Week in the Life of a Working Mom: Contract Negotiator in the Midwest

contract negotiator work-life balance working momFor this week’s installment of our Week in the Life of a Working Mom series, I’m happy to introduce CorporetteMoms reader Lala, who lives in the Midwest with her husband and two sons and works as a contract negotiator. 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…

Name: Lala
Location: MCOL town in the Midwest
Job: contract negotiator at a large company
Age: 31
Home Situation: I live in a 1,800-square-foot, 3-bedroom/2-bath house with my husband (35-year-old programmer), our sons P (3 yrs. 11 mos.) and J (1 yr. 8 mos.contract negotiator work-life balance - image of a working mom negotiating contracts for a midwestern city), and our large dog. The kids share a room.
Childcare Situation: full-time daycare center, $2,300 per month

A Week in My Life

Sunday

7:45 a.m. The kids get up and we all wake up slowly. DH and I discuss how we need to go to the grocery store, so we start making a list while we are drinking coffee. Meal planning and cooking are kept really simple, because neither of us enjoy it. We need three proteins for the week, three veggies/salads, and three quick carbs. We check the deep freeze and cupboards for what we have and add what we don’t. We also add our staples. After everyone is ready, we head to the store. We’re home at lunchtime, so we all eat. Once J goes down for nap, P decides he wants to play outside, so we bring the monitor out there. He and I draw a huge chalk race track, and that keeps him busy for the next hour.
2:30 p.m. DH and P leave for P’s swimming lessons and I start the last load of laundry.
3:00 p.m. J wakes up and we head outside to the garden. We pick all of the unripe tomatoes (it’s too cold for them to ripen at this point) and he uses them as throwing objects. When DH and P arrive home they discover the power is out. DH has to go to a networking event tonight, so he heads out for that.
5:30 p.m. After we finish playing outside, I cross my fingers that the power is back on. As I start making PB&Js for dinner, the power comes back on (hooray). We decide to watch a movie before bedtime. While we are watching, I trim J’s hair and also move the laundry to the dryer. After the movie, I give the boys a bath and get them ready for bed. DH comes home as I am leaving their room and we watch a movie.
10:00 p.m. We go to bed.

Monday

6:15 a.m. I wake up and get ready for the day.
6:50 a.m. P starts crying so I go into his room. His diaper has leaked, so I get him out of bed (while trying to not get pee on my outfit) and make a mental note to come back for the sheets. J is up as well (they share a room and the crying woke him up), so I get him out of his crib and bring him to the living room. After P changes into his clothes, they both are ready for breakfast. J gets cereal and P requests oatmeal. While the oatmeal is cooking, P decides he also wants a PB&J. I say no, so he throws a major fit about it, but still eats the oatmeal.
7:10 a.m. I make coffee and DH wakes up.
7:20 a.m. I leave with my bulletproof coffee to serve as breakfast, and on my way out I strip P’s bed and throw his stuff in the washer (including the much beloved Paw Patrol PJs that will be required tonight).
8:00 a.m. I arrive at work, chat with my coworker, check my email. DH gets the kids ready and drives them to daycare every day — they typically arrive around 8:30/9:00. I have very few meetings today and feel on top of all of my current negotiations, so I make plans to eat lunch with my brother (who works close by). I spend most of the day reviewing contracts, having meetings, and checking in on the kids via our daycare app.
4:20 p.m. I head out to go pick up the kids. I get a text from DH on my way out that he’s feeling sick so he went home early and is heating up the oven for dinner. I ask him to put P’s laundry in the dryer.
5:15 p.m. Home with kids (J screamed most of the way home because he wanted water; P asked me 5 million “why” questions) and our dinner of leftovers is ready. We all eat and then play for a few hours before bedtime (coloring/animals). I load the dishwasher and make P’s bed while they are entertained with their toys.
7:30 p.m. Bedtime starts (PJs/milk/books/teeth brushed/bed), and we are out of their room by 8:00. DH and I do a little bit of picking up and then sit down to watch a show.
9:50 p.m. We are both tired tonight, so we go to bed.

Here’s what Lala had to say when we asked about the transition from one to two kids: 

The hardest thing about going from one to two? The entire first year. My second only wanted to be on me and didn’t sleep more than three hours at a time until he was 10 months. Sleep deprivation coupled with a 2-year-old who had tons of energy was really hard. It was hard to feel like I was doing anything right when I was so drained of energy. But now that we are all sleeping through the night, and the boys are older, it is wonderful. They play beautifully together.

Tuesday

5:50 a.m. I wake up to P crying. I try to ignore him for a bit, but a few minutes later he starts up again. I go to his room and remind him that he can get out of his bed himself and come to ours when he wakes up (trying to avoid waking up J). He says the big stuffed animal is scary, so I put it in the closet. We go to my bed and snuggle for a bit.
6:15 a.m. My alarm goes off. P hangs out in the bathroom while I get ready. DH gets up and goes to make coffee and P’s breakfast. Once I am ready I pick out their outfits for the day, make my coffee and snacks.
7:00 a.m. I head out the door. It’s always hard to leave without seeing both boys, but I know J needs his sleep and I have some meetings to prep for.
7:45 a.m. I arrive at work and start prepping for my morning meeting and negotiation.
11:00 a.m. Had a jerk opposing counsel on my negotiation this morning, so I head to Whole Foods with a coworker to grab some lunch. We eat at our desks, but the midday break is nice. Text DH to remind him of upcoming no-daycare day that he’s in charge of; he texts back that he plans on taking it off.
4:00 p.m. Leave the office to pick up the boys.
5:00 p.m. We’re home. I let them splash in the puddles outside for about 20 minutes before we head upstairs to make dinner. I tell P that if he cleans his toys up (cleaning service is coming tomorrow) we can go splash some more after dinner. He cleans while J “helps” me cook (tilapia, asparagus, quinoa), and we join in the cleaning while everything cooks.
5:45 p.m. DH arrives home and we all eat together. The boys and I head outside while DH cleans up dinner. DH joins us outside and we chat while the boys get muddy.
7:10 p.m. We declare it bathtime and head inside. We tag team baths, then DH continues to pick up while I finish bedtime.
7:50 p.m. I decide to pay some bills while DH folds some leftover laundry from the weekend. We catch up on our social media and discuss what to do for our upcoming anniversary, then we watch a show.
10:00 p.m. We go to bed.

Lala talked about the value of hiring a cleaning service, which her family did when her first son was born:

Every lawyer I met in law school told me that “getting a cleaning service” was the secret to sanity as a working mom. So I took that to heart, especially because I hate cleaning but love a clean house. While it saves me 4–6 hours every other week of cleaning, the mental stress it saves me is 100% more than that and totally worth the cost.

Wednesday

5:45 a.m. I’m up early and out the door with coffee and snacks by 6:30.
7:00 a.m. Physical therapy appointment.
8:15 a.m. I arrive at the office. Another day of meetings and contract reviews, with a team lunch thrown in the middle. DH and I text about some family drama regarding an upcoming vacation. I decide we aren’t going (working on setting firm boundaries), but it stresses me out still. I get a text that the cleaning service has arrived (they come 2x/month), and then again when they leave.
4:20 p.m. I leave work and pick up the boys. DH beats us home and has our Wednesday tradition of grocery store sushi and rotisserie chicken. He starts making mac and cheese while I grab the bagged salad. P makes a “frog den” with the couch cushions while we are cooking, J wants to be held by one of us the whole time. After dinner I clean up and load the dishwasher while DH plays with the kids. Then we all play for a while. I decide we should make some pumpkin muffins, so I give P and J both “jobs” to help and we mix it up. J loses interest pretty quick, and I get mad at DH for sitting on the couch and not helping with him. I grab the Magna-Tiles and get him interested so P and I can finish up the muffins. DH comes over to play with him. Once the muffins are cooking, we all play with Magna-Tiles. P keeps on knocking down J’s creations, so I warn him that if he does it again he will lose the privilege of eating a muffin before bed. He does it again, so the rest of the evening is a painful follow-through of that consequence (lots of crying and asking again). DH does bedtime tonight while I clean up the muffin mess.
8:00 p.m. We are both sitting on the couch reading and chatting.
10:00 p.m. We go to bed.

Thursday

6:15 a.m. My alarm goes off and I get up and get ready for the day.
6:30 a.m. P wakes up screaming that he needs to go potty. I go in and help him out of bed (and remind him that he can get out himself …). J is up too, so I bring him in to snuggle with DH while I finish getting ready. P grabs himself a muffin for breakfast and then declares he wants to make PB&J crackers. I tell him where the crackers are and he gets to work gathering his supplies while DH is getting J a muffin and making coffee. I gather my snacks and make my coffee.
7:15 a.m. I head out for work and I’m at the office by 7:45. After a morning of meetings, I go out to Chipotle with my coworkers for lunch. I review contracts all afternoon.
4:20 p.m. I head out to pick up the boys.
5:30 p.m. We arrive home. DH has a late meeting, so I make some chicken quesadillas with the leftover chicken and heat up some veggies. P helps put the cheese on while J climbs the chairs. We eat a quick dinner and then play Magna-Tiles and Duplos. (I clean up dinner once they are engaged with this.)
7:00 p.m. DH gets home.
7:30 p.m. We start bedtime. I put them to bed and then DH and I watch TV. I stay up a little later to read.
10:30 p.m. I go to bed.

Friday

6:00 a.m. DH gets up with P.
6:30 a.m. I get up after letting myself sleep in. Jeans Friday makes getting ready so much easier, so I have time to hang out with the boys (J woke up around 7:00) and put their outfits on for the day.
7:20 a.m. I head out and arrive at the office by 7:45. I spend the morning getting new projects from my boss, who will be out next week. I also have a few calls. My coworker and I head to the new taco truck for lunch, and it is delicious. I know I should probably pack my lunch more, but I recently started at this job and think that coworker camaraderie is important (and fun). I spend most of the afternoon on the phone with IT and in meetings. I also text DH about some of his family drama and explain some of the legal concepts of the situation (sometimes it’s nice to be an attorney).
4:00 p.m. I head out to pick up the boys. We play outside in the puddles until DH arrives home and then we order pizza. We eat and then play outside some more before bedtime. After the boys are in bed, DH and I watch a movie and do some reading.

Lala talked about her decision to leave her old job:  

My area at my old company was being bought out by a company that made it very clear they were not family-friendly/flexible. I left law practice for corporate America (and took the associated pay cut) for the flexibility, so I was not willing to move to a company that wasn’t flexible. Luckily I found a new negotiator role at a family-friendly company in town. As an added bonus, I found the best coworkers and boss, so it has been a perfect fit.

Saturday

6:00 a.m. DH gets up to P’s screaming, while I sleep in until 7:45. By then, both boys are awake and we decide they need to get out of the house today, as it’s raining. We slowly get ready and make our way to the local play café. We get coffee and some breakfast while the boys play and end up staying until noon. Once we are home we make a quick lunch (mac and cheese plus fish) and then put J down for a nap. While he is napping we start on the home project we’ve been meaning to get to (tearing down some sheetrock in the garage to investigate a potential leak). P helps and also spends some time playing in the puddles in front of the garage.
3:30 p.m. We’re done with the teardown, have pinpointed the leak, and decided that the pipe replacement can happen next weekend.
4:00 p.m. J wakes up and the boys run around outside while DH and I sit and chat.
5:30 p.m. We make a quick dinner for the kids and decide we want some more wine and cheese, so we head out to the store to get all of the wine and cheese plate fixings. The boys are pretty tired while we are out and it is a huge exercise in patience, but we get our supplies and get home.
7:30 p.m. We put them to bed and then enjoy our wine and cheese while watching a movie. I’ve also done three loads of laundry (wash, dry, and fold) throughout the day.

Thanks so much to Lala for sharing a bit of her life as a working mom! Readers, what’s your biggest takeaway from her week of work as a contract negotiator as well as her general work/life balance?

Stock photo via Shutterstock / Anton Gvozdikov.

A contract negotiator in the Midwest shares her work-life balance with us, including how she and her husband juggle their two kids, keep meal planning simple, avoid family drama, and shares her thoughts on leaving her law practice for corporate America and a family-friendly, flexible workplace.

Comments

  1. avocado says:

    It is totally awesome that you and DH have the energy to tear down sheetrock while both working full-time and parenting two little kids.

    • Thanks! My DH grew up fixing a really old house, so this kind of stuff is no big deal for him. However, the sheetrock is still down, 9 months later, ha. We’ve decided to hire someone to put it back up in the fall . . . So don’t give us that much credit :)

  2. Anonymous says:

    I loved reading this. DH and I have settled into a very happy routine with both our jobs, daycare and parenting our LO, but we’re now expecting a second and I was worried all that would go out the window. It’s so nice to see that it’s possible with 2!

  3. Everlong says:

    Lala, will you please talk more about your meal prep routine?! This sounds like a dream.

    • There really is no routine. We just know simple protein recipes/buy stuff that is pre-marinated (tilapia, salmon, etc.). Buy whatever veggies look good/those frozen steamers, and have a carb (rice/noodles/sauce) on hand.

      It’s really simple for both cooking and planning, because we don’t really have a plan other than cook a protein (the hardest part is remembering those that need thawing), cook some veggies with sauce (sesame, olive oil, etc.) and then cook a carb (rice steamers, pasta, etc.). It may be simple, but neither of us like cooking, so it works for us.

      • Everlong says:

        Thanks for the response! I like this. We don’t eat meat so I have a harder time sometimes with the protein piece because everything tends to be a multi-ingredient meal but it seems simple enough to just go with quinoa/lentils etc. and then follow your veggies/carb standard.

      • This is really smart. I don’t mind cooking, but I don’t have enough brain power left by 5 p.m. to mess around with anything too complicated on weeknights. I dread and despise meal planning more than cooking, so this might be my solution. A formula, if you will.

  4. i loved how realistic this post is – the very honest and real comments about the difficulties of life with two kids (i.e. one kid loses interest; one spouse gets annoyed about something; family drama) was really appreciated. it’s easy to gloss over the day to day difficulties and it’s so nice that you’ve actually acknowledged them. thanks for this!

  5. Mama Llama says:

    I love that you included getting mad at your husband! Very relatable.

  6. Just wanted to say I love this one! I think you’ve laid out what I want my life to be like, so it helps me as I’m assessing whether to look for a new role that will have better hours (with less pay). I’ll be bookmarking this…

  7. I too was intrigued by your meals. Do your kids eat tilapia, and the rest of the meals you prepared, or do they get customized meals? My kid has been on a heavy pasta rotation for about a year and it’s starting to vex me. We are vegetarian, making it more challenging. Luckily, she loves steamed or raw veggies, but we are constantly struggling to expand her main courses and proteins.

    • They eat what we eat. We’ve been pretty strict adopters of the Satter method for eating, which means I make one meal and put it on their plate. Then I could care less what they eat, how much they eat, etc. If they’re hungry 30 minutes later, they wait until snack time.

      Have you tried Banza pasta? It’s made from chickpeas and my kids love it and cannot tell the difference from regular pasta.

      Since I wrote this post we’ve started to eat less meat, which makes the protein portion of the meal much harder, but we serve up a lot of nuts and beans.

  8. How did you know the company you moved to was flexible? Did they advertise the position as such? Or did you negotiate it during the interview process?

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