MONTGOMERY VILLAGE – When Judy Ashley was slowed recently by a bout with pneumonia and bronchitis, her kids pitched in around the house: Jennifer, 15, shoveled the driveway after it snowed, and Ben, 12, emptied the dishwasher.
But the kids conceded that their mom mostly kept the family on schedule, even if she did sleep more than usual.
“I slept better than I’ve ever, ever slept,” Ashley, 43, said of the weekend she spent recuperating. She said that left Jennifer “bragging, ‘I actually got up before Mom'” one Saturday morning.
“That never, ever happens,” said Jennifer, a 10th grader at Poolesville High School.
Ashley was one of 159,342 single moms raising children under age 18 in Maryland in 2000, according to the Census Bureau. Those families make up about 8 percent of the total number of households in the state.
And like many single moms, Ashley’s days start early.
She gets up at 5:15 a.m. to pack lunches, do laundry, wake up the children and get them to school on time.
“I get Jen up, and then wake Ben up at about 5:45,” Ashley said.
By 6 a.m., the family is out of their tan two-story Montgomery Village home and in their green Honda Pilot, heading to drop Jennifer off at the bus stop around the corner. Ben, a Montgomery Village Middle School seventh grader, tags along. He and his mom then make a daily pit stop for coffee and bagels.
“I need that coffee first thing in the morning,” Ashley said.
Next, she and Ben head back home to exercise, Ashley said. She drops him off at his bus stop a little while later and is at her desk at Rockville-based Lifework Strategies Inc. by 9 a.m.
Now part owner of Lifework, Ashley joined the business as company president in 1998, shortly after she divorced her ex-husband. Ashley said she tried several “un-family friendly” jobs after the divorce, before landing the position she now holds.
Lifework offers legal and financial counseling, as well as workplace seminars and resources for finding childcare and eldercare.
“I felt very strongly that to be able to help people with their personal life, we should help them with more than just childcare,” Ashley said.
Along with counseling others on what she calls “soft skills,” however, Ashley said she has had to make some adjustments in her own life.
“I’ve had to cut back on evening meetings,” she said. “Some days I don’t get home until six or seven.”
It helps that her job is flexible enough that she can work through almost anything, from kids’ concerts to family illnesses, Ashley said.
“I do have a lot of hours (for work),” she said, glancing at the laptop computer she often brings home from work. “But I have a lot of flexibility.”
Even when she was sick, she missed just one day of work. But the mother of two said that balancing her workload, volunteer commitments and her home life is something she has tried to work on.
“My new vocabulary word is ‘no,'” she said. “I think sometimes you have to retrain your mind.”