Chasing Superwoman Part I: The Real Deal

When I was competing for Mrs. Ohio, I told the judges that if I was crowned Mrs. Ohio, I would like to have an open a discussion on work-life balance.  Now, I am going to make good on that promise.  This is Part I.  I have entitled this segment “The Real Deal” because I am going to give you my real perspective on work-life balance.

Last Sunday, I had it all together.  The laundry was caught up (not put away, but everything was clean), and my house was shockingly organized.  I got in a great workout, and I had completed my grocery shopping.  I made my menu, and I now had all my ingredients for this week’s menu. I took Jake to the pumpkin farm, and we enjoyed a hay ride. I also took him through an uphill corn maze where, as soon as we were out of sight from the entrance, he decided he wanted to be carried (a second workout). That night, I made my family chicken parmesan, a big salad, and a pumpkin chocolate chip dump cake for dessert.  I was feeling pretty good about myself.  It was a productive day.  However, I forgot one key thing – rest.  So, I fell asleep at 8:00 P.M.  

My husband was kind about it.  He put Jake to bed.  However, he forgot to wake me up.  At midnight, I rolled off the couch and went to my bedroom.  I didn’t pack our lunches, I didn’t lay clothes out for Jake or myself, and I didn’t ask Siri (my male Australian-accented Iphone that I have commanded to call me “Beautiful”) to set my alarm.

Monday morning at 7:45 AM I rise to the sound of “MOMMY, get me out of here!” Greeeaaat. It’s nearly 8:00 AM.  I have a client meeting at 9:30 AM, and nothing is ready. I sprint out of bed; snatch Jake from his crib; run downstairs; microwave some pancakes and grab a banana and milk for his breakfast; and dig through my newly-folded laundry looking for some semblance of a matching outfit for him while he is eating.  I find one which he quickly vetoes, and I run to the laundry room for a new one.  Jake eats.  Jason agrees to take Jake to “school” (daycare).  I run upstairs to get ready.  It is 8:25, and I really wanted to be in the office at 9:00 AM.  It’s a twenty-minute commute.  I run upstairs and look in the mirror. I have really dark circles under my eyes, and my hair is still half damp from my shower from yesterday.  No time to fix this.  I throw my hair into whatever chignon it will create with a spritz of hairspray and some bobby pins, and I start on my face.  Maybe I’ll do darker lips today to detract from my exhausted eyes.  After painting on a five minute face, I grab my favorite pants and a top that doesn’t wrinkle.  I’m just about ready.  Now…shoes.   

I always said I would never wear those ugly flat ballet style slippers (I’m sorry if you like them.  I just don’t love the look of them with anything but cropped pants).  However, when I was pregnant with Jake and carry around an extra 80 pounds (literally…80) I started wearing them.  I own one pair.  They are black.  The sole is so worn that it is going to fall off of them, but I still wear them.  They are convenient.  Truthfully, I want five more pairs in different colors and patterns.  I have reformed.  I not-so-secretly adore these flat slippers.  I can carry stuff in them without losing my balance.  Most importantly, I can sprint into the office from the parking lot, and I need to move!  So, I grab my hideous yet oh-so-comfy flats.

Five minutes later I am out the door. I didn’t get breakfast.  This means I have to stop somewhere.  I choose the Starbucks drive-thru so that I can have a spinach, feta, and egg white wrap (likely one of my healthiest options in a hurry…I only eat half the wrap to provide a better nutritional ratio), and I text my paralegal to tell her that I’m bringing her Starbucks.  

 At 9:25 A.M., I arrive at the office, hook up my computer, listen to my voicemails, and I start my client meeting. I have an extraordinarily productive day at work.  I pick up my son at 5:50 PM, and I go home to figure out dinner.  I had intended to put whole chicken with potatoes in the crockpot that morning for our Monday recipe, but I swap Monday with Tuesday since I didn’t have time to prepare it. I make salmon cakes instead.  That takes twenty minutes.  Jake screams that he wants his “fish cakes…NOT HARD ONES MOMMY” over and over until they are finished cooking.  He’s two and a half.  I get his point.  It’s 6:30 P.M.

I spend the rest of the evening enjoying time with my Jake.  Once it is bedtime, however, I realize I am totally exhausted, but I need to get to the gym. . . another 9:00 PM workout.  I want to cry, but I know I won’t regret going. 

I get back home at 10:00 PM, I take a shower, and I crash into my bed.  I wanted to look at something for work, but I decided to just get up a little earlier tomorrow to do it…

This is not an atypical day for me.  Hello, I’m Ashley Starling, your Mrs. Ohio, and I have not mastered work-life balance.  


Sometimes I go through entire weeks like last Monday.  Other times, I am a champion – early, in heels, cheerful, and with a solid makeup game.  It is a mixed-bag.  However, there are the four things that I know I do right on most days.


Jason and Jake always know they are loved

Sometimes the best you can do it make sure the people around you know that you love them.  Jake gets the vast majority of time at home, and I know he knows that Mommy loves him more than the world.  We talk a lot.  We share books and snuggle time.  This is non-negotiable.  I will even bend my bedtime rules a bit just to make sure we have this special time.  Likewise, I talk to my husband all the time.  Seriously, I talk to him off and on all day.  We call each other. We text. We email. We play Words with Friends.  He is my best friend.  He knows I love him even when I am mad at him.  We talk so much that our fights never last long.  It’s just how we are.  He makes me laugh.  He keeps me sane. 

I Do the Very Best Work I Can

I decided to be a lawyer well before I was married and decided to have a child.  I take pride in the practice that I have built.  I take pride in the service that I provide.  I take pride in how I do my work.  I truly care about my clients.  Even when I am a mess, I do my best to give my clients the service they deserve. 

I Don’t Sweat the Little Things

That clean laundry from last Sunday is still semi-folded in the laundry baskets (at this point it has obviously been picked over).  If a book was written about me, it would be entitled “The Laundry will be Done Tomorrow.”  I just don’t care.  And if you care that my laundry isn’t folded and put away, we just can’t be friends.  I would love for everything to be neat and perfect in its place, but that is just not the reality.

Similarly, there are always a few dishes in my sink.  I cook and my husband does the dishes. We have a lot of dishes because I cook.  That is his job.  He is sexiest when he does the dishes, and quite frankly, he is better at it than I am.  So, I don’t mess with the dishes.  He will get them done.  If you visit me, be prepared for a few plates and forks to be sitting in my sink.  After all, he is trying to balance it all too.

My vanity is always a mess.  I clean it up each night and put away everything on the counter.  I’m really not sure why I do, because the next morning it looks like a tornado has blown through the left side of the bathroom.  Likewise, my bed is never made.  I love when the bed is made. I just never get around to it.  Oh well.

I also pay for my time.  I have a cleaner that does the deep cleaning in my house.  Similarly, I have someone that cuts the grass.  I would go without cable and (maybe) coffee before I would cut out those services.  My weekends are reserved for rest, Jake, family, friends, and activities.  I won’t be doing my deep cleaning then.


I Make My Health a Priority

Perhaps one of the greatest gifts that competing for Mrs. Ohio and Mrs. America has given me is the gift of healthy habits.  When I decided to go after Mrs. Ohio for the first time, Jake was three months old, and I had forty pounds of extra weight.  I promised myself I was doing this, ready or not.  I spent all year making health a priority, and I walked on stage at a weight I hadn’t seen since high school.  When I decided to compete one more time, I hired a trainer that completely reorganized my nutrition and taught me how to eat flexibly.  As a result, when I went to Mrs. America, I was in better shape than I have ever been.  

Over the past two years, all of those healthy practices have become habit, and those habits have kept me motivated.  I feel better after a workout – even a terrible one when I’m super tired.  Any workout is better than no workout.  Likewise, I now plan healthier meals for my family so that we all have a more balanced diet.  Everyone has benefitted from me taking better care of myself.  In turn, I take better care of them.

In sum, when people say “You must be Superwoman.” I laugh.  Hardly…You have now read a preview of my life at its most chaotic.  You can’t have it all.  Nobody can.  Whether you stay at home, work from home, or work outside of the home, it is impossible to have it all.  However, I have all the pieces that I personally want, and I know that I accomplish the four aforementioned things on most days.  I understand that to have those pieces, I have to give up others.  After all, it is all about balance…


Stay tuned for Chasing Superwoman Part II:  And Now You Want to be Mrs. Ohio?