Albuquerque Moms Up Close & Personal :: Elizabeth Kistin Keller


We’re excited to announce a new series entitled Albuquerque Moms Up Close & Personal. In this series, we’ll be spotlighting local moms. Today we’d like to introduce you to Elizabeth Kistin Keller, Ph.D. You may know her as First Lady of Albuquerque and wife of Mayor Tim Keller. While she does devote time to city duties, she’s also a busy mom with a career of her own.

Albuquerque Moms Up Close & Personal :: Elizabeth Kistin Keller

Let’s get up close and personal with Elizabeth Kistin Keller.

First Lady Elizabeth Kistin Keller was born and raised right here in Albuquerque. After moving away for college (she earned a Masters and PhD in International Development Studies as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University) and work, she and her husband Tim have settled right back here in Albuquerque to raise their family. She currently works at Sandia National Laboratories as a systems analyst.

We were able to chat with Mrs. Keller recently and asked her a few questions to get to know her a little better. Below is a transcription of part of our discussion.

Where’s your favorite date night spot in Albuquerque? Favorite spot to take your kiddos? 

Sometimes date time but sometimes family time has been farmer’s markets and the Railyards Market. Those have always been favorites. Hopefully those, as outdoor options, will be able to come back this year.

Albuquerque Moms Up Close & Personal :: Elizabeth Kistin KellerHow do you balance marriage, being a mom, your career, and being the First Lady of Albuquerque? That’s a lot!

Balance isn’t always the word that comes to mind first when thinking about the chaos. It’s been really interesting during the pandemic as we’re going through different cycles. We’re constantly adapting. . . . Over the past couple of years, I had a schedule where I was thirty hours a week at work. And I took Wednesdays off and saved Wednesday for city activities and to be able to engage in specific initiatives. Since Covid and crisis response work went back up, I went back to work full-time. There were times when that ballooned up to sixty hours a week but then came back down.

In general, it’s always trying to figure this out imperfectly. And the balance looks like balance over the longer term but not necessarily over any given day or given week.

How do I have enough time for work, for me together with the kids, for the four of us together (and that part is sometimes the hardest), for the two of us together, and some time myself? So for us, a huge part of the normal calculation had been extended family. We’ve relied very much on grandparents, aunts, uncles. . . . That whole world really enabled a lot of that balance. It still does, but it’s had to look very, very different during the pandemic. So we’re trying to get some of that balance back and figure out pieces of our time.

Here’s part of what the day-to-day looks like on our end. We do the first class or two of distance learning from home. Then our kids go into one of the community centers that the city runs, so they’re able to do the next part of their class online there. I work primarily from home. I can block out that time in the morning to help with school, but then be really busy at work for the next part of the day. There’s more work that’s gotten transferred to the evenings and weekends than it did before. But we also try to save some of that time for resting and recharging.

It is a work in progress. We don’t have anything mastered. But we’re grateful that we have family, colleagues, all sorts of folks that make whatever semblance of balance we have possible. 

I know part of your job at Sandia is as a futurist. What is your hope for Albuquerque? When you dream about her future, what do you see?

As someone who’s grown up here, I do have hope for the future. A big dream is that any kid who grows up here in New Mexico has access to everything they need to succeed. To the educational resources. To the kind of mentors who can help them navigate pathways to employment that may be similar to what their parents did or that may be different from what their parents did. That kind of wrap-around support system that I was fortunate to grow up with. . . . But the kind of resources that continue to support all kids no matter what circumstances they are coming from. . .

Albuquerque Moms Up Close & Personal :: Elizabeth Kistin KellerSo you have a few mom years under your belt. Your oldest is seven. Do you have any advice for new moms, something maybe you wish you had known before becoming a parent?

It can feel easier said than done, but be kind to yourself. How important taking care of yourself is to the health of your kids, to the health of your family, to the health of your partner.

And knowing that some of these phases are phases. Enjoy the sweetness of them and don’t get too worried about the really challenging times. One of the things that has struck me during COVID, so our kids in the community center most of the day, so they’re washing their hands constantly. My five- and seven-year-old have these cracky hands. I call them their old man hands. That has meant we are putting Aquaphor on their hands every night and every morning. It feels so cliche because so many moms told me how fast this goes. Now I have this ritual with them that I know won’t last forever. I get to hold both of their hands that are growing over this year. And it’s this incredible moment of the fastness and slowness of it all. And trying to remember to take a deep breath and appreciate what this is.

And mostly to just give yourself a break and know that you’re doing a good job. 

What is something that’s bringing you joy these days? 

So there are a couple I’ll mention. One has been remaining connected with groups of women and mom friends. Some of who are my college roommates. Others are a small group of high school friends and others from here. We don’t get to see each other. But we have these text chains that go from serious to sad to absurd and all over again. They’ve been so critical in navigating the rollercoaster together. The friendships are bringing me joy and seeing those friendships evolve and maintain through this crazy year.

The second piece for me is that our kids are at this fascinating age of make-believe. They’re playing around with each other. A lot of it is Wild Kratts inspired. But they’re different animals. My son likes to pretend to be Butter. And he’s a Florida panther jaguar cheetah named Butter that has all of these adventures. And his sister helps take care of the wild animals they have. It’s amazing to watch their brains in action and the silly scenarios they came up with and the ability to move between these different worlds. It’s fabulous right now. And it’s a great sigh of relief for me because it has allowed them to navigate the pandemic in a way that doesn’t require my involvement. I can sit and finish a hot cup of coffee and know they are doing just fine. That’s been wonderful to see.

Thank you, Elizabeth Kistin Keller! We appreciate your sharing a little of your mom heart with us.

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Vanessa loves her people and loves Albuquerque and has lots to say about both. She’s married to her high school sweetheart, Nate, and they have three kids (Micah, Corban, & Evangeline). Originally from Florida, she’s lived in Albuquerque since 2009 when she and her family relocated to start a new church. Even though she misses wearing flip-flops year-round, New Mexico has truly enchanted her, and the desert feels like home. When she is not chauffeuring children about town, Vanessa works as the Director of Strategy and part-owner of Truly Social Digital Marketing Agency, enjoys volunteering at church, loves watching college football, and drinks a little too much coffee. She is passionate about connecting women with each other, loving her people, and finding the good in her place. Follow her on Instagram @vanessamaebush.