Call It A Day: Sara Fritsch

Sara Fritsch lives in Amsterdam with her husband Oliver, their six year old son named Winter, and a daughter who is five called Penelope. After two years, Sara freely admits the city has her heart, but there’s still a possibility for a return to Portland, Oregon, which has the family’s heart as well. Expat life is tricky like that.

And there are a lot of details during her day that will make you want to dream a little harder about living somewhere far away. Or just dream of owning a bike that can hold five of your favorite little ones! That would be wonderful, too.

Come see what a day in Amsterdam looks like, will you? Welcome, Sara!

Q: Good morning! How does your family wake up?

A: Goedemorgen! My favorite way to start any day is with a really early run. Ideally I finish my run and shower before anyone else in my family is awake. I love knowing that I accomplished a little something for me without impacting any of them.

I have two girlfriends, also working moms, who I run with. We meet up around 6:00 am, sometimes earlier, and crank out several miles as the sun comes up, laughing all the way.

My kids and hubby usually wake just after seven. The hour we have to get ready for school always feels a bit rushed, in a hectic yet fun way. We try to sit together for breakfast at the table. It is usually Oliver and the kids at the table as I buzz around like a spazzy hummingbird making lunches, packing up backpacks, finding shoes, remembering library books, begging Penelope to let me put her hair up, and generally tweaking out that we are going to be late and forget everything.

Q: Can you share a typical breakfast?

A: We try to make healthy choices in terms of food. We lean towards fresh and organic products when we have the choice, but we don’t freak out when we don’t have the choice. We keep meals very simple and try to ensure they are well balanced.

I ate toast and a banana today, which is my morning meal every day. I was never a toast girl before moving to Amsterdam, but the access to daily fresh bread has me hooked. The kids ate Cheerios, an extremely special treat because you cannot buy Cheerios in Amsterdam. Oliver smuggled some home in his snowboard bag after a recent trip to Tahoe.

We eat most meals at home and I do most of the cooking. I don’t actually love to cook, but having kids has pushed me to embrace cooking because I recognize that it is important to know what we are eating and to eat food made with love and good intentions. Oliver and I also try to be good food role models; this is easy for him to do, but for me it requires that I wait until my kids are asleep to gorge on ice cream. Just truth telling! You want this to be honest, right?

Q: What’s next? How do your kids get to school?

A: Oliver is French, and our kids go to the French School in Amsterdam. We get there by bike. I have one of those cool Dutch cargo bikes, called a bakfiets, that can carry several children at once.  Wow, do I love this bike. I can carry up to five kids at one time on my bike, which comes in handy for carpooling and playdates.

We toured a few schools when we moved to Amsterdam, and we fell hard for the French School’s sweet simplicity as well as the chance to immerse our kids in their French heritage in an authentic way. And bonus! The location is amazing! It’s in a really funky, cool neighborhood.

Q: Tell us how you spend an average day at work. What are the challenges to working from Amsterdam?

A: I work for a boutique Business Consulting firm called ACME Business Consulting, which is based in Portland, Oregon. I have been with ACME nearly nine years. The first seven were spent in Portland doing traditional business consulting work, leaning on my education in Mechanical Engineering and my experience. When we moved here for my husband’s job, I was able to adjust my role at ACME to accommodate the move. ACME’s willingness to work with me through a global relocation is reflective of the firm’s innovative approach to solving problems and the value they place on their employees’ needs.

Currently I run our marketing team, an opportunity I love as it lets me pursue my creative potential from such an inspiring city, without straying too far from my technology and business roots.

I work at least two hours every day, but it’s often more like six. I find it very, very hard to turn off!

Speaking of creative, making this gig work from afar requires some funky scheduling! There is a nine hour time difference between Amsterdam and our ACME offices in San Diego, Portland and Seattle. I can do a lot of work independently while my kids are at school.  However, this nine hour time gap requires a lot of late nights on my end as well as flexibility from my teammates. This recent thought leadership piece, which I authored, focuses on the sweet spot where my home life and work life align.

Q: Do you have lunch plans? Do you talk to anyone that really makes your day better?

A: I love a good lunch date and, lucky for me, I have made some ridiculously fabulous, interesting, diverse, multicultural, and funny friends here in Amsterdam. I adore friends and colleagues who can make me laugh, and I surround myself with people who can deliver.

Today I had lunch with three girlfriends, and we talked about the very likely possibility of upcoming moves for all of us. Expat life is extremely transient, and we all have to get comfortable with uncertainty and goodbyes.

For those with an Amsterdam visit on the horizon, my favorite lunch spots in Amsterdam are Bakers and Roasters, CT Coffee and Coconuts, and the Amstel Hotel patio on a sunny day.

Q: How do you errand?

A: Food shopping happens every day, by bike. No car means that rain or shine or sleet or snow or hail (we see it all here!), I am on my bike. I absolutely love it. Between school and home is the Albert Cuyp Market, which has pretty much everything anyone could need: bread, meat, fish, produce, flowers, household items, etc.

I food shop every day for a few reasons. Food here is sold fresh and ready to eat, so it doesn’t last several days. Since my bike is my only vehicle, its size is a limiting factor on how much I can buy at one time. In our home, we don’t have American appliances and amenities like a large refrigerator, extra freezer, or even a pantry. And truly, I am not organized enough to meal plan in advance! I tend to buy what looks fresh and delicious and prep/serve it the same day!

Q: Do you carve out any personal time during your day? Do anything to recharge a little?

A: The daily early-morning run is definitely my jam. In addition, I do a painting class every other Wednesday morning and I am in an articlub (like a book club, but we focus on articles) that meets once a month.

At the end of each monthly discussion, we pick the curator and topic for the following month. Last month, I was curator and the topic was clutter: all types of clutter, including digital, physical, mental, etc. I hosted the discussion at a minimalist Ramen noodle bar because it felt on theme. Coincidentally, the bar was in the Red Light District of Amsterdam, which inspired our topic for April: Prostitution!

Q: When do you meet back up with the rest of your family?

A: School ends at 3:00, and I do pickup by bike. They usually have football or swimming or judo or a play date or a park session, so we pile into the bike, often with some extra kids, and roll to the action.

We get home and eat about six, usually around the table with Oliver.  We also try to squeeze in some homework if we have the time.  Although, at ages five and six, I have a hard time making homework a huge priority; it usually ranks fourth after fun, rest, and family meals.

I am decent at French, but my kids are better than I am. Every day it gets harder and harder to help them with their homework. Today, luckily, it was math homework. My engineering degree pays off in the weirdest ways. My qualifications to help with French homework may be questionable, but I am extremely confident in my ability to do math with a six year old.

Q: Describe your evening rituals for us. What makes the end of your day special?

A: At dinner we always play high-low, which is a chance for each person to share their high and low from the day. Winter’s high is the same every day, always related to when he played football. Today his high was when he played football in the shower. We have goals and balls all over the house – even in the shower, which I realize is very dangerous.

Post dinner it is bath, books, and bed for the kids. This is usually coordinated by Oli.

Once the kids are down for the night, I break out a pint of ice cream and we both work for a few hours, connecting with our Portland colleagues.

We get out pretty often, too. We have a solid network of babysitters and we love exploring the city at night. Our favorite date spots in Amsterdam are Foodhallen, De Kas, Rijks, and Tempoe Doloe. I’m eager to try Taiko and Fou Fow!

There are a few kid-friendly dinner spots we love, too: The Good Chicken Society, Salsa Shop, De Pizza Bakkers, and we’ve heard good things about Van T Spit.

Q: Please finish the sentence: The last thing I usually think about before falling asleep for the night is…

A: Yikes, you really want to know what goes through my head when it hits the pillow? There is a lot of gratitude, especially as I dream about where our next vacation will take us. The world is so accessible when Amsterdam is your base. Cortina, Italy to ski the dolomites is our next adventure. Pinch me.

But there are insecurities, too. Are we doing this right, this parenting thing? Are we juggling too much? Are we exposing them to enough? Are we exposing them to too much? Should we live near family? Will it rock their world when we move again? Will it rock ours? Will we move again? I don’t want to move. Yes I do. No I don’t. Am I ambitious enough professionally? Is it selfish to be ambitious? Am I too ambitious? Are my kids spoiled? Are they grateful? Are they kind? Am I grateful and kind? Will the kids struggle with English when we return to the USA? Am I spending enough time doing things I love, and can I scale back the time spent doing things I don’t love? How do I do that?

Are we smiling and laughing enough throughout the day? I think we are. La vie est belle. Zzzzzzzzzzz.


Ahh, the insecurities! Yes, they do seem to roll in just before we fall asleep, don’t they? Thank you, Sara, for your honesty! And thank you, too, for the insider dining recommendations. Is anyone headed to Amsterdam soon? I hope you can pop in to one of these restaurants; they all look pretty great.

Also, I’m pretty motivated by Sara’s articlub. It sounds so much less daunting and time-consuming to me than a book club, and somehow even more inspiring. I’m adding that to my list. Tell me if you’ve ever been to one – I’d love to hear how you enjoyed it!

Family photos on bikes by Lily Wanderlust. All others taken by Sara.

23 thoughts on “Call It A Day: Sara Fritsch”

  1. Aaah! This makes me so happy to see my good friend Sara on Design Mom! I have known Sara for years, and she is such a HUGE inspiration to me. She has a gorgeous and amazing family, and they are all living life to the fullest. We had the opportunity to visit them in Amsterdam last Summer, and we got to experience a little of their beautiful life there. I miss them – and the bikes!

    I understand the insecurities – they are impossible to avoid – but trust me Sara, you are getting it right!

  2. A group of girls and I do an articles club here in Boston! Such a great way to have a low key meet up and chat about recent events, drink wine, and find new friends.

  3. Loved this article! As a fellow expat in Dublin, I have the same worries and insecurities. Living outside your home country seems to take all the regular insecurities about parenting, career, etc and adds another dimension to them. It’s nice to see that I’m not the only one who worries about those things!

  4. Sara, I love hearing about your life! I am a mechanical engineer as well, and its good to hear the voice of another female with a technical background. Amsterdam is one of the few cities outside of the States where I feel at home. I love the culture of the Dutch, and how small the city feels. Such a welcoming place.
    I am saving all of your recommendations for the next time we are able to visit.

  5. I really enjoyed your day, Sara! As well as your marketing/parenting article, thank you! I’ve spent a small time in Amsterdam, and always enjoy hearing how other Americans live in Europe. I appreciated your bedtime thoughts; I don’t think they are expat only thoughts. Perhaps anytime you help to create or are unintentionally in an unusual situation, especially with children, we struggle with insecure thoughts. I recently had my own baby who is joining two half siblings, and I have all kinds of thoughts and worries! Your enthusiasm for right now is contagious!

  6. Oh Sara, I totally connected with your comment: “It is usually Oliver and the kids at the table as I buzz around like a spazzy hummingbird making lunches, packing up backpacks, finding shoes, remembering library books, begging Penelope to let me put her hair up, and generally tweaking out that we are going to be late and forget everything.” I am so glad I’m not alone! I loved this little peek into your life! We traveled to Amsterdam a few years ago and one of my happiest memories is renting a bike and riding through Vondelpark and to the Rijks. I like to imagine you on your “bike-van” pedaling loads of kids through the city. All the best to you!

  7. Loved hearing about your day Sara- and the articlub is a great idea. I belong to a Non-Fiction book club affectionately dubbed “story-time” by one of the husbands because only one person reads the book, then we all met and the person who read it tells us all about it. It’s pretty great! I can still feel intellectually stimulated and connected to the current topics of the day, but not have to sink so much time into it.

  8. I’m so glad to see this! I loved Amsterdam when I visited over the summer. It’s one of the few places I could actually envision moving to with my son. It’s neat to see the expats and how they make it work.

  9. Great post! I really love this series. I doubt I would ever have the opportunity to live abroad (a girl can dream, though, right?!) but it’s so wonderful to see and read about it here. I also love the articlub idea…very cool.

  10. I do and article club with my friends, ours is less structured—we have an online group where we post articles, and share comments, then from time to time (average once a month) we pick the ones that we think will inspire the most discussion (2-3) and meet around my kitchen table with wine. It is such a good way to foster intimacy with other woman. Do it!

  11. oh! Loved this post! We just moved to Saba from Amsterdam a little over a month ago. I am definitely not complaining, but reading this post definitely sent a shot of nostalgia through me:)

  12. i am just jealous that you get to live close to Donna Bardsley. I’m sure you know her but if you don’t ask your expat friends because she is someone worthy of knowing! A true delight of a human.

    Your life in Amsterdam looks totally dreamy. Why oh why have I not gone to visit yet?!

    And I can definitely relate to that bedtime anxiety. Wish I could just turn it off some nights.

  13. I’d love to hear more about the articlub – sounds like a time-friendly way for women to connect.
    I loved hearing about your life – such a wonderful existence.

  14. This day sounds great. I can relate to trying to work from home for only two hours yet expanding it to six (so hard to shut down working from home) – I am from an ex-pat family too so appreciate the friends at lunch talking about moving again – I also have a couple of kids close in age so know that that is sometimes good and sometimes bad – and yoga is my morning jam (like her running :). I like the yin and the yang of hearing about everyone’s days. We all have good and bad – rushed and trying -calm and fun (I have many great days like this one – others are more trying with my son who has a kidney issue and ADHD or my other son who has anxiety and some bad days at school or in sports as a result – plus some recent loss in the family kicks it up a notch, but the good days are always good :)….. This was a good day in nutshell :). Love Amsterdam :).

  15. I love the idea of living somewhere where so many people get around by bike rather than by driving. My family has been car free since we arrived in Berkeley three and a half years ago, and while it’s more bike friendly here than our home city back in Australia (and I’m sure most American cities too) there are still a huge number of cars on the road. I would definitely feel a lot safer riding my kids around if there weren’t so many cars. Unfortunately there are also lots of bike thieves in the Bay Area so for now my days of riding the kids around on my cargo bike have come to an end thanks to nasty bike thieves with power tools who broke into my buildings lock up garage :( Once we can work out a more secure option for keeping our bike locked up I’ll be back in the saddle, but for now I walk while the kids ride their scooter and balance bike.

    And I definitely get all of those expat insecurities. My youngest is yet to meet any of my husband’s family or my siblings. Being so far away from family is definitely hard at times, but I really feel that it’s such a great learning experience and an adventure for the kids – and the grown ups too :)

  16. I love reading about your day!! I was really excited to see a story from Amsterdam. My family is headed to Amsterdam in June. I have two daughters 7 & 10 and I am thrilled for them to experience such an amazing place. Thanks for the restaurant recommendations. If you have suggestions on museums or other activities I would love to hear from you. Many Thanks!

  17. Great article, and timely, since my husband and I will be there in early June. I’m saving these suggestions!

  18. Pingback: A.Wordsmith CommunicationsA day in the life of a working mom in Amsterdam

  19. I love the idea of having a bike that can tote kids and groceries around.

    Does anyone know of how to get one of these if you live in the States?

  20. great article and sneak peek into your life I love your transparency and sending this to a San Diego friend whose family is moving to the Middle East!

    Also your topic of “clutter” please share oh please!!!

    Keva Dine
    Palo Alto by way of San Diego

  21. Lovely pictures, I’ve been dreaming of Amsterdam fro so long! Thank you for sharing your experience there, it’s been so nice to read it!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top