For this week’s installment of our Week in the Life of a Working Mom series, I’m happy to introduce CorporetteMoms reader Sarah, who lives in Albany, NY, with her husband and three kids and works as a director at a state agency. 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: Work in Albany, live in suburbs
Job: Director at a state agency
Home Situation: I live in a 4-bedroom house with my husband (35-year-old physician) and three kids (a girl, four years and three months; another girl, two years and four months; and a boy, four months). My husband works eight 10-hour days every two weeks, including a weekend. I work 8:00–4:00 every Monday–Friday. I travel approximately 20%, which I try to schedule as two days/one night, approximately every two weeks.
Childcare Situation: All our kids are in full-time daycare affiliated with my husband’s employer. They are usually at daycare 50 hours/week. We hire sitters, usually college students, a day or two per week as parents’ helpers when one of us is traveling or working evenings/weekends.
Childcare Cost: $3,640/month + babysitting at $15/hour, usually 6–9 hours/week. We moved about a year ago from NYC, where we were paying more than that for only two kids in daycare, so we are very grateful!
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?
Coming from my previous job in academic medicine, I find that the government is a very family-friendly place in terms of people discussing their kids openly and understanding time off for family-related reasons. I am not expected to be available after hours or on weekends, though I am expected to travel. I find it less flexible than my previous job where I did more telecommuting and mixed more personal errands through the day, whereas now my time is tracked more closely and I charge time if I step out of the office even for half an hour.
How do you handle household chores, such as laundry, grocery shopping, housecleaning, etc.? Who does what, and when — and how often?
- Laundry: shared responsibility, though my husband does 80% because he has some weekdays at home when the kids are in daycare
- Dishes/bottles: husband
- Trash/recycling: husband
- Housecleaning: share daily pickup, will ask sitters to tidy (this is part of our initial convo with them), housekeeper every two weeks
- Food management: I keep the grocery list and mostly plan meals. I order groceries and he usually picks up and puts away. Our kids eat a healthy, varied breakfast and lunch at daycare (included with tuition), and we don’t stress too much about dinner. I prep my lunches on the weekend, and he either doesn’t eat lunch or has whatever is in the doctors’ lounge at work. For dinners, we typically prep one or two meals on Sunday afternoon and eat them through the week, supplemented with cheese sticks, etc., for the kids. My husband and I eat out at least once a week (date night — and the sitter will usually make mac & cheese or something) and usually more (each of us has an evening “off”), and usually once on the weekend.
- Lawn/pool/snow: all hired out, all managed by my husband
- Cars: husband
- Bills/budget/investments: me
- Doctors’/dentists’ visits/communication for kids: husband
- Daycare conferences/communication: me
- Kids’ clothes/household supplies: me
NOTE: Sarah wrote her Week in the Life before the coronavirus pandemic, so we asked her for an update. Here’s what she wrote:
We are both essential employees, so life has changed a lot for us, but not in the same ways as most people we know. My husband is working on the COVID wing. He just was sick and got a negative after three nerve-wracking days, and we’re sure that’s only the first go-around we’ll have with testing and waiting. I work for a State agency that is incredibly impacted, and I work seven days a week about 10–14 hours a day and see no end in sight. Our daycare is still open because it serves hospital employees, which is both a blessing and a constant stress about the essentially zero percent chance of avoiding transmission between childcare providers and children of healthcare workers.
That said, our parents are safely in their own homes, we have steady paychecks, plenty of supplies, lovely neighbors dropping off produce, a nearby farm that we’ve outsourced 100% of food prep to, and kids who (because they are still in daycare) haven’t particularly noticed that anything is different, except for way, way, way, way, way more Frozen/Frozen 2/Olaf’s Frozen Adventure on repeat. We are thinking of everyone out there, and grateful for the snatched moments of peace, love, and purpose.
A Week in My Life
1:30 a.m., 3:30 a.m., 4:00 a.m., 5:30 a.m. Baby wakes up more than usual because we are at my in-laws’ for a night. We have a rented SNOO at home that usually keeps him (slightly) more asleep at night. Nurse at each wake-up as the easiest course of action.
6:20 a.m. Baby awake, pass off to in-laws. Big kids are sleeping in my in-laws’ room so I’m not even sure when they wake up. Go back to sleep.
8:15 a.m. Hear baby crying and wake up. Nurse to nap. Husband and I pack everything to head home and get kids and selves ready for church. We’ve brought an absurd amount of things for a 36-hour visit. Hang out with kids and in-laws until time for church.
9:40 a.m. Church and catching up with family friends. We moved from the city (where my in-laws and parents live) upstate a year ago and most people haven’t seen the new baby.
12:30 p.m. Drive to my parents’ for a quick lunch.
2:00 p.m. Back on the road. Baby and 2-year-old sleep while 4-year-old is watching Daniel Tiger.
4:00 p.m. Arrive home, meet Sunday afternoon sitter. We usually get a sitter for post-nap Sunday to play with the big kids while we do prep for the week. Sitter takes kids outside for bikes, chalk, bubbles. Husband unpacks and watches baby while I prep lunches. He restocks the diaper bag, does laundry, and packs backpacks for the week. He gets the trash and recycling together.
5:45 p.m. Set out dinner. Babysitter feeds big kids while I nurse baby. Husband takes baby for bath.
6:30 p.m. Big kids are upstairs and sitter gives them baths. They go to sleep dressed in their clothes for the next day. I nurse the baby to sleep.
7:00 p.m. Pay the sitter, husband and I sit with the big kids for prayers and books.
7:30 p.m. Kids in bed. Husband does dishes, unloads and loads dishwasher. We work on hanging up a painting. A year into the move and we’re still not completely furnished.
9:15 p.m. Shower. Sit down with computer intending to be upstairs in a few but get caught reading blogs, looking at our budget, requesting library books, etc.
9:45 p.m. Get in bed and read on Kindle. Nurse baby at first wake-up.
10:30 p.m. Asleep.
2:19 a.m., 3:23 a.m., 5:32 a.m. Baby up and nurse down.
6:00 a.m. Husband gets up, preps milk for the big kids, gets ready for work.
6:30 a.m. Passes baby to me to nurse while I’m still in bed, gets big kids up and ready. Big kids come and lie down near me while we do quick prayers and they are off to daycare. I snooze a bit more.
7:05 a.m. Up, dress, grab lunch.
7:30 Get in car.
7:56 a.m. At work. Unpack and pump while looking at emails and the news. Meetings and email fill most of the day, with pumps at 11:00 and 2:00. Text with husband to plan some upcoming work travel and make sure it will work with his schedule.
4:00 p.m. Drive 10 minutes to daycare. Talk to baby’s teacher, leave pumped milk in daycare fridge, go to nursing room and feed him. Pick up 4-year-old and talk to teacher. Pick up 2-year-old and talk to teacher, who said she seems sick. Slowly move caravan to car. Realize I forgot to sign out 2-year-old and shuffle back. Load all three in carseats and baby starts crying.
4:45 p.m. Begin drive home and there’s mercifully no traffic.
5:10 p.m. Big kids go inside, wash their hands, and I turn on an episode of Super Why!. Put the baby in the bassinet with mobile on. Unpack bottles and pump stuff and dump in sink, unpack dirty clothes and dump in laundry. Pack new bottles and pump parts (from dishwasher), replacements for soiled clothes. Grab baby and sit with the kids in front of Super Why!, nurse baby.
5:45 p.m. Husband gets home. Pass off baby for bath. Set out dinner for kids. Turn off TV once episode is done and stand with them and eat at the counter while they eat. Send both kids upstairs, sweep floor, head upstairs.
6:30 p.m. Nurse baby to sleep while husband bathes big kids.
6:50 p.m. Kids are dressed. FaceTime both sets of grandparents — we do this on Mondays so everyone can predict it. Prayers, books, bed at 7:23 p.m.
7:46 p.m. Really in bed after one request for a new CD and one false potty alarm.
7:50 p.m. Husband unloads and loads dishwasher and gets his dinner ready.
8:00 p.m. Hold our weekly Household Summit where we review the upcoming two weeks, plan childcare and text sitters, talk about where we might want to go for date night, brainstorm about upcoming travel.
8:40 p.m. Settle back on my computer while husband watches some TV, eat some gelato.
9:40 p.m. Up to bed, shower. Read on Kindle.
10:40 p.m. Asleep
11:06 p.m. Wake up, nurse.
We were intrigued by Sarah’s regular “Household Summits” with her husband, so we asked her to elaborate:
I can’t remember how exactly it started — I think a friend or a book probably inspired me. I think especially with slightly non-traditional schedules it is so useful, and if we ever skip I think we both feel discombobulated for the week. I especially like that there’s a built-in time to reflect on some big picture stuff so we don’t have to deal with it in the moment but know that it will come up. We have a couple of things on the Summit schedule monthly instead of weekly — like finance check-in, kids’ behavior and routines. I hope that as our kids get bigger they can join us for part of it too!
1:36 a.m., 3:45 a.m., 5:32 a.m. Wake up, nurse. At the 3:45, baby has a dirty diaper, so I wake husband up to change diaper. Since our first kid, diapers are on him if we’re both around!
6:30 a.m. Usual morning routine, where husband gets kids ready. I hear big kids tantrumming as I snooze after they leave.
7:30 a.m. Get in car and arrive at 8:00. Pump.
9:16 a.m. Get a call from daycare that 2-year-old seems sick and might need to be picked up later if she has more symptoms. Text with husband and strategize that it’s better to bring her home now since he can leave work for a bit. Text a few sitters and no luck. Call backup care agency and backup nanny calls at 10:15. Pass info on to husband who picks her up at 10:30 and meets nanny at home at 11:00.
11:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m. Mostly meetings, since I’m recently back from leave and catching up. Pumps at 11:00 and 2:00.
4:00 p.m. Go to daycare, nurse baby, grab 4-year-old, forget to check GPS for fastest route home, on the road for 45 minutes due to an accident, baby and 4-year-old screaming in the back.
5:30 p.m. Home, relieve backup nanny, 2-year-old is fine. Since I’m worried about germs I set up 4-year-old with TV and 2-year-old with Kindle Fire. Baby is overtired and crying, so unpack pump parts, daycare paraphernalia, set out dinner while holding baby in one arm.
6:00 p.m. Husband is home, hand off baby for bath; 2-year-old and 4-year-old eat dinner at counter while I scroll through phone, feeling done with the day.
6:20 p.m. Nurse baby and hand off big kids for bath, head downstairs and do a little pickup.
6:45 p.m. Tuesday evening is my evening out. Usually I leave straight from work and meet a friend and come back after bedtime. Since I’m nursing, I come home to avoid the extra pump. Meet up for dinner at new-to-me Italian restaurant. Husband does the big kid bedtime, dishes, and has dinner.
9:45 p.m. Head home and get ready for bed.
10:15 p.m. Scroll through phone way too long looking at furniture items. Do calculus of whether it’s worth it to try to sleep before baby’s first wake-up.
11:28 p.m. Baby is up, nurse. Amped and continue to look at phone.
11:52 p.m. Make myself go to bed.
We wanted to hear more about Sarah’s and her husband’s evenings “off,” and she had this to say:
At my previous job, after #2, I worked one late night per week. It was late enough that by the time I got home, the kids were already asleep, so it didn’t feel like there was a point in rushing home. So I started just always letting friends know I was available that night to go out. It turned out really great — I had one friend who I made a standing monthly dinner date with. A lot of others weren’t necessarily free immediately but they always knew Monday was my night, so we could even book out several months in advance. It cut down on a ton of the scheduling labor and I think everyone was less likely to late-cancel because I was definitely around (whereas sometimes I think it’s easier to back down if you’re not sure if the other person is still totally in).
So it made sense for my husband to have the same. In the ideal world, the partner whose evening it is just doesn’t come home from work, so gets to skip dinner madness and bedtime too. At the time I wrote this, that wasn’t the deal because we were still really figuring out how to juggle three, and I also didn’t want to do one more pump. But it is really nice to have some friend time, and honestly having one parent for bedtime is also nice because we both are confident in how to do it, and there’s a little sweetness in having all the snuggles to yourself!
2:05 a.m., 3:56 a.m. Nurse.
5:14 a.m. Baby up, nurse. Wake up husband and pass off baby to get a little uninterrupted sleep. He takes care of the rest of the morning.
8:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m. Meetings, and minimal work gets done. I scheduled a ton of meetings after leave as I was fearful I wouldn’t have work, but already feeling a bit overwhelmed and not yet settled in. Pump at 8:00, 11:00, 2:00.
4:00 p.m. Leave work, get to daycare, nurse, pick up big kids, spend a long time at farmers market outside daycare where there are free samples that the big kids try.
5:15 p.m. Kids in car, baby screams the whole way home. I can see in the rear mirror that the 2-year-old has taken off socks and put them on hands to make puppets, which is cute. Knowing I’m going to need a hand at home, call husband who is on way to drop car off for inspection to tell him to cancel and come home instead.
5:40 p.m. Home, big kids in front of Super Why!, husband’s brother meets us (it’s my husband’s evening out and they are going to dinner), husband home, hand off baby, unpack, give kids dinner.
6:15 p.m. Upstairs to nurse baby and put down, back down to clean up after dinner and follow big kids upstairs.
6:45 p.m. Husband and brother head out.
7:00 p.m. Dress big kids, potty and teeth, prayers and books. Sometimes they are better behaved when it’s just one parent and we get some sweet reading time.
7:30 p.m. Kids in bed and only one call out (to make the fan go faster…).
7:45 p.m. Pour glass of wine, iMessage with friends, enter budget transactions, reserve library books, reserve holiday card photos, find hotel for upcoming vacation, pay bills, look at dining tables.
10:30 p.m. Husband is back, baby crying, nurse, get ready for bed, get in bed, read.
11:30 p.m. Go to sleep.
1:02 a.m., 2:20 a.m., 4:50 a.m. Wake up, nurse.
7:00 a.m. My husband is off work today so he takes the kids in a little later but still early enough that they can get breakfast.
8:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m. Work. Pump at 8:00, 11:00, 2:00. Husband runs some errands.
4:00 p.m. Go to daycare, nurse baby, get the kids in the car.
5:20 p.m. Home, husband has dinner out for the big kids, grabs the baby for bath. Feed both and change 4-year-old into karate gi.
5:50 p.m. Husband brings baby downstairs, I nurse. He takes the baby and 2-year-old.
6:00 p.m. I leave with 4-year-old for karate.
6:15 p.m. Browse on my phone, read on my Kindle, talk a little to the other parents, take some videos of 4-year-old. Husband does baby bath and bedtime and gets 2-year-old ready for bed.
7:00 p.m. Karate is over, stop to get gas, which 4-year-old apparently thinks is an adventure.
7:20 p.m. Home and quickly get 4-year-old to bed. 2-year-old is already in bed waiting (they share a room) and baby is asleep.
7:50 p.m. Kids all in bed, can hear 4-year-old and 2-year-old chattering.
8:00 p.m. Eat with husband, which is a rare occurrence during the week.
8:45 p.m. Shower.
9:15 p.m. Bed with Kindle
10:15 p.m. Dream-feed baby. Go to sleep.
We asked Sarah to share her experiences with pumping — and to give some advice:
I aimed for 6 months with all my kids. For me, there is no upside to pumping beyond the recommendation for 6 months. With this baby, I ended up pumping a little longer because we had a trip scheduled to India when he was about 7 months. I took #1 around 6 months still nursing (I had a 6-month long leave) and #2 around 6 months, mostly on formula, and it was way easier with #1 since I didn’t have to worry about boiling water and sterilizing bottles. So I kept pumping longer than I would have so that I could exclusively nurse #3 while traveling. I quit pumping the day we left for India! I would 100% have stopped exactly at 6 months if not for that. Now, I nurse #3 morning and night and otherwise give formula.
Pumping tips… My best tips are all logistical and some privilege. Mainly, I have had a private office with all three. I had two pumps with #2 and #3 because I used the insurance benefit again for #2 (I didn’t for the 3rd — that felt excessive!), so I left one at work. I had several sets of parts. My husband has always been in charge of all bottles and pump parts. I have a MUCH higher tolerance around sanitation than most pumping moms, and that reduced a lot of time. For example, I just used the same pump parts through the day and did not wash or refrigerate in between pumps — just stuck in a wet bag. I used an ice pack in a cooler and didn’t refrigerate the cooler or milk (with #2, sometimes I worked 14-hour days, and I would then) so essentially never left my desk. With #3, daycare let me leave the bottles overnight so I just carted them from work to daycare.
With all three, my first week or two back at work has been a HUGE drop in supply, and I try not to let it stress me out (did not really work even the third time around). I moved my hours around with #3 to coincide with daycare schedule a little better to cut out one pump. I tried to pump during leave a few times a week (#1 and #2 had some periods of bottle refusal, so trying to avoid that). I also gave a formula bottle every few days even when I had a freezer stash because #2 had some formula refusal which I also wanted to avoid, which collaterally kept me from feeling like breastmilk was the One True Food, which I occasionally felt with #1.
1:39 a.m. Nurse.
2:45 a.m.–3:22 a.m. Baby is up repeatedly.
5:05 a.m. Wake husband up and hand off baby.
7:00 a.m. Wake up, husband has baby and 4-year-old ready. He is staying home with 2-year-old to do crash potty training since he has a few days off in a row.
7:15 a.m. Kids in car. Everything feels a little tougher when we switch (i.e., when I do drop-off), as they have routines with my husband I don’t know anything about. However, baby is notably more pleasant on morning drive than evening drive.
7:35 a.m. At daycare to drop off.
7:55 a.m. Leave daycare, late as 4-year-old cried as I was leaving.
8:06 a.m.–4:00 p.m. Work. Pump at 8:00, 11:00, 2:30. Text with my husband through the day about potty training Day One, which is going pretty poorly.
4:08 p.m. Daycare, nurse, pickup somehow takes nearly as long even though I’m only wrangling two.
4:45 p.m. Kids in car.
5:15 p.m. Get home, see 2-year-old, who has had some potty success, and husband who definitely needs and deserves a break after all day with 2-year-old. Sit with 2-year-old while husband bathes baby.
6:15 p.m. Nurse baby, who is having a hard time settling, finally to bed at 6:38 p.m.
6:30 p.m. The sitter arrives.
6:45 p.m. I run to a big consignment sale nearby for an hour while sitter does big kid dinners, baths, and bedtime. Husband does some pick-up and relaxes.
8:08 p.m. Come home with purchases, husband puts away, I jump in shower, dream-feed baby.
8:30 p.m. Leave for Date Night!
8:50 p.m. Get to dinner, make an extra stop for ice cream.
10:30 p.m. Back home, pay sitter, order groceries for pickup tomorrow. Get into bed.
10:43 p.m.–11:31 p.m. Baby up and down while I drift in and out of sleep.
12:40 a.m., 1:07 a.m., 1:54 a.m., 3:57 Baby awake. In the middle of the night, 4-year-old wakes up and husband settles her.
5:10 a.m. Baby wakes up and I pass off to husband.
8:10 a.m. I wake up and husband has gotten all the kids up, fed, and done a load of laundry while herding 2-year-old on potty. Feed baby and put down for a nap.
9:00 a.m. Sit with 2-year-old on potty while he finishes putting away laundry. Order a birthday gift for pickup at Target.
9:30 a.m. Get baby and 4-year-old ready for day.
10:15 a.m. Leave with baby and 4-year-old to friend’s baby’s baptism. Baby dozes in carrier. 4-year-old colors and is very loud during the service.
12:00 p.m. Baptism is over,, say hellos, shovel food in mouth, change baby in car, drive to Target to pick up gift. At home, husband is with 2-year-old and family who is staying with us for the weekend comes by.
1:45 p.m. Get to birthday party where baby is passed around, and 4-year-old has a blast.
3:30 p.m. Head home.
4:00 p.m. Drop off kids. Realize I forgot to get groceries and head over.
4:05 p.m. Get groceries and sit in the car for 20 minutes reading since I haven’t otherwise had a chance to sit today.
4:45 p.m. Get home and talk to visiting relatives, husband bathes baby.
5:29 p.m. Baby down early since he didn’t get great naps during the day, make mac and cheese for big kids plus visiting kid.
6:29 p.m. Baby up and nurse, right back down. Big kids eat.
7:00 p.m.–9:30 p.m. Send big kids upstairs and dads do baths and bedtime while moms chat. Make simple side dishes for dinner and do some lunch prep (shred rotisserie chicken, cut up vegetables to roast for the week) while catching up.
9:00 p.m. Husband makes steak, smoke alarm goes off.
9:30 p.m. Sit down and eat together.
10:30 p.m. Clean up and everyone to bed.
10:57 p.m. Baby up, nurse.
Thanks so much to Sarah for sharing a bit of her life as a working mom! Readers, what’s your biggest takeaway from her week of work as a director at a state agency as well as her general work/life balance?
Stock photo via Stencil.