Cindy Alfino works as an insurance broker and writes lovingly about her family life over at 3 Kids, 2 Dogs and 1 Old House. As the second mummy taking part in our series for working mums, Cindy reminds us over and over again how lucky we are to have our incredible support systems as we undertake the adventure that is working mum life.
Tell us about yourself, your family, your kids, your life’s interest, your work, what your family does for fun.
Jeepers, where to start? The beginning probably works best, so here goes:
When I was 16 I happened to go to a youth camp where Seth and I met by accident. After a few awkward teenage conversations, we started dating, then got engaged at 19 and married at 20. It’s pretty young as these kinds of things go, but when you know – you know, you know?
Even though we were fresh out of college, I was broody as all heck and desperate to start cuddling little babies in my arms. Despite our efforts to pre-empt this with a five year plan and goldfish, hamsters and even puppies, we welcomed our first baby into the World when I was 22. Kyla is now our beautiful seven year old girl and has taken the natural role of the first born, by testing me at every turn. Anyway, a couple of months after Kyla joined us, I started getting this awfully familiar feeling and I was right. We were pregnant again! So just a year and two weeks after Kyla was born, we welcomed Riya-Ray into our growing family. Now six, Riya is still just as feisty as she was when she delivered herself in the maternity ward (long story).
But we weren’t done. We longed for a little boy, so a couple of years later (on my 26th birthday no less), Knox joined us and completed our family unit – thankfully he was a boy! He’s just turned four and can keep you entertained with endless tales about anything and everything. So, as you can see, we kept to our five year plan – 3 kids in five years haha.
While we were busy popping out babies, we were also establishing ourselves in our careers – as impossible as that sounds. Seth’s been grafting hard as an architect and I am an insurance broker. Over the years, after a lot of hard work, there were opportunities for me to become part of the business and now I own a large portion of our insurance brokerage – Incompass Insurance Consultants.
When I’m not working, running after my children or spending quality time with my husband, I enjoy writing on my parenting blog – creatively named 3 Kids, 2 Dogs and 1 Old House (http://www.3kids2dogsand1oldhouse.co.za) It started out as a way to connect with other mothers and has since become so much more than that. It’s the place I turn when things are rough in this parenting journey and I need a little bit of writing therapy. It’s also the place I go to record all the great times that we have, because it’s going to be so awesome to look back on in a few years.
When we’re not busy with any of those fun things, we’re trying to live our best life in Cape Town. Cuddling on the couch and watching movies, or braaing with friends and going out to lots of restaurants or kid friendly places.
What is your most endearing quality?
That’s really hard to answer. I would say that you should probably ask my husband about that. In fact I asked him for you. He said, “Uhhhhhh, is that a trick question?”
How would you describe your calling ?
The only thing that I have ever really known that I have ever wanted to be, is a mom. That’s it. And thank God, things have worked out that this has become our reality. That’s the only real calling I’ve ever felt.
How did you find the road to motherhood?
Getting to motherhood was easy – let’s be real, baby making is fun and even my first pregnancy was a breeze. But things took a turn when we actually had the baby! Boy was I unprepared. Babies are a lot of work man!
If you had to decide on a title for your life story as a working mum, what would it be and why?
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
Because no story is one dimensional. Parenting and working at the same time is filled with a myriad of moments everyday – some good, some bad and some downright ugly. But that’s one of the cool things about this whole being a mom gig, it’s never boring.
Tell us about your journey into being a working mum, was it what you wanted? Did it just happen by chance?
Even though I was desperate for children, I knew that I was not the stay-at-home type of mom. Or even the home school mom. It’s not something that I would have been good at and that would just have been terrible for everyone involved – most importantly – our children. Besides that, in the current economic climate, it’s really hard to provide for all the family needs off one salary and so I had to work. But I actually enjoy working, so it’s OK. It wasn’t really an issue for me to go back to work after baby although I think six months off would have been better than four.
Although I love my job and value being in the working environment, I do still put my family above all of this. So I have tried to cut the hours down and to work from home with the kids more.
What are some of the challenges and blessings you experience while being a working mum?
The biggest challenge that I face, and something that I have to deal with daily, is trying to split myself into two equal parts. One half that works hard and does as much as it possibly can to grow our business. The other half has to do exactly the same but with our children. It’s so ridiculously hard to do this and I’m not sure that I have managed to get this right yet.
The blessings? There are more of those, thank goodness. I love that our children are given the opportunity to foster their independence when they’re away from us during the day. To develop important relational skills with their peers, teachers and whoever else they should come into contact with. I love that because our support system consists largely of grandparents, they have these incredible relationships. It’s lovely to watch. And I love that they get excited to see me at the end of the day.
Do you have a support structure, what does it look like? Did you construct it like that or did it evolve? If you had all the resources or money in the world how would you make it even better?
We are SO fortunate to be able to have Seth’s parents to help us with the day time child care. They fetch them from school, feed them lunch and look after them till I get home in the afternoon. Sometimes this also includes taking them to extra murals when I have meetings or stepping in where I am not able to. My mom is also around to do a lot of the night time babysitting and takes two out of the three kids to school in the morning. And they sleep over once every two weeks or so and then we are able to squeeze in a date night. Please don’t hate me. I know that we are really lucky to have such an amazing support system.
Although it all works well for the most part, it’s something that we are constantly trying to perfect. Our current routine and support has sort of just evolved out of necessity and willing and loving grandparents.
If I had all the money in the world, it wouldn’t change a thing. Except I’d insist on paying for absolutely everything our support system needs.
How do you manage the logistics around family, school events, work commitments, study, couple time, socialising?
Besides the abovementioned support system of awesomeness, it would be my DIARY! If it wasn’t for my diary I wouldn’t know if I was Arthur or Martha. If you want us somewhere we need to know in advance and it has to go straight into the diary or we won’t be there. It’s just far too busy to try and remember everything.
What has been your biggest lesson as a working mother?
Only one? I learn a new lesson every day. But the biggest has to be that I am so privileged to be in the position that I am in, with the family that we have, to complain would be ridiculous. Learning to be content with everything as it is and changing what needs to be changed without making a big deal out of it.
Was this role and its complexities modelled for you by someone? In other words, where did you learn to juggle/prioritise home, life and work
We were one of the first in our group of friends to have kids. So we had no idea what we were doing or how to do it. We’ve really just muddled along these last seven years with lots of trial and error, but lots of learning. Before we got married, we discussed at length what we want our family to be. It’s important to both of us that we try and get the balance right, so we constantly check in with each other on how we can make it all better.
What do you hope your children learn from what you are doing now?
Sheesh. Um, I hope that they learn that family comes first, but that working is not a bad thing. And above all, that I do everything I do because of how much I love them and want to look after them.
What are your practical tips for other working mums in order to prioritise/juggle/survive being working mums?
Here’s what gets me by:
- Get a diary. Use it well.
- Know your limitations – don’t over commit. Got a bake sale at school? Woolworths it.
- Had a busy week but there’s something that you’re supposed to go to? Don’t go. Don’t stress yourself out with little things like this. (Full disclosure: If you’ve RSVPed to a party or wedding or you know something, then you should go, it’s the right thing to do. I’m talking about committing to last minute plans)
- Get a good support system. If you don’t have willing family – make willing friends that you trust to help you out.
- Team work – my husband and I team work everything. I get the kids ready in the morning – he makes the lunch boxes. I make supper – he does shopping. Whatever works for your family, but help each other out.
- Use your free time to connect with your kids and be present.
If you could go back 10 years what would you do differently?
I’d like to say that I would have wanted to travel more or whatever. And maybe that’s true. But I’m pretty happy with the way everything worked out and it wouldn’t have if I did it differently. So nothing? Oh I know! I wouldn’t dye my hair brown after Kyla – that was a big mistake!
What rituals have you established to give your energy/revive and nature yourself so you can continue to give as a mother and wife?
I have a few things that recharge me. Sleep, reading and watching series. And blogging of course. I need to make sufficient time for all of those and then everything will be perfectly fine. If I don’t have enough time for that, then things get out of control.
Who doesn’t love a lazy afternoon of sleep, reading and watching series?
Can you relate to Cindy’s story?
What challenges do you face as a working mum?
How has your experience made you a better person?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.
MEET THE FABULOUS MOM
Cindy’s life is full to bursting and her family tries to enjoy every crazy second of it. When she’s not working as an Insurance Broker (who chooses to do that anyway) or actively parenting her brood, she blogs about surviving parenting (even if some days it doesn’t feel like it), home reno and her explorations of all the amazing things that happen in and around Cape Town.