For those who haven‚t figured it out already, women, more so than men, are multitaskers. Actually, for the most part, they‚re multitaskers on steroids. If you look in the dictionary under “multitasker,” there‚s probably âÂ€Â” or at least should be âÂ€Â” a picture of a woman.
When a woman is in business, it only multiplies by a factor of 10 her need to be a multitasker.
Amy Edwards is a woman in business, therefore, she is a multitasker. She is also a single mother with three boys. And she‚s an avid runner who ran the New York City Marathon. And the Chicago Marathon âÂ€¦ when she was five months pregnant! And Tulsa‚s Route 66 Marathon âÂ€¦ when she was seven months pregnant! And she‚s a skydiver, albeit a reluctant one, having jumped from a perfectly good airplane last April.
“I‚m definitely a multitasker. I‚m just a very big list maker. I love lists,” she says unapologetically. “I just like to be prepared. I know I can‚t be prepared for everything, last year definitely taught me that. Bein‚ a planner has definitely helped. It‚s funny how, when life goes completely off track, like how to get it back on, and kinda pick up the pieces, and so I feel like I just had to do the best that I could, and go on.”
As prevention services director for Sallisaw NOW Coalition for the past seven years, the 2005 Central graduate is also involved in the Sequoyah County Chapter of Women in Business, Sallisaw Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, Lions Club, Post-Adjudication Review Board, the board of directors for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) in Muskogee and the Arvest Bank advisory board.
Obstacles women face
To be sure, her plate is full. Or overflowing.
“I feel like that‚s all I do: work, home, kids, run.”
But she wouldn‚t have it any other way. She loves her work, she loves her sons and she loves to run.
Which is why her life is a delicate balancing act. And because it is still, most decidedly, a man‚s world, breaks are few and far between.
“We still live in a man‚s world,” Amy admits on behalf of women everywhere. “I think a lot of women, if it‚s somethin‚ they wanna do, that they see that it‚s only been done by men previously, like ownin‚ a local business âÂ€Â” don‚t underestimate yourself. If you don‚t ask, you just never know.
“I know that I‚m fortunate to have the job that I do in this town. I think if women really kinda dig a little bit, there‚s a lot more out there that people just don‚t advertise. So obstacles are just not knowin‚ where to look or who to ask. You know what you can do with what you have, and that you may not need to go back to school. The secret is really just knowin‚ what you can do with what you have, and not be afraid to ask.”
Finding and getting a job, it turns out, can only be half the battle. Success is its own obstacle. Achieving that success in business is hard enough for women without having to contend with the prejudices and judgments of others âÂ€Â” facets one cannot control âÂ€Â” compounded by the pervasive double standard that scrutinizes women more harshly than men.
“I‚ve had to defend myself in ways that men don‚t have to do.”
It‚s overcoming such obstacles âÂ€Â” in both her personal and professional life âÂ€Â” that tethers Amy, 35, to her favorite musical group of the 1980s, New Kids on the Block. The lyrics to the boy band‚s hit “Hangin‚ Tough” serve as a clarion for women working to succeed and persevering against all odds.
Everybody‚s always talkin‚ ‚bout who‚s on top,
Don‚t cross our path ‚cause you‚re gonna get stomped.
We ain‚t gonna give anybody any slack,
And if you try to keep us down we‚re gonna come right back.
Can women have it all?
It‚s been opined that in order to succeed in business, sacrifices have to be made, usually in one‚s personal life. Which begs the question, is it possible to have it all?
Amy‚s initial response is an uneasy “no,” but she reconsiders and assesses her own life, then qualifies her answer: “If you can balance and shuffle enough, maybe you can. If I wasn‚t fortunate enough to have flexibility [in my job], I would probably miss more of [my kids‚] stuff. I definitely couldn‚t sneak out to an assembly on my lunch break.”
But it‚s a question where a definitive answer is difficult, as she again reconsiders.
“I do feel like that‚s true, you can‚t have it all and do it all. Sometimes you kill yourself tryin‚ to do what someone else does more freely. Yes, and a little bit of no. It is hard.”
Amy finds that precise time management and a pristine checklist are essential to ensure that everything gets done when it needs to be done. “I just like to do the most with what time I have. If I wasn‚t good at utilizing time, I probably would struggle a lot more. I‚m a planner, and I like organization. I love a plan.” That‚s why she‚s a big fan of grocery pickup, consolidating trips, grouping together appointments and making lists.
If it weren‚t for her predilection for organization, she‚d have to sacrifice her favorite role as a woman. “Bein‚ a mom is my favorite thing. I really do love it, and I‚m very fortunate.” She has three boys: Brody, 13; Koleman, 10; and Crew, 7 months. But she‚s actually a mother of four. Brady, who would have been 14, was stillborn. That‚s why she became associated with Molly Bears, which creates a positive and comforting impact for families enduring any form of infant loss. “It‚s an organization that makes weighted bears for miscarriages and stillbirths,” Amy explains, “so we use Brady‚s bear in all our family pictures.”
In addition, Amy, who worked at Sonic Drive-In in Sallisaw while in school when she was Amy Standige, recruits former Sonic employees to serve as carhops every year on prom night. The money the volunteers receive from Sonic, combined with any tips, are donated to Molly Bears. And Amy creates a shirt for Brady each year, which is donated to Molly Bears in his name. “I do that every year for him, and I really enjoy keepin‚ his memory alive.”
I run, therefore I am
Apart from her love for her boys, she loves to run, which is a contradiction to what her former high school coach remembers.
“I run. I love to run. I ran in high school, and I hated it,” she says, laughing at the irony. “I started running just after I had my 10-year-old to help lose the baby weight. Then I started training for a 5K, then I did a 10K. Oklahoma City was my first half [marathon] in 2013, and then in 2014, I did the full [marathon].”
In the years since, she has either run a full or a half marathon at the Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa, and is already registered for a return next spring.
What began as a personal challenge to run one full marathon has turned into her running seven full marathons, including the New York City Marathon in 2018 (“It was amazing, and I loved it!”) and then the 2020 Chicago Marathon, which was postponed to October 2021, which she ran while five months pregnant with Crew (“It was not the best idea I probably ever had; it was my worst marathon time, but I did it.”) She then ran a half marathon at the Route 66 Marathon late last November when she was seven months pregnant.
Amy is signed up for a virtual run of the New York City Marathon this year, which gives her an automatic entry to run the Big Apple course in person in 2023. “So I‚m gonna run it again,” she says, almost as if she‚s trying to convince herself it‚s really happening again. “I don‚t know why I torture myself. I don‚t love training, like for the marathons. Those are crazy and good, but I love the experience of just gettin‚ out there and running. I love the race, it‚s just the training.”
Amy runs about 100 miles a month, and 2021 was her most productive year, when she logged more than 1,400 miles. “I was really proud of that.”
Running is therapeutic
But now that she‚s come to grips with the identity that she‚s a runner and that she loves doing it and the benefits running affords, she wouldn‚t have it any other way.
“It‚s great for my mental health. I‚m a really big advocate for mental health. I joke that [running] is my free therapy,” she says. “Before I had Crew, I always went [running] about 5 in the morning, but now I have to adjust that schedule. It‚s just the best endorphins to start the day, and you get a good sweat goin‚.”
Since 2018, she‚s lived in Sallisaw after moving from rural Muldrow, and likes running in a city rather than along country roads. “I like havin‚ a neighborhood, even though there‚s no sidewalks in Sequoyah County, which a lot of people probably don‚t realize, unless you‚re a runner and you‚re about to get run over a lot. It makes me feel healthier, but, really, more than that, it just makes me feel so much better. I can kinda process the crazy things of life. So I really do love it.”
Hers is a passion perfectly depicted in an advertising agency pitch to Nike‚s women‚s division from the Mel Gibson-Helen Hunt movie “What Women Want.”
“You don‚t stand in front of a mirror beforeÂ
a run and wonder what the road will thinkÂ
of your outfit.
You don‚t have to listen to its jokesÂ
and pretend they‚re funny.
It would not be easier to run if you dressed sexier.
The road doesn‚t notice if you‚reÂ
not wearing lipstick.
It does not care how old you are.
You do not feel uncomfortable because you make more money than the road.
And you can call on the road whenever you feel like it, whether it‚s been a day âÂ€¦ orÂ
even a couple of hours since your last date.
The only thing the road cares about is that you pay it a visit once in a while.”
But her avocation has not been without the occasional mishap.
She‚s had bouts with shin splints, which is not unusual for runners, and has fallen many times, for no reason other than she‚s clumsy. But as must be done in business, after a fall, she says you get up, dust yourself off and “keep goin‚.”
“I‚m very accident prone. I‚m very not athletic. I cheered in high school and I ran, but I‚m not very coordinated, so I wipe out about two to three good times a year.” She has scars on both knees and both hands, and, as she points to battle wounds on her left knee, says matter-of-factly, “there‚s some concrete still in there. I fall just on the open road, I don‚t know what I trip on. Sometimes I don‚t pick my feet up.”
But she doesn‚t see herself giving up running anytime soon.Â
“Because I love food so much, if I quit running, I feel like I would really have to watch my diet, which I‚m not good at. I hope that I‚m always fortunate to run, that I don‚t have any health issues come up. I hope that I‚m always able to run, ‚cause it does a lot for my mental and physical health for sure. I ran up until the end of my pregnancy.
“I hope I‚m always able to do it. It‚s the only thing I‚ve ever stuck with. Can‚t stick with a diet. And running, you don‚t have to go to the gym to do it, you can just do it anywhere.”
A secret to success
While she‚s an advocate for running and mental health, she also wants to empower women in the workplace, making sure they have a road map for success, and that they don‚t miss any opportunity to excel.
“They should just utilize any resources they have,” Amy recommends. “If they know somebody who works for a certain group, use that as an opportunity for success. I really feel like I‚ve gotten to where I‚ve been because of a connection I‚ve made at a meeting. My very first job outta college was doin‚ a grant program, and a lady I knew from that position, she was high up at CREOKS, and she was like, ’Hey, we just got that grant,‚ and she‚s like, ’I really wanna steal you for it.‚ It‚s really just utilizing even the smallest connection. Go to as many chamber meetings as you can. I just know so many people between the work I‚ve done and growin‚ up around here.
“It‚s a blessing and a curse, sometimes, to be in a small town and everyone knows everything. But I try to make the best out of it, for sure. I‚d just tell ‚em to just utilize their resources at hand. Don‚t limit yourself, don‚t prejudge your opportunities. If you don‚t ask, you just never know. Don‚t underestimate yourself.”