A Week in the Life of a Working Mom: Government Attorney in the Midwest

For the fifth installment of our Week in the Life of a Working Mom series, I’m happy to introduce a CorporetteMoms reader who asked us to call her HSAL. She’s a 35-year-old government attorney in a large Midwestern city and has one child. 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.

First, Some Basics about this Working Mom…

Name: HSAL
Lives: Large Midwestern city
Job: Government attorney
Age: 35
Home Situation: 1400-square-foot townhome with husband (researcher) and 18-month-old girl, and a cat. Getting ready to move in the next year.
Childcare Situation: Daycare ($287/week)

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

doctor mom florida work life balance adviceFor the fourth installment of our Week in the Life of a Working Mom series, I’m happy to introduce CorporetteMoms reader Christa, who is a 30-year-old doctor in Florida with a young daughter. 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.

First, Some Basics about this Working Mom…

Name: Christa
Lives: In a university town in Florida
Job: Doctor at an academic medical center
Age: 30
Home Situation: I live in a 1600-square-foot, single-family home with my husband, who works a full-time information technology job at the same university where I’m employed, and my daughter, who is around 2 1/2 years old.
Childcare Situation: During the week, we use a local corporate daycare chain that has extended hours (around $1,000/month). Usually drop-off is around 7:30-8:00 a.m. and pick-up is around 5:30-6:00 p.m. My parents live around two hours away and my mother provides emergency childcare.

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A Week in the Life of a Working Mom: Project Manager Mom in Atlanta

project manager mom work life balance tipsFor our third Week in the Life of a Working Mom series, I’m happy to introduce Reader D, who is a 31-year-old project manager in Atlanta with two young kids. 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.

First, Some Basics about this Working Mom…

Name: D
Lives: Atlanta
Job: Project manager
Age: 31
Home Situation: I live in a large house with my husband (31, marketing), our 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son, and our dog.
Childcare Situation: Daycare/Preschool, $460/week

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The Cost of Daycare: What Do You Spend?

The Cost of DaycareA couple of months ago on Corporette, we discussed how much you should spend on housing costs, and today we’re going to talk about something that often looms just as large in the minds of working moms: the cost of daycare. Lately, the news seems to be full of articles about the cost of daycare (e.g., “U.S. Parents Are Sweating And Hustling To Pay For Child Care,” NPR), so we thought this would be a great time for a discussion. How much are you spending on daycare? Is the cost of daycare more than you expected?

For a quick review, the recent Corporette post covered the 50/20/30 rule for budgeting, which recommends that you spend no more than 50% of your take-home pay on fixed costs, use at least 20% for saving money and reaching your financial goals, and spend no more than 30% of flexible costs. How does the cost of daycare fit into the ratio? In the comments on the post, several readers shared their childcare numbers, and their responses ranged from 10% of their take-home pay to 30% (for a child with special needs). The average childcare spending among readers who shared information was about 18%.

The Care.com 2016 Cost of Care survey found some striking statistics:

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Backup Childcare

Backup Childcare Strategies

2018 Update: We still stand by this discussion on backup childcare strategies; you may also want to check out our most recent discussion on snow days and working parents.

What does your backup childcare situation look like, ladies? How many backup layers do you have, how did you decide on those, and has your backup plan ever failed you? 

In my experience, there are two main times this can come up: your sitter/nanny can cancel — or your child may be too sick to send to a group care situation like daycare.

When Your Sitter Cancels (But Your Child is Well)

When my older son, J, was about a year old, I got invited to speak at a local event for fashion bloggers. It was a big honor, and I was looking forward to it — and my babysitter at the time, a girl in her early 20s, knew that I was worrying about what to wear, getting my hair done, preparing my speech, and more. Still, the morning of the event, she called to cancel, complaining of a headache. Um… great. (We later fired her for other reasons, but man, her frequent, last-minute work cancellations based on headaches and other vague health problems should have been a sign to us that she was not cut out for regular childcare work, at least for us.)

My backup childcare plan at the time was: 1) My husband or I would stay home — in this case, it was my husband. That was it. At the time, my nearest relatives who could have watched the kiddo (my brother and MIL) were both working full time. I suppose in that particular instance, where I had a speaking gig, I could have begged one of them to take the day off at the last minute, but I would have hated to do it. I suppose another plan would have been to ask another friend who had a full-time nanny if her nanny could have taken my child — but it would have been a totally foreign situation for everyone, since he’d only had a few playdates with her son, and both boys were so young they were more of a social outing for me and my friend.

Fevers and Green Snot: When Your Child is Too Sick for Daycare

On the flip side, if you’re in a group care situation like daycare, there may be strict rules about when you must keep a sick child at home — at J’s old daycare you couldn’t send him until 24 hours had passed since he last had a fever. Taking care of a child sick with a head cold can be low key — turn on Winnie the Pooh, keep a full cup of water/juice in front of him, and set up shop with your laptop or Blackberry to keep an eye on work. But some kiddos (or is it all kiddos during some phases?) can be clingy and whiny and want to snuggle in your arms, or get upset without your full attention… which can make working a challenge. (As my boys get older I’m already starting to miss those NEED-MY-MOMMY moments!) As we’ve noted before, this is one of the downsides to daycare.

So, ladies, what do you do about backup childcare? Particularly for those of you who don’t have family nearby — what’s your Plan B? And for those of you who’ve been around the block a few times, do you have any tips for younger moms? I remember one working mom advised me, “say you’re sick yourself — a working mother should never say she can’t do something because her kid is sick” — an interesting perspective that I’ve always remembered.

There are a number of backup childcare strategies that every working mom should know about -- and the reasons why one layer of backup childcare is not enough!

Daycare: Near Home or Work?

should you choose daycare near home or workIs the best daycare near home — or work? We’ve talked in broad strokes about the pros and cons of different childcare options, but not specifically this.  A reader wrote in pondering this question a while ago, so let’s discuss.  First, here’s her question:

Kat, I’ve searched the site but I can’t see that you’ve addressed this question before. Is it better to have a daycare near home or near work? Near work sounds attractive because I could visit the baby during the day or at lunch, and we could spend time in the car together on the way to and from. But near home is attractive, too, for times when my husband or mother will have the workday off and can drop off/pick up the baby, or if she gets sent home sick, etc. Plus, to make friends close by.

Interesting question!  There are definitely some pros to having daycare near home:

  • The BIGGEST pro I see is that you and your partner can much more easily share drop off/pickup duty if it’s near your home — unless you both work at the same company or in the same area, you’re going to end up doing everything
  • It’s definitely a pro to have friends nearby your house — whether they’re mom friends for you or playmates for your child
  • If you forget something kid-related you can run home quickly
  • A short commute for your child (whether by walk or by car), which reduces the risk of him or her falling asleep in the car at a time other than naptime
  • Your own commute is unencumbered by kiddo, which may mean you can start focusing on the workday ahead of you — or that you get a bit of personal time to listen to a podcast or some music — also, if you run errands on your way home you don’t have to worry about bringing your kids in with you
  • If your work situation changes you don’t have to worry about moving your daycare as well

On the flip side, there are some pros to having a daycare near the office:

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