My life–like so many of today’s women–defies neat categories. I already am a working mom. I work about 30 hours most weeks: that’s full-time by the standards of most workplaces. I split my time between the law firm and writing, which I do from home (or from the coffee shop down the street, or the public library).
But every so often, I spend a week or more working full-time at the law firm, usually to fill in for a coworker who’s away. Sometimes I’m called in to cover on short notice, like when my coworker flipped her car and spent a few weeks at home recuperating. Sometimes I have months to plan, like last week, when I was covering for a honeymooning coworker.
Here’s what I learned from my week as a “traditional” working mom–a mom who puts in 40 hours a week at a physical office.
Being off routine is stressful.
Whether it’s for good reasons or bad ones, being off routine is hard. Last week, I was way off routine, and I felt it.
But everyone else’s routine was pretty close to normal, and that helped keep me sane. My kids’ daytime routine didn’t change much (although they did a lot less school than usual). I used our regular sitters, but for more hours. My husband went in late one morning, but his week was otherwise pretty normal.
Making childcare and work/life arrangements is draining.
My childcare arrangements were largely in place already, which was a huge help. This was by design: when I hired help earlier this year, we all discussed and planned for this week. We already had rhythm and structure.
(This was completely different from when my coworker flipped her car and I had to cobble together new childcare arrangements everyday. That was exhausting.)
Plans are worthless
I was slammed at the office, with lots of urgent but unanticipated matters popping up all week long. This always happens, but I hadn’t planned for it. I should have known Murphy’s Law would be in full force and effect. (Do you like that legal language, there? I can’t make myself stop.)
Additionally, my life was thrown completely off track by something I’d never thought to prepare for: sports. The NCAA championships and my son’s Little League games took up huge chunks of my evenings, kept me up too late, and made it difficult to get up for my early morning writing time–during a week when I desperately needed it.
Planning is everything
Things didn’t go as planned, but planning saved my sanity, especially when it came to meals. Because of food allergies, take out isn’t an option for us. (I wish I had a dollar for every time my husband said, “I’d order you a pizza if I could.”) We prepped a huge batch of our favorite chili on Monday, used our crockpot, and ate a lot of quick-cooking fish, salads, and frozen vegetables.
I knew I wouldn’t have much writing time this week, and then I ended up having even less than that! I was so thankful I had a few blog posts “in the bank.”
Some things get dropped
There wasn’t room for all our usual activities last week. Some were dropped on purpose: I did a lot less writing than normal, and I missed my day off. My kids did the bare minimum amount of school.
Some things just got squeezed out: I didn’t help my daughter with her new blog. I didn’t get on the rower once; I didn’t hit the pull-up bar.
I’ve done a pretty good job of structuring my normal life in a way that suits my personality.
This one is my favorite, and I’m going to tell you about it tomorrow. (Hint: it involves the telephone.)
Have you ever gotten all contemplative (like I am here) after doing a dramatic role-reversal for a little while? Tell us about it in comments.