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Forgotten Cupcakes, Diaper Blowouts, and Cuddles – All in a Day’s Work

Whether or not you can have it all is up for debate. But this Mother’s Day month, we’re saluting those North Sound moms who are trying. They’re business owners or bosses who manage to keep their families—and sanity—intact (for the most part) while juggling full-time jobs on the outside. The North Sound is home to many small and large businesses, profit and nonprofit, that have women at the helm, like those in this story.

For many of these moms, days are a circus act with all those spinning plates—some with day-old food on them. Hopefully, you have a helpful spouse at home. Running a restaurant with school-age kids is a challenge because your hours might not align. Sometimes, you might have to attend business meetings with a toddler on your hip, or bring your son along to a real-estate showing. And the guilt? Don’t get us started. Many moms have talked about feeling like you’re always short-changing something, either your family or the work you are so good at.

So this month, we celebrate the boss moms. In fact, let’s raise a toast (buttered, with crusts removed, please) to every mother out there. Because let’s face it—you’re all working moms. Here’s to you.

HANA LAMAY, MOUNT VERNON

Esthetician Hana LaMay opened Bare Boutique in Mount Vernon four months after she had her third child. As a mother of three, now ages 7, 9, and 18, starting her own business grew from a passion for her work as an esthetician and the desire to maintain a strong family connection.

“When they were younger it was very intentional for me to schedule my time for a rich family life,” says LaMay. “Even now that they are in elementary school, I still see them off to school in the mornings and am there to greet them when they get off the bus.”

She strives for a work-life balance, but with managing a business, staff, and clients, unexpected things pop up. “One year, my son’s class was putting together a class cookbook and each family had to contribute a recipe,” says LaMay. “I showed up to class without the recipe. Everyone was very forgiving, but I had such a heavy heart about it.”

KELLI LANG, ANACORTES

In 2016, real estate agent Kelli Lang, opened her own RE/MAX agency in Anacortes. As a mother of three children, ages 12, 15, and 16, and a real estate agent for nine years, she is on the go from sunrise to sunset.

“Being a real estate agent is a very on-call profession, and our days are long,” says Lang. “It’s gotten easier because the kids are older, but I still struggle to maintain a personal and business life.”

She schedules most of her house showings during the day, which gives her flexibility to attend school events, but there are days where she falls short, like the time she forgot to bring cupcakes to her son’s “birthday-day” celebration at school.

“Being a business owner and having kids is a slice of insanity. The days it works out is because it takes a spouse that is willing to pick up the slack to get the kids off to sports and activities. It definitely takes a village.”

EMILY O’CONNOR, BELLINGHAM

Emily O’Connor’s life is a mix of chaos and success. At 36, she spends her days as executive director at Lydia Place, the Bellingham nonprofit that advocates for the homeless, and as a mother to Attison, 8, Rowan, 5, and Finnley, 1. “When you’re trying to juggle it all, nothing ever feels like it’s in balance. I walk through life feeling like a failure everywhere,”she says.

O’Connor has a stack of stories of times she’s missed the mark, including an important meeting spent trying to conceal her baby’s diaper blowout. “[Women] wanted to be able to do it all, but we haven’t had any conversations about what that looks like,” she says.

At Lydia Place, O’Connor seeks to create an environment that puts employees’ well-being first. She has breast-fed her children during presentations and managed to kept all her kids with her at work until they were at least 1 year old. Though it has been difficult to do all these things, O’Connor’s success can be seen in the rapid growth of Lydia Place since she took the helm seven years ago and in the children cuddling in her lap. As she sits in her home, Finnley at her breast, it’s clear she’s where she should be. “I feel privileged to have my life full of things that I love,” she says.

KARI VANDENBOSCH, LA CONNER

Restauranteur Kari VandenBosch, purchased La Conner Seafood & Prime Rib House in 2008. Before that, she owned Flounder Bay Cafe in Anacortes and spent years working in the restaurant industry. As a mother of four children, ages 6, 8, 10, and 13, they have all grown up in the business.

Peak times for the restaurant are nights and weekends. Even on her scheduled time off, whether it’s a day or a few hours to attend a school or sporting event, she is always on call. Mornings provide time with the kids, and her husband Jason, the stay-at-home parent, is the primary caretaker for the rest of the day.

“It’s tough, but now that the kids are getting older, I feel like it will be easier and the demands won’t be so great,” says VandenBosch. “The positive I take away is that a lot of people don’t have their bond with their dad.”

STEPHANIE OPPELAAR, BELLINGHAM

Three days a week, Stephanie Oppelaar, 40, is up at 4 a.m. baking at the Black Drop Coffeehouse, a downtown Bellingham coffee shop she co-owns and operates. She returns home for an hour of alone time before her kids Edith, 5, and Beatrice, 7, are up and getting ready for school. Stephanie gets Beatrice on the bus before her husband John, 34, drives her and Edith to Western Washington University, where Stephanie is a full-time biology student and Edith spends the day at the Child Development Center.

Oppelaar is the first to admit it’s hard. “It’s a crapshoot every day,” she says, “I know that I’m building for our future and the things that I’m doing are important, but I feel like I’m missing out with [my kids], Oppelaar says.

She gets through it day-by-day and remains positive. Often, Oppelaar says it’s going to bed thinking, “‘I guess that was today. We’ll see how tomorrow goes.’”

For more content like this, check out our lifestyle section here.

"'Being a business owner and having kids is a slice of insanity. The days it works out is because it takes a spouse that is willing to pick up the slack to get the kids off to sports and activities. It definitely takes a village.'"