A Working Mama's Summer in the City

July 19, 2012 By Alexis Podolny Heald 0 Comments

As a working parent it can be difficult to juggle work and family time; our Working Mama shares her current solution.

On the timeline of expat seniority I sit solidly between the fresh-off-the-boat newbie and folks here so long they've moulded over like the trees. I know I'm not living here for the weather, which is just as well as it’s barely broken 19C since the official start of summer. I'm living here because, even when the rain is pouring in June, I love the city of Amsterdam.

This year I'm really enjoying my first full summer as a parent. Munchkin was born last August so we just caught the tail-end of what passes for “summer” here in Amsterdam.

Everyone tells you, "Your life will CHANGE!" when you become a parent. This is like telling someone that getting a root canal is "a little uncomfortable", or that there are “a couple” Albert Heijns in town: it doesn't even begin to convey the paradigm shift your life undertakes.

What makes it so interesting in my case is that pretty much everything else is the same: job, family, living situation. Just add Munchkin. It feels like a scientific experiment where all other variables are controlled so we can just observe how becoming a parent changes things. Now I see things differently: the center of mine and my husband’s collective universe is shifted ever so slightly outwards to this tiny (getting less tiny by the day) person. And it does indeed change everything.

Work in particular seems different this summer. In Europe, traditionally works slows down in the the summer season. In August you are more likely to come across Spaniards and Italians riding rental bikes around the streets of Amsterdam, while the Dutch have migrated en masse to live in caravans in France.

But like many, my work ebbs and flows through busy and slow periods that sometimes defy the seasonal trends. We're ramping up for a busy period at present, but I'm trying to hold the stress in check and manage how much work I do outside the workplace.

It used to be hard to shut off from work. But since having Munchkin I am acutely and guiltily aware of every quick glance at the Blackberry. It's her time. I'm paying for it, damn it (in the form of reduced hours per week for a mommy day), so I should get my money's worth! I try to get out and show her the city: to enjoy my new summer experience with her to the fullest. In particular those activities that make Amsterdam uniquely Amsterdam.

For example, we go to the Vondelpark, the nearest unpaved expanse of land near us. We expats know that the south end of the Vondelpark is for locals. The north end of the park (the one nearest Leidseplein) is where locals point and laugh at tourists.

A few weeks ago there was a hastily organized street fair near us. Munchkin adored the stands of overpriced but locally produced fashion accessories and could not stop bobbing to the street music. The fair was titled something along the lines of "Hurrah, the road works are done!" celebrating the long overdue and painful refurbishing of a major intersection. Only in Amsterdam!

In exchange for lazying around the parks or partying in the streets, I work hard when I'm at the office  After all, it's easy enough to focus when it's raining outside.


Alexis is the mother of one adorable Piranha and wife of OH. A working Mama and a new Mama, she will be writing regularly for us on the challenges of balancing family and work life.


Photo credit: yXeLLe -@rtBrut- via photo pin cc

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