For the fourth installment of our Week in the Life of a Working Mom series, I’m happy to introduce CorporetteMoms reader Christa, who is a 30-year-old doctor in Florida with a young daughter. 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…
Lives: In a university town in Florida
Job: Doctor at an academic medical center
Home Situation: I live in a 1600-square-foot, single-family home with my husband, who works a full-time information technology job at the same university where I’m employed, and my daughter, who is around 2 1/2 years old.
Childcare Situation: During the week, we use a local corporate daycare chain that has extended hours (around $1,000/month). Usually drop-off is around 7:30-8:00 a.m. and pick-up is around 5:30-6:00 p.m. My parents live around two hours away and my mother provides emergency childcare.
Last Week in My Life
Day off with the family. We wake up around 7 a.m. In the morning and during naptime (10:30-12:00), we do a lot of yard work, including mulching some garden beds and leveling the portion of the yard where we are going to build the swingset next week. Currently we maintain our own yard to cut costs, and because it is the only housework I enjoy. 1:00 – 2:30 PM, I take daughter to a bounce-house birthday party for a work friend’s daughter and husband stays home. Daughter and I have a blast bouncing and climbing together. When we get home, we spend the afternoon playing and doing crafts. Husband cooks dinner and we eat together around 6 p.m. Bath and bedtime routine starts at 7 p.m. and she goes to sleep at 7:30 p.m. Then husband and I watch TV together (Legion) and have an early bedtime around 9:30 p.m.
I have in-house call, which means I stay in the hospital overnight. We wake daughter around 7:00, share the breakfast/dressing/diapering morning routine, and husband takes her to daycare around 8:00 and goes to work. In the morning, I run some errands and go thrift-shopping before going to work around noon. At work, I do desk-based research work in the afternoon and start my overnight clinical shift at 4:30 p.m. When I have overnight shifts (once or twice a week), husband handles all of the childcare including daycare pick-up and dinner. This week, he did grocery shopping with the kiddo while I was working. Thanks, husband!
We asked Christa about her overnight shifts, and she had this to say:
In many ways, the overnight shifts may be the reason my husband is an equal co-parent (or even, to be honest, the default parent)! Since he solo parents regularly, including sometimes for entire weekend days, he really knows the whole parenting drill from morning rush to bedtime routine. If his work was less flexible or he was less of an engaged, amazing dad, this would probably not be the case — I certainly wouldn’t recommend this type of career for someone who has an equally career-minded, high-ambition husband. On the other hand, I know many two-doctor-parent families that somehow make it work. Because of my specific field of medicine, these overnight shifts are going to be part of my work for the rest of my career. I really love my what I do and actually enjoy night shifts as long as they don’t happen too often.
Rough call night so I didn’t get much sleep. I sign out to the day team at 7:30 a.m. and head home around 8:15 a.m. Husband and daughter are getting a late start, so I get to see them briefly at home before he takes her in to daycare. I sleep during the day then wake up around 2 p.m. to do housework (laundry, dishes, floors) until husband and daughter arrive home around 5:45 p.m. Days after an overnight call are when the vast majority of my errands and housework get done. Pizza night. After daughter is in bed, we have a quiet night reading.
Early morning clinical conference, so I get up and leave before daughter is awake to make it to the hospital by 7 a.m. Husband (as usual) handles the morning logistics including daycare drop-off. I have a full day of research work and meetings but I’m able to leave a little early at 4:30 p.m. and do daycare pick-up, since I feel guilty about how much responsibility has fallen to my husband this week and I miss my kid. We play at home and I prep her dinner (leftover pizza, let’s be real) and sit with her while she eats. Husband gets home around 6 p.m. and handles trash night. We play, do the bedtime routine, and then make our own dinner (salads with chicken) which we eat while watching Agents of SHIELD.
Since I don’t have early meetings and husband’s office and my hospital are next to one another, we drive in to work together. I wake up early to shower, drink coffee alone while I check my favorite blogs, and get ready. We wake daughter around 7:15 a.m. and split the breakfast/diapering/dressing responsibilities. Around 8 we’re in the car. We drop daughter at daycare and head in to work. Since I am on a research month right now, my daytime schedule is flexible and I spend the day doing desk-based research work and meeting my collaborators and mentors. My husband and I leave work around 5:30, pick the daughter up at daycare, and immediately dive into the dinner and bedtime routine. During the work week, she eats dinner right after we get home and one of us sits with her, then we have around a half-hour of playtime (her play kitchen and sticker books are the favorites for now) before bed. Bedtime routine is bath, teeth-brushing, and reading some books before lights-out at 7:30 p.m. We usually prep and eat our own dinner after she goes to sleep, which we eat on the couch while watching TV.
When we asked Christa about the challenges of being a working mom, she said:
The biggest challenge … so far, without a doubt, was the transition back to work as a pumping mom with an infant who didn’t sleep. The first 6-9 months were SO HARD that I thought I would never want a second child. I felt so much less efficient, I didn’t know how to balance my urgent physical needs with my equally urgent work, and I was experiencing sleep deprivation that was on a whole different playing field from what I was used to even with the frequent overnight shifts that my work required. We lived far away from our extended family at the time, which just added to that sense of living-on-the-edge desperation. I also didn’t love infant parenting. I’m happy to report that it got better, and continues to get better — I love being mom to a toddler!
Another night on call in the hospital tonight, but I have a lot of meetings and teaching responsibilities during the day. We get up together and do the breakfast routine, but drive in separately. I do daycare drop-off and then head in to work by 8:30 a.m. I spend the day in meetings and teaching medical students until my overnight clinical shift starts at 4:30 p.m. I am in the hospital overnight taking care of patients and (when I can) sleeping in my on-call room. Husband does daycare pick-up, dinner, and bedtime alone. He and daughter call me before bed to say goodnight.
I sign out to the daytime clinical team around 8:00 a.m. and head home. I’m lucky that I got sleep last night so that I can frantically clean the house in anticipation of a visit from my parents. They arrive from my hometown which is around two hours away. Mom is on childcare duty while my dad, husband, and I put together the new backyard playset. It takes most of the day. We get Publix subs for lunch and eat on the back porch together. After my parents leave, we spend the evening relaxing, cook dinner, and eat together as a family which is our preference on weekends. Tomorrow we plan to have an unstructured day, so when we wake up we may decide to go to the zoo, the museum, or the botanical garden. Or we may just stay home in our pajamas all day.
Here’s what Christa said about her family weekends:
We are a family of introverts, so our weekends tend to involve a lot of unstructured downtime at home. My daughter and I work in our garden or make art, we play on the backyard playset, we have an unhurried breakfast on the back porch. We try to do an outing for her sake at least once a day — our favorites are the park, the library, the science museum, or the botanical gardens. Around once a month, we spend the weekend with my parents who live two hours away in my hometown — all of her cousins live there, and they are great at wearing her out. My secret to a happy life with a toddler is low expectations for weekend activities!
Thanks so much to Christa for sharing a bit of her life as a working mom! Readers, what’s your biggest takeaway from Christa’s week as a doctor and her work/life balance?
Picture credit: Pixabay