the other side of the filter: my girls

 

tribeDo you ever look at social media and feel like your life isn’t as pulled together or as beautiful as it should be? I love a pretty Instagram post as much as the next gal, but sometimes I start to look at my surroundings and question myself. I’m sure that I’m guilty of the humble brag and putting perfection-panic inducing material out there, but I think we could all use a little more honesty. With honesty and substance, we build each other up, rather than focusing on a heavily filtered highlight reel, that ultimately makes others feel less than amazing about their own lives.

There are those people in your life who remind you to embrace and appreciate your own imperfections, that those are the things that make you beautifully human. Because perfection really isn’t a thing; it’s just some lofty ideal that no one can ever attain and constantly reaching can be exhausting and sometimes demoralizing. Over the last several years, I have learned to do some filtering of a different kind: I have stepped away from the negative voices and now make a conscious effort to surround myself with people who exude love and support.

I have incredible women in my life and in honor of International Women’s Day this week, they are my highlight reel. These are my people.

 

COLLEAGUES 

The wedding industry is filled with a high percentage of women and I am lucky to work so closely with colleagues whom I have admired for years. Our industry, on a whole, is one of support rather than competition. In a time when it’s still not uncommon hear stories from working mothers who have been discounted in the workplace or have not been able to take a reasonable amount of time after giving birth or adopting, I think that sometimes women can be toughest on each other. In my colleagues, I have found nothing by the strongest of supporters as I navigate the complexity of working motherhood. Through an unshakable camaraderie, they give me strength to tackle challenges, however insurmountable they may seem. They inspire me to have even bigger dreams, to think outside of the box and to set lofty goals. With them, I believe that anything is possible and feel a sense of pride and drive to leave my mark. They are more than just colleagues, they are friends, family.

 

FRIENDS

 

My friends don’t fit into one tight little group and I couldn’t possibly upload photos of all of them, or it would take up this entire post! They are scattered throughout close individual relationships and a few different clusters. Some I have known since childhood, others I have only just recently met and some I used to rely on heavily as mentors and now count as friends. There seems to be an ebb and flow with friendships and you may go months or even years without connecting, but you can still pick up just where you left off. My friends are moms, students, teachers, scientists, designers, volunteers, entrepreneurs, marketers, musicians, artists, foodies, yogis and more. Some of them can check many of these boxes all at the same time! As different as they all are, they carry similar qualities and have had a profound impact on my life. They are therapists {well, only one is technically a therapist!} and they always seem to know the right thing to say to help pull me out of a rut. They are confidants and keepers of my embarrassing moments, my heartbreaks and my insecurities. They inspire me to make the world better and they shape the way I parent. They love me as I am, which helps me love myself. Friends are the family you choose.

 

SISTERS

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I grew up with one younger sister – just the two of us. Marrying my husband gave me two more sisters, and for all intents and purposes, another sister who is technically a cousin. There’s something about growing up with a sister that holds a steadfast bond, even if the tides take you in different directions. You may have memories of intense conflict over stealing borrowing clothing, but right next to those memories are ones of inside jokes and sidesplitting laughter. Your sisters are there for you when you need them and in an instant, they’ll swoop in with a meal or help take care of your kiddos. You are connected to your sisters in a special way; your heartbreaks are their heartbreaks and your joy is their joy. Your history is shared and your lives are intertwined. Sisters are all about honesty, even if the honesty is brutal, you’re stuck with each other!

 

MOTHERS 

Mothers are everything. They are support systems, cheerleaders, confidants, advice givers, hand holders and beyond. I have three of these special ladies in my life: my mother-in-law, my stepmom, and of course, the incomparable original. My mother-in-law is the whole village in the phrase, it takes a village. Living nearby, she is a constant presence taking care of my children and taking care of our family in general. I would not have gotten through my last pregnancy and 12 weeks of bed rest without her. She is truly an extension of our parenting system. Now, stepmom is a word I only recently started using and I think it’s one that she’s only recently been comfortable hearing and using herself. But over the last ten years since they’ve been married, she has become so much more than just someone who makes my dad happy. She is my friend, my foodie resource and a mentor. It’s hard to find the right words to describe it, but she occupies a space in my heart that didn’t feel empty before, but now feels complete.

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And then there’s my mom. Where do I begin? How do I put into words what my mom is to me. My mom is my best friend. We talk multiple times a day and she is my go-to for just about any question I might have. I have a respect for her that cannot be matched, even when both of our strong-willed personalities butt heads. She has walked a path that was far from easy: as a woman working in a scientific field rampant with misogyny, a single mother jumping through fire for her daughters, a woman with an open heart and mind challenging those with closed minds, just trying to make a difference. She loves my children as if they are her own and spoils them like any good grandparent would do! She has set a lifelong example of the importance of character and compassion. Though we are very different in many ways, she has influenced me beyond measure.

The women in my life have all impacted the woman that I am and hope to be. It’s so important to build each other up because we women are fierce and we can move mountains together. When we support each other and drop the pretense, we are ultimately making our own lives richer.

xoxo

surround yourself

boundaries

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At least this time I waited until baby G was 3 weeks old before I opened up my computer. Small victories?

I’ve gotten better, but my career has dictated much of my personal life over the years – missed weddings of friends or baby showers are just the obvious markers. I’m talking about feeling anxious throughout any kind of downtime. “What emails am I missing right now??” A few years ago, I totally snapped at my mom when she had my phone and accidentally opened my email app. I had changed my email to push notifications, so that it would only notify me of new emails if I opened the app. That was one of the ways I was trying to better manage that downtime anxiety, by not seeing a little red number yelling at me unless I was ready to respond. I went OFF on her and it was totally unreasonable. {Sorry Mom.}

I think being in the wedding industry, there is this really fuzzy line about personal time, because we are so used to meeting or talking to our clients on the weekends or evenings. I’m sure there is this vibe throughout other fields, as well, as I’ve heard similar stories from friends. It’s like there’s this guilt associated with taking time for ourselves.

There was a point when it was clear that enough was enough, even though it had been way past that point for a long time. I just was too scared to change. It was the birth of my first baby that did it for me. My water broke at home (5.5 weeks early) and I sat at my computer for an hour to get my ducks in a row before driving myself (!?!) from the suburbs to the city, to the hospital where I planned to deliver. Once I got my epidural, I sent emails from my phone. A few days later, I said yes to the client who wanted to have a conference call 5 days after I gave birth, for an event that was 4 months away. I brought my laptop to the NICU every day. And that’s how I started motherhood.

I was a disaster and I had trouble finding myself in this new role and just felt like I was disappointing everyone, mostly myself. I struggled with this for the better part of 2 years. I knew I needed to make major change in the way that I stayed connected and SET BOUNDARIES. I got better at setting those limits as time went by, but it took a drastic move and complete change in the way that I approach communicating, to really break the routine. I’ve recently noticed myself slipping back into old habits. Not nearly as extreme, but it’s a slippery slope. I need to pump the breaks.

The other day, I answered a business call at 8:40am, while I was in the preschool drop off line. I knew I shouldn’t answer it, that I should be present in the mom zone, but I did it anyway. So, I’m back to setting boundaries. I don’t think it needs to be this crazy complicated formula or rigid structure of ‘only between the hours of 9 and 5’ or ‘never between the hours of 5 and 8’ but that it can be broad strokes. What do I want to achieve? What are my priorities?

Family Time is Family Time. No Exceptions. I need to be present with my boys. This time is fleeting and that email can wait until after they’ve gone to bed and I can return that phone call when I have child care tomorrow.

Hubby Time is Hubby Time. No Exceptions. There’s definitely a difference between family time and hubby time. Most of the time, we are parents and housemates, because there are just a lot of unglamorous logistics that come with this life. But, when we’ve carved out time for just the two of us, it needs to be just that. Maintaining our relationship is so important and it can’t take a back seat.

MAKING TIME for Hubby & Wifey Time. It’s not as easy as it used to be for us, when we’d both work late into the evening and then rendezvous at a new restaurant for a 9pm dinner and bottle of wine. This kind of thing needs to be in the calendar now or it won’t ever happen! We shoot for once a month, but sometimes that’s a lofty goal. We need to work this.

Be efficient when I’m working. We are way more productive when we can just focus and I need to work on not getting carried away. Working with people that I really enjoy can be so wonderful and it can also lead to less than productive days. I need to get my shit done and then I can socialize. Put that in the “needs improvement” category.

Stop with the guilt. This is a hard one. It’s okay to set boundaries and to not feel bad about it when it comes to implementing them. We need to give ourselves a break from the constant nagging guilt and feelings of inadequacy. We’re just doing the best we can and setting limits to make sure that we are present and not losing our minds is more than okay, it’s essential. Stressing about it isn’t fair to ourselves or our kiddos… or the loved ones that we might lose our cool with.

I can’t remember where I read this, but it was something to the effect of ‘working mothers feel like they need to work as though they don’t have children and parent as though they don’t have a job.’ I like to think of myself as an expert multi-tasker, but I can’t be everywhere and everything at once and I need to be okay with that.

wedding planner press

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Magical ceremony in an urban Chicago space. Credit: Olivia Leigh Photographie

I have been a wedding planner for over a decade. {Side note: counting things in “decades” rather than simply “years” is a fast way to make you feel old!} I’ve been immersed in the world of events since before my career officially began and I don’t think I would feel like myself if it weren’t such a major part of my life. There was a time when I thought about changing the course of my career path, but ultimately, I love what I do and it has this pull on me. I’ve planned over 150 weddings and I have stories for days. Split a bottle of wine with me and I’ll dish on moments like when the cake table collapsed right as the bride and groom were about to cut the cake!!

Wedding planning can definitely be very demanding, but it’s also one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had. Hearing a couple tell you about their dream wedding and then bringing it to life with them is like living in a fairytale. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all glamorous! There are moments of glamour and beauty, but there are also countless hours of grunt work. We are project managers, schleppers, researchers, schmoozers, therapists, troubleshooters, designers, accountants, dream makers and more.

It’s always fun to see the result of months and months of planning in the pages of a glossy or featured by tastemakers online. Several of the weddings I’ve done have been featured in local Chicago bridal magazines and major wedding websites, but for the first time in my career, one of my weddings has been featured in a NATIONAL magazine!! Slide1

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Brides national feature – December 2015/January 2016 issue

The December 2015/January 2016 issue of Brides featured a stunning winter wedding that I did last February. I just love this couple and had so much fun planning a day with them that was full of so many breathtaking details!

Hand calligraphed place cards on ribbons, draped across each place setting. Escort cards threaded through satin ribbons and suspended from above, as guests entered the space. Warm, glowy candlelight and magical cherry blossoms created a dreamy urban winter wonderland. Sequin table runners. Lucite ghost chairs. Cut crystal and mercury glass. Playful touches like a slo-mo booth. Thoughtful and fun cuisine, in a true representation of the neighborhood where the wedding took place and that the couple calls home. A food truck, serving artisanal donuts, greeted guests as they entered the after party space. Every little detail was touched by the bride and groom’s vision.

I worked with such a talented team to bring the event to life. HMR Designs, Magnificent Milestones, Olivia Leigh Photographie, Blue Plate Catering, The Party Faithful, Poetic Productions, Morgan MFG, Donut Vault. I really do have my dream job with Bliss and being a wedding planner is so much a part of who I am, that most days, it doesn’t feel like a job at all.

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Cherry blossoms transition to stunning tabletop decor for the reception. Credit: Olivia Leigh Photographie

scheduling balance

 

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Pretty things and organization! I heart Rifle Paper.

I am OBSESSED with my new Rifle Paper Co. calendar that just arrived today! Pretty things that also facilitate organization… I mean! Heart eyes for days (literally days, because we’re talking about a calendar).  I’m sometimes a little too type A for my own good and for the good of the people who have to deal with me… I’m sure the hubs could write his own post on this topic. But, I digress.

Scheduling can be super stressful, so having a great place to keep track of everything is essential. Bonus points for the fact that it’s designed by one of my favorites and the artwork makes me happy. This will hang in the space between our kitchen and our new mudroom (more on that later!) and it will be our base of operations. Though I love my electronic calendar for specific appointments throughout the day, we need something that functions as a basic overview for each day, at a glance. I love this layout because it allows plenty of space for just that.

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Is it weird that fresh calendar pages make me happy?? This baby will be full of details in no time.

We take our schedule week by week and it’s constantly changing, so that’s why having this central hub is so important in keeping us sane. There are days I’m in the city, days that I’m working from home, days that my hubby is traveling for work, preschool, doctor’s appointments, etc. You get the idea. Lately, we’ve fallen into a pretty solid system that works for us.

I set my days each week that I’ll be in the city based around when my clients can meet and other events or happenings. Usually this works out to be about 1-2 days per week, but sometimes it’s more. City days require a serious childcare plan. Depending on what my meetings look like, the childcare plan will play out in one of a few ways:

  1. I bring them with me and drop them off with our “city sitter” turned auntie/super close friend. She hangs with the boys while I’m working and then we all rendezvous at the end of the day and find a yummy spot for a family dinner out. This is super fun, but used to be way easier when Henry was flying solo. Now with two kiddos, it’s imperative that we have them changed into their jammies and in the car by 7:00. Theoretically, the baby falls asleep in the car and transfers into his crib and we’re home in time for Henry’s regularly schedule bedtime. So, as fun as this option is, we don’t do it very often because having it all work perfectly is kind of a crap shoot and we’re usually all fried by the end of the day.
  2. My mother-in-law comes over. This is an awesome option, because it gives the boys quality time with their grandma and the obvious… free childcare! But, Nina has 7 grandchildren and we’re not the only ones who think this is a great idea. So, we try to be careful not to ask her to come over too frequently and we certainly don’t want to take advantage.
  3. Our AMAZING nanny! We hit the jackpot through care.com this fall when we met Young Mary Poppins. The boys and I adore her and she is totally comfortable doing preschool drop off and/or pick up if needed. We don’t do a full-time nanny schedule because she’s in grad school and also, we like having the flexibility for me to have days where I’m just solo with the boys or having a grandma or auntie get some quality time with them.

Once a month or so, it works out where the boys are at our house in the burbs and I don’t have an evening meeting or event, so the hubs and I are able to grab dinner and have adult conversation and pretend like we haven’t actually moved 42 miles from the city.

The phrase, no two days are ever the same, has never been more true. It is a constant juggle to make sure we don’t lose our minds and sometimes we do. Just as I think we’ve got the hang of balancing everything, something changes and then we have to find a new system again. For us, the only thing that is constant is change… and the need to stay organized and flexible!