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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 J, who lives in a suburb of Chicago with her husband and daughter and works as an accounting VP at a real estate 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: Live in a western suburb of Chicago, work for a Chicago-based company (in office twice a week)
Job: Accounting VP at a real estate firm
Home Situation: Live in a 2,500-square-foot house with my husband and preschool-age daughter
Childcare Situation: Daycare from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., five days a week, $398/week
Note: When we contacted J, she gave us an update:
My husband took a new job with no evening calls, so we now alternate bedtime duty. We also began a TV allowance of three hours a day for our daughter on weekends. This means we have been spending more time finding activities around the area to do while we still can with the weather.
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?
It depends on your position and your area in the industry — brokers and executives are almost always available. Staff-level accountants have balanced days, but a new broker may be “on” a lot more. Since I’ve married and had a child, I’ve worked for a very understanding boss who really cared about the most important work getting done and would let me know when some things would need priority over others. I’ve also been with the company for a number of years over multiple promotions so have been able to kind of train my colleagues that I don’t work outside business hours unless necessary.
How do you handle household chores, such as laundry, grocery shopping, housecleaning, etc.? Who does what, and when — and how often?
I tend to handle laundry, groceries, and cooking. I meal-plan one week at a time and grocery shop on weekends. My in-office days are either crock pot/Instant Pot meals that my husband will start, or leftovers. I do laundry on my WFH days, even if it doesn’t get folded and put away until the end of the week. My husband handles the outside tasks (lawn, gutters, etc.), and we both do housecleaning tasks as we see they are needed.
We were curious (in a neutral way, of course!) about J’s thoughts on having one child — before and after becoming a mom — and she shared this:
I wasn’t sure if we would have one or two, especially as I was already over 35, but I became set on only one after a rough delivery and my experience with postpartum depression. We look at the positives of having only one — one college fund to contribute to, less cost overall. I will say that it can be hard because she doesn’t have a built-in playmate. She doesn’t like to be alone and it can be hard to accomplish things on the weekends because she wants attention.
A Week in My Life
6:00 a.m. Wake up, because of course on school days our daughter can sleep in, but not on weekends. We get up, switch on some TV for her, and start the coffee. Husband dozes on the couch next to her, I unload the dishwasher. Daughter eats mini croissants with Nutella and red grapes for breakfast, husband and I make egg sandwiches.
8:45 a.m. Begin the get-dressed-for-swim-lessons negotiations.
9:15 a.m. Head out the door to lessons. Previously one of us would watch her lesson while the other sat at the coffee shop around the corner (COVID regulations had only one parent per child), but now we both watch because she loves it. Half the time we head to the coffee shop next door afterwards, but today she chooses the donut shop in our downtown. Husband and I decide we don’t feel like cooking for lunch, so we walk over to the local brewery for brunch/lunch and are the first customers. Very different from our downtown life of waiting for tables!
12:30 p.m. After brunch we head to the library to get more books and play in the kids section, and then head home.
2:00 p.m. Daughter sees the kids next door out in their yard, so she asks if she can play. I hang out in our backyard and weed while she plays in their yard. Husband mows the front yard.
Around 3:00 p.m. I make a quick grocery store run. I meal-plan for us one week at a time and have a stocked freezer and pantry so my weekly runs are small and mostly fresh items (produce, dairy, bread). I refresh the freezer and pantry once a quarter-ish.
4:00 p.m. Next door’s oldest has baseball, so they all go and we turn the TV back on. Husband cleans up the back patio and starts cleaning his electric smoker, I clean up the kitchen for a bit before starting dinner. We don’t limit TV very much on weekends, as she isn’t allowed any TV on school days.
6:00 p.m. Eat dinner — Alison Roman’s shallot spaghetti with frozen meatballs and bagged salad. I keep the paste for the sauce in our freezer, so it comes together easily. This is one of our “We have nothing in the house” meals. Salad happens about 50% of the time we have this.
7:00 p.m. Bath time for the kiddo. We let her take a long bath on Sundays.
8:00 p.m. Daughter’s PJs are on and teeth flossed and brushed. Husband reads books, lights out by 8:30. I finish kitchen cleanup and prep Tuesday’s Instant Pot meal and put it in the fridge.
9:00 p.m. Husband wakes up after dozing off in the recliner in her room. I wash my face, brush teeth, and lay down for some scrolling and email/schedule checking to prep for the week.
10:00 p.m. Husband has a call with his Indian team. It’s scheduled till 11:00 p.m. but it always goes over. I have no idea what time he comes to bed.
5:00 a.m. Alarm goes off. Get up, start coffee, unload dishwasher, check work email, sit on couch and don’t work out. Husband stays in bed because of the India call.
6:00 a.m. Alarm goes off. Check on daughter, still asleep. Lay down in bed.
6:30 a.m. Daughter is still asleep so we slowly wake her. Feed her breakfast of mini croissants with Nutella and grapes. Start coffee, unload dishwasher.
7:15 a.m. Dress daughter for school, apply sunscreen. She and husband are out the door by 7:40. I take a shower, get dressed, and start laundry. I’ll switch it over mid-morning when I refill my coffee. Make myself breakfast (oatmeal), refill my coffee, and am at my home office desk by 8:30. My husband gets home around that time after stopping for sparkling water on the way home, and we check in on drop-off. She’s been a bit clingy at drop-off lately. He’s WFH full time; I am M, W, and F. On my WFH days we don’t actually see each other much during the day due to his stacked call schedule.
12:00 p.m. Virtual therapy appointment. Best thing I did for myself this year. Cobble together a lunch from the fridge after therapy to eat while I work, and start more laundry. Husband’s lunches are based around how many leftovers containers he can empty at once. We rarely are in the kitchen for lunch at the same time.
4:30 p.m. Stop working, head downstairs and begin dinner prep — salmon bowls. Preheat oven, set up rice cooker (will turn on when I get home), put frozen edamame in a bowl of hot water, chop cucumbers, green onions avocados, make spicy mayo.
4:45 p.m. Leave to pick up daughter from daycare.
5:20 p.m. Home. Husband always ends his day when my daughter yells up the stairs to announce she is home. Finish dinner while daughter plays with husband. This involves putting makeup on husband. Peek around the corner to take pics and send to mother-in-law.
6:00 p.m. Dinner. Use as many tactics as possible to convince daughter to eat at least some dinner. It started to storm during dinner, but slowed down a bit.
6:45 p.m. Put rainboots and rain jacket on daughter and she jumps in puddles while I watch from the porch. Husband cleans up from dinner and starts the dishwasher. Play a little more inside.
8:00 p.m. Husband kisses her goodnight and takes a call with his Chinese team, I do bedtime (PJs, teeth, books, lights out).
9:00 p.m. Set up coffeepot for morning, pick out tomorrow’s outfit, make sure work bag is ready. Wash face, brush teeth, check emails one last time, hit the sack.
We asked J whether she worked remotely pre-pandemic, and she said this:
Prior to the pandemic I was in office five days a week, but we also lived in Chicago, and I was a 1.5-mile walk from the office and daycare was two blocks from our condo. I prefer working from home for the most part, but I think I would enjoy my in-office days more if the commute wasn’t as long.
We asked J about her daughter’s eating challenges (and her advice to readers), and she shared this:
She was a great eater until around 2 to 2.5 years old. Around then she became very picky. My advice is just to keep exposing them. I stocked up on frozen veggies, so I could serve her one piece of broccoli with a meal, one green bean, or just a few peas. I feel less guilty about waste that way, and sometimes she will try a piece just because it is there. I’ve successfully gotten her back on broccoli and edamame this way.
For the snap peas on Tuesday, I introduced them via the interactive aspect of it — we hold them up to the light to see how big the peas inside are, and then open them and take the peas out, maybe count them. I also serve her the components of a meal separately and always make sure there is one thing she for sure likes in the meal.
She will eat way more variety at daycare, so I’m not super concerned about her pickiness at home. I also rotate protein options for her weekly-ish — she will not eat traditional meat items, so we rotate through items such as deli turkey, hard boiled eggs, edamame, and fish sticks. Rotation helps her not get sick of foods once I get them back in her diet.
5:00 a.m. Alarm goes off. Get up, start coffee, unload dishwasher, check work email, set up Instant Pot with post-it of instructions on it, walk on treadmill for 30 minutes. Head back upstairs and get dressed.
6:00 a.m. Alarm goes off. Gently rouse daughter, pick her up and cuddle her in the recliner until she fully wakes up. Husband slowly wakes up.
6:40 a.m. Kiss daughter and husband goodbye, drive to train station. Once I’ve parked, buy a day pass for the train and pay for parking. Both done on my phone.
7:03 a.m. Train arrives at my station. I used to listen to podcasts on my rides, but I’ve gotten into Libby lately. I switched to the train a couple months ago after it took me nearly two hours to get to the office twice in a row.
7:45 a.m. Get on the bus. I should walk, but I’m just not ready to be that sweaty at the office. Husband leaves with daughter for daycare drop-off.
8:00 a.m. Arrive at office. Refill my coffee, get to work.
11:30 a.m. Run out to get my salad from Sweetgreen, eat at my desk.
4:00 p.m. Leave office and head to the bus stop. The bus back to the train station hasn’t been consistent, so I’ve been leaving earlier.
4:25 p.m. Bus finally arrives, so I don’t make the 4:40 train. I do make the 4:50 train, though it stops at all stops. Husband leaves around the same time as my train for daycare pickup. I do email work and maintenance on the train while listening to a book on Libby.
5:25 p.m. Train arrives in my town. Walk to my car and drive home. Always amazed by how backed-up our main north/south road in town gets.
5:45 p.m. Pull into our garage, husband and daughter aren’t home yet — probably went through the car wash. I wrap up the dinner prep (shred the tandoori chicken in the Instant pot, preheat the oven for the Trader Joe’s frozen naan, and microwave steam in a bag green beans). They pull in by 5:55pm, confirm they went through the car wash, and we eat a few minutes later. I end up heating up some leftover rice from yesterday to get daughter to eat something. Also add snap peas to her plate. She asks me to open them all and she picks the peas out. She also eats half the outer shells too, so I consider it a big win.
6:30 p.m. Play outside on the swings while my husband gathers all the small branches our trees keep dropping when it’s windy. Discuss calling an arborist for the 17th time, but make no commitment. We moved to this house from a city condo a year and a half ago so we are still learning a lot about maintenance.
7:15 p.m. Start bath for daughter while husband cleans up from dinner and starts the dishwasher. Listen to the Trolls World Tour soundtrack while she plays with her bath toys.
7:45 p.m. Start bedtime (PJs, teeth, books, lights out). Husband kisses daughter goodnight and takes another call with overseas.
9:00 p.m. Head downstairs and put the last few straggler toys and miscellaneous things away. Wash face, brush teeth, check emails one last time, hit the sack.
Similar start to Monday, except I manage to do an arm workout in the morning. Dress my daughter in her bathing suit and water shoes for “water day” and pack a bag with her towel and a change of clothes. I drive her to school on Wednesdays so my husband can take an 8:00 a.m. weekly call with his Indian team.
When I get home from drop-off around 8:10 a.m., I quickly run through the shower and start a load of laundry before beginning my workday.
12:00 p.m. I meet a friend for lunch at a Thai place close to my house, as her office isn’t too far from me. I switch the laundry over when I get home and bring up Monday’s laundry to my office and put it on the bed. During a tax status call mid-afternoon, I sort the laundry into piles for each person and towels. When I run downstairs to refill my water later, I bring up the laundry I switched over earlier and do a quick sort.
P.M. routine is the same — 4:30 p.m. stop for me to dinner prep, leave at 4:45 p.m. for pickup.
Finish dinner when I get home, while daughter plays with husband. Dinner was Amylu Greek burgers with homemade tzatziki, cucumber and onion salad, cherry tomatoes, and hummus with pitas for our daughter. After dinner we pull our daughter in the wagon to a nearby park and play for about half an hour.
Start bedtime around 7:45 p.m. Husband does her bedtime as he doesn’t have any calls tonight.
I finish cleaning the kitchen, start the dishwasher, set up the coffeepot, set up my work bag for another day in the office tomorrow. Check emails one last time, wash face, brush teeth, and head to bed.
Thursday is an-office day for me, so it starts very similar to Tuesday for all of us.
I leave for the train at 6:40 a.m. and husband handles dressing her and drop off before returning home to work.
I have lunch with someone that is retiring effective Monday, and around 3:00 p.m. head to an event space in one of our buildings for their retirement party.
Husband leaves for daycare pick up around 4:50 p.m. and they get home around 5:30 p.m.
Leave the party around 5:20 p.m. and walk to the train, catch the 6:10 p.m. Train arrives in my town around 6:40 p.m. and I get home around 6:55 p.m.
My husband does art with my daughter at the table with me while I eat (they already ate). Thursday is leftovers night, so we all just ate from whatever was in the fridge.
We start an earlier bedtime around 7:20 p.m. since she didn’t nap very long at daycare. Husband kisses us goodnight and goodbye, and rides his bike to a neighborhood dads’ night out.
After daughter’s bedtime routine and she falls asleep, I do one last kitchen clean up sweep, start the dishwasher, and then wash my face and brush my teeth, then take the opportunity to go to bed early.
He gets home around 11:30 p.m. and kindly snoozes our security cameras before riding home and pulling his bike along the side of the house so he doesn’t wake me up with the notifications.
Friday starts much like Monday. Once my husband and daughter leave for daycare drop-off, I take a shower, get dressed, start laundry, and make myself some breakfast.
I work straight through until 1:30 before I realize what time it is. I end up working another 30 minutes until our “summer hours” Friday closing time of 2:00 p.m.
I eat something, then spend the next hour folding mine and my daughter’s laundry that I’ve done all week and putting it away. Do the towels next. My husband folds his own laundry, so I just put it all in a basket for him to do when he has time.
I do general house cleanup work, before leaving at 4:00 p.m. to hit the Target right by my daughter’s daycare for some basic items we need. I then swing over to pick her up and we get home around 5:15 p.m.
As soon as we get home she yells for her dad that it’s pizza movie night. I start preheating the ovens for frozen pizzas and turn on the TV for her. She settles on Frozen 2 for the 134,342th time. Husband joins her and I throw the pizzas in when the oven is ready.
After Frozen, we let her watch a couple TV shows before bed.
Husband does the bedtime routine. I clean up from dinner, start the dishwasher, and do a final sweep of the first floor.
Wash my face, brush my teeth, and crash for the night. Husband comes to bed eventually (fell asleep in the recliner for a while).
6:00 a.m. Wake up! No sleeping in on weekends in our house. We turn the TV on for our daughter, make coffee, and just putter around the house until she decides she’s ready for some breakfast. Actually convince her to eat eggs in the kitchen with us. She watches more TV while husband and I discuss plans for the day. We decide to take it easy until after lunch and then head to the local pool.
12:00 p.m. Eat lunch: jelly sandwich and fruit for daughter, and leftovers for us. Head to the local pool for a couple hours. We’re trying to convince her it’s OK to put her head under the water, but it’s not going well. It’s the one skill at swim lessons she absolutely refuses. Baffles us because she did it last year.
3:00 p.m. Arrive back home. Neighbors are out! Everyone ends up between the two front yards. I use masking tape to outline animal shapes on our driveway and the girls color them with chalk. Turn on the bubble machine.
5:00 p.m. Neighbors go in for their dinner. We turn the TV on for daughter. Husband starts up the grill. I pull out some burgers for us and a hot dog for her, start a pot for mac and cheese, and dump a bagged salad kit into a bowl.
6:00 p.m. We eat dinner outside on our back patio. Daughter swings for a bit before we call a little early bedtime at 7:30 p.m. Husband does bedtime routine (he does most weekend bedtimes since I do between three and four each week for his night calls).
9:00 p.m. Husband and I climb into bed and chat and scroll for a bit before lights out around 10:00.
Thanks so much to J for sharing a bit of her life as a working mom! Readers, what’s your biggest takeaway from her week of work as an accounting VP as well as her general work/life balance?
Stock photo via Stencil.