I’m happy to have Chaaron on the blog today to share about her life as a working mom. She is a Nebraska native who recently relocated to Alexandria, VA (we’ve got to get some of you DC-area moms together) with her husband RP, her son Dash, and her daughter Pippa. By day she is a program officer with a public charity in DC and by night she is “happily occupied with living room dance parties and dodging errant Duplo pieces.”
1. What is your typical day like?
My day starts earlier than it ever should, because I have a diabetic beagle that often needs to be let out in the wee hours of the morning (usually around 3AM). I try to catch a quick wink before the baby, Pippa, wakes to nurse (around 4AM). Another quick wink and it’s time to feed the dog and hop in the shower (as close to 6AM as I can drag myself out of bed). Thankfully both kids are still sleeping, so I can get showered, blow-dried (while pumping) and ready for work before the whole house is awake. (The things we do for our animals, right? Our first babies…)
My husband, RP, wakes up when I am done hogging the bathroom (hashtag small bathroom problems) and I move on to getting the kids changed and ready for school. Once both are freshly diapered and dressed, we head to the kitchen for breakfast. Our toddler, Dashiell, is a bit of a Hobbit, so he has first breakfast at home/in the car and eats second breakfast with his classmates at daycare. My husband and I tag-team breakfast for Dash, insulin for the dog, and making lunches for each other in the morning. We all pile into the car and commute together to daycare. Once both are checked in, RP continues his chauffeur duties and drives me to the metro.
I have about a 20 minute metro ride to my final station. I usually take that time to read a book or the newspaper. It’s my very favorite part of public transportation. I get to work anytime between 8:30 and 9:30, depending on how our morning went. My days vary so much at the office. One constant is that I’m often in meetings. I also have to fit in three pumping sessions throughout the day. I used to sneak in a workout at lunch, but circumstances have recently changed, and I’ve had to drop them. Now I am struggling to find an alternate time to workout. (I, for one, consider pumping three times – or more – a day a work out in and of itself!)
At the end of the day, I take the metro back to the station closest to daycare and by the time I reach the station (around 6PM), RP has gotten both of the kids from daycare and is waiting for me to hop in the car and head home.
Dinner time starts as soon as we get home and changed out of work clothes. My husband is the cook in the family, so I play, nurse the baby and do my best to keep the kids occupied and out of the kitchen. We eat together every night. After eating, we have a little bit of play time before I start the night time routine. Bath, pajamas, stories and then bed for Dash. Bath, pajamas and last feeding for Pippa. Both of my kids are night owls, so they are usually in bed between 9:30PM and 10PM. Then RP and I watch the end of a sporting event or an episode off our DVR queue and I vow not to stay up so late the next night*. (Glad to meet another night-owl mama.)
*This does not include the nights in April through October when we’re squeezing almost 30 baseball games at National’s Park into our weekly schedule. The whole routine is thrown out the window!
2. Why do you work?
My easy answer to the question “why do you work” is, I can’t afford not to. I don’t know if that is exactly true. It wasn’t ever a question if I’d return to work after having a baby. RP and I have never even run the numbers to see if it would be feasible for me to stay home. I put a lot of work into establishing my career, and I am not interested in giving it up.
RP and I also know ourselves enough to know that we would both have high expectations for me staying home, and I could never live up to them. RP would delegate his household duties to me and those would not play to my strengths. I would expect that I would be doing all of the Pinterest things and that wouldn’t play to my strengths either. (I’m SO glad you mentioned this… I feel that exact same way. So good to know that about ourselves and adjust accordingly!)
3. What’s the best thing about being a working mom? What’s the worst or hardest thing?
My love of mommyhood took me by surprise. I had always imagined myself as a career woman and didn’t imagine how deeply and hard I would fall in love with my children. I adore all of the time that I get to spend with them, but it hasn’t diminished my love of my career. In fact, I feel that I’m a better mom because I work. When I am home with my kids, I do my best to focus just on them for the few hours that I have with them every day. I am able to be more patient and more present because I know that our time together each day is limited and precious.
I also love how many people love my kids. Our families lives back in Nebraska, so we don’t have our amazing parents at our beck and call like we would if we lived in the same state. We have had to work on creating our village. Our in-town friends are mostly kid-less so far, so our babies have so many wonderful “aunts” and “uncles” in their lives. We have also been blessed with amazing childcare. Our first daycare provider helped teach me how to be a mom. She and I worked together on scheduling, introducing foods and moving from the bottle to the sippy cup. She loved my baby. I wept when we chose to move Dash to a new and more convenient daycare. But, when we made that change, we ended up at another wonderful place where my child was loved. When that daycare center unexpectedly closed (ugh – that was such a sad announcement), our new daycare center welcomed us with open arms and has been loving on my babies too. One of Dash’s sweet former teachers is now our beloved babysitter. Both of the kids are so warm and comfortable with people and I think that’s because they’ve been loved by so many. (Again, I can relate to so many of these sentiments – especially about the first daycare provider teaching you to be a mom. YES.)
On the flip side, the hardest thing is that our time together each day is limited and precious. There are some days that the drop-offs at daycare are especially heart wrenching and all I want to do is read books, play outside and snuggle with them all day. There are some mornings when I wish I didn’t have to rush. That our routine included a long morning walk instead of just holding hands while walking down the front stairs. That I didn’t have to pack extra clothes, bottles and lunches with all parts labeled. That beautiful days could be spent together and not separate. I love long weekends and vacations because I want to soak up every minute with them.
4. What items or tips do you recommend to help “make it work”?
For getting out of the house in the morning, I’ve found that it’s easiest to get myself totally ready before I move on to the kids. If I am trying to put my makeup on while keeping my toddler out of laundry basket, I end up stressed and running late. Once I’m done getting ready, I’m infinitely more patient while changing diapers, picking out new clothes and deciding what to eat for breakfast.
Having an equal partner is so key to me not losing my mind. We both have our roles in our routine and we rely on each other. I have had to work really hard on not being a martyr and not trying to do everything myself. My husband is fantastic at getting things done, and if I need help he always steps up. God bless that man for washing all bottles and pump parts every night.
I also couldn’t do it without a hands free pumping bra. Multitasking is the name of the game. (I second this recommendation and so does every other pumping mom I know. It is totally one of those things you think is ridiculous until you actually try it, then, you can’t imagine living life without it!)
But most of all, give yourself some grace. Some days you’re going to feel like you’ve got it all figured out. Some days you’re going to think that you’re your best self at work. Others, you’ll feel like you’re your best self with your kids. Other days you’ll feel like you’re failing miserably at both. Take a deep breath, get a little sleep and start again tomorrow. You got this.
5. What encouragement, scripture, etc. has been important in your life and might be meaningful to another working mom?
One of the first “working mom” blog posts that spoke to me the most was an E, Myself and I post about being called to teach. I don’t teach, but I felt like E was speaking to my heart about being called to my profession and being called to be a mother. (Oh thanks girl!! I’m so glad that post spoke to you… It is so true that we CAN be called to both.)
I can’t remember where I read it or who said it, but when I was pregnant with Dash, someone told me to make sure that I am a good example of a woman for him. Teach him that women are smart and capable as well as loving and kind. Now that I am also the mother of a girl, I also want to be sure that she sees that her mommy is fulfilled at home and outside the home. That being a loving and devoted mom doesn’t make me any less capable of doing my job. I’m hoping that I raise two little feminists!
Hope your Mondays are off to a good start so far… See you tomorrow!