Des Moines Parent Spotlight: Alissa Swarts
This week’s Des Moines Parent Spotlight is on local Des Moines mom, Alissa Swarts. Alissa and I have been Facebook friends for some time now and she has contributed some great blog posts to the site. She is always exploring and doing fun things with her children in Des Moines. Learn more about the important job Alissa does in our state, her family and some of her Des Moines favorites.
Give us a little background of your family and personal life! How many kids do you have? Have you lived in Des Moines all your life?
I live in Grimes with my husband, Joey and our two daughters, Bostyn (7) and Greenley (5). I have a Masters degree in Social Work from U of I, but when up against one another, I always root red & yellow. My husband and I built our home in Grimes in 2016; prior to that we lived in Johnston and are originally from SE Iowa. Joey and I both attended Iowa State University in Ames, which is what initially drew us to central Iowa. We moved back to my hometown of Bloomfield for a few years after getting married, but ultimately, this is where we knew we, as a couple (and one day a family), belonged. It’s been nearly a decade and we have yet to regret our decision to return; the Des Moines metro is our family’s “home”.
What is your business, and what do you do?
I have yet to master a clear and quick way to answer “what I do”. The best I’ve come up with so far is, “I stay home with my two girls most of the time, but I also serve on contract as an Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention (APP) Educator in southeast Iowa schools.”
In other words, 3 months out of the school year, I travel to different school districts & facilitate a grant-funded curriculum that teaches young people the skills, resources, and medically-accurate information necessary to navigating healthy peer and dating relationships, while also working to reduce unplanned pregnancies and the transmission of STD’s.
I absolutely love my work in the APP field and regardless of other positions that I’ve held or will one day hold, I hope to always keep my toes in the waters of advocacy surrounding young people & their sexual well-being.
Where is your favorite place to take your children to play indoors?
We have so many favorites. For my girls, they love to “free play” at Rainbow Play Systems. It’s rarely busy and they love that it has a trampoline and basketball court, in addition to the several different play structures. They also love the Science Center, Skate North, Glazed Expressions, Get Air, Warrior Lanes, & the surrounding public libraries.
Where is your favorite place to take your children to play outdoors?
This list is l-o-n-g, so I’ll try & keep it to our top favorites. Parks! We never tire of a fun day at the park (bonus if it has a water feature). A few of our favorite parks, include McHenry, Walker-Johnson, American Legion, Miracle Park, Ashby, Big Creek, & Raccoon River. My girls are also obsessed with creeks & “critters”, so we visit the Ledges, Thomas Mitchell, and Pammel State Park frequently throughout the summer. We also try & make sure to visit the following at least once before the summer ends: Newton’s Drive-In Movie Theater, the Iowa State Fair, the “Out to Lunch series” downtown, Adventureland, Reiman Gardens, Jester Park Mini Golf, any Outdoor Concert, & the Downtown Farmer’s Market.
Parent’s day/night out. Describe your perfect parent only day/night out in Des Moines.
Joey and I always laugh at our choice for how we choose to spend our “rare alone time”, but it almost always looks the same. Out to eat (at a restaurant that doesn’t have to be loud or have grilled cheese as a menu option), & to the Operating Room in West Glen to have adult drinks and play arcade games (aka Double Shot Arcade Basketball & Mario Kart).
What are some tips on juggling parenthood, working, and personal life?
I have recently started making exercise a regular part of my day after many years off. I have found that even when I don’t achieve the physical results I desire, the mental and emotional benefits make it worthwhile. I also need fellow momma time (in playdate & non-play date form), as well as hubby time (sans the kiddos). The rest, for me, is just about embracing this stage of life, which I recognize as chaotic & messy & exhausting; but also, a fleeting moment & a ton of fun.
What is your number one parenting tip?
Give yourself grace. The parenting culture can be brutal. From shaming to grand expectations to keeping score to parenting from Pinterest; it can make us all feel like we’re coming up short. And even worse, that we’re the only ones. But, we’re not. So, give yourself grace. Your most important critic(s) think you’re pretty remarkable.