For this week’s installment of our Week in the Life of a Working Mom series, I’m happy to introduce CorporetteMoms reader A, who lives in the Midwest with her husband and three kids. 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 small Midwestern suburb
Job: Chief advancement officer for a private school (and a part-time grad student)
Home Situation: I live in a 2,600-square-foot home with my husband (38-year-old corporate finance director for a Fortune 50 company) and three kids: R (9-year-old girl), N (6-year-old boy), and A (4-year-old girl). We also have a crazy dog.
Childcare Situation: Kids go to school-sponsored aftercare two days per week. We also have a regular sitter ($12/hour) three days per week after school (no cost for faculty kids), which frees up Husband and I to attend late meetings or squeeze in a workout.
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 means something different when you bring your kids to work! Independent school faculty traditionally go above and beyond their regular teaching jobs, and I love being around coworkers who are willing to do whatever it takes for our students — we all work hard. My job entails a lot of night and weekend hours for events, but I try to see my kids during the day when that’s the case — for example, eating lunch with them when I have a late meeting. I also rarely miss an assembly or in-school presentation, since I’m in the building. The downside is being at a birthday party or social gathering when someone wants to talk shop — you always have to be “on” as a representative of the school. Overall, the good parts far outweigh the challenges, and this is a closely-knit community where I have lots of offers of help if Husband is traveling or our schedules clash.
How do you handle household chores, such as laundry, grocery shopping, housecleaning, etc.? Who does what, and when — and how often?
We have a biweekly housecleaner that’s a lifesaver! In the summer we have lawn service; in the winter, someone plows our driveway. I tend to take over more of the house-running tasks, partially because it’s my nature and partially because I have a wider bandwidth for that kind of stuff. Husband has access to a concierge service at work that helps a ton with standard, routine errands such as taking our cars to get serviced or dropping off dry-cleaning.
A Week in My Life
6:00 a.m. Set my alarm for 7:30, but A, age 4, wakes me with a plea to “Find my nookie.” By the time I dig her pacifier out from under her bed, she’s buried in the covers next to my husband and I’m awake for the day. (Yes, she still has a pacifier at age 4. Her dentist isn’t worried about it and we’ve tried to get her to give it up more times than I can count … so it’s on the back burner for now.) I surf social media for a half hour, then head downstairs. In the quiet before the rest of the house wakes up, I let the dog out, throw in a load of laundry, unload the dishwasher, and pay bills.
8:00 a.m. The kids and my husband are all up. Husband and I debate about what time he’s going to take the kids to church, since I have to work today, I’m hopeful he’ll go to late-morning services so that we’re gone at the same time; then I won’t miss out on as much family time. We compromise: I agree to get them dressed and he makes pancakes and eggs for breakfast so that everyone can leave when they need to.
9:45 a.m. I’m dressed for an afternoon work event and the kids are ready for church. No one has brushed their hair … oh well! Husband leaves for services with kids in tow.
9:50 a.m. I jump in the car and drive to my office.
10:00 a.m. I’m in a part-time graduate school program and have a virtual meeting today to discuss a group project. I’m planning to take the call in my office so I won’t be late for my 11:00 a.m. work event. Grad school meeting goes well and I’m not on the hook for anything for our group project until Tuesday night. I take five minutes and jot down my to-do list for the rest of the day at the conclusion of our call, then head across the building to welcome families for Open House.
11:00 a.m. Work Open House. This particular event is tailored to families interested in our early childhood classrooms, so lots of cuties abound!
12:00 p.m. Husband is home from church after a donut stop. He handles lunch and cleanup before he settles the kids in front of a movie while he logs on to get some work done. I try to let others on my team leave our event first so that I’m one of the last people standing. We pack up and I’m home a little after 2:00 p.m.
2:00–4:oo p.m. I fold laundry, package up a few Amazon returns, and read for school. Husband continues to work. Kids are starting to reach their limit for screen time.
4:00 p.m. It’s a crummy day out and I’m in the mood for something homemade for dinner, so I start bolognese sauce on the stovetop to eat with Costco shamrock ravioli. I also make an egg bake so Husband and I have breakfast for the week, and put eggs in the Instant Pot to boil for lunches. Kids entertain themselves without TV and Husband continues to work. I love cooking and rarely have lots of time for it. My dream is to have enough space in the schedule to devote an entire Sunday to food prep, but a few hours is all I’ve got for it today.
6:00 p.m. Husband wraps up his work project and we eat dinner as a family. Miracle of miracles, everyone likes the food! We clean up the kitchen together and are headed upstairs by 7:15 p.m. for kid baths. I sort and put away the week’s laundry amid the chaos. Our biweekly cleaning ladies are coming on Tuesday so I take this opportunity to “clean for the cleaning ladies” and pick up our upstairs. Husband and I tag-team bedtime.
8:15 a.m. Everyone’s out.
8:30–10:00 p.m. I read for school and prep my work bag for the next day while Husband watches Netflix. We spend twenty minutes planning the logistics of pickup/dropoff/household stuff for the week and I email our plans to our sitter. I have a crazy two weeks ahead — a busy time at work combined with the end of the graduate school quarter. This week, I have an after-hours or weekend work or school commitment 6/7 days. It’ll be a juggling act to get it all done.
10:30 p.m. I’m out.
5:05 a.m. Alarm goes off and … I realize my right eye is crusted shut. Great. I hit snooze twice, then decide to go to spin class in my glasses. I let the dog out and head to class.
6:00–6:45 a.m. Spin class. Glad I went. I text a good friend who’s an optometrist and she promises to swing by my office to look at my eye after she drops her kids at school.
7:00 a.m. I’m home and husband is awake, packing lunch for our youngest — the older two want hot lunch today. I jump in the shower while he gets the kids going, then we swap once I’m ready and can manage the kids.
7:40 a.m. Husband leaves. He brings his workout bag so he can swim at lunch.
8:00 a.m. Kids and I leave for school and work. Usually we try to get in earlier than this; my preferred work start time is 8:00 a.m. Because I have so many night and weekend obligations this week, however, I’m not sweating the fact that I’m going to roll into my office 15 minutes late today.
8:25 a.m. I’m working at my desk and kids are all in their classrooms. My optometrist friend stops by and peeks at my eye — nothing major, just wear glasses instead of contacts and let her know if it doesn’t go away in a few days. She’s a lifesaver.
8:30 a.m. My morning is mostly open so I knock tasks off my to-do list and get organized for the week.
12:00 p.m. I run home for lunch and to let the dog out. On my lunch break, I tidy up the first floor of our house for the cleaning ladies tomorrow, then reward myself with a half-episode of Grey’s Anatomy while I scarf down my food.
1:00 p.m. Back at the office and walking into a full afternoon of meetings.
4:00 p.m. I leave campus for a doctor’s appointment to have her look at a shoulder injury I’ve been nursing for the past two weeks. After that, I go straight to dinner with two of our most dedicated parent volunteers and donors — whom I genuinely enjoy — where I stick around until about 8:00 p.m.
5:15 p.m. Husband picks the kids up from after-care at school and manages dinner, piano practice, and homework. The kids are asleep by the time I get home.
8:30 p.m. I’m home. While Husband wraps up bedtime, I brew a pot of tea for us to sip on while we catch up with one another.
9:15 p.m. I’m too cashed to do anything constructive tonight, so I head to bed.
9:45 p.m. Lights out.
Here are A’s thoughts on private school for her kids:
Our arrangement when we got married was that we would send our (yet-to-be-born) kids to the best school that was the best fit for them, and that I got to lead the charge on educational decisions. As a kid, I had several educational experiences that truly changed my life, so this is a cause I care about deeply. Religion is extremely important to my husband (I was not raised in a faith tradition), so he handles that aspect of our children’s lives. This particular school was definitely part of our longer-term family plan — it’s an amazing place — and it’s something we’d thought about a lot before I took the job here. I came when our eldest was 4, so the timing was great in that aspect as all of them started here in kindergarten or preschool. I guess what I’m saying is we didn’t “default” to this school — we would have chosen it anyway for our kids. We always intended our default to be “best school,” which doesn’t mean private in all cases. It’s worth noting that the public schools in our district have a lot of challenges.
5:00 a.m. Alarm goes off. Eye is minimally crusty, which is a good sign. I’m out of bed by 5:10 a.m. I let the dog out, throw in a load of laundry, and run and unload the dishwasher. I also spend 20 minutes prepping my workday schedule and to-do list. I savor the remaining morning silence and read an article for graduate school with a still-hot cup of coffee in hand … bliss. I’m not a natural morning person but have learned the joys of getting up early now that I have three kids.
6:15 a.m. I head upstairs to get ready. Husband is up and is going to work out this morning; kids are also up, which is early for them.
7:00 p.m. Everyone is dressed and downstairs — I full-on bribe them into getting ready quickly by promising a TV show with breakfast.
7:50 a.m. We’ve had breakfast, brushed hair, and loaded the dishwasher, so we’re headed to school. I drop R off at one entrance for choir practice and have the littles in before-school care by 8:00.
8:05 a.m. I’m at my desk and prep for an 8:30 meeting.
10:00 a.m. I’m flying high — I tried a new format for a team check-in this morning after a dismal failure of a meeting last month and it was great! I also had two good conversations after that, and I attribute all of this good energy to our great meeting mojo. The rest of the day flies by. In what is a rare occurrence, I don’t have to go home and let the dog out because our cleaning ladies are at the house today — they’ll let her out when they arrive and before they leave.
3:45 p.m. School’s out, and our sitter, A, picks up the kids. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, she gets them home and started on the evening routine (homework, baths, dinner, etc.). Husband sometimes has to work late and I often have class or evening work commitments, and this allows us the flexibility to handle all of that with a little less stress. That said, we only have A one day this week because she’s going on a well-deserved spring break vacation tomorrow.
4:00 p.m. I have to pick up supplies for a weekend work event so I drive to Target to grab those. I also return a bagful of swimsuits that I ordered to try on at home and pick up milk and napkins. I almost toss my work receipt but remember to save it for my expense report.
4:50 p.m. Stop for a quick check at the orthodontist, where I’m cleared to get my braces off in three short weeks. Best news! Really can’t wait to get these things off.
5:05 p.m. Swing the grocery store for a few specialty items and grab grocery sushi for dinner (don’t judge).
5:40 p.m. I’m back at my office for online class and a team meeting to work on our group project immediately afterwards. While I can take these “calls” at home, it’s much easier to do them at my office — fewer distractions, better wifi, and a huge computer screen. The class discussion is great and I’m left feeling energized, even though we might have more work ahead of us on our group project than I had originally thought. My team is great, though, and that counts for a lot.
5:45 p.m. Husband is home and relieves the sitter. He manages dinner for the kids tonight.
8:15 p.m. Our team meeting wraps at 8:00 and I spend a few minutes writing follow-up emails and clearing out my inbox. Text husband, who says he’s putting the kids to bed — I feel badly that I missed out on saying good night. Also send a few work-related texts in response to messages I received while logged in for class.
8:30 p.m. I’m home, with the car unloaded. I spend the next 30 minutes switching out the laundry, processing mail, and putting away groceries.
8:45–9:15 p.m. Husband and I catch each other up on our days, then he heads to the living room to finish a movie. I have intentions of reading for school tonight but am once again cashed.
9:15–10:00 p.m. Surf social media, read the New York Times online, peek one more time at work email, pack my gym bag for tomorrow morning.
10:15 p.m. Bed.
A shared some advice for working moms in grad school:
I’m getting an MS in Leadership & Organizational Change from Kat’s alma mater, Northwestern. I’d tell other working parents that you have to tap your village in order to make it work, but you can do it! The most important person in my village is my spouse. He had the chance to get his master’s when he was in his mid-20s before we were even married, and he’s been incredibly supportive of my spending my time and our money on this degree — plus, he’s an amazing dad with a huge job of his own, who somehow never complains when he’s on duty while I’ve got school deadlines or meetings. Our regular sitter is also a huge lifesaver. I don’t have any hobbies right now and I occasionally have to decline social events, but it helps that I love school and wanted to go back — more than anything, this is something I’m doing for myself, like a weird academic version of self-care. It also helps that I work in a school — we’re dedicated to lifelong learning! — and my boss really encouraged me to pursue an advanced degree.
5:10 a.m. Alarm’s been going off since 5:00, so I get out of bed and put on my workout clothes. I pause to put chicken in the crockpot and load the dishwasher before I go.
5:45 a.m. Leave for class, knowing I’m going to be a few minutes late. Eat a banana en route
6:03 a.m. Arrive at class and end up on the wonky bike in the corner. It works, though, and I get in a great workout with my accountability partner on the bike next to me. We’ve been going to Wednesday/Friday spin class together since September, and while I sometimes have to miss due to coursework (sleep!), a meeting, or family obligations, I love having a standing date on the calendar. I’m also signed up for Mondays but my attendance always depends on what else is going on in any given week. The best time for me to work out is always the morning — afternoons are too crazy, and I’m wiped at the end of the day.
6:45 a.m. Class ends and I head to the locker room to shower and change.
7:35 a.m. I leave the gym and go straight to work, stopping for gas on the way.
7:45 a.m. Rather than working on my to-do list for the day, I spend the first 45 minutes of my morning dealing with two separate issues that weren’t previously on my radar. I give myself a B- for how I handled these — I was pressed for time so could have done better, but I did my best given the circumstances.
9:15 a.m. I leave for a meeting across town. Because of this meeting, I can’t take a lunch today, so I swing by the house en route, pick up our dog, and drop her at doggie daycare (next door to my meeting spot). Doggie daycare is a lifesaver for our family — our dog needs regular walks/workouts, and it’s hard to squeeze these in not only because of our schedules, but because of the crummy winter weather as of late.
9:45–11:00 a.m. I have my meeting and stop by Home Depot on my way back to work to pick up an online order I put in last night. I realize as I’m driving that we need paperwork from my mom in order for Husband to do her taxes, so I call and leave her a message. I also make a mental note that we need to stop by her place and help change out the smoke and carbon monoxide alarm batteries soon — she lives alone in a condo that we own, and we try to be helpful to her with general house and life management tasks.
11:30 a.m.–12:00 p.m. I take 30 minutes to check email and tick off a few work to-do’s before I go into a solid afternoon of meetings from 12:00-4:00 p.m. One of those meetings is over lunch in our school’s dining room, where I see my eldest daughter. She comes over to hug me four times during my meeting, which is a reminder that I haven’t been around much this week.
4:00 p.m. Last meeting ends. The discussions were robust and we made a ton of progress; however, I’m now mentally and physically wiped. I check in with members of my team, pick up phone messages, read emails, and handle other small tasks.
5:30 p.m. Walk over and pick up my kids from after care. All are excited to see me, and N, our middle child, is especially excited to show me the robot he built on his field trip today. We all head home.
5:45 p.m. We arrive home and Husband is already there. I am sooooo tired and the food I put in the crock pot somehow didn’t cook all the way … crap. Husband is eating my leftover grocery store sushi from yesterday and is planning to take the kids to mass today, as it’s a religious holiday for him and them. However, he ends up with a terrible headache and has to tap out to lay down in a dark room. Being exhausted, I feed the kids cheese and crackers and peanut butter toast for dinner. #momoftheyear (I eat leftovers.)
6:30 p.m. Kids are WILD. Luckily the older ones did their homework at aftercare. I finally get them to go upstairs and change into PJ’s, then they’re allowed 30 minutes of TV. While they watch TV, I finish my Grey’s Anatomy episode. I rarely watch TV at night and I have a ton of work/school to do, but I can’t get over how tired I am! I think it’s the crazy back-to-back-to-back schedule I’ve had this week. I decide to listen to myself and veg out.
7:15 p.m. We all go upstairs. Husband and I tag-team bedtime.
8:00 p.m. Kids are out cold. I head downstairs to begin loading the dishwasher and putting dinner dishes away. Husband and I catch up about our days, go through the kids’ backpacks, and prep for the following morning.
9:10 p.m. I need to stop procrastinating, so I take out my laptop and work on a set of PowerPoint slides for my grad school team presentation that’s taking place next week, then email my fellow team members about next steps.
11:00 p.m. I feel anxious when I think about all of my disorganized work to-dos that I need to collate into one space, plus a 9:00 a.m. meeting with my boss tomorrow. But … tired. Tired wins, and I go up to bed.
6:00 a.m. Got to sleep in today! I get ready and let the kids snooze until 7:00, which is late for them. I have drop-off this morning since Husband will pick up, and am in my office by about 8:10 a.m.
8:00 a.m. I remind kids that they don’t have school tomorrow and that they’ll be in after-care all day. Eldest does not like this plan for some reason — she’s convinced that her friends won’t be there. I’ve been so absent this week that the guilt starts to creep in. I text with her BFF’s mom to see if BFF will, in fact, attend … she won’t, but they invite R for a playdate. This complicates matters because the little kids won’t want to go to after-care without their big sister. I enlist Husband to see if he can ask his mom to watch the littles. My in-laws are wonderful people and live in town — they’re super-helpful with our kids and are always willing to lend a hand. Even so, I feel badly about this last-minute ask.
9:00 a.m. Meet with boss. We have weekly check-ins, and the bulk of this one is spent reviewing logistics for an upcoming event. While we’re in our meeting, I see R’s piano teacher coming into the building through the window and realize she left her piano bag (including the teacher’s payment) at home this morning. Crap.
10:00 a.m.–4:30 p.m. First, I run payment for the piano teacher down to the school office — thankfully I had cash on me. Husband texts that his mom is glad to take our littles tomorrow. Yay! Afterwards, I have nothing on my calendar so I’m able to focus on creating and collating materials for my boss to take to a meeting he has tomorrow. I go home for lunch and to let the dog out, and tidy up the kitchen while I’m there.
4:30 p.m.–6:00 p.m. It’s parent/teacher conference time at school, and we’ve scheduled our kids’ conferences back to back. Husband joins me. I’m reminded how incredibly fortunate our family is to be at this amazing school, and we have three amazing teachers to meet with. Kids are doing well, but I cannot take any of the credit — we have an awesome village to help us out.
6:00 p.m. Pick up kids at after-care together. I have a work event tonight; Husband is going to take the kids to the high school basketball game. The later-than-usual night isn’t a big deal because they don’t have school tomorrow. We decide that they’ll eat dinner at the game and I’ll run home to let the dog out before my work event. My eldest wants to come home with me and change out of her uniform; I acquiesce, since it’s not out of my way to drop her at the game on my way back out. We both come home and change in record time.
7:00 p.m.–9:00 p.m. I have a work event, which turns out great and the time flies by. I stick around and help clean up, but the work is minimal.
9:15 p.m. I’m home, and Husband has already put the kids to bed. This week has been crazy, and now that it’s Thursday it feels as though the wheels are starting to fall off — laundry is piling up and the house is starting to look pretty messy.
10:30 a.m. I’m in bed. I text my accountability buddy that I have to skip spin tomorrow.
We asked A whether her “wheels are starting to fall off” feeling was a common one when Thursday rolls around:
Yes! I hate making Friday plans because I know that by Friday I’m just going to want to pass out on the couch. This particular week was just nuts, so things were messier than usual … but yes, typically our family is happy to use our Fridays to recharge.
5:00 a.m. Alarm goes off. I’m taking a half day this morning to hang out with my kids on their day off of school, but set my alarm for this ungodly hour so I could get organized for work and my grad program. I throw in some laundry.
6:30 a.m. Husband leaves to work out and will go straight to the office afterwards.
7:30 a.m. Kids are up and everyone’s in a good mood. I wrap up what I’m doing and we play MagnaTiles together. Even though they’re bickering a little, it feels great to be home today. I keep an eye on work email and fold a load of laundry.
8:30 a.m. Boss calls for clarity going into his morning meeting. I take the call locked in our master bath so the kid noise is kept at a minimum, though he’s super-understanding if and when they interrupt.
10:00 a.m. We all get dressed and ready to leave. My noon lunch meeting sends me a text asking to postpone, and I heartily agree.
11:00 a.m. Leave the house. Drop eldest at her BFF’s for a play date. Their family will bring her to after-care at school later this afternoon. Drop dog at doggie daycare, since I won’t be able to come home and let her out this afternoon. Drop youngest two at my mother-in-law’s house, where two of their cousins are also spending the day. MIL is a saint. Sidenote: I spend SO MUCH TIME in my car as the working parent of three kids.
12:00 p.m. Boss calls again. I pull into the T.J.Maxx parking lot to take some notes. We hang up and I realize I’m already here, so I should just pop in…
12:30 p.m. …nothing good at T.J.Maxx and I’m in the office on time. Check in on event prep for tonight and work through my to-do list.
5:00 p.m. Leave work, grab eldest from after-care. Husband is getting the little kids from his mom’s and the dog from daycare … only he forgets the dog. Daycare agrees to keep her overnight — it’s out of the way for us to get back there this evening.
5:40 p.m. I’m running late to get back to work and our sitter is behind, too. Husband gets home in the nick of time.
5:50 p.m. I arrive at our event. Looks great!
6:00–10:00 p.m. Event takes place. Husband was also invited, so he’s there, and we see each other throughout the night. I enjoy catching up with donors, many of whom are friends. Make a few mental notes about things I want to address next week.
10:15 p.m. I walk in the door, and while the kids are bathed and our son is asleep, our eldest is still awake and there are toys everywhere. This isn’t typical of our sitter and definitely wasn’t what I was expecting. We get everyone where they need to be, in bed, and stay up for awhile talking.
11:15 p.m. Lights out. I have to finish writing my portion of a paper for my grad school team project, so that’s gonna have to happen in the morning.
5:00 a.m. So early. I want to fling my alarm across the room.
5:30 a.m. I sit down at the dining room table and spend the next two hours writing my portion of a team paper for our final project this quarter
7:30 a.m. I quickly get ready to run over to work and run a Saturday morning parent/child playgroup for 2- and 3-year-olds. One of our teachers will conduct the activity, but we always have a member of our team present during the class to be an extra set of hands. I stop at a local coffee shop to pick up coffee for the attending parents on the way.
8:00 a.m. I arrive at campus and help with setup.
8:30 a.m. Husband and kids are leaving the house for N’s indoor soccer game. I’m bummed to miss.
8:30–9:30 a.m. Playgroup! Today’s theme is Spanish Language, so our Spanish teacher leads them through songs, games, and dances. It’s pretty darn adorable.
10:00 a.m. Playgroup cleanup is done and I’m in my office. I check in with Husband and we agree I’ll come home after lunch to relieve him so he can go work out.
10:30 a.m.–12:00 p.m. I have another virtual grad school meeting this morning, which I take at the office, then stick around to work on school projects.
1:45 p.m. I’m home. A is napping and the two big kids are once again building with blocks. I work on my various papers for school in the kitchen while they play around me. Husband leaves to go swim.
4:00 p.m. Husband is home and talks me into going out to an early dinner with the family. He then plans to take the kids to our nephew’s basketball game that’s about 45 minutes away this evening.
4:30 p.m. We leave for dinner at our favorite hole-in-the-wall Mexican spot. So delicious, and under $40 for the five of us to eat! I leave a generous tip.
6:00 p.m. I decamp to a nearby Starbucks and work on grad school assignments; husband takes the kids to the game.
8:30 p.m. Husband calls; he’s on his way home and is bringing one of our nieces along for a sleepover. Cute! I wrap up my work — my brain is mush by now — and head home myself. I stop and take care of a couple of clothing returns on the way.
9:30 p.m. I’ve taken a hot shower and the kids are snuggled up for a movie. I plan on vegging out in front of the TV, but Husband and I can never agree on what to watch so he goes upstairs to putter around. I feel as though I should fold laundry or order groceries online, but figure those things can wait until tomorrow.
11:30 p.m. Lights out. It’s Daylight Savings at 2:00 a.m., which means one less hour of sleep for us all…
Thanks so much to A for sharing a bit of her life as a working mom! Readers, what’s your biggest takeaway from her week of work as a chief advancement officer at a private school as well as her general work/life balance?
Stock photo via Stencil.