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For this installment of our Week in the Life of a Working Mom series, I’m happy to introduce CorporetteMoms reader H, who lives in the South with her husband and two kids and works as an in-house 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 a medium-sized town in the South
Job: In-house counsel at a very huge company
Home Situation: I live in a 4-bedroom, 4,000-square-foot house with my husband and two boys, age 2 and 4. You get a lot of real estate for the money here, and we recently moved from a similarly-sized house but downsized a bedroom to provide more living and open space that works as the boys get older.
Childcare Situation: Occasional babysitter to do daycare pickup at least once a week
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 in the industry is all over the board, but working in legal for a big company in a small town turns out to be a blessing. It’s great work but at a reasonable pace, as the town is very family friendly so the company tends to be too. It’s definitely some long days when needed, but hearing about senior management needing to leave early for a kid’s event, or how I know work will be dead during spring break as everyone takes time off to be with their kids is great for quality of life or work balance.
How do you handle household chores, such as laundry, grocery shopping, housecleaning, etc.? Who does what, and when — and how often?
I have a housekeeper who comes in weekly for housecleaning and most of the laundry. The rest gets taken care of during the week by me or my husband. We don’t have a specific division of labor. He loves to cook so he makes big meals during the weekends and I handle getting food on the table most weeknights. I menu-plan every weekend for the week ahead because the kids are picky, though that’s improved a lot over the last year. I handle bulk grocery shopping when I work from home. We use Walmart grocery pickup or delivery a lot, which allows us to both add stuff to our cart online a few days before scheduled pickup or delivery.
When H read over her Week in the Life recently (after submitting it at the end of last year), this was her impression:
Looking back, I can’t believe how awesome my work-life balance was when I wrote that. My work is pretty cyclical, so right now it’s super busy and I don’t work from home or meet up with my husband for lunch as often, but that was around the holidays so work was definitely slower then.
Coronavirus update: Because Sarah wrote her Week in the Life before the coronavirus pandemic, we asked her for an update. Here’s what she told us during the first week of April:
Thanks to COVID, I am working from home and have been for about three weeks. The first two weeks were a breeze, as the kids still went to daycare. They had about three other kids in their classes so I was comfortable with the decision then. My husband is still going into work. He is absolutely non-essential but he feels like since his office is closed and there are usually only two or three other people on his floor, as long as he takes sanitizing precautions he is fine.
However, I pulled the kids from school after two weeks, as our state and county infection numbers are starting to rise. This means I get less work done at home, but it has not been an issue as I have no problem answering calls with my kids in the background (and sometimes don’t even apologize for it!). My workout routine used to be the treadmill, but it has been replaced with walks around the neighborhood with the kiddos. The 2-year-old still naps so I get most of my work done during that mid-afternoon window period. My husband will take vacation from work so he can watch the kids and I can get more work done after our first week. His job entails lots of conference calls so working from home was much harder for him with little kids and no dedicated office space.
On the plus side I have been cooking a lot! Dinner is a fancy recipe at least a few times a week. It helps that I am not too worried about job security, as my company is weathering the pandemic just fine, but my husband did have a slight salary cut so I try to avoid buying non-essentials and am spending pretty much all our money on groceries and activities to keep the kids occupied. Turns out a nice backyard, plenty of walks, some screen time, and a few educational activities each morning seem to be working for us just fine. However, let’s see how this looks when we start to get to week six or eight. I joke that our lifestyle has been in training for this, as we were never very social, so I miss my colleagues at work but regular Zoom catch-ups make up for it a bit.
A Week in My Life
7:30 a.m. Wake up. I go get the boys ready for the morning and down for breakfast. Husband makes pancakes for breakfast. Although oldest kid asked and begged for chocolate chip pancakes all week, when he finally tried them he’s not thrilled (chocolate chip to pancake ratio) and we spend half an hour coaxing him to eat an entire pancake before he can get cereal as a backup. Oldest was recovering from a viral infection so we stayed in after a Saturday visit to urgent care.
Staying in all weekend is hard with kids, as we all feel cooped up. We recently moved into a place with a huge yard so the boys can be outdoors more often, but the weather has turned cold before we got maximum use of the yard.
1:00–3:00 p.m. Kids nap. Lazed around the house all day. Set up Christmas tree and decor. We did check on the vegetable garden, where we recently planted some garlic.
5:00–6:30 p.m. Make pasta from recipe I found on Instagram; the kids seemed to approve.
7:30 p.m. Bedtime for kids.
Prep for the week ahead. Work out.
6:45 a.m. Wake and prep oatmeal for the kids’ breakfast.
7:15 a.m. Wake up and get the kids ready for school. Kids eat breakfast with their dad while I get ready for work.
8:30 a.m. Dad takes kids to school. I head into work.
9:00 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Conference calls and reviewing documents and responding to my clients’ needs. We have a filing soon so I try to focus and review for a few hours while taking breaks to catch up with work friends.
4:30 p.m. Pick up kids from daycare.
5:00 p.m. Get home and prep dinner.
7:00 p.m. Bath and early bedtime for kids, as oldest is still recovering and a bit tired.
Usually after kids go down, spouse and I catch up about our days and the week ahead. Kids’ pictures from daycare came in so I order a few poses in time for the holiday.
7:00 a.m. Start morning routine. Kids eat a lighter breakfast today as the school menu today has stuff they’ll eat. I’m working from home today, so after drop-off I run a bunch of errands, heavy on groceries and gifts for upcoming birthday parties.
Get home mid-morning and work between putting away the kids’ laundry from when the maid did it yesterday and getting in a workout. I have a harder time working out in the evenings so try to do it midday whenever I get a chance.
5:00 p.m. Babysitter brings home kids, but they don’t realize I’m home so I get in an extra hour of work before heading to cook dinner at 6:00.
We asked H where she and her husband get their dinner recipes, and she had this to say:
We used to rely on Blue Apron for dinner with just one toddler, but now with two slightly picky eaters, we just get creative and rotate some tried-and-true favorites. I have been known to google kid-friendly recipes from time to time as a springboard. I have a whiteboard I menu-plan on a week ahead; that way whomever gets home first knows what to start prepping for dinner. We are pretty flexible with making meals work for all of us, i.e., fish for the grown-ups and chicken nuggets for the kids, with the side and veggies being the same for grown-ups and kids.
7:00 a.m. Morning routine starts. Some mornings are better than others. I corral the boys but I need to be out the door reasonably early for a morning meeting, so we manage to get them done and ready, and I do daycare drop-off and am at my desk by 8:30 a.m. I have a meeting I can’t miss at least once a week, but days vary. My schedule each week is based on those meetings as that determines what days I work from home and who does pickup and drop-off.
8:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m. Workday goes very well. Very productive and helped out a colleague with an issue related to one of my clients.
Husband is working late so I pick up kids for another humdrum dinner routine.
H shared a bit more about dividing parenting and household duties with her husband:
I got lucky. We got married older, in our mid- to late 30s, so I’ve always been pretty clear about how much emotional labor I can take on and manage at work. We never really did a deep-dive discussion into it, but because there’s so much he takes on that speaks to his strengths and preferences, it works out that way for me, too. His mom was a single mom and a nurse with quite a busy schedule so I think he was used to taking care of himself and the house from an early age. We were long distance until we got married so this isn’t something I could have confirmed ahead of time. I like to say he keeps me fed and watered so I can do the same for the kids. Plus he really wants a third kid and I don’t, so I feel he tries to show how little much stress a third kid would be. Not buying it so far and I’m too old at this point to do that to my body and career.
Husband and I leave home together as we have parent-teacher conferences at the boys’ school. I’m always happy when we both make it. My schedule is flexible, so I am always at these, but he makes them 75% of the time.
10:00 a.m. I go into work. Uneventful day. Get home in time to get dressed for dinner.
6:00 p.m. Babysitter comes by to feed kids and watch them as we head out for dinner with my sister and her husband. We don’t get out to dinner much during the week but are trying to do it more often.
I already had the kids dressed for bed so they only need to be fed and then sent to bed. Babysitter texts twice at dinner but this is her first time putting them to bed. My sister has two similarly aged kids so we always have lots to catch up on and none of our family lives nearby so we try to catch up often.
We asked H to elaborate on her opportunities to socialize during the week and asked if she has time for hobbies:
With the youngest finally becoming a toddler, my social life has improved so much more. My husband and I now attend galas or fundraisers from time to time (he does it for work reasons and I love to dress up!) and regularly accept invitations we would have turned down over the last four years. I tend to do most of my socializing with friends during lunch in the workweek because that’s always what I did even while single. I still limit after-work events to about once or twice a month, as I really don’t like missing family dinner and I know as they move off to school, there may be less of those in the future. Sadly, I don’t have any exciting hobbies as I’m a voracious reader and that’s what I do in my downtime almost every evening between kids’ bedtime and mine while catching up with my husband. We cut cable and I don’t even miss it because so many books!
Morning routine. I drop off the boys and head to work till lunchtime. Work is quiet on Fridays, so I meet my husband for lunch at a new ramen place we’ve been wanting to try for a few months.
After lunch I run a few holiday-related errands (have to get the perfect Christmas decorations) and head home. Husband worked from home after lunch, so that’s a pleasant surprise, as we get to hang out in the afternoon kid-free. I work out and then prep our guest room for guests and make sure the kids are all set with clothes picked out for the weekend and the first few days of school. I wardrobe-plan ahead for the kids daily to make our morning and evening routine as painless as possible.
5:00 p.m. I go to daycare for pickup and husband preps dinner. Another quiet night in, though husband and kids trim the tree with the decorations I bought after dinner.
Note: Husband does all house stuff, holiday decor, etc., as I’m not into it. He does a good share of cooking and cleaning too when the kids and I are getting ready for bed. It’s not a perfect 50/50 split. I do a lot of the emotional kid stuff, like planning doctor appointments, dealing with daycare day-to-day stuff, kids’ wardrobe, or groceries, but him taking care of feeding us or making sure where we live is clean and in good condition frees me up to do all this happily. After both kid #1 and #2 we considered if I would stay home, but we earn roughly the same, so that would have been a hit to income, plus I would not have been happy being a SAHM. I married older so had quite a long career before kids and would like to have it all as long as possible.
7:30 a.m. Sleep in an extra half hour. Baby will stay in his crib without crying for a while after waking up. Kids help dad with breakfast and then we go visit with my sister and her kids for a play date.
12:30 p.m. Lunch and then nap or quiet time.
3:00 p.m. Play outdoors in the yard and walk around the neighborhood. We live in a small community so walking the hood means stopping and chatting with neighbors for about 45 minutes.
5:00 p.m. Start dinner. Kids help out in the kitchen. I should buy a taller step tool for them so they can be more involved.
6:30 p.m. Dinner and bath and bedtime routine for kids.
8:00 p.m. Husband makes us a cocktail and we hang out and binge watch Jack Ryan on Netflix till bedtime.
Thanks so much to H for sharing a bit of her life as a working mom! Readers, what’s your biggest takeaway from her week of work as an in-house counsel as well as her general work/life balance?
Stock photo via Stencil.