A typical day at the office.

A typical day at the office.

Today we’re continuing the How She Does It guest post seriesToday’s post comes from Jillian, who blogs at Mom’s Cup of Ambition. Join me in welcoming her to the blog! 

I’ve enjoyed reading about the work lives of a variety of women through Anne’s How She Does It series. My schedule always seems so average compared to all of you work from home entrepreneur types, and I got a kick out of Anne’s plea for pieces from us office types. I went back and forth on what to include, and in the end I decided it would be most helpful to go through what a typical day looks like for me.

I naturally wake up early, between 4:20 and 5:15 most mornings. I use the time to clear out my inbox, work on any blog projects I might have, update my calendar, or do any quick work tasks that I want to get off my plate before a busy day begins. We try to have calm mornings that include conversation and eating breakfast together, but it doesn’t always work out that way. I’d say we’re at about 70% which is probably average for having 6 and 3 year olds in the house.

My kids are capable of dressing themselves, but they sometimes lose the power of motion when a good episode of Wild Kratts comes on. My son takes a bus to school, and my daughter gets driven to a preschool program at a local day care. Once the kids are off to school I get a little treat. I spend 45 minutes each way commuting by subway, and during that time I read. I think that if my work ever knew how much I enjoyed commuting they would ask me to come in on weekends.

By the time I get to work, I am ready to work. I’ve spent time with my kids, I’ve read, and I’ve hopefully already cleared something from my to-do list. I’ve already cleaned out my inbox, and I can spend what is normally the most productive hour of my day working while the rest of the office is busy getting started.

I’m a senior programmer for a market research firm, which is a fancy way to say we do surveys. My work mostly centers around getting surveys to respondents, and cleaning everything up on the back end so the data are useful. I like my job because there aren’t a lot of time-wasting meetings or phone calls leaving me big stretches of time to get lost in a program. I love my job because it is project based, meaning that if something is horrible to work on it is over in about a month.

Crafting a work arrangement that fits our life has been a slow process. The first time I asked my supervisor for a work from home arrangement I was 36 weeks pregnant and had to spend 2-4 hours at the hospital once a week for non-stress tests. He didn’t say no, but he did say he would have to get it approved by the higher-ups. This made it seem like it would be difficult for him to ask on my behalf, and the answer would probably be no. I ended up using sick leave instead of working from home in order to avoid drama.

When I came back from maternity leave, I started asking for permission to work from home once a week, but only one week at a time. My supervisor was comfortable saying yes to that arrangement on a week by week basis, and pretty soon it became permanent without any additional approval necessary.  When my son started school I wanted to volunteer as a science teacher one half day a week, once a month. Instead of asking for permission, I submitted a leave slip for the time that I would miss.

Having a family dinner every night is important to me. I leave work every day at 4:30, and avoid any additional work or checking emails until the next morning. At first I got some pushback from clients, but they soon realized that I was up working for them at the crack of dawn. They learned to trust that I would get their work done. I have what you might call a flexible work arrangement, but none of it is written down on paper or in any company policy.

There are things I’ve had to give up as a working mom. My house is a wreck, and I wish my kids knew the long, boring summers that I used to know instead of scheduled days at camp. I wish we had more time for play dates, and I wish I could have more time to experiment with Julia Child’s recipe for French bread.

However, I have a job that fulfills me, and I can still show up at school every once in a while. I spend a lot of time commuting, but I also spend a lot of time reading while commuting. There are some people who might say I’m not doing right by my kids, and there are some people who might say I’m not fully using my talents to better the corporate world. I only know that my family is happy, and I mostly enjoy my job. Life may not be perfect, but it’s good enough most days.

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29 comments

  1. Anne says:

    That was very enjoyable, Jillian. I’m glad you wrote in. It was especially interesting how you slowly worked your way into working at home. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Jenn says:

    Jillian,
    If your eating breakfast and dinner together as a family every day I’d say your doing awesome! As for benefiting the corporate world… The corporate world is not a reciprocating entity, so I wouldn’t worry about it. And it’s great to hear someone actually enjoy their commute! Congrats on finding a happy medium.

    Anne,
    I love these posts! Please post more of them.

  3. Darla DH says:

    What a refreshing post! It seems like all the blogs I follow are written by stay at home mom’s who homeschool and have lots of kids!! I do none of the above and yes I work at an office so I was so grateful to read about her life and how she manages it. I think she is doing a fabulous job. Kudos!

  4. Mimi says:

    Very interesting post for those who work in an office. I’m an empty nester now but also worked my way into working from home a day a week when my kids were little. Showing that it works on a temporary basis and then letting it become permanent is oftentimes the best way to proceed.

  5. Deborah says:

    Loved reading about Jillian’s schedule, but, even more, about the boundaries she has set up in her working life that give her quality time with her kids and a restorative niche with books during her commute. It sounds like she is doing an awesome job! Also, I think the “house is a wreck” is true for everyone with a three year old at home.

  6. We have been side-tracked by Wild Kratts so often that we no longer turn on the tv in the mornings! I loved reading about this creative (and energetic) schedule and find camaraderie with another working mom carving out what makes her family happy.

    Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be great!

  7. Jeannie says:

    This was very interesting; thanks for sharing. Having just finished reading Susan Cain’s book “Quiet” so that I can lead a book-club discussion on it, it strikes me that your job is very well suited to an introvert — don’t know if you are one, but the getting up early to work and the reading on the subway parts also made me think maybe you are. Anyway, I enjoyed reading about how you structure your day and make it work so well for you.

  8. Vanessa says:

    Ah, Jillian. Lots of similarities here, except I despise my commute! (It is 1-1.5 hours each way, and I’m driving, so that’s probably why.) But I do enjoy listening to audiobooks on my drive; it’s the only thing to stop my road rage from boiling over.

    Now if only I could figure out a way to get my boss to let me work from home every so often. I’ve been told no over and over again. :-/ Thankfully they are very understanding if my daughter’s school has a party/meeting/function I need to attend, so I’m grateful for that.

  9. Kim says:

    Very inspirational! Just out of curiosity: what time do you go to bed? I like rising early too but that means going to bed early, which makes me feel like a child sometimes! I find it very motivating to know I’m not the only one going to bed early.

  10. Sarah R says:

    Thanks so much for posting this! I work for a smaller bank as an analyst, but my job is similar to yours in that it is project oriented. The flexibility afforded with this arrangement is great. My boss doesn’t care if I’m working at 8:00 AM or 8:00 PM, as long as the work gets done! When I was pregnant with my son, I started working from home 2 days per week. I got a lot of push back, but I worked extra hard to show that working from home is a good solution for many families. I now work from home all week, and it is WONDERFUL. I am home when my Kindergartener gets off the bus and we can accommodate play dates.

    PS – My house is a wreck too. Oh well. I will clean it when I’m retired!

  11. Jenna says:

    Thank you for this working mama perspective! So very nice to hear from someone in a similar position. Sounds like you are doing great. 🙂

  12. I think we all have to do what we have to to stay sane as parents. Sounds like you’re doing an awesome job of that. Sometimes I miss my commute, because I listened to audiobooks and enjoyed fitting in more reading that way!

    My house is an absolute disaster zone and I stay at home. Yes, let’s blame it on the 3-year-olds! Although I think my 1 1/2-year-old does most of the undoing of any cleaning I do. My kids also have to put on their clothes BEFORE they watch Wild Kratts or it will never get done and they will go to school in PJs. 🙂

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