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
First, Some Basics about this Working Mom:
Lives: Washington, D.C.
Job: Almost-full-time physician, between seeing patients and teaching
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.)
Last Week in My Life
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.