I’m excited to present Smarty Mom, Meredith Jeffries, nominated by Smarty friend, Shana Plott: “It isn’t often in our adult lives that we are blessed with new girlfriends who we feel we’ve known forever. For me, Meredith Jeffries, this week’s Smarty Mom, is one of those special someones. Meredith was my next door neighbor almost ten years ago, and immediately became my friend for life. Together, she and I have been through the greatest of joys and some of life’s most challenging moments…the births, countless sleepless nights and growing years of six children, a divorce, a marriage, career changes, a move, and lots more.
Meredith truly exemplifies a woman who can do it all…and with such grace and love, plus a healthy dose of humor. She’s an amazing mother and wife, the coolest, hippest professor at the Law School, and a once in a lifetime gal pal.
There’s no friend with whom I’d rather share a glass (or bottle) of wine, a good cry or even better, a good laugh. It is with great pleasure that I introduce you to Meredith Jeffries, one of the “smartiest” moms around.”
Meredith lives in South Charlotte with hubby, John, of 5 1/2 years and mom to Sarah (12), Emily (9), Jake (4) – they have a “his, mine and ours family” in Meredith’s words! Meredith is a professor at the Charlotte School of Law, which she is convinced is the best job in the world.
How do you balance work and home life?
I’ve always thought the word “balance” suggests that marriage, children, work, charitable/civic/church commitments, etc. all carry a defined weight that has to be kept in perfect equipoise – in which case I’m never in balance! The demands of every aspect of my life ebb and flow, and I survive by reacting as best I can to each, and trying to give myself a break when one of my commitments demands more than its share of attention (see, e.g., current horribly messy state of my house). I’ve been blessed to have a career that affords me tremendous flexibility. I worked in a very family-friendly law firm that allowed me to work a reduced schedule, first when I became a single mother and again after I remarried and we decided to have a third child. Now in academia I basically have the summer off with my kids, and during the school year (except for the 6 hours a week I’m in the classroom), I get to make my own schedule. The times when I have felt out of whack were times when I was doing work I wasn’t passionate about, when I wasn’t confident with my childcare, when I was too busy to make anytime for girlfriends or when something else was off kilter. I think happiness is about being comfortable with your own choices – whether that’s being a full-time mom, a superstar in your field, or somewhere in the middle – and valuing your choices based on what you’re doing that feels right, rather than sacrifices all moms make when we realize we can’t have it all, but we can have all we need. Right now I feel incredibly lucky! I remember what it was like before John and I got married when my income was the only income, and I know that most women that work don’t have the flexibility and control over their schedule that I have, or the financial support to take a 50% pay cut like I did when I left the practice of law (thanks honey!)- those women are the real “smarty moms”.
Last week we did a series on how families decide when to “call it quits” on having children. You have a unique perspective on this having had a child in a second marriage…
When John and I got married our girls were 7 and 4 – we were out of diapers, naps and tempter tantrums, and with two careers and the challenges of getting our precious girls acclimated to a new and blended family – well, we had our hands pretty full. But I really wanted to have a child with my hunky husband, and though those of you who have never been divorced may think that having every other weekend kid-free (when Emily was with her dad and Sarah with her mom) sounds enticing, the house was too quiet for me when it was just the two of us. We knew something would have to give if we added a third child to the mix. Most of the women partners in my law firm had stay-at-home husbands or husbands with much less demanding jobs — my husband works 60+ hours a week and loves his job. In deciding to try to have another child, I committed to give up partnership and all the good and bad that comes with it at a law firm, and take the bulk of the responsibility at home. I really had to redefine my definition of success – and I sure am glad I did! We were pregnant four months after our wedding (a surprise since it took me 3 years to have Emily), and my little guy is the greatest hard decision we ever made! He makes our blended family complete, and none of us can imagine life without him.
What is your favorite kid-friendly restaurant?
Brio – the kids love playing with the pizza dough and seeing how their creations come out when they are baked.
What is your favorite activity with your kids? Our kids’ ages are so spread out that there’s rarely an activity that simultaneously makes them all happy, but my happiest times are when we’re at Bald Head Island, where we got married. We get there four times a year, and it’s a place where we really leave cars, schedules and our hectic pace behind and enjoy simple things.
What is a typical Saturday morning like in the Jeffries household?
LAZY! It’s the one day of the week where we stay in pajamas way too late, enjoy a leisurely breakfast, and usually don’t have to be anywhere till after lunch time (erase all of the above during UNC Football season, since all or a subset of us travel to Chapel Hill for most home games).
What is your favorite date-night spot?
We are bad about carving out date nights – particularly because when my step-daughter is with us on weekends we make the most of the time we have with her, which is never enough because she’s the most amazing kid (I definitely won the lottery when I married John and got Sarah too!) So when we do get out we try different places. We go to the Caribbean without kids once a year to make up for our lack of date nights, so my current favorite “date spot” is Caneel Bay in St. John, USVI.
Favorite place to buy kids clothes?
I’m an online shopper (see question above about how I keep life in some semblance of balance) – my favorite is Mini Boden.
What is the funniest thing your kids have ever said to you?
I don’t know about the funniest thing ever, but last week my 4 year old said at bedtime, “I’ve had about enough of this going to bed stuff every single night.”
Best birthday party you’ve attended?
I think we’ve now had about 22 parties for our kids all total, but my middle daughter’s 4 year old princess party at the Harris Y stands out as the most special.
Favorite piece of baby gear?
My youngest is 4 – I can hardly remember! He was colicky and wouldn’t be put down for about 10 weeks so the Baby Bjorn was the only way I survived.
Minivan or SUV?
I actually had a regular car until just this spring, when my husband bought me a sweet crossover that looks like a cross between an SUV, a minivan, a station wagon and a hearse.
Are you involved with a local charity?
This year I’m on the Board of Directors of the Mecklenburg County Bar Association, I’m co-president of the Avondale Children’s Center parents group, and I was a co-director of Dilworth United Methodist Church’s Vacation Bible School.
Favorite thing about being a mommy?
Ah, so many choices. With Sarah and Emily, it’s watching them grow into these amazing, grown-up people and not believing I had something to do with that. Jake is in an “I love you so much mommy” ten+ times a day stage, and I never, ever get tired of his hugs, and know because I have a 9 and 12 year old to cherish each and every one while they last.
Could not live without my…
Faith – though there are so many things and people I can’t imagine life without, I know with God there is nothing I couldn’t survive.
Thanks Meredith for your Smarty answers! Do you have a Smarty Mom or Dad you’d like to nominate? Email us here and tell us why!