For this week’s installment of our Week in the Life of a Working Mom series, I’m happy to introduce CorporetteMoms reader L, who lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and two kids. 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: Washington, D.C.
Job: Appellate attorney for the federal government
Home Situation: I live in a 1,600-square-foot, 3-bed/2-bath apartment with my husband (biotech executive) and two sons (ages 3 and 5).
Childcare Situation: My kids attend Montessori preschool full time ($60k a year total for both kids — I’ll be glad when they start public school!). We have a mother’s helper (a college student) who picks up the kids and does chores around the house for 12 hours a week at $17/hr. My mom also often flies out to stay with us when we are busy with work and need extra help (about two months in total over the course of the year).
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?
Work-life balance as an appellate attorney is amazing. The Court issues briefing and oral argument schedules months in advance, so I can plan my life and rarely have to deal with emergencies. I do work late nights and weekends when I’m preparing for an oral argument, but that’s because I want to be extremely prepared. And I generally only have two or three arguments in a year, so those late nights and weekend work don’t happen that often. And to be honest, I sometimes procrastinate, so some of the late-night work is a function of my own time management, not the job.
L wrote her Week in the Life last year, so here are two updates she shared:
– My younger son is a MUCH better sleeper now, thank goodness. The kids sleep in the same room now and they hardly ever wake up during the night anymore.
– My husband now travels for work four days a week. This would have been extremely hard on me even a year ago, but now that the kids are older and more self-sufficient, it’s surprisingly not as hard as I thought it would be. Having an after-school mother’s helper to pick up the kids and do some tidying up around the house has been key for us. And my mom is a huge help when she visits, so that’s a boon as well. Since I wrote this post, my mother-in-law now lives with us for six months of the year, and she handles all of the cooking when she is here.
A Week in My Life
4:00 a.m. 3-year-old comes to me and says that his legs are hurting. The doctor says that growing pains are real, and my son has them frequently, so I give him some Advil, a massage, and put him back to sleep.
8:30 a.m. My 5-year old wakes up, and my 3-year-old wakes up a little before 9:00 a.m. and runs into the room to wake me up. We are very fortunate that our kids have recently started to sleep in later. Husband has woken up earlier that morning and brushes their teeth while I make chai (made from scratch every morning or else we won’t function) and breakfast for the kids. Although I am usually all about feeding them big meals (I think this comes from being first-generation Indian where lots of food = love), I give them something small because we’re having an early brunch to celebrate my 39th birthday!
–I shower and take the kids to the playground for an hour while my husband works at home. My 5-year-old recently learned how to ride a bike and has been beside himself with excitement. My 3-year-old takes his balance bike for a whirl. We run into friends at the playground and enjoy the beautiful sunshine. We return home, drop off the bikes, and walk to our favorite neighborhood restaurant a block away. The kids gorge on ricotta pancakes, and I have yummy pasta. I’m too stuffed for dessert, but my husband surprises me with cake and a candle, and they sing happy birthday in the restaurant.
–We return home and put 3-year-old down for a nap. 5-year-old lies down for 20 minutes and then declares he’s not tired. He recently dropped his naps on weekends but he is very good about keeping himself entertained, so I carry on with my usual Sunday chores — mainly, cooking for the week. I make three large meals (dal, chole, and vegetable korma) while doing the dishes and listening to podcasts. (Recently, I’ve started listening to Happier by Gretchen Rubin.)
–Husband and 5-year-old go to Whole Foods to do grocery shopping for the week. 3-year-old wakes up from his nap and I feed him a snack. Husband takes both kids to the playground to fly a kite while I finish up cooking. I love living so close to a great playground — in good weather, we probably go at least twice every weekend. I join them a bit later and we all have fun trying to keep our kites up in the air.
–We return home, eat dinner, and celebrate my birthday again with cupcakes from Whole Foods. Husband grinds batter for idli/dosa (Indian rice dumplings/crepes) so between that and the food I made, we’re all set for dinners for the week.
8:30 p.m. 5-year-old is in bed.
9:00 p.m. 3-year-old doesn’t go to bed until now because he took a three-hour nap and isn’t all that tired. Husband deals with his antics (can I have water? can you massage my legs? I need to go to the bathroom, etc.) while I clean up in the kitchen.
9:30 p.m. I work out with a Fitness Blender video. I play the video on mute while I listen to more podcasts (my life hack for motivating me to get through the video)!
10:30 p.m. I go to bed — an early bedtime for me.
Today is officially my birthday, but we celebrated yesterday as a family because my husband is off to California until Friday. (He usually travels two days a week, so going away for the entire week is unusual.) He sleeps in a separate room so that he won’t wake me up, since I’m a very light sleeper.
6:00 a.m. Husband leaves the house.
7:30 a.m. Kids come wake me up and we snuggle in bed for a bit. Today is a staff day, so no school, which means no work for me! I make chai for myself and breakfast for the kids, and we read several books while eating. Husband calls to wish me happy birthday and we chat. I was hoping to take the kids to the zoo, but the weather is crummy, so we decide to go to an indoor gym instead. I clean up the kitchen (I feel that our sink is perpetually full of dishes), shower, pack lunch for the kids, and make the beds.
10:00 a.m. We leave the house. We take the metro to the indoor gym, in part because the kids love the metro and in part because we bought a huge SUV a few months ago that I don’t feel comfortable driving yet. Too big, too bulky. Kids run around the gym for 1.5 hours and get so tired out. One of my closest friends works next door to the gym; she comes down to wish me happy birthday and we chat for a bit. We take the metro back home, I put the kids down for a nap, and I eat some leftover noodles. Throughout the day, I get lots of calls and emails and texts from friends and family for my birthday, which makes me happy.
–While the kids are napping, I return a few phone calls and then start to read a book, when my 5-year-old wakes up. We read a few books, and then when 3-year-old wakes up, we head over to the library. I love our neighborhood in part because we can walk to so many places — the library is right across the street. I make it a point to visit at least weekly and usually check out 20 books. (My older son inhales books like candy.) We run into some friends at the library; 3-year-old plays with some Legos while 5-year-old tucks into a corner with a large stack of books.
–We leave after an hour and head to the local bakery to pick up yet another birthday treat — a slice of carrot cake for me and a slice of chocolate cake for the kids. (Note to self: sugar detox for the next week!)
–We eat dinner together and then enjoy our dessert. We check the mail, where I get five birthday cards from friends/family with long, heartfelt notes; I feel loved! I give baths to the kids.
8:00 p.m. My good friend comes over. We usually don’t have friends come over on weeknights, but she knew that my husband would be out of town on my actual birthday and wanted to help me celebrate. I make her a plate of food while she reads to one kid and I read to the other.
8:30 p.m. I put the kids to bed, and my friend stays to chat until 10:15 p.m. It feels so nice to catch up in this relaxed way, and I realize that I should do this more often. After she leaves, I stay up way too late browsing the Internet. The prior week, I listened to the Happier podcast where the host talked about starting a “one sentence” journal as a way to boost happiness. I figure that starting the journal on my birthday is a good way to begin, so I jot down a few lines before bed. I enjoy ending the day this way. Husband calls late and we chat for a few minutes.
11:30 p.m. I’m in bed.
–I set my alarm for 6:45 a.m. but snooze two times.
7:00 a.m. 3-year-old comes to my bed and snuggles briefly. Brush teeth, make chai, breakfast, and pack lunch for myself and the kids. 3-year-old is a slooooow and not great eater, so meals are often 45 minutes long. We read several books while he eats breakfast.
8:00 a.m. 5-year-old wakes up. I make his breakfast and we sit down and read a few more books.
8:30 a.m. I take a shower and get quickly dressed while the kids play with Magna-Tiles. I’m the queen of the three-minute shower.
9:00 a.m. We’re out the door. Kids’ school is one block away from home, which has been transformative in terms of the amount of time it has saved and the stress it has helped alleviate. 3-year-old is crying at drop-off, which sucks but I don’t feel too guilty about it — I know he enjoys school and I’m late already. I head to a doctor’s appointment and am in the office by 10:30 a.m.
–I have things to do at work but I’m not pressed up against an impending deadline, so it’s the best of all worlds. I love being an appellate lawyer for many reasons, but one of the primary reasons is because I rarely have to deal with emergencies or deadlines cropping up at the last minute (unlike in Big Law, when emergencies were often around every corner). The federal appellate courts generally issue their briefing schedule months ahead of time, so I usually know at least a few months in advance when a brief is due. I was supposed to have lunch with a friend but end up rescheduling, and I work through lunch. Husband calls and we chat briefly.
3:00 p.m. I text my mother’s helper on what chores to do at home and what dinner is for that day. She immediately replies.
5:30 p.m. I leave work and am home by 6:00ish. My mother’s helper is already seated at the dinner table with the kids. She usually starts eating dinner with the kids on her own, and I will join them once I get home. The boys come running to the door to greet me. I quickly change and join them at the table. We read books and chat while they eat dinner.
6:45 p.m. Mother’s helper leaves after loading the rest of the dinner dishes and tidying up the kitchen. She is awesome, and it feels amazing to come back home to a neat and orderly home. I eat dinner while the kids play with puzzles and then start the evening routine: baths, prayers, one book for each kid, and two songs for each kid. The boys used to sleep in the same room, but we put them back in separate bedrooms several months ago. 3-year-old wakes up too much and disturbs my older one, who doesn’t nap during the day and so is really exhausted.
8:15 p.m. 5-year-old is asleep.
8:20 p.m. 3-year-old is put to bed but gets up twice asking to go to the bathroom and for water. I yell at him and feel bad about it, but I know he’s just making up excuses to avoid going to sleep. Usually DH deals with him at bedtime and is a lot more patient than I am, but it’s all me since I’m solo this week.
8:50 p.m. He finally falls asleep. I browse the Internet, load a few last dishes in the dishwasher, work out to a Fitness Blender video, and spend a few minutes writing in my one-sentence journal. I keep telling myself I should go to bed earlier, but I don’t turn the lights off until 11:13 p.m.
We asked L about her transition to her current job:
I left Big Law after being there for five years. I learned a lot and made some great friends, but I wasn’t excited about the work and couldn’t see myself there long term. I knew that I wanted to do strictly appellate work, and that’s pretty much impossible to do at a law firm unless you’re a Supreme Court clerk (and even they don’t get to do appellate work 100% of the time). When the opening for my current position opened up, I jumped at the opportunity. It sounds crazy, but I could easily see myself in my current role until retirement. :) The work is intellectually challenging, interesting, hours are very reasonable, and the role is coveted and considered “prestigious” in many circles. The only downside is the salary, at least as compared to Big Law, but I would never go back to a firm given the other stressors of private practice.
3:00 a.m. 3-year-old comes into my room wanting to snuggle. He stays in my bed for a few minutes and then I return him back to his room and give him a little massage. DH usually handles all of the night wakings (which are not that often but do happen), in part because he strangely enjoys it and he also is able to easily fall back asleep. Unfortunately for me, I’m a very light sleeper and so I toss and turn for the next hour (or even two?) unable to fall back asleep.
6:45 a.m. I’m so tired when the alarm goes off that I accidentally turn it off and sleep in until 8:00 a.m.! Yikes! I hurriedly make lunches, get the kids breakfast, and shower.
9:20 a.m. We leave the house late and I don’t get to work until 10:30 a.m. Parenting fail. Side note: I am fortunate to work for an amazing boss who knows that I am often handling the kids on my own during the week. We have an understanding that as long as I get my work done, he doesn’t care when I arrive and when I leave. I have an excellent reputation at work and am highly regarded, so I’m afforded this leeway. Also, as an appellate attorney, the work that I do is almost entirely solitary. I have about one meeting a month, and I get at most two or three emails a day. The majority of my day is sitting at my desk reading cases and writing briefs, and every four months or so I’ll have an oral argument.
–I have a weekly standing walking date with a girlfriend who works nearby, and we meet up for a brisk 20-minute walk. I’m an extrovert in a friendly but very quiet office, so I make a concerted effort to have lunch plans at least twice a week so that I get some socialization in. Since the nature of my work is solitary, I’ll go stir-crazy if I don’t have regular lunch plans. It’s so windy outside and we’re cold, but I always look forward to seeing her and catching up.
1:30 p.m. I get back to my desk and eat a late lunch. (I practice intermittent fasting, so I tend to eat a later lunch and dinner.) I aim to pack lunch every day unless I have lunch plans with a friend. I tend to eat the same thing most days and I actually prefer it that way.
—The rest of the afternoon is spent reviewing a complaint and meeting with a colleague to discuss. (I sometimes help out the trial attorneys when they are swamped, and this is one example.) I text our mother’s helper telling her what vegetables to roast for dinner.
5:40 p.m. I leave work.
6:10 p.m. Arrive home. 3-year-old comes running to the door to greet me and gives me a huge hug, which always makes me happy. 5-year-old is busy eating dinner and playing Uno with our mother’s helper. I change quickly, join them at the dinner table, and read books to the 3-year-old while he eats.
7:00 p.m. Mother’s helper leaves and I give the kids a bath. I eat dinner while they play, and do the usual routine of prayers, books, and songs.
8:05 p.m. 5-year old goes to bed.
8:15 p.m. 3-year-old is in bed but gets up twice for various reasons and doesn’t fall asleep until closer to 9:00 p.m. I snap at him for his bedtime antics — I feed bad immediately, but I’m tired and annoyed that he keeps getting up. I really need to work on my patience. Instead of working out, I decide to read Harry Potter. I recently checked it out from the library and plan to re-read the entire series. Of course I get way too caught up in the book and don’t go to bed until 11:30 p.m. I chat with DH before bed. He had a frustrating day at work and we talk about it. He mentions how much he misses the kids and me and hates traveling. We also talk about what to do for our upcoming 15th (!!) wedding anniversary next month. I forget to write in my journal.
We asked L to tell us more about her intermittent fasting:
I learned about IF through Corporette and am now going on two years. I had a hard time losing the weight after my second son was born and I felt that I had tried everything — calorie counting, green smoothies, working out most days, etc. The weight didn’t budge. After I did IF for three weeks, I lost 10 pounds. I have managed to keep it off and find it pretty easy to do. A few months ago, my weight crept back up after I got into a bad habit of eating way too many sweets. So while IF definitely helped me, it’s not going to help if you eat brownies every day. :) After I got serious about cutting out a lot of sugar, my weight went back down. I see myself doing IF for life. Most days, I only eat from 1:30 p.m.–8:00 p.m.
6:50 a.m. No night wakings, yay! I make chai and lunch for the kids. I really enjoy making colorful, fun lunches for the kids (not quite Pinterest-worthy but along those lines); my good friend at work and I will often take photos of our kids’ lunches and share them with each other for food inspiration. Since the kids are fast asleep, I decide to take advantage of the silence and spend more time on their lunches. I soon have all four burners on with various pots and pans. I also make idlis (rice dumplings) for dinner that evening.
7:45 a.m. Kids wake up and eat breakfast while we read a few books. 3-year-old eats some of his pear, which is a win. (He rarely eats fruit.) It’s my 5-year-old’s teacher’s birthday, so both kids make homemade cards for her. I shower and dress.
9:00 a.m. I drop the kids off at school. I continue reading Harry Potter on the metro.
9:30 a.m. I’m in the office. My boss stops by to discuss a new appeal, and I find out that in an appeal I won last year, the other side has filed a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court. Boss and I can talk about how frivolous the appeal is, but I’m excited to draft a response since I almost never litigate in the Supreme Court (usually the federal appeals courts only).
2:00 p.m. I’m supposed to meet up with a friend for lunch, but her kid has the flu so I eat lunch at my desk.
6:15 p.m. I get home, sit down with the kids for dinner along with our mother’s helper, then do the usual bedtime routine.
8:30 p.m. Kids are in bed, and instead of working out, I finish reading Harry Potter. So good! Husband calls and suggests that we invite my mom to help us out, since we will both be entering a busy time at work next month. I call her and she agrees to come for a month. I text husband and he buys mom a plane ticket.
11:00 p.m. I’m in bed.
7:30 a.m. My kids wake me up, and we sit down to eat breakfast. Friday is my telework day.
8:30 a.m. Kids are dropped off and I am back home by 8:35 a.m. I love living one block from the school — I have saved SO much time, and it has been life-changing! Husband and I often joke that we should be perpetual renters and just continue to move one block away from whichever school the kids end up at.
–I unload the dishwasher, make the beds, and settle down to work. I need the home to be in somewhat tidy shape before I can get work done; otherwise, I get stressed looking at the mess. I start drafting an outline for a brief; I tend to write extremely detailed outlines before drafting an actual brief and I find that this really speeds up the writing process for me.
–Over lunch, I do a 15-minute Fitness Blender abs workout and throw in a few loads of laundry. We don’t have in-unit laundry and the machines tend to get occupied on weekends, so I try to do laundry on Friday if I can. When life is busy, we will use a wash-and-fold service as well. Continue working.
4:30 p.m. Husband returns from his travels, yay! We briefly chat, then he goes to pick up the kids and takes them to the playground while I continue working. I receive an email that the Court has issued a briefing schedule in one of my appeals, and my brief is due in June (two and half months from now). I love the luxury of time I get as an appellate attorney to read and plan and figure out how best to craft my arguments.
–I decide to be ambitious and make sweet potato latkes for the kids for dinner — it’s a lot of effort and ultimately doesn’t go over well with the kids, boo. But I enjoy cooking and trying new recipes. Kids return home from playground and wash up, I give them the latkes and a backup dinner of lentils/rice and quickly get changed.
6:45 p.m. I give hugs and kisses to everyone and am out the door to meet up for a girls’ night dinner. I have dinner with two girlfriends every month and really look forward to these get-togethers. We try a new Israeli restaurant, and the food is delicious and I eat way too much. They surprise me by treating me for my birthday. My friend gives me a ride back.
10:15 p.m. I’m home. DH has done the dishes but the kitchen is not as tidy as I like, and I spend 15 minutes cleaning. I browse the Internet and go to bed by 11:15 p.m.
L told us about her strategies for the days her husband is out of town:
As mentioned, my husband now [travels for work] four days a week. Couple of things that have really helped:
1) I do most all of my cooking on the weekend (that is, when my mom or my mother-in-law are not in town — if they are, they do 100% of the cooking). It’s important to me that my kids eat Indian food for dinner, and there is no way I’m going to find the time to cook an Indian meal on a weeknight. I batch cook three or four dishes. During the week, the only cooking that is done is making rice, roasting veggies (which the mother’s helper does), or making dosas/idlis (but the batter is made on the weekend, so I don’t count that as cooking).
2) When work is too busy, I use a wash-and-fold service that picks up and returns laundry right to my doorstep. We don’t have laundry in our apartment, so the service is really helpful when I’m slammed.
3) We have had a mother’s helper since my oldest was a baby. She comes to our house FIRST and does chores for the first hour (unloading/loading dishwasher, folding laundry, taking out garbage/recycling, sweeping, making beds, roasting veggies, etc.). Then she picks up the kids from school, plays with them, and feeds them dinner until I get home. This rotating group of college women have been truly a lifesaver for our family.
6:30 a.m. Alarm clock wakes us up. Saturdays are our busiest day of the weekend. I shower and make breakfast while husband wakes up the kids and brushes their teeth. Quick breakfast and we leave the house in time for swim class at 8:00 a.m. (yes, really!). I hate the early wake-up time but the kids have a great swim teacher and are progressing, and we haven’t found a better alternative.
9:00 a.m. Kids finish up and I hurriedly shower and dress them in Indian clothes for Hindu school, while getting dressed in Indian clothes myself. Husband showers separately and runs to Starbucks to get a second breakfast for kids. We drive to the Hindu temple, which is 35 minutes away. 5-year-old has been attending since he was 3, and my younger one started this year. They enjoy it, and we have made several good friends. After class, we all have a delicious lunch. (Different families take turns cooking.)
12:30 p.m. We leave and are back home around 1:15 pm. We immediately change and put the kids down for a nap. Even 5-year-old, who often doesn’t take a nap on weekends, naps on Saturdays because of our busy morning schedule. I take a nap as well. I don’t fully fall asleep but enjoy just lying in bed and being quiet for a few hours. Husband is working during this time — he has an incredibly demanding job and works a lot.
4:00 p.m. Kids wake up and play with husband and their Magna-Tiles. I lie in bed until 4:30.
5:30 p.m. We leave for dinner. We generally go to the same pizza joint every other Saturday night and try to meet up with different friends each time. We often used to entertain at home and I would make fairly elaborate dinners, but as of late we have decided to make our lives easier by meeting friends out. I miss entertaining at home, but that’s just not in the cards right now. This time we meet up with a good friend of mine and her husband, who don’t have kids. Over the last year, I have been trying to make more of an effort to hang out with our friends without kids; I enjoy their company and appreciate conversations that are not solely kid-focused, to be honest. The boys ask my friends lots of cute questions and manage to stay in their seats in a restaurant for two hours, which I’m grateful for, but we come armed with coloring books/crayons, cars, flashcards, etc., which help (no screens, as kids don’t get screen time).
7:45 p.m. We leave the restaurant and come back home — no need to give showers to the kids because they had their showers earlier that day at swimming.
9:00 p.m. Kids are in bed, but they don’t fall asleep until 9:30 p.m. I tell myself I should work out but instead start re-reading Marie Kondo’s book on organizing.
11:00 p.m. I’m in bed.
Thanks so much to L for sharing a bit of her life as a working mom! Readers, what’s your biggest takeaway from her week of work as an appellate attorney for the federal government as well as her general work/life balance?
Stock photo via Stencil.
Patty Mayonnaise says
This sounds so great. Particularly the mother’s helper! I’m also in DC and interested to hear more – how did you find her? Do you have to hire a new one every couple of years since they’re college students?
Anon in DC says
+1! Also in DC, also have two kids, also have a husband who travels all the time, also work for the Federal Government, and really really need a mother’s helper for afternoons and evenings! Can you please share how you found her, and how it works? Does she drive your kids and if so in her car or yours? How does payment work – do you use a payroll service? Thank you!
Hi there! We have always found our mother’s helper by posting on the students jobs board at the local university (just pick the one that is closest to where you live – Georgetown, GW, American, Catholic, etc.). You can find the job board online. We have also found college sitters through Urban Sitter and filtering within a 1 mile radius (we live next to American, so that limits our pool to those who attend AU). I usually gets tons of responses, do phone interviews with several, and then ask two to come in person for an interview at our home so I can see how they are with the kids. I also ask for 2-3 babysitting references and call them before I hire anyone.
Couple of important things:
– I am very upfront that the job is not just babysitting but doing house chores. It helps that the school is so close to home so they can do all the chores BEFORE they pick up the kids. I write out a very detailed job description and then when a sitter starts, I give her a list of everything I would like done. I also text her the day of and tell her what veggie to roast for dinner, any special chores not on the list, etc.
– No driving. My kids’ school is a block away, so she walks home with the kids. However, there are college sitters who will drive.
– We pay through a payroll service. A couple of times this has posed an issue because sitters prefer cash, so now I also make this clear in the job description that we will only pay through a service. We’re in DC and many sitters are accustomed to this arrangement, which helps.
– I pay $17-20/hr, depending on experience.
The downside to a college sitter is that they often change every semester depending on their course load. And they go home for winter break and summers, but my schedule is flexible enough that I can pitch in where needed and our sitters have often recommended friends to fill in temporarily. I have had a few great ones work with us for the entire year, and that has been amazing.
The huge upside is that they have been uniformly responsible and cheerful, high energy (ah, youth!), experienced (many have had several younger siblings), and you can give them candid feedback and they will accept it, whereas I feel that is harder to do with an older nanny.
Happy to answer other questions!
Anon in DC says
Thank you for all of these helpful details!
Another reader in DC interested in learning more about how you find & manage your mother’s helper.
Thanks for all the details! The mother’s helper sounds amazing.
We also have a park super close and go every weekend day, if not most weekdays! It’s the best.
Loved this diary. I also have a boss that doesn’t care much about facetime as long as I get my work done. I know I’m a top performer, but sometimes I feel a lot of guilt about rolling into the office close to 10 am, so it was great to hear from another person with flexible hours (and a way more kick-a$$ career than I have!!!). I’m jealous of all your family support also. My BFF is Indian and it’s a given for her parents and in-laws that they will help out a lot with the kids. The culture in DH’s and my families is that the older generation is done with family obligations and is enjoying a life of leisure and travel, which I get, but it’s hard to see my BFF’s parents doing school pick-ups regularly when we’re lucky if we can get my parents to visit a couple times a year for a week.
Thank you! Yes, God bless Indian parents. :) The amount of help they have given us over the years is immeasurable and if I thank them, they will just say — why are you thanking me? This is what I should be doing.
Of course, the other side of this coin is that my MIL lives with us half the year and my mom lives with us for 2 months off and on, so this arrangement doesn’t work for everyone. It helps that DH is Indian as well, so having parents live with us is the norm and no big deal. My kids benefit so much from having grandparents around, and it’s amazing not to have to worry about cooking when they are in town. And I would like to think that we are modeling to our kids the importance of taking care of and respecting our elders. My MIL told us during her last visit that being around my kids is like “medicine for her soul.”
Boston Legal Eagle says
I think this is really common among recent immigrant families in general. I am from an immigrant family (not South Asian) and my parents moved to our state to help us, and have provided a lot of help over the last few years with our small kids. I hope to do the same for our kids. My husband and his parents grew up here and don’t see their role as our helpers – whenever they visit or we visit them, they expect us to host/entertain them. My husband does most of that work, but it frustrates me, especially when compared to how my parents interact with us.
You sound so calm and energized. Well done on finding a routine that works, especially with a spouse away!
Ha, I think you skipped over the parts where I was snapping at my younger one for not going to bed. But thank you. :)
Lana Del Raygun says
I couldn’t help but notice that this is tagged “WORKING MOMS IN THE SOUTH” o_0
When I lived in the Northeast, DC was in the South. Now that I live in the South, DC is in the North.
Lana Del Raygun says
DC combines Southern efficiency with Northern charm.
It took me a minute but this made me laugh so hard.
Well, if you go with the four Census regions, it’s technically in the South… :) (And there’s even debate on exactly which states are in the Mid-Atlantic.) We haven’t done it so far, but maybe we should add tags for certain major cities, since readers moving to a particular city might be interested in reading those moms’ experiences.
this is funny to me because i lived in NYC for a long time and then later lived in DC and while yes, when I moved I was moving south in terms of direction, no one ever said to me that you are moving to THE south
More Sleep Would Be Nice says
So, so, so happy to read about a fellow Indian mum/WOC in the DMV :) So much of this made me smile — the bits about Mum/MIL’s longer trips to help, the chai routine (one of my goals for this quarter is to make cutting chai at home more often), etc.
Especially enjoyed the tidbits on food/cooking – I try to make sure at least one of the meals I prep for the week is Indian or at least Indian-ish. DS is only 16 months, so hoping to have a template closer to yours as DS gets older and hopefully has a sibling to join. Also love the “Hindu school” tidbit – I always find there aren’t as many cultural opps in the DMV as there are in my home city, so happy you have found a way to make it work.
Also DH has done an appellate clerkship and always covets appellate opps at his firm when he can get them, so this really resonated. Your entire post brought me so much joy. Thank you for sharing!
SAAAAAAME! I loved this post and I am neither Indian nor in DC. It’s so nice to see some WOC representation on this blog. Especially after today when I took my bilingual kid to her Kindergarten orientation and they asked if I thought she needed ESL classes, even after I had marked on the form that she was 100% fluent in English, and she scored a 94% on the screening tool they had administered that very morning. I mean come on. But I digress…
I love that you have made time to prepare the week’s Indian meals for your family on the weekend. We try to eat our ethnic food at least once a week, but like your meals, they take too much time to prepare on weeknights. I may try to make this weekend hack work for us, too.
You have a wonderfully social life. I am very impressed that you are able to fit it all in!
More Sleep Would Be Nice says
OMG. SO ANNOYING. The Microagressions are REAL! Eyerolling with you in spirit.
And while I love this space so much, I do agree it can lack WOC/Immigrant representation at times. I wonder if it’s just the demographic that steers towards sites like this, or if I should be better about being clear I’m a WOC with a mixed kid when context is appropriate…like how OP makes it clear in her post.
Representation is definitely something that’s important to us (and we certainly have room to improve), but at least a few times when we’ve published a Week in the Life written by a WOC, she doesn’t explicitly make that clear in her post. (We respect her decision either way, of course!) And (speaking of microaggressions), when I see the WITL submissions come in I’ll sometimes notice that a particular mom has a last name that might suggest she’s a WOC, but I don’t want to ask, “So, what ARE you?” or “Where are you FROM? No, where are you REALLY from?” or other questions that would be inappropriate and offensive. (There’s a possibility that maybe that’s her married name, anyway.) However, I have begun to ask WITL writers if they would prefer that we use a woman of color in the stock photo for their posts. (We don’t always use stock images with people in them, though.)
More Sleep Would Be Nice says
That is super thoughtful. Thanks for expanding and for building this community – it’s a hard balance for representation on a site where folks are mostly anon.
For what it’s worth, I think inviting people to self-identify as a POC, LGBTQ+, person w/a disability, veteran, single mom, or any other category that you think might resonate with your readers (and bring new readers into the fold!) is a worthy and fine way to operate. You’re right that it is not appropriate to hunt for clues and ask people what they *really* are, omg (and thank you for knowing that!). But you could make it an optional part of your form and warmly encourage people to write about that element of themselves if they’d like to. Right now the only relevant wording on your form isn’t entirely inviting (“If you prefer that the photo features a model of a particular race/ethnicity, please let us know.”) but I take you at your word that this is important to you! And I have to say that this is an example of where having POC (or any minority) represented on staff/management is so important. Thanks for your efforts to build an inclusive community here!
@ Redux (We’ve reached the limit of times you can hit Reply! :) )
Thank you for your feedback! And we’re certainly willing to add something to the form. I’m worried about exactly how to phrase that kind of question because, for one, I want to avoid it appearing as tokenism. But maybe I am overthinking it? (I will talk to Kat about revising the form!)
We were glad to be able to share a WITL from a single mom recently — we don’t get a lot of submissions from single moms, so that was great — and we’d like more, as well as readers who identify as members of the groups you mentioned! (Re that existing question, I can make that wording more inviting/transparent by explaining our motivation for asking.)
Regarding representation on staff (an important issue!), April, who began writing our morning posts a year ago, is a woman of color, but as she prefers to be somewhat anonymous on the blog, I won’t be more specific. (In fact, I will message her now to see if mentioning that is an issue for her, and delete if so!) Ugh, I am sorry if that comes off as, “Hey, we do have a writer who is not white, so it’s all good!” but I wasn’t sure how to better phrase it…
Please continue to give us your suggestions in the future. :)
The last diary was a WOC too I think.
Redux – thank you! Definitely try cooking at least one or two things on the weekend, it helps so much. Also, that week happened to be an especially social one, in large part because of my birthday. Every week isn’t like that for sure, but I try prioritizing social plans as much as I can because it brings me joy.
What a kind email, thank you!
The Indian cultural opportunities in the DC area are invariably all in the suburbs, so it does require driving on the weekends. But we have made some great friends through our temple and it’s been nice to celebrate major holidays together, esp. because our families are not local. It’s been very important to us that our kids know about their culture, language and heritage.
The key for making chai is not to stand over the stove the entire time. Boil water, add ginger, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, and then go brush your kids’ teeth/do something else for 5 minutes. Come back, add black tea, milk, turn to low and do something else for another 5 minutes. Then come back and strain, and add sugar to taste. :)
I love hearing about your work / life balance in a role that still garners prestige, and it’s admirable that you incorporate your culture so well into your children’s lives. When your mother or MIL comes to stay for extended periods, how do you handle sleeping arrangements? Do you put the children back into the same bedroom? Asking as a fellow 3 BR dweller myself.
Thanks so much! Fortunately the kids now sleep in the same room, so the guest bedroom is free for my MIL or mom (they never come at the same time). But there are sometimes instances where another relative will also visit when one parent is around, so we have a sleeper sofa in the living room that they can use.
Friend in DC says
I loved this post. What a delightful woman!
Thank you, my dear friend!
Clearly the details of my post are so specific that I have been outed. :)
Boston Legal Eagle says
You sound like you have a really interesting job and a great balance at home as well! It’s so reassuring to hear from moms of even slightly older kids that it does get easier and they do eventually become more self-sufficient. I have a toddler and baby now and can’t imagine having either my husband or me travel on a consistent basis right now (I know people do it, I just wouldn’t choose it and luckily we don’t have jobs that require it). Do you find it easier to deal with your younger one’s toddler years that the older one is older, than when it was the toddler + baby combo?
Oh, absolutely. If my husband told me two years ago that he would be traveling 4 days a week, I would have probably burst into tears and booked the next flight for my mom to come and help. We really turned a corner when my youngest turned 3 (and my kids are now 4 and 6, and even more self sufficient). It helps that they are so close in age and get along well, so they largely entertain themselves while I get stuff done in the evenings. Another huge factor is that they reliably go to bed around 8 pm and wake up around 7 am (since I wrote this, my youngest dropped his nap so he falls asleep quickly at night). I’m one of those people who needs my sleep and I found it very tough getting up at night when my kids were younger. It really does get better.
OK. I officially need a mother’s helper. I love this!
This was a delightful read. I LOVE this series, but the posts sometimes leave me a little stressed or anxious (not sure why, exactly, since I really enjoy reading them all). Thank you, L, for taking the time to write this!
I loved this one so much. Thanks for taking the time to share.
A few questions:
1. Can you talk about how you got your current job? You have my dream job, but I always assumed you needed to be HYS, law review, top of the class, federal appellate clerk to land a prestigious job like this. Is this true?
2. How has it been having your MIL live with you for so many months at a time? I may be in a similar situation in a few years (not Indian but similar cultural background and familial expectations). I would have no problem with my mom but I can’t imagine my own MIL staying with us for an extended period, even if she were helpful.
3. Can I move in? Eating homemade dosas for dinner sounds like a dream.
Thanks for this! Here are my (lengthy) answers:
1. I don’t have the usual HYS credentials and you’re right that this is the standard background for my type of job. I’m one of the only people in my division who didn’t go to an Ivy League law school, nor was I on law review. However, I worked really hard in law school and did well, and was fortunate to get a federal district clerkship, which paved the way for my federal appellate clerkship. I also worked in Big Law where I had to lobby hard to get appellate work, and I did. I have also done a good job about staying in touch with my judges, mentors at law firms, other colleagues, etc. over the years, and some of them have kept me in mind and referred to me to jobs when something good came up.
As for my current job, that was a bit of a fluke. I applied on USA Jobs and got the interview, with no “in.” With that said, once I got the interview, my appellate judge called my now boss and put in a great word for me.
Bottom line, if you are interested in appellate work (and live in DC, which is where most of this work is), keep your eyes peeled and apply. If you don’t have an appellate clerkship, try to showcase your writing/analytical skills in other ways. And for any job, if you know someone who works there already, try to get that person to advocate for you or at least ask them to send your resume to the right person.
2. MIL living with us was not all roses at first. In fact, husband and MIL don’t get along that well so this was a huge hurdle at first. She has changed for the better over the years, and we have also learned to adjust. It’s not perfect, but we remind ourselves that she is 70 and won’t always be with us, so we want her to be happy and feel valued. She loves our kids and they have brought her immense joy. And my kids love her as well.
3. Dosas are the best. :) But my younger one much prefers idlis. Go figure.
Thanks for responding!
Fellow desi here, this post makes me SO happy and makes me appreciate even more my wonderful mom,who goes out of her way to help us. My goal in life is to be even half as helpful as my parents have been to my family. Thanks for sharing.
Oh yes, I feel the same way. Thank you!
Not varsity blues says
This was a fascinating read, in part because of the cultural angle. I definitely echo the comments of others that it would be great to see broader representation here.
Not sure how I would feel about my parents living with us for an extended period but it seems like you have the right attitude about it.
This was a great read! Such an amazing balance of work, family, friends, yummy food, and exercise:) Thanks for reminding me about fitness blender–it was my go-to for a while but I’ve overlooked it recently. Definitely envious of the job. Getting only 2 to 3 emails a day and doing solo research and writing sounds like nirvana. I have a friend in appellate practice, though not in DC, and her hours/flexibility are much like this. Thanks!
Fitness Blender is great (another recommendation I learned about thanks to this page). Thanks for the thoughtful note!
fellow mom of two says
I love how you have created a balance between working hard, enjoying what you do, spending focused time with your kids and husband and outsourcing to help maintain that balance. Awesome!
You’re very kind, thank you!
Fellow DMVer says
Thank you for the detail in this post! Question on Hindu school – we are also in DC and my DH is Indian. We don’t have children yet (soon we hope!) and don’t regularly go to Temple ourselves. But we have wondered what temple might work best for Hindu school for future kids and making more connections with other families. Do most temples offer Hindu school? Do you like yours and did you pick because closest or best option?
Hello there! I suggest looking into the Bala Vihar program at the Chinmaya Mission (three locations in DMV — Silver Spring, Frederick and Chantilly). Bala Vihar has been around for 20 + years now and they have a structured and organized curriculum, which I really like. Their focus is on teaching the Gita, learning about various Hindu holidays, and a focus on core human values like respect, kindness, charity, etc. I really like how all children are required to wear Indian clothes every week, chant the Hanuman Chalisa (a very popular religious song), and participate in a short meditation, among other things. They have classes for every grade, from preK to 12th. My older one in particular has become really proud to be Indian and has embraced the culture, I think in part due to regularly attending Bala Vihar and being around other Indian kids.
Also, it’s a national program so if you move to another state, the Bala Vihar program at the Chinmaya Mission there will match the one in DC. We go to the one in Silver Spring and really like it. There are a few mixed race families, so you wouldn’t be the only ones, and many of the parents who attend are raised in the states. I believe that some of the Hindu temples have their own Sunday school programs, but I don’t know much about them. My hunch is that the parent community at the temples is likely to be straight from India, as opposed to raised in the states, but that’s my guess. Hope that helps!
I just googled and found that the largest Hindu temple in the area, in Lanham, MD, has a Sunday school program for kids ages 5 – 18. Here is more info:
I have no experience with the school but I attend the temple for major holidays. They also have an amazing canteen on weekends with delicious food. :)
Thank you for sharing!! Got lots of ideas. One question – do you feed dinner to the helper? Or are they doing housework while you & kids eat? This is one of the things holding me back from getting an evening helper – I’d feel strange (guilty?) eating dinner while the helper is doing work, but adding another serving to dinner is a hassle. Thanks!
I do offer, but they rarely take me up on it. Some of our helpers have had restrictive food allergies, some might be too polite to say they don’t like Indian food, or whatever the reason, but it’s pretty rare. This is also because I don’t eat dinner with the kids generally. I chat with them while they eat (and focus on feeding my younger one, who is not a good eater). Then after the kids eat, the mother’s helper leaves and then I sit and eat my dinner while the kids play. I agree with you that it would be awkward eating while she was doing chores. We have never gotten into a great habit of all eating together.
Thanks! You’ve given me some new ideas. Thank you for sharing!