For this week’s installment of our Week in the Life of a Working Mom series, I’m happy to introduce CorporetteMoms reader G, who lives in the Southeast with her husband and son and works as copy editor at a marketing firm. 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: Large city in southeastern U.S. (live in suburbs, work near downtown)
Job: Copy editor at marketing firm
Home Situation: Standard suburban house on a cul de sac, with husband K (40, network engineer), son B (9, Cub Scout and budding scientist), and sleek tuxedo cat J.
Childcare Situation: Son is in school (public) until 4:00 and goes to on-site aftercare until 6:00 ($47/week). In summer we cobble together day camps (~$200 a week) and will probably do that for a few more years, at least until he’s in middle school.
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?
My typical workflow doesn’t require night/weekend work, but I sometimes end up bringing work home when I need to catch up. The bigger part of work/life balance for me is figuring out how to be an involved parent while still being a good employee. I was a stay-at-home mom/freelancer until B was 6, and when I went back to full-time work, I was very intentional about making the balance work. Literally, I said in interviews, “I have a child, kids get sick, I’m going to need to work from home sometimes.” I didn’t want to end up in an office where I had to hide the fact that I was a parent.
How do you handle household chores, such as laundry, grocery shopping, housecleaning, etc.? Who does what, and when — and how often?
My husband has done school pickup and drop-off since I started this job 10 months ago — he has a shorter commute and more flexibility in his working hours. This is great because he and B work well together in the mornings. They do a grocery run once or twice a week on the way home. We each do our own laundry, splitting B’s clothes and household loads like towels. I do most of the housecleaning and bill-paying. With my longer commute, a lot of the housecleaning has fallen by the wayside — right now the tub really needs a scrubbing, for example. But I refuse to drive myself crazy about housework — I do what needs it when I have time/energy for it, and everything else gets done when it gets done. If it bothers anyone else in the house (ahem), they can do it.
We outsource yard work (twice a month mowing) and we’re talking about hiring a housecleaner, but we have to do a lot of decluttering first. We’ve been in this house for two years but you wouldn’t know it to look at it — we are terrible unpackers and we have a lot of move-in tasks left to do.
A Week in My Life
7:00 a.m. Wake up reluctantly. The church that B and I go to is starting up family Mass again for the school year, so we have to leave the house by 8:15. During the summer we went to a later service, but now it’s time to start getting up earlier.
7:45 a.m. Wake up B. He’s a super deep sleeper so he’s hard to wake up. It’s really easy to get off on the wrong foot on Sunday mornings, but today I have an inspiration: Let’s have a race to see who can get dressed faster! When he comes into my room to show me he’s dressed, he doesn’t notice that I’m dressed too, and he declares that he’s won. Fine by me; it’s a small price to pay for progress. And it pays off — we leave the house on time and even get to church early!
After Mass we have lunch at a bagel shop near church; we go there almost every week and order the same thing, so the staff knows us well. I’m equal parts embarrassed to be so boring and thrilled that they seem to be glad to see us.
12:30 p.m. We get home and B goes upstairs to play video games with his dad. (He would play video games 24/7 if we let him. Gaming is not my thing, and I worry about him becoming game-obsessed. But K and B enjoy playing together, and K is pretty good about keeping the games age-appropriate.) I put in a load of laundry and sit down to catch up on work for a while.
3:30 p.m. I have an appointment at the urgent care clinic down the street. I scratched my leg yesterday and I can’t remember the last time I had a tetanus shot. The scratch isn’t too deep but the nail certainly wasn’t clean, so better safe than sorry. While I’m there I get a flu shot too.
When I get back from urgent care I’m feeling pretty tired. I tell my husband I’m going to lie down for a while. “I probably won’t go to sleep,” I say. “Sure,” he says.
7:30 p.m. When I wake up (husband does NOT say “I told you so”), I’ve missed dinner. Not a big deal — we eat together but we gave up the idea of eating the same thing a while ago. B is a very picky eater and K is on the keto diet right now, so it’s easier for us to all eat our own meals instead of trying to find something that will work for all of us. I don’t love this setup, but hopefully it won’t be forever.
9:00 p.m. I help get B ready for bed. Once he’s asleep I go downstairs for my own dinner and then get a bit more work done and clean up the kitchen. I end up getting in bed around midnight (and falling asleep about five minutes later).
First day of school! I’m going to work a little late today so I can be part of school drop-off (normally K does it). I’m one of the few people in my office with kids (it’s a very young company), so I feel obliged to set the example that you can occasionally put family ahead of work.
It’s a long line to get into the school (all adults entering the school have to be checked for ID) but once we get B to his classroom he’s ready to say goodbye. K and I are constantly surprised at how grown-up he’s getting — when he started at this school two years ago, he never wanted us to leave.
10:00 a.m. I get to the office and get right down to work. Our company is growing fast, which means a lot more work for us on the creative side. We recently hired a second copy editor, but the workload is still pretty heavy. Today I have a few drafts to read and a lot of live websites to read.
I’ve been a copy editor for most of my career, and I really love what I do. I’ll never be rich or famous, but that was never my goal anyway. When I describe my job to outsiders, I say I check people’s grammar and spelling, and that’s true. But it’s more than that — I help make sure writing is doing the job it’s supposed to do. Sometimes the issues I catch are minor — correct a reference to follow a client’s style — and sometimes they’re bigger structural issues, like a sentence that isn’t actually a sentence. I tell the writers, “Maybe readers will know what you mean anyway, but don’t make them work that hard.” This is especially important in marketing, when bad writing can turn off potential customers.
3:00 p.m. Team meeting. Afterward, I’m really dragging — the nap yesterday was delicious but it threw off my sleep. I get some strong coffee to get me over the finish line.
5:30 p.m. I text my husband to let him know I’m leaving work. He’s just picked up B from school and brought him home. I bring my laptop home, knowing that I probably won’t actually do any work.
9:30 p.m. I was right. By the time B is asleep I’m struggling to keep my eyes open too, so I get in bed and play on my phone for a bit, then turn the lights out about 10:00.
Normal schedule today. B’s school doesn’t start until 9:00, so that shapes the morning for K and B. When I leave for work a little after 8:00, K is getting up but B is still asleep. I shake him to wake him up (he needs to get up in a few minutes anyway) and give him a kiss.
I get to work at 9:15 (yup, it’s a long commute — unfortunately, par for the course around here) and settle in for more editing. This morning it’s proofreading live sites. I prefer editing in draft mode, because it’s easier for me to make changes. But there’s still the potential for error when text is put online, so I have to read the live sites too.
About 11:00 I come up for air and take my traditional morning break: a GRE practice question (I get a daily email from Kaplan). Before B was born, I didn’t really have a plan for the rest of my career (I did a lot of falling up), but the freelance work I did while I was a stay-at-home mom helped me focus my ambitions a bit. I’m aiming to get a master’s in English with a focus on teaching writing, but it’s going to be a long road to get there. Right now my goal is to start part-time in fall 2020. I get tired just thinking about school + work, but it’s not like putting it off will make it easier.
In the afternoon, I switch over to reading drafts. Even though I enjoy this part more, I still have to remind myself to focus. If I rush or edit on auto-pilot, I get sloppy. It’s hard to balance quality work with the pressure of a never-empty queue.
On a break, I post to my social media networks about an open house for B’s Cub Scout pack tomorrow (I’m on the planning committee) and fill out some paperwork to get me cleared to teach religious ed this year. I come from a long line of joiners; I didn’t realize until I was in college that most kids’ parents didn’t have weeknight meetings. K is NOT a joiner, and when we were first married, my need to get involved caused some friction when he felt my commitments took too much time away from our relationship and didn’t make me happy. We’ve both mellowed on this point — I’m more discerning about what I commit to, and K has come to appreciate that when I’m off doing my volunteer things, he gets time to himself for his own interests (read: all those video games he loves).
6:00 p.m. Leave the office. I’m usually one of the last to leave. It’s partly to make up for my late start, but I’ve never been great at leaving work “on time,” at any point in my working life — I’m always trying to finish up one last thing. And when I do leave closer to 5:00, traffic is worse so it takes longer to get home anyway.
7:00 p.m. Get home. The drive home is usually easier than the drive to work for some reason. I usually listen to NPR in the morning, but in the afternoon I need something light, so I have a rotating list of podcasts. (I Hate It But I Love It is fantastic, but occasionally I have laughed harder than is safe for driving, so be warned.)
Dinner, get kiddo to bed. Make some progress on sorting out B’s outgrown clothes to send to his cousin. Bed around midnight.
We asked G if she had advice to share on freelancing as a mom:
Child care was essential for me. I was never a full-time freelancer for various reasons, so my workload was often reasonable enough that I could fit it in during naps and after bedtime (and, yes, sometimes with screen time). But when B got old enough for preschool, my productivity shot up. I had 15 hours of guaranteed time that I hadn’t had before, and it was a gamechanger. If you’re a morning person so you’re up at 5:00 anyway (I am not), or if your child takes predictable naps (B did not), maybe you can fit in 40 hours of work without child care. But you have to know yourself and your child. If you’re always working against your own needs or your child’s, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
We also asked about her decision to get another degree:
Full disclosure: Part of the reason I want to do it is just that I want to. This may be a terrible idea — spending that time and money on a degree that I don’t really need? What am I thinking? But also, I want a bit of a career reset. I started in journalism and meandered to where I am now, and I want to take some time to focus on what I’ll do for work for the next 25+ years. I could keep meandering, and I’d probably do fine, but I’m craving a bit more purpose. I enjoy teaching people how to be better writers, and if that’s the professional niche I’m going to be in, I’d like to do it really, really well. A degree isn’t the only way for me to do that, but it’s the one that feels right at the moment.
Can.not.get.moving today. Alarm goes off at 7:00 as usual, but I just can’t summon the will to get up. Just as I’m almost there, the cat hops on the bed and sits down on my chest. Well, I’m stuck now. I remind him that he’s supposed to do this at 11:00 p.m., but he just meows.
I get out the door later than usual, and I’m the last one to get to the office.
10:00 a.m. Biweekly check-in with my team lead. I tell her about a screw-up of mine from last week — a writer made an error that I didn’t catch, and our client is upset. All I can do is express how bad I feel and take steps to work more slowly and carefully. This is the crappy part of being a copy editor — your good days are behind the scenes but your bad days are in public.
After lunch, I check my Facebook messages: Great news! The kitchen table we ordered months ago will finally be ready this weekend. We haven’t had one since we moved into this house, so we eat dinner in the living room, usually with the TV on. We spent forever looking for the perfect table, and eventually we found a local guy who would make one in the size/shape/color we wanted. But he had a long wait list, and it’s taken longer than he told us it would.
(Follow-up: The table arrived the next Monday, and it’s just about perfect. I love, love, LOVE that we can all eat together now. During dinner the first night I just kept looking at K and B and saying, “I’m so happy. I’m so happy.”)
3:00 p.m. Check-in with my fellow copy editor. We’re trying to plan more training for the rest of the company, with the goal of teaching our writers grammar rules in the first place so we don’t have to fix their errors and we can focus on other issues. She’s significantly younger than I am, but when she mentioned sentence diagramming in her first week, I knew we’d get along.
6:00 p.m. I leave work and go to meet K and B at the Cub Scout open house. It’s a success in terms of potential Scouts coming out, but from our family’s perspective it doesn’t go well. It’s an outside event, and it’s hot and muggy. The kids are all tired/hungry/thirsty, and there are several meltdowns, B among them. After that, we get him home as quickly as we can. Dinner and a shower help him calm down. I’m wondering why K didn’t feed B before the event — there should have been plenty of time — but there’s no point in starting a fight about it now. B goes to bed later than usual but falls asleep quickly.
10:00 p.m. Dinner (a cheese sandwich) and collapse in front of the TV. I have a book that I need to be reading for my book club, but after spending all day reading for work, I usually need to let my brain be lazy at night, so I save the book for the holiday weekend coming up.
I multitask while the TV is on and order some school uniform pants for B (I’m expecting a growth spurt soon, so I want to have the next size on hand) … and while I’m at it, a top and some pants for me.
Bed around midnight.
Standard morning: Grumble to K about having to get up, kiss B goodbye (he’s actually awake today), NPR during commute, edit edit edit, GRE quiz, edit edit edit.
3:00 p.m. Office baby shower! I give the mama-to-be some books that I loved reading to B when he was little. I give her my phone number, too — we’re not super-close but I like her, and “moms gotta stick together” is my motto. “No obligation,” I say, “but if you need someone to bring you dinner or hold the baby or just tell you something is normal, I’m a text away.”
Edit edit edit. The Cut on Tuesdays on the way home. I can’t remember what I ate for dinner, probably a sandwich again.
9:00 p.m. B goes to bed. I usually lie down in our room next door and read until he falls asleep. On nights when I’m really tired, I sometimes fall asleep too — this is one of them. I’m still in my bra and haven’t washed my face. I’ll regret both tomorrow but it just feels so good to lie in bed, especially with a cat on me (he listened to me yesterday, apparently).
It’s the last Friday of summer, which means the last day of our work-from-home Friday program. I enjoyed the break from my commute, but I’ll be glad to get back to a normal rhythm.
8:45 a.m. K is taking a half-day at work and running several errands across town in the afternoon. To make his day easier, and because I won’t be able to do it again for a while, I take B to school. It’s walkable through the back of our neighborhood, which I love.
I have a doctor’s appointment this morning (another perk of work-from-home Fridays — I can get personal errands done so much more easily), so after walking home from school, I get in the car and head over. After that, I work at a coffee shop for a while. (Well, a restaurant that sells coffee. Okay, it’s McDonald’s. I work at McDonald’s. Hey, I live in the suburbs — there aren’t a lot of options. And if loving Egg McMuffins is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.)
At noon I pick up a few things at Target and head home for some more work. By mid-afternoon, I’m fading. I’ve gotten through today’s hard deadlines, but I should make more progress on some deliverables due next week. I’m never really done with work — there’s always work being added to my queue. I force myself to keep going — technically I work a full day, but just barely.
5:15 p.m. Walk over to school to pick up B. It’s hot and I’d rather not walk, but this is what passes for exercise these days, so I get my steps in where I can. (You know the meme about family/work/friends/sleep/fitness — you can have three? Let’s just say exercise is NOT winning.) When I get to school, B’s aftercare group is in the gym. He greets me with a running leap, which is rough on my middle-aged bones but it makes me feel loved, so I don’t complain beyond the initial “oof.”
7:00 p.m. Dinner. K is having steak and makes me one, too (one of the perks of his special diet).
8:00 p.m. B is ready for bed early, so there’s time for me to read to him. If he reads on his own, it’s usually a graphic novel — which is fine, but I like to expose him to more challenging books. Tonight’s selection: A chapter of Anne of Green Gables. It was one of my favorites as a kid, but it didn’t occur to me to share it with B until a friend encouraged me. So far he’s really into it. (We haven’t gotten to the chapter where Matthew dies, though. I usually cry, which means B will too.)
10:00 p.m. Once B is asleep, K and I talk about a podcast we’ve been thinking about starting. It’s really his idea — he’s dabbled in podcasts and he had a YouTube channel for a while, so this is very much up his alley. I’m partly just humoring him — I can’t imagine when we’d fit it in — but I’m interested to see where it goes. We don’t spend a lot of time hanging out together in a typical week — it’s not because we have one of those cold in-name-only marriages, but life’s busy and we each have stuff we want/need to do. So it would be fun to have a project together for once.
We make some decisions about the podcast and I head off to bed, while he heads to the bonus room for some gaming (he stays up later than me about 90% of the time). I fall asleep about 11:00.
G had this to say about returning to a full-time schedule after freelancing:
Honestly? The mornings. Editing is editing, pretty much wherever you go, so the work was familiar to me. But getting dressed in something other than yoga pants and making it out the door at the same time every day? After not doing it for six years, that was hard. Plus add in a little person who’s got his mom’s big feelings and his dad’s borderline ADD — rough. The first year, I had to get B to school by 7:45, and it did not go well. We got a note from the principal on his end-of-year report card about how many tardies he had. (He was only ever tardy by a few minutes but the numbers looked bad.)
It’s a holiday weekend, and I told K well in advance that I needed a break and we shouldn’t plan anything big (like going out of town or having people over). The schedule ended up pretty full anyway, but it’s all stuff we want or need to do, so that’s okay.
Today’s itinerary: Taking B to the water park. Truthfully, it’s not my favorite thing to do, but he loves it and I love spending time with him. And I know that in a few years, spending the day with me will be the last thing he wants to do (or at least, he’ll have to pretend that to look cool to his friends). So I’m savoring the one-on-one time now.
The park opens at noon, so K and I sleep in while B plays video games. (When B was little, K would get up with him on Saturdays, but now that B is older, K says he can fend for himself. I’m not thrilled about this — c’mon, K, you can sleep in on Sundays — but I’m not going to win this battle, and the alternative is for me to give up my one day of sleeping in, which I’m unwilling to do. So I’ve let it go, mostly. And B is 9 — it’s not like he’s going to burn the house down.)
It’s a glorious day — sunny but not super-hot — and despite the holiday weekend, the park isn’t packed. B has never been a confident swimmer, despite lots of official and unofficial lessons, but when we’re in the wave pool he finally figures out dog-paddling. It’s only a few feet but he’s so proud of himself. We celebrate with snow cones (blue raspberry for him, cherry lime for me) and fries.
5:30 p.m. B and I get home. I’m slightly sunburned (I put on sunscreen but apparently not enough). K has been cleaning the garage while we were gone. (He’s terrible about regular boring housecleaning but when it comes to project work like this, he just puts his head down and will.not.quit. This ended up being his task every day of the holiday weekend and he did a fantastic job.) He declares a cheat day from his diet and orders pizza. Zero complaints from me.
7:00 p.m. We watch Mythbusters together while chowing down. I reply to a friend’s text about getting together tomorrow — it’s her birthday and they’re having a cookout. B and her daughter get along well, and K and her husband would be great friends if they weren’t such intense introverts.
Get B to bed, read in bed myself, asleep by 11:00. Zzzzzzzzzzzz.
Thanks so much to G for sharing a bit of her life as a working mom! Readers, what’s your biggest takeaway from her week of work as a copy editor as well as her general work/life balance?
Stock photo via Deposit Photo