For this week’s installment of our Week in the Life of a Working Mom series, I’m happy to introduce CorporetteMoms reader M, who lives in the Midwest with her husband and son and works as a business analyst. 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…
Location: Lives in a smaller university town in the Midwest, works in the next bigger city.
Job: Business analyst at a healthcare company
Home Situation: I live in a 2-bedroom apartment with my husband (36-year-old professor) and our son (1.5 years old). We immigrated three years ago from Europe when my husband accepted his position here. I did my MBA at the local university (had my baby in second year). All our family still lives in Europe.
Childcare Situation: University daycare full time (available 7:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m.; we usually use it from 8:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m.), about $1,000 a month. Very rarely, a babysitter.
Picture credit: Shutterstock/fotofeel.
A Week in My Life
Sunday is the day where we Skype with our families in Europe, try to get outside for at least an hour, and prep for the workweek. My husband and I have an arrangement that each of us gets to sleep in on one day on the weekend while the other person is on “child duty” and gets up with our 1.5-year-old son and feeds and entertains him. Sundays it’s usually my turn to stay in bed, so I get up around 10:00 a.m. and prepare a big breakfast with husband and son (which is their second breakfast). While I have breakfast, I plan our meals for the week, check the fridge, and make a grocery shopping list.
I booked a hot yoga freedom flow class at 12:00 p.m. and skip the shower before going. Yoga is only a five-minute drive away, so I head out shortly before 12:00 p.m. After the class, I stop at the supermarket one block away and get everything for the week. I’m back home around 2:30 p.m., jump in the shower real quick and then it’s Skype time. Both our parents are six hours ahead, and we Skype every Sunday for about 45 minutes each. I set the laptop up in the living room so they can see our son play and run around, which everyone enjoys. While we’re Skyping, my husband works in another room and just joins for a quick hello to his parents.
After the calls, we decide to head out for a walk to the playground and spend 1.5 hours outside. We’re back at 5:30 p.m., and I prepare dinner while my husband entertains our son. Dinnertime is 6:00–6:30 p.m., afterwards husband does bathtime with son and I do the bedtime routine. Kid is asleep by 7:30 p.m. I then prepare dinner for Monday. I usually run the dishwasher at night and my husband unloads it in the morning (unless I feel motivated to do so, which I rarely do).
Every night, I lay out my work clothes for the next day, pack my bag, and pack snacks for kiddo to take to daycare. I also set the breakfast table for myself. All these preparations save me time in the morning that I don’t have to think or look for things. While I’m prepping stuff, my husband is working on his laptop — as a not-yet-tenured professor, he always has work to do in the evenings and on weekends. I head to bed at 11:00 p.m.
Here’s what M had to say about the biggest adjustment to living in the U.S.:
Finding our way through the visa bureaucracy. I changed visa category three times over two years and in parallel went through the green card process. But with the help of a great lawyer, we obtained permanent residency last year. Lifestyle-wise, no big adjustments. We had been expats in Switzerland for six years (in total, I have not lived in my home country for more than nine years now), and that first international move was more challenging than the one to the U.S. We had also been to the U.S. several times before (as interns, for research collaborations, and for travel), so we knew what we were getting into.
I get up at 5:45 a.m., have breakfast while I read the news on my phone, and try to be very quiet since everybody else is still sleeping. I’m out the door by 6:30 a.m. for my 70-minute commute (one way). I take the trash out with me, since whoever is not doing daycare drop-off checks whether trash has to be taken care of.
Our son usually wakes up around 6:30–7:00 a.m., and my husband does the morning routine and drops him off at daycare between 8:30–9:30 a.m. We couldn’t be happier with our daycare: Our son loves to go, he learns a lot there, and is really thriving. The teachers document daily activities with an iPad in the toddler room, so we get daily updates, pictures, and sometimes a video of him in an app on our phones — makes me feel connected even though I’m not there.
At work, I’m working on emails and read industry news until 9:30 a.m., then quickly review my notes for my weekly 1:1 with my manager at 10:00 a.m. I go to our cafeteria for a quick 20-minute lunch at 11:30 a.m. and have an afternoon full of in-person meetings and web calls. Work in my area of business development tends to be very cyclical, and this week is busy, with one big project being in a hot phase. But I don’t mind busy times since I get a lot of exposure to top-level executives, and across functions.
I do an hour of spreadsheet work before I leave the office at 4:15 p.m. in order to get ahead of traffic for my commute and pick up my son from daycare. I will go online later in the evening to complete some work. During my drive, I listen to music and sing really loud — it’s my way to decompress. I arrive at daycare at 5:30 p.m. and check in briefly with the teacher. My son is hungry, so I give him a snack. (I always keep snacks in my car for this purpose.)
We are at home by 6:00 p.m., I’m heating up the dinner prepared the night before, and we eat at 6:20 p.m. My husband joins, and we play for about 20 minutes before starting bedtime routine (husband’s turn this time). Meanwhile, I clean up the kitchen and do dinner prep for Tuesday. Then I’m on my work computer for about an hour with a glass of wine before reading news online, showering, and going to bed by 10:30 p.m. Husband stays up until later doing some work.
Alarm at 5:45 a.m. again, breakfast. I’m just getting dressed when my son wakes up earlier than expected. I cannot nurse him back to sleep so I decide to get him dressed and take him to daycare instead of my husband. Husband stayed up late last night to finish a research paper, so he appreciates this change of plans and agrees to pick up son in the evening. I put my son in his playpen while I get dressed and put makeup on. We try to have him play there by himself for about 30 minutes every morning, and he usually keeps himself busy stacking blocks, Duplos, or reading books.
We’re out the door by 7:00 a.m. and at daycare at 7:15 a.m. Son runs off to his teacher, and I get on the road. It’s 45 minutes later than without daycare drop-off, and I get into a traffic jam a few miles before reaching my workplace. But I make it to my 9:00 a.m. meeting, just in time to be briefed about some recent changes on the big project.
I catch up with emails from 10:30 a.m. to lunchtime, then have an internal review session for a slide deck I’m preparing for our CEO. I’m spending my afternoon incorporating the feedback and leave at 5:00 p.m. I have to get gas on the way, and due to traffic, I miss dinner with my son, but compensate with both bath and bedtime routine. Afterwards, dinner prep for Wednesday, and working on my slides from 8:00–11:00 p.m.
Leaving for work at 6:30 a.m. again. Husband does daycare drop-off today. My work day is just like Tuesday, lots of reviewing and revising the slides. I send the finished product off at 3:00 p.m., cross my fingers, and decide to leave for the day. My husband will travel one week internationally from Thursday, so I want to get ahead with some stuff at home before he leaves. I pick up our son at 5:00 p.m., go to the playground with him, and we’re home for dinner at 6:00 p.m. Usual bedtime routine from 7:00 p.m. (husband’s turn this time), while I do dinner prep, one load of laundry, and pay some bills. I watch YouTube videos of comedy shows, shower, and am in bed by 10:30 p.m.
We all get up at 6:15 a.m. today, have breakfast, and leave by 7:15 a.m. I’m taking my husband to the airport shuttle stop that’s on the way to daycare. While we have two cars, he prefers the shuttle because he can work on the way.
After dropping my son off, I drive to work and arrive by 9:00. It’s a slow day and I manage to call our car insurance because someone dinged my husband’s car door yesterday. I also make hairdresser appointments for myself and for my son — he has to go every 6–7 weeks since his hair is growing like crazy.
I have lunch with an acquaintance from another unit, then spend my afternoon doing research on a few smaller projects. Even though I started late today, I leave at 4:15 p.m. because I have to be at daycare before they close at 6 p.m. and need a time buffer for traffic just in case. I remember that I need to get a gift card since one of my son’s teachers has their last day tomorrow, and I manage to squeeze in a 10-minute Walmart run on the way to daycare.
Son and I get home by 6:15 p.m., I fix us dinner, then we play on our balcony, have a bath, some books, and he is asleep by 7:45 p.m. I have a glass of wine and quickly check work email, but there’s nothing that can’t wait until tomorrow. I also make a meal plan for next week and order groceries online for pickup tomorrow on my way home. I do my usual dinner, clothes and bags prep, shower, and read a book in bed. Husband pings me from his connecting airport, and we chat for five minutes on our phones. I’m asleep by 11:00 p.m.
Last night my son woke up twice, at 3:00 a.m. and at 5:00 a.m. I suspect he’s teething again. The first time I nurse him back to sleep, the second time I’m less successful, so we finally get up at 5:45 a.m. and have breakfast. He’s in a screaming mode and very demanding — he signs for food, water, milk, toys, to go up, go down … I’m going to need a lot of coffee today. We’re out the door by 6:50 a.m., and he’s the first kid at daycare. Sometimes I feel bad about him being dropped off early and picked up late, but this week I can’t help it, since I need to be at work at a reasonable time.
I’m at my desk by 8:30 a.m. My work day is uneventful with a few meetings, and I leave at 4:00 p.m. I pick up the groceries and get gas, then pick up my son at 5:45 p.m. I meet one of my mom friends at daycare, we chat for 10 minutes and decide to do a playdate Saturday.
Son and I have dinner, play on the balcony, and he’s in bed by 7:30 p.m. I have a glass of wine and sit outside until it gets too chilly. I do one load of laundry and iron and fold clothes. I’m in bed by 10:00 p.m.
I’m woken up at 6:30 a.m., and I put son in his playpen for 30 minutes so that I can head back to bed to briefly close my eyes again. We have a slow morning with breakfast, singing, dancing, painting, and reading books. I fix us lunch at 11:00 a.m., and son goes down for a nap at 11:30 a.m. I shower and then text my friend to ask her when and where to meet, and we decide on 2:30 p.m. at a park a 15-minute drive away. After my son’s nap, he has a snack. I take more snacks and a few toys, load the stroller into the car, and leave on time.
I enjoy chatting to my friend while our kids run around on the grass. It’s sometimes hard to arrange social outings since all my mom friends are working full time, too. My best method to socialize is to text all of them when I have plans to go to the park, and just say: “I’m at Park from 3 p.m., feel free to join.” It works much better then prearranging stuff for weeks which then falls through due to sickness, strange nap times, or whatever.
We stay at the park until about 4:30 p.m. On the way home we stop at Walmart briefly. It’s leftovers from yesterday for dinner. Bath and bedtime as usual. I read my book and am sleeping by 11:00 p.m.
If my husband was not traveling, it would be his turn to sleep in on Saturdays. He would watch kiddo in the afternoon while I do some basic cleaning around the house or take care of some family stuff. I forgo this when he’s not there because I use kiddo’s nap time to nap myself, for sanity reasons, haha. If he was here, we might go on a late afternoon stroll and have dinner early at one of our favorite restaurants (Thai or Indian or pub), including kiddo. Husband and I may have some wine and talk for an hour or two after son is in bed, or go for a 30-minute walk around the block (with a baby phone app on). I would head to bed early while he stays up working.
We asked M what it was like to have her baby during business school:
I had powered through my MBA with an intense class load before he was born, and stepped away from leadership roles and extra projects at the end of my pregnancy. Son was born in the beginning of the final semester, where I did research projects with professors for credit, at home with the baby sleeping in the rocker next to me. I stretched out the elective courses of the final semester over 2 semesters (it took me 5 instead of 4 semesters to graduate), where I was in school only 2–3 afternoons per week, which worked really well.
The hardest part was giving up on the social life, and not graduating with my class. I was the only woman in like 10 years that had had a baby during the program, and people just did not comprehend. I’m still laughing inside about some classmates coming to school saying “I’m sooooo tired” — and me just thinking, after several nights of cluster feeding and teething, “You don’t know sh*t!” Haha.
Thanks so much to M for sharing a bit of her life as a working mom! Readers, what’s your biggest takeaway from her week of work as a business analyst, as well as her general work/life balance?
I love reading these profiles. You seem really upbeat and energetic for how busy your life is! It’s nice to know I’m not the only one running from place to place and falling into beda at 11 then getting up at 5 to do it all over again. What do you do for downtime or do you and your family ever take vacation?
OP M says
Oh yes, we take vacations! We visit our families in Europe twice a year for about 10 days each, usually once in the summer and once over the Christmas holidays. My husband travels a lot for conferences, and depending on the destination, we might join him – if it’s in Europe, we combine it with a trip to see the family (and save on husband’s airfare, since he anyways has to go for the conference).
In my downtime, I do origami and yoga. I also recently started going to our company’s fitness center twice a week over lunchtime for a kickboxing class.
Aha! Glad I’m not the only one who socializes this way. “We’re at Park from 4pm. Do you have dinner plans?
No? Come over for dinner with Kid!”
Fellow academic spouse here and I can relate to a lot of this. For grad students, postdocs, and not-yet-tenured academics, it’s a constant hustle. (And can I just say how glad I am that we are not BOTH on the academic job market?! I know people in this position and it’s not enviable.)
OP M says
I actually have an academic background myself, did my PhD in life sciences and then decided I didn’t love research enough to become a professor and spend my 30s a) in the lab, b) hunting for grant money and c) having 90h weeks. That’s why I did my MBA. I am now a lot happier with my ~40h work week. And the best thing is that I still use my scientific background and analytical thinking daily, just applied to a business setting.
Thanks for sharing your family’s weekly schedule. Sounds like you have a great system. I am curious, how do you manage to be out the door so fast in the morning and also have breakfast?
I love the idea of preparing dinner the night before? What do you usually have?
Not the OP, but my morning routine is an hour (I solo parent during the week). I spend the first half hour getting myself ready and then the next half hour is kids and breakfast.
I severely shortened my routine, so I shower/blow dry hair/ minimal makeup and then get into the clothes that I set out the night before. That takes me right at 30 minutes.
Then I wake up two kids (ages 4 and 2). We brush teeth and set out their clothes the night before, so it’s literally bathroom/diaper and get dressed while they’re slowly waking up, and then breakfast together. That’s usually a bowl of cereal or poptart. Nothing fancy and nothing messy since we’re all dressed for the day. The kids still wear bibs just in case.
Lunches are packed the night before, so throw those in the lunchboxes and then into backpacks while they’re finishing their cereal, and out the door.
The keys for me were severely shortening my routine, getting up before the kids to get that done, and doing as much prep as possible the night before.
Also not the OP, but my routine is 55 minutes. It takes me 20 minutes to wake myself and my three kids up (I am not a morning person). Sometimes my kids wake me up first, and that goes much smoother. The kids sleep in their day clothes. I make breakfast (cereal, toast, mini pancakes – the oldest (8) sometimes helps with things he can get himself), and then I get dressed while the kids eat. I put my hair in a bun, wash my face/contacts/minimal makeup and get dressed (this takes me 10-15 minutes). I almost always wear dresses. An alarm goes off with ten minutes left and the kids know to put on their shoes and suncreen (and hoodies) and grab their lunch bags. (Backpacks and lunches are prepared the night before, and DH usually grabs the lunches out of the fridge and puts them into the lunch bags before he leaves, which is before I get up). My kids are 4, 6 and 8, and so are fairly independent (other than the youngest). We walk to school, so I don’t have to get my work stuff together until after dropoff.
OP M says
Most of what Anon and anon said. Prepare as much as you can the night before: clothes for everyone, bag packed, lunch in fridge, shower and blow dry hair in the evening. My morning routine is about 20 min total including make up and fixing any hair issues (I have a very short bob and a straightener quickly irons out any kinks).
Sometimes my son sleeps in the clothes he will wear the next day.
I cannot leave the house without breakfast. I usually have the European breakfast: slices of whole wheat or rye bread, butter, honey or jam, pot of coffee, glass of orange juice. Son will have slice of bread with cream cheese, peanut or almond butter, sippy cup of milk. I keep the food as non-messy as possible (no yoghurt or fruit in the morning!), so that we can leave after washing hands, face and brushing teeth.
As for dinner, we practice “strategic leftovers”. So for example, on Sunday night we prepare 2 dinners worth of chicken with mushrooms and peas in cream sauce plus rice. We cook enough rice for 3 days. We’ll eat this Sunday evening and Monday night. The last 3rd of the rice will make a quick stir fry with egg and veggies (bell pepper, zucchini, mushrooms, broccoli) on Tuesday night. Tuesday night after dinner I’ll cook pasta (2-3 day amount), and tomato sauce for Wednesday night. Wednesday night the pasta and sauce is just reheated. The leftover pasta is tossed into a casserole with eggs, sour cream, cream, herbs and frozen veggies, and some cheese on top -> baked in the oven, it makes an easily reheated dinner for another 1-2 nights. Then it’s Friday already, and we might go get pizza or go to one of our favorite restaurants. Or, we’ll just have a salad, baguette and grilled steak/sausage.
We have about 10 dishes that are on repeat, and sometimes I make a big batch of quiches or lasagne for the freezer.
I’m impressed with how calm you sound, even though you seem incredibly busy.
I absolutely love your idea of taking a 30 min walk around the block. We have the baby phone app as well, but we’ve only really used it to sit in a neighbor’s backyard. Love this idea!!
First impressions – #1 You are super organized! #2 I LOVE the image of you singing at the top of your lungs on the way home to decompress.
OP M says
Well, there are definitely weeks that are not as organized – it tends to fall apart when we’re sick or husband and I have parallel deadlines. Our solution is to let go of the non-significant stuff. Get take-out 4 times in a row? Not ideal, but necessary sometimes.
But, our godsend is grocery pickup. We keep a running shopping list on the fridge, and at the end of the week decide whether we order online for pickup or whether we have time to go to the store.
OP M says
Oh, and regarding the singing: My favorites are Florence + The Machine, Robyn, Madonna, and Beyoncé (of course). And a ton of eclectic 70s, 80s and 90s music (Eurodance, anyone? :D )
I also recently came across the NPR list of the 150 best albums by female artists, and am currently listening my way through that list. Fantastic stuff!!!!
I read these and wonder … what did I do with all of the free time I had before having a kid?
At the time it didn’t feel like it, but man, now if I can get 2 hours where I’m not responsible for either being at work or keeping a small human alive, it feels like an eternity. A luxurious, amazing eternity.
OP M says
Yes, yes, and yes!
Sleeping in on weekends!!! And having dinner when I want to, not when a hungry and cranky kid is dictating it.
OP M says
Thank you all for your kind comments! I was so happy to be featured, and excited/anxious/curious about your comments. (I’m only reading them now since we’re in the middle of a busy week and I’m also traveling for business right now. Ha!)
Thank you for mentioning the Baby Monitor App and your evening walks. We’ve been using a standard audio monitor with limited range and for some reason it never occurred to us to hook up a smart phone. Game changer when one parent is traveling and you need to walk the dog!
Thank you for this! This has been the most similar experience to my own so far, and M and others have motivated me to do more prep the night before.
OP M says
Sometimes it’s hard to motivate yourself to do the prep since it would be so nice to just crash in the couch after dinner. But I have noticed that every half hour I’m prepping saves me so much stress and scrambling around in the morning that it’s worth it.