I’ve done this before. The Day In the Life Of a Working Mom challenge. You take pictures or write down everything you do in a single day. If you’re a new family, this often leads to revelations about the balance you and your partner have in household chores and a new appreciation for the wild ride parenting has sent you on. Cuteness of the newest family member is also a factor, and pets may come into play.
The DITL challenge with older kids holds fewer revelations, but is still fun for me. It’s a snapshot into a busy time in our lives, with kids who are going to be going off and doing their own things sooner than I’m ready for. I imagine that this picture of our lives will ring true with many of our readers, as there are some things about this working parent life that are universal. Like multitasking. Case in point, I’m crowded on the couch with both girls while I write this because they’re feeling cuddly, Jurassic Park on in the background, one kid on her phone, another on her laptop, and I’m bouncing back and forth between typing and making dinner for five (our neighbor might be coming over). Folded laundry is piled next to me because I got it clean and sorted, but haven’t put it away yet. My husband is finishing shoveling the drive because I tapped out halfway through. And blessed be, there’s a Corona and lime next to me.
The first alarm goes off. On a good day, I get a few minutes to cuddle with my husband, get up, get the kettle on for my coffee, make the first attempt to wake the girls, and take my shower. I’ve got an hour to get out the door, plenty of time to get dressed and presentable, have a cup of coffee, and pack my lunchbox. (Yes, I carry a lunchbox. It’s got the Tardis on it. This is how I find my people. They know what that means: I’m a giant nerd. We nerds need to stick together.) The girls take turns feeding the dog, the tortoise, and the chickens and they both get ready for school.
On a not great day, I hit the off button on my phone, and half an hour rolls by before the second alarm goes off. I scramble out of bed, the girls scramble to do their animal chores and get ready for school, and I make instant coffee and drink it on the way to work. I probably forget to do my makeup, and I brush my hair in the car. I do a last-minute check to make sure I put on matching socks and possibly even achieved earrings, and I call it good.
My older daughter and I head to work. And school. Earlier this year I took a new job as a para educator, working at the same school my kiddo attends. I count myself lucky that when I suggested that I was going to look at jobs in the local public schools, she told me that I HAD to apply at her school. Pretty cool kid there. We drive up together and split up on the sidewalk outside the building. This is where I get to give her a kiss and say “I love you” without embarrassing her. She goes in the student entrance and I go in the door nearest the classroom where I stash my purse and coat. I’ll see her in the cafeteria in five minutes, but when I’m working, I generally leave her alone so she can do her own thing and I can do mine.
7:15 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
I immerse myself in science, math, reading, computers, observation, IEP modifications, homework help, and best practices. I see my older daughter in the hallway once or twice a day and we wave, and I’m greeted by a number of students who, in their outside-school lives, have had play dates and sleepovers at our house. I keep an eye out for bullying and social situations that might require the intervention of a guidance counselor, and I continue to get to know my new colleagues and figure out the school’s systems and routines. To be brutally honest, compared to when I was home with the girls full-time, this is the easiest part of my day. I get a lunch break, I get a little adult conversation, and I get to wear real clothes that aren’t trashed after half an hour. It’s pretty awesome.
2:30 – 5:00 p.m.
This is the part of my day that would drive any Type A Planner (like me) nuts. I find out in the last five minutes of school if my older daughter is coming home with me, has rehearsal or an after school club (usually we know this ahead of time, but not always), or has made arrangements to hang out with a friend. Sometimes I leave school by myself. Sometimes I ride home with my kiddo. Sometimes I bring my daughter plus 1-3 extra kids home with me. My boring inner adult would like to know these things ahead of time, but my memories of being this age and my desire to facilitate a good childhood remind me to set reasonable boundaries but also allow for the quick silver social changes of tweendom. The same thing repeats with my younger daughter. Depending on our plans, I pick her up from school (plus a friend or two), or run errands and get home in time to meet her off the bus, or pick her up from computer club or theater, and generally by 5 p.m. I know where everyone is going to be for dinner and how many people I’m feeding.
5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Y’all know this routine. Homework. Dinner. Permission slips. Touching base with my husband and maybe even getting to spend some time with him watching a show or playing a game. Picking the kids up from their various locations if they’re elsewhere. Dropping friends off if they’ve been visiting. Chores for everyone — animals, dishes, laundry, paying bills, tidying up. Finding that pile of mail from a week ago. Wondering how my slippers ended up wedged under the couch (answer: dog). I have fibromyalgia. About this time, I run out of spoons and am more than ready to head to bed. I tough it out until the girls’ bedtime and crash hard.
Bring on the weekend!