarious. Tina Fey’s Bossypants is similar in that fashion. Of course Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In is a classic, and I only read it fairly recently.
I’m more of a podcast girl than blog reader since I’m on the run all the time and my job keeps me in the car quite a bit. My favorites are How I Built This for business and 2 Dope Queens for much needed laughs.
4. What do you do when you can’t or just don’t want to cook?
Take the kids out to one of our restaurants. Or Chinese.
5. Do you recommend any gadgets that are lifesavers with babies or toddlers?
For infants, a swing and a baby-wearing wrap/device are essential and the only way I ever got anything done during that phase. They don’t need a lot of gear beyond the essentials, honestly. My oldest is pre-school age, and we try to keep it pretty low-tech for the most part. I used to haul around all kinds of toys and distractions, but she seems to be happiest with a piece of paper and a pen. Kids love things that they see their parents using.
6. Do you have any tips for providing a balanced diet for your children?
Oh my gosh, this has been a battle for my eldest. I was so convinced I would have a healthy-eating kid and that I would introduce her to so many different foods. By the time Hattie was eating solid foods, I was practically begging her to eat chicken nuggets. She wouldn’t eat any kind of protein. I would beg, bribe, sweet talk, threaten. Finally, I’ve decided to go the route of offering her a protein of some sort, a side dish that I know she will eat (butternut squash mac ‘n cheese is a go-to), plus one green thing. She knows she gets to pick a treat if she eats it all, and she knows she doesn’t get anything else if she doesn’t, and we leave it at that.
With my 9 month old, I went straight to soft finger foods and skipped the purees. So far, she will eat anything I put in front of her, including green beans and broccoli. It could be partly personality, or partly that I’m introducing her to a bigger variety at a younger age since I’m not blending purees. Who knows, but it’s working!
7. What do you do to take care of your own well-being and fitness?
Now that I’m out of the hairy infant days, I’m getting back in the gym. If I don’t do it first thing, then I don’t do it at all so I get up at 4:30 a.m. and head to Planet Fitness. I just started using Aaptiv, which basically puts a trainer in my ear and it’s amazing. I’m working out harder on my own than I ever have. I also started using Simple Habit for 5 minute meditations just to reset my brain. Something new for me, but I like it.
8. When you get a night out, what do you like to do?
Our favorite (occasional) date night is to do dinner and a show at the Ryman. Always a great show and worth the money.
9. What surprised you most about how your life changed when you had children?
How much my compassion for other people expanded.
10. What is your favorite family activity?
Playing outside in our backyard, preferably with a beer in hand.
Thank you Claire!