For this week’s installment of our Week in the Life of a Working Mom series, I’m happy to introduce CorporetteMoms reader E, who lives in San Francisco with her husband and two kids and works as a general counsel. 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: Live and work in San Francisco
Job: General Counsel and one and only lawyer for a holding company — provide all legal support for several global companies.
Home Situation: I live in San Francisco with my husband (consultant, usually at client sites), our two teenagers (middle- and high-school age) and dog.
Childcare Situation: Now we are down to only the occasional sitter/driver for our kids, usually when I am on business travel. Otherwise, I do all of the pickups, we carpool or the kids get rides/walk/mass transit. Husband works about an hour away, so he rarely drives the kids. Fortunately, the kids’ schools are both within walking distance and bus lines, so in a pinch they can get themselves to/from places. When they were younger, I had an afterschool sitter/driver every weekday, which cost me about $300–400 per week.
A Week in My Life
11:00 a.m. Go to church.
1:00–6:00 p.m. Meal-prep lunches and dinners for the week. Teenagers eat a lot and we all get home so late (and hungry) that weekend meal-prep is a necessity.
6:00–8:00 p.m. Family dinner out. After cooking all afternoon, I hate cooking again. Sometimes Husband (who is a great cook) handles dinner but often we go out. Give us all a chance to catch up too.
8:00–10:00 p.m. Decompress with Netflix and maybe type out a couple of work emails. On Sundays, I try to focus on our family’s week ahead rather than work.We asked E to tell us more about her meal prep:
Usually Instant Pot (IP obsessed!) or husband weekend-grills a protein or two, make a rice dish and roast veggies, or prep raw veg for salad or snacks. I try to keep in one ethnic theme like Mexican (e.g., barbacoa), Asian (e.g., teriyaki), Mediterranean (e.g., Greek salad or gyros). Kids are picky, which is totally my fault, and the teens try to eat healthy to fuel for sports so I try to support that. Would love to pack lunches for hubby and me but the thought of being responsible for another lunch is too much, so hubby and I just buy every day.
5:30–6:30 a.m. Work conference call. I support global operations, so early morning calls are a regular occurrence.
6:30–7:45 a.m. Feed/let dog out, make lunches, tidy up in the kitchen, make sure the kids are up and usually drive my older kid to school (about 15 mins. round trip). Husband tries to leave the house by 7:30.
7:45–8:15 a.m. Golden quiet time with my coffee while reading news on my phone.
8:15–9:00 a.m. Shower, get ready for work — all the while checking and responding to emails. In the U.S., the companies I support are primarily in the Eastern time zone, so I respond to pressing matters even before I get to work.
9:00–9:15 a.m. Quick walk for my energetic pup. My neighbor walks my dog on Monday and Wednesday afternoons so I feel less guilty about the shortness of the walk. Before I catch my train to get to work.
9:50 a.m.–6:15 p.m. Arrive at work and dive into the rest of the day. Review contracts, handle litigation, respond to emails, lots of conference calls and meetings. My most productive hours are after 3:00 p.m. when most of the geographies I support have left work or are sleeping.
6:15 p.m. Bust out of work to take the train and pick up my kid from a school activity. (Fortunately, everything is connected by mass transit. Unfortunately, I left work late, as usual.) My kid is really committed, so I have been making getting kiddo there/home work for us for several years, sometimes with the help of a teenage neighbor and previously with an afterschool babysitter/driver. Lots of work and money, but I like to support my kid’s interest.
7:00 p.m. Finish commute home via train with kid. Other kid has just come home. Feed dog. Start dinner, relying on weekend-prepped ingredients. Dinner is on the table around 7:30-8:00 most days.
8:00–9:00 p.m. Clean up the kitchen, check in with kids on school and homework and decompress a little. Husband comes home. My cleaners are coming tomorrow (they come every two weeks) so I tidy up and tell my kids to do the same so that the cleaners can actually clean. Husband never understands why I clean up before the cleaners come.
9:00–11:00 p.m. Husband and I chat some more and decompress. Netflix. Respond to any pressing work emails.
6:30–7:45 a.m. Feed/let dog out, make lunches, drive.
7:45–8:15 a.m. Coffee & news.
8:15–9:00 a.m. Shower, get ready for work and work emails.
9:00–9:15 a.m. Walk the dog. Get on the train to commute to work.
9:50 a.m.–6:15 p.m. Work, usually through lunch as usual.
6:15 p.m. Bust out of work to take the train and pick up my other kid clear across town from his sports practice. Kiddo has practices six days a week and gets own ride home twice a week (when I am picking up other kid) and I pick up three days a week. Tuesdays have become tricky with kid pickups in general, since the other one started a new sport that gets out at the same time. I have been dealing with it week to week. My parents are visiting next week for a few weeks, so they can help me, and spring break is coming up. I figure I only need to fly by the seat of my pants for three weeks max before the season ends. In a bind, I can ask one of the teammates to swing my kid home on their way home. I have learned over the years that a lot of this type of stuff can be figured out quickly last minute. (It may sound like my husband never helps, but he is a huge support in everything. It’s just that I have to tell him what to do because I control the master schedule — pick up kid 1 on Tuesday, feed them dinner on Thursday because I have a work dinner, etc.)
7:00 p.m. Get home, start dinner.
7:30–8:00 p.m. Kids eat.
8:00–9:00 p.m. Do quick version of evening’s activities, but then run to mall a few minutes away to do some returns from online shopping. It is the only way I can even try to keep my look current.
9:00–12:00 a.m. Binge watch the Netflix series I am hooked on. I will pay for this tomorrow with undereye circles and fatigue.
Same schedule as Monday except no extra tidying for cleaners. Insomnia due to work deadlines coming up. I am doing a lot of juggling at work. Occasionally, I get sucked in and can’t sleep. Keep getting emails from my boss overseas (my phone chimes every time I get an email from certain key executives at the companies) helps me stay on top of time-sensitive matters but is also a curse because of the distraction. I keep responding. It is 2:00 a.m. and I am coordinating with him to schedule a 7:00 a.m. meeting when I should really be asleep!
We asked E to compare her current position to her previous jobs in the field:
Had several in-house jobs before this, but always on a team and not as GC. Prior to that, I worked at a mid-sized firm doing litigation (never BigLaw, since I had one kid during law school). Went in-house for what I thought would be more work-life balance, but that never happened. The fact that there are direct business consequences to everything I do makes in-house legal work fun and challenging. Biggest challenge of being in-house and especially as GC is that my time is not really my own. Emergencies and pressing projects crop up when they do, and I need to be available to support them whenever they come up. This was much more challenging when my kids were younger. Once, during a huge transaction in the summer, I had to fly my kids to my parents’ place out of state to drop them off for a few weeks — I didn’t even have enough time to manage the sitter and give hubby scheduling info so he could support.
Same schedule as Tuesday except at 8:30–9:30 or 10:00 p.m. I run out to one or two grocery stores to start shopping for the next week. Teenagers eat a lot, so I am usually out of food by Wednesday or Thursday night. I have found that these late-night grocery runs save me a lot of time and aggravation because the stores and parking lots are not crowded just before 10:00 p.m. close. I can shop in peace and more efficiently.
5:30–6:30 a.m. Work conference call.
9:30–2:00 p.m. Work is extra busy today because everyone is trying to get everything done before the weekend. Since I am the one and only attorney, things come in waves.
2:00–5:30 p.m. This is when I do some of my best focused work. Very few calls and emails come in at this time. I do some of my best work planning/visioning during this time. It also gives me uninterrupted time to get organized for any work I have to get done over the weekend.
5:30–9:00 p.m. Get home, figure out what kind of takeout or food delivery everyone agrees on for dinner (decision by committee — it usually takes a while), have some wine, and chat with husband. Everyone in our family fully decompresses during this time. Usually too tired to go out with husband, friends, or anyone else. Sometimes, I will use this time to do more grocery shopping.
9:00 p.m.-ish Get in bed and binge watch Netflix. Going to sleep on Friday nights is the best, knowing you have two more rest days ahead of you.
I try to keep Saturday as unstructured as possible, and I sleep in if I can. Currently, with the kids’ schedules, it is literally the only day we do not have any scheduled activities.
I try to do as little cooking on Saturdays as possible. We may takeout lunch and/or go out to dinner. Or Husband cooks. Or kids fend for themselves at neighborhood food joints. The only exception is if we have friends over for dinner, in which case I will cook a lot of food, but that can often be repurposed for kids in the next week.
Most of the day is spent doing errands or housework. Laundry and clean up. Tackle a small home project/home maintenance if I am motivated enough. Run errands: dry cleaner, tailor, cobbler, dog-related maintenance. and occasionally get a gel manicure if I have an important work meeting or presentation coming up. Sometimes another grocery store run (albeit smaller).
Occasionally, if I have enough time, I will take my dog for a long walk, go for a jog, yoga, or do another activity. I am short on time and predictability of work schedule for exercise these days so I get most of my activity through walking. (I take mass transit most days.) I am hoping this eases as the kids get older.
Sometimes, Husband and I sneak out late afternoon for a local wine tasting. It is casual and a good way to reconnect with our friends.
If there is a pressing or emergency matter at work, I will usually work Saturday as a regular workday. That means all of the chores are left for Sunday!
E had this to say about working on the weekend:
I am expected to be reachable over the weekend, but generally people at my company try not to bother me unless absolutely necessary. I work maybe one Saturday a month, and that is only if I’m too behind at work, there is a pressing unusual matter that affects senior management, or I need a final push on a project. I intentionally try not to work Saturdays because they are family days. I have seen my mentors dedicate a full weekend day (usually Sunday) to getting ready for the coming week, and I see value in that, but I have elected not to do that at this phase in my life. Maybe in a few years when one or both kids are out of the house. Work-life balance is about choosing priorities, doing your best, trusting those that support you, and never feeling guilty.
Thanks so much to E for sharing a bit of her life as a working mom! Readers, what’s your biggest takeaway from her week of work as a general counsel as well as her general work/life balance?
Stock photo via Deposit Photos / AllaSerebrina.