I Don’t Know How She Does It
Superwomen, though rare, are not mythical creatures. I met one this summer through a mutual friend. I’d always thought that between success with career, marriage, an orderly home, fitness, friends and children, something would have to give; a woman could have four, maybe five out of the six. Jennifer Tonda Rohlfes busted my theory by achieving all of the above, plus family travel that is — no lie — enjoyable for all of them. Oh, and she doesn’t have one child. She has three of them, all under the age of 8.
Angela Hoxsey: First things first — what time do you get up in the morning and how much sleep do you need? What’s your morning and evening routine?
Jennifer Tonda Rohlfes: For many years, I got up at 4:45 a.m. and was out the door by 5 a.m., but my current job is more relaxed, so I can get up a bit later. Ideally I like seven hours of sleep but I can function really well on five. I usually don’t deal with the kids in the morning. Anything that needs to be done on my end for the kids gets done the night before, like packing their backpacks and checking their homework. I also pack my own gym bag the night before if I’m working out after work. My husband and the au pair are in charge of breakfasts and lunches.
AH: How do you get yourself ready for work?
JTR: I grew up as a swimmer so I can get up pretty quickly, in 15 or 20 minutes. I pull my hair back out of the shower, use minimal makeup, get dressed. I wait to get to work to do breakfast and coffee, which I eat at my desk. I don’t have to wear a suit; my firm has a corporate casual dress code.
AH: What are your business hours?
JTR: I usually work 6:30 a.m. until 2:30. The market closes at 1 p.m. so I can get out of there pretty much on time, unless I’m working on a project or presentation. I pick my son up from school, so I really try to leave the office by 2:30 p.m. I also have a flexible job and can volunteer in the classroom and go on field trips. With three kids, flexibility is important.
AH: That’s an ideal schedule for a woman with kids. How often do you get interrupted at work for personal stuff?
JTR: Not very often; every now and then I’d get a phone call if the kids were sick or an emergency. I talk to the au pair or my husband (who also works full time) a few times daily. I’m definitely a multi-tasked. I can have three brokers on different phone lines and then have the au pair on another line — when you’re a trader you are constantly multitasking.
AH: What do you delegate at home?
JTR: I’m still in charge of the kids’ sports schedules and doctor appointments. I am off work early, so I take them to soccer, ballet, swim practice. I am a control person, so I am in charge of play dates, birthday parties (planning them and buying the gifts). The au pair is with them from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. if they aren’t in school. She does the children’s laundry and we have a housekeeper come every two weeks. My husband and I cook dinner and clean up every night. We both do homework, baths and bedtime. We both read them stories.
AH: Did your mother model this lifestyle for you?
JTR: My mother didn’t work. She went back to work as a nurse when I was a senior in high school and then only two days a week. My mom was a stay-at-home mom who made jam from scratch, made a four- or five-course dinner, was on the PTA. She did all her own cleaning and gardening — I farm out some of that stuff.
AH: Did you have an easy pregnancy?
JTR: My first one I did have some complications — preeclampsia — but I did work. I was working on Thursday and had him on Friday (3 1/2 weeks early). The other two were easy and I worked until a week before delivery, but then I took five to six months maternity leave with each baby.
AH: Do you make exercise a priority?
JTR: I do. I swim two days a week, run a few days a week, and try to throw in yoga and a bike ride whenever I can. I schedule my workouts to make sure I get them in. My husband is physically active as well, so often our date nights are a swim or bike ride followed by dinner.
AH: Do you take lunch or eat at your desk?
JTR: I’d grab a sandwich or something and bring it to my desk; making lunch is too much of a hassle.
AH: What’s your mid-afternoon pick-me-up?
JTR: If I’m going to workout after work, I grab a yogurt or power bar or if I’m with the kids and they don’t finish a snack, I finish their snacks.
AH: How much transition time do you need between home and work/work and home?
JTR: When I walk into work I’m in work mode, and when I get off work I’m in home mode. I don’t get down time. Before kids, I would go to more yoga classes or do a longer workout, then get dinner or drinks with friends. I had more time, went out more socially. One thing about my job as a trader is that when I’m there it’s intense and fast paced, but when I leave I’m done. It’s not like some careers where you bring your work home.
AH: How do you and your husband coordinate your time together?
JTR: We usually schedule our stuff based on the au pair’s schedule. With the first child it was harder because we didn’t have an au pair, but my parents are local, which helps, and then with the au pair we have a built-in baby sitter.
AH: Are pets part of the equation?
JTR: No. Three kids, no pets. I don’t want the extra responsibility. We can still get away at the drop of a hat if we want to go away for the weekend. We couldn’t even keep our goldfish alive, so no.
AH: Do you watch TV?
JTR: We DVR some shows, and my husband and I watch them together after the kids go to bed.
AH: You’ve traveled to 40 countries. What’s your favorite travel tip?
JTR: To be open-minded and expect the unexpected.
AH: That is funny coming from a self-described control person.
JTR: Pre-kids, I did mostly third-world travel and I got into some crazy situations, and in those you just have to let go. For big family trips I plan six months in advance.
AH: So what’s your No. 1 advice for working moms?
JTR: You have to schedule things in or they’re not going to happen — time for yourself, your kids, your husband, you have to allocate the time.