How She Does It: Raluca State

Raluca State’s blog What Would Gwyneth Do is one of my daily reads and has been for a long time. She runs a regular interview series called I Don’t Know How She Does It which definitely inspired this very series here.  For that reason, and because I admire her so much in general, it’s a huge honor to feature her words here.  Raluca’s blog has an addictive mix of content and is all written in her approachable, wise, wonderful voice.  I wish I lived closer to Raluca as I’d love to meet her.  What Would Gwyneth Do covers tyle, fashion, and design, music, cooking, working motherhood, and a million other things.  I highly recommend checking Raluca’s blog out and know you will be glad you did.  I was thrilled when she agreed to participate in this series, the stepchild of her own wonderful investigation of working motherhood’s particular joys, beauties, and challenges.

 Photo credit: Fawn Christiansen

1. Tell me about the first hour of your day? (I often describe mine as being “fired out of a cannon”)

The first hour of my day is surprisingly mellow…most of the time. My son is three and a half and always wakes up first, around 630am. Luckily these days he is a serious daddy’s boy so he tends to go to my husband first and pulls him out of bed to pour his cereal. I get to snooze for a few minutes while they do that and gather my thoughts for the day. It always takes me a minute to focus: what day is it? What’s on my calendar today? What do I have to look forward to? What do I not have to look forward to? I like to do a quick assessment before I get out of bed. I have to wake my daughter (she is seven) and lure her down to the kitchen. We’re incredibly lucky because my husband and I both work from home so while we need to get our kids dressed, fed and washed up to get out the door on time, we can usually handle drop off in casual clothes, make-up free and with a coffee cup in-hand because we are driving right back to the privacy of our home offices. We like to keep the mornings as relaxed as possible – no TV, no music on weekdays (a ton of it on weekends), natural light, and patient voices, wherever possible. I also don’t micro manage my kids in the morning – both of them, even my three year old, can pick out what they want to wear (I edit their wardrobes on the side so everything is mommy approved, for the most part) so there are fewer arguments and hiccups in the morning.

2. Do you have a work uniform that you rely on for getting dressed? What is it?

Since I work from home, my uniform is definitely on the more casual side but it’s not (always) yoga pants or sweats. I like leggings or jeans and layered tops for cooler days. A tee under a chambray or cardigan. In the summer, I am in dresses every day. We live in southern California and it gets warm so I like to feel breezy and cool. I try to do a little make up every day so I don’t fall into a work-from-home slump. A bit of BB cream, a cream blush and a little mascara and I am set for the day. For work events or meetings, it’s a lot of the same but I will always throw on a chic blazer (my favorites are Helmut Lang and J. Crew) and a pair of heels (Cole Haan are super comfortable) and a little more makeup.

3. How do you and your spouse resolve conflicts about scheduling?

I am very lucky in that my husband and I share our parenting duties 100%. We both work full-time from home so our schedules tend to be fairly similar in terms of limitations and flexibilities. It means we can swap pick up and drop off duties as needed, we can attend school functions together or solo, and we can cover for each other when needed. It is an incredible set-up for this chapter of our lives. We are also very good about recognizing each other’s need for personal time – I always make sure he has a few early mornings to go surf, he will cover bed time if I want to go to an evening yoga class or a cocktail with a friend…and we make that a priority not only for ourselves and each other, but for our family dynamic.

4. What time do you go to bed?

Early, ha. I am usually in bed by 9 and most nights asleep by 930pm. And yes, that typically includes Friday nights. On Saturdays, I might stretch to 11 or 12. But that’s a stretch. I like to stay I party on east coast time 😉 My routine is a little geriatric in nature – I diffuse essential oils and put lavender oil on as well. I typically have a candle burning and like to do some deep breathing and stretching before I pass out. My husband finds it all quite amusing to watch.

5. Do you exercise? If so, when?

I do. Sort of. I was one of those lucky gals who never had to worry about diet or exercise until I hit my mid 20s. Unfortunately, ten years later, it is still a struggle to make it a priority. But I try to. That means I typically aim to break a sweat at least five times a week and usually succeed three times per week. My work-from-home status comes in handy here because I will often sneak out for an early morning or mid-day class during the week and then always go to one on the weekends. I was a Dailey Method devotee for the past few years and it did wonders for my body, but have recently switched it up and started yoga. I tried it many years ago and didn’t enjoy it but now I have gone back with a different mindset and I am really liking it. You need to be in the right mindset for yoga, I think.

6. Do you cook dinner for your kids? Do you have go-to dishes you can recommend?

Yes, yes and yes! Menu planning is one of the pillars of my life and I blog about it all the time. It helped us get on a budget, helped clean up our eating habits and put family dinner front and center on the priority list…right where it should be. Sometimes it’s simple – tacos, homemade pizza, burgers – and sometimes it’s more elaborate – broiled salmon, roast chicken – but it’s a very important part of our lives. I also love to bake for my kids. Something about homemade muffins (I pack mine with zucchini, chia seeds and flax seeds for extra goodness and chocolate chips for extra flavor!) in the morning makes my mama heart sing. Most Sunday afternoons, you will find me in the kitchen with my two little sous-chefs. I want to set them up now for a long, healthy relationship with food and cooking and family dinners.

7. Do you have any sense of how your children feel about your working?

Yes. I think they are both annoyed and proud of it. They are definitely annoyed that my cell phone and laptop are always at the ready (one of the few cons of working for yourself and working from home – you are always working). I have been trying my best to put those distractions away, physically, when I am with them but sometimes it just isn’t possible or realistic. Most people don’t end their workday at 3pm so when my daughter comes home and my emails are still active, I need to be able to respond to them. On the other hand, they are proud. I have heard them talk about mommy being “her own boss” and my daughter is starting to understand what it means to have an income, where our money goes, etc. She asked me if I had more than $10 in the bank the other day and was beyond excited when I said yes. I think she gasped 😉 We also try to remind them that our situation is not typical. Most mommies and daddies don’t work downstairs in their house. Most mommies and daddies can’t be at every drop off and pick up and school meeting and event. We are lucky that we have the best of both worlds and they are learning that so it makes those late-night and weekend emails a little easier to accept.

8. What is the single piece of advice you would give another working mother?

Take it one day – sometimes one hour – at a time. Don’t worry about next week’s schedule or how you’re going to pay for preschool in three years or that you missed last month’s PTA meeting. How was today? Did you do your best? Were your kids happy and healthy? Did you feel fulfilled? Tired, maybe. Burnt out, likely. But fulfilled? I often say that some of my most exhausting days are also my most fulfilling and I like to look back on each one, individually, and give myself a little pat on the back.

And, inspired by Vanity Fair, a few quick glimpses into your life:

Favorite artist?
My daughter. She really is quite good.

Favorite jeans?
Madewell for more affordable, J Brand for less affordable. Always dark and typically skinny…they can work on girls with curves, I am sticking to it.

Shampoo you use?
Pantene for more affordable, Bumble & Bumble for sort of affordable and Frederic Fekkai (way less affordable) in my Christmas stocking every year.

Favorite book?
The Hours by Michael Cunningham.

Favorite quote?
So many come to mind, but I am going to go with this one from Ira Glass. Does that count as a quote??

Favorite musician?
I am very fickle when it comes to music and my tastes are all over the board, but I am going to say Michael Jackson. And anything on The Lumineers radio on Pandora. And a little Jay Z, always.

Favorite item (toy, clothing, or other) for your children?
Any kind of book for my daughter, she is such a bookworm and it makes me so happy.  We buy a lot of books. H&M or crewcuts for clothes and PLAE for shoes, they last forever and look super cool. We also like Native Shoes for the summer months. Finally, our Oeuf crib. It has seen 7+ long years of daily and nightly use and holds so many memories from both our kids and it still looks great.

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  1. Posted October 15, 2014 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    As someone who works for myself from home (though admittedly/seemingly far more part-time than Raluca), I loved this interview because I relate to much of it. I’m curious: are there ever times when her husband is not home and she is working from home that they need some kind of coverage (i.e. babysitter, nanny, afterschool care)? I have a seven year old and my husband doesn’t work from home, so I am struggling with how/whether to move my career in a direction that would really require me to be unavailable at least some days after she gets home from school at 2pm. The four hours until my husband gets home is a big void I’d have to fill, so I’m curious if Raluca and her husband ever have to rely on additional help, and what kind. Fun stuff here, Lindsey, and thank you, Raluca, for sharing a bit of your life!

  2. Posted October 15, 2014 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    Thanks so much for having me, Lindsey! The honor is all mine!

    In reply to Kristen, yes, yes, yes! I think back up support is key and I know some work-from-home moms who don’t have it and it’s a regular struggle. I am super lucky because my mom lives up the road, BUT she also travels a lot and when she does, I look into structuring playdates for my kids out of the house, I have a kids care after school account on hold so I can use it for emergencies, and I have some great neighbors who are always happy to watch my kids for an hour or two. I think a stable back up plan is key to success! Hope that helps!

  3. Posted October 15, 2014 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Love this, Lindsey + Raluca! Raluca, I love what you’re saying about mealtime… it’s just currently one of the things I’m struggling with most as a semi-new parent. (I have a just-turned-3yo and a baby on the way – due in a month). Did you feel cooking/baking/mealtimes got easier once your kids got a little older? Will definitely check out your blog posts on the topic. xox

  4. Posted October 15, 2014 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    Tried to click “reply” directly, but no dice. Anyway, THANK YOU for answering this question, Raluca. Immensely helpful. Was sensing I needed to do “something” in this regard eventually, just wasn’t sure which direction to go. Good food for thought. (Does your mom happen to want to come moonlight on the east coast?)

  5. Posted October 16, 2014 at 5:26 am | Permalink

    This was great! You introduced me to Raluca’s blog a while back and she was the one who put the 30 Clean idea in my head. I love her blog and it’s on my bloglovin feed (as is yours!) so I visit it often.

    Raluca, I was a Pure Barre devotee. After a year a half, I needed to try something new so moved on to CorePower Yoga. What I loved about barre and miss is how it really worked every muscle and I could run errands after without taking a shower. 😉

  6. Posted October 18, 2014 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    Great getting to know Raluca and now I’m off to her blog! Thanks for sharing this interview–love the series!

  7. Posted October 27, 2014 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    I adore Raluca’s blog. So fun to see her pop up here!

    admin Reply:

    Isn’t she great!?

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  1. By Catch Me If You Can | WhatWouldGwynethDo on October 21, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    […] I spoke with Lindsey from A Design So Vast about balance and working motherhood and daily routine and the messes and miracles that come along with it all. […]