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.
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
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.
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.
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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