By Aubrey Everett
I became a mother when I was 34 years old. I had been married for 11 years and at my current job for nearly five. I had established routines, rhythms to the week, and seasonal activities. Needless to say, that all changed when I had my son. In addition to my full-time job, I added on a 24/7 responsibility. How was I going to make this work?
Before I entered parenthood, I would consider the hours in a day and the logistics involved in working and caring for a child, and I didn’t understand how it would be possible. Some of my pre-child days were so full of work and commuting and running errands that I had barely a moment to spare. How would I possibly add a child into the mix?
Some of my pre-child days were so full of work and commuting and running errands that I had barely a moment to spare. How would I possibly add a child into the mix?
The best thing for me was to stop thinking about it too hard. It is good to be prepared and there were some things I could plan, but I knew I would not be able to predict everything. I entered into working motherhood with optimism but also flexibility.
It was difficult, at first. But like so many other life transitions, we started to establish a routine and I found myself thinking “this is working.” My husband and I communicated often about what our days and week would look like, who could take on various tasks, and what we could outsource. We made small lifestyle adjustments that eased our daily routine, such as running the dishwasher every night to ensure clean bottles and utensils in the morning. We set out an outfit for our son the night before so whoever was taking care of the morning prep had everything ready to go. Establishing a good morning routine eased the a.m. rush and set the tone for the day.
And, on some days, things just don’t go according to plan. One morning I forgot my lunch and knew I did not have a spare moment in my day to grab something. From then on I kept a healthy supply of snacks in my office. Early on I allowed myself to acknowledge that some things would have to give. Some weeks that is meal planning (we get takeout or a meal kit). Other times it is exercise (instead of a solo workout, I take my son for a long walk). The one thing I try not to deprioritize is sleep. I have learned that for me, my husband and my son, getting a good night’s rest can make all the difference. Only in the most packed of weeks do I allow work or household obligations to cut into our sleep.
Early on I allowed myself to acknowledge that some things would have to give.
Ultimately, sticking with my full-time job made me a better mother. I made it a priority to focus at work and try not to think too much about what needed to be done at home. Being at work and not attending to a small child also allowed me small pockets of time to sit in a quiet room or grab a coffee, helping me to recharge. Once I left the office for the day, it was a treat to pick up my son and spend the evening with him. I was tired, but I wasn’t burned out. There is a difference.
A stay-at-home-mom friend of mine once asked how I got anything done around the house with my work responsibilities. I responded honestly: it is easier. When I am home, I’m home. When I am working, I’m working. Establishing boundaries and switching headspace between work and home made my to-do list less daunting and allowed me to focus on specific things that needed to be done. I also have a willing and able partner who works with me on a fair division of household duties.
It should be mentioned that this entire approach hinges on the availability of good and reliable childcare. When I am at work, I don’t have to worry about my son because I know he is in capable and nurturing hands. This privilege is not something I take for granted. I also have a helpful and involved partner who takes on major responsibilities, such as getting our son ready for the day and dropping him off at daycare.
Covid has changed our routine significantly, but this is what a typical day looks like when I am working, commuting and parenting:
Wake up, unload dishwasher, make coffee, prepare work and daycare items
Wake up dad and son, leave for work
Arrive at work, check email, dive into the workday
Lunch, check to-do list, run quick errands
Leave work and pick up my son
Arrive home, unpack bags, prepare my son’s dinner, tidy house, feed cat
Dedicated play time
Start bedtime routine
Son goes to sleep
Eat dinner with dad, recap our days, prepare bags for the next morning
Shower, read, watch tv
Mom goes to sleep
About the author: Aubrey works in higher education and is the mother to an active and inquisitive son. She lives in the Boston area where she enjoys taking family walks along the beach, reading books, and introducing new foods to her son. Writing about motherhood allows her to connect to other parents and give voice to a challenging yet exciting time. About the author: Kara is a teacher, author, and mother of two vivacious daughters. A Maryland native, she and her husband are restoring an 18th-century farm in Susquehanna State Park. Her writing centers on literature, art, nature, disability, and working parenthood.
Photo by Charlie Little Photography