Hi, I’m Mel and I’m not really an Iowa Citian. Why am I writing for the Iowa City Moms Blog, you ask? Well, I spend most of my waking hours in Iowa City. You see, I’m one of those crazy people who make the commute on Interstate 380 to and from Cedar Rapids every day for work. So I am a Cedar Rapidian by address and an Iowa City resident in spirit.
I started working in Iowa City nearly four years ago. At the time I had a 20-month-old daughter and I’d been working four minutes away from my house for ten years. It was a huge change for our family and in the beginning I wasn’t sure if we could handle it. Turns out, it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I get to have an hour of “me” time in the car each day and Kevin (the husband/dad in our house) picks up our girls (we have two kids now) and gets some one-on-one time with them.
I love this life. It often feels like I’m operating in alternate universes. At home I’m the soccer/dance mom, the wife, the daughter, the friend, and the church volunteer. At work in Iowa City, I’m just Mel. No one I work with knows my husband or my kids or my friends. It’s like my own little world. And during this phase of my life with little kids, when I can’t use the bathroom alone at home, I like being just me at work in Iowa City.
My independent Iowa City self looks forward to that glorious hour of Noon to 1:00 p.m. every day. If you’re a working parent I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. The magic that is “the lunch hour.” That’s the time when you run to the grocery store, the post office, and then shove some food in your face before going back to the grind. I think it may be akin to naptime for the stay-at-home-parent. It’s the time of day when you can actually get something done.
I love eating at all the restaurants right outside my office. I love shopping at all the little shops downtown Iowa City. Our bank account took a serious hit when I first started working in Iowa City. I think I bought a new piece of clothing every day for a month. Oopsies! These days I mostly run errands…bank, aforementioned post office, or I get in my car and hit a grocery store for dinner supplies. And this past summer I joined the gym and I spend many a lunch hour there. Hello, treadmills with TV! I mean seriously, watching BRAVO on my lunch hour while getting my exercise is mind blowing.
This life is sometimes strange. People think I’m crazy for working so far from home (my husband included). When I tell most people where I work they screw up their face and say, “Oh…you have to commute…” I love when I meet someone who also makes the commute and they “get it.” Yes, it’s extra gas and a lot of driving. But for me, being a working mom makes me a better mom. And working in Iowa City has made me happy. That can’t be wrong for me, my kids, or my husband.
So, if you see me and my Honda driving a million miles an hour on I-380, give a little wave. I’m probably late for work because my Kindergartner refused to put her shoes on again. But know that I am happy to be heading to my home-away- from-home in Iowa City. And only a teeny tiny bit jealous of all of you that get to live here full time.
Melanie Ostmo lives in Cedar Rapids with her husband Kevin, a cranky cat Zoey, and two daughters, Sonja (5) and Camille (1). She loves cheese pizza, the Chicago Cubs, and knitting. You can find her on Instagram @sparkleunicorn and on Twitter @MellyO. She also writes for The Real Moms of Eastern Iowa every Monday and Wednesday.