First, Some Basics About This Working Mom…Name: C Location: Live and work in a small, rural town in the West Job: I work in the accounting department of a utility coop Age: 41 Home Situation: I am divorced. I have a 13-year-old daughter, F, and a 10-year-old son, J. We live in a four-bedroom, 100-year-old, newly renovated home that we rent. Childcare Situation: Neither of my children require daycare. How is the work-life balance in your industry in general? What are common ways of juggling responsibilities that you see your colleagues and coworkers doing? I am actually one of the few people in my office who has kids. Most of the field operators are younger and have children, but the office personnel are all older and most of them have grandchildren. Fortunately, they have all been where I am now so they are a wonderful resource for tips and encouragement. How do you handle household chores, such as laundry, grocery shopping, housecleaning, etc.? Who does what, and when — and how often? I am a single mom. My kids’ dad is good about spending time with them and helps with what he can, but due to severe mental health issues on his part, I have full custody and am solely responsible for all of their physical, medical, and financial needs. I love my children more than anything, but life can be pretty exhausting. I try really hard to have as much downtime as I can so that I don’t burn out and also so that I don’t get so caught up in providing for my kids that I forget to just be with them. I would say that I do the bulk of the housework, but the kids help a lot and do more and more as they get older.
We asked C if she had advice to share on coping with a spouse who has a mental health condition:
Several years ago when we were still married and my children were very young, my husband had to be hospitalized at a psychiatric facility for almost a month. Our lives were thrown into complete chaos and I was agonizing over how all of us were going to manage, when my sister (who’s a therapist) gave me the best advice I’ve ever received. She said, “Your kids will take their cues from you. If you’re okay, they’ll be okay.” From that point on, I made it a priority to do what needed to be done so that I could be okay. Mental illness can be brutal and devastating to the person who has it and it’s vital that you treat that person with compassion and understanding and offer as much support as possible, but you can’t let it consume your life and interfere with the health and well-being of yourself and your children. Make the stability of yourself and your kids your first priority, and everyone (including the person who is suffering from the mental illness) will benefit from it.
A Week in My Life
6:45 a.m. Do my home morning routine, which includes getting up, drinking coffee, reading through my daily devotional, and journaling. 7:30 a.m. Pick up the house, empty the dishwasher, put a load of bedding in the wash from the sleepover my son had the previous night. 8:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m.: Binge watch British crime dramas on Britbox. I purposely go balls to the wall on Saturdays to get everything done so that Sundays can be relaxing and open for whatever we feel like doing. 1:00 p.m. Drive 30 miles to take my kids to the pool. We live in a small, rural community, which is great for work and school as both are only minutes from our house, but everything else (grocery store, pool, movie theaters, etc.) are a ways away. Fortunately, we make the trip so often that it doesn’t bother anyone. Plus, it’s open highway driving and no traffic. I read in the shade while the kids make friends and go down the giant water slides repeatedly. 5:00 p.m. We’re back home and I start chili for dinner. It has to cook on the stove for an hour so I pick up the house and get my work bag ready for the next day while its simmering. 6:00 p.m. Eat dinner. The kids’ dad and I are divorced, but he comes over for dinner every night so we can eat as a family. 6:30 p.m. The kids and their dad sit down to watch a movie while I clean up after dinner. 7:00 p.m. Switch off between reading a book and watching TV with everyone else for the rest of the evening. 10:30 p.m. Get the kids tucked into bed and then it’s bedtime for me also.
Monday5:20 a.m. Home morning routine 6:00 a.m. I get up super early every morning so that I can read a book while relaxing in a long, hot bath. It’s the only time the house is completely quiet and I won’t be disturbed by anyone so I can truly relax! 7:00 a.m. Do hair and makeup, get dressed, make my bed, empty the dishwasher, get coffee and water bottle ready to go, check on both kids (who are still sleeping as it’s summer and school is not in session). 7:40 a.m. Leave for work. 7:45 a.m. Arrive at work (I only live a few blocks away from my office). Do my work morning routine, which includes checking and responding to email, reviewing my calendar, going through my inbox, and planning my day. 8:30 a.m. We are in the process of moving into a new loan at work and there is a ton of prep work that has to be done to make this happen, so I’m hoping to spend all of today and part of tomorrow finishing up. 12:30 p.m. Lunchtime. I eat lunch at home every day. Since it’s summer, my kids are at home too, so I make lunch for all of us and we eat together and talk about how their day is going so far. I also received a notice in the mail that I have to submit documents to my health insurer for a benefits audit. The login they provided doesn’t work so I have to spend part of my lunch hour on the phone getting it straightened out. 1:30 p.m. Back at work and back to my project from the morning. I end up working on this until the end of the day but get to a point where I will need to have input from other departments before I can proceed, so I send out emails to the appropriate people and hope they will get back to me first thing in the morning so I can finish up. 5:00 p.m. Head home from work. Spend a few minutes checking in with my kids, picking up a little, and changing into comfortable clothes. 5:30 p.m. Workout time. I switch off between riding a stationary bike that I have in my home office and doing a core workout. Today is core so I get out my mat in our living room and do my workout, which takes about 20 minutes. 5:50 p.m. Dinner tonight is noodle bowls, which take about 10 minutes to make. I get dinner started while I go through the house collecting up spare bits of laundry. I don’t have enough to run a load, but I put what I do have in the washer to wait until the next day. During the school year we have a lot of laundry between school clothes, after-school clothes, and gym clothes so I really enjoy having less of it to do during the summers. 6:00 p.m. Eat dinner together as a family. 6:30 p.m. Clean up the kitchen, get my bag ready for work tomorrow, and check my planner and to-do list. I spend some time gathering up the documents that I need to scan and upload tomorrow for my insurance audit. 7:30 p.m. Spend the rest of the evening reading. I started a book club on Goodreads for people who love suspense novels, so I divide my time between reading the book for that and reading an amazing book on single motherhood that I’ve read many times but still turn to when I need a little encouragement: The Kickass Single Mom by Emma Johnson. It is a refreshing and motivating book on life after divorce and has really helped me to thrive in my role as a single mom. 10:30 p.m. Get the kids tucked into bed, then it’s off to bed for me. Most nights I turn the TV on and set the sleep timer for 90 minutes, but I’m out long before it goes off.
5:20 a.m. Home morning routine. 6:00 a.m. Long hot bath, do hair and makeup, get dressed, make my bed, empty the dishwasher, get coffee and water ready to go, check on both kids, haul trash bins out to the alley for pickup. 7:45 a.m. Arrive at work and do my work morning routine. I also scan and upload the documents that I brought in for my benefits audit. 8:30 a.m. Today I had planned on finishing up the loan prep that I worked on yesterday, but instead it turns into a “put out fires” kind of day. Issues came up in a department that I used to work in, and since the gal that took my place is new, I was asked to help troubleshoot. By the time I get everything sorted out it’s time for lunch. 12:30 p.m. Go home to have lunch with my kids. 1:30 p.m. Back at work and hoping to finally complete my previous day’s project, but before I can do that, several coworkers stop by my office with issues that divert my attention. Normally, I get a 15-minute break in the morning and afternoon that I use to either check on my kids or run errands, but today was so busy that I didn’t take my afternoon break and it was almost time to go home before I ever even looked at the clock. 5:00 p.m. Head home from work. Spend a few minutes checking in with my kids, picking up a little, and changing into comfortable clothes. 5:30 p.m. Workout time. Today’s the bike, which I do for 30 minutes. Start a load of laundry. 6:00 p.m. Dinner tonight is takeout that the kids’ dad brought. Eat dinner together as a family. 6:30 p.m. Clean up the kitchen, get my bag ready for work tomorrow, and check my planner and to-do list. Transfer laundry to the dryer. 7:30 p.m. Tonight I have some work that I need to do in my office at home. My company will pay a portion of tuition and books if I want to take some college classes, and I’m thinking seriously about starting to work towards a degree, so I spend some time researching that. I also keep a very close eye on my budget and try to spend time throughout the week keeping tabs on where I’m at and planning for expenses that are coming up. We also just had a presentation at work on investing and retirement, so I spend some time gathering up the information that I need to do a deep dive into that subject at a later time. 9:00 p.m. Normally the kids and I would make popcorn and watch funny videos on YouTube until bedtime but my daughter is engrossed in a project and my son is grounded from electronics for creating a social media account without my permission, so I work on my computer a little while he sits next to me, bored out of his mind. I point out that he’s not grounded from reading books. I finish up the load of laundry when the dryer goes off. I try to do a load as soon as I have enough clothes. My kids are responsible for putting their dirty clothes in the bathroom hampers. I wash and dry them and put them in baskets and they are responsible for folding, hanging, and putting them away. 10:30 p.m. Get the kids tucked into bed, then it’s off to bed for me. We asked C about the sort of degree she’s interested in:
I work at a utility cooperative, and typically, you would have to have at least an associate accounting degree to have the position that I have. However, because I had worked for the company for 10 years in a variety of roles that closely relate to what I do now, they were willing to promote me without it. After working in this position for the last six months, though, I can definitely see the benefit to having a degree and I feel pretty determined to at least get an Associate of Applied Science degree in Accounting. I am a very methodical and detail-oriented person and accounting is the perfect fit for me!
Wednesday5:20 a.m. Home morning routine 6:00 a.m. Long hot bath, do hair and makeup, get dressed, make my bed, empty the dishwasher, get coffee and water ready to go, check on both kids. 7:45 a.m. Arrive at work and do my work morning routine. 8:30 a.m. Today’s plan includes finishing up on Monday’s project, prepping and mailing out paperwork for estate dividends, troubleshooting an archiving issue, and hopefully creating a plan for this quarter’s goals and projects as I am already three days into the new quarter. My son has golf league this morning so I text his dad to remind him what time it starts so that he can pick him up and take him. 12:30 p.m. This morning has been much quieter than yesterday so I am able to get pretty much everything that I had planned for the day crossed off my list by lunchtime. Head home and have lunch with my kids. 1:30 p.m. Since I was able to get almost all of my to-do’s (only my goal/project planning remains) done before lunch, this afternoon is devoted to scheduling work order closings and revamping my cost breakdown spreadsheet. I’ve only been in my job for a few months and the person who did it before me did not know what they were doing so consequently, I have spent huge amounts of time trying to fix the many issues left behind. 3:30 p.m. I’m so engrossed in my spreadsheets that I almost forget that I need to run to the pharmacy to pick up my son’s prescription. Fortunately, it’s just a few doors down from my office so I walk down enjoying the lovely sunshine. 5:20 p.m. Head home a little late from work. Spend a few minutes checking in with my kids, picking up a little, and changing into comfortable clothes. 5:50 p.m. Workout time. Today’s core day. 6:10 p.m. Dinner tonight is French toast. Eat dinner together as a family. 6:40 p.m. Clean up the kitchen — no need to pack my bag or check my planner because tomorrow is a holiday and I have the day off! 7:10 p.m. Kids and I hang out and watch funny news bloopers on YouTube. 9:00 p.m. Read in bed until my eyes can’t stay open anymore. 11:00 p.m. Get the kids to bed and it’s off to bed for me. We couldn’t help noticing that C seems very organized, and we asked her about that:
If you asked my children to describe me in one word, I would hope that they would say “loving,” but probably they would say “organized.” :) Part of that is simply my personality. (I love anything that relates to planning, organizing, and productivity.) But I would also have to say it’s a bit of a coping mechanism. It helps free up my mind so that I’m not constantly stressing over things, and it gives us the structure we need to keep moving forward regardless of our circumstances. That being said, I absolutely have days and sometimes weeks where my intentions unravel, the house is a disaster, and we eat takeout too many nights in a row. When that happens, I take it as a sign that maybe things are getting a little too rigid and I need to loosen up.
Today is a holiday so I have the day off! 9:30 a.m. Slept in really late, which is unusual for me. Normally the latest I can sleep without an alarm is 7:00 a.m., so I must have needed to catch up a little. Do my home morning routine. My son watches a movie while I read a little. 11:00 a.m. Since we have the day off I decide we’ll go ahead and mow the lawn today rather than on the weekend when we usually do. Our lawn is huge and it takes me forever to do it all by myself, but with all of us working it takes no time at all. I have two mowers so I do the front yard, my son does the backyard, and my daughter does all of the edges with the weed whacker and uses the leaf blower to sweep the sidewalks. 12:00 p.m. The lawn is done so we go inside and I fix lunch for everyone. 12:30 p.m. The kids do their own thing, so I sit down to watch a movie. I find a great Scandinavian suspense movie to watch. 2:00 p.m. Pick up the kitchen from lunch and pick up a few things around the house. Start a load of laundry. Sit down to plan our meals for next week and get a grocery list together. We don’t have grocery delivery as an option because we live so far from the store, but we can do grocery pickup and I am IN LOVE with it! I get my shopping done and select a time for pickup that’s after I get off work tomorrow. Binge watch Britbox. 4:00 p.m. We decide we want to watch a movie tonight so the kids and I head to the convenience store to pick up pop and candy for the movie (we already have popcorn). When we get back, the kids’ dad stops by to pick up hamburger patties that he’s going to grill at his house and bring over for dinner. My son goes with him back to his house to hang out until dinnertime. 5:00 p.m. Today’s bike day, so I do 30 minutes on the bike followed by a short meditation. I finish up with laundry and do a quick pickup of the house. I look at my calendar for tomorrow and get my work bag ready to go. 6:00 p.m. Dinnertime. 6:30 p.m. Clean up after dinner. 7:00 p.m. Watch a movie with the kids. 9:00 p.m. Kids head to their rooms to hang out until bedtime. I read for a while. 10:30 p.m. Get the kids tucked in bed and then it’s off to bed for me.
Friday5:20 a.m. Home morning routine 6:00 a.m. Long hot bath, do hair and makeup, get dressed, make my bed, empty the dishwasher, get coffee and water ready to go, check on both kids. 7:45 a.m. Arrive at work and do my work morning routine. 8:30 a.m. Today’s plan includes finishing the work on my cost breakdown report that I started on Wednesday and didn’t quite get finished and doing my quarter-three goal and project planning. I also have a project that my supervisor discussed with me Wednesday night before I left the office that I need to get done today if possible. 12:40 p.m. I’m so focused on my project that I almost forget to go to lunch. My son is with his dad until tomorrow so it’s just me and my daughter for lunch. 1:30 p.m. Back at work. I finished my cost breakdown report and decide I’d better work on the project that my supervisor gave me even though I’d really rather be working on my quarter-three goals and projects. I start sneezing and can feel congestion coming on. I’m hoping its allergies. 5:00 p.m. Head home from work to pick up my daughter so we can drive 30 miles to the grocery store for our grocery pickup. We listen to scary story podcasts on the way. 5:45 p.m. We arrive at the grocery store and have to wait much longer than usual before our groceries are brought out. This is the second week that I’ve picked up groceries at this time, and I think it will be my last. I normally get groceries early Sunday morning, and I think I will go back to that schedule next week. After we pick up groceries we stop for dinner, pick up fast food for my son and his friend, fill the car up with gas, and head home. 6:45 p.m. We are headed home and I get a call from the kids’ dad. He needs to borrow the air mattress that I just bought for a sleepover my son is having at his house. I tell him I’ll drop it off when I bring the fast food by. 7:10 p.m. Arrive home. Drop my daughter off and pick up the air mattress and the bedding that goes with it. Drive over to the kids’ dad’s apartment and drop off the boys’ dinner and the air mattress. Go home and bring the groceries in. 8:00 p.m. Finally get groceries put away. Friday evenings are reserved to do nothing and I’m thankful because I think my allergies might actually be a summer cold. I fix myself a cup of hot tea and settle into bed for the night.
Saturday8:00 a.m. Home morning routine. I’m feeling lousy this morning. I drink an extra cup of coffee while I make my to-do list. On the list for today is cleaning out the kids’ closets so that I know what clothes they will need for the new school year, deep cleaning the house, washing all of the bedding, prepping meals and snacks for the week, laundry, and planning for next week. 9:00 a.m. First up, deep cleaning the house and washing bedding. 12:00 p.m. Pause cleaning long enough to fix lunch. My son is back from his dad’s so he and I run to check the mail and pick up something to drink at the convenience store. 2:00 p.m. Finish cleaning the house and remaking the beds. I sort through the rest of the laundry and put a load into the washer. I decide to do the week’s food prep next. I make a chicken salad for my lunches next week, a lemon cake that my son requested, and I wash, peel, and chop fruits and vegetables for snacks. 3:00 p.m. I clean up the kitchen from my food prepping session and move on to the kids’ closets. I have been dreading doing this, but it goes surprisingly fast. I fill up three trash bags with clothes that I can donate and now there is plenty of space for new clothes. I organize a list of what I need to purchase before school starts and check this item off of my to-do list. 4:00 p.m. I clean out my bags and gather up all of the loose pieces of paper, mail, invitations, forms, and other items that have been accumulating during the week and head down to my home office to do some desk work. I sort through my inbox, go through my personal email, and plan my week out. I run through my to-do list one more time to make sure everything is done and crossed off. I’m still not feeling well so tonight everyone is on their own for dinner. I plan on relaxing. 10:00 p.m. Everything is done!! Time for bed. Thanks so much to C for sharing a bit of her life as a working mom! Readers, what’s your biggest takeaway from her week of work as an accounting employee as well as her general work/life balance?
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Thank you so much for sharing this! I’m fairly recently divorced, and ex has depression issues, so I can really relate. We do still spend a fair amount of time together with our son, but I’m interested in your decision to have dinner together every night as a family. If you’re comfortable sharing, how did you decide on that frequency? Do you see it ramping down, or are you just taking it day-by-day? I don’t know many divorced people, and many examples out there are couples who hardly interact at all post-divorce, so it’s great to see another perspective. Also, we share same taste in TV/movies:)
British/Scandanavian crime dramas are the best aren’t they! ;-) Having dinner together as a family was always something that was very important to both myself and my ex-husband and we both really wanted to find a way to still spend some positive time together with our kids. It is not always easy as we are divorced for a reason, but I am really grateful for that time. I think it sends the message to my kids that they don’t have to choose between us and that they can love us both and spend time with both of us. It gives the kid’s dad a chance to participate in homework (which is a huge help to me) and ensures that we both are involved with their lives on a day to day basis. In the future, as the kids get older and more involved in doing their own thing, I know those dinners will become less frequent and that is what I tell myself on the days that maybe I really don’t want to see my ex so much. I also want to say that this works because we BOTH try to make it work. I know not every single mom out there is going to have the luxury of a cooperative ex-spouse!
Thanks! I agree that the time together sends a strong message that kiddo doesn’t have to choose, and that there is still something of a united parent front in terms of taking care of him and loving him. But, yup, there are those moments where I think I’d like to see less of ex:)
More Sleep Would Be Nice says
I *think* you may be an Anon poster that has shared her divorce/house selling journey. I have thought of you often and hoped for the best for you and your family.
Regardless — I loved reading this, and could feel the peace and joy that your routine and life bring to you! :) I should check out Britbox…
I’m afraid I am not the anonymous poster, but I would love to know her story!!! Britbox truly is the best (Acorn TV is pretty great too)! :-)
CPA Lady says
“I point out that he’s not grounded from reading books.” Literally laughed out loud at this line.
Thank you for writing this, OP! It is great. You’re basically my organization icon.
Your comment made my heart so happy!! :-)
This is #reallife parenting…lol. I enjoyed reading a diary from someone with older kids. I wish I was as organized as you are!
Thank you! ?
Thanks for posting – do you have any rules for your kids when they are home alone in terms of what activites are allowed or if friends can come over or if they have to call you before going to the playground or a friend’s house. I also work very close to home and wondering about a similar arrangement in a few years when my kids are older.
The main rule we have is that no friends are allowed at the house when I’m not there. I have a lot of trust in my kids and their judgement, but sometimes when friends are around that judgement (and the rules) can go by the wayside. They are allowed to walk to the playground or the coffee shop (which are only a couple blocks away) as long as they let me know what they are doing. They know not to open the door even if someone knocks and, because my office is so close to my house, I can stop by a couple times throughout the day to check on them. We’ve done this for several years and it has worked great for us!
I’m amazed that your kids occupy themselves so much. My only child is 3, so it’s hard to imagine a world where kids are so self-sufficient.
Boston Legal Eagle says
I had the same thought when reading this! This reader’s life and parenting life seem like a totally different experience than my current one with a 3 year old and a 9 month old. Logically I know my kids will get older, it’s just crazy to think of them being their own little people!
OP, I think you’re doing great. I work with a lot of accountants and in my alternate life, I would have probably been one too as I am very detail oriented and like organization.
I feel like we have a good mix of “together time” and “alone time” at our house. My children being teens/pre-teens helps a lot. They are both at that age where they don’t really want to spend every waking moment with me and I enjoy watching them be independent and create their own lives.
Two Cents says
Thanks for sharing! It’s refreshing to see someone from a very different background (particularly the no degree). I applaud you and your ex for having dinner together most nights. That’s amazing. My parents had a very acrimonious divorce and while they are friends now, it took a long while. Also amazed that your kids manage themselves most of the day! Can I ask what they do when they’re on their own? I have young kids so this is hard to imagine.
My son plays outside a lot and he just got a guitar so that has been pretty much all consuming for him. My daughter is very into drawing and writing so that is primarily what she does. They watch TV and are both really into board games. We also keep a jigsaw puzzle out on the coffee table at all times.
Thank you for writing this, C! I love it when a mom with older kids is featured.
I seriously envy your summer logistics. I don’t feel comfortable leaving my 12-year-old alone all day because my office is an hour from home, but if I lived close enough to drop by the house at lunchtime or duck out to drop her off somewhere I would love to let her stay home. She has aged out of day camp and doesn’t want to be a counselor in training (and can’t really be a CIT anyway because of her sports schedule). We are fortunate to have some family help this summer, but I am still burning a ton of PTO and working from home way too much to fill the gaps.
Our summers would definitely not work this way if I didn’t work so close to home or if I felt our neighborhood wasn’t terribly safe. Living in a small town has been a huge blessing for us!
C – random, but if you’re still reading, tell me more about this 10 minute noodle bowl recipe!
It’s the easiest, fastest recipe!! In a pan bring to a boil one can of chicken broth and half a cup of peanut sauce. Once it’s boiling add two packages of ramen noodles (don’t use the seasoning packets that come with them though). Cook for three minutes. I also add rotisserie chicken that I’ve shredded and half a bag of steamed veggies. Top with a handful of peanuts and serve. It doesn’t look like much but it is delicious and comes together so fast!!
This sounds super good! Definitely will be trying it soon.
I’m amazed by the morning baths! However, when I think about it – I’m sure I spend an hour scrolling randomly on my phone during the day, which I could use to take a long bath. This series always helps me look for ways to improve my own schedule!
I’m not even kidding that those baths put me in the best mood! I read, I soak, sometimes I meditate a little…it’s like starting my day with a mini spa trip. ?