A Day in the Life of a Work from Home Mom
There's actually an acronym for the work from home mom: the WAHM. I'm not really an acronym person, but this one I'm happy to embrace fully. Work from home moms sometimes fall in the cracks between work-in-the-office moms and stay-at-home moms. While both of these latter groups of their own set of challenges, the challenges they face are somewhat more well known than those faced by WAHMs (though WAHMs have become much more visible in the era of Covid-19!)
Work from home moms, for example, often have only part-time childcare support. While in many cases this is a conscious decision, it can mean that WAHMs are challenged to switch back and forth between "work brain" and "kid brain" very quickly in order to conserve important work time and important kid time. While it some cases, full-time caregivers are able to take children for outings and activities during the day, work from home moms often find that they need to stay put since working from the zoo or the library or a friend's house isn't really possible. Lastly, as parents across the world have discovered, WAHMs depending on childcare arrangements, WAHMs can find themselves in the exhausting position of frequently making up lost work hours at night.
I am in a lucky--the luckiest--position. I have part-time childcare support, and my husband is working from home for the time being, which makes my schedule 150% more feasible. As I've mentioned multiple times before, on three days out of the week I work an early shift, break for childcare, and then work a late shift. I make up any lost hours on my two longer days out of the week, when I have childcare throughout the day.
So, without further ado, I present a short day-in-the-life from one of my childcare-heavy days.
6 am This is my usual wake-up time, and, as difficult as it can be on some days, I launch straight into work. As I mentioned in this post, I sometimes take time to make tea, but apart from that, I'm pretty much strictly in work mode. I typically work while standing on my dresser, but I can't do that in the morning since my husband is still asleep in the bedroom. This morning, I made makeshift and wobbly standing desk at the kitchen counter. Not recommended if you're laptop balancing skills are sub-part but absolutely recommended if you want to save your back. I can't speak highly enough of standing while working.
7 am My husband gets up and makes breakfast, while I keep working. I will live and die by oatmeal with fruit for breakfast. If you're a WAHM with a partner, I highly recommend outsourcing breakfast duty if you can. This can provide crucial work hours in the time when your partner make not have to report for work yet.
8:45 am We are very "lucky" that our son sleeps in, and today he slept in even more than usual! But secret: this isn't really luck. Our son goes to sleep much later than many 18-month-old kids. This ensures that he sleeps in and takes long-ish naps, which gives me extra work time. Highly recommended if you're working from home with kids that still nap. My husband gets our son out of bed and serves him breakfast.
9:30 am I work very hard to finish my morning shift by 9 am, but it didn't happen this morning. I'm in a busy post-Labor-Day period (anyone?), and I just had to finish a few tasks. My husband started work at 9 am, which meant that our son ran around the house like a tiny caveman, beating on walls with spoons and making disproportionately large messes. Such is life. Our house is a wreck at the end of every day.
9:45 am I use this time to brush my teeth, and I often pop some beans in our pressure cooker for lunch. We eat mostly vegetarian at home, and using the the pressure cooker for beans, grains, and steamed potatoes saves us. My son is now my wee charge.
10:00 am Midmorning walk! For an 18-month-old, walks are very involved. If we go outside in the morning, I try to get in some movement for myself. Usually this means I'm doing something embarrassingly silly, like sprinting in circles around my toddler, doing squats on the street corner, or jumping up and down a curb.
It's currently hot in Dallas so we spend less time outside than we might in the winter. Today provided a short reprieve from the heat, however, so we stayed outside until lunch. On days that we come back inside, I do my best do spend at least a few minutes doing some kind of structured activity with my son. By structured activity I mean...counting paperclips or glueing pieces of paper to another piece of paper or playing with magnets. I'm very lucky that my mom, a retired kindergarten teacher, often suggested activities and provides materials.
I do usually check emails throughout the morning in case anything needs my immediate attention. This morning I didn't need to respond to anything right away.
11:15 am I'm starving by this time, and my son and I make lunch. My brother made an amazing wooden stander that allows my son to be a counter-level height while we're cooking. I break all parenting rules and pretty much allow my son to do very dangerous cooking things, like stir pots over the stove with less than full attention from me. Anyway, he's become adept at moving the stander so no matter how much I try to move the cheese out of his reach, it's only a matter of time before he grabs it and takes a bite.
I'm terrible at meal planning, but, as I mentioned above, our pressure cooker saves me. We eat egg salad, bean salad, and stir fry on rotation around here. With some steamed root vegetables, beans, or rice from the pressure cooker, these dishes don't take long to prepare. Today we had some leftover mung beans with yellow curry powder and other spices and potatoes. Ugly but satisfying.
11:45 am Lunch! If my husband can take a break, he eats with us.
12:30 pm I clean up my son and put the dishes in the sink. Other than breakfast dishes, which are minimal, don't do dishes during the day. I usually read a couple of books with my mom or play with some toys and set up my work station on the dresser in the bedroom. My work station involves tea, water, my laptop, charger, phone, and headphones. I also throw my hair in a bun or put on some earring and a work-appropriate shirt if I have video calls. Honestly, I used to do more, but can anyone really tell whether or not I'm wearing mascara?
1:00 pm My husband puts our son down for a nap, and I start work. As always, this means a quick ten minutes of emailing and short, easy tasks. Yes, I also usually check social media.
1:30 pm Today I had a long call, from 1:30-3:00. I try to lump my calls on the same days so that I have phone-call-heavy days and phone-call-light days. When I'm not on calls, I'd usually spend this time doing deep work.
3:00 pm Although I try to be pretty organized with my work, I had a bunch of last-minute tasks on my plate, and I found that, starting around 3 pm, I ended up doing a whole bunch of small tasks. Really not the best way to work, but sometimes that's how it goes. It seems like everything has cranked up now that it's September.
4:00 pm I wake my son from his nap. He usually wakes up before 4 pm on his own, but today I actually had to wake him up. (He won't sleep at night if he sleeps later than 4 pm). I give him a giant bowl of raisins, settle him with his toys (cans of tomato paste, as it were), and go back to work. The post-nap period is the most challenging part of the work day for my husband and me because our son play independently during this time while we both work. It can go better...or worse, but we're trying to teach the kiddo to learn to entertain himself. On the worse days, we've been known to give him as many snacks as he wants until 5 pm. If you're wondering when our kid learns how to climb from his kitchen stander onto the kitchen counter, how to retrieve our car keys to set off the panic alarm, or how to dump three cartons of oatmeal on the pantry floor, well, it's the 4 pm to 5 pm window.
5:30 pm Again, I do my best to end work at 5:00 pm, but today that just didn't happen. I spent the last half hour yelling from the bedroom to the front of our house, asking my husband if he'd look at a couple of emails I'd drafted. He really loved that, let me tell you. But hey, that's what he gets for being a good editor.
5:31 pm I have this ritual where I trash any unnecessary downloads on my computer. It feels great.
And that's my childcare-heavy workday! I will say, I'm real tired by the end--but then again, aren't we all?