Happy February, Moms! This month we're introducing you to Elizabeth Stroik, Instructional Designer and amazing mom to an adorable three year old boy, David. Read all about Elizabeth, her family, her career and how she plans to celebrate Black History Month and Valentine's Day this year.
Please tell us your Name / Employer / Profession(s)
Elizabeth Stroik, Instructional Designer at Decision Resources Group (DRG). I started with DRG about 2 years ago as a Content Developer and then transitioned into a new role as an Instructional Designer. These days I have something of a blended position where I do a little of both.
Please tell us about your son.
I have one child, my son David, who will be turning 4 in the spring. David is a fearless extrovert and makes friends wherever we go. If you were to bump into us at the grocery store, he would probably offer to show you his “moves” and break into a live song and dance routine, complete with an air guitar solo.
Explain/describe one of your proudest mom moments recently.
David is at that age where he notices the ways in which people are different from him. Sometimes he finds it necessary to loudly point out these differences in public places. I try my best to use these cringe-worthy moments as learning opportunities to talk about how our differences makes us beautiful and mean that we each have a unique perspective and talent to share.
Recently, a new student who has a disability that makes speaking difficult joined David’s preschool class. On the way home from school one day, David was telling me about his new classmate and said “he is special and I think the way he talks is beautiful.” That was a very proud mom moment for me!
What do you like best about your job?
I work with subject matter experts (SMEs), graphic designers, and content developers to create instructional materials (i.e. online courses, workshops, webinars, and other learning tools) for adult learners working in the healthcare industry. What I like best about my role is using my skills as a writer to help people learn from “behind the scenes.” I may not be a teacher standing in front of a classroom, but I’m still helping to create great learning experiences.
What's the hardest part of being a working mom?
Balance. Balancing being a single mom and a working professional, and then dealing with the guilt when you don’t get that balance quite right, is not for the faint of heart.
What came as the biggest surprise so far in motherhood?
The bond I have with my child, and the fact that the bond didn’t magically come into existence the moment he was placed in my arms for the first time. I loved my baby, before he was even born, but our bond was not instantaneous, which surprised me. After a couple weeks, however, I was equally surprised by the strength of the bond we had developed. It’s hard to explain, but once you spend some time with these tiny humans, the love and connection you develop surpasses understanding.
What’s been the biggest challenge for you so far in motherhood?
Being present. This is something I have always struggled with, but I notice it more now as a mom. My brain is just always on to the next thing. I’m sitting there playing with monster trucks, but I find myself thinking about all the other things I need to do and forget to enjoy the moment. I don’t want to miss out on the joy of being a mom because I’m too focused on the work of being a mom. I have small tricks I use to help me be more present, but it’s something I have to continually work at.
My brain is just always on to the next thing.
Any words of advice for other working moms, especially those that are newer working moms?
You don’t have to do it all. You can’t do it all. All you can do is your best. When I first became a mom, I was so anxious about doing everything and doing it perfectly that I often made myself miserable. Thankfully, I had some more experienced Mamas who reminded me what really matters and taught me how to give myself “permission” to let some things go. To any new moms, I’d say learn to give yourself that permission too. As long as your child is happy, healthy, and feels safe and loved, you’re doing just fine.
Favorite MKE restaurant/store/hangout? Why is it your favorite?
One of our favorite things to do is go down to the lakefront and enjoy the Summer Movie Night series at Gift of Wings in Veteran’s Park. We typically go a little early and fly a kite or kick a soccer ball around so David can burn off some energy before the movie. When the sun starts to go down, we settle in with some of their $1 popcorn and hot dogs and lay down on our blanket under the shining lights of the Milwaukee skyline. The setting is intimate and I always feel like we’re part of a big family. In a time when it seems like the whole world is focused on what separates us, it’s nice to be in a place surrounded by all different types of families just doing what families do, enjoying a movie together on a summer night.
What makes your family unique?
As a single mom with a unique upbringing of my own, I don’t think I ever considered myself part of a traditional family. I’m Black, adopted, and I grew up in an interracial family. My parents have Polish and German heritages, and they have four biological children who are all younger than me. I also have an older brother who was adopted from South Korea. When we were little, people used to ask my Mom if she was running a school of some kind. I’m sure, at times, she probably felt like she was. My Dad worked full-time and my Mom was a stay-at-home mom and she homeschooled me and my five siblings. We lived on a hobby farm in a rural area north of Milwaukee, so our family stuck out in a lot of ways.
Now that I’m a mom myself, my family is still not traditional. As a single parent, I have learned to expand what “family” means for me and my son. I’m blessed to have several people in our lives that I often think of as “parenting partners,” people who help out, support and encourage me, and love both of us. I have really appreciated the way the different people in our lives are each contributing their own unique perspective and talents to David’s development and the person he will become. While at home it might just be David and I, our family is actually much bigger than that.
What (in your opinion) is Milwaukee's biggest opportunity to improve the lives of working moms and better support them?
Milwaukee has a lot of great community programs and activities for moms and their kids, but they just aren’t at times that fit into a busy working mom’s schedule. When I first became a mom, I was desperate to find ways to get out of the house and meet other new moms, but it was challenging to find activities I could do with my baby in the evening or on weekends. Our local library, for example, has several programs for moms and babies each month, but they are all on weekday mornings. I think it would be great if the community would make more of these programs accessible to working moms with infants and toddlers by offering them at different times of day. Thanks to WMM, by the way, for doing just that!
Are you going to do anything special for Black History Month?
Every year, I choose one black history figure or event to read up on. This year I got the book She Came to Slay: The Life and Times of Harriet Tubman by Erica Armstrong Dunbar to read. I’m also really excited to be attending a special local film event, Black Women: Both Sides of the Lens, which is a series of “short films directed by Black women, about Black women” that is being shown at the Oriental Theatre.
Will you celebrate Valentine's Day or Galentine's Day?
I was never really into the “lovey-dovey” stuff on Valentine’s Day, but I really like helping my son make Valentine’s Day cards for his friends. I’m not super artistic, but to my son and his friends I have mad skills. My team at work also takes Valentine’s Day pretty seriously. Last year we made pink pancakes in the office and everyone exchanged homemade Valentine’s Day cards.