You can’t go online today without discovering new, fabulous and fabulous-er things for kids. Toys, games, clothing, gadgets, books… the supply of cool kid stuff is as bottomless as our parental love. Frankly, it’s hard to imagine not finding exactly what you need when you’re on the hunt.
But that’s just what happened to Los Angeles-based working mom Nikki Mark when she realized her then-4-year-old son needed a special storybook — one that would help him understand why mommy goes to work. After scouring Amazon and finding nothing age-appropriate, Nikki decided to write one herself: Mommy Brings Home the Bacon. Days later, on a plane to New York, Nikki came up with the title and, she says, “just started writing.”
“There was no pressure. It was our story, one that I knew my son would enjoy, and in my mind it was just for us,” says Nikki.
The story, which is told from the boy’s imaginative perspective, explores the relationship between a young boy and his working mom. It’s meant to foster a child’s appreciation for a working mother and minimize the emotions surrounding the topic, while easing the minds of moms who take on the difficult challenge of financially supporting their household while raising children.
“My older son loved it at the time and still loves it a year later,” she says. “Although he … doesn’t need the book as much [now], it’s clear that he is very proud of it and is my best sales person! Now my 3-year-old asks for it and we will often read it together before he goes to sleep. He often references parts of it throughout the day and we always get a good laugh out of it.”
As executive VP of operations for a large hospitality corporation, Nikki’s plate is undeniably full. Still, she manages to squeeze in daily exercise, time with family, taking the boys to school and a full day at the office before returning home for some family playtime, her boys’ bath and bedtime routines, and a late dinner with her husband, who runs his own law firm 10 minutes from home. Then, she says, it’s back to work for a few more hours from her home office.
What’s Nikki’s secret to keeping all the balls in the air?
“There is always a struggle to balance my professional and personal life,” says Nikki, admitting that her professional life “definitely wins” much of the time because the demands of her job never ease up. “But, that just means the quality of time that I spend with my family is that much more important,” she says.
“The trick to making me feel balanced is that during my time at the office, I’m 100% focused on work,” says Nikki. “Similarly, when I’m with my family, I’m 100% focused on them. My Blackberry is down and my mind is on them. This helps me be present at all times and producing the best results that I can — minimizing the guilt that can sometimes creep up when I’m in one place or the other.”
What about tips for staying fit? Many working parents find that exercise is the first thing to go when the schedule fills up.
“I have a treadmill at home and do resistance training as well — using light weights and rubber bands,” says Nikki, who typically exercises at 7 am for an hour, and includes the boys in her routine.
“My children hang out with me, practicing their version of sit-ups, leg raises and lunges as I do them,” she says. “I even let them walk slowly on the treadmill — with me supervising — as they get really excited to do so. My 3-year-old showers me with kisses as I do situps and sits or puts his hands on my stomach to be close — which obviously adds resistance. He also shows me his muscles and how they grow after each exercise. My 6 year old kicks his soccer ball around, doing push ups and situps in-between and helping his little brother jump off the bed. It’s an absolute circus, but I love the hour.”
“I love seeing them enjoy exercising and I love having them keep me company as I do so.”
What are you passionate about?
“I’m passionate about my family and living a healthy and active life.”
What drives you crazy?
“What drives me crazy is when my mind won’t shut off and I can’t sleep. There’s always one more thing to do and I just have to get it done, I don’t like to put things off.”
Describe your perfect Saturday.
“The perfect Saturday includes a long walk by myself or with a girlfriend to start the day. Then breakfast with the kids and then a group activity — soccer, playing at the park, whatever. Then an hour or two by myself shopping or getting a facial, and then more family time until my husband and I go out and see a movie or stay home and watch Bill Maher from the night before. I try more and more to squeeze less and less into a weekend, and try to keep it simple and stress free.”