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Mom Life: Shelly Johnson

Lives: Reisterstown
Children: Nic, 19; Heath and Darcy,14; Colleen, 13
Occupation: UMBC,  The Shriver Center

Tell us about your work at University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

I work as an accounting professional for The Shriver Center at UMBC. I have worked in accounting for 25 years. I have four children, and as they started getting older, I started looking for a job with the University System of Maryland. I did some research and found that one of the employee benefits of the system is tuition remission. UMBC is an amazing university with a high standard of excellence and the diversity I was looking for in an employer. The Shriver Center does great work with the community and the university, and it is a perfect fit for my skills and passions.

What is the key to having balance between your career and your family life?

The key for me is two-fold: organization and realizing that I cannot do it all. I still utilize a chore chart for my teenagers. I utilize a weekly meal menu to organize my food purchases and make sure that the supplies for the meals are in the house; it cuts down on running to the store every day. And yes, my iPhone calendar keeps all my appointments — color coded for each of the six of us, activities and bill due dates. All entries in my phone have two alerts set for them — one for the day before and one for the day of the event.

Without the organization, I stress out that I have forgotten something — and sometimes I do. When Mom is stressed, everyone is stressed. Without the help of my network, which includes my children, my husband, my family and my friends, I couldn’t get everyone to the various activities that inevitability fall on the same day and at the same time. Or dinner wouldn’t be until 8 o’clock if one of my kids didn’t start it for me. And house work? Without the chore chart, the bathroom and living room would never be clean, the dogs wouldn’t get walked and the laundry might not get done. I reiterate to my kids: “I know you think I’m Wonder Woman, but we are a team, and I need help.”

How do you de-stress?

Everyone who knows me knows what I do to de-stress every, and I mean every, night: I take an hour-long bubble bath. Yes, every night from 8 to 9 is my time. My husband goes to the gym for an hour after work to de-stress, I soak. I draw a hot bubble bath, turn out the lights, light a candle, put on some meditation music and soak. Many times, I will read in the tub, but mostly, I just relax, sometimes with a glass of wine. My kids, my husband, my family and my friends know that I will not answer the phone, the front door or the bathroom door during that time. Experts say to make time for yourself, so I do.

What advice can you give  to other working mothers?

The advice I would give to working mothers is to ask for help when you need it. I always felt like I had to do it all myself and then when I asked for help and it was given, I thought, ‘Why didn’t I ask earlier?’ I reflected on my need to be everything to everyone and came to realize that asking for help isn’t a bad thing and that my network of support was always willing to help, they were just waiting for me to ask. It was also important to teach my children how to take care of themselves and their home and the duties that come with maintaining a home. Doing everything for them isn’t helping them in the long run.

Do you have a mentor or  a role model?

My role model is my mother, Rhonda Magruder. She was a working mom with two girls, and she was the most organized woman I know. She worked her way up at Random House to director and was successful at raising us and maintaining a great career. Did she attend every event at school or every sporting event? Probably not, but my memory is that she was there. I think about that when I might have to miss an event for one of my kids: Will they truly remember that I wasn’t here? No, they will remember the times I was there. Don’t get me wrong, they will remember the times I forgot this or that or the time I was a hot mess, and they will laugh and make fun of me. I will laugh too — it’s OK to show the imperfections. I’m not striving for perfection, but I am striving for success in raising healthy, happy, responsible and respectful members of society.

What’s next?

Well, it’s about time I started working on my M.B.A. I’m working at a great place to get one of the best educations ever. With free tuition, what do I have to lose?

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