Living With Kids: Andrea Levoff

If you’re struggling to find parenting advice that fits your unique family, perhaps Andrea Levoff’s levity will help. In her own words, she’s “passionate about easing the suffering of the Mom World by helping her clients find more joy and freedom in motherhood through deep transformation and comedy.”

Truly, you must read how she got her start in stand-up; even if you aren’t interested in becoming a comedian, there’s an excellent push by Andrea to start doing things that scare you. So let’s all do that, okay? Okay.

Welcome, Andrea!

Hi! I’m so happy to be sharing our home and stories with your readers!

I’m Andrea. Originally from Texas, I moved to Chicago on a whim after college to live with my best friend. I knew nothing about the city when I moved here. My mom tried to warn me about how cold it was in the winter, but I was very unprepared! My first winter I was walking home after work and my hands got so cold I actually cried. I think I’ve spent more on winter gear than I did on my first car.

I’ve lived what feels like a lot of lives in this city. Chicago is a city of neighborhoods and I’ve lived in a lot of different areas in town. I met my husband at work and we immediately hit it off, but were friends for a long time before we started dating.

My husband works for a trading firm, which is a very big industry in Chicago. I took a pause from work to raise our kids and focus on finding out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. It actually worked out quite nicely.

I’ve been able to develop my comedy, go back to school for a master’s degree, and finally launch my coaching career. My passion is to assist people in finding more joy and freedom in their life! I love speaking for groups of women or working one on one with clients.

The best part about my job is I get to hold space so people can find their own answers. I listen a lot which has also helped me as a mom. Being a coach and being a mom are very similar roles. I love seeing the lights turn on and the AHA moments.

We have two children: Anna is seven, and Max is almost five.

Anna is such a bright light. We recently bought her a shirt that has the lyric from the Beatles song, “Here Comes the Sun” and I don’t think there is anything that more accurately describes her. Anna has never met a stranger she couldn’t strike up a conversation with. She’s happy and always laughing.  She also has all the traits that will make her a kickass CEO of a company, but that also make for a spirited child.

Max is my little engineer. He is obsessed with the process of everything, and so into details. You can find him on any given day trying to figure out how something works. He is also wicked sweet and cuddly and has the cutest collection of glasses you’ve ever seen.

We live in a neighborhood in Chicago called Lincoln Park. It’s located about five miles north of downtown Chicago. When I first moved to the city in my early twenties I would walk down these very streets and dream about owning a home here one day.

The streets here look like a page from a storybook, with single-family homes and beautiful 100-year-old trees. It’s unique because it has a city and neighborhood feel. It’s completely walkable with tons of restaurants and adorable shops a stone’s throw away. One of my favorite things about living in this neighborhood is how close it is to so much culture; theaters and museums have been a staple in our kids’ upbringing so far.

As safe as it feels it’s still the city so there is crime. It’s not a place that I would feel comfortable letting the kids run around unsupervised.

It’s a very different life from what I grew up with. I grew up with a huge yard and freedom to roam the neighborhood. We would go with our neighbors and explore the creeks and put pennies on the railroad tracks. Our kids are definitely on a tighter leash.

The city homes are always wanting for outdoor space so we decided to create our own on the roof. We built only part of the third floor into a room with its own kitchen so we could entertain in a spot that opens up to a patio with fake grass. In my head I saw us having these fabulous parties after the kids went to bed, but in reality every square inch is covered with a sandbox or slide or playhouse. It’s the perfect place to spend a summer afternoon with the kids. We get a sprinkler out and they run around like crazy and for a moment it feels familiar and more like my childhood.

My husband and I looked all over for our new home. We were comfortable in our condo so it wasn’t a situation where we had to get out and find a place. It was nice because it gave us the time to find what we really wanted. We kept seeing places that looked the exact same as the one before. In this area it’s very popular to buy an older home, tear it down and build a new one. They all looked like boxes and replicas of each other. When we saw our current home it was a dump.

Lots in the area go for about $1.2 million at the time we bought ours. The home was so old that we got it for land value. Most people would have torn it down and started over, but we like a good challenge.

I walked in and said, “This is it.” I saw so much potential in the mess. There were newspapers from the sixties lying around. This house had a story that didn’t want to end. I could feel it in the walls. I wanted to take it and clean it up and make it new again, give it another chance at life.

It’s ours. Each room is a reflection of our personality. To me, that’s really priceless. Looking back, I’ve always been a bit of fixer-upper. Stray animals, ex-boyfriends, furniture…I see potential!

I was really inspired by the Wes Anderson movies when it came to the interiors. The movie the Royal Tenenbaums was really the inspiration for our foyer. I wanted to line it with taxidermy but my husband told me absolutely not. However, he did let me paint it pink.

I like that he is open to my style. We have a traditional marriage that way. He is the master at work, and at home, I’m queen.

I couldn’t have done any of it without our amazing designer, Summer Thornton. I found her on a blog and immediately fell in love with her style.  We had so much fun injecting the house with tons of color and adding cool and quirky twists.

I’ve always been a writer. It’s been a hobby of mine since I was little. Performing came later, although when I look back I think it was also something I enjoyed doing as a child.

During my master’s program in psychology, we were instructed to do a personal development project. It had to be something we had always wanted to do or something that we wanted to create in the container of the program. During one of the processes we were doing to help us come up with it, being a stand-up comedian just hit me. I started crying, it came over me so strong. I was also really scared. Doing stand-up was the hardest thing I have ever done.

Yet I committed to it because I think our fears point us in the direction we need to go for our growth. So for a year I learned all I could about the art of stand-up comedy. I read books, took classes, and did some open mics. I talked about being a mom in front of rooms full of 20-something dudes and got zero laughs some nights. It was painful and exhilarating all at the same time!

The concept for Dope Ass Moms was really born out of frustration, which actually makes great comedy. Doing stand-up wasn’t working for my schedule as a mom of two young kids. My husband and I were totally failing at the core competencies of parenting. Sleeping, discipline, and potty training.

I was laughing one night with my husband because I said putting our kids to bed really is like a horror movie. My original idea was to make an actual black and white, old timey horror episode. Then as I Googled ideas to actually help me succeed at these tasks, I realized all the advice was the same! Read a book, give them a bath…it really drove me crazy because I was doing all of that and it wasn’t working!

So I thought it would be funny to do a parody of me telling everyone what to do, but then cutting to scenes of what actually happens throughout households all over the world just like ours. It was never meant to be real advice. And when people call me a parenting expert I just laugh. I think I’m an expert of “How to be myself as I go through this experience of being a parent.”

My point is, parenting is hard. It’s even harder if you don’t have a sense of humor about it.

I told my kids nothing about it beforehand. The day before I said, “Tomorrow we are going to make a movie.” I told them what to say but they really improvised a lot and we caught a lot of their genuine reactions to things I said, which was really hilarious.

I realized about halfway through that the scenes where I was cursing and then they bleeped it out…I didn’t really need to curse. But I told my kids, “Mommy can use that word because I am adult. When you are an adult you can use adult words also if you choose to do so.” We don’t censor ourselves so much in our household.

There was one scene where I was going to break the MagnaTile house and scream at the top of my lungs. That one really scared my kids because, thankfully, I have never lost it in real life to that extent.

I love to read. I always love spiritual books and the self-help section. Personal growth is one of my favorite topics.

I meditate every day. If I don’t, I notice such a difference in my patience with my kids and just my general mood. It really keeps me grounded and sane.

On the weekends in the winter, my husband and I started a tradition where we put the kids in the car, go somewhere and get a fancy cup of coffee, and drive around and look at our city from the car. My husband is a master of just driving around with no destination in mind. It’s fun until it’s not fun and the kids get restless and we end up at a mall or a park or somewhere random.

When it’s as cold as it is in Chicago you simply must get creative with your activities.

I hope my kids remember the love! All the cuddles and the laughter and the being together.

If they forget anything I hope it’s anytime I yelled or screamed or made a mistake. It works like that, right?

As much as I know there is no such thing as the perfect mom, I hope my kids always think I was the perfect mom for them.

My favorite thing about living with my kids is the joy they bring to the smallest of tasks. The newness and curiosity in which they see everything. I love that they still let me cuddle and hold them.

I already miss kissing them and waking up with them in our bed in the mornings. Sometimes I complain about the lack of sleep when someone wanders in the room at night, but I know one day that’s not going to happen anymore and I will be sad about it!

I think the most inspiring thing about living with kids is being able to see life through their eyes. My kids are happy, exuberant beings and it’s hard to stay in a bad mood for too long around them. It’s enabled me to approach different aspects of my life in a childlike way.

When I started stand-up, I thought about my kids a lot. They don’t worry so much about what other people think or how they look. They are very present to what is happening in the moment.

It’s reminded me of the magic that exists in life. Life since kids has not been easy, but it’s so much deeper and so much richer and I am so thankful for the lessons!

I wish someone had told me that people pleasing is a losing game. I spent so much energy and time in my early years trying to make sure I was doing the “right” thing. I didn’t want to upset anyone or make anyone an enemy.

It took me until my late twenties to realize the thing about people pleasing is that you have to get up and make sure you are doing it again everyday. It’s exhausting.

I think that’s partly why I chose comedy and being in the spotlight as a career. People pleasing and stand-up do not really mesh! I’m not really one, so I guess better late than never on that lesson!

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Thank you so much, Andrea! Loved it all, but I especially loved two things: “It’s fun until it’s not fun” is the absolute best definition of an endeavor with little ones, right? And then this: “I started crying, it came over me so strong. I was also really scared. Doing stand-up was the hardest thing I have ever done. Yet I committed to it because I think our fears point us in the direction we need to go for our growth.” Truth, truth, truth.

Have you ever decided to do something, and the feeling that came over you as a result was so unbelievably strong that you burst into tears? I want to hear more! Please tell the rest of us your story, will you?

P.S. – Are you living with your own kids in a unique way? Are you interested in sharing your home and experiences with us? Let me know! We love to be inspired! And it’s a lot of fun…I promise! I should also mention, I have a goal to bring more diverse points of view to Design Mom this year. So if you don’t see yourself or your community reflected here, let’s make it happen — send in your details, or recommend a friend! Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here.


Credits: Photos by Tiia Norsym Photography.

28 thoughts on “Living With Kids: Andrea Levoff”

  1. Bridgette Chambliss

    Wow. Wow. WOW! This is amazing. Andrea, I have no doubt Wes would love your place! :) Quick question… Would you mind sharing about the artwork in the “green” living room? (The room with those gorgeous curtains!!!) Could you tell me about the art with the kids and the animal hide rug? Is that a painting? A photograph? Who is the artist? Seriously. I don’t normally comment on blogs, but I’m a decorator and your house tour just made my morning. It’s so happy. I really really love it. Thanks for sharing!

  2. You have a spectacular home! I love all of the pops of brilliant color. What fun to bring an old house back to life; it’s a dream of mine.

    1. Emily I just went and dug in my basement to find an extra roll – no luck! It’s escaping me but if I can figure it out ( probably in the middle of the night it will come to me! ) I will come back here and post! :)

  3. “This house had a story that didn’t want to end. I could feel it in the walls. I wanted to take it and clean it up and make it new again, give it another chance at life.” Love that!

  4. Kristin Graziano

    Hi! I too live in Lincoln Park, but I also happen to be a native of this wonderful neighborhood. My folks bought a 3 flat ( 3 story building ) here in 1969 and have watched the intense millionaire gentrification of the past 15-20 years really take over. Me and my family of 5 live in an apartment (that we rent), my kids go to the neighborhood public elementary and high school. I am not afraid to let them play outside by themselves or head over to Oz park (although they are older). While gentrification has positive and negative aspects, I think that so many new residents to the neighborhood can’t imagine what it used to be like. It was more diverse, kids did play outside, neighbors hung out on their front stoops and talked to each other. These are the things I miss. All that being said, your house really is beautiful!

    1. Kristin, OHH i love that thought of neighbors on the stoops talking to each other! Can we please bring that back? I’m sure as my kids get older I will loosen the reins. It’s so different than how I grew up, yet such a neat experience for them that I wouldn’t change for the world! Thanks for reading!

  5. Yowza I love your entryway! The pink wall, the frames, the rug, the STAIRS. I like the Wes Anderson movies I’ve seen, too, so there you go. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Really beautiful home. I loved it all, but my jaw dropped at your daughter’s room with the floral wallpaper. I thought, “like growing up in a meadow full of wildflowers.” So dreamy!

    We live in the Chicago suburbs (I’ve lived almost all my life in this state) and every year the winter gets me down. But it’s such a wonderful city too. We, too, love an old house and I dream of someday being able to do as much to it as you’ve done to yours!

    I loved your comment about people pleasing and how it just means you have to get up and do it all again. That is so good. And as a mom to four kiddos–yeah, bedtime is a bit of a horror movie. My husband and I look at each other like “the kids are winning.” ;) Thanks for sharing your lovely home and wise thoughts!

    1. Sarah, thank you! My daughter’s room is also my favorite. It is such a happy room! I’m sure as a mom of four you could teach me a few things about bedtime ! ;) xx

    1. Thank you , Kim. I love it to! It’s from a book called ” Loveability” by Robert Holden. If you love that quote you would be in heaven with this book ! ;)

  7. I appreciate your comment about bedtime horror show. Sometimes I think we’re the only ones and *other* parents find bedtime one of the most wonderful & enjoyable parts of being a parent. Where did I get that idea from? Sometimes I think of bedtime around here as a game of whack-a-mole (though without the whacking part). Some nights, they just keep popping up.

    1. Rebecca those whack-a-mole words have literally come out of my mouth before! The image it conjures is just SO funny and true! :)

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