I have had a hankering to share more thoughtful, personal posts that I think might benefit other moms like me. I get sooo nervous with these sorts of posts and I’m always super aware that they can be read in so many different tones (does my inflection come off right? Am I too wordy? Am I being considerate of all who might be reading today?). I hit ‘post’ and my heart skips a few beats. I think about and reread my words 10 times (on top of all of the previous drafting). Home, design, party, food and business posts feel easy and natural. Posts about real life are so much more difficult to compose and feel confident about.
But sometimes I do give it a go. And today I wanted to tackle a scheduling topic that has been at the top of my brain (new school year approaching) and occasionally in the comment threads ’round here.
If you’re familiar with the blog, you know that I really value being a hands-on momma. But also that I have a full-time job and do a fair bit of marketing consulting on the side. And I dig remodeling my home, keeping this blog up, crafting with the littles, gardening, cooking and all sorts of other homey things. Feels overwhelming, but it isn’t always. I call my solution the ‘full-time working, full-time mom’ schedule because somehow I got lucky enough to juggle all of the above and most days feel pretty good about it (most days).
So let’s back up for just a moment before we jump in. I’ve been so delayed in answering the 3rd reader question (did you even remember that that was a thing for a while over here?) and for that I apologize… I’ve wanted to first share our big news with you so that I could craft this post into a ‘what we’re doing now’ and a ‘what I think we might do’ once our family is one little guy/girl bigger! That, plus it’s been hard to put into words the crazy juggle that happens over here behind the scenes.
I know that there are a lot of working moms out there, some of whom are readers of this little blog and who have inquired about what it means to ‘balance’ without heads spinning off. I don’t have the answer… I use trial and error and ultimately listen to my gut on any major (or minor) changes to our lives, but I have come up with a few simple solutions (like mother’s helpers, co-op preschools and CSA delivery) that make life a little easier for us, and I’m excited to share pieces of all of that.
I’ll be honest – if I ever wish to complete anything and get even just a few hours of sleep, I will be the first to admit that I have help. A LOT of really super, awesome help. And a good chunk of that is paid help. While I don’t always feel this way every day, I’m pretty okay with that. I have very few qualms with the fact that I share my child rearing/household duties/even work responsibilities with a village. On the kid-side of that equation, that includes a couple of awesome local college babysitters, three mother’s helpers – yep 3 – all under the age of 12, my good friends, a preschool program and my mom & dad. It brings variety, activity, organization, sanity and a little fun to everyone’s day. Did I mention that it’s an activity in and of itself keeping track of who’s going where and when?
As crazy as that sounds (and I have toyed with the idea of an all-day, one-place-only kid-sitting solution) I feel so much better having an all-over-the-board child care schedule. But no judgement here, each mom to her own whether you choose to stay at home, hire part time care, work at night, utilize an all-day facility… I’m totally on board with what works for your family.
Here’s what works for us:
Crazy schedule, right? It changes every season, too, because school is in and out, college sitters are out of town or on break, nana and papa are traveling, and so on. The above was the first part of the year, the below, this past summer.
And that has nothing to do with me, that’s all the girls.
A snippet: during this past school year Liv attended a morning preschool program on Tuesdays and Thursdays. T stayed home and a college sitter came over during the same hours. On Mondays and Wednesdays, Liv and Taylor join a play group at my girlfriend’s home. I drop them off in the morning and pick them up after a late lunch (she has two boys roughly the same ages and it’s awesome for the girls). Afternoons are filled with either another a college sitter, a mother’s helper for a few hours or a trip to Nana and Papa’s for playtime or swim lessons. Or maybe two of those in the same four hour period.
A typical day for us is chronicled right here in more detail.
This summer, while Liv’s usual neighborhood preschool is out, I took the initiative and pulled together neighborhood moms to form a little co-op preschool at one of the homes with an art teacher that I knew was free for summer break – Liv takes part on Monday, Thursday and Friday mornings. T has two different child care solutions during that time. The other two days of the week are filled with above play group, college sitters, mother’s helpers, and my incredibly awesome mom.
This upcoming school year will look a lot like the last, except that I dropped my hours by one half day and am planning on joining my mom friends for some kid time one morning a week (woohoo!). I finally have an assistant for work and one also for my consulting projects.
When #3 comes, what then? To be honest, I don’t plan on changing that much. I enjoy my work and we’re not really in a position for me to stop bringing in an income any time soon. I may be able to slowly cut back my hours again at some point, but our company is going through an acquisition and that’s not really in the business’ best interest. Livy will slowly adjust into a longer preschool day at the school she loves, my super awesome college girls will help me with two at home (or maybe we’ll find someone full time?) and I will be there to fill in ALL of the gaps. Whatever the solution will be, I will still be a hands-on momma. No doubt about it. It takes a village but there’s only one chief (when mom-guilt sets in, that helps me to feel a little better about it).
Where does my work schedule fit it? I’m so very lucky that I have ultimate control over those hours. I work a 4-5 hour chunk in the morning, a 2-3 hour chunk in the afternoon, and most nights a 2-3 hour chunk in the evening.
I LOVE breaking up my day with carpooling the girls from point A to point B and I give myself a good 1-2 hours (usually between 1 and 3pm or so) to do it. That’s the blank chunks on the charts above. I get to catch up with the girls, make them lunch, discuss what happened that morning in preschool and maybe even play a game or two.
Sometimes I feel guilty that the girls aren’t involved in more (no gymnastics or dance lessons yet), I simply don’t have the time to add right now. Sometimes I feel guilty that they’re involved in too much (I have a lot of friends who are avoiding preschool during the two-year-old/three-year-old timeline). But then I shake it off.
What’s incredibly challenging about our current schedule is that it involves being ‘on’ all of the time. When I’m at work, I’m consolidating my efforts to get big stuff done in small amounts of time. I’m on. (No water cooler chit chat or catching up with my cubicle mate – more pros and cons of working from home here). When I’m with my girls I’m on - it’s never really nap time, or reading time or down time, it’s active time all of the way during my stretches of time. And when I close my computer for dinner and cleaning up the house I’m on – cooking, mopping, wiping faces…
Those little pauses that most of us take by habit during our day (whether we’re making a fresh cup of coffee, swinging by the grocery store, going for a walk or catching our breath at home with nap time) is sort of omitted in this ‘full-time working, full-time mom’ schedule. And I’m sort of hoping that I haven’t severly upped my chances of a heart attack or unknowingly caused an early onset of wrinkles because of it. I just don’t really do any of that filler stuff anymore.
But I try to ignore the ‘why’ (which has to do a lot with personal preference and maybe just a little mom-guilt) and focus on the positives of having SO many opportunities to connect with my little family throughout the day and week, even though I might also log a good 40-50 hours as an employee or while at the computer building my own little company.
I am a working mom. I love it, I wouldn’t change it (most of it, anyways). But I also want to be there and available. It’s sort of crazy. But it’s a sacrifice that I have willingly and happily taken on.
More soon on my village – and how to build a village (mother’s helpers, sitters, etc) that can save you sanity, too. Because as I think about the crew that keeps this schedule going, the more I realize that these connections are gold – and so worth sharing! (Plus tips on managing groceries, meal schedules, laundry and other household stuff that ain’t nobody got time for.) Update: here’s my village.
No one ever said it would be easy (when you are a working mom you are still the mom), but we each find our way and figure it out as we go. And then we do the very best we can with what we have to work with.