BBC Capital

Balancing work and life in the city that never sleeps

  • Support systems: Kim Walker

    Kim Walker is the creative director and senior vice president of brand and marketing at Morgans Hotel Group, a New York City-based company with 13 hotels and 8 soon-to-open properties worldwide. Walker, 44, is also mother to 15-year-old Oliver and 12-year-old Macie.

    Walker has spent the last 22 years at Morgans, which owns the much-touted Mondrian in New York and the Delano in Miami, joining right after university as a front-desk agent.

    As Walker manoeuvres through her busy work schedule — including frequent visits to the company's hotels — and her home life, she relies on a carefully constructed support system of family, friends and a longtime nanny. Among them: a company that has been supportive of her work and her life.

    "I am one of the only women on the executive team, and the only one with children," she noted. Over the years, both the company and her family have had to make compromises. She occasionally worked from home, for instance, when a child stayed home sick from school, and had the flexibility to leave early to attend child-related events. These days, it's her children who must adjust to her increasingly frequent business-travel schedule as the company expands its hotel lineup.

    Walker’s friends have also helped out when she has been in a pinch. And family members often pitch in, flying to New York to stay with the children when Walker has had to travel. Also key to Walker’s personal work-life support systems: understanding children.

    "I think, even though it is not easy, today you can be a working mother and be successful in both areas of your life," she said.

    Photographer Tom Starkweather spent a day with Walker.

  • 06:19 Kim Walker starts her day

    Kim Walker, who has just woken up in her Manhattan home, sips her first cup of coffee of the day before waking her daughter Macie, 12. (Son Oliver, 15, is away at boarding school during the week and comes home on weekends.)

    School drop-off means the pair leaves the house too early for Kim to eat breakfast; she'll buy a yogurt later, near her office.

    Macie has chosen her own outfits since early childhood, according to her own sense of style, a big time-saver, her mother said.

  • 07:17 Saving money on dog duties

    Kim Walker says goodbye to her dog Roxy before heading out for the day.

    Walker’s sister-in-law, Robin, takes Roxy out for a walk and watches her for part of the day. Robin or the family's nanny walk the dog twice a day; Macie also is now old enough to walk Roxy around the block with a friend. This doggie support system saves the family from paying a dog walker upward of $20 per half hour of pet care.

  • 07:24 Heading out for the day with daughter, Macie

    Macie and Kim Walker check their phone messages while waiting for the elevator on their floor. "We are all on our phones a lot," Kim said. She and her children text, call, and video-chat with each other throughout the day.

    Macie gets in touch if she wants to go to a friend's house after school. And Macie recently showed her mom, via video chat, some clothes she wanted to buy for summer camp. Kim and Oliver speak by phone every night.

  • 07:28 Time for a second jolt

    Omar Sherif serves Kim Walker her second coffee of the day on her way to work. "They know me," Kim said. "I don't have to tell them what I want."

  • 07:35 Previewing the day on the ride to school

    Kim Walker takes her daughter Macie to school in a taxi on the way to the Morgans Hotel Group office. The morning taxi is their daily routine, during which they discuss their days or the upcoming weekend: is Oliver coming home? Does Macie have plans with her dad?

    Kim leaves Macie at school and continues her taxi ride to the office. She uses this part of the day to call her mom, sister, and friends.

    "Once I get to the office I don't make personal calls," she said.

  • 08:41 Getting the day in order at the office

    Kim checks the schedule for her day on her iPhone at her desk at the Morgans Hotel Group office. She and her executive assistant, Jackie Schuerlein, use a Google calendar to coordinate; she adds personal appointments and her assistant updates her work schedule.

    In the two years Schuerlein has worked with Walker, she has helped on projects and become "much more" than an assistant, Walker said.

    Schuerlein reports directly to Walker and also supports the brand and marketing department, assisting with partnerships, retail, uniforms, the loyalty program, and some events.

  • 08:52 The work of the day begins

    Walker reviews official procedures for opening a new hotel, while finally eating her breakfast.

    A new hotel in Doha, Qatar, opens in April, 2014. Walker plans to go to Qatar for the first time in July to interview public relations agencies. After that she will go every 3 to 4 months until the opening. While she's away, a combination of helpers typically look after her children: her nanny, her sister-in-law, a friend and the children's father.

    "We'll keep up by video chat," she said.

    Macie likes to put her own favorite music and TV shows on her mother's iPad for her business travel. "My daughter is more affected by my travel schedule, which has gotten quite heavy over the course of the past two years with all of our new properties," Walker said.

  • 10:11 One of several meetings for Walker today

    Lauren Buchman (left) (Director of Public Relations) discusses changes to the Morgans Hotel Group’s website with Kim Walker (right).

    Among her many duties at the company, Walker is also in charge of the hotel chain’s website.

    "We are in the midst of redoing everything," she said.

  • 15:38 Relying on others to help the family run smoothly

    The family’s longtime nanny (who did not want to be identified) meets Macie at the end of the school day. They walk home or to Macie’s after school activities.

    The nanny started working for the family full time seven years ago. In the beginning, she arrived at 07:00 and left at 18:30, but now that the children are older, she starts her workday at 11:00 and stays until 19:00 or 20:00.

    "She is like our stay-at-home mom," says Kim of her nanny, who picks up the kids, does light grocery shopping, cooks dinners several days a week, cleans the house, does the laundry, and more. "Not only does she help me, but the kids really love her. She is a part of our family," she said.

  • 18:59 Evening work, with limits

    Kim Walker (second from right) attends a CFDA and Details Magazine Cocktail Reception at Morgans Hotel Group’s Mondrian Hotel in Soho with Kelly McCauley (left), Liz Keem (second from left), and Patti Röckenwagner (right).

    Kim's personal rule is that she only goes out to nighttime work functions once a week, occasionally twice a week. "I never go out consecutive nights," she said.

  • 9:38 Finally home to Macie

    After more than 12 hours away from home, Kim Walker arrives back at the family’s apartment and greets her daughter Macie.

    The sixth grader typically spends her afternoons either at lessons (tennis, for instance) or playing with friends. She does her homework by herself and her mother checks it when she gets home at night.

  • 19:44 A meal, home-cooked by someone else

    The dinner table is prepared by the family’s nanny, who has made pansit, a dish from the Philippines consisting of rice noodles with mixed vegetables and chicken. Macie and Kim eat together, with Macie typically discussing her school day with her mother.

    Kim rarely cooks during the week; the nights the nanny does not cook, the family orders in or eats out at a restaurant. "One less thing for me to think about," said Kim.

  • 20:02 Making time for Macie

    Kim Walker helps her daughter, Macie, review homework after dinner. Kim will go to bed herself by 11pm. She’ll be up by 06:00 again to start the next work day.

    "Yes, there is a lot to juggle, but if you are very organized and try to stay calm, you can get it all done,” she said.