For this installment of our Week in the Life of a Working Mom series, I’m happy to introduce CorporetteMoms reader W, who lives in the South with her husband and two kids and works as a licensed marriage and family therapist.
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: Medium-sized major college town/medical hub with rural outskirts, in the South
Job: Owner, licensed marriage and family therapist of a private therapy practice. We specialize in trauma therapy. I also teach general psychology as an adjunct professor. I am launching a podcast this fall.
Home Situation: I live with my husband of 21 years, (50, CFO of a national company), 17-year-old son, 20-year-old daughter (when she is on college break), and our pet shorkie in a 3,400-square-foot home on 3.4 acres in the country.
Childcare Situation: I am out of this situation now! It was an intense combination of preschool/school/aftercare and nights and weekends switch-off with my husband when the kids were little!
How much do you pay for childcare?
My son attends private school for $7,400 per year. My daughter attends university and we are using our 529 college savings plan to pay for it. We do pay for her housing and groceries on a monthly basis.
We asked W if she had any advice to share on 529s:
Well, my husband is the accountant, but basically, we started with $50 a month per child as young as we could afford! (When our children were aged seven and four). That is all we could do at that time. We have increased our contributions several times through the years but never missed a month, and it is now enough to pay for my daughter’s expenses, and almost there for my son (if attending a public university). I appreciated that my husband set aside our 401K funds with his company match (as did I in a separate IRA as a business owner), charitable contributions, and college savings, all before we discussed our household budget. I had to get used to living on less but now I value the security much more!
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 industry encourages work-life balance for mental health wellness! However, the work is incredibly emotionally and mentally demanding. It is easy to burn out, especially as a trauma therapist who works a high-acuity patient load and also supervises other therapists and interns. Most mental health practitioners tend to need “alone time” to recover, practice mindfulness, and advocate for gentle movement. I personally love to cook, kayak, and work out — my time alone where I just zone out on the weekends.
I think most mental health practitioners may guard their working hours a bit more than I do, but the need for trauma care right now is so high that I am prioritizing making an impact on this industry so that I can pass the baton later to a more prepared provider group.
How do you handle household chores, such as laundry, grocery shopping, housecleaning, etc.? Who does what, and when — and how often?
I do almost all of the laundry except for my husband’s proliferation of cycling clothes — he has a very active cycling YouTube channel and the laundry to match it. I do the laundry on the weekends or Monday only, which is the only time I have for that! I find the folding to be meditative and usually play podcasts while working.
We outsource house cleaning once a month, and my husband and son clean the kitchen every night. I vacuum about once a week — we have distressed wood floors so they don’t show much in between professional cleaning. I meal plan and cook about three nights per week. We do a family takeout night on Friday nights, and we collectively cook brunch on Sundays. I shop for groceries on Saturdays for the week — the dinners that I plan, lunches for my son and myself, and all the boxes of cereal for his teenage appetite. My husband shops for his own lunches that he takes to work.
I do occasionally order from Sam’s Club or Target for staples, but I really prefer to select produce in person and getting creative with cooking. My husband outsources our gardening and we pay our son to use our tractor to mow the property. My husband does all of our taxes and budgeting and I do all of our planning and logistics.
A Week in My Life
On Sunday I drive my son to camp in West Virginia! On Friday afternoon of the previous week, I left work at 2:00 p.m. and picked up my 17-year-old son and 20-year-old daughter (visiting from college) and loaded up my son’s two bikes and gear and we headed to Charlotte, NC, to meet with his percussion coach. My son is coached by a renowned percussionist over Zoom (!) and we had the opportunity to meet with him in person on Saturday before heading to camp in WV on Sunday. His camp is week-long intensive slope-style riding and instruction. My son is working through some future decisions at this time regarding paths to professional sports or music production so I am trying to spend time with him and expose him to mentorship as much as possible.
My typical Monday consists of grading (I teach a general psychology class), medical records, and business admin. However, today I made the long drive home from WV to FL with my daughter and we stop in SC to hike some gorgeous mountain trails for a few hours and then chat about women in politics and leadership almost the entire drive. She is very interested in women’s leadership in the public policy arena. We also stop at a vegan restaurant in Columbia that was delicious. My husband keeps calling me from work telling me that he was very stressed with data migration projects. I was glad that I was not analyzing data! I get home and in bed at 2:00 a.m.
We asked W to tell us more about her teaching position:
I LOVE teaching psychology! I find it empowering to shape the future generation of therapists and generally self-aware humans so that we can hopefully progress as a society with increased insight and more productive decision-making! I have found that I had to brush up on my neuroscience and really plan my time wisely to read ahead. I’ve learned to “go back to basics” in teaching at the university level by being abundantly clear with my assignment instructions, to slow down lectures, and to give generous feedback. Mostly, I’ve learned to enjoy the science and not take myself too seriously! College students will call you out, haha!
I wake up at 7:00 a.m. and feel stiff from all the hiking and driving! I skip my usual workout and instead stretch, sip on coffee, and listen to a podcast to input some positive thinking into my cognitive mindset for the day. I skip breakfast most days because I am not a morning-eater! I do take Vitamin D and drink 12 ounces of water each morning. pod
Hop in the shower around 7:50 and wash my hair, and apply minimal makeup. I wash my hair about every three days because it is mid-back length and takes a while to wash and dry! I apply minimal makeup daily (with a signature red or pink lip!) and dress business casual with (what I hope is) some creative flair most days. I have a 25-min. commute to work, and I arrive just before my first 9:00 a.m. patient. The day starts with a patient in crisis, and I spend some time coordinating with legal services and law enforcement to advocate for the patient’s safety.
I see patients for the next three hours, and then break to meet with one of my therapists to provide her case supervision over a working lunch. I eat a pre-made salad kit and a Lara bar. I was relieved that I had stocked the office fridge before I left town! After our meeting, I spend 15 minutes responding to emails, and 15 minutes reviewing scheduling with my assistant.
I see three additional patients over the next four hours, and end the day at 6:30 p.m. I work until 8:30 p.m. every other Tuesday night and tonight is not that night, so I meet my husband for dinner at a local restaurant.
We arrive home around 9:00 p.m. and I am restless, but he is exhausted and goes to sleep. I make the decision to watch a James Bond movie for a little while. I should have gone to sleep, but I needed some decompression. Finally fall asleep around 12:00 a.m.
My day begins at 7:00 a.m., and I miss my workout again, but at least I feel rested. I spend some time reading my devotional and take the time to curl my hair and apply eye makeup. I actually unpack my suitcase!
I begin my workday at 9:00 a.m. and see patients for three hours before breaking for a working lunch with another therapist to provide supervision for a new support group she is planning. I then spend another 30 minutes or so to discuss billing procedures with my assistant for some new initiatives our practice is developing.
I spend another three hours seeing patients and attending to records. After finishing work, I schedule our shorkie’s next vet appointment, text with my daughter and husband, check on my parents (who are experiencing some age-related health issues), and email my son’s school advisor about his senior year class registration.
At around 6:00 pm I text with our contractor regarding some logistics for our new office building renovation and then leave for a midweek church service at 6:30 p.m. I chat with an old college friend for 20 minutes and hustle out so that I can keep a phone appointment with a psychiatrist at 8:00 p.m. with whom I collaborate on several patient cases. We debrief for 45 minutes on shared cases and commiseration and then I quickly put together veggie burgers and roast broccoli for dinner.
My husband has been editing his YouTube channel, and he and my daughter share in the meal and we chat until about 9:50. I quickly run through my skin care routine and get in bed by 10:00 p.m.
I wake at 6:35 a.m. and snooze! I get up 10 minutes later, make coffee, and complete my workout at home on my back porch. I use the app called SWEAT and do the “High Intensity” program by Kayla Itsines. The intensity is compounded by Florida humidity but at least I know I’m getting a good sweat. I try to hit this 2–3 times a week, along with some cardio, such as walking, a long trail run, and kayaking. I have noticed my mental energy and strength have improved since I committed to this lifestyle.
I used to commute into town for Barre classes at 5:30 a.m., which I love! However, the commitment to drive 50 minutes along with the class created a two-hour barrier in my mornings that was too much of an energy drain for me later in the day.
I generally see back to back patients from 9-6:30 on Thursdays.
This morning I wake up at 7:00 and drink coffee in bed and listen to a podcast to put some positive cognition in for the day. I receive a call from a longstanding patient who is walking through a crisis, and I fit her in for an early unscheduled appointment. I throw my hair in a bun and put on a blazer and call it good and meet her at my office.
I talked to my husband in between regular appointments from 9:00–6:00 and learned he stopped to film for his YouTube channel impromptu with some buddies he met through the channel. I also receive an invitation from a well-known podcaster to guest-host an episode and I am psyched!
I leave the office at 6:30 p.m. to meet with our commercial contractor to match paint samples with flooring in our new building. I then realize I need to order office furniture ASAP! I arrive home at 7:30 p.m., let out the dog, call my parents, and snack on chips and hummus, which becomes my makeshift dinner. I end the night by watching a fashion documentary and relish in the alone-time.
Saturdays tend to be my “troubleshooting day,” and I try to fit in the extraneous meal prep, orders, working out, housekeeping, and my goal of at least one out-of-office social meeting. So much of my work in social science is the emotional work of “giving” in relationship that I want to be careful not to depend on those therapeutic transactions to give to me what I may need socially, so I have been intentional for the past few years about keeping up with personal friendships.
After coffee and some meditation, I vacuum and run laundry, and skim the surfaces in the guest bathroom before completing another SWEAT app workout. My daughter makes blueberry pancakes and I get happily sidetracked eating with her and discussing her upcoming college semester. I also am reminded that I need to pick out the curriculum for my next psychology class as we are switching textbooks! I delegate that task to tomorrow.
My good friend and business partner comes over around 12:30 p.m. and we spend several hours plotting our next adventure: hosting a podcast! I am so motivated by our time together that after she leaves, I take a long walk around my country neighborhood and call my husband about all the tech support I need, LOL. I then realize I have 20 minutes to get to our weekly charity meeting, and facilitate that from 6:00–7:00. I drive back to my house where two of my three sisters who live in town arrive shortly after me with a bottle of wine in hand and we settle in for a good three-hour conversation about our lives — colicky babies, learning styles, husbands, business — we all feel full after reconnecting. I feel especially encouraged that today put the “fuel in my tank” that I will need for another week of family care, trauma counseling, and business planning.
We were intrigued by W’s podcast plans, so we asked for more details:
I’m planning a podcast called “Living Well: Thriving in Every Season”! I hope it is a joyful place with positive psychology that is equipping and genuinely helpful. My co-host is a divorced single mom navigating the new dating world, and we have guests that are incredibly diverse, so I can’t wait to learn more about what makes life abundant to so many people in their season and walk of life.
Thanks so much to W for sharing a bit of her life as a working mom! Readers, what’s your biggest takeaway from her week of work as a LMFT as well as her general work/life balance?
Stock photo via Stencil.