A Week in the Life of a Working Mom: A Midwestern Lawyer Mom with Four Kids

lawyer mom to four kids in the midwestFor the sixth installment of our Week in the Life of a Working Mom series, I’m happy to introduce CorporetteMoms reader Elizabeth. She’s a 42-year-old consultant/ lawyer mom to four kids; she lives in the Midwest. Our usual caveat applies: Please remember that this is 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), please fill out this form! You can see all posts in this series here. You can also sort by tag, such as “daycare,” “au pair,” and “lawyer mom.” (We’re working on devising a system that makes sense.)

First, Some Basics about this Working Mom…

Name: Elizabeth
Lives: Midwest
Job: consultant/attorney — I lead annual strategic planning efforts for hospital clients, as well as hospital mergers.
Age: 42
Home Situation: 

My husband is family medicine physician who covers inpatients at the hospital every third weekend. We have four school-age children: A, 13-year-old son; E, 10-year-old daughter; B & D, 7-year-old twin sons. We live in a 4000-square-foot house in the suburbs.

Childcare Situation: $18,000/year.

We have had Au Pairs for the past four years. The last two have been males. Prior to that we covered childcare with a number of options: a preschool teacher/nanny, a college student that lived in during the summer, hubby took Mondays off and I took Fridays off. We love the Au Pair help. My spouse and I have schedules that change from week to week, depending on his inpatient load and my travel. Having an Au Pair has eliminated the hours of stress and scrambling with multiple care providers to try to cover different hours we needed. For instance, the preschool teacher was a wonderful caregiver but had a family of her own so was unavailable to help in the evenings or weekends. Fortunately, we have a supportive family network nearby that was able to assist in some of those previous pinches. But it is nice now to have that family come to support the kids’ extracurricular activities or have special one-on-one time with the children, rather than serve in the role of an emergency babysitter.

Our Au Pairs transition about every year or so. We have appreciated the ease of picking a new care provider to sync up with the evolving needs of our children. For instance, our first Au Pair was a nurturing female who was excellent with our toddler twins. Or more recent Au Pairs have been active males who play sports and make up fun games to play. I expect in a few years we will be interested in a caregiver that can provide more homework support.

Last Week in My Life

Sunday

Church in the morning for hubby and two older kids only. The twins stay with me to run errands since they are not great about listening and it ruins the service for everyone else. Twins and I go to Target for end-of-year teacher gifts and I somehow spend another $200 on “necessities.” We run by the dry cleaner, bagel store, and pick our a few plants for the yard before heading home.

After a simple lunch of PB&J and turkey sandwiches, all of us make a big pitch-in effort on housework. The twins mostly just pick up their Legos and shoes, E cleans up after her many pets (fish, cat, and lizard), and A helps hubby clean out the garage.  I do a mad dash of laundry (Au Pair helps during the week, but this is a chore that never ends with a family of six), and cleaning/organizing the kitchen. My AppleWatch tells me this dash qualifies as 40 minutes of exercise, which is a nice accomplishment since everything I clean seems to quickly revert back to its original state. Once this is complete, I plant flowers in the garden with kids who intermittently tire of jumping on the trampoline with the daddy. I find time for a little nap on the couch, which is nice since I always feel sleep deprived.

We eat out at kids’ favorite Mexican restaurant for dinner, which I appreciate since I hate to cook.

6:30–8:00 p.m.: Sunday Night Chaos: getting kids showered and backpacks organized for school. I work on the family color-coded Google Calendar, which the Au Pair and hubby use so that nothing/no one gets forgotten. My mother also has access to our family calendar so that she can easily attend the kids’ various events and activities. She likes to take a kid to lunch or dinner sometime throughout the week, and can see at a glance when a good time might be. The Google Calendar and my work Outlook calendar are separate but sync up beautifully on my iPhone. This allows me to see where I need to be for work while keeping the rest of the family on track. When we on-board a new Au Pair, he/she has been able after the first month to figure out our ever-changing calendars without a need for a weekly discussion.

Kids are asleep by 9:00 p.m., so I log in until 1:00 a.m. to catch up on work emails, input my time and expenses into WorkDay from the previous week, and delegate a few tasks to my team to address first thing Monday morning.

Monday

6:459:00 a.m.: Au Pair and hubby start to get kids ready for the bus while I shower and get ready for the day. I kiss boys goodbye and drive E to school early for an extracurricular activity. I head to a networking breakfast with an old colleague.

9:0011:30 a.m.: Conference calls from my home office with clients and coworkers.

11:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.: Instead of a lunch break, I go buy a few presents for A’s upcoming birthday. End up taking a quick question from a direct report on the phone for something he is working on. I listen to a podcast during the rest of this multitasking time.

12:30–9:00 p.m.: Drive to client site to meet with a steering committee and board about a hospital merger I am leading for them. Call on my drive home to talk to twins; also call to catch up with my sister for a few minutes.

9:00 p.m.: Twins are asleep when I get home, which makes me sad, but I hang out with older two kids before they go to bed. My daughter and I talk about an argument a few of her friends had at school, and I coach her on how to not have to get in the middle. I spend a few minutes chatting with hubby, and then we work side by side in bed with our laptops until 12:30 a.m. He catches up on his patient charting while I prepare a document for my client in Montana. I really enjoy these late-night sessions without the phone ringing or email pinging, and find myself being way more productive than during my usual daytime hours. I often save harder analytical tasks for these time blocks. Since hubby is also in the healthcare industry, he is able to provide relevant perspectives on some of my meatier presentations, and I often use him as a sounding board. This can lead to fun intellectual debates, which is one of things I most enjoyed about dating him. It would be nice if we could have these kinds of conversations more often, but kids…

Tuesday

I take A & D out to breakfast before driving them to school since those two seemed most in need of undivided attention from Mommy today. I stop inside the elementary school to watch E do the morning announcements and give her a hug before heading to the airport for a 10:00 a.m. flight.

It is two planes and two time zones to get to my client out west. I arrive there at what would normally be the end of my work day but squeeze in an afternoon meeting in their time zone before heading out to dinner with a colleague, the CEO, and board chair. Once again, I am the only female in this group of four, and the only one with school-age children. I excuse myself to the bathroom and sneak a call home to say hi to my kids. I wish it were more socially acceptable to share the family juggle with my clients and coworkers so I could be more open about calling home. However, my industry is notorious for not promoting females, and a perceived split in attention could hurt my advancement opportunities.

Hubby is the coach to the twins’ soccer team, so he is with them while Au Pair drives A to his soccer practice on the other side of town. E has dinner with my mom, who lives about 20 minutes away. I am grateful for this little village.

Wednesday

Even when I travel to different time zones, I keep my watch on the time at home so that I can do air traffic control things at home. Starting at 6:30 a.m., I text home while also answering client emails. Although it is all on the Google Calendar, I remind the Au Pair to make sure the kids bring in their year-end teacher appreciation gifts, tell him a few things to grab at the grocery, and ask him to enlist the kids in picking up the house for cleaning service on Thursday morning. I schedule a doctor appointment for D and reschedule A’s appointment to get his braces tightened. I remind hubby to make a call about the lawn service.

At 9:00 a.m. I head on to client site and barely have time to pee for the next 12 hours between back-to-back client meetings. I text home and send photos of the mountains to say goodnight, but miss my window to talk to everyone before bed by the time I finish up. I hate that I missed hearing the last-day-of-school stories when they are fresh. Before I go to sleep, hubby fills me in on what I missed and reassures me everyone is happy. He is a calm and steady presence in our lives, which makes my travel less stressful on everyone.

Thursday

I head to the airport at 5:00 a.m. for the journey home. I sleep a bit on the first two-hour flight, take two conference calls during my quick layover, and then work through the second flight. Thank goodness I am a frequent enough flier that I get bumped to first class where I can be a little more comfortable and productive.

I arrive home by 1:00 p.m. and am happy to see the house clean and everyone having a nice summer day together. I hang out with the kids at the pool while the Au Pair supervises so that I can also catch up on a few emails and phone calls. Hubby gets home by 4:30 p.m. We head out as a family to A’s favorite restaurant to celebrate his 13th birthday, then come home for cake, ice cream, and presents. No more school means bedtime is a bit more relaxed and I take a rare night off from the laptop.

Friday

The Au Pair is in charge of kids while I work from home. The nice part about this set-up is that I can see the kids and monitor their activities in between calls or on breaks. But it is hard for them to keep their noise level down and I am a tired/distracted worker after billing 65 hours this long week. I drive E to her tutor at 3:00 and work nearby on my laptop, finishing up a few last items that must be dealt with before the weekend. I have a pizza order on auto-delivery each Friday that I quickly confirm online.

At 5:00 p.m. the pizza arrives and we have our traditional family Friday night pizza and a movie night. Hubby and I each have an adult beverage towards the end of the movie and chat. Thunderstorms that evening means two kids end up in my room to sleep. Ugh.

Saturday

No Au Pair help on the weekends, so hubby and I do a lot of dividing and conquering. A has two soccer games, and twins have one starting at 8:00 a.m. In the scramble to get out the door, hubby remembers he signed us up for the twins’ soccer snacks but we have nothing. Hubby takes twins to the game while I take two older kids to the local grocery store and drive through McDonald’s for a much needed large Diet Coke. My mom meets us at the soccer fields and we catch up about our week while watching the twins’ game.

Hubby takes all three boys to A’s two games. I take E to buy a birthday gift for a friend and then drive her to the party. I stay and chat with a few of the neighborhood moms and get a few ideas about fun summer activities to sign my gang up for.

We all meet up at home again around 4:00 p.m. and decide everyone is hungry and no one feels like cooking, so go to a nearby casual restaurant with boys still in soccer gear.

After dinner I spend a few hours doing online shopping for kids’ summer clothes and also a few things for me. I have everything to toilet paper to laundry detergent on auto-ship from Amazon, which saves me from a tremendous number of tedious errands.

Thanks so much to Elizabeth for sharing a bit of her life as a working mom! Readers, what’s your biggest takeaway from her week as a consultant and attorney and her work/life balance? What other questions do you have for this lawyer mom to four kids?

Picture credit: Shutterstock/ Andrey_Popov.lawyer mom to four kids in the midwest

How does a lawyer mom to FOUR kids do it all? With aplomb! Huge thanks to this week's featured guest poster in our "Week in the Life of a Working Mom" series, an attorney/consultant living in the Midwest and mom to four school-age kids!

 

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Comments

  1. Anon in NYC says:

    Wow. I am in awe of Elizabeth’s organization / schedule. I’m pretty sure that my entire life would devolve into chaos if I were in her shoes. Also, I love that you have a pizza auto-delivery. I really need that in my life.

    I’d be interested in hearing more about the male au pairs, given the discussion of male nannies the other day. I assume there are far fewer male au pairs. Did you go looking specifically for a male au pair?

    • Elizabeth says:

      Just logged on and saw these very kind comments. Thank you Corporette community!!

      The male Au Pair decision was one we pondered on for about a year before pulling the trigger. A couple of key factors in that decision:
      1. My three high energy sons respond well to men
      2. We have purposely chosen an Au Pair over the age of 21, and there are many male candidates in this age cohort to choose from
      3. We have experienced far less personal life drama from our male Au Pairs than the females
      4. The screening process around the male candidates appears to be more rigorous, resulting in a better fit

  2. Naomi says:

    Wow! Impressive and inspiring!

  3. Jennifer FP says:

    Holy cow. How can I even complain about my life? Elizabeth, was your schedule like this when your children were young, or is it just in the last few years that it has picked up?

    • Elizabeth says:

      I was a VP at a local hospital when our first child was born, which entailed a more predictable schedule. However, the work bored me after a few years. The enjoyment I get from engaging in challenging consulting work has been worth the trade-off of the variable schedule .

      When the twins were born and we were outnumbered, I finally gave myself permission to outsource things I didn’t enjoy. I no longer felt obligated to be at every single soccer game, make every grocery run, or cook all our meals. Letting go of this guilt is tremendously freeing. And the things I do are strategic choices where I know my HAPPY presence makes a difference.

  4. Betsy says:

    I love the idea (and the affordability) of an au pair. Would love to know more about he fits into your family time and space (like does he join family meals at home? At restaurants?). Thanks for sharing!

    • Elizabeth says:

      We have an extra bedroom in our basement with an en suite bathroom, which we laughingly call “the dungeon.” The nice thing about the space is that is separate from the rest of the family’s bedrooms on the 2nd floor. There is a TV room in the basement next to this bedroom where the Au Pair can entertain friends with a little privacy. That space certainly helps us from getting in each other’s nerves too much.

      The Au Pair is always welcome to join our family for meals and vacations. However, there is a nice community of other Au Pairs (about 100 total within a 30 minute radius) and time with friends their own age is desired.

      Our first female Au Pair dated a football player with the local professional team and had a killer social life. Our second was a Jehovah’s Witness and was very plugged in with her church community. Our current male Au Pair is a fitness fanatic and enjoys going to the local gym (we added him to our family membership for less than $20/month) in his time off.

  5. Really love this series.

  6. Spirograph says:

    I continue to love this series, because it shows 1. how much work it is to keep life running smoothly with kids and 2. how many different paths there are to that “successful outcome.”

    Also, I”m a little exhausted, just reading that! props to you, Elizabeth, for making everything work. Your au pair and local grandparent situation sounds ideal. I kind of have in the back of my mind that we’ll get an au pair once the kids are in school — I would also love to know more about how he fits in to your life and space. My house is <1/2 the size of yours, and my husband and I are both pretty private people, so I don't know how we'd swing it without moving or a renovation (or a major attitude adjustment!).

    • Elizabeth says:

      Having family nearby that is willing to lend a hand has been a huge help for the various bumps that life throws at us. My sister is a stay-at-home mom of 3 who home schools. Watching her beautiful family evolve reminds me that there are a million ways to raise a family, and you just have to do what works best for YOU.

      Regarding the Au Pair in our life and space: once we got our minds around that fact that life was going to be easier if we were willing to open up our home, the rest fell into place. There have been challenges for sure, and we even had to fire one Au Pair after a few short weeks. But knowing how hard our lives would be without this extra set of hands, and watching my kids be loved by another addition to our village has kept us focused on the big picture rather than the daily inconveniences that can and do arise.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Can I just tell you how relieved I am to see another family that eats like we do? I was beginning to feel as though I was the only mom out there that hadn’t gotten the memo about meal-planning or the whole 30 or something. We do about the same number of takeout/casual dining meals a week. Sometimes that’s all I can do to hold it together.

    • In house in Seattle says:

      Same! We’ve considered an au pair option if we upgrade to a bigger house, since our understanding is that they normally live in your home. Would love more details.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Eating out this much is something I am not particularly proud of. But there are honestly some benefits:
      1. We have really interesting conversations as a family while waiting on our food.
      2. The kids eat better/without a fight since they order what they want.
      3. No clean-up!

  8. I really love this series. And would love more content about child care options, particularly au pairs!

  9. I am exhausted and don’t know how you manage all that! Congrats! I am jealous you and your husband can work from laptops in bed. My husband has a strict “no laptops in the bedroom” rule which I have begrudgingly honored in letter if not in spirit (and figured out how to do more work from my phone, which apparently doesn’t count). Still unfortunate on days where he wants to “rest” in bed early but not go to sleep and I need to do laptop work in the evenings but still want to have “touching snugggles” (e.g., curled up in the same space, usually an arm or a leg touching). To my introverted nature, being in the same room together even doing different things counts as together time (which I know is weird).

    • Angelique says:

      Not weird at all. My husband and I absolutely count spending time in the same room as time together, even if he’s on his laptop working and I’m reading a book. It allows you to make occasional comments to each other, give casual touches, and just ~be~ while knowing that your person is by your side.

      • Elizabeth says:

        You have to do what works for where you are in your life and career. For my husband, leaving the hospital as soon as he finishes with patients to be with our family means that he is leaving charting behind that requires him to log back in. For me, I really do some of my best thinking at night when everything is quiet. There are nights where one of us is fast asleep before the other one is done with the laptop session, which isn’t ideal. But having a companion is nice.

  10. Sarabeth says:

    The pizza auto-delivery is genius. I am going to see if we can implement that at our favorite place. We already get takeout every Friday, and I’d be willing to do pizza every week if it means I don’t have to think about it.

    • Elizabeth says:

      The pizza and a movie thing has become a family tradition of sorts, and one the kids complain if we miss. Minimizing the amount of effort around decisions over the week really does reduce my stress load.

  11. This woman is my hero! Favorite post in this series – and I love this series – as it’s one I can relate to and picked up ideas from. I don’t know if this is kosher, but, Elizabeth, if you’re reading this, any chance to connect? I am also in the Midwest, and also a consultant/attorney in healthcare space. Strategic planning, process improvement, and compliance activities for hospitals and med device companies. I would love to chat and trade ideas and tips – no business dev intent here (though if you want that, that’s fine too, as I’m happy to refer), rather, just excited to see another person in this space – I am always the only woman in the room as well. :)

    • Jennifer FP says:

      Wait, I’d love in on this from a career development standpoint. I’m interested on both your backgrounds and how you got to where you have. And skills that I might need and how to get them.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Not sure how we can connect with each other, but I would love to! Doing this post reminded me of how important it is to cultivate a group of supportive women that can share best practices. My male colleagues are great, but they are not engaged with their families at a level that I can learn much from or even just vent to.

      Kat- Any suggestions on how we can find each other off your blog?

  12. Love this. I feel idiotic asking this, but both my tech-savvy husband and I attempted this and failed: How does one sync up google calendar and outlook on an android/non-iPhone? Is this possible without having to open up the two applications separately? Thanks, all.

    • Elizabeth says:

      I imagine there is some tech-savy tutorial out there, but this is what I do for iPhone:
      Settings> Calendar> Add Account

      Both my Outlook work account and then Gmail account are added here. Then when you open the generic Calendar App, it all shows up . To see a cleaner view, you can click on the middle box at the bottom labeled Calendars (between Today and Inbox), and then unselect various accounts.

      Others with access to our Gmail calendar (hubby, grandma, Au Pair, kids) have permission to add events. However, I wind up spending about 3 to 5 minutes each day making sure everything is listed properly with the correct address, and with the correct color code (each kid has their own color, as do the adults in the house). This check also allows me to trouble shoot for conflicts.

    • PrettyPrimadonna says:

      I just did this. Go to your Outlook calendar account online. Click “Share” and put in the email address for your Google calendar where you want the Outlook calendar to show up. You will receive an email entitled “You’re invited to share this calendar.” In tiny writing under the button that says “Accept and view calendar” you will see a link with an option to “Try adding an Internet calendar and providing this URL.” Right click the link and select “Copy this link address” from the drop down box. Then, go to your Google calendar. Under “Other calendars” select “Add by URL.” Paste the URL from the email into the box and select “Add Calendar.” Voila, your Outlook calendar will show up on your Google calendar app.

      I hope this all made sense. It is actually pretty simple, even though there seem to be a lot of steps.

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