Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Being a working mama - finding balance

I'm a working mama. I'm very lucky in that my current job doesn't have set hours, and there is never any obligation (other than meetings or field days that are scheduled in advance for the most part) to go in any certain time or any certain day. However, we do have this crazy goal to pay our house off in the next 5 years, so I try to work a certain number of hours a month so that my paycheck is a certain amount so that we can meet this crazy goal, which basically means I work full time, although we aren't talking 40+ hours a week in the office, its more like 30-35!

But it's a balancing act. I don't want my daughter (Little M) to be in daycare every day. I am the main homemaker in our family, although I don't make supper every night (my husband makes supper on the 3 nights a week when he doesn't work), and my husband helps me out by helping put away clean clothes, care for the dogs, keep the lawn mowed and watered. I still end up doing the majority of work around the house, taking Little M to daycare 2-3 days a week, keeping the fridge & pantry stocked, and all those other little cleaning & organizing tasks that keep a home running.

Back when Little M was born, she came with me to work every day, and I worked much shorter days (more like 20-25 hours a week). But we didn't have our budget as nicely set as we do now, and while we wanted to pay the house off within the 7 year window from when we bought it that our seller contract allowed, we didn't have a plan set up to do that. As she got older, more active, and awake more during the day she started staying home with my husband during the week during his off days (at that point his work shifts were Fri - Mon so he was home with her Tues - Thurs). And at about 6-8 months she started going 2 days a week to a wonderful in-home daycare just minutes down the road.

As she got older and her afternoon naps got more defined, her daycare days ended up being my longest work days, as we got there around 9 (sometimes 8, sometimes 10 depending on my morning work obligations and goals), but she would nap until just after 4! That makes for a long day for this mama! While Little M is doing much better during the night, on her best nights she wakes up once to nurse, and on her worst it is every two hours. For me, I find it very challenging to be a good, present mom when I get home with her at about 5, have to cook and serve dinner, let the dogs out, and deal with a missing-her-mama little girl until bedtime around 7:30.

More recently, my husband's job situation has shifted around, and his days off seem to keep changing. This has made it challenging to arrange daycare while not making our great daycare provider constantly shift her days around (we have certain days of the week that are ours, and when we need different days, unless the other parents can switch their requirements, we are out of luck). Luckily we were able to switch our Friday to Thursday, although it likely will be the only time until Little M turns 2 that we will be able to switch days. That meant that I stayed home with her, first on Tuesdays, and then when my husbands shifts switched again, I stayed home with her on Wednesdays.

At first, it was great staying home with her one day a week, but then we realized that in order for me to get enough hours in each week (and not have 4 too-long days), I needed to work a couple hours from home on the weekend, and a couple hours while she napped during our day at home during the week. And then it all sort of fell apart. I didn't have down time then while she napped to get the other things done that I needed and wanted to do. I constantly felt overworked and stressed and behind on things, and it was a struggle to find things that I could bring home with me to work on.

But I really enjoyed having that day off with her, to focus on her, and get a bit ahead on housekeeping and meal planning. And sometimes we would go into town and meet with other moms, and that was really great. And just about when I was deciding that we needed to revisit the budget and revise our payoff schedule with the house so that I could get away with working a few hours a week less, our daycare provider mentioned that we could come on Wednesdays as she now had them free.

Huh. Well it was a hard decision. I ended up, for the sake of continuing to meet our financial goals, to decide to send her an additional day, so 3 days a week. That would mean I would have to work more hours to pay for the additional daycare costs, and have 3 days of the week where I had to get home from work & picking her up later that I would like, scramble to get supper on the table & dogs fed & exercised, and find energy to play with her before bedtime.

I'm still trying to find the balance in this new schedule. I'm not sure that I will find it; next month we may revisit things and decide to change our goals, or hope that in the next 5 years we start bringing in more money each month to let us catch up from me staying with her one day a week. And who knows what the future will bring to each of our current jobs. Its been hard to balance our goals of having our daughter grow up with (mostly) us around, with our goals of paying the house off so soon. But we both realize that paying the house off a bit later is worth it to enjoy these moments when she is so young. We just have to decide what the right balance is for us :) And the great thing about all of this is it means that my husband and I are continually checking in on our conversation about what is best for us as a family and her as our child, and making sure we are headed in the right direction and making the right choices for us.


  1. I love this post! As you can imagine, it rings very true for me. I've gotten (somewhat) better on managing the stress and guilt associated with being pulled two different ways-family and career. And I have decreed in my head that that is how it is. Family, then career. I constantly, even after 14 years of being a mom, feel guilty that my job takes time away from the girls, but then when I am enjoying time with the girls, there is that niggling feeling that I should be working...arrgh! Kudos to you; you know I adore you!

  2. It's tough working when Little M is so small. We were able to work it out so that I watched kids at our home when Lil' Guy was little. Now my husband works during the day and I work at night part-time. It gives me lots of time with my boy and we are still doing okay financially.
    Things just work out and I'm sure you'll work out all the kinks. Just stay open...

  3. Thanks Bobbie, I hear you on that niggling feeling - it goes both ways :)
    Daisy - thanks for the encouragement, sounds like you have a nice balance worked out for your family :)


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