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We Don’t Know How She Does It

Karen Owen from The UMRC Foundation

You’ve finally put the baby to bed. Three hours later, he’s up. He’s antsy and crying. You snuggle him back to sleep. Two hours later, he’s up again, and he’s hungry. You feed him and put him back to bed. You settle into bed for some nice REM sleep when, 90 minutes later, you wake up, and his diaper needs to be changed. You take care of it and lay him back down, then glance at the clock—it’s already 6:30 AM, and it’s time to get the other two kids ready for school.

For Karen Owen, this is how her mornings begin:

6:30 AM– Karen showers and steps into clothes that she set out the night before.

7:00 AM- Time to wake 6-year-old Landon, and make sure he changes his clothes, eats breakfast, and brushes his teeth. Simultaneously pack lunches, make coffee (the secret power of all parents), grab some breakfast and put on makeup.

7:30 AM- Grab the kids’ jackets and shoes, and line them up in the mudroom. Wake up 2-year-old Kennedy, change her diaper, and change her clothes. Grab the baby bag for 7-month-old Colton.

7:45 AM- Make sure Landon has his back pack ready. Wake up baby Colton, change him, strap him into his car seat, and grab his diaper bag. Load them all into the car, and strap them safely into their car seats.

7:50 AM- Check that all lights are off in the house, throw coffee into a travel mug, and lock the door.

8:00 AM– Drop Landon off at school, and drive 10 miles in the opposite direction to drop Kennedy and Colton off at daycare. Kiss the kids goodbye, and head to work.

8:20 AM- [In the car] Quiet. Coffee. Deep breaths.

“This is a much needed transition time,” Karen said. “I take a moment to drink my coffee, enjoy the silence, then listen to my favorite radio station.”

8:30 AM- Karen arrives at UMRC, ready for a full day of work.

“Knowing my kids are well taken care of makes me happy and lets me completely focus on starting my work day,” Karen said. “I use my commute to transition from mommy-mode to professional-mode.”

Karen’s work day is busy following up with donors, planning projects and events, and coordinating campaigns. Of course, she thinks of her kids during the day, and emergencies come up, but she is used to it.

“I’ve always been a working mom, so I don’t know anything different,” Karen said. “Some of my friends are stay-at-home moms, some work part time, and some work full time. It doesn’t matter which you choose as long as it’s what’s best for you, your kids and your family.”

Karen and her husband, Skyler both work full time and are full time parents—but they make it all work through teamwork. Karen handles the morning routines with the kids, and Skyler handles the evening routines.

“Having a good routine is the most important thing,” Karen said. “It helps the kids know what is going to happen next.”

Karen began her role with the UMRC Foundation just over a year ago, and previously worked at University of Michigan—all whilst raising her kids.

“This is where I want to be,” Karen said. “I love working with seniors and know I am making a difference.”

Her advice to working moms:

“Take time for yourself—it’s okay!” Karen said. “Sometimes, as working moms, we feel guilty or selfish if we take some time for ourselves. But we give and give to our kids and to our jobs; we need time to decompress and rejuvenate. Take time off for yourself, and do with it whatever you please.”

Karen finishes her work day around 5 or 5:30 PM, goes home, gets the dinner started, feeds baby Colton, gets homework going for Landon, and together, Skyler and Karen get all three ready for bed. Three rounds of singing, swaying and rhythmic shushing later, Colton nods off. Karen lays him gently in his crib and crosses the room to her bed.

She lies down slowly, sighing as her head finally hits the pillow. She waits—is the baby really asleep? Five minutes go by, and to Karen’s relief—utter silence. She lets out a deep sigh and shuts her eyes.

Tomorrow, she’ll begin again.

“It’s not always easy balancing work and home, but it’s always worth it,” Karen said.