8 Hot Mamas — & Successful Ladies — Doing Chicago Proud

Being a mom is hard work — but our favorite local ladies somehow manage to make it look easy. Which begs the question: How exactly do you balance motherhood and a thriving career?
Here to help, eight accomplished Chicago mamas, including PR maven Monika Dixon; Brielle Buchberg, co-founder of Luxury Garage Sale; and Randolph Street Market founder Sally Schwartz. Not only do these inspiring women bring a lot to their families, they bring a lot to the community, too. So, how can you have it all? Their secrets to success, ahead.
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Maria Ponce: Photographer

How do you balance your life as a working mom?
"Balance is something I am always trying to perfect. When you're working, you're thinking of your baby. But when you're with your baby, you're thinking of all the work that needs to be done. My solution has been to book jobs that I really feel passionate about shooting. That way, I know that being away from Fiona is totally worth it. Working really makes me happy and being happy makes me a better mom!"

What's the one thing you do for yourself when you have the time?
"I go to yoga! Om on the Range is just a couple blocks from my studio. Taking a class there and centering myself is a real indulgence and I love it."

What's some of the best advice you've ever received when it comes to motherhood?
"The best advice I've ever received was from my sister-in-law (also a new working mom), who told me to never take others advice too seriously. So, that my mothering style — which is more about intuition."

How do you maintain your fashion and beauty sense when you're this busy?
"My go-to these days is braiding my hair. I braid it when it's wet in the morning so that by the evening, it looks like I have perfect beach waves. And because I'm nursing, my dress selections are limited. I just bought an amazing McQueen dress at Intermix that I can just throw on to keep things easy."

Photo: Courtesy of Maria Ponce
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Brielle Buchberg: Co-Owner of Luxury Garage Sale

How do you balance your life as a working mom?
"Prior to having the babies, there was no separation between work and home. Now, I try and be cognizant of being present when I am with my kids and fully focusing my attention on them when I am not at my store, Luxury Garage Sale. Work begins again after I put them to sleep!"

What's the one thing you do for yourself when you have the time?
"I rarely have time for myself anymore but when I do, I try and squeeze in a manicure or a good meal."

What's some of the best advice you've ever received when it comes to motherhood?
"I have found myself telling people that I don't know what I'm doing when it comes to being a mom and usually hear in response 'nobody does!' The best advice has been to just do the best you can. No mom is perfect, and we all learn as we go."

How do you maintain your fashion and beauty sense when you're this busy?
"I see such great pieces come through the doors of Luxury Garage Sale every day, so I am motivated to look presentable regardless of how tired I may be! Even though I may not be able to always wear what I want to with two babies in my arms, I can still throw on a blouse with a pair of skinny jeans, great shoes, and a big necklace. I have a pair of flats on stand-by in my car and take the necklace off as soon as I get home!"

Photo: Courtesy of Luxury Garage Sale
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Val Warner: Host of Windy City LIVE

How do you balance your life as a working mom?
"Striking the perfect work/home balance is a tough act to do, but here is how I try to do it. Since I can't take my kids to school in the morning because I am always at work, I make sure I am there to pick them up from school and spend dinnertime and evenings with them doing homework and having a little fun when all the work is done. Even while at work in the mornings, I make sure to always call them before they leave for school...this way I still feel connected."

"When I can, I pick work events that are family-friendly so I can combine both worlds. For instance, we just shot a show in Disney, so even though I had to work long hours there and leave them at home to finish out the school week, I FaceTimed them every night and morning and flew them to Orlando the day we were done shooting so we could enjoy all the things I explored while working."

What is the one thing that you do for yourself when you have time off?
"I love to treat myself to a little shopping, a relaxing manicure/pedicure, or a fun lunch or dinner with friends. And of course, I love spending time with my sweetheart!"

What is the best advice that you have received as a mother?
"Some of the best advice I have received about motherhood is to not sweat the small stuff and to enjoy the early years because they fly by. I'm experiencing that right now. My daughter is 10 already, and it seems like I was just decorating her nursery."

How do you maintain your fashion and beauty sense when you're this busy?
"Fortunately for work, I have the luxury of having a makeup artist, so that makes a big difference. I keep it up outside of work by trying to lead a healthy lifestyle, which includes exercise and a clean diet. When I work out, I feel so beautiful because I know I've worked my body and will ultimately look good in those clothes I love to treat myself to when I have time."

"When I'm running around town being Mom, I may not have a full face of makeup, but I always try to have on lipgloss and mascara (false eyelashes, too, if I have time...they are fun to wear!). I love looking at magazines to see what the latest trends are and how I can pull off the look. I love rocking high and low price items...more low than high because I do have my kids future to plan for!"

Photo: Courtesy of Grace Willis.
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Monika Dixon, Owner of Monika Dixon Public Relations

How do you balance your life as a working mom?
"There is really no way to plan for the next day in my field because things change really quickly. I always make sure to make time for my husband, Geoffrey, and my children, Nadia and Enzo. Whether it’s a Girl Scouts meeting, swimming class, or soccer practice, I love participating in their activities — it's my favorite time with them!"

What is the one thing that you do for yourself when you have time off?
"I try to find a good book to read on something that I am interested in, or fall asleep to a good movie."

What is the best advice that you have received as a mother?
"It came from my husband's mom, Frances. She said, 'Now that you are a mother, all of the mistakes that you make will not be considered mistakes because no one is there to judge you.' When it's your decision for the kids, it is always the right one. Your children will respond positively because you are always doing what is best for them."

How do you maintain your fashion and beauty sense when you're this busy?
"I believe that you either have a sense of style or not. I couldn’t do it without my go-to boutique SARCA. They always have the best selection. For makeup I use Morgan Marie Beauty because I trust their skills and taste. They are always on time, and my makeup is never overdone. For hair color, I go to Peggy at Charles Ifergan and for a haircut, I see Jessica. For blowouts I always go to Blowtique and my go-to skin guru is Leah Chavie of Leah Chavie Skincare Boutique. My hubby and I also work out with Alex Vasileski of A Mind and Body Total Fitness. He keeps us fit and trim."

Photo: Courtesy of Grace Willis
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Jessica Kato: Co-Owner of Sumi Robata Bar

How do you balance your life as a working mom?
"While I’m not sure that I consider my life completely balanced, I do strive to create as much equilibrium as possible. All working mothers face obstacles every day and have to make choices that might be judged by others that aren’t in our unique position. In creating balance and making decisions, I live by a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: 'Do what you feel in your heart to be right — for you'll be criticized anyway.'"

What's the one thing you do for yourself when you have the time?
"The one thing I do for myself when I have time is to get a 90-minute massage at Tirra Salon & Spa. It's a little piece of heaven that is absolutely amazing! Maybe once in a blue moon, I can spend some time at East Bank Club doing some cardio and enjoying the steam and sauna room — though that’s a rarity!"

What's some of the best advice you've ever received when it comes to motherhood?
"Never wake a sleeping child! Naps are everything — I’m pretty lucky since Antonio takes a two-and-a half-hour nap every day."

How do you maintain your fashion and beauty sense when you're this busy?
"I like to think my look is classic-yet-modern, mixed in with my personality — I love color! I am Colombian and thus have plenty of curves. Instead of working against them, I’ve learned to work with them. I don’t keep up with fashion trends that much. Instead, I wear what suits my body properly and allows me to feel comfortable."

"My must-haves for makeup are concealer, eyeliner, and lip gloss. And when it comes to skin care, I follow my grandmother's advice. She always used to say, 'You only have one face, so you better take care of it!'"

Photo: Courtesy of Eugene Galdones
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Cari Giannoulias: Co-founder of Lewis Giannoulias Interiors

How do you balance your life as a working mom?
"It's all about keeping a schedule and multi-tasking. I have a list for everything! But no matter what, I try to maintain perspective and a balance. My children and husband come first, and I always find that when my home life feels complete, everything else falls into place."

What's the one thing you do for yourself when you have the time?
"When I get a little bit of extra time, I love to take a yoga class at Core Power Yoga. It’s the perfect blend of relaxation and a workout."

What's some of the best advice you've ever received when it comes to motherhood?
"My mom always gives the best advice. She says motherhood is the hardest and most rewarding job you will ever have in life. Cherish the moments with your kids because they grow up so fast."

How do you maintain your fashion and beauty sense when you're this busy?
"I'm obsessed with fashion and buy clothes that fit my on-the-go lifestyle. My go-to piece will always be a great pair of jeans. I would say that my style lands somewhere between bohemian chic and rock 'n' roll if there is such a thing!"

"For beauty, my favorite products are SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic and Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream. And if I could only pick two items to add to my handbag before leaving the house, they would be Christian Dior mascara and Armani lipgloss.

Photo: Courtesy of Grace Willis
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Amy Morton: Owner of Found Kitchen and Social House

How do you balance your life as a working mom?
"That actually has been a challenge. I love my family more than anything in the world, but I also love my restaurant and know I need to be here. Now that we've been open a while, balance is a possibility and one I strive for all the time. I try to work when I’m at work, and be with my children and family when I’m at home — once I start mixing the two, things are never as good or focused!"

What's the one thing you do for yourself when you have the time?
"Sneak in an episode of The Americans or Mad Men, or get a 90-minute massage from my healer."

What's some of the best advice you've ever received when it comes to motherhood?
"Did anyone ever give me advice? The advice I would give is to love your children, hold them accountable, and be a mom that says 'yes'!"

How do you maintain your fashion and beauty sense when you're this busy?
"I keep a simple wardrobe that I love, and wear what makes me feel happy — I don’t think you should be afraid of wearing the same thing often!"

Photo: Courtesy of Neil Burger
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Sally Schwartz: Founder of the Randolph Street Market

How do you balance your life as a working mom?
"I'm not sure my life is balanced, but I am lucky enough to work for myself, so I never have to ask which is the priority because it is always my kid who is the priority. With that said, there are times when work must come first if you're the one providing for your kid as I am. I have a 16 year old and I want to always be ready to talk whenever she wants to."

"So, sometimes you get your work done after you focus on being a mom. And sometimes you just need to spend money to have others help you. I am a true believer of the phrase 'it takes a village.' I love to hire helpers to do the things I don't have the time, talent, or desire to do. I also believe in having good mental health professionals on speed dial!"

What's the one thing you do for yourself when you have the time?
"I love to have personal training! I have an amazing trainer who lives in the suburbs. She is so good that I am willing to drive one day a week to Deerfield from Hyde Park. She is helping me balance on a rubber ball."

What's some of the best advice you've ever received when it comes to motherhood?
"There are a few doozies that are so true. The best advice is just love them. Nothing is more important than making sure your kids know they are loved. It's hard when they are little to realize how much our behavior shapes them so if we just love them, everything else will fall in place. Another is to choose your battles. Your child will throw things at you faster than the speed of light and you just can't get freaked about everything. Their job is to drive us crazy; our job is to stay cool."

How do you maintain your fashion and beauty sense when you're this busy?
"I love a good blow-dry and makeover. I go to a sweet little garden-level salon on Lincoln at Wells called Emmet Rode for my hair. When it comes to my skin, I love the Obaji Nu-Derm System. It always brightens up my skin and it’s gentle to use. And when I need makeup and a bubble bath, I park with my flashers for 15 minutes on the side street and hit the cosmetic counters at Neiman Marcus."
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