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)

Last Week in My Life

Sunday

H doesn’t have to go to work, so it’s family day. We all get showered and dressed and go for a family trip to Target. H has to remove baby while I check out because she’s howling that we won’t let her roam free to get hit by a cart. Then we all play outside for the rest of the morning. Sidewalk chalk is a big hit. Baby naps at 12:30, we furiously clean for our friends coming over with their two kids at 3:00. Play, mess, they leave by 6:00 and we have dinner, bath, and bedtime. H and I stay up and watch shows until 10:00.

Monday

Wake up at 6:20, H gets in the shower while I go snuggle with baby for a little bit. I get in the shower when he’s done while he gets her dressed and takes her down for breakfast. We both leave around 7:30 — he does drop-off and then calls me to tell me how it went and we chat and discuss podcasts during our commutes. Work by 8:15, catch up on emails, make a plan for the day. Ignore that plan and read the comments from the Weekend Open Thread. Squeeze in a yoga session during lunch. Have a meeting with another agency that is incapable of doing things right the first time. Leave work, home with baby by a little after 5:00. She eats leftovers, we play, H gets home, we all hang out until bedtime. Baby goes to bed at 7:00, I stay upstairs to catch up on my shows while H plays video games downstairs.

Here’s what HSAL told us about doing yoga:

I used to do yoga semi-regularly, but I totally stopped when I got pregnant 2 1/2 years ago. A few months ago I decided I wanted to start exercising again, so I downloaded a great yoga app (Down Dog) and told myself that if I did yoga 10 times in April, I’d reward myself with new workout clothes. And I did it 12 times! I was really proud of myself. I’m down to a more “typical” twice a week now, which I’m hoping to stick with. It’s been really great and I can already tell a difference in my strength and flexibility. I keep a yoga mat at work and I’ll do a short routine in my office during the day, and get in a longer practice at night once a week. It’s primarily for exercise, but it’s also nice to clear my head for awhile and be away from a screen.

Tuesday

Wake up to alarm at 6:30, morning otherwise the same as Monday. H goes out for a long lunch with work friends, I work and do conference calls all day. Stop for a few groceries before picking up baby, home, dinner, bath, bed by 7:15. I do yoga while H gets garbage out and cleans up the kitchen. Television and bed by 10:30.

Wednesday

Up at 6:00 hearing the kid cough. Lay in bed playing on my phone until 6:30 when H gets in the shower and I go get the kid. I shower while he gets her dressed and takes her downstairs for breakfast. Cereal. I make lunch and get out the door by 7:30. He follows soon after, drops kid off at daycare, and then calls me to chat for the rest of our commutes. Work: meetings, conference calls, use a little flex time to leave a half hour early. Pick baby up, go home (husband also leaves early), play, eat quesadillas, play a little more, then bed for baby by 7:00. Husband and I watch TV for an hour then separate — I go to read and he plays video games. Bed by 10:00.

When we asked HSAL about her job flexibility, she said: 

My schedule is decently flexible for a government office job. As long as I get my total hours in over the pay period, my boss isn’t really concerned about when I’m there. Our standard day is 7 1/2 hours, and I’m generally there between 6 and 8 hours. It’s hugely helpful — it lets me take care of random errands during the day. I can go get groceries in the morning before work, fit in a hair appointment without using PTO, or, uh, go home early and watch House Hunters for an hour before the daycare pickup.

Thursday

Wake up to baby chattering at 5:30. She’s happy, so I leave here there for awhile and check emails while H sleeps. Rest of morning is a repeat of Wednesday. Work: conference calls, research, squeezing in a short yoga routine. Leave work, home with baby by 5:00. Try to decide what to do for dinner, end up heating up microwave tamales for me and baby since H is going to be late. He shows up in time for bedtime at 7:00, we clean up the house and watch TV until 10:00.

Friday

Repeat of Wednesday but with pasta instead of quesadillas, and a bath for baby before bedtime.

Saturday

Husband had to go into the lab; home alone with baby during the day. We play outside, she flips out when I tell her it’s time to go back inside, but is easily lured in by a nibbly finger. Husband gets home in the late afternoon, he’s on baby duty for the rest of the evening while I have a girls’ night with a large group of friends. I have dinner, go to a bar I’m too old for, and am home by 11:00 (with McDonald’s because alcohol).

We asked HSAL about her girls’ night, and she said: 

This particular girls’ night was a bit unusual — a friend managed to get 20+ of her girlfriends out for dinner, drinks, and dancing, but I try to do something fun for myself once a month or so. Last month I went to a concert out of town with a friend and we stayed overnight and did some shopping the following day, and later this month I’m going to see a friend in a cabaret. I’ll see friends with the kid in tow, but I think it’s important to make sure I still some “adult” friend time in.

Thanks so much to HSAL for sharing a bit of her life as a working mom! Readers, what’s your biggest takeaway from her week as a government attorney and her work/life balance?

Picture credit: Deposit Photos / © Kzenon.working mom advice government attorney midwest

Working moms have all sorts of different tricks and tips for managing their work-life juggle -- one working mom, a government attorney in the Midwest, shared her week with us, including how she and her husband like daycare, why they want to move from their townhouse, and more.

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Comments

  1. Love this series, Kat! HSAL: This might sound dumb but: how do you get ready and out the door in an hour? Even on the days that DH gets up at 6:30 with 14 week old baby, I struggle to get myself ready (as in, shower, wet hair in a bun, dressed: I do makeup at work) and out the door in an hour.

  2. Thanks HSAL, and thanks Kat for this great series!

    I’m a gov’t atty too and this all sounds pretty familiar to me. Best of all worlds – interesting job, normal hours, time for a life. Do you every have evening / weekend hours? Any work from home at all?

    HSAL, who in your household does cleaning, laundry etc.? Who cooks? It sounds like you and Hubs have a pretty fair division of duties – would you agree? Also, what’s your back-up plan if you or DH can’t pick up baby from daycare?

    • I almost never do substantive work at home, but I make an effort to keep up with email in the late afternoons/early evenings since I leave on the early side. Sometimes there’s nothing, sometimes there’s ten.

      I do 85% of the laundry – H puts his own laundry away and I handle the rest, which is fine. We both clean, but most of the time it’s me saying “hey, let’s clean the kitchen before we sit down” or “I put toilet cleaner in the bowl, scrub it before you come downstairs.” The kid division is definitely uneven because of his work schedule, but that should be changing in the next 6 months when he gets a new position. He feels pretty guilty about how much he’s gone. It’s often an evening or two per week, and not uncommon for him to be gone at least part of both weekend days. So he doesn’t make a peep when I want to leave him with the baby to go out for a night or when I travel for work (and he really encourages me to get out more).

      And back-up plan…that’s probably a good idea, but we don’t have one. No local family, but I also can’t imagine a situation where neither of us could pick her up. On the occasional nights I need to work later, I arrange it with H in advance. If my work had an emergency last-minute late thing, it would be able to be handled by phone. I probably do 75% of the sick kid pickups or staying home from daycare because my schedule is more flexible, but he definitely covers when he’s able. His work offers backup care if she can’t go to daycare, but we haven’t had to use it yet.

  3. ElisaR says:

    I definitely enjoy these pieces – curious more about food. Am I missing something? I feel like I’m always prepping food for either our dinner (late bc husband works late) or the baby (and always running out of food to give him!) it stresses me out….HSAL do you cook? Any shortcuts?

    • I don’t cook so much as I “make food.” Nothing is fancy. If H is going to be home for dinner, I’ll make something that has ingredients and steps, but a lot of time it’s microwaving something from Costco or Trader Joe’s or a frozen skillet meal. Our daughter eats what we eat the vast majority of the time, but we have pretty simple palates. She always gets a fruit and a vegetable, which has luckily made us eat more vegetables too. Common dinners are pasta/meatballs, shredded chicken/barbecue sauce, chicken quesadillas, skillet meals, scrambled eggs, curries, pork chops and green beans roasted in the oven, pizza, beef and noodles or chicken and dumplings (both slow cooker meals).

      I’m trying to get into more meal prep to make evenings easier, but I think with two working parents and young kids, dinnertime is just going to suck for awhile.

      • GirlFriday says:

        Honestly, as a new mom (who never cooked much to begin with) this makes me feel a lot better. Our dinner menu is literally: eggs in some form (80%), chicken (15%), salad (10%), and the occasional spaghetti or takeout (5%). I’m good at making casseroles but DH hates them and there are only 2.5 of us (baby is still on formula) so it’s nice to know that when baby turns 1 I don’t have to become some gourmet baby food chef. :) Really appreciate your post!

  4. I’m sitting here brainstorming who HSAL is. Because I’m a 35 year old govt attorney who has 7.5 hour work days but a flexible boss and she’s telling my story. Also the “out of town for a concert” narrative sounds like something people in my city do all the time – which tells you it’s not Chicago. ;)

    • We can be best friends! I did have a friend email me to ask “is this you?!” so if you know me, it’s pretty easy to figure it out. Hope that doesn’t mean it’s time to change my username. :)

      • Anonymous says:

        How did you guys find your jobs? USA jobs? I’m trying to get into government and always curious about the path.

        • Legally Brunette says:

          Not HSAL but I’m a government attorney and love it, and I found my dream job through USA jobs!

        • I work for a state agency. My state does a pretty good job of posting positions to job boards, but I would say the easiest way in is the same as with any job – know someone. If you’re an attorney, start networking with people from law school who have gone to the state. Or join the government section of the bar association (if there is one).

      • Lol! That’s hilarious that your friend sniffed you out. My best friend reads this website – Hi KK! – but she doesn’t work for govt. ;)

  5. SEC anon says:

    Silly, the SEC does- if congress ever lets them hire again.

    • Silly, the FBI only hires CPAs and attorneys. But, also, taxing and revenue agencies and departments of management need accountants. Although, you will surely take a pay cut from the private sector.

  6. cake batter says:

    Thanks for sharing your story, HSAL. My stats are very similar to yours (30s, midwest city, gov’t agency gig, 37.5 hr week, flexible schedule) but no children yet, and you make having a child sound really manageable. I loved hearing that you find time for yoga and girls nights and tv! I hear some of the other posters talk about biglaw hours and nannies and working long hours from home in the evenings, but your story is more similar to my life and helped me visualize a bit. So – thanks. :)

  7. Thanks for sharing this. I’m in my late 20s with no kids and wondering how people do “it”.

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