For this week’s installment of our Week in the Life of a Working Mom series, I’m happy to introduce CorporetteMoms reader R, who lives in Norway with her husband and son and works as an associate professor. 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
First, Some Basics About This Working Mom…
Location: Arctic Norway
Job: Associate professor
Home Situation: I live in a 1,000-square-foot apartment with my husband (33-year-old associate professor) and our 2-year-old son.
Childcare Situation: Daycare — 40 hours a week, about $250/month.
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 don’t think I know a single female academic, with or without kids, who hasn’t considered leaving academia — the work-life balance can be great if you choose to lean out after getting to the associate rank, but in order to get there, you generally have to convince lots of people you don’t want any work-life balance (part-time work tends to actually be incredibly underpaid full-time work that, in the U.S., might not even provide health insurance). I didn’t want any work-life balance per se, but a MeToo situation forced me to reassess what career success meant to me. One thing that has felt really empowering for me has been to be active in my union, even though it was terrifying to be on strike while eight months pregnant.
How do you handle household chores, such as laundry, grocery shopping, housecleaning, etc.? Who does what, and when — and how often?
We switch off grocery shopping and cooking, since our toddler loves “helping” with both, and I do the laundry, while my partner does the housecleaning. I definitely bear the mental load, but he actually performs more than 50% of the non-regular tasks on the list, so we are both generally okay about this. Our main household chores problem is that we haven’t found a babysitter here, so we rarely socialise together and every time we socialise without the other, we’re aware that we’re asking something a bit extra of our partner. This coming week, I will be away on a work trip and am feeling guilty about it, as the week I documented here is the only week our baby was ever night-weaned. My husband hopes that this trip will result in the baby day-weaning as well, but I’m not ready so I hope not!
A Week in My Life
9:00 a.m. We all sleep in! I am both rested and confused. We play around the house for awhile, taking turns getting ourselves and the baby ready. We eat cold oats and bananas every day for breakfast so we just grab them from the fridge.
11:00 a.m We go to a bakery café together, and then I take the baby to the shops and the library for a bit.
1:00 p.m. I’m not sure if the baby’s transitioning out of naps or if today is a one-off, but we kiss our afternoon gardening session goodbye and instead watch some Planet Earth while having lunch (husband cooks fish for himself and the baby, and makes me a sandwich) and then play around the house.
3:00 p.m. I’m not sure if the playdate I scheduled for this afternoon was supposed to include husbands, so I make mine walk us to the park just in case. It doesn’t, so he pretends he was walking us on his way to somewhere else, and goes home.
5:00 p.m. Uh-oh, the baby’s fallen asleep in the baby-holster on the way home from the park. Brief argument, as husband thinks we should keep him in the holster to sleep and I think we should wake him up so as to avoid an early morning. He wakes up during the argument, so it doesn’t matter.
6:00 p.m. We have tacos for dinner. I prep our breakfast and husband’s lunches for the week while husband cooks. Afterwards, we read, dance around, etc.
8:00 p.m. Later-than-usual bedtime routine — I nurse the baby for about an hour while husband straightens up, and then my husband lies with him until he’s asleep. Afterwards, husband and I get our delayed Netflix-and-chill time.
10:00 p.m. We sleep.
6:45 a.m. The baby nurses while my husband gets ready for work and leaves for work. After about 45 minutes, he’s done and the two of us have breakfast, get ready, read a bit, run around, and then go to daycare. I stop at the baker and the grocer on the way home, get ready, and work from home until the afternoon. (I also do laundry.)
4:45 p.m. I get back from work — husband has picked up the baby on his way home, and he nurses while husband cooks dinner (veggie pasta). We eat while watching TV and then the baby and I play and Skype with my parents and siblings while my husband does the dishes.
6:00 p.m. The baby nurses for an hour (while I read this site) while my husband does some paperwork — we are in the process of buying a house so there is more than usual.
7:00 p.m. My husband lies down with the baby as he falls asleep. I straighten up the house and consider working out but instead write a bit of my novel.
8:00 p.m. My husband and I read together and sleep by 10:00.
We asked R how often she works from home:
This past year, I’ve been working from home most mornings and going into work most afternoons. Our child started daycare last August, and they do a graduated start here (and it took our child almost a month before they were happy for me to leave him there all day), so as the school-year began, everyone just got used to me being out of the office in the mornings. I try to safeguard that time for research, so it’s useful to be a bus ride away from campus.
Until 7:00 p.m., the routine is the same (dinner = veggie couscous), but tonight, I am having my first girls’ night out in quite some time. Before I head out, I do some prep for dosas to keep my husband company as he makes the baby’s Wednesday lunch, which he must take in tomorrow because it’s the weekly outdoor adventure day. To celebrate night weaning, I drink more than usual.
6:45 a.m. I manage to get up slightly ahead of my husband and the baby, but the baby wakes up to the sound of the coffee machine, so we do our thing. In a departure from routine, the baby wants to walk to daycare this morning (he usually prefers the holster), so we leave about an hour ahead so he can take us on all of the detours he prefers. I realize only once we get there that I’ve forgotten his picnic lunch and offer to run home and get it, but they insist it’s fine.
8:00 a.m.–4.45 p.m. I stop at the baker and the grocer on the way home and do the laundry while I work from home in the morning and then go into the office.
4:45 p.m. The baby nurses while my husband finishes up some work, and then they play while I make the dinner. We don’t eat while watching TV because we eat the dosas as they’re ready, standing up at the counter, and the baby is quite happy to make civilized (though age-appropriate) dinner conversation, so we debate for a bit whether or not we should attempt non-TV-dinners going forward. Afterwards, the baby and I Skype with my parents while my husband clears up.
6:00 p.m. The baby nurses while my husband finalizes his prep for tomorrow — he has a big project for the rest of the week.
7:00 p.m. We switch off and I consider working out, but work on my novel instead. Although we have a bit of time to watch TV together, the baby is particularly needy tonight, and my husband has to go in a few times.
8:00 p.m. Husband decides to go read in bed as he has to get up early anyway.
8:00 p.m.–midnight: I work on a paper far later than intended and eventually sleep.
We asked R to tell us what brought her family to Norway:
I’m from the U.S. originally, but my partner is Irish, and this is our second year in Norway. We moved here for my partner’s job, but I was on board with his applying for the position in the first place for two main reasons: First, Norwegian university is free for students, which means 50% fewer ethical dilemmas for me at work. Second, I grew up bilingual but my husband does not know my mother tongue, and it was important to me that our child grew up bilingual. There’s a lot more racism/sexism here than I anticipated, so if my toddler were not male and white-passing, we’d probably not be considering staying long-term, and I still haven’t figured out what to do if he starts buying into the racism/sexism around us.
5:30 a.m. My husband has to go into work early, so I nurse the baby back to sleep.
7:00 a.m. We wake up, but now the baby thinks it’s the weekend and doesn’t want to go to daycare.
9:00 a.m. By now we are extremely late for daycare, but the baby does not want to go outside. He brightens up at the mention of his teacher and friends but still insists that today is for snuggling. Whoops. I just go with it (and feed him the picnic lunch that I forgot to take in yesterday).
12:00 p.m.–3:00 p.m. The baby naps far longer than I expect; I make a note to ask about his usual nap length/time tomorrow morning. I work; a colleague stops by to drop off some paperwork. I eventually text my husband to let him know he doesn’t need to do daycare pick-up but ask him to stop by the Asian market instead.
4:00 p.m. My husband gets home and is annoyed that I didn’t call him for backup, but he takes the baby so I can get some work done. He makes dinner (crab and veg for him and the baby, grilled cheese and veg for me).
6:00 p.m. The baby nurses while my husband does the dishes and takes out the garbage.
7:00 p.m. We switch off and I work more.
8:00 p.m. Husband watches TV while I work, then we sleep.
5:30 p.m. Another early morning, but this time I am ready for it and make him nurse in the living room as per usual. We leave the house early, have a walk, but also go to a café.
8:00 a.m. I decide to work from home because I am too tired to attempt to look decent.
10:00 a.m. A friend pops in for a cup of tea after a job interview and we mostly discuss Thanksgiving dinner, which she will be hosting.
4:00 p.m. The husband has picked up the baby and they’re home, so we play. I make dinner (coconut rice) and we watch Hasan Minhaj and dance around.
6:00 p.m. The baby nurses while my husband does the dishes and decompresses.
7:00 p.m. We switch off and I think about Christmas gifts for his family.
8:00 p.m. My husband and I read together and sleep by 10:00.
6:45 a.m. The baby and I get up and he nurses; we hang out while husband sleeps in.
10:00 a.m. The baby and I go to a friend’s house to make pumpkin pies — I’m grateful she’s gotten a dogsitter, because the baby is in an afraid-of-dogs phase but really likes her kids.
2:00 p.m. On the way home, we stop by the fishmonger, the baker, the grocer, and the beer store, and then he’s asleep in the holster, but we manage to extract him in order to garden a bit.
3:00 p.m. My husband takes him to the library while I work on my novel.
5:00 p.m. My husband makes dinner (daal and veg) and then we dance around. We Skype with my husband’s parents.
6:00 p.m. The baby nurses while my husband does his Norwegian homework. (His class is during the workday.)
7:00 p.m. We switch off.
8:00 p.m. We read together and also watch some Norwegian TV to practice.
11:00 p.m. We sleep.
We wanted to find out more about R’s novel, including whether it is her first book:
My novel isn’t my first book — I have an academic monograph published, and a novel translation on the way — but the fact that I’m even referring to it as a novel in public instead of “tinkering around on the computer” is a big step for me. I started making time for it after the aforementioned reassessment-of-everything and am looking for an agent now, which means I should go back to working out but actually means I’ve started writing another one.
Thanks so much to R for sharing a bit of her life as a working mom! Readers, what’s your biggest takeaway from her week of work as an associate professor as well as her general work/life balance?
Stock photo via Deposit Photos / xcai.