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No Spare Time: An International Pair on Running a Bowling Alley While Raising Kids

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Mom: Rachel van den Berg, 36 - Dad: Mark van den Berg, 35 - Owners/managers, Sun & Ski Inn and Suites, Stowe Golf Park and Stowe Bowl - Kids: Noah and Evangeline, 6; 
Reagan, 3 - JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • jeb wallace-brodeur
  • Mom: Rachel van den Berg, 36
    Dad: Mark van den Berg, 35
    Owners/managers, Sun & Ski Inn and Suites, Stowe Golf Park and Stowe Bowl
    Kids: Noah and Evangeline, 6; Reagan, 3

When Rachel van den Berg moved abroad, she always planned to return to the United States someday. She grew up in Stowe, then studied in the Netherlands during college, where she met her husband, Mark. They married in Vermont and settled in Utrecht, where Rachel did development work for a nonprofit and Mark was employed by the Dutch government.

In 2010, their twins, Noah and Evangeline, were born. The couple was so busy with work and long commutes that some days Mark didn't see the kids at all.

Later that year, the family of four traveled to Vermont to visit Rachel's relatives. The prospect of staying in Rachel's beautiful home state, with family nearby, was enticing. They longed for a support system and a better work-life balance but didn't know how or when that would happen.

Less than a year after that Vermont vacation, Rachel's parents — who had owned the Sun & Ski Inn and Suites in Stowe for 17 years — decided they were ready to sell the property. In this, they all saw opportunity: jobs for Rachel and Mark; a business partnership for her parents; and three generations being close and supporting each other.

Rachel and Mark decided to go for it. So in 2011, they shipped all their belongings to Vermont and became owners — in partnership with her parents — and managers of the Sun & Ski Inn and Suites. Their house is located on the property.

In the five years since the family's move, Rachel and Mark have made several additions. Daughter Reagan was born in 2013, and the couple opened Stowe Bowl, a boutique bowling alley and lounge attached to the inn, in February of this year.

They admit that life is still hectic, but a two-minute commute and grandparents willing to lend a hand make things a lot easier.

On splitting up work responsibilities:

Rachel: We run the day-to-day operations of the business, and we do that basically 50-50, but we have different strengths and different subresponsibilities. For instance, I am a planner so I set the schedule and I deal with housekeeping, HR, sales and marketing.

Mark: I am the sloppy one! No plan. I go day by day.

Rachel: He does all the finances and the daily reporting with the bookkeeper. And he's the more creative one, so he does all the graphic art and website and photography, and does maintenance projects.

On splitting up domestic labor:

Mark: Rachel is more of the planner, so she thinks of things that need to be done, like getting the kids' clothes ready, their bags ready. They have soccer on Wednesday, and I would forget it, but she thinks of stuff like that. I try to make up for that by doing five loads of laundry on a Friday when I'm at home or cleaning up the house, taking out the trash, those kinds of things. All in all, it's probably 50-50 at home — but with her more in the lead!

Rachel: I would say that we get as close to 50-50 on all fronts as probably possible. I have driven home that it was really important to me in our marriage because I like to work. I have so much respect for stay-at-home moms, but that wasn't my choice and it wasn't what I felt was good for me or our family.

On running a business together:

Mark: I think it flows kind of naturally, so I think it strengthens our relationship.

Rachel: I definitely think it has strengthened our relationship because when we were working in our careers before, we couldn't relate to each other as much. Now, after a long day, we can debrief with each other and share what's going on. But there are also times when you are working together that closely when you can get very frustrated with each other! We each have our own way of doing things.

On meal prep:

Rachel: What helps is that we do Blue Apron twice a week. It's a subscription and you get a box every week with two recipes and all the ingredients. It's all portioned out, and you just have to do all the chopping and mixing and preparation, so that makes it a little bit easier for planning the meals for the week. If I have to plan seven nights of dinner, I'm like, Oh my god!

Mark: Those recipes are a particular challenge. Lots of measuring and chopping! Sometimes I don't feel like doing 20 minutes of chopping.

Rachel: It's a lot of chopping. But it's all fresh food!

On finding together time:

Rachel: We had a great hike a couple of weeks ago. We hiked Big Spruce and then we went to Sushi Yoshi for dinner. We also started mountain biking, so we try to get out on some rides together once in a while.

On finding time alone:

Mark: I am a photography enthusiast so I try to get out and take photos. It's a really nice thing to be out early in the morning. All you can hear are the birds and, of course, Vermont is so spectacular. I definitely need to clear my mind occasionally.

Rachel: You can't have it all every day, every week, and for me that is one of the hardest things — me time always comes last.

On balance:

Rachel: We do have balance right now, the best that is possible. It ebbs and flows. There are times when stuff comes up and you lose that balance. I am an overachiever, and I used to think balance is something you can achieve, or plan for the future. But one thing we have learned is that you can't plan balance — you just have to do it.


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