A Cup of Jo has a great series on working moms. She interviews work-from-home moms, mostly bloggers and those in design-related jobs. It’s a refreshing look at work/life balance and I really enjoy reading about how other moms “do it all.” I also wished I read this before I had kids.
Since the women spotlighted are freelancers with relatively flexible schedules, I thought it would be helpful to add in my thoughts as a working mom with a long commute and non-flexible schedule!
Note: A few hours after posting this, I realized that my situation is still easier than having both parents working traditional 9 to 5 jobs. For example, for the first 6 months, my husband handled the night shift so I could rest and go to work. If we both had to get to the office, we would have to split the shift, which would have been pretty hellish. It does seem to get better once babies start sleeping through the night at around 7-8 months.
1. What’s your work schedule?
I get up at the insanely early hour of 5:15-5:45 a.m. depending on the day. I get up earlier if I have to bring the kids to my parents. On the days we have a nanny, I get up about half an hour later. I have a 40 minute to an hour drive to work each morning.
I start by 7:30 am and it’s often go, go, go. I do some of my best work in the mornings. My lunch hour is my “alone” time. I do run errands sometimes but I also try to just relax and read at least 3 times a week. If it’s really busy at work, I try to work through lunch rather than stay late. I get home around 5:30 pm every night. I hop into the shower and try to spend as much time with the kids as possible. My husband usually makes dinner. The kids are in bed by 8:30 – 9 pm which is pretty late. I think they should sleep sooner but I admit that I like the extra time with them. We try to give ourselves an hour or so to wind down but oftentimes I’m lucky to get a half hour of TV.
The only flexibility with my work hours is the start/end time. Years ago I chose an early start time to avoid traffic. It has worked out well since I didn’t have to switch my hours after having children.
2. How do you handle childcare?
We have a part-time nanny who also does some light housecleaning, which makes a huge difference! My parents also help part-time. My husband has a freelancer’s schedule so he is able to be with the kids the most. I feel lucky that I have such a wide support system even though there are many days that I wish I was the one at home with them.
3. What do you find best about your current set-up?
I keep reading about people who work 50+ hours a week so I guess I’m glad that I work 40 hours (45 if you count the hour lunch) and that I’m not expected to work on weekends or be on call. I really value my weekends and try to spend most of that time at home with the kids. I definitely don’t make enough effort for “me” time or date nights with my husband and I should!
4. What advice would you give to other moms about the juggle?
There is so much to say about this! I’ve written about working mother guilt and the work/life juggle before. Guilt is so unnecessary and the work/life juggle is harder than you can imagine.
I think that women in the U.S. don’t have a real choice when it comes to staying home because our maternity leave system is horrible. You’re asked to make that major decision after 3 months (or less) when you’re sleep-deprived and your baby is so needy. Plus working makes breastfeeding very difficult and I think maternity leave should coincide with breastfeeding needs at the very least.
My best advice is to NOT equate staying home with being a good mother. You can be a good mom if you work! My second best advice is to really look at your husband as an equal partner, not the secondary caretaker. It’s great for the husband to be there for the kids, too, and in many cases, it’s possible because you both work.
On a practical level, take advantage of online services like Amazon Mom. They have great prices on diapers and wipes plus free shipping. Update: Amazon Mom sometimes changes its program and benefits so I can’t say it’s always the best for diapers and wipes anymore. I miss it though for its convenience but don’t want to pay for a Prime membership and no longer qualify for the Amazon Mom membership.
5. Do you think the juggle is harder for women than for men?
Yes. Women are just judged more harshly for being away from their children. I supposed we’re also wired differently in some respects. Women are also expected to be the family event coordinator, and the one who buys all the gifts and writes thank you notes etc… If you and your husband both forget a birthday, even if it’s his side of the family, the wife will probably get judged for the lapse while the man gets a free pass.
It’s not that men are off the hook in terms of guilt. Society guilts men the other way. If they’re not “supporting the family”, they can feel bad. They don’t have the playgroups and support groups that SAHMs have.