Real parents: Lori Gardner

Lori Gardner, St. Louis Park

Board secretary for the Jones Page Jacobson Family Foundation, a foundation committed to community enhancement in the Mankato area, and a magazine advertising and editing freelancer

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Who doesn’t fantasize about working from home, of tackling job duties in pajamas, shuffling to the kitchen for a snack whenever the urge hits, and catching the daily Showcase Showdown on “The Price Is Right”?

Lori Gardner, a freelance magazine writer and editor who also serves on the board of a family foundation for community enhancement, transitioned from a downtown Minneapolis job to a home office and is happy to dispel those myths. The St. Louis Park-based mother of a 4-year-old and 2-year-old shared her wisdom on juggling work and family when they’re under the same roof.

Was it hard to transition to working at home?

The toughest transition actually was between me and my husband. The two of us were both working downtown, and then suddenly, I got to skip the commute and enjoy the comforts of home all day. It caused some resentment. But the trade-off was that more house responsibilities have come my way, on top of keeping up with work duties. Now that I say that out loud though, I should stop complaining to him about that. It’s a pretty fair trade.

What are the benefits and drawbacks?

The benefits are time and balance, and the drawbacks are time and balance. I have more time with the kids now, and a big part of full-time work stress was not feeling a sense of balance between work life and family life. But no matter how you set it up, work is still work, and you have to put in your time to get the job done. So the time and balance drawback is that I’m now a 24/7 operation. I can join my daughter at daycare for cookie decorating day at 2 p.m., but then you might get an e-mail from me with a time stamp of 2 a.m.

Did you try working with the kids at home initially?

My work requires some travel, so we knew the kids would stick to their daycare routine, save for shorter days now that I can drop off later and pick up earlier. I have peers on some projects who have little ones at home while they work, and I’m amazed at how much they juggle. Fish sticks and peas with one hand, color corrections and client negotiations with the other. Mega-moms!

How firm is that line between work and family time?

It’s taken me more than a year to realize that trying to make a distinct line between the two is the problem. You have to learn to work a little more organically, but it takes a long time to shake your head free of 9-to-5 routines. When I’m with the kiddos, though, I definitely hang up the mental “closed” sign on work. My kids can sense when I’m half attentive to them, and it makes them agitated. So work hours are never typical, but kid time is kid time, no takebacks.

Have your kids ever broken into your office and made photocopies of their butts or crayoned over an important file?

My kiddos (4 and 2) really haven’t shown an interest in the equipment and paperwork. But the day’s not over yet.


Want to be featured in real parents?

We’re looking for real parents — parents who aren’t famous but perhaps should be, people from whom we could all learn a little something. Maybe they’ve faced a challenge or come up with a unique solution or are living their lives in a particularly inspiring way. If that’s you or someone you know, send an e-mail to [email protected].

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