Every so often I like to chronicle a day in the life of a busy mother to explore how all different types of moms juggle their responsibilities — from stay-at-home moms to moms who work full time outside of the home. If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “I don’t know how she does it” about another mom, read on!
Today we’re talking about life as a working mom with DeNai Jones, founder and head designer of Petunia Pickle Bottom. Petunia bags make a statement with ornate patterns and eye-catching color combinations made from long-lasting, easy-to-clean materials. If you don’t already own a Petunia Pickle Bottom diaper bag, you’ve surely seen one on the arm (or stroller) of the most fashionable mom on the playground.
Recognizing a hole in the market for fashionable and functional diaper bags, DeNai founded Petunia Pickle Bottom in 2000 with her husband and a close childhood friend. Oh! And in case you’re wondering — the name “Petunia Pickle Bottom” came from a silly sentimental phrase coined by DeNai’s father when she was a toddler!
Read on to learn how DeNai manages motherhood while working alongside her husband at Petunia Pickle Bottom.
Q. Tell us a little bit about your family…
We have two boys. Sutton (7) is a very driven and passionate soul who loves the outdoors and making art in equal measure. Miller (5) is our free spirit, and very in-tune with others’ emotions—he’s the kind of boy who will give me a random hug and say “I love you, mom” when I need it most.
Q. Walk us through a typical work day… What time do you and your kids wake up?
I am the first one up in the house at 6:00, followed by my husband and the boys.
Q. What does your morning look like?
My husband Braden (who is also my business partner) and I have a great system going in the mornings that works for us both: I make sure lunches are made, homework is signed off on, the kids are dressed, and the teeth are brushed—then he takes them to school by 7:50, allowing me alone time to clean up and prepare myself for the day ahead. On Tuesday and Thursday mornings I go into the office by 8:30am.
That’s not to say that it’s always so carefully orchestrated: mornings tend to be slightly chaotic now that the boys are in this phase of bothering one another while attempting to accomplish…anything. But a few days a week we all fall into a nice rhythm and things run smoothly, and what a great day that is!
Q. What time do you eat lunch?
I tend to work through lunch and eat at my desk when I’m at the office—and never at a set time. Once in a while my husband and I will grab a sushi lunch together and talk business, which is a real treat.
Q. What does your afternoon look like?
My work days tend to vary: some days I’m presenting new products, or next season’s fabric collection, in development with my team, and other days I’m afforded uninterrupted hours at my computer for fabric design and editing work on products already in development.
If it’s a good day, I will be humming along in a creative rhythm; otherwise I’ll be stuck in meetings and needed in different departments from morning to afternoon.
Q. What time do you eat dinner?
A sit-down family dinner is a big priority in our home, and we do so around 6:00 every night when we’re not traveling. I was brought up this way myself, and I tend to believe strongly in the importance of this distraction-free time together to talk freely and share about our day.
I also love to cook, especially because as growing boys my children definitely appreciate food. My continued hope is that our dinner table serves as a “safe place” for our boys, and a place they will always want to come back to when they have their own families.
Q. What does your evening look like?
Homework for my oldest son starts in the early evening, and I’ll admit it’s a struggle some nights toggling between getting dinner together and homework help. The boys are always excited about when their dad will be home, which is usually around 5:30- or 6:00PM. I try to have dinner ready to serve as soon as he walks in. Remember, I love to cook, so this is no chore!
After dinner, my husband is great about doing the dishes, which allows me to finish up the homework one on one with each boy. Bedtime preparation starts at 7:00: one of us still crawls in bed with the boys and reads to them for fifteen minutes before “lights out.” After the boys are in bed, I prep anything that will save us from some stress in the morning, pick up around the house, and usually by 8:00 my husband and I will have some time with each other (unless one of us is heading back to the office on deadline).
Q. What time do you go to bed?
We generally go to bed around 10:30, which gives us a few hours of time together after the boys go to bed. We consider this time a luxury, knowing that as they get older, and more homework is assigned, our time alone in the evenings might dwindle.
Q. I’m not sure it’s truly possible to balance motherhood and working; I think it’s more of a juggling act. When life gets hectic, what tasks or responsibilities are the first to get dropped?
We travel quite a bit for work, both nationally and internationally, in addition to taking a lot of weekend camping trips as a family throughout the entire year. So when life gets hectic for us, it is seen first in the form of unpacked suitcases and duffle bags around the house, which then leads to huge heaps of laundry.
I think of the life of a working mom as an act of spinning plates: it’s both beautiful and a little wild and, sure, some of the plates inevitably fall and shatter, but we have to pick up the pieces, put them together and carry on.
Q. What do you most look forward to doing on the weekends? Do you ever do any work on the weekends?
Our favorite weekend agenda consists of the little things: breakfast in our jammies, a stroll down to Farmer’s Market, packing a lunch for the beach and staying there until sunset. We also like to spend weekends away at our family cabin or on road trips in our trusty Westfalia, stopping to camp along the way.
We try very hard to not work on the weekends, and if we do, it will be on Sunday night after the kids go down.
Q. How do you de-stress when you’re feeling overwhelmed?
I try to inject some balance into each week by doing two things just for myself. I do a Pilates session one evening a week after our boys’ bedtime; it’s a struggle to get to, but I always feel better having gone. I also have one horseback riding lesson a week while the kids are in school. Horses calm my soul, and this new addition to my schedule is a luxury that I am very thankful for.
My fail safe plan, however, if none of the above is able to happen during the week, is taking a walk by the beach. I love the feeling of encountering the ocean—something larger than myself—to put my life into perspective.
(Photos by Nancy Neil)