A Week in the Life of a Working Mom: Dr. Mom Edition

For our first Week in the Life of a Working Mom series, I’m honored to introduce my friend M, who is a 40-year-old doctor based in Washington, D.C., and mom to two kids, 6 and 8. Before we get to the nitty gritty of her life, I’m going to caveat this post with something I plan to preface all of these updates with: This is a real person who has feelings and isn’t gaining anything from this, unlike your usual friendly (soul-deadened, thick-skinned, cold-hearted, money-grubbing) blogger — so please be kind with any comments. Thank you! – Kat

If you’d like to be featured (anonymously or otherwise) for a “week in the life of a working mom” feature, please fill out this form here! Eventually, you can see all posts in this series here.

First, Some Basics…

Name: M
Lives: Washington, D.C.
Job: Almost-full-time physician, between seeing patients and teaching
Age: 40
Home Situation: 

1 husband, 2 kids (ages 6 & 8). Moved around A LOT pre-kids but have hunkered down for the past 7 years. We live in a 1950s ranch with a claustrophobic cluster of rooms in the most beautiful neighborhood in DC (biased). 4 bedrooms/3 bathrooms, the last bedroom for our au pair so we are guestroom-less.

What’s your childcare situation like?   

Au pair! Life-changer. Started when I was a resident/husband was a firm attorney. Never going back to anything else as long as we need any form of childcare. Has given us amazing flexibility with both our parenting lives and our social lives. (Au pair staying in? Great, we put the kids to bed then head out for drinks on a random Tuesday night. That’s the best part. Plus the flexibility. Plus the kids learning new cultures. It has been all upside for us.)

(Kat’s note: We may circle back to M for more advice on au pairs, because when I asked her a follow up Q or two, she gushed about how she’s the poster child for au pairs — they’re on #4! As for what M’s favorite resources are for au pairs, M said: “My favorite au pair resource is of my own creation: I put together this slightly insane handbook with rules, expectations, sample schedules, how to use the subway, favorite museums, neighbors names/photos, and send it to the girls before they get here. Helpful to be in a city like D.C. with so many au pairs– they often have better social lives than we do. “)

Last Week in My Life

Sunday

Wake up early for a non-working Sunday (7am) and go to my first Barre class ever. Couldn’t even hang with the warm-up. Everyone else home sleeping/chilling. Come home to hubs making breakfast — he makes all meals on weekends and otherwise when home. In-laws visiting, confused by our schedule. Son to a birthday party 11-12:30pm then everyone to go see a crazy juggling show at a local arts venue that I love to patron 3p-4:15p. Find the nearest elementary school to kill some time before dinner. (Playgrounds aren’t fun with my broken-wristed daughter.) Dinner out with the 6 of us, lots of negotiations on whether dessert included. After kids asleep, assemble schedule for the rest of the week and email to all parties involved (spouse, au pair, in-laws, cc: myself) re: who is picking up, dropping off, commitments at schools, lessons, book fairs, book reports due, etc.

(Kat’s note: M emailed me her schedule and it’s awesome — it lets the au pair know exactly when she’s working (down to the minutes, like 7:25-8:45, then 3:30-10 or 3:30-7 or whatever) lets the au pair know what’s flexible (for example, on days when M may be able to do pick-up instead of her) as well as who’s working/out of the house during which hours.)

Monday

4:30am alarm to get to work. Insane work day. Actually scramble like mad to get all my work done because my 8yo needs see orthopedist to get cast. 2:30pm – pick up daughter from school. 2:50pm – at ortho (early! winning! I peed and got a snack!). 3:10pm – 8yo screaming not from pain but b/c ortho delivers “bad” news that no cast, just a great removable brace cast — she is devastated b/c she wants a cast that her friends can sign. Lots of negotiating while ortho looks on — figure out we can use jelly roll pens or metallic sharpies for signing. Crisis averted. Home by 4:45pm. Au pair takes care of dinner for herself, kids. Not sure what everyone else does but I write notes from 4:45-6pm. Kids have piano lessons until bedtime. I go to bed pretty soon after them. Husband teaches class until 10pm.

Tuesday

5:15am alarm, work by 6:30am. Au pair gets kids ready every morning whoever is home or not home so she does her routine with the kids — to school at 8:20am. Hubs leaves at 7:30am. Kids get picked up by au pair after a school activity, snack. Kids eat at 6-6:15pm without fail. We can’t usually do dinner as a family but I’m over any guilt about it (just like the guilt about not nursing for a full year! Making up for it with hugs/kisses/attention otherwise.) I’m home by 6:40pm but did all my work at the hospital so no residual stress from the day on that front. Ordered a pre-cooked dinner which gets delivered for me. Kids in bed at 8pm. Husband home at 8:30pm. Catch up on email tasks, organizing someone to clean our gutters, getting a refund on some missed lessons, etc. + 1 load of laundry.

Wednesday

Day off! Still have au pair get kids up and lunches packed while I get ready. I always take them to school on my days off but au pair affords us the luxury of not having to do some of the dirty work like nagging about tooth brushing. Two on two or sometimes having three on two (adults to kids) is helpful for sanity. Lovely walk to school. I get to be the mystery reader for 6-year-old’s class. Coveted spot, lucky it worked with my schedule. Me time — yoga for 1.5 hours then shop, returns, errands, grocery run. My first mammogram (TMI?) was a breeze. Home to pick up kids @ 3:15pm, playground it up, have 8-year-old pretend she doesn’t have homework to get an extra 20 minutes. Au pair gets dinner ready at usual time. Out for drinks with hubs. 1 load of laundry pre-bedtime.

Thursday

Morning off so do drop-off routine with au pair support as noted. Late breakfast with some girlfriends who are physicians who also work weird hours. Work from 11am-midnight. Lots of emails/texts with in-laws, au pairs, husband for updates. No kid-spotting outside of the walk to school — always sad. Thursday is always housekeeper day — 2 hours in the afternoon.

Friday

Brutal day with 7:30am meeting and ending at midnight. No kid-spotting at all. More texts/emails with those who do. All meals from au pair. Husband back by dinner.

Saturday

Awakened by children bouncing into the room at 7am. Half asleep/half playing until 8:30am — off to workout. Back with coffee + farmers market goods for lunch/dinner. Playground. Birthday party drop-off. MLS soccer game as a family.

Kat’s note: As a general follow-up question, I asked M about days without any “kid-spotting,” as she called it — did her family have any rituals or rules around such days where one of the parents wouldn’t see the kids all day? She answered:

YES! We have one rule that one of us needs to see the kids once every day. We rarely fail but it happens. And it seems like such low-hanging fruit. If we can’t meet our one goal of seeing them, we:
(a) definitely let them know that is going to happen (that we won’t see them). Setting expectations is huge in our house. 
(b) let them know when we will see the next and what the plan is (“I’ll miss you tomorrow night but I want you to save reading ‘Spy FlyGuy’ with me on Wednesday night.”)
(c) remind them why we choose to work
(d) I do leave little love notes occasionally at their spots at the breakfast table
(e) always kiss them when I get back home when it is late and before I leave in the morning, whatever the time
— Honestly, this is a real challenge we face. My now 8-year-old realized when she was 1.5 years old that when I wore scrubs it meant I wasn’t coming home that night so she would WAIL if she ever saw my scrubs. Took me a few weeks to figure it out. Anyhow, to this day, she gets very flustered if she ever sees scrubs so I don’t own them anymore. 
— I am also a super arts fiend so a moderate amount of guilt happens if one of my nights at the theatre falls on a day when hubs won’t see them either but I can’t always pre-plan it. And if I go to the theatre with hubs, then obviously forget about it! But going out is part of what needs to happen for us to make it work so we do it. 
HUGE thank you to M for being our guinea pig — I feel like I definitely learned a lot from M’s tips (and dang, the au pair sounds awesome)! Readers, what’s your biggest takeaway from M’s week? 

Comments

  1. Would def like to see/read more about the au pair experience. We’re exploring this route and haven’t been able to commit to it fully.

  2. So funny – I was at my college reunion this weekend and was conducting some informal data gathering on work and family. I have three findings: 1) we all love our kids and are glad we’re still working but they are SO much work, 2) if you have more than 2 children and 2 careers, live-in help is the way to go (largely in form of au pairs, but also regular live-in nannies); 3) Consider a male au pair — users report less drama and higher screening quality because it’s not the typical.

  3. Love this new series! Thanks so much for sharing, M! Feels really good to see you prioritizing having a life, spending time with your partner,and working out in addition to everything else.

  4. POSITA says:

    Thanks so much for sharing. I’d love to see a copy of that au pair manual! We’re trying an au pair next fall for the first time. We’re also in DC. It sounds amazing!

  5. EB0220 says:

    This is great! I love how M has a non-standard 9-5 schedule and makes it work for her family! I am going to adopt the Sunday evening schedule email idea.

    • +1. Love the view on a non-standard work week.

      And yes, could we see even a small santitized version of the schedule? I struggle with how to effectively designate all of that in one easy-to-read email. We manage with a variety of Google Calendars, which I like for the ease of updating through the week, but it’s not ideal.

  6. rosie says:

    I would also be interested to read about how M used au pairs (if at all) when kids were younger & not in school, since I know the hours au pairs work can be more limited than what you would need for full-time care.

    • Sabba says:

      I wondered about this too, and whether the hours where the au pair was staying in and the kids were sleeping “counted.” We have two physician friends with young kids and both employ 2 full-time live-out nannies to ensure adequate coverage (yikes on the logistics!). But I think the au pair living in sounds amazing.

      Thanks for sharing M!

    • Betty says:

      There are a solid group of us here that have au pairs, myself included. I’d post a question tomorrow morning. In the meantime, check out the website au pair mom . com. Great resource.

      To answer Sabba’s question, yes, any time that the au pair is “on,” even if the kids are sleeping counts toward the 45 hour max.

      • rosie says:

        Thanks, that’s what I would have guessed re: Sabba’s question (which I also was wondering), but it seems like that would make it hard to be spontaneous about going out if the au pair is staying home one night.

      • Sabba says:

        Thanks! It makes sense it should count. We would need more than 45 hours if that includes a weekly night out with the au pair on, but I could see the au pair schedule allowing for a night out with an elementary school age child/schedule.

    • Coach Laura says:

      Hopefully Dr. Mom will let us know but most people with Au Pairs and small children have the kids go to day care for part of the day. The au pair fills in the gap so that the 45 hour maximum isn’t exceeded.

  7. This is great. I would LOVE M’s au pair handbook. Our first one arrives next month.

  8. Sarah says:

    I love this series and I love this post – this is REAL and mad respect to M for sharing her life and being open and honest, as helps the rest of us with similarly nutty lives. (hey, we all adore our kids and make it work – everyone needs different things.) gave me some good ideas as well – love the setting expectations part. there’s nights I get home too late to see my little one but I still always always go in, even when she’s sleeping, and kiss her goodnight. I think she knows.
    Go, go, M! I’ve not fit in working out or many of the arts things I love, so hats off to you.

  9. I love this series! so interesting and inspiring to see how others do it.

  10. Betty says:

    I love seeing this too!

  11. FTMinFL says:

    This is great! Among a host of other things, I love seeing that there are other women in the same boat as I am (ok, that’s why I love this s!te!). I work almost exclusively with men and coordinating schedules with other working women or working mothers has been tougher than it should be. Thanks for encouraging this at-times-isolated mama!

  12. Jennifer says:

    I really love this. More please.

  13. Anonymous says:

    This was fantastic. Thank you for sharing, and for being honest about days without kid-spotting.

  14. These are fantastic! Such good insights.

  15. Thank you M and Kat! I loved the expectation setting with the kids and how you’re still managing working out, drinks with hubs and brunch with friends.

    Would appreciate more in this series as a FTM still on maternity leave.

  16. I am thankful every day that we live in Asia where live-in help is available and more importantly, affordable.
    Today for e.g. the bub is having a mild fever from teething – which usually would mean an immediate pickup from child care. Instead, my helper is playing with him at home (and has insisted that I don’t have to rush back). I count my lucky stars every day…

  17. ElisaR says:

    Thank you M! I am a little late in commenting but found it helpful – always trying to work more hours into each day myself!

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