Finding Quality Time With Your Kids as a Working Mom

quality time with kidsHow do you deal when your work AND your child both need more attention than usual, at the same time? I saw commenters talking about this problem yesterday, and it’s been on my mind lately too, so let’s discuss the challenge of finding quality time with your kids when you’re a working mom.

My older son is only three, but we’ve already had a few times in his short life where it’s clear he needed more quality time with us — particularly me, it seemed — in a big way. I’m at the point now where it seems like if he’s continuously acting out, and if I can’t blame the three S’s (sugar, sleep, and screen time), then odds are good that it’s time to try more quality time. Sometimes this isn’t a problem — but now it’s the holidays, and there are a million things going on both professionally and personally, so spending the entire weekend building with Legos isn’t exactly what I want to (or can) do.

I often find myself thinking of Anne Marie Slaughter’s 2012 piece in The Atlantic about Why Women Still Can’t Have it All. My own life is nowhere near as crazy as Slaughter’s, of course, but she quit her “dream job” at the State Department when her 14-year-old son, who was acting out, needed more of her attention. (She also has another son, who was 12 at the time.) So I think it speaks to a bigger problem that all working moms suffer from — across all stages of childrearing. (Slaughter speaks about her decision in this short video.)

So how do you do it? How do you manage to give both your kid — and your work — the attention they each need? I’m no expert, but I have a few working theories:

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Open Thread: Keeping a Clean House

cleaning serviceWhat changes did you make to your cleaning routines after you had kids? Is a cleaning service essential to you as a working mother? The last time we talked about hiring a cleaning service on Corporette, I was struck by how many readers agreed that a cleaning service became a necessity after having kids, and the same was true for me, so I thought we’d discuss. I was particularly intrigued to hear moms of older kids (I think among comments here) talk about how having a daily housekeeper in the post-school hours really helped them bridge the “too old for a nanny, too young to be home alone” time period. (Pictured: Clean kitchen, originally uploaded to Flickr by Ben Sutherland.)

For my $.02.: Today is the most wonderful day of the fortnight: our beloved cleaning professional, Olga, is here at Casa Griffin. I was always highly (highly!) resistant to getting a professional to do our cleaning before we had kids, but it started to make more sense when Jack started crawling (and, um, throwing things like applesauce everywhere). It’s now become a non-negotiable for us, in that we will find room for it in our budget somewhere — I love the clean house, the sense of peace and calm that Olga leaves behind, and the fact that I can devote most of my time to either working or mom-ing.

We still do a lot of organizing before she comes to make sure that she can focus on cleaning, and she generally does the floors (mopping, vacuuming), the surfaces (dusting, washing), the mirrors, the bathrooms, as well as changing our sheets, washing our towels, and working on specific tasks like cleaning the walls or windows. We got her number after a friend of mine was waxing poetic about Olga and how wonderful she was. She had such a busy schedule that we had to wait a while to get on her roster, but we’ve never looked back.

How did you find your cleaning service (or person)? What do you ask him/her/them to do? How often do they come? What do you and your partner (and kids) do in the interim? Did you have a cleaning service before you had kids, and did you make any changes after becoming a mom?

Finally Friday: Evatex Packing Cubes

Evatex Packing CubesI don’t know how traveling with kids is for YOU guys, but for us, the packing equation has totally changed… because my toddler gets the majority of the space! We bring: all of his outfits (I like to travel with at least 3-4 complete outfits, no matter how short the trip, in case of messy eating/play, or of course, bathroom accidents) … his teddy… his blanket…  it’s kind of ridiculous. These packing cubes look like they would at LEAST help us keep our stuff separate and well defined. I like the variety of colors offered, and the deep discount: they were $89, but are now marked to $25 (and eligible for Prime). Evatex Packing Cubes

Psst — I’ve mentioned that I draw what I want to pack before, but I swear by it now that I’m usually the one packing for the entire family.

“Family-Friendly” Jobs — What Are They, and What Questions to Ask to Find One

family-friendly jobsHere’s a fun question for the hive:  What do you consider a “family-friendly” job? Have you changed your career or job to seek one? What questions did you ask while interviewing — and which ones do you wish you’d asked? Do different perks and accommodations matter as your child moves through childhood — you need one set of things if you have small children, and another set of perks and allowances if you have older kids? I’m curious to hear what readers say.

For my own $.02, I went from a BigLaw job to a nonprofit with an 8-person staff, thinking it would be a family-friendly job. I wound up leaving after two years to focus on the blog, but part of me thinks I would have ended up leaving anyway because, looking back, I think the job would have been perfect for someone with older kids but not young ones. The staff was so small that not only were we not covered by FMLA, but it would have been difficult to imagine taking anything but a very basic and quick maternity leave of 6-8 weeks — there was no one else to give my work to! Furthermore, the 9-5 hours, which seemed so great compared to BigLaw, would have been difficult to manage with daycare drop-off and pickup, and last minute scrambles in the event of a sick kiddo would probably have grated on my boss’s nerves if they occurred too often. There was travel required for the job, as well… and at the end of the day the salary would not have been enough to sustain our lifestyle in NYC.

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Childcare Arrangements: Pros + Cons

childcare arrangementsWhat are the pros and cons of different types of childcare arrangements? How do you decide on whether to hire a nanny, choose daycare, ask for help from family members, etc.? We’ve talked about taking business trips as a mom, but we haven’t had a conversation about this yet. How did you decide what was best for your family? Or, if you’re pregnant, how are you evaluating the options for how your child will be cared for when you’re working? Let me start by saying: Whatever you end up doing is the right choice. Truly, there are pros and cons to everything, so try not to listen to people (online or otherwise) who feel super strongly about the issue. Here are some key differences among childcare options that I’ve noticed:

Nanny

The Pros: Your child gets individualized attention, in your home; you can be very specific about what you want re diet, activities, feeding, and more. You can negotiate for housekeeping and cooking as well.

The Cons: Hiring a nanny is expensive. Interviewing and payment can be a headache (especially if you are trying to figure out the “nanny tax”). If the nanny gets sick or is unreliable, you’re SOL. Even if you are specific with your guidelines, there’s no guarantee the nanny is doing what you ask (e.g., serving carrots instead of cookies, limiting TV time, etc.). By the time your kid is 3 or 4 you’ll probably want to pay for preschool on top of nanny services for socialization/school readiness.

Nanny share: This setup has many of the same pros and cons as above, but with added pro of socialization and added con of finding a suitable family and dealing with tricky conversations such as the extent to which they’ve baby proofed their home.

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Quick Workouts for Busy Moms (Even You Have Time for These!)

The Best Busy Mom Workouts | CorporetteMoms2017 Update: We still stand by these quick workouts for busy moms — but you may also want to check out our most recent discussion on how to find time to work out as a mom

I was talking with someone last week about how moms have no time for working out, so I thought I’d round up a few of the methods that I’ve found over the past few years.  I still find it really, really (REALLY) hard to take the time for myself (and away from kids, my husband, my business… there always seems like a better way to spend the 20-60 minutes!), but this time around, postpartum, I’m forcing myself to take the time, both to regain my strength, be healthier for my family, exercise the crazies out, and, hey, lose some weight. I forgot how much better I feel — everywhere, in every way — when I work out, and I hope the benefit in my mood and energy, at least, helps the family.  SO! Without further ado, here’s my list — readers, what do your workouts look like, post-kiddo(s) — when do you do ’em, what do you do?  Moms with older kids, was there ever a magical time when you felt you suddenly had time to workout? (Oh — and I only JUST tried this, but man it made a difference: if you wake up feeling exHAUSTED, try a bit of peanut butter or almond butter before bed — it stabilizes your blood sugar or some such so you get better sleep.)

(Psst: Still pregnant? Check out our discussion on prenatal exercise…)

If You Seriously Don’t Have Time:

  • SuperMom app.  This iTunes app is actually designed to help you get a workout in when you’re caring for your baby — squats to do during bathtime, etc.
  • Get Your Body Back.  Six minute workouts, people!  I find the instructor to be a bit grating, but I used this a lot with my first baby, when I wasn’t quite sure how long he would stay asleep, etc.

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