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The SLOCA Blog

Working on It: Balancing SLOCA and Work – Hilary Graves

September 21st, 2017

{photo by Olu Eletu}

“I think every working mom probably feels the same thing: You go through big chunks of time where you’re just thinking, ‘This is impossible — oh, this is impossible.’ And then you just keep going and keep going, and you sort of do the impossible.”

~ Tina Fey

Last January we started a series where we interview SLOCA parents who have another job outside the home – balancing school, home days, family, chores, meals, friends, activities… and an additional job on top of it!

It’s not impossible (although many of us can relate to the above quote!), but it’s certainly not easy to do SLOCA and work a part-time or full-time job. We want to know how people do it, so we asked a few of them how they are “working on it” to make it all work.

Today we have another installment to share with you. Hilary Graves, her husband Simon, and their two daughters Marina and Charlotte are a 4th year SLOCA family. Here’s what Hilary had to say about how she balances SLOCA and a job:

Q: Are your kids on the 2-day or 4-day track? Do they attend Friday Foundations and/or Academy Classes?
I have two daughters at SLOCA.  Marina is 15 and in 10th grade, so she attends school at SLOCA on Monday, Wednesday, Friday.  Charlotte is 14 and on track B4 in 8th grade this year, so she is there Monday through Thursday.  They do not attend Friday Foundations, but Charlotte does get some extra classes on the four day track, and she is on the Middle School Girls Volleyball team. 

Q: What is your job outside the home?
I own an agricultural consulting business focusing on grapevine physiology and I am the Central Coast Field Representative for Duarte Nursery. In addition to helping my clients farm winegrapes, I spend a lot of time advocating for agriculture and participating in planning for sustainable agricultural water use.  I'm also on the Board of Directors at San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau, and I recently started serving on the Board at SLOCA as well.

Q: How many hours a week do you work? What is your work schedule?
Because I own my own business I make my own schedule.  This is a key trick for me to make the working while parenting thing a possibility.  But farming is a job where there are no days off so I do work a lot of hours.  Livestock needs to be fed twice a day, every day, rain or shine, holidays included.  Another thing that can be challenging is that our work day starts at 6:30 am from May through October, and 7 am the rest of the year.  If I need to be present in the field to give a work crew farming instructions I have to find someone else to do the morning routine and deliver the kids to school.  My mom or my husband are always available to help when I need it.  Also, we harvest grapes during the day by hand and at night with machines, so harvest season (happening now, so if you see me at school looking tired and or dirty, you know why) gets a little hairy.  A new development for me is that I have Daniel who helps me with feeding livestock in the morning.  Up until this year I did that myself, but at some point it became clear that mornings are hectic enough trying to get the kids out the door.  And I was not getting enough sleep. 

Q: How do you fit in the homeschool piece?
My girls started SLOCA in 6th grade and they both did the 4 day track so the homeschool piece has not been a big challenge for me.  Coming from a Montessori education they were old enough to be a little bit more self driven on doing school work when they started, and Mrs. Gerhardt is a HUGE help on the non-school days of the 4 day track.  She ends up carrying a lot of the homeschool load for me. 

And what everyone really wants to know...

Q: How do you (or do you) keep your house clean?  
I surrendered a long time ago to the fact that I cannot do it all, and that my time is better spent parenting and working.  We do regular clean up and laundry and all that, but my housekeeper, Carmen, comes every Friday to clean.  I could not do it without her!  Just how important she is to our family has become painfully clear the last two months.  She broke her arm at the end of July and required surgery to repair the injury.  She has been unable to work since then.  I currently have a band aid on my right ring finger to cover up an infected burst blister that I developed from sweeping and mopping my own house for the first time in 10 years.  Talk about living a privileged life!  I am so grateful to Carmen for everything she does to keep our household functioning, and I eagerly await her return in two weeks.

Q: What do you do for dinners?
Family dinner is really important to us, so this is one thing that we are consistent on.  I do a lot of cooking.  We live pretty far from "town" so take-out is not really an option.  I have two big freezers in my garage full of chicken, beef and pork that I have raised and wild game that my husband and daughter have brought home from hunts.  The Talley Veggie box has been a great addition!  Between it and my garden I always have fresh vegetable choices.  Most nights I put something together from those sources.  I often do some grass fed beef in the oven "low and slow" which means putting a roast in before I leave in the morning, or a pork roast or something like that.  Make your own tostadas, baked potato night (load up your own potato with all kinds of toppings), pizza and big salads are all favorites with my family.

I have a giant cookbook collection, but some of my favorites for family dinner are:  any of the Pioneer Woman cookbooks (although these do not fit with my macros!), The Pollan Family Table, Moosewood Restaurant's Simple Suppers, The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters, The Family Dinner by Laurie David, and any of Gwyneth Paltrow's cookbooks.  The New York Times Food section is also a treasure trove of ideas for family dinner and I refer to it almost daily.

For me, packing lunches can become a chore.  I become uninspired after a few weeks and find myself packing the same things over and over again.  I recently started purchasing Clean Machine Meals from a CrossFit comrade of mine who prepares paleo meals.  They are gluten, soy, dairy, and refined sugar free.  My kids love them, and so do I.  They are a really big help at lunchtime.  You can find Ryan's business on Facebook: Clean Machine Meals. Order every Friday for delivery on Monday.  The kids pick out what they want and transfer the meals into a microwaveable container in the morning to heat it up at lunchtime at school.

Q: How much does the other parent in the home help, with homeschooling and house work, etc.?
My husband helps with homework a lot!  He is very patient when it comes to homework.  As far as housework goes, he is pretty much like having a third child.  Ok, ok...he does do the dishes after dinner sometimes.

Q: Do you have a strong family network that helps with care of the kids, meals etc.?
My parents live a mile down the road.  They help me so much!  And just knowing that I have them there as back-up when needed is a great help.  Now that the girls are older they are a little more self-reliant so my parents don't help with watching them as much, but there is still a lot of running them around and since they don't drive yet my parents help a lot with that. 

Q: Do you have any advice for someone considering SLOCA who works, and is worried that they can't do both?
Just start!  Don't think about it too long.  You will find that you can do both.  The dynamic curriculum, inspiring teachers, and beautiful environment at SLOCA will inspire you and make you feel grateful to be part of this unique education community.

Thank you, Hilary! It’s so helpful to hear how you manage it all, what you let go of, how you graciously accept all the help you can – we need to hear this! We appreciate you sharing with us today.

Parents, can you relate to this? Leave a comment below.

If you’re a SLOCA parent who works another job as well and would like to be a part of this series, please email Down Home and let us know – we’d love to interview you too!


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