Meet A Great Cook and Single Mom Of Two Energetic Teens
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WHY SHE’S ALL THAT: A single mom of two active boys, Amelie Tseng manages to balance their multiple activities while holding down a more-than-fulltime job, cooking up a storm for her family and family of neighbors, and volunteering at school and community groups. See how she does it, and what interest she’d love to share with other like-minded moms in town.
MOVED TO MONTCLAIR: From Manhattan in 1994.
HOMEFRONT: I’ve been in the same house for 17 years. It was a three-bedroom cape which was supposed to be a starter home. When I was pregnant with my second son we looked around for something larger, but we decided to stay and add on instead. Now the kids are getting older, taxes are getting higher in town, and it’s very manageable and just right for the three of us.
KIDS: Two boys, 9th grade at Montclair High School and 7th grade at Glenfield.
WORK: I’m a Public Relations Consultant primarily for start-up multi-platform media companies. I work every day 100% from home. I maybe go to a meeting once a week in the city, but sometimes not even that. I work probably 10-12 hours per day. The client I work for now has a West Coast office, so I start looking at the BlackBerry at 7 a.m. and work pretty much straight through until at least 7 p.m. and then check back in after dinner. When I became a consultant, it was knowing I had a counterpart; I was the butter and he was the bread; but now I’m both the bread and the butter. Luckily I’ve always worked so it’s fine, but it’s still stressful.
WORK/LIFE BALANCE: Before kids, I was in-house, heading up PR for major national and international multi-platform media companies. Then I stayed home fulltime for a few years when my kids were tiny, but I soon realized I needed something else and started freelancing three days a week when they were in preschool. I loved that schedule. But then they wanted someone fulltime so I decided to try it and totally got sucked back in. They allowed me to work form home one day a week and leave at a decent hour, which was great. But then everything changed and I was working longer hours, sleeping with my BlackBerry, and on it over dinner. My husband at the time traveled 50% of the time. Our nanny situation was always stressful. Finally I decided to stop working fulltime, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to continue doing Public Relations or not, but I wanted to know my kids a little better before they grew up. I left at the end of 2006 and started consulting and haven’t stopped. I’ve carved a niche with multi platform media brands. I’ve been on my own for four years.
KIDS’ ACTIVITIES/SCHLEPPING: 9th grader: Crew and fencing; both four days a week (Monday-Thursday) for two hours but the schedules are staggered and variable so he’s able to make at least two of each every week. Thank God he’s not coming home with a lot of homework, and also for all the parents who carpool.
7th grader: Climbing after school in Fairfield, and luckily we have a carpool. He also does ROGATE after school—he’s given extra course work and goes on trips, and has to stay after school one or two days a week. It’s for kids who want to be challenged a bit more. He’s also involved in Science Olympiad, and they meet at Glenfield one to three days per week after school.
Both kids are in an indoor soccer league on Saturday nights but of course they have different schedules. I could be there for four hours. They also do Chinese school on Sunday mornings in Cedar Grove.
I have to keep them busy. I have two boys! Otherwise they’re in front of the computer for hours. I try to get them out of the house when the weather is nice and even when it’s not.
VOLUNTEER: I always help chaperone events, and I help with Science Olympiad whenever they need me. I’m on the High School Small Learning Committee, and on the Board at the Human Needs Food Pantry. I’m also an alumni interviewer for my college. And I help the kids with whatever they’re involved with—they both organized and ran charity food drives and clothing drives, which we were all involved in.
EXERCISE ROUTINE: I never ever used to exercise, but I recently started walking every day. I also go to a class at the Y twice a week. I play racquetball with my kids, and when the weather is nice we play tennis. I was also certified for belaying; I want to start taking my son who climbs but he refuses to let me belay him. And I joined a biking club.
WHAT YOU’D LIKE TO DO: I’d like to start climbing myself but I can’t find any other moms who will do it with me. I’m desperate to find other moms who will learn to climb with me.
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: Right now, it’s juggling the kids’ schedules with my work schedule. It’s still the work/life balance. As a single mother it’s an enormous challenge. From the moment I wake up until I go to bed, I’m running running running doing something. Even when I think I’m not doing anything else I think about it and I’m usually multitasking. There are just not enough hours in the day.
WHAT GIVES? My social life.
BIGGEST HELPERS? My friends. I have very strong and supportive group of friends and neighbors. With the number of activities we do, I don’t know how I’d get to everything! You can’t pick your neighbors, so I know I am so fortunate to have the neighbors I have. I have their keys, they have mine. They’re like family.
BEST WEEKNIGHT DINNER: This is the running joke on this block. I love to cook and I have the crappiest kitchen in town. None of the cabinets close. Some of my neighbors don’t cook but have fabulous kitchens, so I cook in their kitchens. A weeknight staple would be Chicken Marbella, salmon teriyaki or another fish, and in the summer I’ll grill. In the winter I tend to make things I can freeze like chili. I’m starting to get my kids more involved in planning and making dinner so they’ll eat it, and also they’re at an age where it’s important that they can make simple things and use the oven.
FAVORITE RESTAURANT FOR DELIVERY: Hunan House.
KIDS’ FAVORITE RESTAURANT: Toro Sushi or Soho Pizza, the best pizza in Montclair.
FAVORITE RESTAURANT WITHOUT KIDS: Giotto or Epernay.
BEST PLACE TO PICK UP KIDS’ BDAY GIFT: Now that they’re older it’s all about the gift cards—usually Watchung booksellers, Starbucks, or Dunkin Donuts.
BEST PLACE TO PICK UP HOSTESS GIFT: Magnolia or Amanti Vino.
WHAT YOU DO REALLY WELL: I’m really good at connecting people. I love to introduce people to each other and I like to entertain.
WHAT YOU DO FOR YOU: I play in an adult dodge ball league. It’s actually for “young adults” but our team of “ geriatrics” are young at heart, and we especially enjoy the outing to Just Jakes for drinks afterward!
FAVORITE MTC ACTIVITY: We love to go biking around town through the different parks, and to play tennis.
WHAT YOU LOVE ABOUT MONTCLAIR: The truly rich diversity—whether it’s bi-racial families, same sex families, single parent households, we’re really a new kind of melting pot and it’s become a new kind of normal. For my children, who are half Chinese and half Caucasian, this is a real bonus since they have a healthy diverse group of friends which includes kids like them—half Asian/half Caucasian. I tell them how lucky they are that we live in a community where they have friends who they can share their bi-racial experiences with, but they take my comments lightly because to them, this type of diversity is “normal.”
I also love that we’re close to Manhattan and yet have everything right here—great food, great shopping, great activities for the kids as well as for grown ups. But really, I love the people. The people make Montclair.
BEST ADVICE: Make it a point to do something for yourself every day. I can’t say I follow that rule but I do try. For me, it’s my morning walk. It’s really important for me.