ask the readers: how do you balance your job demands with kids, marriage, and other commitments?

A while back (er, a year ago — apparently I sat on this for a long time), a commenter on a post about how to balance kids, marriage, and a job wrote, “I wonder if there wouldn’t be some value in a How To Baby open thread for people to discuss various experiences and strategies for managing childcare, job demands and/or marriage stuff all at the same time.”

Let’s do it. Feel free to include other stuff you have to balance with your job — family, friends, long commutes, outside interests, and so forth. Do you have magical strategies for making it all work? Where do you get tripped up? What advice would you give to people who are struggling to find time to fit their life in around their job?

{ 783 comments… read them below }

    1. Commentorfour*


      I came back from maternity leave about 3 months ago after having my first kid. I KNOW my level of performance has dropped significantly from my pre-baby days. My boss and co-workers have been supportive and haven’t said anything to me yet, but I’m sure it hasn’t gone unnoticed. I reeeeeaally need to get my act together soon before people stop giving me new-mom-leeway.

      I’m regularly late, and I no longer get much work done in the evenings (I used to do a solid hour or two of work every night after going home, and then I’d do some work on the weekends.) Consequently, my output has declined. Part of me feels like it’s kind of unfair that there is an unspoken expectation that I SHOULD be working evenings and weekends, and part of me feels like I just need to suck it up and find the time to work more. But my baby is tiny and cute and I like spending my free time with him! And sleeping when he’s sleeping!

      It’s hard.

      1. EddiinSC*

        Okay, but your employer should never expect you to be working in the evenings when you are, uh, not at work. If that’s dropped off since having a baby, that should be EXPECTED and not something you lose any influence or face at work for.

        If your job expects you to value work more than the tiny life you’ve brought into the world – if you genuinely believe that having a baby and having your work output change as a result of these new tremendous demands on your not-at-work time will negatively impact your ability to maintain employment – you need to be hunting for a new job.

        1. DataQueen*

          Yeah, but remember that for many industries and jobs, it’s the norm to work evenings and weekends. It doesn’t mean they value work more than your child, it’s just the nature of that job. I need to be connected 24/7, and I’m totally okay with that. I’m just very open with my boss about, “Okay, we are having a meltdown over here, i’m gonna need you to answer that email instead of me/push our call to 10 pm/whatever” because life – especially life with kids – happens. As long as they get that, i think its manageable!

          1. EddiinSC*

            Good Lord, do I hope that CommentforFour is at least being compensated commensurate to having to give over essentially her entire life. Being expected to be working basically 24-7 except for those short breaks where work ~allows you~ to interact with your family kind of sounds like hell to me.

            1. Beanie*

              Teaching. This is absolutely expected and I’ll leave it up to yall to decide if it’s properly compensated.

              1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

                This is definitely not the norm at all schools. My school has a firm policy that parents should not expect replies to emails outside of work hours, and colleagues and administrators likewise don’t expect it (with some exceptions, like the principal is expected to be available to handle “I’m sick and need a sub” calls at night or early in the morning). Which isn’t to say I never work at home, but I’m absolutely not “on call” when I’m off-campus.

                I know you’re probably not able to find a new job just because of this, but I wanted to sympathize and, if you’re job-hunting in the future, encourage you that you might find something saner.

                1. Starbuck*

                  Sure but I imagine there’s still a lot of grading to take home, lesson prep, etc. that happens on evenings and weekends. Many of my school teachers would mention this.

            2. HarvestKaleSlaw*

              I’m guessing you’re not from the US? Because we are pretty much on the “company store” labor model over here. Heck, half our country misses slavery and is still really bummed about losing the war they fought to expand it.

              1. Occasionally Comments*

                *Half* of the country misses slavery and is still really bummed about losing the war *they* fought to expand it? It seems like you’re saying that everyone in the South is pro-slavery, which is absolutely ridiculous. This joke is in really poor taste.

                1. Specialk9*

                  It’s perhaps too geographically bounded, and maybe hyperbolic (though in my many dark moments I have begun to think it’s not), but, I mean, IT’S 2018. We have had fricking swastikas and Confederate flags in our streets, brown babies in actual cages, and appalling race and gender baiting from our country’s leaders.

                  That said, I think all regions of our country are struggling – or rejoicing in – racism and our legacy of slavery. It’s not a South thing. (But, having lived most of my life in the South, it’s not NOT a South thing, it’s just ALSO a North/West thing.)

            3. Frankie*

              There’s a ton of mid and upper-level positions in all kinds of fields that expect this…it’s really not that weird. I don’t agree with it, but most full time professionals I know who are at the mid-level pro or higher log hours in the evenings and weekends. I do it when needed but not as a habit, but I’ve found a job and a team that is open to that.

        2. Specialk9*

          Yeah, that’s an unreasonable expectation, to work all day and then also nights and weekends. Commentatorfour, you didn’t get to have work life balance before, this isn’t you being a slacker post baby!

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              Yep. I work in legal, and, like all consultative/client services organizations, your job is to be there when the client needs you to be. Nights, evenings, weekends – it’s what the money is for (to quote Don Draper).

            2. mrs__peel*

              It depends very much on the type of law you’re practicing. Some folks (like myself) choose fields like administrative law/ government sector work because the hours are much more reasonable and predictable. I don’t make as much money as a litigator, but I work a straight 40-hour week with regular hours.

      2. NewWorkingMama*

        For what’s it’s worth, I’m back from maternity leave 5 months and things are starting to fall back into place a little bit (even my boss commented on it). I came back to a different job and a new team, but it did take some time to get back in line. I still don’t have the same output, but I think that’s okay for now. My biggest advice would be 1. find some supportive moms in the company and see how they deal and 2. cut yourself some slack. You’ll get there and you’re doing fine. It’s a huge change, but it does seem to be getting easier. Stay tuned.

        1. Jennifer85*

          ‘Find some supportive moms in the company and see how they deal’ – in the 20 year history of my (not that big) company there’s been only one woman who came back after having kids* – and she moved into a completely different role because she didn’t enjoy trying to do the job part time (the sort of different role where my company needs precisely one of them….). This is good advice and I wish it applied equally in male dominated industries!

          1. NewWorkingMama*

            Oof. Yeah, I left a male-dominated industry behind to a less male-dominated industry with an awesome boss. I had a great setup and it was still SO hard. Props to all women who are able to pull it off. My husband is in a super male-dominated business (in addition to being a guy himself) and he got QUITE the education about pumping rooms and moms who work. I’ve never been so proud as when he told he coworkers to “respect the pumping room” when they suggested having a meeting in there.

            1. Volyund*

              This is precisely why feminists need to push for Paternity leave, and work life balance for men too. So that even in male dominated industry, men will be expected to take a paternity leave, want flexible hours, and not be expected to work nights.

              1. aelle*

                I work in a male dominated field (aerospace engineering) in a company that is working towards gender equality, and the implication of fathers makes a huge difference. Our head of project management has a personal policy that he is strictly unavailable from 4:30 to 7:30 every day – not in person, not by email, not by phone – because he does school pickup, soccer and dinner. He is back online once his kids are in bed. This kind of example in upper management makes a huge difference. It sets the right example for fathers at all levels, and has opened a lot of opportunities for mothers.

                1. media monkey*

                  totally agree with this, male dominated field or not. the previous MD of my current company and a very visible show of taking his whole paid paternity leave which was 2 weeks at the time (UK so this is actually a thing). throughout he tweeted and sent messages to the company about how important it was to do this, and he was instrumental in improving the maternity benefits across the whole company.

              2. Lavender Menace*

                I work at a company where the paternity leave is almost equal to the maternity leave, and it definitely makes a difference. I’ve overheard or participated in so many conversations with my male coworkers who were excited about taking leave to spend time with their kids and/or were talking excitedly about how awesome their leaves were when they got to bond with their new kid. And it’s become such a normalized thing now at our company to have people gone for months to spend time with their kids and families – everyone just kind of adjusts and figures it out, and the women aren’t singled out for having to take time away since everyone does it. I’ve even noticed there’s a difference in how people refer to it: they’ll say people are “on leave” (no reason given) or on “parental leave,” rather than gender it. It’s a big deal in my very male-dominated field.

      3. Lynca*

        I’m barely a month back into work and I feel like I’m a slacker. I don’t have the expectation of working nights or weekends. I’m just having a hard time adjusting back because PPD hit me hard. Real hard.

        I’m hardest on myself though. I know I’m giving good output, it’s just hard to be cognizant of it when I just want to be at home instead.

        1. Story Nurse*

          I hope you are getting good support for your PPD because it is awful awful awful. Please take care of yourself and know that the self-judging comments are your depression and hormones talking, not an accurate reflection of reality.

          1. motherofdragons*

            +1000. PPD snuck up on me and made me SO MEAN to myself. It wasn’t until I started treating it that I felt more confident and was better able to focus and be productive at work, which also increased my confidence.

          2. 2 Cents*

            Thanks for posting this here. I am struggling with PPD too and know that the comments I make to myself are things I’d never say to another person.

        2. DrTheLiz*

          PPD means that you have an illness! Be as kind to yourself as you would be with the flu, or norovirus – you are ill, you will get better but it takes time and of *course* your work output isn’t where it was when you weren’t ill.

          1. media monkey*

            random non-US question – can you request accommodations for PPD? or does it not work like that?

            1. mrs__peel*

              I would imagine that accommodations could be made under the ADA, as with many other types of mental health issues.

      4. CMart*

        Things didn’t get better for me re: productivity/work quality until I didn’t have to get up in the night to tend to my baby. For me, that was at 9 months old when she would still wake up once or twice, but just fuss a little and then go back to sleep on her own.

        It’s amazing how I suddenly didn’t need to try to catch up on work after business hours when I was physically capable of completing my work during the day. Sleep deprivation is no joke.

        1. Commentorfour*

          Thanks, yes, I think this will be the case for me too. Not only am I working fewer hours, but I’m not operating at a high level when I am actually at work. I’m hoping that better sleep will help, and I’m reeeeeaally hoping that better sleep is coming soon.

          I’m also thinking of cutting back on pumping. I do some work while I pump, but mostly I browse the internet since I’m away from my two-monitor desk setup. (I’m pumping now as I comment here.) Baby is eating some solids now, so I think cutting down from two to one pumping session will help me reclaim some productive time.

          1. CMart*

            Ugh, pumping. I did that until my daughter was a year old.

            Just the disruption to the day is enough to throw things off. I felt much more motivated when I could actually dive into projects and schedule ad hoc meetings without worrying about my pumping schedule.

            Best of luck to you! These times are hard, and it really stinks feeling like you’re not living up to your potential. You’ll see your way through soon enough <3

          2. blackcat*

            Just don’t do it suddenly! One of my coworkers thought she could go from two to one pump… and ended up in the ER with mastitis + abscess.

          3. AllieB*

            I feel you on the pumping!! I also felt similarly-but since I have a semi-private office (can shut the door if needed), I went ahead and invested in a Willow pump and it has been an absolute GAME CHANGER for me! It’s hands-free and relatively quiet so I am able to work and pump at the same time. Sending all the encouragement in the world-it does get better!

          4. J.B.*

            Sleep lifesaver – one bottle a night, preferably formula. I don’t know how focused you are on breastfeeding, but handing over one bottle a night that you have no responsibility for whatsoever (not even pumping in advance!) is a major load off. Also splitting the night so you can get at close as possible to 5 uninterrupted hours.

          5. motherofdragons*

            My productivity definitely increased once my twins started sleeping 6+ hours a night, AND when I cut down on (and then stopped) pumping, around 8 months. I just FELT better in general, you know? Sleep deprivation is rough. And pumping takes up time! And energy! This is a weird and hard time, and I hope you feel encouraged that A) you’re not alone, and B) we are rooting for you.

            1. media monkey*

              i BFed until my daughter was 8 months. i didn’t realise how tired i was and how much it took out of me until i stopped (and my husband commented that i was back to my usual self and way less cranky). making milk is tiring!

        2. President Porpoise*

          Dear heavens – I literally can’t remember anything but highlights from the first 6 months of my kid’s life. I was so sleep deprived, and when I was awake, I was spending an inordinate time pumping, cleaning, sterilizing, baby-playing, etc. My kid wouldn’t breastfeed, and eventually wouldn’t eat for anyone but my husband, but I still had to get up once or twice in the night to pump or my boobs were miserable. When I stopped, life got so much better – also, my kid started eating better. I think she just didn’t like the taste of my milk, which is a bit sad after I put all that effort into it.

          Milk production is bloody difficult, and its worse if you’re not getting adequate sleep. I’m pregnant with #2 and seriously considering just going straight to formula for my own sanity.

          1. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

            Hey President Porpoise. If it’s at all helpful to have a stranger from the internet send you some affirmation: here’s some affirmation. Breastfeeding, even when it goes well, is NO JOKE. And that’s x100 when you go back to work. I was so hard on myself with #1, and for what? Told myself from the beginning that with #2 I was going to go with “easiest,” whatever that turned out to be. Sooo much better. Good luck!

          2. Story Nurse*

            “Fed is best.” Do whatever works for you and your kid. Ours had screaming indigestion with breast milk, so we switched to formula, and suddenly ANYONE could feed the child and ANYONE could take a nighttime wakeup and it was an incredible relief for all of us. Some people love breastfeeding, but if you don’t, you aren’t obligated to do it.

            1. Betty Boop*

              Agreed! Fed is best! Parents get judged too hard. You are doing your best with the specific kiddo(s) you have and trying to do what works for your family and your kids. So many parents think that everyone else has to do what they did… But each kid is different and each family is different so it’s not fair to make judgements on personal family decisions. Love your kid and do your best but don’t try to meet other parents judgey expectations. Man is is hard enough to be a parent and sleep deprived. Don’t put those hard expectations on your shoulders with all the “shoulds” everyone is throwing at you.

        3. Volyund*

          For me it was 6.5 months, when we sleep trained my daughter, and everybody in the family finally started getting decent sleep (in-between all the colds she brought back from daycare). My milk also started going down, so I weaned her at 8 months, and then made my husband get up on the first call at night. It was a bliss. Then he became the favorite parent, which gave me some freedom, and was amazing. My daughter is still daddy’s girl, although her preference for my husband is less defined, and honestly, I love being the second favorite.

      5. ACK ACK*

        Don’t be so hard on yourself. A friend told me before I went back that no one really notices when you’re at 80% of what you were, so shoot for that. She was right. I sure noticed, but I don’t think anyone else did. (Obviously this varies with different jobs and expectations.)
        As other commenters have said, it really does improve once you start getting more sleep. And above all else, sleep as much as you can. Try not to start doing housework or chores after the baby’s bedtime. Just go to sleep.

      6. J.B.*

        Are you married, and if so how do you split up responsibilities? It took me until my first kid was a year to really feel like I was back. We had lots of sleep issues though, and tackling those earlier would have made a big difference. And I was harder on myself than anyone else was.

        For me, doing anything in the evenings was too hard until now – younger child is 5. You might start with identifying something you could do in a protected block of time on the weekend and then focus. I also found that I got better at prioritizing my time.

      7. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        The first three months back were SO HARD. The fourth month was also hard. But it started getting much, much easier.

        Also, I think it is completely unfair that you’re expected to work several hours a night at home and on weekends. I wish that just being straightforward with your boss and saying “I can’t do that anymore” would work, but I don’t know your workplace so I don’t know if it’s the case.

        1. Story Nurse*

          Thinking of the first three months as “the fourth trimester” helped us a bit. The baby isn’t really a baby until three or four months old; until then they’re an inexplicably external fetus, and the family has to replicate all those processes that the womb was handling while the child adjusts to breathing air and swallowing food and seeing light.

      8. Tema*

        Give yourself time. I found that three months was way easier than newborn, 6 months was way easier than 3, and 9 months was way easier than 6. Cut yourself slack on as much as possible. Hire a cleaner or have a dirty house. Eat easy meals and repeat them as much as necessary. Pick the two most important things to accomplish every day at work in terms of how you will be perceived by others and get those done.

      9. BF50*

        The two biggest things that drove my performance level down when I came back after my babies were
        1. Lack of sleep, leading to lack of focus
        2. PPD. This was not helped by the fact that I didn’t realize I had PPD after the first one. Then when she was 7 months old I weened her, which I didn’t realize releases almost as many hormones as birth. A month later I was pregnant again, so more hormones. Yay! Suffice it to say, the PPD got worse.

        You can’t really do much about #1, but it’s worth considering #2 and you think you might be struggling either with PPD or anything, talking to someone about it.

        But in reality, the thing that helped the most was my children getting older and needing less attention and getting a new job with more flexibility and just a more family friendly culture. For example, I can work from home when a child is sick, and I can set my own hours, but not just tell my boss, i’m working from 7:30-4:30, but actually coming in anytime between 7 and 8:15 with no issues as long as I get the 8:30 report done.

        1. motherofdragons*

          #2, totally. I did not realize I had PPD until my twins were 7, almost 8 months old. I figured I’d have that on lock down, because I have a freakin’ Master’s degree in Counseling, so there was no way I could miss the signs! But I thought I was just tired from the usual lack of sleep, and in my head I was totally justified in being snappy and resentful towards my husband because he wasn’t doing EVERYTHING and doing it PERFECTLY. And I also thought I was justified in how I talked to/about myself, in much the same way. I didn’t realize what it was until I came across the article linked in my username, and for the first time it hit me that what I was going through might not be “normal.” Treating my PPD felt like a cloud lifting from my brain. I became more productive at work, not to mention started sleeping and eating better, feeling better about myself, and about my husband. Total game-changer. Definitely recommend checking out the article I linked and others, just to see if that’s a contributing factor.

      10. AZEsq1*


        My son is 7 months. I took the full 3 months and then I took an out of state bar exam. WHY? Because we need to move closer to family across the country. I wouldn’t be employed if I didn’t work for a work-a-holic who loves when things go wrong. My bonus this year was DISRESPECTFUL… though I earned every penny.

    2. Coffee or Tea*

      Yes please! I go back to work from my maternity leave Tuesday and I have no idea how to handle it all, let alone being productive while needing to pump 2 or 3 times

      1. Contracts Killer*

        Eat something small and relax while you pump. You’ll be burning a million calories if you’re pumping, so enjoy that snack and use the time to recharge.

        When I came back from maternity leave, I was still very sleep deprived and my memory was crap, so I made daily and weekly to do lists. I also carried a notepad everywhere in case I thought of something or someone provided information that I didn’t want to forget.

        1. AZEsq1*

          I’m 7 mo pp w/ #2 and with my first I was in a complete fog til almost a year! I used to have perfect recall, now I have to take notes in meetings of what I’ve said. Fail.

          I did a hearing and had to write down every word I said because I kept saying the wrong ones (think blue instead of red, on instead of off, etc…).

          I want it to be OVER!

      2. Specialk9*

        I loved the Freemie collection cups, they let one pump discreetly in the car while commuting, they’re way more comfortable, and they greatly reduced my discomfort and negative feelings about being seen while hooked up because one just looks extra busty and has a little tube running out one’s top.

          1. Busy Trap*

            I did this. It was amazing – on the way in, I’d set it up in the daycare parking lot, put my nursing cover over my ladies and just pump away, then switch the pump/milk out at stop lights. On the way home, I’d set it up in the work parking lot, and ditto. I got really good at it, ha, and it really helped alleviate a little bit of stress.

          2. NewWorkingMama*

            It’s hard, but they do make adaptors. I’ve done it and just thrown on a nursing cover. It’s not the best, but it’s totally doable.

            1. Frankie*

              Yeah, it seems…unideal. I’m a little overwhelmed about the idea of pumping 3x at work for 9 or more months, so if this could reduce that schedule, I might give it a try.

              1. dawbs*

                Ok, discard ANY of this that is not useful to you–but I am happy to talk about pumping, because it’s something that we managed to make work fairly well.

                I LOVED car pumping. Because I didn’t focus on it, it was often the most I’d pump. And I could double pump.
                This is how it worked for me. So I’d get up in the morning and I’d drop baby off atwherever she needed to be, and then I’d stop at the parking lot of a church (not busy at 7am most mornings. But rest stops also worked, as did school bus lots, etc) and hook up everything.
                I’d put on a cover first (and when I forgot one, I used a blanket and a binder clip. It worked)
                Hook up hands free bra, then the flanges. Then put on seat belt. Then hook up bottle bits and tubings.

                (I used an AC/DC adapter with the battery pack as an emergency backup, JIC. If you ever come even CLOSE to topping them off, buy the bigger bottles (medla makes 8 oz ones) , because it is possible to overflow them, which seems absurd, but happened more than once. ANd wear pump friendly clothing. Nursing tanks w/ button ups over them is what I treated as my uniform. Also, keep an extra shirt @ work, because milk sometimes leaks and stains or spills).

                THen I’d drive. I had a LOoooooong commute, so I’d turn on the pump, drive for 20 minutes, turn off the pump, wait 5-10 minutes, and then pump 5-10 minutes more. That extra ‘kinda’ pump would increase the output without the issues that adding just more time to pumping would (2nd let down was a norm).
                I turned the pump on, then ignored it while driving. then turned it off, (and back on again for my secondary)and let it just ‘hang’ until I could stop. So you don’t have to operate anything except the dial while pumping–less distracting than my radio.

                I’d stop at the rest area closest to work, take everything off, put the milk in bags (you need the bottles to pump into again) in the mini cooler, and throw EVERYTHING that had milk on it in a ziploc. DOn’t wash it yet! Milk is OK at fridge temp for like 12 hours? {I’ve forgotten that number. A long time}. SO when you get to work, throw the equipment in a fridge or cooler, and then yoiu don’t have to WASH between things. You can wash at the end of the day. That saves like 45 minutes of crappy stress.

                Because I’d finish my pump at 7:45, I was able to not pump again until 11 (once she got older, 12), and then do it as my lunch break. and a short break at 3–when I’d return phone calls and emails while pumping hands free (I had an office, but I did it in the car or other rooms on occasion. nursing cover, called it good). Remember that “every 3 hours” is not what it HAS to be–and as the baby got older, I shifted the gaps between pumps longer–and didn’t actually get much less milk.

                I”d pump in the car on the way home if I worked longer than my normal 10 hrs (I was doing 4×10 days), and then feed baby too–I didn’t pump ‘all the way’ on the way home…and a baby is often capable of getting milk out of you when you’re ’empty’ in a way a pump isn’t.

                If you *just* need more ilk, and can’t put in another daytime pump, you can also try to add a ‘bedtime’ pump. I’d put the baby in bed at 8…she’d wake up at midnight wanting to eat again.
                WHich was fine, what I did was put her in bed at 8, at 10, I’d pump, and at midnight, I’d feed her. I did that 10pm feeding on weekends too (ugh, sorry), which meant I’d have 2 extra extra pumps worth on monday. it’s how I built up a stash of extra.

                My *body* thought there was an extra time she was up at 10, so it produced milk for that feed–so when I got busy and had to drop one of my work-day pumps, I was still producing enough.

                ALso, there are some great videos on how to do, essentially, ‘massage’ while pumping, to increase output. THis obv. isn’t to do while driving, but for the lunch and bedtime pumps, I did that and got about 20% more than when I didn’t do them, because every little bit helps.

                (I recommend having a 2nd set of pumping parts. they’re relatively cheap and, every night, when I was feeding baby, my husband was washing the pump bits for the next day.
                Also, keep a spare set of ‘membranes’ in your pump bag; if you suddenly get less milk, replace them. I’d also have one of the sterilizing steam bags or the disposable wipes in there, because while I normally didn’t wash, let alone sterilize, mid-day, the day I dropped it all, spilt milk, and it rolled into an icky part of the office, I was glad for it.
                Also a few cloths/towels, JIC.
                ANd extra nursing pads)

                ANd remember you do NOT have to have it all figured out. Before I started back, I was looking at the 1 day’s worth of milk in my fridge flipping out…but each day you only ‘need’ to produce enough for the next day.

                Talk to whoever is feeding your baby, partial breastmilk bottles do NOT need to be thrown out, BM is usable at room temp WAY longer than formula, and you feed a *little* differently to make sure you waste less (kellymom has good info, generally: and
                FWIW, I was lucky to have a private office and an awesome boss, but…I started back doing 4-10s with a commute of over an hour each way (so gone for 12+ hrs a day on work days) when the baby was 6 weeks old, and we never used formula (although there was back-up formula @ every childcare place), and managed to have her BF until almost 18 months. I was lucky, but, it is sometimes doable.

                And look at all the advice you get–ignore anything that doesn’t work for you. Do NOT panic if it all gets to hard, find good supports in life, and as long as everyone is getting fed, then your parenting is successful!

                1. Specialk9*

                  Yeah, KellyMom has amazing pumping info. And you too, above!

                  I had intense negative feelings about the traditional pumping setup, I felt intensely ugly and ungainly, and I hated my husband seeing me hooked up. The Freemies were a bit of a splurge but were a game changer, logistically and emotionally, for me.

                  In my commute, my kiddo would be in the back of the car, and my car parked at home (which is just off a sidewalk of a busy road) and just snaked the tube up the bottom of my blouse, then connected the Freemie cups and put them in my shirt. It took 15 seconds and was discreet enough that I didn’t bother with a cover. When I got to work, a discreet yank at the tubing, pull out the cups, CAREFULLY tip the milk into bottles, and into a lunch container with cold pack.

                2. Erin*

                  This is the best and most throurough pumping and working advice I’ve ever received! Thank you!

                3. Frankie*

                  Thank you!!! I’m compiling advice like this into a little survival manual for myself, so I’ve saved your text!

                4. Mother of 3*

                  Big second on the microwave steam sterilization bags – so awesome! For between-boiling-sterilizations, this was great. You can sterilize pump parts in a microwave in minutes. These were a life saver for me for kid #3.

        1. Betty Boop*

          Mind blown! Thanks for mentioning this. This might come in handy in the future so I’ll keep this in mind.

      3. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        I had to pump sitting on a toilet in the one-and-only, single-occupancy bathroom for the entire company. People were polite, but annoyed about the bathroom. My shoulder was literally touching the door, and people would come by and jiggle the handle or bang on the door and startle the hell out of me. Yes, somebody walked in on me (bad door lock). Yes, it was a guy. Yes, the door opened up onto an open office.

        In the bathroom, I was cold and stressed and rushed. I was also disgusted. I knew that twenty people were pooping in that bathroom every day, and the janitor came only twice a week. I had to wipe down everything with lysol and set up the breast shields on a mat that I balanced on the back of the sink.

        Also nobody understood that pump breaks are non-optional. They always needed just one thing done now and then another that would just take a second. I really needed four breaks, was granted three, and often wound up taking only two. Setting up in that filthy restroom took a ton of time, so I had barely any pumping time.

        I managed to just clear the 6 month hurdle, but as the baby got bigger and had a bigger appetite, she wanted more food. Her caregiver started needed to add formula to give her enough, and then she wouldn’t be hungry when I got home. My milk production crashed to nothing within a few weeks after that.

        It was really hard.

        I guess that’s not all that helpful. But I managed for 6 months that way. And if you can get a place that’s private, and clean, where you are not rushed and can wear a sweater or get a space heater, you will make it.

        We do what we have to do.

        1. Could be Anyone*

          One bathroom for 20 people with a faulty lock seems like enough of an OSHA violation before we even get into the pumping problem! I’m sorry you had to deal with that.

        2. Faith*

          I am so sorry you had to go through this. When I had my first kiddo, I worked for a small company that initially had a designated lactation room, but then downsized even further and we lost the room. There were 3 women at the office who gave birth within a couple of months of each other, so we raised enough noise for them to come up with a solution, which was to let us use a small server room. Initially, they told us to just put a “do not disturb” sign on the door and just hope that an IT person who urgently needed access to the server would respect it. I said “hell no” and demanded a deadbolt. They argued with me for some time about the safety of it (“what if you pass out and we have to knock down the door to get to you”), but eventually relented. So, at least I had the security of knowing that no one could barge in while I was pumping. Still, sitting in a tiny dusty hot cramped room next to a giant server tower was not pleasant.

          1. Lunita*

            When I came back from maternity leave, as did my coworker who had also just had a baby, we pumped in a cold trailer because my office rehabilitation was still going on and everyone was in trailers. It was cold and not too clean. I don’t even remember how I washed my hands.

            The hardest for me though has been sleep. Mine is two now and still wakes up once in awhile at night.

      4. Quinalla*

        I had a great pumping set up since I had a private office, so I just closed the door, tried various hands-free pumping methods and found one that worked, so I could continue working while pumping except for making phone calls since my work was at a computer. Honestly, if I hadn’t had that, I probably would not have been able to sustain pumping as my supply was very sensitive and I had to constantly be on top of it and during growth spurts pump a lot more to keep up. This was with my first, for my twins, I supplemented with formula from the start as I knew I was not willing to put in the effort to keep my supply up for two infants.

        It was hard when I had to travel for work, then I did pump in the car with a cover in a corner of a parking lot (only thing I used breastfeeding covers was for pumping in the car), or find a nice mall or Babies-r-us with a mother’s room and did also pump while driving (only one side at a time) a few times too which I don’t recommend, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

      5. Lisa B*

        Don’t buy expensive hands-free pumping bras. I cut two strategically placed holes in an old sports bra, and it worked like a DREAM. My job has a separate area to pump in (cuz laws) and I just toted my laptop with me. It made it so much easier to pump 4 times a day at work when I wasn’t really losing any work time. I was stressed enough about not producing enough milk, I didn’t need to be stressed about work production too.

      6. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        Ramp up slowly. Don’t put pressure on yourself to be back at 100% of your pre-baby productivity by, like, day 3.

        Pumping: you might wind up able to do work while you’re pumping or you might not. Some women find they need to think about their baby actively (or look at pictures or listen to a video of their baby) to get letdown. I found I didn’t quite need that, but I couldn’t do really mentally taxing work, so I either took a break and read AAM and such, or I did not-too-complicated tasks like alphabetizing papers.

        Also, it took me a while to get efficient with setting up and cleaning up pumping, but I did get much faster at that part. You’ll develop a system over time. So don’t stress after the first time about how long it took.

      7. misplacedmidwesterner*

        Look at photos or videos of the baby while you pump. It helps with let down and supply.

    3. Anne*

      Because there were other responsibilities in there besides kids and there might be some child-free people scrolling through looking for answers too: I work and go to school full time, which is normal for many, but it doesn’t mean it’s not still incredibly stressful. I wanted to add a few ways that I manage work, school, gym and maintaining a semblance of a social life. I work M-F 8-5. I try to go to early-morning workouts and always get every single thing ready the night before and in my car for gym and/or work. Coffee and lunch are made, shoes and sweater are already downstairs. I make plans with friends I already have, who are aware of my crazy schedule and don’t expect too much from me. I do schoolwork on certain days after work and on the weekends. I take a walk in the evening and always go to bed at a decent time-9 or 10. When I’m off work, I don’t worry about work. There will always be fires to put out and things to do, it’s just a matter of prioritizing what you *need* to get done *that* day. I use my lunch for a little homework and take a walk around my business park with a coworker to chat. The trick (for me) is not to wait, or cram. Just a little bit, every day. Research paper? One page, every day. More on the weekends. You need 8 hours of sleep and full, healthy meals every day, regardless of your schedule. Everything will work out! (For the stressed parents-find a teenager nearby who wants to make a little extra spending money to help out a bit).

      1. A tester, not a developer*

        Thanks for this! I’m starting classes in late September, and I haven’t done that level of commitment since I was much younger and child-free. I used to be able to stay up all night writing a paper, or cram for an exam but I suspect my middle aged body and brain wouldn’t cope well with that anymore. And I would like to set a good example for my son about doing schoolwork in a sane way. :)

        1. Anne*

          Most people seem to think younger people should be able to stay up until 3am and still work and party! (I’m 28). Not me! I need a full 8 hours or I’m lost the next day!

          1. PhyllisB*

            I’ve shared this before, but on the note of getting ahead of my work; a student in one of my classes came up to me and said “You old ladies make it hard on us young girls!!” (I was 44 at the time.) I said, “How so?” She said, “We still like to go out and have fun, all y’all do is study!!” I told her “Us old ladies have learned to do our work first and then have fun!!”
            She was mad because the teacher had given us an assignment due on the Monday, and we were told if it was even one day late it was an automatic F. Well, the day it was assigned, I went to the computer lab, got it done and turned in and was able to enjoy my week-end. She figured she could sweet-talk the teacher and get an extension. Didn’t work.

        2. PhyllisB*

          I went back to college when my children were in middle school/elementary school. We would all sit down in the evening and do our homework together. They couldn’t believe Mom had to do homework, too!!
          Also, try to do as much of your work on campus as possible. It’s much easier to focus if you’re not worrying about laundry or getting dinner started. When I first went back to school we didn’t have a home computer (this was early 90’s) so I went to the computer lab or library to write my papers. That was great because I could get the work done, turned in to instructors and not have to think about it.

          1. ket*

            Among my adult/returning students, the ones who do best are often the ones who do homework with their kids :)

      2. Person of Interest*

        Similar experience here: when I worked FT and was going to school online at night I planned out which evenings each week would be my “school time,” and usually used a weekend morning for more intensive projects/writing. My husband was very understanding about entertaining himself/doing something else when I was planning to be in school-mode.

        Have to agree also with everyone who suggested paying for house cleaning services if you can afford it – we do every other week. It’s such a relief not to have to do it.

    4. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      Pretty much this. How many of us are out there living every day at the breaking point? I bet a lot.

    5. Ros*

      How I survive:
      – A partner who does an actual 50% of parenting and house work.
      – A cleaning service every 2 weeks.
      – A seriously great daycare provider.
      – 2 handymen who get outsourced projects
      – When work gets nuts, a local highschool student comes over for an hour each day (after her schooling but before we get home) and puts dinner in the oven, folds laundry, and does basic tidying.

      In conclusion: we throw money at it. And even with that, it’s borderline.

      1. I will kill people with this cricket bat*

        This is how we survive too. We’re lucky that we can throw money at a lot of the problems, and a housekeeper once a week is our biggest sanity-saver, but some days it’s still touch and go.

      2. KC without the sunshine band*

        I tell people all the time that the cleaning service is the key to our schedules and our sanity. People always assume it’s really expensive. I tell them if you can afford a cheap car payment, you can afford a cleaning service. I would never trade my cleaning service for a fancier/newer car that comes with a payment!

      3. Lunita*

        Yup. Before the baby we didn’t have a gardener and I never paid anyone to clean the house. Now I figure I luckily make enough to pay for those things and that it’s worth it because I need to spend time with my family. And our babysitter and my parents who watch my son do some housework while they are here too.

        Meal prep gets us though.

      4. yasmara*

        Yeah, we throw money at it too. House cleaner every other week, sometimes we even use a kid-uber program (Go Kart NC – started by a mom) to get a kid to activities after school/evenings. Carpool with other families is awesome for sports/activities. My kids go to our neighborhood school and ride the bus to/from school. We used the school’s after-school care program & summer care program when needed because of the convenience of not having to move the kids between school and some other program. Our daycares were always closer to home than school, which was both good/bad (harder to get to at the end of the day, easier for drop-off in the morning).

        My job has always been quite flexible – I worked at home 100% after having my 2nd baby, which was awesome. I also was in graduate school (night classes) at the time, which forced my husband to step up and learn baby care stuff that he was completely inexperienced with. My school was historically a women’s college so there was a fantastic pumping room in the main building. Unfortunately, before I worked at home, my office did have a private pumping room (shared with ALL women onsite) but it was 3 buildings away from my (shared) office and not at all convenient.

        My mom provided a lot of the infant daycare for my 2nd baby, which was great because he never took a bottle. Like never ever. My job was 100% work-at-home at that point, so it was great – she was our “granny nanny” at our house and I never had to pump or worry about the baby. When he finally did have to go to daycare, he was starting to eat food so he would eat a little during the day and then nurse at night. Which sucked because I wasn’t sleeping well. We finally night-weaned/sleep trained when he was 15 months old.

        I agree with everyone above who said that everything gets so much easier once you are getting enough sleep!

    6. CoveredInBees*

      You are doing a much better job than you think!

      That’s all I got because I’m floundering too. But I’ve come to realize (with some help) that I’m not doing as badly as I think. The rest of us aren’t doing as well as you think we are.

  1. Murphy*

    OK, real question. I’m salaried nonexempt, so I need butt in seat for 40 hours a week and then I’m out. (I definitely get all my work done and only very rarely have to work overtime.) My husband and I live between our jobs, he drives west and I drive east. Daycare is near my job, so I take care of the toddler in the morning/afternoon and do dropoff/pickup. My husband is nonexempt and works in a very deadline driven environment. He frequently has to work overtime, and sometimes evenings and weekends. He also frequently comes home late with no notice. Like he’ll tell me he’s planning on coming home early tomorrow and then SURPRISE, something comes up and he actually comes home LATE, and I’m picking up all the slack at home by myself. Sometimes he has to do something and sometimes (at least it sounds this way to me) that he’s just being a team player and volunteering to help someone in a jam. I don’t want him to be like “Well….see ya!” if someone’s in a really tough spot, but I don’t think it’s fair to me either. Any suggestions for getting perspective, or how I should deal with this? (I realize it’s more personal on my end than on my husband’s end, but it seems relevant to the topic.)

    1. cheeky*

      It’s not really fair to you, but it doesn’t sound like something your husband has a lot of control over, either, though I think it would be within your rights to ask him not to work overtime more than he has to do get his work done, i.e. don’t pinch hit for others who are in a jam, or at least not regularly.

      1. Snark*

        This is a reasonable compromise. My wife was doing this a lot – she’d cover for another member of her practice who had a lot going on to be nice, and I had to ask her to cut it out. It’s nice to cover for your coworkers when they’re in a jam, but for a while there, she was completely peaced out most evenings and many weekend days.

      2. Kelly White*

        I have a similar situation- and the explicitness has made a huge difference. I will also do a million reminders to him (he has a back up, so if he can’t stay past 5, his back up has to) so he remembers to clear it with his boss. “Did you remember to tell J that you can’t stay late next Tuesday?” And that is more for my own peace of mind.
        I also try to adjust my schedule as much as possible so I am the one that is driving the kids around or grocery shopping, and he doesn’t have to worry about it.
        Sometimes I feel a bit put out- but the reality is, he’d rather be home with us, and this is just how it is for now.

      3. Specialk9*

        I wouldn’t be ok with my husband volunteering to work extra, but sometimes stuff has to be covered.

        If you’re a male-female couple, I’d watch out for, and have a number of talks with him about, the gender dynamics… both of career impact of off-loading child responsibility to you, and the underlying uneven gender responsibilities trend. It’s a thing, and it’s really likely that he’s accidentally picked up on the broader culture’s attitude toward women’s work.

        In my marriage we’d be having a Come-To-Moshe* conversation if this was too often (especially since he can switch jobs without huge difficulty). He’s looking for a new job now, and this is a conversation we have had several times.

        *As opposed to come-to-Jesus

      4. WalkedInYourShoes*

        @Murphy – I have “walked in your shoes” for two years after I returned to work. So, I have a weekly conversation with my husband to make sure that we are on the same page. Personally, I had to say “Look, we are both working and need to balance things out. Both of us are tired and need to help one another to make our marriage and our family work. Let’s coordinate schedules to cover family duties.” Once in a while, it does come down to me crying and emotional, because I am tired and spread thin. Now, he does not realize it. So, I have to communicated directly on what family’s needs.
        Here’s a few examples:
        1) Are you sure that you can walk the dogs on Mon., Wed., and Fri. mornings?
        2) Can you still take “Jane” to school on Tu. and Thu.?
        3) I will be working late on Thu. What time will you be home to feed “Jane”?
        4) When he really irritates me, I usually say, “I have three words to say, ‘Save your marriage’ or ‘Happy Wife Happy Life'”

        Finally, he had to make a major decision to find a new job. It worked out and has a more predictable schedule. It was hard for him at first, but he ended up being promoted and closer to home.

        1. HDL*

          This is my life, too. 2 parents with full-time jobs and significant commutes and 2 children who (until recently!) attended two different schools. Every week is a new negotiation for who “gets to” stay late at work and who will walk the dog in the morning. It’s exhausting. I don’t have any tips to deal with it, really, I’m just commiserating.

        2. Starbuck*

          Sounds like you are still the one who is doing all the management and tracking of needs to ensure they are met- that’s a lot of work! Calendar coordination is so stressful if the other person isn’t holding themselves accountable.

    2. AdminX2*

      Presume he will always be home at 9pm every week day. Plan for that and limit chores as much as possible during that time. Plan for him to always be the primary home worker/carer/cook/driver/etc during the weekends and do the major chores and work at that time.

      1. Annie*

        What AdminX2 said. My husband and I are in a similar situation (plus he has multiple after-work hours work-related things and frequent travel).

        We’ve divided up household chores so I do a lot of the daily stuff (making lunches, dishes) and he does the bigger stuff that doesn’t need to be done as frequently (lawn care, laundry). We are also lucky enough to have someone come in and clean every-other week (this makes SUCH A HUGE DIFFERENCE and was less expensive than I thought it would be.)

        Additionally, when he is home (and not working from home) he takes on a lot of responsibility. Over the years I’ve also gotten better about explicitly asking for what I need. (Hey, I need you to be on kid duty because I need a nap/a break/a haircut).

      2. Compartmentalize?*

        I second this. Husband is a lawyer – so I am very used to the sudden working late and working weekends. I never assume he will be home for dinner on most weekdays. We do have a standing “date-day” for dinner based on his “slowest” day so I can defrost meat accordingly. But any other night – I assume a solo dinner and if he is home it will be something simple for dinner. He is responsible for all chores that can be done at off or irregular hours (dishes, laundry, vacuuming). Now we are child-free, so I cannot speak to how adding a toddler affects all this. The other thing I find helps is to compartmentalize. His job hours is one thing. Chores are another. Your job is a third. And the kid is a fourth. Try to not let the stress from one section affect another – as that just causes everything to snowball into a giant stress mess. Handle each crisis as it happens. Breathe to pause. And move on to a new task in as clear of a head space you can

        1. Murphy*

          I cooked dinner for the toddler and I when my husband was out of town once. I had her in her high chair with crayons (the only way) but I had to keep stopping to pull crayons out of her mouth :-/ (Also a 15 minute recipe took me a half hour, but that part I expected.)

          1. Compartmentalize?*

            Oh my – that sounds like much more of an adventure than my solo dinners. Though coloring during dinner does sound like fun. Are frozen dinners or left overs an option? My mom (also a working mom back then) used to make meat loaf and lasagna on Sundays and just reheat during the week. Basically dinners that keep you distracted for 30 seconds while you program the microwave or toaster oven. Plus – a lot of those reheat meals are easy to prep (meatloaf is literally mix and bake) so husband could even help by cooking when he is home on weekends so that even though he is not home for dinner he actually took the “dinner” chore off your hands.

            1. Murphy*

              I usually bring leftovers for lunch (there are a few, but not many, lunch options near my office). We have some frozen dinners on hand all the time, but we probably don’t utilize them as much as we should.

              He also does most of the cooking, so dinner gets pushed back when he comes home late. I don’t have a problem doing it myself, but a very active toddler is not conducive to cooking…thus the chewing crayons bit.

        2. Ophelia*

          Same. I am lucky enough to work from home, but I generally assume that I’m “on” until about 8pm, and then it’s a nice surprise when that isn’t the case. Sigh.

      3. nonymous*

        This is really good advice in general, not just with the issue of kids and an overworked spouse. Plan for the worst-reasonable case, and then add stuff back in when it’s not so awful. So a LATE night sees you overseeing kids solo and chores after bedtime while hubby works. But if there’s a day he comes home at normal time or early, then he can pitch in around the house and you two can have a glass of wine (or just go to bed earlier!).

        Likewise, if that late schedule means that housework needs to be outsourced, you can plan to get a housekeeper in at the end of the month, and if there were a few early nights and you got a head start on chores maybe the service could deep clean something else or you can skip that month and spend the money on something fun.

    3. Dawn*

      Are there any things that you are currently picking up and doing (because his job is so unpredictable) that you could hire someone else to take care of? Presuming your budget allows for it, having a maid service come regularly, hiring a nanny one afternoon a week, hiring a lawn service etc could go a very long way towards attaining equilibrium.

      Have you had serious conversations with your husband about this? Not attacking him for his job but having conversations around the sustainability of you always picking up the household slack ON TOP OF working full time? Is he planning on being in this kind of unpredictable job forever? For a year until he gets a promotion? It’s important to have very explicit conversations about this kind of thing and make sure that all parties understand exactly what’s going on with the other party because resentment can build very easily – “He is always working late and I have to pick up all the slack!” vs “This job is very important to me and my career path and she wants me to quit!”

      1. Murphy*

        Oh yes. We’ve had some very heated “conversations” about this. He takes any frustration on my end about him being home exceptionally late very personally. This is just the nature of his industry, and he is well paid.

      2. Murphy*

        Oh and I’ve been the main resistance to paid help, but I might have to throw in the towel on that one. We can’t afford a ton, but we can probably afford more than I think.

        1. Putting Out Fires, Esq*

          You got to. You cannot in fact have it all.

          My mom, a doctor, told me the most important piece of advice when I was first starting law school: Money is to buy time.

          Outsource everything you can.

          1. President Porpoise*

            Yes. Your time is worth $X per hour – not just to your employer, but to yourself. How long does that task take? How much do those groceries cost, plus the time to prepare the food? Do the math. If it’s equal to or less than the value of you/your spouse putting in that time yourself, strongly consider hiring someone, eating out, or getting a meal kit/similar.

            1. CAE*

              Absolutely. Having someone else mowing the lawn and cleaning the house every few weeks has helped. It buys time with the kid and some time for self-care (which right now means embroidery projects).

            2. TonyTonyChopper*

              My husband and I started pricing things in hours worked instead of dollars to help with that mindset. So a maid may cost $XX per week which seems like a lot, but really that’s just 2 hours of my workday a week (or whatever, I’m just making up numbers) which means I get at least that much time back every week for things I enjoy (or just more sleep more often than not) …. thinking about it this way makes the decision much easier.

            1. drpuma*

              What if you and your husband figure out a *team* $/hour calculation? Sounds like the balls being dropped affect both of you, so your budget to have someone else pick those balls up should also be a team number.

            2. Putting Out Fires, Esq.*

              I do not make as much as she does (public defender over here) and it is still worth it.

          2. Tableau Wizard*

            I actually really appreciate taking this view of it. I spend a TON of time away from my home and family in order to work, and I’m lucky enough to be compensated enough to pay for the childcare required for me to work plus plenty.

            Paying for a maid honestly feels like giving up but in reality it gives me so much time and reduces my mental load like you wouldn’t believe. I haven’t found a new one since we moved, but this is reminding me that I need to chat with hubby and make it a priority.

            1. PhyllisB*

              When my three kids were young and I was working full-time I was having a hard time finding reliable child care plus getting overwhelmed with things at home. (And this with a husband who knows what needs to be done and does it without being told to.) My mother finally convinced me to hire household help and it made SUCH A DIFFERENCE!! I too felt like I was “giving up” but after I got used to it, it was wonderful. My house-keeper did great at cleaning, and loved the kids like her own. The kids loved her, too.
              The only problem was, in the summertime all the other mothers in the neighborhood would send their kids to my house for the day.

        2. Rachel in NYC*

          I don’t have kids but even things like getting basic groceries delivered so you don’t have to go to the store with a baby can be a huge difference. I arranged that for my sister the last time she visited me and she loved it.

          1. Specialk9*

            Yes! I haven’t shopped in a grocery store in 3 years. It’s $7 for someone else to shop for you, bring it up your stairs, and into your kitchen. (Unless you don’t want that, they’ll drop off on the porch.)

            1. An Elephant Never Baguettes*

              Outsourcing the weekly grocery shop has been a godsend for me! I can’t do it where I currently live, but we get a weekly vegetable box. Doesn’t save me from ALL grocery shopping, but it saves me from having to sit down and think about what we’re going to eat every week – we know what’s gonna be in the box 2 days before we get it and that’s what we plan our meals around. It may not sound like much but it saves me so much planning time and stress.

              1. Flying Fish*

                We do a version of this. Hannaford in our area has a ToGo service, where for $3-5, they’ll get everything on your list and you just drive up, pay, put the groceries in your car and go. So helpful with little kids!

        3. JSQ*

          Money can absolutely buy happiness when it buys your time. Get the paid help you can afford, even if it’s just little. Get that stuff right off your plate and enjoy it.

        4. nonymous*

          A nugget of good advice I’ve heard is that every “yes” is really a “no”, which is really just an acknowledgement we can’t be in two places at once. When Mr. Murphy comes home late, what is he saying “no” to, and what is the plan B for those items? One obvious “no” would be the reduction to your household down time. I am personally of the opinion that this kind of loss should be split. So if Mr. Murphy works an extra 10 hours that week and some of that is drawn from time allocated to activities that will now get outsourced (or abandoned or subject to lower expectations), but 3 hrs of that is out of your individual free time than you should get the chance to flex about 1.5hrs later in the week. It’s not fun to give up scarce personal time, but keep in mind Mr. Murphy isn’t off frolicking when he’s at work.

          I’m not too keen on getting help in either, and what I’ve found is coming up with a short list of vendors who are always looking for jobs to be an effective strategy. So when my neighbor gets the yard guy in, I’ll hear the noise and think “does the lawn need a trim? do I have time in the next 48hrs?” and about 1/4 of the time I end up walking out to his truck and asking him to squeeze me in as well. The key is to know what sort of lead time that vendor needs, and have a very clearly defined task. So “getting someone to help clean” can be a daunting idea, but “having Joe stop by and scrub the bath/toilets and wipe bathroom surfaces this week ’cause we didn’t do it last weekend due to OT” is much more discrete.

        5. Ender*

          If the trade off of his job is he has more money and you have less time, the logical solution is he has less money and you have more time. Ie get that mothers helper / night nurse / cleaner / groceries delivered / whatever

          1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

            Yes yes yes! Like this very much. It drives me batty when women say they can’t work because their salaries don’t cover child care. Unless you are a single mom, it’s not just one parent’s (usually the female partner) whose salary covers child care. It’s both of the parents. Same with household maintenance.

            Figure out what your husband’s extra hours are on average and how much money he makes during those hours. Half that amount should go to helping free up time for you so you have quality of life and less stress too (because taking care of a toddler and doing all the chores is not free time even if you aren’t physically at work).

            1. Ender*

              Well it does make sense for either parent to stay at home if the second salary won’t cover childcare. So it’s not something that should drive you batty. If you look at the family as a financial unit, if the lower salary isn’t enough to cover childcare then the family is essentially paying for the lower earning parent to go to work.

              1. Anonymous Pterodactyl*

                Sort of, but there’s other factors to account for – that extra salary is also going to paying into the second parent’s SSA benefits later in life, which is a major factor in retirement planning, and it also ensures the second parent is already employed and earning *something* if something happens to the primary earner or to their marriage.

                Additionally, there are other factors that ought to be included in the calculation, not just is salary > child care. For example, the lower earner might be getting a 401k match from their employer, which doesn’t pay off immediately but again will help in retirement. Or, their employer might offer cheaper or better health insurance for them than the family plan they can get through the primary earner. Or maybe even it’s just that the lower earner would go out of their mind having to be a SAHP even if their actual earnings are pretty low.

              2. Ms Male Doninated Industry*

                Also, studies show that time out of the workforce notably decreases your earning potential over your lifetime. By getting back into the workforce as soon as you’re ready, your experience level increases and whilst you may have a short term net loss (salary – childcare) in the long run your family will have more money. Which will make paying for subsequent children easier and more disposable income for schooling, holidays, bills etc later on.

        6. ICU_RN*

          An option on paid help might be a mommy’s helper- aka a child who is too young to babysit solo (so 10-11ish) who you can pay to play with your toddler while you get stuff done. Obviously you’re not leaving them alone, but you can bust some chores out without wondering if your child is chewing on an electric cord and you don’t have to be quiet bc they’re not sleeping!! Bonus is the older child usually LOVES the responsibility and chance to make a little money, it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, another mom gets a little free time annnd you get stuff done. Extra points if you can ask the older kid to help teach/model/reinforce what you’re teaching your kid (not throwing food, picking up toys, etc).

          1. CAE*

            Also a lifesaver. Our neighbor’s daughter is happy to occupy our son while my husband starts dinner. It’s very helpful.

          2. PhyllisB*

            Seconding the neighborhood child as helper. When my oldest two were young, one of neighbors had four daughters. They loved coming to get the kids and take them home with them.And would not let me pay them. I would seriously have to go and get them when I was ready for them to come home because they didn’t want them to leave. This made it really hard when we moved.

      3. abby*

        Yes! Hiring people to do things and being okay with it has helped me so much. I finally hired a house cleaner to come every two weeks. Certainly not inexpensive but I realized it was worth it for my sanity – I hated approaching each weekend thinking about how much cleaning needed to be done and deep cleaning was never happening. I also have started using one of the meal box services where they send recipes and ingredients for three dinners each week. I know that people complain about the cost of these services but honestly, for us it has been almost cost neutral – we live in an expensive city and often over bought groceries or too many expensive one-time things. I love not having to do so much meal planning — we have our three meals, plus a taco night and a pasta night and probably two take-out nights. The combination of the meal service and house cleaner has felt like such a gift. Also, the above posters noted that things seemed to get back to normal or better at work after x number of months from having a baby. Honestly, for me, it felt like it took two-years post kid to feel sane at work – though I did change roles during that time so that wasn’t helpful (but I didn’t want to let a child keep me from getting that promotion like my 75 year old business professor said a child would).

    4. Celeste*

      It’s a really hard thing when you have small children. It does help if his investment in this job is on track to lead to something better; it doesn’t help if he likes things this way and this is just how it’s going to be. I wonder if he would be willing to let you be prioritized as the team member who’s in a jam. Could you ask him to be less available after hours on two days a week? I wonder if his overcompensation is ennabling others to over rely on him. I could be wrong, but it’s a thought. I think it would be good to have a state of the union talk about how demanding this season of your life is, and how you could use a hand.

      1. Murphy*

        He’s on a leadership track, and his company really does value his talents and contributions from all that I can see, so there is that at least!

        1. DerPanda*

          Sounds like an interesting project for him – delegate! Leaders don’t do everything themselves / assist people by grabbing the tools, mostly they support to enable others to do it. They should also model ‘good behaviour’. Rather than always staying late, identify patterns and enact processes to limit its occurrence. Then GO HOME TO YOUR FAMILY :)

      2. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

        I really, really like Celeste’s framing that YOU get to be the “team member in a jam” 2-3 times a week. Because you are the most important team member in a jam!

    5. Katie*

      Solidarity! I handle drop-off and pick-up too, and it’s funny how different toddler stage is than infant. You feel like you’re so busy in those first couple of months, but throwing a mobile little person (who can sass back, or just crumple into a heap on the floor) into the mix is on a whole new level and I wistfully think of those pre-toddling days! I think what you both have to do is compromise. Lower your expectations of what you can accomplish in a day – maybe those dishes won’t get done, or that basket of laundry won’t get folded – and maybe he can work on his end to try and accomplish more during the work day so he doesn’t have to rely on so much overtime. Another thing that has helped me greatly is having extremely friendly neighbors who offer to watch the kiddo so I can cook dinner, or take a quick shower if I’m desparate. Sometimes you can find the same support through online mom groups/circles/communities in your area. Sometimes they are good venting outlet too, because you are not alone in this struggle :)

      1. Murphy*

        I love her to death, but I wish she’d sit down and chill for 5 minutes. That’s the only thing I miss about her being younger, being able to put her down and have her stay there!

        1. Putting Out Fires, Esq.*

          I have a 22 month old and I had resisted the electronic babysitter… then he discovered trains and I discovered the amount of things I can accomplish in 15 minutes. He spends all day getting enrichment at that daycare I send him to, he can rot his brain for a few minutes so I can get supper on the table.

          1. Ender*

            The advice about tv being bad is based on comparison of tv versus positive interaction with parents. It doesn’t take into account that not all interaction is positive. So it works:

            Half hour of positive parent-child interaction is better than half hour of TV. But half hour of TV is better than half hour of parent ignoring / getting frustrated at child while trying to make dinner / clean kitchen / wrangle active toddler.

            Once I realised this I felt a lot less guilty about sticking on tv for half an hour to make dinner, and ny relationship with my kids improved!

            1. Hermione Lovegood*

              Oh my goodness! Thank you so much for this comment! Helps assuage the mom guilt a bit. :)

            2. Story Nurse*

              TV is for mornings in our household because there is just no way my partners can do everything they need to do in the morning and also wrangle a very perky, very active toddler. So the toddler sits on the couch with “teebee” and Daddy and Ina get to drink their coffee in peace, and everyone’s day starts much more smoothly.

              I’m parent-on-duty on weekday evenings and dinner for the kiddo is almost always leftovers straight from the fridge or warmed in the microwave, because it saves me having to figure out how to manage a stove, knives, etc. while there’s a toddler underfoot. On weekends J cooks dinner and we all eat together, which is nice, but we can’t manage it on weeknights and don’t try. Our child is fed and safe and that’s what matters.

            3. Putting Out Fires, Esq.*

              Exactly! We can have a happier, more pleasant dinner time with homemade food because of those 15 minutes. Not only can I get something done, but I’m a supervisor at work and an introvert and need a few minutes to unwind before I can devote myself to others again. So I think the value of having nice, unrushed dinner outweighs the 15 minutes of that stupid chuggington (its only redeeming quality is that each episode is 15 minutes, so it is easy to cut him off)

              1. Ender*

                I love chugginton! They’re all so nice to each other. Kids shows nowadays are much better than when I was a kid.

      2. Tableau Wizard*

        oh my gosh, the toddler activity level is killing me right now!! I can’t hardly make dinner when she’s around, so I have to be super strategic in what I plan for dinner (or when I do the majority of the cooking).

        A few things that have worked for me (specifically around dinner prep with a toddler):
        – make a meal plan and prep as much of the meal ahead of time as possible – I’m still pretty bad about this, but when I do it, I helps so much. For example, can you cut up some of the veggies the night before after bedtime? Can you make the pizza dough the night before and let it rise overnight? etc.

        – on occasion, leaving my daughter at daycare a little later than I’d like to go home and start dinner THEN go pick her up – the first couple of times, I felt bad about this, but now my logic is that (1) she LOVES school and is very happy there, (2) doing this can be the difference between eating at 5:30 and eating at 6:15 which makes a HUGE difference in my toddler for the evening, (3) it doesn’t cost me any extra as long as i pick her up by 6:30pm, so there’s no real downside financially and (4) I’m a MUCH happier mom when I get to cook dinner in peace

        – My mom bought us this standing platform thing so that my toddler can be at counter height. She LOVES it. She “cooks” with me, and is pretty well contained and not asking to be picked up 24/7.

        – Also, finally, I have reset my expectations around letting my kid watch a show so that I can get a moment of peace to accomplish something important for our family. I don’t love doing this, but I also don’t think it is hurting my child.

        1. Story Nurse*

          Oh yes—giving a child a wooden spoon and an empty mixing bowl, or some eggs to whisk (if you don’t need to cook the eggs then, save them in the fridge for tomorrow’s breakfast), is a great way to keep them entertained and “helping” while you cook. Just be prepared to eat occasional spoonfuls of well-mixed air from that empty bowl. :)

          1. aebhel*

            My son loves to pull open the cabinet drawers and bang around inside them, so I designated one as the ‘old pots and pans’ drawer, where all the random cheap metal cookware goes. He pulls it all out and happily bashes it together, I get five minutes to cook without worrying about him tripping me while I have a pan full of hot oil.

      3. aebhel*

        Toddler stage is SO HARD, omg. We’re entering that stage with my second (he’s already very mobile, about to start walking again anytime) and I’m remembering all over again how tough it is.

        On the upside, once they hit three or so that aspect starts to get easier, IME. My daughter is 4.5 now, and while she can definitely still cop an attitude and throw tantrums with the best of them, she also has some degree of impulse control now, so while I may get chattered at while preparing dinner, I’m not constantly diving to keep her from eating random garbage/trying to crawl in the litter box/opening drawers and pulling things out/bumping open the bathroom drawer and trying to drink out of the toilet/whatever. Her little brother is a different story…

        And yeah. Sometimes you have to accept that there are some chores that won’t get done, and decide what to prioritize. It’s a rare week that all the laundry in my house gets folded and put away in a timely manner, but that’s not the end of the world.

    6. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      I don’t know your financial situation but sometimes the easiest way to pay for something is with money.

      1. Can you get a mother’s helper to watch the baby for a couple hours on weekdays after daycare pickup?
      2. Can you hire a cleaning service for the big clean tasks?
      3. Have hubby pick up some kiddo detail on weekends while you leave the house to do “you” tasks or errands or while you do stuff around the house (the latter may be harder because your baby make seek you out)?

      1. Contracts Killer*

        Handling more kids may be the last thing you want to do, but it has helped me to have parents in the neighborhood where we will trade off occasionally on who hosts a playdate so the other family can clean, run errands, or just sit and recharge.

    7. Mia*

      My husband has a job like that too. Few things that helped:

      -I decided to quit being bitter and just accept it as “it is what it is”

      -Hands down, zero excuses to call me when he KNOWS he’ll be late, not when he’s leaving work. It takes literally 10 seconds to send a text. My husband would say excuses like “well, I can’t interrupt people blah blah blah” and I was like “seriously? You can’t say, “hey, I’m happy to help, but just let me quick tell my wife I’ll be home late? People at work are THAT much of a jerk to not accept that answer after 5pm?”

      -You get time to yourself, kid and husband free, even if it’s to sit at Starbucks on a Saturday morning while he takes care of the house.

      1. Murphy*

        I’ve definitely accepted it on a daily basis. In theory, he goes in early so he can come home early and help me in the evenings, but that is so not happening and it’s like a pleasant surprise on the rare occasions it does happen!

    8. Ender*

      He should be prioritising his family over helping out a coworker when it’s not necessary for him to stay. Almost every single working mother with a job like your husbands has to put up with the snide looks and comments when she leaves on time or doesn’t volunteer to stay late – he doesn’t get to get out of that just because he’s a man!

      1. WellRed*

        Yes, prioritise the family, not the coworkers who probably could get by without Mr. Team Player just fine most of the time.

    9. Matilda*

      Ugh. I would find this ridiculously frustrating. My child’s daycare is near our home (which is half way between mine and my partner’s work) and we split pick up – he picks up twice a week and I pick up 2-3 times a week (I work some weekends so have the occasional week day off). While your situation is different, I would suggest having a night a week that is his scheduled night to be “on” for your child. You both had a child and you both need to figure out how this works into a work/life/family balance – not just you. Not that you shouldn’t allow for emergencies to crop up every once in awhile on his night, but then give him a following night that week. Granted, I don’t know his job or field, but presumably if it was just him he would figure out how to make sure his kid picked up and I imagine (though I could be wrong) that he’s not the only one who might have outside commitments that prevent him from being available at the drop of a hat every single time he’s asked. He needs to be a team player at home as well as at work.

    10. CMart*

      Agreeing with the others about resetting expectations in order to stop the ever growing ball of resentment. It’s fine to still be bummed out he’s not home more, and to continue trying to find solutions with him to make that happen (so I’m not saying “give up”!), but my internal stress level went down a lot when I just resigned myself to being a solo parent during the week.

      Absolutely require he let you know as soon as he does if/when he’ll be later than planned. Standing around, food getting cold, not knowing if you should keep kiddo up for another 10? 20? 30? 40? minutes to see daddy before bedtime is infuriating.

      I had to have several hard talks with my husband who sounds a lot like yours– legitimately busy with work things that happen at the last minute, but also perhaps too emotionally invested in work things and prioritizing them when he actually doesn’t need to. He had a very hard time letting go of even a tiny fraction of his hold of being the Go To Guy.

      How long have you guys been parents? It took my husband nearly a year to acclimate to making his family his #1 priority instead of his job. Yes, it feels wrong to say “sorry guys, I have to get home, someone else will need to tackle this/I’ll get to it first thing in the morning” but it should also feel wrong to be constantly putting your partner and child last.

      1. Murphy*

        My daughter is almost a year and a half. I kind of said some of this to him in our most recent “conversation” about this stuff. His expectation seems to be automatically “Oh, it’s fine. Murphy will handle it.” Sometimes I can’t/don’t want to handle it! Sometimes, baby Murphy and I should be the priority.

        1. CMart*

          I’m a year and a half out too :) #2 is coming in a month, so the urgency of “no seriously, you have to be able to be home and actually be a member of the family” ramped up at the beginning of the year.

          Every person and relationship is different, but what seemed to get through to my own husband’s head was that 1) I wouldn’t have had kids if I knew I was going to be a single parent and 2) he didn’t want to be a father so he could keep on spending time at work. What’s the point?

          1. Murphy*

            OMG, I don’t know how I’d handle another one right now. My sibling and I were 16 months apart, and I don’t know how my mom did it.

        2. blackcat*

          Can you schedule one or two weekend days a month when you are 100% off? No cleaning, no childcare, just Murphy doing what Murphy’s gonna do? You may need to leave the house to do it, but having some dedicated you time might help a lot.

        3. Specialk9*

          You are SO NOT from the only person dealing with this. But, I mean, he was half of the action sequence that created that baby, he doesn’t get to just 1950s it in your marriage. Perhaps marriage counseling is in order, because it sounds like he has a habitual knot of unpleasant reaction – eg snarling or any silence – when you object to the current situation, that ultimately means he gets to keep doing what he wants. And you keep being unhappy. You COULD continue this way, but maybe it’s not good for your marriage. It’s a thought.

        4. Grapey*

          That’s because Murphy has trained him by Murphy handling it in the past. Hold those boundaries and don’t handle it!

        5. Jessica*

          Don’t let this stop you from pursuing other solutions, but I’d say you’re at the worst stretch of toddlerhood in terms of a parent’s ability to do other things. In a few months she will probably be more interested in TV (if you’re okay with that) and able to “help” in the kitchen while you cook, etc.

          1. aebhel*

            Yeah, 1.5 is the worst. All go go go, no impulse control. It’s tough, but it also doesn’t last all that long in the grand scheme of things.

        6. ket*

          Honestly, a night or two when I handed the baby to husband on the steps into the house, in tears, and then left immediately with no conversation & no discussion — that’s what made my husband snap out of that.

          I walked to the nearest restaurant with a cocktail bar.

    11. Lurker*

      I totally get this dynamic, my husband and I have each found ourselves in your place in the six years since we had our daughter. I think that the thing that has helped us work through it – and every time it took talking and work – is identifying what the real impact is on you and some realistic things that your partner can do to lessen the load. For a while I was commuting and my husband was doing most of our day care pick up and drop offs as a result. So I made a real effort to deal with all of the wake up and bed time routines so that he wasn’t “on” the whole time. As I took a position where I work primarily from home, we’ve had to renegotiate so that I’m not doing all of the midafternoon pickup/afterschool drop offs because I’m so physically close to school. I’d advise finding a time when you can talk to your husband when you’re not already exhausted and mad about the issue at hand and try to come up with some concrete ways that he can help get you out of this hole (maybe one or two days a week that only emergencies are allowed to keep him late or he completes that work from home after bedtime and he does the bedtime routine on those days). And finally, know that overtime the situation will change. It’s so easy in the early years to feel like the sucky parts of parenting will suck forever. There is a light at the end of the tunnel – I promise!!!

      1. CM*

        Yes, all of this! Identifying the impact on you, especially.

        I was working at a large law firm and had a crazy schedule. I knew my husband was picking up a lot of the slack at home and I was very appreciative and tried to do as much as I could to make up for it. I thought I was doing pretty well. It was a real eye-opener when he had a meltdown one day and told me how overwhelmed he felt, like he couldn’t depend on me and had no control over our family schedule. I really didn’t understand the impact my schedule and choices were having on him until we had that conversation. I made an effort to be home more consistently and ultimately ended up leaving that job because it wasn’t sustainable.

      2. mim*

        My spouse and I have settled [some] of these types of expectations-setting and practical “who’s going to take care of this” frustrations by setting a weekly, sacred Google calendar appointment. Every Sunday at 8:00 p.m. after the kids are in bed, we sit down and plan the week, including assigning tasks (who’s calling to get the gutters cleaned, make pediatrician appointments, taking the dog to the vet), daycare pickup and dropoff assignments, meal planning, and establishing any non-negotiables for the week (e.g. scheduling in time for me to go to the gym when working late isn’t an option, or scheduling who’s in charge of the bedtime routine certain days). Even if a disproportionate share of tasks still fall to me because of my relatively more flexible job, we both go into the week with clear expectations and an appreciation of all that has to happen on the household side of things. We both had to agree to take it seriously, then keep a whiteboard on the fridge with the to-do list and weekly schedule. We decided a long time ago that there was just zero chance that our respective personalities and work styles would change enough so that this would come naturally and organically, and instead treated it like a workplace management problem. It’s not a silver bullet, but it’s cut down on a fair amount of the day-to-day unpredictability and frustration.

        (And to echo what others have said – we outsource a lot. We have a housekeeper 2x/month, a handyman for odd household projects, and a solid short-list of babysitters, a dog walker, etc…)

        1. Ros*

          THIS. This needs to happen in my life. Thank you.

          What we currently have is a series of shared Keep lists – one to-do, and one for every store we go to so that we always have the shopping lists and I’m not the one in charge of remembering everything. But actually splitting that to-do list… YES.

          1. TonyTonyChopper*

            We use Wunderlist now because you can assign people to each task and even put a deadline that will automatically remind you via the phone app. We have a list for everything from groceries, to movies we want to see, to things that must be done this week, to things that must be done today, to various wish lists of stuff we want to buy (but don’t need, like a book or new makeup brushes) so the other person has an easy list for gifts when there’s a birthday/holiday/anniversary/just because. Everything is sync’d to both of our phones, so if he has some time at work this afternoon even though he knows he has to stay late, he can pick up one of my things (like calling the bank) without having to ask me directly (in case I’m not immediately available) and I get a notification that he did it without him having to tell me. It has really made a HUGE difference in our marriage. Like he thanks me regularly for coming up with it and getting it set up.

    12. East Coast Girl*

      *Before I hit “Submit” I’m going to apologize for the verbosity of the below.*

      Not exactly the same situation, but my partner and I went through issues in our early days living together that were bred of similar tensions. I work a Mon-Fri, 8:30-5:00 job. He works on a shift work rotation. I had some major resentment early in because the daily stuff like dishes and cooking dinner fell to me much more than him, especially during his night shifts. It left me feeling like I never had any actual time off.

      It took quite a bit of conversation and several tantrums on my part to get to a point where we could see the other person’s perspective and for me, on a personal level, to truly recognize the reality of our situation without bringing a feelings bomb into the equation. Our jobs differ in such a way that the day to day stuff typically falls to me out of practicality. It’s not him being lazy or sexist or any of things I (may or may not have) accused him of during my fits of pique, it’s just that I’m the one who has the job that means I’m home regularly on weeknight evenings. I’m not saying that this will exactly apply to you or what’s going on in your household, it was just my experience working through similar feelings.

      That said, if I were you I would definitely talk to your husband about being more mindful of his decision making regarding “have to” versus “making a choice” when it comes to staying late. At least that would give you an occasional break.

      As for perspective, if I catch resentment creeping back in I try to remember all the things my partner contributes to the household that are more in his wheelhouse than mine. He’s the self-designated grass mower and snow shoveller, does his own laundry, picks up meds and food at the vet and takes our crabby tabby to appointments, grocery shops and cooks when he can, and more often than not it’s him who stays home on his days off to wait for the cable person/plumber/etc.

      Maybe if you and your husband come up with a list of things he can do regularly or semi-regularly, on his own schedule, to help out it would level the playing field and make things feel more fair even if the day to day chores still fall mainly on you out of practicality.

      1. grace*

        Just wanted to say this is great. :) I’m also a 8-5 (sometimes more like 8-7…) and my SO is a restaurant manager — adjusting to the schedule is the hardest part of our relationship, and I don’t think it’ll ever fully be adjusted. You just sort of accept it and have to clearly communicate: this is what I want, this is how I think we can do it, what do you think?

        One rule we have is that saying “okay” isn’t good enough when we’re talking about things in our relationship. One of us explaining how something has hurt or that we want something different can’t be met with “okay” — and we’ve had a long process of figuring out how our communication styles differ and can be fused so that we both walk away feeling heard and understood.

        We don’t have kids and we don’t live together – but I think that clear, present communication is the cornerstone to anything, especially when there’s tension like this. And sometimes that means communicating in their method of doing so, otherwise it’s just … in one ear and out the other. :P

      2. EddieSherbert*

        This is exactly what I need :) – My SO and I have lived together less than a year, AND he’s in school plus working, so most nights he doesn’t get home until 8-9pm. We’re definitely still figuring it out!

        It’s already gotten better with time, but during my busy seasons at work, when I’m washing the dishes for the 5th day in a row (and I HATE dishes!), I get those *ahem* less kind thoughts towards him some days (Who do you think I am? Your MAID? Your MOTHER?).

      3. TonyTonyChopper*

        My spouse and I both struggle with the resentment thing because some weeks I have to stay late and some weeks he does, so we get both sides of it. I ended up creating a monthly chore tracker – breaking out the main stuff by day – with different colored markers so everytime one of us did one of them, we’d use our marker to put an X in the box. Now, he’s pretty good about splitting chores 50/50, which is not always the case. But because he was it created a great visual for both of us on who was doing how much of what over time. If he saw that there were a lot of pink Xs and not much blue, he would spend that Saturday or whatever doing some stuff to get “caught up” (yes, we went with gender-typical colors because it honestly helps make it easier for us to not have to remember who was purple and who was green)

        You have to be careful with this though because it can (a) start to feel competitive if you don’t keep that in check and that creates another set of issues and (b) it can reinforce resentment if you’re struggling with a spouse who isn’t good at picking up the slack. We only did it for about 3 months consistently, but we do create a new one if one of us is feeling a little overwhelmed. It also helped us both realize that we can’t get EVERYTHING DONE the way we used to (when our apartment was half the size it is now and we ate out more than we do now)

    13. gbca*

      So, I’m a little more on your husband’s end of things, where I have a more demanding job than my husband. I don’t leave late often because I actually do have to do daycare pickup most days, but I basically live with a constant level of high stress because the demands of my job are just hard to keep up with. He gets a little cranky when I have to stay at work late or work after our kid goes to bed. I remind him that it’s not like I’m a workaholic who is doing this for fun, there is work that just absolutely needs to get done that I am responsible for.

      Also, I make twice as much as him and finances are still a little tight, so it’s not like I have the option of taking a job with a step down in responsibility. I do want to find a lateral move at my job that will be less stressful, but these transitions don’t happen overnight.

      Might it be worthwhile to have a bigger picture discussion with your spouse about what your lives look like as a family right now, and how he sees that in the future. Does he want to keep working the way he does? Does he not? Do his extra hours bring in extra money that he feels like you need? I think it’s worth trying to understand how he views the bigger picture. And if you feel like the current state of things isn’t sustainable for you, talk about that.

    14. Murphy*

      For real, daycare just called because their AC is out and I need to leave to pick up my daughter because it’s over 80 degrees in their classroom. Thankfully I’m not super busy but FFS.

    15. Koala dreams*

      I’m a bit surprised by the many answers about how you can do more chores while taking care of the baby. Of course, some people find it okay to do chores and child-care at the same time, and some people have no choice, but there are also many people that find it impossible to get any chores done while doing child-care. If you belong to the last category, you need to be firm with your husband that you can’t do chores and he need to do more chores. Many people find it less tiring to work at their job than doing work at home, so it’s possible he is less over-worked than you are and would have some energy in his free time, even if it’s not every day. He could do chores in the morning, in the night when he gets home, or in the weekends.

      If he is as over-worked from his day job as you are from your day job + child-care + chores, then maybe you need to get extra help (from friends or family or paid help) or your husband need to change his working habits. He could try pushing back on over-time (himself or with as a group), working from home after the child sleeps or change job. There are work places out there with a better balance, and in the archives there are some posts about what to look out when job-searching.

      Good luck, and remember, soon the children will grow up and get more independent!

      1. Murphy*

        Yeah, there’s very few chores I can realistically get done when I’m with her. It’s more that I’m chasing her around Non-Stop until my husband gets home, and that when there are things that we need to get done that day, I really can’t.

        1. Koala dreams*

          Thanks for answering my implied question. That sounds exhausting. Try to get some rest when your husband gets home. And if you can’t do something, you can’t. I hope some of the suggestions today are going to be helpful to you. :)

    16. Tema*

      1) Get someone to clean the house for you – even once every other week is huge
      2) Adjust your expectations – if he’s in biglaw or something similar, this is how it will be or he has to change jobs. Your frustration is 100% understandable, but is just going to make things harder for you in the end.
      3) Is there a time he’s almost always free (say Sunday mornings) that you can carve out as sacred time for you to do something you want while your husband watches your child? I work more than my husband, but he has a once weekly yoga class that I try to schedule around as much as humanly possible to make sure he can rely on that hour of quiet to himself. He ends up with other time throughout the week to, but having something he can look forward to as a sure thing helps him a lot.

    17. motherofdragons*

      I am in a very similar same boat, but we have 10-month-old twins instead of a toddler. My husband literally just called to talk about him coming home late, so, I really feel you! This happens probably half the week. At first it drove me nuts, and it felt really unfair, and like I was taking on the lion’s share of the childrearing burden, and it made me feel really resentful. Part of that, honestly, was some undiagnosed postpartum depression talking…so once I started treating that, and thinking more clearly about the situation, I did still see some inequity. Here’s how we address it so that we’re all functioning and balanced and happy:

      – We figured out a routine that works for us, and unless there is an urgent exception, we stick to it. We talked ahead of time about what felt fair and also doable for both of us. We decided on this: The night before, I pack the daycare bag and he makes the bottles. He wakes up with the girls in the morning, gets them ready for daycare, and drops them off. In the afternoons, I pick the girls up, get them home, fed, changed, and into bed. That way he can be late as often as he likes, because it’s my “time” anyway.
      – If something has to change in the routine, like he’s traveling and needs me to take them in the mornings, we discuss it ahead of time and he asks if that’s OK with me (as opposed to telling me). Ultimately the result is the same — I say “Sure, totally fine” — but the act of asking is more respectful than telling, and I feel that difference. Also, there is an enthusiastic offer of making it up to me somehow, like watching the girls for an extended time on the weekend while I get my nails done or whatever.
      – During my “time” with the girls in the evening, I do everything I can to make it hassle-free. That means I don’t try to do chores, or cook an elaborate dinner. We just play a bit, they eat in their high chairs, get wiped up and changed and are usually ready for bed by that point. That way it’s not completely draining.

      I think the key is balance. Give and take. No one is “expected” to pick up the slack without some kind of balancing action. And he always expresses gratitude when I’m taking stuff on for him. It sounds like for you, as far as the daycare to-and-fro, there isn’t balance and it’s causing your “WTF?” feelings. Or, there isn’t balance outside of that routine enough to make you feel like your share is equitable. It would be completely within reason for you to sit down with your husband and map out all the duties and division of labor that’s currently going on, and come up with a more sustainable and fair plan that works for you.

    18. Murphy*

      Thank you so much everybody for your comments and suggestions!

      I do want to say that my husband does plenty around the house in general! He just can’t do things or give me a break when he’s not here which causes a lot of tension. It’s definitely something that we’re both working on.

    19. Traveling Teacher*

      You need to talk with your husband about this. I lived this for 1.5 years after the birth of my first child (as a SAHM, though I hadn’t planned to be FT at-home beyond the first six months). It almost killed me. Him being gone for 12+ hours every day for over a year (sometimes 8am to midnight), getting home an hour or two late on the regular after he had sworn up and down he’d be home on-time or early? The stress and the not-knowing was the worst.

      Also, it’s what prevented me going back to work for so long after the birth of our first. Not okay. And, when he did get home, he’d often be on his computer taking care of his obligations for our church for an hour or two when what I really needed was to cook dinner immediately.

      I began to resent his freedom to come and go as he pleased so much that I started to seriously think about getting divorced! If I was going to be doing the heavy lifting of childcare for literally the entire day by myself, then why not? We love each other, but this was not a good place to be in.

      Only when my husband took a month of paternity leave (finally. You get an insane amt where we live, compared to the US, but he wouldn’t take it all because I was already “at home” and he wanted it to line up with some project deadlines…). After a couple days of me leaving him alone with the 11 month old while I went to the library to have some alone time, he was looking glazed-eyed, unshowered (so not typical for him) and saying, “I don’t know what I did all day!”

      That’s when he started to realize what he’d been doing to me/our family, but it took him another 6 months and a major, prolonged fight (which included a laundry, cleaning, and cooking strike) when he started to talk about “having another” to get to where we are now, which is a much more equal place where he mostly puts his family priorities first (and has him doing hours late at night–like me!) so that he can be home when he says he’ll be for our child and for me.

      The takeaway: what your husband needs to realize is that, even though he’s helping out others at work, that means that he’s abandoning family obligations to you and your child to do so–I say abandoning because this is routine. He has to stop doing that, even if it means that he can’t always be the savior at work who can fix anything! You need him, too!

    20. media monkey*

      i think you need to decide what you both HAVE to do and what the priorities are. if he HAS to stay late (and we all know that happens) then not much you can do. if a job doesn’t have to be done that night, doesn’t have to be done by him or is really to help out someone else and be “nice” that isn’t his priority. his family are.

      So when i went back to work (earn a little bit more than hubs, slightly more high pressure and pressure to stay late, long commute) we had to agree on a routine that worked. he had always done bathtime so he carried on with that (when i was on mat leave i sat down with a book), and because he was the only one who could physically manage it, he did nursery drop offs and pick ups. i would then get home from work, make up a bottle and do the bedtime routine – feed/ story/ settle. in the morning i would do morning milk, get her ready, have a play and then he would take over and take her to nursery/ his parents.

      i always have everything laid out for the day the night before (even now and she is 10!) and use a system of bags for each place. so she would have a bag for the things she needed if she was going to my inlaws (plus a bag of food in the fridge) or a bag for nursery. this is a great habit to get into and always repack the bag again so that someone else can grab the swimming bag or dancing bag and know everything is in there! if it means buying doubles of things (sleep toy/ dummy/ water bottle/ snack box) just do it. while on the subject of doubles, if your child has a toy they won’t sleep without, go and buy another one right now! you’ll thank me for that one!

      in terms of dividing up tasks, we try to split fairly evenly, so that one of us isn’t putting their feet up while the other one gets on. so while i put daughter to bed, he preps and cooks dinner. then i load the dishwasher and empty it in the morning. we split half the cleaning. he deals with maintenance, cars and holidays. i deal with bills and childcare. of course the social side falls to me but i don’t think there’s much of a way around that – i know all the mums and so organise playdates, carpooling etc. i also tend to sort out activities as otherwise she wouldn’t do much!

      we have always made sure that we didn’t have to give up our own activities and interests when we became parents, so we each have our own time in the week. he goes out mountain biking on a sat morning. my time is sunday morning and i can sew or exercise or sleep in or whatever.

  2. Bones*

    Would it be derailing to ask for any commenters with ADHD/Depression to weigh in on how to handle it wrt work?

      1. sigh*

        I schedule as much as I can for lunch hours and work a slightly longer day to make up for it. Some providers are making arrangements lately for even video therapy, which can help in a full schedule.

        1. Bones*

          My schedule isn’t that flexible, which puts a real wrench in my plans (otherwise I would do what you’re doing).

          I’m thinking about maybe trying out a service like TalkSpace, but I have no idea how good it actually is.

          1. ThatGirl*

            There are providers out there who have evening hours; my husband has a standing 6 p.m. appointment and I don’t think he’s even the latest spot. Your insurance provider/doc finder tool may let you sort by evening/weekend hours.

            1. Bones*

              I just had my hours shifted from 7:30-4:00 (I live in Greenwich and work in NYC), so I’m hoping I’ll have more flexibility finding a late provider. Before I worked 9:30-6:00, which is an AWFUL shift to have when the other factors come in. Thanks for your perspective :)

              1. Fishsticks*

                Since you work in NYC, I know it’s super common to find therapists with late hours. I’m working on finding one and many of my options range from appointment start times from 6:00pm to one at 8:30pm. It might be annoying especially with that commute but one day a week isn’t as bad. Also look into NYC video therapists. A lot of practices seem to have them. Try zocdoc (i think) or Psychology Today. You also might want to look into weekend appointments as they are also common if you want the in-person experience. I’ve been looking myself and I work 9am-6pm with an hour commute in NYC so I’m familiar with the struggle.

                1. Kj*

                  I’m a therapist and I wanted to confirm that most therapists have hours outside 8-5. Some offer early AM. I work only in the afternoon and evening and I work Saturdays. I’m not unusual either. Do be aware, when considering online therapy, that it is rare for telehealth to be covered by your insurance.

              2. RainyDay*

                Yup, definitely common to have evening availability in a major city like NYC! When I was in the depths of needing help and had a long commute, I found a large practice near my office specifically so I could get a 5:30pm appt (without having to call a million single providers) and go before catching the train back home. Sure, you get home later, but it’s a huge help.

                You can do this, Bones! Sending you lots of positive internet vibes.

          2. Murphy*

            I use BetterHelp for counseling and I really like it. I can meet with my counselor on Sunday mornings, so I don’t have to miss work. It only takes up the time of the appointment, no driving or waiting somewhere. And, it’s OK if I didn’t have time to shower and get dressed.

          3. Manders*

            I tried Talkspace and to be honest, I didn’t like it. The app was very buggy, they kept trying to charge me for the wrong plan, the selection of therapists for my issue wasn’t great, and I once managed to accidentally post a highly personal and graphic message in one of their public support groups (no idea how I did that, or even how I ended up in that group in the first place).

            I’m going to give BetterHelp a try and see if I like it better. Talkspace seemed more like it was geared toward people who just wanted a space to rant–my therapist didn’t seem to be paying very close attention to me, often needed reminders about things I’d already told him, and didn’t seem particularly comfortable talking about the issue I needed therapy for.

      2. Jaybeetee*

        Honestly, the best I’ve been able to do are some providers with fairly flexible schedules, and an understanding workplace (ADHD for which I’m still tweaking the medications, brief stint of talk therapy, as well as a few other regular medical things). When I was doing talk therapy the *latest* possible appointments were at 4pm, which sucked (I usually leave work around 4). I recently switched to a new, closer GP, and had a similar issue until he told me to feel free to come during his evening clinic hours on Mondays. I also do regular physio, and thankfully she has two nights a week where she works late-ish, so my appointments are around 5 or 5:30. Finally, I’m also seeking electrolysis right now, and the people I see for that also offer evening and even weekend appointments.

        All that to say, most of the providers I’m seeing do offer some kind of evening/weekend appointment time I can use, which meant it was less of a big deal when I had to cut out early for therapy (the only one that didn’t have flexibility), and the couple of doctor appointments I had before he said I could come during clinic hours.

        I’m improving a great deal these days (apartment is cleaner, better focused/more productive at work, easier impulse control, more disciplined and attentive in general), but it seems my boss battle is going to be lateness. That’s improved slightly since starting treatment, but since there’s no time for my meds to kick in before leaving for work, that one… has not been entirely resolved yet.

      3. yeppo*

        I have one morning every other week to do therapy appointments, which works because management gives people a lot of leeway for sick time (open office, germs travel quickly). At the office, what works for me is making sure I talk to people during the day instead of just typing by myself, take a walk outside at lunch if it’s warm enough, and if not walk around my building as a way to change my headspace a little.

      4. EJane*

        I’ve got GAD, MDD, and a new panic disorder. I feeeel youuuuu.
        So my current situation is a little tricky because I’m a temp with a service dog and a half-time colleague that hates being around him, and I’m changing up my medications which requires getting to the pharmacy at a certain time because I have to pick up the first dose in person… it’s a whole mess.

        But back when I worked at a different, more stable environment, this is how I handled it:
        1. Therapy: I had a standing appointment every two weeks with my therapist, and I went to my boss and said “Hey, I have a recurring appointment every other Thursday at 4:30. It’s the latest the practitioner (good word to imply physical, not mental, health) can see me, so I’d have to leave work at 4 to get there on time. Is there a way to make this work, either with me coming in earlier that day or making it up on a different day?”
        My boss at the time was totally fine with it (this was also the assignment where my boss gifted me a healing crystal when the assignment ended sooooo), but I’ve had bosses who have pushed back or pried. My mental trick is to intentionally think of it like a physical illness–and have excuses up my sleeve if I panic. “It’s physical therapy.” “It’s infusion treatment” “Mandatory check-ins with my GP” (I have a healthcare background so these excuses were easy for me to pull out of my ass, but there is always the reliable and much more ethical “I’d prefer not to discuss my personal health at work.”)
        I also thought of my appointments as mandatory, and as a result presented them that way. The question was never “can I?”, it was “How can we make this work?” And I always checked with my therapist to see if a later appointment was open.

        2. For the minutiae of mental illness, I found that a. making my meds more accessible helped a lot. mail order pharmacies are a GODSEND. most HMOs have them, and if they don’t you should be able to transfer your rxs to a local pharmacy. Streamlining your routine a little bit–even moving to a pharmacy a block closer to your route home–makes a big difference on those soul-sucking days. I also, personally, found a lot of use in medication-tracking apps like Round, since I have a tendency to forget my meds for three days and then wonder “why is my brain so shit? ….oh.”

        3. I place hard boundaries around my selfcare: I have to have coffee in the morning. I have to have at least a protein smoothie for lunch. No processed sugar at work (this one because it makes me crash). I leave my phone in my purse, or I lock the screen with a child lock, so i have to go through extra steps to get into it–and am less likely to idly pick it up and get sucked into facebook. At home, I have a bedtime, and I stick to it. I have an alarm on my phone that I have to leave open–I can’t watch youtube to fall asleep, or it won’t go off. I also have four other alarms, including one on the other side of my room, because a side effect of one of my meds is that I sleep like the damn dead.

        4. Faith. Faith that I can do this, I’m worth the effort I’m putting into myself and the value I can bring to the company.

      5. Sleepy Librarian*

        For therapy, I make it a top priority. I’m lucky in that I can take off from my job in the middle of the day and then just work later that evening or something, and I do that. It’s got to be a MASSIVE thing for me to cancel my therapy appointment. Seeing my therapist keeps me functioning, ha. I have a high stress job and family situation right now, and I think of that as a key part of my self care. It’s where I can go and dump my brain to Not Coworkers, Not Friend, Not Family and it helps. So I guess I don’t have advice for making it fit into your schedule. The only advice is to make it fit and not let anything else edge it out.

        I have ADD and the other thing is I absolutely must have routines and I must have quiet time. When I’m doing the worst is when I don’t plan my day, don’t eat well, don’t take time to work alone, etc.

    1. epi*

      My schedule is very flexible right now, but in the past I’ve had to ask to move things around slightly to accommodate weekly therapy.

      Honestly the hardest part is just asking. I think it’s really common for people to assume “weekly appointment” means mental health treatment and that they are outing themselves, but this really is not the case. If you look back in the archives, you can find people with all kinds of different conditions worried that it’s obvious what their regularly scheduled appointment is for. It could be physical therapy, a period of closely monitoring a physical health condition, transfusions, prenatal care– lots of things. Even if someone guesses your appointments are for therapy, that doesn’t mean they now know you are depressed or have ADHD. There are many other common reasons people go to counseling. So if you need some flexibility to make your appointments, just call them “doctor’s appointments” and ask.

      With your therapist, can you try a two-pronged approach? Ask them to work with you on skills to help you balance competing demands and self-care– this is a very common thing people do in therapy. And also talk to your therapist about wanting to move to some easier days/times if they ever open up.

    2. Security SemiPro*

      I work in a field that has high burn out rates and a large portion of the highly skilled workforce is struggling with some form of mental illness. Which means that flexibility for “I have an appointment” is pretty common.

      I pick up meds on my way home from work. I try to get appointments near work/home at the beginning/end of day/weekends when possible.

      I operate a calendar like its my job. (A bunch of my “How do you balance…?” questions come down to very tight, shared, calendar operations.)

    3. DataQueen*

      I have ADD and a few other mental health issues. For the majority of my issues, what works is that I take my work day and expand it from 9am-5pm to 7am-10pm. I might go to an appointment at lunch, or leave early. I might need to take a long walk in the middle of the day. I might need to go home and shower, which calms me down, or just take a nap. I might need to sleep until 10 and not go to work until noon. So I just set the expectation that my work will get done when my work gets done. My boss knows I can manage my workload. For the first year or so, or maybe less, in a new job, you gotta prove yourself, and then they trust that you can manage your own schedule and workload. I’m open with my boss that “I can get too emotionally invested in the job and need to take a break when I feel like that” which covers most of my outbursts/issues/derailments/depressive episodes/triggers. She doesn’t need to know more than that. An office with a door helps too, i just close my shades, put a fake meeting on the calendar, and spend some quiet time by myself meditating or thinking or whatever. As far as my ADD, my personal solution is medication. I tried fidget toys, doodling, taking notes, not bringing your phone/computer, etc., but at my level of seniority, I really can’t have a fidget anything in a meeting, or even be taking notes most of the time, so a solid medication plan works well.

      1. Sleepy Librarian*

        I do this expansion thing too (though not quite so far, more like 11-12 hours, when I can). Staying focused on my work for 8 hours with a specific one-hour break for lunch just does not cut it for me too often. Side effect: I get endless busybodies lecturing me about work/life balance and it drives me bananas.

    4. anonymoushiker*

      My therapist does weekend appointments a couple times a month (I see her ~every 6 weeks) which is the only way I am able to see her since she is nowhere near work and a 40 minute bike ride from home. I also, when she was closer, used to see her in the evening (she had one night a week that she did later in the day). Hopefully you can find something similar with someone that works for you.

    5. Amanda*

      I think it’s on topic, because my ADHD husband and I are already doing a lot of the things people here recommend for babies. I also highly highly recommend the Cozi app. It takes some time to get in the swing of putting things in the instant they’re scheduled but it’s so so worth it.

      1. PhillyRedhead*

        I have been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder with Seasonal Affective Disorder. I am on medication. I’m hourly, and I don’t take a lunch break so that I can get home earlier. It’s really rough, especially in the winter. I try to get outside on weekends when I can. On weeknights, I’ll walk to the grocery store just to spend some extra time outside.

    6. Specialk9*

      It does seem pretty off-topic, on a thread that’s pretty big ahead. Could you maybe write in to Alison?

    7. Tema*

      If you have an EAP, they may be able to help you find a therapist that has work-convenient hours. I actually working in NYC government and my EAP was able to help me find someone who did therapy on Saturday mornings.

  3. AdminX2*

    1- Balance is a lie. You never get balance and the moment you think you do, something shifts. What you do have are priorities, values, and visions. Some things are more important at some times and then they will shift. Keep defining your priorities and values and then align your choices to those as best as possible.

    2- Your most important relationship is with yourself. If you aren’t putting yourself first, you can’t give your best to anything or anyone else. Learn how to take care of yourself as a regular practice.

    3- Never compromise on your needs for fulfillment. Most people don’t have that many of them, but the ones they have need to be sacred. Everything else you can just be flexible and creative on. Sometimes I would rather make two basic dinners everyone enjoys than make one dinner no one really likes. If you compromise your needs, make a clear exit strategy because it will not be sustainable.

    1. B*

      This. My mom, who was the first woman in her company to go back to work after having a baby (in the mid-80s!!!) always says “You can have it all. You just can’t have it all AT THE SAME TIME.” That qualifier is comforting.

      1. QueenBee*

        Agreed. There is no balance. Sometimes I’m a good mom, sometimes I’m a good partner and sometimes I’m a good employee. It’s impossible to be all three at the same time. So my balance is usually failing at one while treading water on the other and being good at the other one. It helps very much that my husband and I are on the same page in that there are no traditional gender roles in our house. We both parent, we both cook, we both clean, run errands, we both work. There was a time when he was working about 80 hours a week between two jobs (catching up after I was unemployed for an extended time), leaving me working my 40 and then handing literally everything else. It was not sustainable and luckily it didn’t need to be.

      2. The Original K.*

        A family friend said that to me when I was in my senior year of college and I’ve never forgotten it. She was in her 30s and was a new mom, and she was realizing the sacrifices she and her husband were going to be making for parenthood. She told me about one particular job she just straight up couldn’t take because it wasn’t going to work for their family, and there was zero flexibility – it wasn’t going to work and there was no way to make it work, so it was completely off the table. The older I get, the more I know this to be true.

        1. Overeducated*

          This has shaped my and my spouse’s lives in really significant ways (since we’re both in “move for the job” fields). Frankly, both of us are in less than ideal location and career situations right now, but when you have to sacrifice something, I would rather be the person who prioritized my family and compromised on other stuff. My spouse’s actions indicate the same thing, which is good because if our values didn’t line up there, I would’ve chosen the wrong partner for me.

      3. Rat Racer*

        A bit of advice I cherish from a friend who is a Harvard-trained MD who did her residency at Hopkins then cut back to part time work when she had her two children: Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Just because you can’t pursue all your career aspirations at the moment, doesn’t mean that you’ll miss a boat that only leaves once. (mixing metaphors).

        1. Ender*

          Yes! The average life expectancy is over 80 in my country at the moment. If I want to I could easily work till 70. Taking 5-10 years of not-so-great career development will matter SFA in the long run.

        2. Specialk9*

          Yes. I just turned down applying for a job I really really really wanted. But, I mean, if I’m qualified now, I’ll still be qualified in 5 years. That was a rare moment of mental peace and trusting the future for me.

    2. aelle*

      I read someone reframe “work-life balance” as “work-life tension”, and it makes so much sense. You’re not going to find the relaxation and serenity that the word “balance” implies. The two are always going to be at odds, and realistically, your work is to find the level of tension that doesn’t break you.

      1. Story Nurse*

        A musician friend of mine bitterly calls it the “work-work balance”, because a lot of us in creative fields are used to having our work obligations eat our lives. But that does prepare us pretty well for having our family obligations eat our lives!

    3. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Re #1: I recently mentioned to our principal (a wonderful, amazing woman in her 70s who founded our org 20 years ago) about trying to balance aspects of my life and she said the same thing. It’s not about work/life balance, it’s about work/life juggling.

    4. BB*

      I don’t know if balance is a lie, but I do know what we’re taught what balance looks like and how to achieve it are definitely lies. We’re taught that if you follow a certain “life recipe”, everything will work out, which is complete BS. Balance is not an end destination that you will arrive at if you do X,Y, and Z and then you can rest; it’s a constant ebb and flow. Think of it as a verb instead of a noun.

    5. Quahoghedgehog*

      I was coming here to say this exactly. I see other women doing it all and wonder how they do it-and then I realize that we are not all the same person and everyone has different limits. When I was figuring out how to make my job with an extra long commute work and still find time for my own sanity, I realized-for me it just doesn’t work. There was no magical way to find more hours in the day. With my partner, I re-prioritized and we figured out what was most important.
      I realize there is privilege in being able to make choices like that, too!

    6. Alli525*

      Re #1 – that is so, so true. There’s a commonly-accepted wisdom here in NYC: “you can have the perfect job, apartment, and significant other, but never all three at the same time.” This has borne out so many times in the lives of myself and my friends (I once had all three, but it only lasted for about 8 months and our current president got elected toward the beginning of that period, so everything was still terrible).

      1. AdminX2*

        I actually disagree, you can have all of those at once. But that doesn’t mean there will be balance across them all. Someone gets sick, lots of work projects, you move, the car breaks. There’s always going to be life forces pushing for your attention here and there and everywhere. Trying to stay in that magical ‘balance point’ just isn’t real. And certainly plenty of things will happen and one of those major things WILL get tossed out.
        Can you have a super amazing career and a super amazing family where you spend all your time at both? No. But you can create a perfect job and a perfect family for you.

        For me it really comes down to yourself, defining who you are, who you want to be, what you truly value, and letting everything else flow from there. Balance really isn’t in the picture.

    7. GG Two shoes*

      I just wanted to add that a great book I read called “Drop the Ball” by Tiffani Dufu mentions some nice tactics with how to manage… life, I guess, with two working parents. It really eased my mind since we are trying for a baby and I already have a chronic illness to deal with.

    8. RainyDay*

      #3 is so critical. I ignored those things for a loooong time and it took a major toll – I was keeping my head above water just fine, but had little genuine joy. I’ve refocused to concentrate on the things most important to me (related to #2) and everything else feels much easier to balance.

  4. Blue Anne*

    I’m juggling my job with a growing real estate business. I had to hire a part time assistant. She occasionally does personal stuff for me as well. It’s still not enough, I text back and forth with her more than I should during the day.

    1. Blue Anne*

      Oh – and I don’t feel bad about spending the money and calories on convenience foods any more. I go to the grocery store and get individual yogurts for breakfasts, box salads for lunches, freezer meals for dinners. It’d cost like 1/4 as much if I made it all myself or bought in bulk but ugh, time and cleanup.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        +10 to just getting premade/easy food AND not beating yourself up about it. You can still get balanced/healthy food if you plan it out.

        It’s the “last second” fast food runs because I told myself I would make that “””real””” food tonight but now I don’t want to or don’t have time that are a problem… Plus, I feel bad about it (and then extra bad when it happens again a day or two later).

      2. Specialk9*

        The day I discovered pre-cooked pasta (it says no preservatives), I was guiltily thrilled. It’s saved me on more nights, and mornings packing school lunches, than I care to admit.

  5. BRR*

    If you’re able to, throw money at the situation. While I haven’t adopted this solution that often, I know it can save time on things like cleaning and cooking. I had a coworker who took the train instead of the bus. It was more expensive but saved her between 45 min and an hour of commuting time. Unfortunately there is an obvious challenge :(.

    1. Doug Judy*

      Yes. Outsource tasks if it’s possible. Grocery pick up and delivery has helped us so much. Money wise m, we may even save some since you’re not in the store making impulse purchases.

      Also my life goal is to be able to afford to have someone come clean for me weekly.

      1. Logan*

        I have someone clean my washroom and floors once a month (they do some other things so that they spend a few hours and it justifies their time, but the only reason that I have them is to deal with a big scrub of the floors and washrooms). This is my balance between cost and time, because I can’t have someone weekly but at least the cleaning is manageable between those times.

      2. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        If you don’t have the money, remember that kids can start helping at a pretty young age. They won’t take the labor off your shoulders – I’m not saying that they are all that useful – but time with the kids is still time with the kids. A three-year-old thinks sorting and putting away the silverware is an awesome game. A four-year-old will love the laundromat if you let them put in the quarters and help load the machines. A five-year-old can pick things out from the grocery list and put them in the cart.

        1. Ophelia*

          Also, my older one (5) *loves* putting away her own laundry? Maybe she likes the control? But it’s one thing I don’t have to do. I’m still trying to keep the 2-yo from climbing into the dishwasher, but I imagine she’ll feel similarly about the silverware someday soon.

          1. Story Nurse*

            My kid is 2 years 8 months and put away ALL the silverware yesterday. Not into the correct bins, but that’s fine! They are unusually fond of cleaning and tidying, and will “help” by rubbing the table with a rag, pushing their broom around, pulling clothes out of the dryer to put in the laundry basket, and so on. Still gets tomato sauce everywhere at dinner, and the floor under the dining table is a Cheerios graveyard, but there’s improvement every day.

            I think it’s key that we don’t try to hide how much work goes into keeping the house tidy and clean. We read “The Berenstain Bears Clean Up” and talk about how much easier it is when we do it all together. And when our house cleaner has come and gone while K is at daycare, I explicitly mention that Saúl came over and made the house look so nice and isn’t it lovely when the place is clean thanks to his hard work. That helps kids understand very young that everyone needs to pitch in to make the place a nice place to live.

    2. Juli G.*

      Yes, this. I know it’s not feasible for everyone but have things delivered when it’s $7 cheaper to go to the store and get it. Yes, it’s more economical to buy the big bag of chips and put some in a baggie for lunch but when I buy the individual servings, it’s one less step for me if I’m packing lunches and the ultimate bonus is that my kids get excited to pack their own lunches so I don’t have to!

    3. EddiinSC*

      Yep. I have a friend who has a housekeeper visit weekly. It costs $250 a month but you know what, it was worth it to her when she saw all the time with her kids she got back in return.

    4. J*

      YES. Cut cable, cut back in other areas if you need to, but HIRE HELP to the extent you are able (and if you don’t already have family/friends/free help). You need to get some time and sanity back and housecleaning, errand running, meal and grocery delivery, using Amazon Prime, and any other resources are all great ways to do it.

    5. ZuZus Petals*

      Agreed. Having someone come in and clean our house 2x a month has seriously improved my marriage and family life. My husband and I aren’t bickering about the mess in the house and I get to spend weekends with my kids instead of cleaning. Our housecleaner is also a local parent, and I like knowing that my money is helping to support a family vs. a company.

    6. Too Busy to Cook*

      Yes to this! My husband and I work full-time and recently subscribed to Freshly (a delivery service of fresh, already-cooked meals) and it has been a total game-changer. Now we can spend our evenings playing with our toddler before he goes to bed, rather than scrambling to finish everything in the kitchen.

      1. Amanda*

        Freshly! Our neighbor recommended that when we told her about impending baby. I’m going to see if I can set up an account for people to donate to or buy gift cards for — my family all lives on the opposite coast and are looking for concrete ways to help. I would rather have prepaid prepared healthy meals than baby supplies (that are largely available 2nd hand anyway).

      2. Story Nurse*

        Would you mind sharing your Freshly referral link? (If it doesn’t expose your name/email.) That looks like it might actually have food everyone in my house can eat, which is a rare thing, and it’s much cheaper than NYC takeout.

    7. Girl Alex PR*

      Exactly this. We hire out for a cleaner, we use a full service laundry company, groceries get delivered… If it gives me more time with my kids, I don’t care what it costs. I know that’s a privileged position to be in, and I know that it’s not a solution for everyone. But if it is- do it.

      Additionally, I try and remember quality versus quantity. My kids love when I do activities at their schools. So I use my lunch on my telework day to volunteer in their classrooms, alternating weeks. I use leave to chaperone their field trips, etc. They don’t care if I am home at 4 versus 5 on occasion. They care that I am there for the moments that really matter to them, so talk to them about what they enjoy doing most with you and make that the priority when you can.

      I also want to note that there are fields and positions better suited to working parents. I ran a large government agency’s social media accounts and strategic communications division when I first had kids. I travelled a lot, got to do awesome stuff, did interesting work… but I was miserable being away from my girls so often. I eventually decided to do something less demanding. I chose to transfer to a smaller division of my agency. My title is a lot less prestigious, I’m honestly a little bored with the work because it’s on such a smaller scale than what I was doing, but I make good money, I’m home every night in time to get my kid’s from daycare, I never have to travel, and I have flexibility to leave during the day to get them if they’re sick, have a school event, etc.

      Balance sometimes involves sacrifice- and that’s OKAY!

      1. Ali G*

        I can second the balance takes sacrifice. I am working part time right now and looking for a full time job, but I am not interested in the Big Title anymore. I had the Big Title and all the Big Responsibilities that went along with it, and I am not down with that anymore. Technically, if we really tried, we could live on my husbands salary alone, so why should we both be killing ourselves? I’d rather have more free time to do things together, that are not chores, and make enough money so we can save for retirement and live comfortably, take vacations now too. So if that means I end up in a job making less than I was with less responsibility, but I can be home at a reasonable hour and not travel/work weekends, I’m doing it!

    8. bottomless pit*

      Agree! This option probably won’t be available to everyone, but we have a nanny vs daycare (5, 3 and 2 year old) so we don’t worry about daycare drop off and pick up, and if a kiddo is sick and can’t go to school then we don’t have to scramble to find coverage. We also have someone help at the house 2 days per week – cleaning, meal prep, random chores that I just can’t seem to get to. Other time savers: I have groceries (and basically anything else I can) delivered, we finally got a lawn service this year, and even though my husband can fix anything, I hire out miscellaneous home improvements because he doesn’t have time. As a trade off our house is modest and we don’t drive flashy cars, but I’m definitely more sane. My husband works a lot at our business, he’s there 10+ hours/day, and I work full time, though luckily I’m there just 8.5 hours/day. I use my lunches for working out or running quick errands so I can be available to the kids when I’m at home.

      1. President Porpoise*

        What is your cost for a nanny? And how have you like the experience? I’m curious. (others, feel free to chime in as well!)

        1. E*

          I was a nanny about 10 years ago before deciding to use my Accounting degree and get an office job. I was shared by two families, #1 had a 5 year old and 1 year old while #2 also had a 1 year old. Mostly I was in charge of the two littles, but occasionally the older child a few hours a week. The moms split the cost of paying me. From my side, this worked great and they seemed happy with the arrangement. It only ended when I got engaged and moved away.

        2. Ophelia*

          We’ve also done a nanny-share with another family when both girls were small (the youngest is headed to daycare next week), and it was great, in that each family paid less, but the nanny overall made a higher hourly rate. You do need to find a family that clicks with yours. Overall, I’d say the cost of nanny vs. daycare equalizes around 2 kids needing full-time care. If you need FT care for 3, a nanny is likely to be more cost-effective. If you’re in a major metropolitan area, nannies are paid a professional rate – if you google “park slope parents nanny survey” there is information on typical salaries for nannies and babysitters based on experience and number of kids (the rates are probably too high for a smaller city or suburban area, but it’s probably a useful starting point).

        3. Ender*

          I second the nanny idea. Note that terminology can be different in lots of places. A “nanny” is typically a professional with a childcare qualification. I have a full-time Childminder who comes to the house and has zero professional childcare qualifications, but is absolutely wonderful with the kids. We pay her €10 an hour and she currently does about 44 hours a week. It’s expensive but it’s less than full time Creche for two babies and is €5k per annum more than full time Creche for two Pre-school age kids. Also it’s only for a few years. Also we had the kids close together so it’s probably cheaper in the long run than paying Creche fees for an extended period by having the kids further apart.

          And it’s so handy!

        4. bottomless pit*

          We actually have an au pair. Our costs are about $500/per week all in. We’ve been with hosting APs for close to 4 years and it’s been a fantastic experience. The flexibility and cultural exchange have been the top benefits for us.

          1. media monkey*

            a single mum friend has au pairs for her school age twins. from what I have seen with her, some pros and cons.

            Lower cost
            exposure for the kids to other languages/ cultures (we are in the Uk so au pairs are often from other european countries looking to learn english)
            flexibility – you can often request (and pay them for) evening babysitting

            they can leave for whatever reason – sometimes they don’t stay as long as expected and so you might need cover, not all will give notice if they get really homesick for example, or if they decide to take a better paying job
            they live in so you need the space and inclination to have someone in the house with you
            increased bills as they are at home during the day

            overall she finds it really positive on both sides!

    9. Alice*

      In the context of elder care, this is also true. Buy a second walker to keep in the car, so you don’t have to carry the other one down the stairs every time you go out. Going to a relative’s house? Get a new set of toilet rails delivered there from Amazon. Soon enough you’ll be able to donate all of it and other people who need these things will benefit (just keep all the directions for the next person). Save time by getting groceries/takeout delivered.
      If money will help, use it.
      Oh, one more way money helps with elder care: if you can pay for personal training as well as physical therapy, they complement each other very well.

      1. Juli G.*

        Oh yeah, two sets of things! Not to drag it back to kids but invest in car seats for all vehicles. A family member watches our kids so we have three car seats, three booster seats… we also have extra coats, gloves, hats, boots, rain gear from garage sales and secondhand stashed at family member’s house because our weather is notoriously fickle and if we’re rushing around from work to another event, going home may be precious minutes better to not be wasted.

    10. Ender*

      If you can afford it at all, or if you have two or more preschool age kids – look into having someone come to the house instead of bringing the kid(s) to childcare. Where I live with two kids younger than 3 a full time Childminder was cheaper than full time Creche. Now they are both over 3 it would be about €5000 cheaper a year to put them both in Creche, but we kept the Childminder because it’s so much easier. In the morning we literally just have to bring the kids downstairs and she takes it from there. Now they are both starting preschool she also is going to start doing some extra housework during that time.

    11. Sandy*

      I had no idea how true this is until this season of my life. Literally the only way I am keeping my head about water is by paying someone to do what I can’t.

      Can I afford it? Barely, but I am also cognizant that this season of my life isn’t forever. I just have to get through the next few years… until the next set of challenges pops up! ;)

    12. MCL*

      Co-signed. My spouse and I are not totally on the exact same page regarding tidiness (we are in the same book, though, at least!). Tension was rising because a lot of our free time was being spent doing housework. I was raised in a family that did our own housework, but my parents had three kids to deputize to do various chores, so all the chores piled up and I was spending my precious weekends vacuuming or scrubbing the oven. I finally started hiring a cleaner to come once a month and deep clean, and it’s made such a difference in my overall contentedness at home. There are still chores that I take on, but I don’t feel so overwhelmed and it was a good step in marital harmony. If you can afford to do this, I really recommend it.

      1. Jilly*

        What chores do your cleaner do when it is only once a month? I’m thinking about suggesting getting a cleaner because it is tough being the only one who cleans/keeps house in a household of three adults.

    13. Yorick*

      You can buy chopped veggies (like onions and peppers) from many grocery stores. If you need the time and can afford to spend more on onions, it may help a little.

      1. Specialk9*

        I used frozen veggies for most things, because of a toddler and an energy-sapping disability. Frozen bell pepper strips, frozen diced onions, frozen corn, frozen peas, frozen zucchini, frozen brussel sprouts, frozen kale.

        I buy a bag of baby spinach and, mwahahaha! I freeze it. (Easier to throw a handful into something.)

        1. Story Nurse*

          I was raised on 100% fresh vegetables and had no idea that frozen and canned vegetables could actually be… pretty good! (They’re also undoubtedly better than they were when I was a kid.) Nuke-in-bag frozen mixed veg and rice is a staple in our house now. And even frozen rice and Uncle Ben’s parboiled rice for when the rice cooker feels like just too much work.

          1. Specialk9*

            The analyses I’ve read said that frozen is often nutritionally better, since fresh often has to be picked green and artificially gas-ripened off the plant, to account for shipping.

            But more importantly, frozen is usually pre-cut. Pay $1.09 for a bag of pre-diced frozen onions I didn’t have to cry over? Sold!

            The only frozen veggie that is not superior to fresh, as far as usability, is zucchini. Grated zucchini just disappears into most recipes – it’s great in beans and rice, chili, spaghetti sauce, meatballs, meatloaf, risotto, even some desserts. The big chunks of zuke just don’t melt away the same. But fresh zukes tend to die a sad lonely death in my fridge, so I make do with big chunks of zukes.

    14. Rebecca in Dallas*

      Yes! We have a cleaning service that comes to our house monthly and it is worth every penny. It’s just my husband and I (plus three furry animals) so we can keep it fairly neat in between visits.

      I also started doing grocery delivery (free with our Amazon Prime membership, just a tip for the driver), it saves me so much time and we can just add things to our shopping cart as we think of them or run out of them. We also order a lot of things from Amazon such as our cat’s food and a lot of household things rather than make a bunch of trips to the pet store, Target/WalMart, etc.

      I have a friend with two kids who uses a laundry service, she swears up and down it’s a lifesaver for her family! I can’t remember now whether it’s drop-off or if they pick up and deliver, but I know she said they charge by the pound.

    15. Overeducated*

      Haha I just want to thank you for noting the obvious challenge here. I think this is GREAT advice but it is advice I can’t implement in some of the recommended ways that would make life way easier (e.g. hiring regular cleaners and babysitters), so it’s sometimes frustrating to hear without people noting that, as if we just haven’t thought of it.

  6. Aldyn*

    I’m a single mom of one, plus a foster baby (hopefully soon to be kiddo #2). We’re on a tight schedule. Meal prep for lunches and dinners is done on Sunday nights. I get to work at 9 after daycare drop offs, work through lunch so I can get off at 5, and get the kids and get dinner on the table by 6. The oldest is limited to one sport per season, and it’s a family rule that we have dinner all together four nights a week. My employer is wonderful and generous with flex time, PTO, etc. The trade off is that I work in third tier city, and I’m underpaid by $30-50k when compared to peers in first tier cities for my field (cybersecurity analyst). There’s not much room for advancement in my current position. Eventually, we will have to move for my job, but for now, I’m content with where we’re at.

    1. Lynn*

      But does that third tier city come with a lower cost of living? I could make a lot more money living in a larger city, but I’d lose any financial advantage to the increased cost of living or I’d have a horrific commute.

      I can afford to enjoy my time off living where I do in a way I never could in a more prestigious market.

      1. another STEM programmer*

        That’s the situation I’m in. I live in a smaller city and make about 30-40k less than I would in a big city or on a coast, BUT the extremely low cost of living here more than makes up for it, so I end up being able to save huge chunks of my pay check anyway. I just bought a 5 bedroom house with a good yard that is in excellent condition for $82k. For me, I end up with more savings than my friends who have the same job title as me but who live in big cities where a house like mine costs easily ten times as much.

        1. SupaStar*

          WHAT. $82K for a five bedroom house?! I live in a town of 32k where 900 sq. ft. apartments sell for around $200k. I need to live where you live.

      2. Overeducated*

        Yeah, I live in a city where I imagine cybersecurity analysts are making bank (the new house of one of the day care parents who works in that fields indicates this to be true).I think $30-50K in salary is HUGE, but there’s a decent chance a nice house may be anywhere from $300k-700k cheaper where you are… I’m dying to move to a nice third-tier city!

      3. Aldyn*

        Lynn, I live in the deep South where the cost of living is generally lower than the rest of the country. Even moving to a bigger metropolis, like Atlanta, I’d still have enough after the cost of living increase to justify the move. But I’m happy where we are for now – close to family, good boss, etc. This is my first job out of college, and we make more than enough to live comfortably, so I have no plans to move for the time being.

  7. JokeyJules*

    My dad’s job has always been super demanding. He founded a non-profit 2 months after my parents got married.

    He will randomly have to work an overnight shift after also being at work all day. He kind of made that a life lesson in and of itself which i always respected (to do what needs to be done and keep your commitments and your word). Whenever we saw him we had his full attention and I don’t ever feel like we missed out on anything in that way. I can’t actually currently recall a time where I was upset that he wasn’t able to be home or come to an event. I just knew he was working his ass off to help others and take care of his family. I know he and my mom would email all day and he would call her whenever he could, and I see their marriage as a strong and healthy one. They work together now, so that must be even easier. I think he was able to make it work, and my sister would agree.

    However, if I called him and asked him this question he would tell me he had absolutely no idea and isn’t sure if he is doing a good job at all.

    1. AnonforThis*

      I had a hard working doctor dad and the way it worked for him was having a stay at home/flexible mom (she quit teaching full time and did specialized tutoring only). That seems to be how a lot of people from my parents’ (not to mention grandparents’) generation handled it.

      My Dad was a good dad (yes he would take some phone calls during your soccer game, but he did go to every one) but I would not want his lifestyle. He cares a great deal about his patients but he gets worked to the point that it isn’t good for his health.

      1. JokeyJules*

        we had a similar setup. I was homeschooled through elementary and middle school but my mother also had a very small business she was able to work from home.

        Typing all this out makes me want to call my parents.

      2. AnonDr'sDaughter*

        My doctor’s wife mom told her doctor son’s wife “just pretend he’s dead. Then you’ll be happy when you see him and not mind all the times he’s not there.” And that advice has kept my SIL afloat many times.

        Personally, it’s so freaking bleak I would have been thinking of divorce or getting my tubes tied. But it helped them.

    2. BB*

      I too was raised by parents who worked long hours and sometimes strange shifts, and I never felt unloved or abandoned. When I think back, during the work week I barely saw my parents, but it never felt that way. When we were together, they paid attention to me and included me in everything. Honestly I liked it because while I was clearly very important to them, their lives didn’t revolve around me. There’s a lot of pressure being the center of someone’s universe, and I think it’s a disservice to treat anyone as such, including children. You can be an important and valued family member without being THE important and valued family member.

      It really, truly is about quality over quantity. Even a small amount of complete, full, loving attention from a parent is enough. It’s not about the amount of time, it’s the quality of whatever time you have to spend. It sounds trite and cliche, but my point is that if you don’t have a lot of time for your kids it’s really okay, just make sure whatever time you have for them you give them your full attention.

      1. Amber Rose*

        I’m another one. Mom worked two jobs and dad worked nights, and I frequently ate dinner alone and spent my time with the dogs and a book, but we did a lot together on weekends and mom always found time to wake me up for school and make me lunch and take me to soccer/band.

    3. EddieSherbert*

      Similar background; my dad has ALWAYS been super busy.

      He worked full-time, and when I was really young he went back to school for his Masters, and then when that was done, he worked part-time consulting for his field (his goal was to be able to move to full-time consultant, which he is what does now!). But he took us camping a lot on weekends, was one of the coaches for my summer ‘rec club’ soccer team, attended our band concerts, and got to at least 2-3 games during my school soccer season (which seemed to be about the same for most parents).

      There was one distinctive (fairly young) birthday where my dad was on a work trip and I was upset about that. So I’d say don’t do that? Your 7 year old will not understand it. But other than that, they did fine ;)

    4. mrs__peel*

      “he would tell me he had absolutely no idea”

      My grandparents had 6 kids within a 10-year period, and my grandmother worked outside the home at least part of that time as a computer programmer.

      Whenever people asked her in later years how she managed with all the kids, she would just get a glazed look in her eyes and say “…….I can’t remember”. I think it was all just a blur by then!

  8. Friday*

    Full-time salaried worker with a husband who also works full-time, a first-grader, and a baby! We’re actually doing pretty well these days and it’s because:

    – His commute is ~15 min, mine is 10. We strategically moved over a year ago (before #2 came along and #1 started kindergarten) to minimize commutes and find a good community for our kids to start elementary school.

    – Neither of us works much overtime, if at all. This is both due to the industry we’re in, and sheer luck. But also, we both are extremely efficient at our jobs and are considered high volume contributors. We don’t waste time at work. I leave at 5 on the dot no matter what, and in the rare instance something needs my attention still that day, I log back on after the kids are in bed.

    – We take turns dealing with our baby who doesn’t sleep through the night. I nurse him, he rocks him. Sometimes it’s a little more imbalanced toward me, but that balances out because:

    – He gets off before 4pm, picks up only the big kid, and does as many chores as he can before I show up at home with the baby. He’s also the one who handles dinner.

    Admittedly, we suck these days at working out. We’re trying to get back in gear… husband may choose to either work out in the early am (~5a) or when he gets home from work if there aren’t too many chores to do. I wait until both kids are in bed and work out ~8p.

    Also, we didn’t really do much travel this year but next year we have some debt that will drop off, and we are planning both regular date nights and a few big trips. Right now, date night is a bottle of wine and a movie once the kids are asleep!

      1. Friday*

        It truly is life-changing. Prior to this, I’ve driven ~45min to 1:30 each way for work, never any less than that. There’s just so much to DO at home in the evening until bedtime, and having just that much more time to start the process helps immensely.

    1. Friday*

      Thanks all! I should probably say that there is a career downside. I’ve been a bit underutilized since I came back from maternity leave since some of my core tasks stayed with the people who filled in for me while I was gone, so even with three pumps a day (that I usually work during, because my body’s OK with that), I don’t have too many super busy days. My boss left and I asked about moving up and was denied. So I’m looking around, but it’s critical that I find a place with work/life balance that is close by, while my kids are small. Once I’m past the toddler stage with #2 and parenting isn’t as much a physical hands-on sport, I get more rested and am in a better place to take on a bit more at work, possibly with more of a commute.

      TL/DR – I feel like I’m partially leaning out, not in. And at this stage in the game, I’m somewhat OK with that but I have a deep drive to further my career that’s weighing on me.

    2. Ophelia*

      Ugh, yes. I feel like the area where we are struggling the most is personal time–like, we have balanced the *needs* of everyone, but I really want to get back to going to the gym and it just doesn’t seem possible. Sigh.

    3. Starling*

      The strategic move is my #1 recommendation. I can’t afford two toddlers and a commute. They just aren’t compatible. So I live within walking distance of my office (thereby also solving the working-out problem). It’s significantly more expensive, but we sold our second car and we live in a smaller place than we otherwise would.

  9. AnonforThis*

    I am an attorney and mom. In some ways having work life balance started off at the beginning of my career, by choosing to go the public interest, rather than the firm route. I also made some career choices that probably sacrificed pure advancement to retain work life balance. I tried out a supervisory position, but the loss of control over my time was just too much of a sacrifice for what honestly was not much of a pay raise, so I took a step back from it.

    The other thing is accepting and enforcing boundaries between myself and work. That means resisting the impulse to volunteer for any and every project like I did when I first started, and accepting that sometimes just meeting the required hours and work product, instead of vast exceeding it, like I first did, is actually okay.

    I am very lucky to have a workplace that lets you do your time and go home, so the biggest driver of me pushing so hard actually comes from me.

    This did mean sacrifices, choosing a lower paying field and declining to move up the ladder. But I am happier because of these choices.

    1. AnonforThis*

      I will note my spouse left a harsh private company for government around when we became parents. Again, a little bit of a pay cut, but much better boundaries. We both have flexible schedules so we trade off with him going in early and doing pick up and me going in later and doing drop off.

      1. Murphy*

        Yes, this. I work for a public university, so I do get a lot of flexibility and don’t often have to take work home.

    2. Justme, The OG*

      “I also made some career choices that probably sacrificed pure advancement to retain work life balance.”

      YES to this. I know I could make more working somewhere else, but my schedule and short commute is such a huge selling point.

      1. AnonforThis*

        It helped that I was not happy as a supervisor. I like law and writing. Dealing with overseeing the work of a bunch of people, not so much. For type A people (most lawyers) accepting that you don’t have to be the best or jump up the ladder is actually something to wrap your head around.

      2. hermit crab*

        Yes, definitely. I recently switched from a consulting firm to a non-profit and, I mean, I expected it to be different but holy cow I am floored at how much more relaxed the pace is. Until I wasn’t doing it anymore, I had no idea how much mental and physical energy I was devoting to thinking about work/what was going on at work/what I needed to do at work/what I felt guilty about not doing for work/etc. during what was supposed to be my “off” time. It’s no surprise that most parents of young kids at my old company had stay-at-home spouses/spouses who worked part-time.

        1. sadface*

          hermit crab, do you mind if I ask you for more details/industry? I’m trying to do the same thing right now & am worried that it won’t be any better since nonprofit employees might be expected to be really devoted to the organization’s mission, and similarly still have to put out many many fires.
          (and did you run into any trouble with interviewers being worried that your salary requirements would be too high? Or any culture shock from consulting email/meeting styles? I came here from academia and I think now if I went back, I would probably annoy people by answering their emails too quickly or being too nitpicky about their powerpoint slides :))

          1. hermit crab*

            Absolutely! It’s been an interesting experience for sure. Want to talk about it on the open thread tomorrow?

    3. QueenBee*

      YES. I don’t LOVE my job, but I like it and I’m well-compensated for my field. It also allows me a great deal of flexible hours and generous PTO (though it doesn’t feel like it! LOL), and when I leave I’m gone. I don’t check email or work after hours unless its to make up for an hour I didn’t work earlier and don’t want to use PTO for. I could leave and get my dream job and have a really cool career, but that would mean less flexibility and being around my kids less than I am. (I have an hour commute each way). So I guess that’s my balance. I have a job that allows me to also be the mom/wife I want to be.

    4. CMart*

      I was lucky in that I was a career changer (if you can call “going back to school to get out of hospitality” changing careers) and was interviewing for jobs while pregnant with #1. It really allowed me to choose where I wanted to start my new career, and be picky about what kind of environment I wanted to work in.

      The field I’m in (accounting) can be so different in terms of work culture and hours depending upon what track you take. Most of my grad school peers went on to public accounting with long, grueling hours and high stress, ostensibly for the exit opportunities and growth potential. I sought out a staff accountant role at a company that was close to home and had a much slower pace.

      Will I ever be a CFO? Probably not, they like those people to have public accounting experience. So my ultimate earning potential is likely capped.

      But I’m five miles from home, I have unlimited sick days, flexible hours and the ability to sometimes WFH, I work for a manufacturer so in addition to 2 weeks’ vacation we also have a “plant shutdown” for a week in December, and a vast majority of my colleagues are slightly older (30’s+) and much more motivated to be at home, rather than work. I hear a lot of my former classmates commiserating about how difficult their jobs can be and silently thank Past Me for making the choices I did.

    5. President Porpoise*

      Yes – firm attorneys pushing for quick career advancement have it rough on the work/life balance thing. My brother is a senior attorney at a prestigious law firm, on the partner track. He works each day (and some weekends) until 3 AM, the gets a car home and sleeps til 7, so he can have breakfast with his kids and see them off to school. He goes into work at about 9.
      It sounds awful to me – but he makes four or five times my yearly salary, with some awesome benefits and perks. And his wife is a wonderful, capable, and no-nonsense lady who would let him know post-haste if the arrangement no longer worked for her.

    6. Joielle*

      Same here! I’m also an attorney in the public sector (not a mom, but maybe in the future). My work-life balance is honestly great 90% of the time, but I make a lot less than I could at a firm. When I hang out with my big-firm friends and they’re constantly checking their work phones in case they have to go back to the office… I just don’t think it would be worth it for me. I used to think that made me lazy, but maybe that’s ok. I genuinely enjoy my job, but I’m definitely a work-to-live person, not a live-to-work person.

    7. Prof. G*

      “The other thing is accepting and enforcing boundaries between myself and work.” This is so, so, SO important.

      Also, I suspect law is much like my field (academia) in that there is some messed-up competitiveness about who works the most. Group conversations about demands on our time can really, really easily veer into bragging or even romanticizing the ridiculous schedules. It’s not healthy, and it can make it really difficult for individuals to set and keep boundaries…anyone who does it cast as lazy or “not one of us.” People talk endlessly about needing work-life balance, but in the next breath, they’re humble bragging about how late they stayed up to finish that proposal. I’ll bet the same thing is going on in your workplace as well…it’s really easy to slip into!

      All AAM readers: if you are someone in a position of power/influence in an industry or workplace with long hours, please watch out for the workaholic culture. Start really listening to how people around you are discussing their schedules, and model healthy discussion of work-life balance.

      And please enforce policies that actually encourage a work-life balance. Set up responsibilities with some redundancy or cross-training, so that people on vacation can actually *be on vacation*, rather than having to unofficially be on call or work remotely. Take vacation yourself when you can, and actually unplug from work when you do. When you can, be realistic and flexible about deadlines, to allow your employees to be humans with lives and interests and families outside of work. Take sick time when you are sick, and encourage your reports to do the same. And then DO NOT bug them while they’re sick! Let them actually relax and recuperate.

      These things seem obvious, but when the entire workplace culture is centered on working Way Too Much, all of this stuff can easily fall by the wayside.

      1. Prof. G*

        Whoops, by “your workplace,” I mean AAM readers more generally, not the commenter to whom I am responding. :)

  10. annoners*

    I recognized some time ago that it would be difficult to find a partner who doesn’t resent me or accuse me of being a bore because I work 45-50 hour weeks, so it’s just easier to avoid that part of life. I get this from men whose jobs are more demanding than mine, but my setup is offputting because I’m a woman and/or not in a STEM career.

    1. JokeyJules*

      well that’s gross of them.

      there shouldn’t be a qualifier for you to be able to work 45-50 or even 60 hour work weeks. If that’s your work and what you want to do then so be it.
      I think you will find someone who respects your work and respect you.

    2. BB*

      I’m sorry you’ve encountered such boorish attitudes. If you want to work, then you should work. Clearly you have not met someone who shares your values, and I hope that you do. Both my parents worked 45-50+ hour weeks when I was a kid. Maybe their peers would have thought them neglectful parents but I never thought so and they did not think themselves (or each other) so.

    3. Person of Interest*

      My husband and I are in very different fields and we actually just don’t talk that much about work, unless we have something really crazy happening and want to vent, or want advice on dealing with something. We both have jobs where having to go in or log on to put out fires is somewhat typical, and we have actively worked at being supportive of/not resenting each other in these situations. I know he doesn’t WANT to leave a movie or a ballgame because his co-workers are useless, but that’s just what it is. We focus on having lots of fun together when we’re both not working, or doing nice things for each other when one has to work a sucky schedule – like meeting up near his office for lunch or dinner if he will have to work really late, or him picking up dinner if I have to work late from home.

      1. annoners*

        See, this is the dream – someone who doesn’t tell me that I’m inherently boring because work sometimes needs to get done. But I don’t want to be torn down again for doing my damn job, so I’m probably going to stay single.

    4. Lora*

      It’s not any different in a STEM career. When the roles are reversed and you’re a woman in a high powered STEM career, you often have to travel for work or move (jobs will transfer you to start up or shut down a new site, have you run due diligence on acquisitions and partnerships etc) and men are not generally accustomed to having to move for a wife’s career at ALL. The vast majority of men in my field have stay at home wives or wives whose careers are decidedly not high powered, where there’s no question whose career is considered more important to the family. Even when roles are decidedly reversed and you’re partnered with someone whose career is not particularly financially rewarding or demanding, the prospect of “pick up your life and our kids and move to Shanghai for two years while I set up this new research facility, even though you don’t speak a word of Mandarin and you are just meh about your job” isn’t exactly an enjoyable prospect for most people. They want to stay near their friends and family, don’t want to disrupt their kid’s school, have their own lives.

      It’s been my experience that you have to choose. The high powered jobs demand time, lots of it. They demand moving around the world and changing jobs and living in hotspots where there are lots of job opportunities and lots of consulting opportunities available, which may be far from your family. They demand learning new things, being a good sport about traveling, and having minimal demands on you from home.

      It’s getting better now that working from home is a thing. Commuting eats up a stupid amount of time and companies are starting to not want to pay for office space at ALL.

      1. annoners*

        I have a fairly lucrative STEM-adjacent career, which is the tricky part of things – I’m pretty close to income parity with some of the STEM jerks I’ve dated, but they don’t respect my job and are particularly put off by it having slightly less flexibility than theirs. I went to undergrad with a good number of guys who were pretty adamant about never dating a woman with a social sciences degree, so there’s that.

        For us, it wasn’t a mobility issue – it was more a matter of how dare I not be able to make a dinner reservation before 7 due to work because [my field of work] isn’t rocket science. Oddly enough, my male colleagues and their spouses of any gender had their personal lives start well after 5 with little fuss.

      2. AnonAcademic*

        I don’t know about ‘high powered’ but I am an early career STEM researcher, and I am very lucky to have a “portable” partner who works in IT and has moved three times for me to pursue career opportunities. The only time it almost didn’t work was when he was doing IT in the financial sector in NYC while I was finishing my Ph.D.; we were both too stressed out and frazzled to deal with each other a lot of the time. He is now in a better job market/sector working with a team he likes, and for the first time I’m the one dealing with more work drama and pressure. I am not going to pretend that having two career oriented people in a relationship is easy, but it’s certainly *possible.* At this point we do a lot of throwing money at problems because with both of us bringing in solid salaries it’s doable, and it reduces stress. When we were still barely above broke AND had high stress jobs it was a lot harder.

  11. Justme, The OG*

    I work full time. I’m a single parent of a very active kid (I’m talking 5+ hours of dance per week plus all else). I am also a graduate students, in my second and last year of a Masters program. I’m also a volunteer at my church.

    I write everything down. All appointments, all tasks, all of everything. That way nothing falls through the cracks and that I do not double book myself.

    I am lucky in that my commute is 10 minutes, and dropping my kid off to school is the midway point between my home and my work. If I had a long commute then I don’t really know what I would do. I am also lucky in that my schedule is very flexible.

    What I do not have is a social life, though. I’m not really sure that I miss it? I don’t know.

    1. Amanda*

      I highly recommend the Cozi app. I started using it when my mom was dying and my brain just couldn’t be bothered to keep track of anything beyond that and work.

      Now I’m a total addict and my ADHD husband has benefited tremendously. Most features are free but we splurge for the “gold” service that includes customizable notifications. Now I don’t schedule anything without my Cozi app open.

    2. CMart*

      Good lord. Tip of my hat to you for being willing to be so busy!

      Per your last line, about not really missing having a social life, I think perhaps the key to “balance” is knowing what it is that you want to balance. Having a social life is incredibly important to me, so it gets factored into how I schedule out our time, what activities we choose to do, how hard I pray my husband and I get to stay married until we’re 140 years old, etc…

    3. Busy Working Mom*

      I’ve started to use a bullet journal for the school year. I’ve got 2 kids with active schedules, I’m the president of the board of daycare, and we have other outside of work commitments. The (public) school the kids go to can be intense with activities and clubs as well.

      My job can be high pressure and after I got a concussion last year I was struggling to manage everything until I started to bullet journal.

  12. Mia*

    Hmmmn I have a 14 year old, and here’s what I learned so far…

    -Someone’s career is going to have to take a hit. It’s almost impossible to have both parents have the “BIG” careers that require tons of hours and travel. Someone has to pick up the kids, make sure they do homework, and cook dinner. Sadly it’s often the mom who takes this hit. I spent a lot of years being angry about having to pick up the slack, or him being late (again) – till I decided to accept it as “it just IS” – he’s working for the family in his own way by growing his career.

    -Put your oxygen mask on first. Meaning, don’t neglect areas YOU need. Make your husband set up, make the kids do things on their own, but do what you need to do to get a few hours to yourself every week

    -Hire out what you can. Cleaning person, grocery delivery, Amazon Prime your entire life…

    -you can ALWAYS cut something out to make time for those things you say you don’t have time for, like cooking great meals or the gym. I know. You’re busy, I’m busy, everyone is busy. But can you honestly say you didn’t spend a hour watching tv or scrolling through your phone in the last couple days when you could have been more productive? I can’t.

    -Go to bed earlier and wake up earlier to workout and/or get organized. Realistically I’m not being productive after 10pm anyway. Go to bed earlier, and wake up earlier.

    -Workout at home if you can’t find the time to go to the gym. Beachbody (don’t do the shakes!) has great programs for $100 a year and minimal equipment. YouTube is free.

    1. Violaine*

      Amazon Subscribe & Save has saved me countless grocery trips for household essentials. Could I get it cheaper elsewhere? Probably. But I don’t ever run out of staples like pet food or toilet paper, which has been a godsend.

      1. SoSo*

        Also- buy in bulk for the things you need! We buy our essentials (paper towels, TP, tissues, frozen meat, etc etc) from places like Costco and usually only have to go 2-3 times a year. Then we buy our “specialty” items as-needed from the store, but it always means that we can usually scoot through a couple weeks without having to go grocery shopping if we’re too busy or don’t have the time.

        1. Violaine*

          I am doing what bulk buying I can via Amazon S&S and buying meat en masse/divying it up/storing in a deep freezer, but my current residential situation doesn’t permit for mass bulk storage of the dry goods. :/

    2. SoSo*

      Youtube workouts are a LIFESAVER. I started doing them last year when I had a super long commute and it was a fantastic way to still get some activity in but not have to trudge to the gym at 6 PM. I really like BodyFit by Amy- she’s got a ton of really varied workouts in different lengths (from 10 minutes long to one hour) so you can customize the workouts to your needs.

      1. pmia*

        I’ve found that the later in the day I workout, the less likely it is to happen! It’s much easier to wake up 30 minutes earlier, throw on workout clothes, do a 20 minute workout, and shower.

        1. SoSo*

          Same here! It still sucks, but in the morning it is so much easier to persuade yourself with the “just twenty minutes now and then I don’t have to think about it for the rest of the day” argument.

    3. aelle*

      > can you honestly say you didn’t spend a hour watching tv or scrolling through your phone in the last couple days when you could have been more productive? I can’t

      But also… you don’t have to do it all. If there is a thing that you systematically fail to make time for, maybe it’s not something you actually want to do right now and that’s ok. It’s fine to have a season of your life during which you don’t work out. It’s fine to have a season of your life during which you rely a lot on take-out and instant meals. Or you don’t travel, don’t read, don’t see as many people. If it’s really important to you, you will manage to get back to it when life is less hectic. In the mean time, cut yourself some slack

    4. aebhel*

      Caveat: sometimes you need that hour of downtime. Yeah, I could have been emptying the dishwasher or washing my sheets or working out in the hour I spent watching Preacher last night, but I chose to relax instead of being Productive. That downtime is valuable to me–necessary, actually; I know exactly what happens when I try to optimize all of my time so I’m as productive as possible, and it’s devastating to my psychological health. That’s what I mean when I say I don’t have time to work out or cook gourmet meals.

  13. 123456789101112 do do do*

    I am a working mother with a husband and a five-year-old son. I worked until I went into labor and then took a month off, then went back three days a week for another two months. I am not cut out to be a full-time caretaker and that month off was the most stressful time I’ve ever had in my life. I was so happy to go back to work. As a contractor (though now I realize that I was misclassified), I didn’t have paid leave or FMLA; I am thankful that my job was still available to me when I returned.

    Thankfully, my job situation has improved, as has my husband’s. Daycare was a huge percentage of our income at the beginning but we’ve both risen rapidly and our paychecks have improved correspondingly. One thing we have struggled with is building up enough leave to have a buffer. When your kid is young, (s)he picks up every bug that comes along, but when your career is also young, you don’t have the leave bank to draw from. My husband and I have traded off who stays home, who does drop off and pick up, who goes to the school meetings and early dismissals and teacher training days and ALL THE THINGS that get in the way of a full day of care for our child. We are just now getting to the point where we have a leave bank, and it’s slim and it’s only there because we were able to build up credit time.

    I could tell you about having to pump in an empty conference room because I didn’t have an office and the nearest lactation room was across campus. I could tell you about juggling money to make things work. I could tell you about how he got kicked out of summer camp because of behavior issues and that just suddenly effed EVERYTHING up. But what I want to tell you is that I’m tired. I have it all, and a lot of grey hair. My wish list for being a working parent in America: subsidized daycare, cheaper healthcare, mandatory paid leave, childcare workers and teachers that were paid in their weight in gold, more massages and vacations, and just some flipping understanding from those in power. We make it work but it’s soooooooo hard. I wish I lived closer to my family.

    1. Amanda*

      Costco just started delivery services near us, I guess because we are in their home city. I really hope this goes nationwide. I need to start using it myself, come to think of it.

    2. EddieSherbert*

      I’m not a parent, but I’ve worked in daycare and already told my spouse there’s NO WAY I will ever be a stay-at-home-mom. I know I’d go crazy and be so stressed. I get so many weird looks telling people that – like how would be it LESS stressful if you also work? I don’t know, but it is for me…

      1. Ender*

        Some people are naturally maternal and some arent. I’m the latter type! I enjoyed being a stay at home mother for about a year but after that I was well over it and ready to go back. Sometime the cost of childcare means it’s not really worth going back to work, but in my case I probably would have gone back even if I had to pay more for childcare than I earned!

        1. motherofdragons*

          I don’t think it’s tied to being maternal, necessarily. I consider myself an incredibly maternal person, and I would also hate being a stay at home mom!

    3. Specialk9*

      “My wish list for being a working parent in America: subsidized daycare, cheaper healthcare, mandatory paid leave, childcare workers and teachers that were paid in their weight in gold, more massages and vacations, and just some flipping understanding from those in power. We make it work but it’s soooooooo hard.”


  14. TotesMaGoats*

    My husband and I have been married for 13 years and have a 4.5 year old son. I’m in higher ed and he’s an engineer for a gov contractor. Both very busy. His schedule is far more flexible than mine but I get more mandated days off and snow days.

    I think the one thing that has helped is that we share the childcare burdens. I don’t and have never been the one to do every sick day. We’ve even split days when we both had meetings to attend. I do drop off and he does pick up. There were times when I did both but it was because my schedule and traffic allowed.

    Both of our jobs are equally important. His is not more important because he makes more than I do. We are lucky that daycare is around the corner from our house and his elementary school will be as well. I think that helps a ton.

    Little things like laying out clothes for the week and making lunches the night before make me feel calm and collected. It might seem silly but it works for me. I hate putting together a lunch in the morning.

    Taking time for myself is big. Hubby comes home around 3 and has time to exercise and cook dinner. I get home around 6 and need time to decompress. He gets that. So, I exercise in the morning and take a long shower at night. And me getting my nails done or hair done has never been up for discussion. It’s what a do. A couple times a year I’ll get a massage. He knows that’s important and so we make it happen.

    Talking about…again I think that’s the key. The rest can be sorted via logistics.

  15. Snarkus Aurelius*

    Before I was married, I used to put my bosses and work first. I (falsely) assumed that they would be as loyal to me as I was to them. HA! For example, my coworker wants Jed Bartlett as a boss, but he recently got burned and has dramatically dialed back his efforts and butt-on-line putting.

    Slowly, I started putting myself first again, and being married accelerated that process. I’ve never regretted it because the relationship with my family is sincere and life-long. The relationship with my work is purely transactional. Although work and my husband chose me to be in their lives, I’m far more expendable at work than at home.

    When I had a child, I did struggle to balance work and career. I asked for flexibility, i.e. work from home occasionally, come in late/leave early if needed, etc. My then-boss, was a woman who didn’t have that flexibility 35 years ago when she had a child so she determined that no one else should have it either. That was fine with me, though, because I gave her zero flexibility too. As in, I stopped responding to emails and texts outside of work hours.

    When my boss needed us outside of work hours, she said that was part of our job, but when we needed flexibility during the work day, she ironically told us we were paid to be at our desks from nine to five. Interesting that that flexibility only benefited her and not us. To her credit, my boss stopped making that point after she denied me that flexibility and I stopped giving it to her after hours.

    If you want to bust your butt and sacrifice family over work, that’s fine. But do it because you want to, not because you think you’re owed something or you’ll be recognized for it later. The latter isn’t likely to happen the way you want it to.

      1. Lehigh*

        YES. I have met too many bitter, resentful people who made personal sacrifices for jobs that they expected to pay them back in some unspoken way.

        If you’re willing to make sacrifices, do it for a few months and then ask for the pay or flexibility that makes it not-actually-a-sacrifice. Don’t let it go on for years–in the vast majority of cases, your boss is not going to be loyal to you for something that either (a) nobody asked you to do in the first place, or (b) she asked you to do but already demonstrated she did not value (via the lack of commensurate pay or benefits).

  16. Lupin Lady*

    I have a standing family dinner once a week and a fitness class another day. My work accepts that I need to leave on time those days. I brought up these obligations casually at a time where I was regularly staying late at work, and with the exception of any dire situations, my boss has specifically remembered what day it is and waited to talk to me until this next day. If there’s something urgent I bring my laptop home and address the ONE issue after my obligation.

    I recognize this is a luxury of being in a small laid back company and not an ongoing commitment, but at least one member of senior management is obviously happy when I leave to go take care of myself. (I change into gym wear at work before leaving, but it’s not a lecherous obviously happy). My recommendation would be to advocate for yourself, as scary as it might be. I was definitely nervous asking, but it worked out really well. (Obviously this only works for reasonable people, sad to say)

  17. Regina Phalange*

    I became a foster parent in February of this year. I went from single / no kids / professional at a tech company to a single mom of a one year old navigating the foster care system and working full time. It was no joke. ;)

    I’m handling things decently well (some would say remarkably well). Here are my new habits:

    – I wake up early to have coffee, eat breakfast, check work emails, and take some “me” time before the baby demands to be picked up and “play!”
    – On my way to work (I am in a city), I listen to my favorite podcasts
    – I take my lunch break now, and I use it to blog, respond to personal emails, send updates to caseworkers, etc.
    – While this isn’t an option for everyone, I hired a babysitter to pick the tiny human up from daycare so I am never rushed and the kiddo’s evenings are more normal / consistent
    – I clean up the apartment while the baby is eating dinner, or after she is asleep
    – I wash dishes as I go
    – Once kiddo is asleep, I shower, read for a bit, and go to bed early

    Other things: I essentially gave up TV, as I didn’t have the time and I was too exhausted. Sleep became VERY important. I ask for help when I need it. I also schedule everything early in the morning or late in the afternoon, to minimize time away from the office. I cook soup on weekends in the evening for lunch for the week, and buy a lot of snack foods for myself, so I can grab and go in the morning.

    The biggest lesson has been that self care is HUGE and necessary, and if I am not taking care of myself, I can’t do anything well.

    Hope that helped someone!

    1. Justme, The OG*

      My kid is almost 10 and I still wake up early to have coffee in peace. People scoff at me for waking up so early, but I can have time to myself and get stuff done.

    2. EddieSherbert*

      Not related, but I think that is super awesome of you and definitely marked your blog to check out when I have a chance :)

        1. Regina Phalange*

          Aw, thanks guys! Foster care is an absolute sh*t show, but the kiddos make it absolutely worth it. Feel free to use the contact page on the blog if you have any questions! There’s a lot I can’t post for privacy reasons, but I’m happy to answer specific questions directly. :)

    3. socrescentfresh*

      Thanks for sharing your blog! I’m a prospective foster parent on the opposite coast and reading about other people’s experiences, even in different states, is really helpful.

      1. Regina Phalange*

        That’s one of the reasons I started blogging! If you have specific questions or topics you’d like to read about, please contact me and let me know! :) Good luck with your process! Fostering is HARD, but it’s absolutely worth it!

    4. Business Manager*

      I can tell your blog is going to be a time suck for me because fostering is something myself and my partner talk about doing (we want to be child-free, but are also love children and recognize that there is a need for foster parents).

      1. Regina Phalange*

        There is a DESPERATE need for good foster parents. By “good,” I mean people who won’t abuse or neglect children and who aren’t doing it for money. The bar is set pretty low. I just started a foster care process series to discuss the entire system as it’s a mystery to most, and there’s a FAQ that’s usually helpful. I am always happy to respond to emails and answer questions, too. Truly. Reach out if you have anything specific on your mind! :)

        1. Business Manager*

          That’s awesome! I’m reading chronologically at the moment. We aren’t in a place to start fostering (this is in they hypothetical post-getting married, living in a slightly larger space/settled world) yet but it’s definitely on our minds.

    5. Ender*

      My husband and I would love to foster a kid but the foster care system in my country is crazy. You have to have one stay at home parent to even be considered. I want to foster but I can’t afford to give up my job to do so! Then they are always complaining about how they don’t have enough foster parents – I wonder why?

    6. ch77*

      Thank you for providing this perspective!
      I’ve considered fostering/adopting, and as a single professional with sometimes unpredictable evenings, I’ve been thinking about how to handle the day care pick up. Or maybe going the au pair route (I have a couple of friends who swear by it, and oddly, I do have an extra bedroom, which is quite a blessing).

      Great to hear how you are handling it and read about your lessons learned.

    7. KarentheLibrarian*

      Thank you for sharing your blog! My husband and I are also considering becoming foster parents but have yet to take the plunge. I can’t wait to read about your experiences later tonight when I get home from work.

    8. mrs__peel*

      Thank you very much for the link and the info! It’s something I’ve been thinking about doing myself.

    9. Outside Earthling*

      I have now read your entire blog since you posted this. You are amazing. I am not thinking of fostering but I admire your resilience and kindness, which shine through in your writing, and are inspiring to me. Thank you.

  18. Ann Furthermore*

    I’m almost 4 months into a new job that is downtown, which means a 45 minute train ride back and forth each day. I love it, because it’s time to read and I don’t have to deal with traffic other than the 3 miles between my house and the train station. But it does mean that get home a little later than I used to, although my company/manager is very laid back about schedules and flexing hours, and I do get to work from home on Fridays.

    What saves my life is doing laundry on my work from home day. I sort on Thursday nights, and I wash everything on Friday it and toss it on the bed as it comes out of the dryer, and then do all the folding and putting away in the evening. It’s really nice not having to spend time doing laundry on the weekend. I also do my meal planning on Friday night, and go to the grocery store first thing Saturday morning. It’s nice because it’s not crowded. And then I spend some time on Saturday doing all my meal prep for the next week, like chopping veggies and other stuff. If I have burgers on the menu I’ll mix them up, or if I’m making something like burritos or enchiladas I’ll cook up the filling. Then when I get home during the week the prep time for dinner is minimal, and I’m not rushing around like a lunatic. Those 2 things make weeknights much more pleasant.

    And we are fortunate enough to be able to afford to hire a cleaning service, and I highly recommend this if your budget can handle it. It’s so nice to come home to a clean house, and it frees up time more time for you. I’m also very lucky that my husband finishes work earlier and is home by 4, and is available to help my daughter with her homework, which is nice, because often she’s done with it by the time I get home.

  19. Cheeky*

    I think the most important thing for people to understand and accept is that in our modern, capitalist society, you cannot have it all (what is all?) and that balance is a nebulous concept. It is always a game of compromise, and you have to choose what you’re willing to compromise and what your values are. If facetime with your kids is number 1, maybe you take a less demanding job. If your career is number 1, hire help, find help.

    More globally, we’d all be doing each other a favor if we pressed for more employee rights, laws to strengthen unions, laws to provide basic needs to people like health care, paid family leave, and other pro-social, pro-family, pro-worker laws. Push for laws to end precarious work. Vote for politicians who support these things, vote against politicians who do not.

    1. Liz*

      Yes 1,000x to this.

      We grapple with this on an individual level and of course the individual level is where we have the most control. But it doesn’t HAVE to be this way and there IS something we can all do about it if we work together, vote together, speak together, etc.

    2. SarahKay*

      +1000 to your second paragraph. I’m in the UK, so way better off for those things than people in the US, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be better, even here!

    3. Cat P*

      YES. What do we have to do to get real paid parental leave in this country? Not under this administration… Does anyone know of any groups that are effectively organizing on a local level? Getting state laws passed is probably the first step. Twelve weeks unpaid (which many parents don’t even get) is a horrendous joke. UGH, I can’t even. The only way my husband and I got through the difficult first eight weeks of our baby’s life was because four friends and family members took time out of their lives and flew across the country to help for a week at a time (one of them twice). All women, of course. Because they’ve been there too. We actually had a comparatively good (for the US) situation and it was still really hard.

  20. Writerboy*

    Usually it’s women who struggle with this more than men, but I’m coming at it from a different angle. My wife has a chronic illness and my daughter (now in university) has special needs, so I get/got pulled in multiple directions. I should also say that I work for a large employer in Canada, that is pretty family-friendly as far as workplaces go.

    In the past, when my wife was sicker and my daughter was more needy, I passed up promotional opportunities that would have required me to put more hours in at work, or be on my phone after hours, etc. I made managers aware of my home situation and advised them that I would need some flexibility. For the most part, they were great in an ad hoc, unofficial way. But I was often disturbed to see women take time off (50 weeks at a time) to have two or three babies, and in between babies apply for promotions knowing that their families were not yet complete. To me that’s not fair to either their families or their employers.

    I am a strong supporter of families and firmly believe that parents (fathers and mothers both) should take as much time as they can to bond with their kids, and that they should not be punished for it professionally. But frankly, I also think there is a time to put family first and a time to focus on career. I don’t think either men OR women should be trying to climb the corporate ladder too fast when they are needed at home.

    I’m not sure if that is really an answer to the question, but I guess the bottom line is, family comes first. I could be making about $20K more per year right now than I am, but I chose to put my family first. We all make choices in life, and I’m not saying I should get promoted at work for trying to be a good dad and husband, but I do get a bit bummed that people complain about balancing work and life when they could (in many cases) take a step backward — or even just sideways — for a couple of years until they have a bit more breathing room at home before trying to become Super-manager.

    1. LightFixture*

      As a fellow Canadian (one who is currently on mat leave) I strongly disagree with your point that women should not apply for promotions/“put their families first” between mat leaves. I think that is astonishingly sexist and also rude. Because a woman wants to have a family she should forgo all career advancement for approximately 1-7 years? (Depending on number of kids, spacing, etc….?)

      For me being on mat leave (I’m on month 10) has actually given me a lot of time to think, and has clarified my career goals/career path for me a lot. I’m going back feeling more driven and with a lot of clarity on the direction I want to go. I’m not going to sit around and let that energy fizzle, purposefully holding myself back because I might want another kid in a couple years.

      Besides this, there are also logistical problems to your suggestion – what if someone WANTS to get pregnant again, and tries unsuccessfully for several years…. is she supposed to just put a pin in her career for that period of time? What if she can’t get pregnant again, and had also staked all career growth during that time?

      This obviously hits close to home for me, hence the strong response, but ugh…. I just feel like women can’t win here.

      1. writerboy*

        As a man, I probably would have also put all my ambitions on hold somewhat if I was planning on having 3-4 children. In fact, I put them on hold for my one child and for my wife. Other men might not do that, but they probably should.

        1. LightFixture*

          A fine choice for you, perhaps, but dictating what others “should” do is what I am objecting to.

          1. writerboy*

            Fine, but I never intended to make it about gender, and I’m sorry that it came out that way.

      2. Anonymous 864*

        I came here to say everything that you just articulated much more thoroughly and eloquently! +1.

      3. namey name*

        Completely agreed. I had a pregnancy perfectly timed for work, and miscarried. Never making that mistake again. Work can figure out how to cover things.

      4. aelle*

        I was in fact in this situation. I found out I got a promotion on the same day I miscarried my first (planned, very wanted) pregnancy. It took a couple of years before I had a full term pregnancy, and I am so glad I didn’t put my career on the back burner in the mean time. I would have gone back to a very different environment had I not established myself as very capable and very valuable before going on maternity leave.

        I’m not sure what my boss’ reproductive history is, but I know she is an adoptive mother. By God, she gets it. I am so glad I work for her.

    2. Temperance*

      So, as a man, you got to make that choice. Good for you.

      What you’re advocating here is for all women who want children or have children to step back in their careers, permanently impeding their career trajectory. Your country offers paid parental leave as a benefit, and it’s silly to suggest that women should be punished forever with less career success because they have babies.

      1. writerboy*

        I’m advocating for all PEOPLE, men or women, who want children to step back in their careers. If that permanently impedes their career trajectory, then that’s a choice that individuals have to make for themselves and their families, but it’s not just about women.

        1. Blondie*

          If that’s true why weren’t you “disturbed” by men applying for and taking promotions when they are part of a growing family?! You singled out women, particularly women on maternity leave.

          Your comment was outrageous and sexist. Period.

          LF is right when she commented “women can’t win here”

          1. Kay*

            This. Also, a very high proportion of managers (esp sr managers/C-suite) have kids (just because they are generally older – and yes, I know there are many childfree 30/40/50 somethings as well). If you insist that only people without kids can apply for promotions, you’re going to start having problems finding enough managers/directors/VPs quickly.

        2. Earthwalker*

          Good to know there are guys like you. It’s hard even to imagine a workplace today that’s fair for both men and women, singles and families, so it seems like no perspective is right. But I take it as a good sign when men step outside the old fashioned box in whatever direction seems right to them.

        3. Kj*

          But as a woman, I’m the one who carries the pregnancy, deals with the physical and psychological costs of pregnancy, labor and delivery, and breastfeeds the child. My husband can’t do any of that. And my career, in your world, takes the hit for it. Men don’t have to do all that to have a baby. Women generally do. Look, I don’t think you mean to be sexist, but reality is, women have to do more to have a kid. My husband, after the child is concieved, can have the level of involvement he wants to have. But I have to attend endless doctors appointments and go through labor and take the physical hit. Not to mention the hormones. Canada promotes women’s right to take time off and supports women. That is awesome. I wish I got that level of support. You suggesting women take a career hit becuase they want a kid is pretty terrible. Becuase the burden falls on women, not men. Few men will take that hit at all. I’m sorry you feel put upon, but you don’t get to advocate for women to take a career hit for having babies. It is sexist, even if you don’t mean it to be.

    3. Christine D.*

      I read your first paragraph and felt a fondness for you. Then I read your second and got enraged. It’s exactly that type of thinking that ensures that women will always be worth a little less than men in the working world. It’s nice that Canada gives you 50 weeks of paid time off, but in the U.S. that exact same mentality exists towards women who *gasp* take 10 weeks of unpaid time off after having a kid. That it’s unfair to the company and that women should have to “pay” for it in the long run.

      I hate to break it to you, but only women can have kids. And unless you want a world where we just stop having them (therefore, no future nurses or construction workers, etc), we should start enabling and celebrating the women who give a tremendous sacrifice to have one. My husband had it EASY after the birth of our two kids. Yes, he helped with diapers and feedings. But I was the one with hormones coursing through my body. I was the one pumping 3 times a day to build up a back-to-work stash in addition to regular nursing sessions 5-8 times a day. I was the one recovering from a major abdominal surgery (c section), while still expected to be nearly 100% responsible for this helpless newborn after my husband went back to work (after a whopping 5 days each time). I was the one who was waking up for midnight (and 9 pm, 11 pm, 3 am, and 5 am) feedings. And I was the one who had to go back to work after 12 weeks, while still in a hormone/lack of sleep induced fog and expected to be back to normal because I had “been gone so long”. REALLY dislike comments like yours.

  21. Somesome*

    I work in a marketing agency and I do 45-min commute, shared custody of my kid (1 week out of 2).

    My key is to over-plan everything. Every time I have a deadline, I check to validate if it’s possible considering my schedule (pro and family). By looking at everything far in advance I can almost make everything work, I rarely have to work overtime and I don’t have to cut in the time with my kid. It’s not easy and it takes a work environment that understands your situation too.

    Another key is to perform a very efficient 40 hrs workweek so that when you need adjustments to fit your family schedule it’s easier to get a yes. I’ve seen myself get approval for time off that other didn’t get because my boss knows I work hard and I meet every deadlines I commit to.

  22. Birch*

    How do you convince yourself it’s okay to have children in the first place? I desperately want to start trying for children in the next few years, but I also don’t feel like I’m exactly a model human being on my own (although I do try my best and get great feedback at work, can hold down friendships, etc.). How do you tell yourself it’s ok to move into that phase of life when you’re not perfect at the non-kid life? Isn’t life with kids 1000% more difficult? I’m already tired and overwhelmed half the time–I’m imagining having a total breakdown lying on my living room floor in a pile of screaming babies in a dirty house while my boss fires me over email. Plus the guilt–I’m an early career academic, so if I go on maternity leave in the middle of the project it feels like jumping ship and failing to do what I was hired for.

    1. Emi.*

      So I don’t have personal experience to offer, but my father is an academic who had kids young while doing a PhD and he says it helped him a lot because it made him want to be really focused and productive so then he could go home to be with his kids, instead of goofing around late into the evening/night (and then spinning out their degrees for years) like a lot of the other people in his program. I’m not sure how much this applies to academic work after you graduate, but I gather a lot of the research is similarly unstructured/self-motivated so hopefully it helps at least a bit!

    2. savethedramaforyourllama*

      I feel ya – but I think most people’s capacities rise to the level of the challenge. Here’s an analogy… I am a girl who LOVES her air conditioning, I hate being hot. So if I travel to Cambodia where its 85 degrees and 95% humidity I am going to be pretty uncomfortable. But if I live there for a bit, I’m going to acclimate. So I think most of your worry is at least partially unnecessary because your level of resolve will adjust to the challenges of your post kid life (not saying it will be super easy, but that you will have the ability to manage it).

    3. Trig*

      The secret is: No one is perfect at non-kid life. No one is completely prepared for life with kids. There’s no perfect time to have a kid, and no rule that you have to have succeeded with an A++ at life before you’re allowed to have kids!

      Me: I’m busy and lazy and selfish and exhausted all the time and sometimes resent my dog and cat for the attention they want (and rightly deserve) and just want to lay around reading a book and eating ice cream all day. And despite evidence to the contrary, I certainly don’t feel like I have all my sh*t together. I feel like I just finished university and am 22 years old, even though I’m actually 31 with a career and spouse and savings and disposable income.

      And here I am, ‘ready’ to have a kid! Pretty sure it’ll still be busy and lazy and exhausting and whatnot, just in a completely different way. And it’ll be crazy at first, and then it’ll become the new normal, and life will go on and I will be neither a perfect person nor a perfect parent, and that’s ok. I will still try to find a way to read books and eat ice cream all day sometimes.

      The most important thing, I think, is if *you* want a kid, which it sounds like you do. You’ll make it work. Second, if your financial situation is such that you can afford daycare without eating only rice, because kids need vegetables. Other than that? It’s ok if you don’t have 100% of your sh*t together. No one really does.

      1. blue canary*

        THIS. I’m 36 with two kids and a career and often find myself wondering when I will feel like An Adult. I don’t know a single person who feels like they have it all together. The thing with having kids is you have to be able to accept that your time is never completely yours anymore. Every decision now has to account for another tiny dependent person. Like I no longer have hobbies. But my kids are still small and someday I will write and bake again and will probably miss the days when I got up 45 times during dinner to get things for small people. (I doubt that.)

      2. Parenthetically*

        Yep, this. Having a kid made us step up our game on a lot of stuff, but we weren’t “ready” for it. You don’t earn a certain number of merit badges and then get qualified to have a kid or something. You look at the sacrifices with your eyes wide open, realize you’ll still never get what it’s like until you do it, and then you either take the leap or you don’t!

        One of my friends has a coffee mug that says “World’s Okayest Mom,” and I thing that basically sums up my parenting philosophy. The only thing better than “good” is “good enough,” right? My kid is fed a reasonably varied diet, clothed, snuggled, and DEEPLY loved. He has a couple of toys, and I mostly manage to get the pieces of dryer lint and three-day-old bits of scrambled egg he found under his high chair out of his mouth before he swallows them. I’m trying not to make the same mistakes my folks made, but that just means I’m going to make different mistakes, and that’s ok.

    4. Lynca*

      There are no perfect parents. That’s the mantra to remember. But I get the part about how do you deal with it when you’re already tired/overwhelmed. For me I learned how I cope best and what I need to do to manage the stress in my life. It’s not a 100% fix. Something will always happen to tire/stress you out in a new way.

      I’m still tired/overwhelmed/struggling with PPD but I am happy. Also don’t be afraid to ask for help. Everyone needs it.

    5. Girl Alex PR*

      Honestly, having kids improved my life so much! They made me a better human being and worker. I’m more organized, driven, and I have more motivation to work hard, work quickly, and not mess around.

      I’ve had the total breakdown in a pile of dirty clothes while the kid screams (luckily without being fired). But you get over it. There are days I am a fantastic mother, and days where I probably suck. Too shoutey, too tired, too mean. I remember calling my mom crying because I couldn’t breastfeed and I thought my baby would think I didn’t love her. I still remember my mother’s soothing voice say, “You could feed her only mashed potatoes on a spoon and she would know you loved her.” Love is enough. For your baby, you will be enough.

      That doesn’t mean it won’t be hard, or the days won’t sometimes suck. But if you’re able to financially support a baby (I say this only because having financial stability is what helps alleviate so many of the stressors I have faced as a parent), I would go for it.

    6. Snark*

      I would love to reassure you, and I don’t think your worst case “breakdown in the living room” scenario is totally likely, but….uh…’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, if I’m being honest about it I have significant regrets, and I feel like I f*ck it directly up on the regular.

      But therein lies the silver lining: EVERYBODY feels this way. Everybody steps into the busy street that is parenthood and gets run down instantly by a hurtling dump truck of events. You slowly regain your equilibrium, you muddle through work, you go to the garage to primal scream a few times a week, you get through it. And then all of a sudden they’re four and can dress themselves.

      1. AdminX2*

        I think we shouldn’t suggest this is actually universal. We KNOW some parents should not become parents, are mistreating and neglecting their kids, and it’s exceedingly wise to check your own self capacity to not just give the basic survival needs, but actual emotional growth with as little baggage as possible.

        “No one knows how to parent, but you figure it out” just isn’t true. Plenty of parents figure it out enough to not get the cops called, but still end up doing plenty of damage.

        Which doesn’t mean I think that applies to OP here. Simply that it is a more complex question and not having kids is absolutely the best choice for a LOT of people.

        1. Snark*

          Oh, of course, yes. My post was directed at someone who wants to be a parent and seems to have the self-awareness and ethics to want to do the job right, not to the general public. My point was more that, even if you’re stoked to be a parent and are emotionally equipped for it, you will still get boofed by the first year or two, and to expect that.

        2. aebhel*

          This is true, but it sounds like OP is more concerned about failing to be *perfect*, which nobody is. To a great degree, this is a matter of self-assessment, which isn’t easy–but there’s a difference between ‘I’m worried that my house will be a disaster and I won’t know how to soothe my baby when she cries’ and ‘I’m worried that I will hurt or neglect my child because I can’t control my temper/manage to keep myself fed.’ The former is something every new parent has to contend with. The latter is probably an indication that now is not a good time to reproduce.

    7. Red Lines with Wine*

      You make the choice because you want to, not because it’s a good time. There is never a good time. Life at first with a baby is harder (not 1000% harder), but it all gets easier as the child grows up. If you’re already tired and overwhelmed, you might benefit from talking to a professional about managing anxiety. From personal experience, adding a kid into the mix only makes the anxiety worse. With the right mix of pills and skills, I came through the first 6 months after my son was born without injuring anyone, which I am so thankful for. The house was a mess, but you get help. Focus on the child; they’re only that little once.

      For your job – they’ll get over it. They will manage. They have to. Forget about them.

    8. CaliCali*

      So I’m now a single mom, which was definitely not my plan. Having a son gave me focus — he put things into perspective for me. Whenever I’m trying to consider a choice or set of choices, if I come back to “what do I think is ultimately best for him,” and being HONEST about that, I gain clarity. Also, life honestly isn’t 1000% more difficult — it’s just a new series of challenges. When you’re intentional about it, your entire mindset shifts.

      And really, it’s OK when you want it to be OK. Parents are humans; we’re flawed before and after. I think one of the greatest fallacies we subscribe to as a society is that we’re only due the “rewards” when we’ve achieved some sort of ideal. But the nice thing about love is that we’re all inherently worthy of it, and the sharing of love between a parent and child is an incredible gift that you can both give and receive, should you choose. The fact that you’re thoughtful shows you’re up to the challenge of it all; don’t rob yourself of joy because you feel undeserving. You deserve it.

    9. EddieSherbert*

      No kids here, but I’ve learned that no one knows what they’re doing. It was probably the biggest surprise to me when I got my first professional job/friends who were in their 30s, 40, 50s, and had children.

      Making total generalizations here that are SO not applicable to every person/relationship – but to give examples, I distinctly remembering being so surprised when I learned several women I work with still have to leave “honey do” lists for basic things for their spouses, or that this “nerdy” family plays Dungeons and Dragons with their 8 year old now rather than giving it up, or this family eats popcorn for dinner on Thursdays because they don’t have time for real food and the kids LOVE it, or this person’s kid’s favorite snack is room temperature canned green beans because sometimes she didn’t have time/energy to make a snack for the kid and they ate that….

      Let me say it again – no one has mastered it :)

      1. BB*

        Looking back, little things like that are what fond memories are made of. I didn’t know that my mom fixed me breakfast for dinner because she was too overwhelmed/tired to do anything else, and breakfast food was fast and easy. All I knew is that I loved it. I didn’t understand that when my dad brought me to work with him and shoved me in the corner of his office that it was done out of necessity/desperation. I just knew that we did that sometimes and I enjoyed reading quietly, so why not be in my dad’s office?

        Things that look shameful and inadequate from an adult perspective are often perceived quite differently by children. Many times the kid thinks it’s great fun while the adults are just trying to get through the day with nobody dying.

    10. Carrie*

      If it is in a few years, think about what would make you feel confident and try to plan how to get there. Start looking at what is causing the being tired and overwhelmed. See if there are things you can do now to make things easier later, like setting aside some money every month for childcare or things like that. Or figure out if you can front load things now. Honestly, just keeping a to do list (and when I have a lot to do or haven’t been motivated, literally scheduling my day and then writing down how it actually goes) and making a habit of looking at it did wonders for me.

      As far as work and guilt, that will all work itself out. Do your best to advance in your career, because the further along you are in your career the easier it will make things, but don’t worry about leaving in the middle of things. Life happens sometimes!

      But basically see what you can do to make yourself feel more prepared.

      1. Carrie*

        That, and actively decide what your highest priorities are and what you are willing to let drop.

    11. Specialk9*

      “I’m imagining having a total breakdown lying on my living room floor in a pile of screaming babies in a dirty house”

      Haha yeah that’s actually remarkably spot-on, but also that’s not all the time, for most of us. (But it is usually some of the time!) Though I’d add some parental yelling then guilt.

      1. Birch*

        Haha well I fully expect that to happen for real at some point! I just hope I can get back up afterward.

        I’m actually so curious to see what kind of parent I’m going to be. I was screamed at as a child and it gave me a huge fear of raised voices, so I can count the times I’ve actually yelled in my whole life on one hand. My partner is very similar but for different reasons, so our “fights” have mainly consisted of us crying together and then snuggling. We’re huge softies. :)

        1. Specialk9*

          Check out some blogs on positive parenting. It is based on understanding child development and what is possible, then finding kind respectful ways to interact. Firm boundaries, stated calmly (“I will not let you do X”) are a big part of it, as is physical affection. Janet Lansbury’s No Bad Kids really helped us. She suggests imagining being a calm, collected CEO.

    12. aebhel*

      I think the idea that you have to have all your sh*t together to become a parent is a myth. FWIW, my first child was conceived when I had just finished grad school, was cobbling together a couple of part-time jobs into 45-50 hours a week, could not keep the house clean or edible food on the table. 5+ years later, she’s happy and healthy, her little brother is happy and healthy, my house is not as neat as it probably could be but it’s liveable.

      Having kids IS hard, but it also teaches you–forces you, really–to prioritize. If it’s something you want, then go for it.

  23. Rachel in Non Profits*

    We have 2 elementary school students, a business we own and 2 outside jobs between my husband and I. We are always working toward healthy balance. Here’s a few things that help us:
    – short to no commute. I live close enough to work to walk and he is usually working at a location within 15 minutes.
    – we each work 30 hours/week at our day jobs and co-lead our small business. The decision to work no more than 30 hours a week was tough because it eliminated some choices, but I believe it is the Cornerstone to our healthy balance.
    – We strategically started this business (providing care to adults with disabilities) so we could work in our home with our children. It provides more than enough income to make up for working 30 hours a week in our field and we very rarely have to pay childcare costs.
    – very specific lists of who handles which duties at home, which we revisit every year.

    I want to put in a plug for: “Welcome to, the cyber home for fathers and mothers who have made (or wish to make) a conscious decision to share equally in the raising of their children, household chores, breadwinning, and time for recreation.” this book and website were very helpful to us when we first got married and tried to juggle our careers and kids.

  24. Bostonian*

    1) Make every minute count.

    2) When you’re juggling a lot, one of the balls is going to drop. Just don’t keep dropping the same ball.

    1. Justme, The OG*

      Although if you do keep dropping the same ball, maybe it’s one you can take out of the rotation. Depending on what it is, of course.

  25. Competent Commenter*

    Best thing I’ve done is start getting up early with my husband who now has a long commute. If I’m up at 5:30 am I have time to do fun things and/or do chore-related things. I have worked in my garden, gone running, bought groceries, made dinner, paid bills, cleared out my personal email, etc. Then my evenings and weekends are way more chill. I particularly enjoy doing gardening projects this way because it’s still cool outside, and an hour here and there really add up to some results, whereas on the weekends I’m so bummed if I only get in an hour or two. Also I love having dinner made or at least partly set up. I just hate having to come home exhausted and then start dinner.

  26. High Score!*

    I was a single mom of 2 for a long time. One thing I did was make the kids help. And I didn’t jump to do everything for them. If they had a school problem, before I stepped in, I’d ask then questions like what do you want to happen? How do you think is best way to go about it? Would taking to friends/peers/teacher help? Letting them solve problems themselves taught them problem solving skills and drastically reduced the time I needed to spend at school. Shamefully, if I had to work and kids were sick, I sent them to school anyway, which is why companies should give parents sick leave…. I made chore time into game time when possible. I took advantage of free fun like the park, museums and libraries. I tried to take jobs with flexible hours and left my kids home alone way younger than I wanted. Today, they are happy, strong resourceful adults, so hang in there and stick together when things are tough.

  27. Emi.*

    How … how crazy would it be to get a nursing cover and pump on the metro/bus? Asking for, uh, a friend.

    1. mamanai*

      A) Pump or nurse wherever the hell you want.
      and also
      B) Most pumps need to be plugged in; most pumps are kind of heavy and awkward to hold in your lap–if you even get a seat; in my experience there is at least thirty seconds or so where nipples are exposed while you get yourself all hooked up; trying to get flanges off while not spilling the pumped milk bottles or dripping milk everywhere would be 5x trickier on bumpy public transit; and many of us need a modicum of privacy to start & sustain the letdown reflex. So the logistics of public transit pumping seem overwhelming to this commuter and former pumper.

      But again, if you can make it work for you, zip on on that hands-free pumping bra and go for it!

      1. Emi.*

        I’m definitely in agreement with A), it’s just the B) I’m worried about. (DCUM is telling me this is totally insane.) I commute out of the city so it’s super uncrowded (everyone has a seat and a seat for their bag most days), fwiw.

        Do you think it would be possible to get all hooked up under a cover (maybe the kind with a stiff part in the top so you can see down it)?

        1. Knittr*

          I used to pump in my car on my commute, so I can tell you it is definitely possible to hook up under a cover with a hands-free pump bra. Make sure your pump has a battery option available. I was able to use a 12v adapter to plug mine in but I assume you don’t have that option on public transit.

          Have caps ready to seal the bottles and carry a small towel in your bag to catch any drips. So the way I did it was 1. When done, shut off pump. 2. Wait for red light or good place to stop if driving. 3. Detatch bottles and cap tightly. Shove towel under pump flanges so any drips get caught. 4. Unhook pump stuff and shove in large ziploc baggie for washing later. 5. Put milk away in cooler baggie.

          1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

            I haven’t had this experience but could someone get hooked up (say in a one stall bathroom near the train stop), sit/pump/ride then unhook at the destination also in a bathroom or other spot? Is it feasible to walk a little ways with the pump on or would that lead to massive spillage issues? I assume you could turn off the pump but leave it attached for this to work. Seems like it would minimize flashing or bumpiness issues. But I don’t know if it’s feasible…

            1. Lynn*

              You could feasibly unhook the tubing from the nipple flange thingys. There would likely be some dripping milk, but it should work. I’d suggest a few trial runs at home to see if it works for you.

        2. Lizzy Lifting Drink*

          For the record, everything is totally insane to DCUM folks ;-)

          Do what you need to do!

          1. Emi.*

            Yeah someone compared it to peeing in a bottle on the metro, but lots of more reasonable-sounding people say it would be totally impractical.

        3. MBA RN*

          I get hooked up under a cover with a hands free bra in my car before driving. I wouldn’t have tried it on a bus in my first few months of pumping but now that pumping is old hat, I could probably pull it off. I’m going to have to do it on an airplane soon so . Many women swear by freemie cups or the Willow pump for more discreet pumping

        1. Specialk9*

          I would never have been able to pump in public, except for Freemies. The regular setup: sports bra with holes to hold a cone in place, attach a big bottle to that (all straight out in front from your nipples), and tubing to the pump. Yeah you can put a scarf over, but AWWWKKWWWAAAARRRDDD!

          With Freemies, you just slip the round boob-shaped collection cups in your bra, snake the tubing up your shirt, and pump.

            1. Specialk9*

              I think so (plus sized DD here), so long as you find a bra with some stretch in the cups. (It’s a breast-shaped cup that fills up with milk so it has to have a certain depth.) You’ll look a bit bustier, but most people won’t really be looking (a new mom is often pretty busty anyway), and it’s not on all day (though it feels like it is, sometimes).

        2. WorkingMomof4*

          They make pumping bags (Sarah Wells is a good brand) that can store a breast pump, keep milk cold, and keep a laptop/personal items. That way you only need to bring one bag with you on the commute, and the pump is hidden away.

    2. AnonHR*

      So I’ve done this, but set up can be tough depending on how … er… endowed you are. If you have the space (or better yet a bag your pump fits in) it’s less awkward than you think.

      I found that if I had everything connected and then just did some strategic adjusting of my nursing top under the nursing cover it did in a pinch, just be careful when detaching the bottles and have your caps ready to go.

    3. JerryLarryTerryGary*

      Not a bus, but at one point I regularily pumped on the 50 minute drive to pick up my baby. Definitely helped my emotional management when I kept arriving to learn the baby had recently had a bottle.

    4. NL*

      I don’t think it’s totally crazy! Depends on the metro/bus. If it’s a pretty smooth ride without lots of people, it might be fine. I have used a manual pump under a nursing cover to pump on a train (Amtrak) and on an airplane. I didn’t wear a pumping bra, either; I was able to make it work with a regular nursing bra. In addition to the nursing bra, I think a shirt that is easy to adjust for pumping was helpful.

    5. MLRB*

      Mom of a 10 week old here whose been pumping at home for the last six weeks with the Medela pump in style and who rides the bus regularly.

      This would be crazy with a regular pump. The actually pumping part would be fine but getting yourself hooked up is not super easy and it’s not something you could hook up in the bathroom and then board the bus and pump on the ride.

      I can see how this works in the car but I can’t see how you could do this on a bus, though I know nothing of the discreet pumps that go in a bra, just the regular ones with lots of wires and flanges and stuff.

      Now nursing on the bus (if that’s how you are going) would be a breeze (especially with a warp carrier).

  28. Buckeye*

    Routine, routine, routine!

    I’m a full time working mom of a two year old and six week old. It’s important to me to have stabilizing tasks that I do everyday no matter what, so that I can cling to them when everything else is a roaring dumpster fire. Plus, each day is a new day to try again in the areas you feel like you’re failing at. If you don’t make it today, you get a fresh opportunity tomorrow.

  29. Anon, Anon*

    Although you can’t know until you face it, think about whether you are willing to step off the fast-track. That goes for having kids, yourself getting a chronic illness, very large continuing family obligations (for instance, a parent gets Alzheimers and you are the person best situated to address it). For myself, it was my child’s very serious illness. Took about ten years for a new drug to come around that addressed most of the illness. I went on leave (paid and unpaid) and halftime work at various points (expensive, because in addition to the loss of income there’s the cost of lost benefits: health insurance, retirement, and so on). Equally as important, I stepped off the leadership track at work — it took quite a long time to get my boss to agree to let me do it, and even after the time commitment of dealing with my child’s illness cut way back, I have not been able to get back on that track. (I’m the go-to person to pick up those leadership roles when someone goes on leave, but I have to give them back when the person returns.) I don’t regret making that decision, but it has hurt my career (and cut the amount I could have had for retirement).

    The decision made sense for our family — I was the best person to deal with everything, in terms of personality and for financial reasons: my partner has always earned more than I do, and has a very nice, fulfilling, and exceptionally secure job with regular raises and promotions. Hard not to resent it sometimes…

    Anyway, you can’t know what will happen. My situation was completely unexpected. But it can help to give this possibility some thought ahead of time. And maybe plan savings accordingly, if at all possibly.

    1. Anon for work-life balance*

      This is very important–sometimes there are things that can’t be anticipated.

      I was a pretty aggressive saver for a very long time, on entry-level salaries and grad student stipends. My husband and I lived in a tiny apartment, and paid off student loans.

      And it was a good thing, because first I had a terrible year with chronic illness, and then years later had a child with health issues. If we’d had to manage those things with the amount of student debt we were carrying, it would have been very stressful.

      Also: there are going to be circumstances in which one partner’s career may have to take precedence over the other’s. My husband and I used to earn similar amounts, and there was a period in which I earned more. But the health issues started to come at a time when my husband made significantly more–but not so much that we could have afforded to have the kind of paid caregiver support that would have meant both of us could work full-time.

      There are also fields where people are on call even when not at work, which can work fine when there aren’t any kids. (I used to be the “always on” partner in my marriage.) But once there are kids, one person’s last-minute overseas business trip is going to place a burden on the other partner, unless there is another caregiver who can pinch hit.

    2. Mel (Cow Whisperer)*

      I had never, ever wanted to be a full-time SAHM. I enjoyed teaching and figured that I would be at least subbing pretty quickly after we had kids.

      That plan completely evaporated when I developed a rare pregnancy complication and gave birth at 26 w 3 days to a snippet of a baby whose online name is Spawn.

      He had a long NICU stay and damaged lungs. I spent 4 months commuting to the level 4 NICU 45 minutes away, followed by 4 months of having a newborn with his own set of tubes, tanks, cords and wires living in our dining room. We could take him out and about for the next two months then RSV season hit and we were stuck inside again.

      I feel like I should be allowed to add “Medical and Scheduling Assistant to Spawn” as a job on my resume (which I won’t) because I got really good at juggling four specialists, one primary care doctor and three in-home therapists around the sleep and eating cycle of a newborn who was on oxygen and a NG feeding tube.

      He’s now 21 months old and I’m finally going to be subbing again in the next few weeks. I’m hoping to sub 3 days a week while Spawn’s with his grandparents who adore him and manage his remaining medical and therapy appointments on the two weekdays.

      I don’t know if I can ever put a teaching/education career back together again – but for me, I know that I was the spouse that had the emotional coping skills to be at home with a medically complicated baby all day. My husband is a great guy and he is a full-partner in caring for Spawn – but I am better at taking a deep breath when all hell breaks loose…again….and moving on.

      I had wanted things to be different – but I made the best choices I could make with the hand I was dealt.

      1. Anon, Anon*

        It *is* a job, isn’t it! Essentially you are a case manager for one patient. (And you left out dealing with insurance companies and billing offices. Aiyeee!)

  30. Sarahnova*

    Working mother of two here. I work 4 days.

    – I chose my career in part for flexibility and self employment opportunities before I ever had kids. (May not be of use for those without a time machine, I know.)
    – Deliberately targeted companies with a good culture around work/life balance. I explore this as much as I can when interviewing and would not take a job at a long-hours culture place unless I was desperate.
    – Outsourcing. Cleaner, handyman.
    – Nannyshare. Makes a nanny financially viable, which makes childcare much more flexible and low-stress.
    – Husband and I stagger our working day somewhat. I leave early and do pickup, he leaves later and does drop-off. We agree to split any emergency days off needed.
    – Lower standards. While my kids are tiny I accept that my career is mostly running in place. I do what I can around the house and try not to sweat the rest.
    – I try to be present wherever I am. When I’m at work I work, when I’m with the kids so is my mind.
    – if I ever feel guilt, I tell myself “Guilt is a useless emotion” and then think about something else.

    1. Too Busy to Cook*

      “– Lower standards. While my kids are tiny I accept that my career is mostly running in place. I do what I can around the house and try not to sweat the rest.”
      This really resonated with me, thank you. :)

    2. Alice*

      I snapped to attention when I saw you’d written “lower standards.” This year I dealt with a series of eldercare crises and went through a drawn out promotion review process. (Everything at my org is drawn out.) I got the promotion, and my boss explicitly said, you should work less (in terms of volume), and even if the quality goes does a little, that will be ok.
      Even with that permission, it’s hard to do in practice.

    3. Sarahnova*

      Oh, and controversial, but: after eight months to a year or so, I’m prepared to sleep train, if necessary. I don’t love it, but it’s over quickly, and I can be a better mother, partner and employee with sufficient sleep.

      I know I can’t have it all, and I’ve more or less made my peace with my compromises. Some days, the goal at work is “nothing actively on fire”, and the goal at home is “everyone fed, no-one dead”. Every day that’s true is a win.

  31. AnonForThis*

    It’s hard. It’s really hard, even without balancing work too.

    The first 2 years with a baby especially – expect lots of emotions and bickering due to sleeplessness, never-ending demands on your time and body and maturity, the adjustment to not owning any of those things completely anymore, and the hit many people find to their libido esp in those first years. But my friends say it gets better after 2 years, and things get back to normal while kids are still in elementary school. (Please let this be true!)

    Strategies I have used:
    *Paying a broke night-owl friend friend to do the night shift with the baby once a week.
    *My husband researched hard on paternity leave, forced the org to actually comply with their deep-buried policy, and actually took it.
    *I worked from home while he was primary care-giver. I had so much to catch up on, but it really helped because of breastfeeding and bc he wasn’t as comfortable alone with a teeny baby. (This is a huge privilege to get to work from home, and I’m both grateful and aware many can’t do this.)
    -We used the company subsidized daycare, and I went over often during the day during breastfeeding, which helped with the emotions.
    -I pay for a cleaner every 2 weeks. (Again, this is a privilege, and many people can’t afford this. If you can, though, consider it hard!)
    *I (female) do drop-off and he does pickup. I read articles about how female pickup really contributes to the glass ceiling, so that was important.
    *We cooked big pots of basic food (chili or beans/rice with tons of frozen veggies) and tried a pre-cooked meal service.

    Now let’s talk TMI…
    -For painful sex, pelvic floor physical therapy (standard for every woman in France and virtually unknown in the US) and a vaginal moisturizer (Good Clean Fun Restore – it’s not lube,
    it mimics normal vaginal moisture so one doesn’t get little tears and discomfort from dryness – I use a small dose every day), and LOTS of good lube.
    -For low libido, I still struggle a lot with this (and I used to be high libido). After almost 3 years it’s marginally better.
    -My guy friend was really honest about the male need to hear about desire even if nothing’s happening. I try to tell my husband that I want him, any dirty thoughts about him, ogle his bum istentatiously, and tell him out loud that I really want to do X with him, it’s only the tiredness getting in the way.
    -We schedule time and unless I’m really hurting I try to stick with it. (Honestly, many days it’s a decision and I catch up … though my OB said that’s true for most women, and the desire-first model is a male one, and kinda sexist). My advice: don’t ever say that to your partner though, about having sex from decision instead of desire.
    -When we have time scheduled, I go, ahem, prepare physically and mentally. I found 2 great vibrators, and downloaded some well written smut to my Kindle (Elora’s Cave is my go-to).

    1. Anonnie*

      Sex going from decision to desire is SO TRUE. So effing true. And that men do not want to hear or know about that is also so, so true. I do not have kids, but between depression and other chronic issues, libido is just not really a thing for me. It’s really hard on my husband. He is very loving and understanding but he has needs too. I never really *want* to have sex, but I decide to and schedule it and honestly we’re both happy. It took me a long time to come to terms with that, and your words on the desire-first model are really hitting home for me. For ages I thought I was broken.

      And yes, lube. There is never any shame in needing lube.

      1. Frequent commenter, but anon*

        *also raises hand*
        For birth control, I had to go from the IUD to drugs for medical reasons, and I had heard that it can mess with libido – but wow, it straight up killed mine. Implant, shot, daily pills… no luck. So we’re at the “scheduled sex” point as well (plus other “intimate” things like cuddling, showering together, or saying sexy things thrown in). Also a difficult and weird switch, that felt unnatural and awkward at first because the desire-first model is SO prevalent…. but it has worked out really well for us; we’re both much happier, and I can genuinely say I’m much happier with my sex life than I’ve been in a few years.

    2. Amanda*

      Your OB is very right! Please read “she comes first” if you want to learn a whole lot more. It’s worth it for the citations alone.

      1. RubyRed*

        This … just all of this … the angelic choir is singing full-on Handel right now …

        I knew life was going to change when our little one arrived but I didn’t know the impact she would have on ALL parts of our life including our adult relationship. Most days, I barely get through the day with my sanity intact and that is with my husband equally supporting our home and family life. Add in the IUD and there is no desire … not even “fun for me”, never mind him.

        I was going to comment to make time for the adult relationship, take advantage of babysitting/relatives/friends so that you don’t loose touch with your SO. Actually get out of the house and do something different than the usual (*cough* binge watching Netflix). Every time he and I make the effort to be “just” a couple for a night or two sexy time happens. In part because I can see the person that I fell in love with again, and part because of decision/scheduled sex.

        Soooooo needed to hear that I’m not the only one going through this …

        1. AnonForThis*

          We don’t talk about this stuff, generally, and so many of us have no idea it’s a thing.

          It was so helpful to have a guy friend who could tell me both that it happened to him and really sucked but got better, but also could give me his male perspective and advice (tell him you want him!).

          But, like, how does one just vomit all this stuff up to a new mom?! Hey, in case your hoo-ha ain’t tingly like it used to…

  32. dmk*

    For a while, my husband and I both worked a substantial distance from our home and had two kids in two different daycares, and it was hard. We split the day – he left early and I handled the morning; he picked the kids up in the afternoon and wrangled them until I got home. We didn’t do much during the week besides go to work, eat, and sleep. We made things easier on ourselves by getting a housecleaner and having groceries delivered, and by minimizing the amount of stuff we were involved in. For me, that meant I rarely stayed stayed near the office for after-hours activities (networking happy hours, panel presentations, etc.) and it was a bigger sacrifice for me, because his job didn’t have those kind of unspoken obligations. Later, we moved our younger child to the same daycare/preschool as our older child, even though it was dramatically more expensive, to save the extra trip across our suburb to drop him off/pick him up, and that helped some, but it was still hard.

    As we’ve both progressed in our careers, we’ve been able to take more steps to make it easier – first, my husband took a fully remote job, which meant he didn’t have his 60-mile-round-trip commute (it was all highway and a reverse commute, but still took him 45 minutes each way). I took advantage of being able to work from home at least once a week, saving myself a 16-mile-round-trip commute (that took me at least 45 minutes in each direction because it was all city streets). Those two things together really made a big difference in the amount of energy we had – we could handle small chores during the day at home and not slog through them at night after the kids were in bed.

    Our biggest, most recent step that has made the most difference for us was that I negotiated full-time telecommuting and we moved to a different city. Obviously, most people don’t have this option, and it does help some – but it still doesn’t resolve everything. We no longer have commutes and our older child is in school – but school doesn’t go all day, so we pay for after care. And she wants to do activities now (dance, martial arts, music), which creates additional challenges. I can see how those challenges will become more acute the older she gets and as our younger child gets into school. And my telecommute comes with an obligation to travel back to HQ regularly, which means I’m gone several days a month.

    At the same time, our kids are both older now and it’s easier for one or the other of us to manage both of them in the evenings so I can do my work travel and so that we can each do professional development stuff – or just go out of town for a weekend with friends. We are each more personally fulfilled (both as to careers and as to our personal lives) and feel less like we are just slogging through each part of our day (slog through work, slog through dinner, slog through bedtimes, go to sleep). I honestly think even if we hadn’t moved, this change would have happened, because as your kids get older, parenting becomes less about keeping your kids alive, and it’s easier to take time for yourself and your career as part of modeling a full life for your kids.

    The biggest piece of advice I have is to be gentle on yourself – that is, lower your expectations. Spend time with your kids, don’t worry about keeping up with the Joneses or the neighbors or whatever. Simplify as much as you can – whether that means outsourcing whatever you can (get a housecleaner, send the laundry out, have your groceries delivered), or reducing the stuff you have to be involved in to the bare minimum. As your kids get older, you can reintroduce activities for you and for them. And find your tribe – whether it’s a local moms’ group or the other parents at your kids’ daycare, or even a Facebook group. Those people are really important to supporting you, or at least just being an outlet for venting.

  33. Girl in the Windy City*

    I don’t have any children, but I am married and we both have a lot of commitments outside of work plus a large dog to care for (and only one car). Staying in balance is hard for anyone, but I’ll piggy back on the commenters who have pointed out that balance is a bit of a misnomer – it’s important to determine what your values are and to be relentless prioritizing them. In the seasons of my life where exercise has been the most important thing, I’ve structured my life around that. In the seasons where work is the priority, I structure my life around that. I always make time for my husband and my dog, but there are also seasons where they are the #1 priority. For others, it might be schooling or something else.

    I don’t think you can “have it all” all at one time – not because you can’t have elements of everything at once, but because something will always outbalance something else in priority. I think it’s about making very clear decisions about what is most important to you in the long term and the short term, being realistic about what you can and cannot do, and making the choice about how you will spend your time. It’s hard to say “no” to things, but it’s essential to maintaining your sanity and growing in life.

    (I admit that this perspective comes from a place of privilege. Not everyone has the options available to them that I do, but I do think the general sentiment of taking control of what you can control and making choices about where to focus your attention is possible for most people – even if only in small things.)

    1. TeacherNerd*

      I think it’s about making very clear decisions about what is most important to you in the long term and the short term, being realistic about what you can and cannot do, and making the choice about how you will spend your time.

      So much this. My husband and I haven’t any children (because of circumstance, not by choice), but we both always prioritized time spent together over time spent at work, with the understanding that there are temporary fluctuations (such as when I attended grad school full-time and taught 2/3 time at two different schools). We also recognize how fortunate we are that we don’t have the financial obligations that come from having children (we’d love to have those obligations), so we don’t have those types of financial obligations, but work stays at work. Period. (I’m a high school and college teacher. No one calls at 11:30 p.m. with life-threatening grammar issues.) A cleaning lady comes in twice a month for the heavy duty cleaning – she’s fantastic and worth every penny.

  34. JJJJShabado*

    I have 3 small children (4, 2 ½ yo twins). My keys to survival was the fact that my job is very understanding about things and that I can do work at night from home (and my wife is awesome). This isn’t to say it’s been all good (my review last year discuss concerns about getting work done/putting enough hours in, which was true because I was very tired from waking up multiple times a night with two babies), but I did better this year.

    The two pieces of advise I genreally have for this is that everyday is your new normal. It’s gets a little easier as time goes on and you adjust. The other thing I say (particular in response to how do you do it) is that you just do it. There really isn’t much of a choice. If it means being up at 3 am with a crying kid, staying up til 1 AM to catch up on work, etc, that’s what happens.

    It has also helps to have structure. I drop the kids off at daycare, my wife picks them up. That seems to help things stay in order. Also, take time for yourself. There can be days where you’re off from work and the kids still go to day care.

  35. Snark*

    Mid-30s married dude with a kid, a 70-minute roundtrip commute, and a strong desire to hike, camp, and be outside, here.

    My general approach is to shunt as much un-fun stuff off as I can: grocery delivery or pickup, shopping online, cleaning service twice a month, we outsource as much as we can afford to. Obviously this is a strategy of affluence and some privelege, but it makes things vastly easier.

    I’m also a big fan of the weekly meal plan and one big shopping haul per week. I have no idea how people find time to go shopping throughout the week.

    We have a date night 2-3 times a month, since my parents live close by and can take the kid for a sleepover. Being able to have a real, uninterrupted conversation with my spouse has been the biggest casualty, because we’re both the sort of person who needs time in their own heads to be sane, and an energetic and chatty 4-year-old doesn’t leave us a lot of that headspace. So we carve out what time we can for each other. I still miss her sometimes, even when we’re coincident in spacetime.

    And, speaking of marital relations, well…..planning and scheduling isn’t just for meal plans and dropping off the kid at school, and that’s what we’ll say ’bout that.

    1. Murphy*

      We do the weekly mean plan and shopping trip as well.

      Also agreed with your last point. Nothing wrong with that!

      1. Snark*

        We mentioned this approach to a friend of ours without kids.

        “Yikes. No spontanaiety at all? That doesn’t sound very romantic.”

        “Neither does celibacy, which would be the alternative.”

        1. Emi.*

          I … don’t really get the “spontaneity” argument. Is going on a date less fun because you planned it in advance?

          1. Snark*

            I think it’s kind of the “I want to be swept up in the beauty of the moment and just let things happen” kind of thing, or something. And I kind of understand not wanting to make it another chore, I guess. But if you can’t make it fun anyway, you’re not trying hard enough. Not to get too TMI here, but the other day my wife came up, bent over, and said into my ear, “Heyyyy….guess what. It’s Tuesday. We gonna bang later,” and smacked my ass. I was not pining to let things happen in their own time, let us say.

            1. Emi.*

              Ah, what these people don’t understand is that the secret to getting swept up in the beauty of the moment is putting the moment on your calendar in advance.

            2. The Sock Monkey*

              Go listen to the song Business Time by the Flight of the Conchords. I think you’d like it.

          2. TeacherNerd*

            It sounds like the implication is that for some people, spontaneous dates are “more fun” than those planned in advance, that fun is relative in terms of planning. (I think of people who just jump in a car with a suitcase and worry about lodging later and assume it’ll all work out. I have a strong dislike for that kind of spontaneity; I want to know where I’m sleeping that night. It’s not a better or worse option, just another way of doing things.)

            1. Specialk9*

              A friend just recently had to adopt her two nieces, because that kind of planning-free spontaneity gets your kids taken away by the courts. Very nice ex-parents, socially, but very decidedly bad at parenting.

        2. EddieSherbert*


          And we don’t even have kids! Just schedules don’t overlap a ton during the week (he gets home when I’m just about to go to bed normally).

    2. Lily Rowan*

      On the grocery shopping front, that’s such a lifestyle thing — I walk past the supermarket on my way home (urban commute, 1.5 miles), so going to buy three things takes less than 10 minutes, and that feels way easier to me than finding the time to make the week’s plan and do a big shop.

      1. Snark*

        Yeah, I have a 35 minute commute to the middle of BFE, and there’s not really a convenient supermarket on the way home.

        Here’s my workflow: I read cookbooks for fun, so as I think “hey, I wanna make this,” I whip out my phone and add the necessary items to the list and update the plan spreadsheet in google docs. This happens throughout the week, a few minutes here or there, usually when I’m drinking a beer after the kid’s asleep. Then, when I have six meals planned, I check out, set a pickup time, and drop by on my way home. Occasionally I will stop by the Mexican or Asian grocery for something special, but the way it works into otherwise minimally productive moments really makes it seem like it occupies no time at all.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          That’s so interesting — it just goes to show there are many ways of “fitting things in”!

        2. Specialk9*

          My strategy is to read a recipe, get all excited about it, then not make it. :D

          Except for risotto or roasts in the Instant Pot. Or kinda most things in the instant pot.

    3. Ophelia*

      ALL OF THIS.
      Also, I’ll add, particularly when kids are little, making sure to create a community of other parents in your kids’ class/daycare/etc is key, because you can put each other on the pickup list, and then if someone is running late/etc., you don’t wind up paying the late fees.

      We also arrange for slightly more childcare than we need (basically, as much as we can afford) so that a logistical snafu in one person’s life doesn’t (necessarily) throw everyone’s week totally out of whack. This got trickier with the arrival of Kid2, but now that we’re almost 2 years in, it’s getting easier.

      When in doubt: scrambled eggs, toast, and fruit are a legitimate dinner.

      Now, if anyone can tell me how to handle grad school on top of it all, I’ll be golden.

      1. Snark*

        Another legit dinner: keep Costco goat cheese logs, frozen naan bread, and miscellaneous cured meats on hand at all times. Arrive home tired and grouchy. Feed child mac and cheese and put to bed early. If feeling fancy, roll goat cheese in herbs and spices. Smear cheese on bread, add pinch salad greens, top with salami or whatever, pour fermented beverages into your head, sigh with relief.

        1. Ophelia*

          Oooh, good call. And yep, fermented beverages of high quality are truly key here (even if I only ever finish half of one before going to bed. Whoops.).

      2. Guacamole Bob*

        +1 to slightly more child care than you need. We’ve had our kids in a couple of different arrangements before this place, which is a daycare center/preschool that’s open 6:30 to 6:30. I don’t think we’ve ever dropped them off before 7:45 or picked them up after 5:45 (and usually it’s more like 8:20 – 5:10), but not having to worry when my meeting is running a bit long or there’s a train delay or someone has an early meeting when the other is traveling is a huge weight off my daily stress.

  36. Amber Rose*

    Oh wow, I remember that comment. Has it been a year? Yikes.

    So I was chatting with someone yesterday about how my job saps the life out of me, I’m so burned out that even just thinking about going home and feeding the cat is exhausting. I don’t even read anymore (my one true love is books), I just sit and listen blankly to music/vlogs until it’s time to go to bed. And the person commented that it’s easier to get things done when you’re busy, which is undeniably true. It’s also undeniable that my job does not keep me busy at all (I mean, I’m here aren’t I?) But I also barely get any time off, just 10 days a year, to refresh.

    Back when I hated my job I was literally fueled by anger and hate and I was full of passion and feelings. Now that I’m meh about my job, everything is just a featureless gray nothing. Even my marriage is feeling it, since he’s picking up the slack and I shut myself off.

    I need to be busy to… be busy, but I don’t have the energy left to be busy after a solid day of staring at a computer screen. It’s a bit of a catch-22.

    1. EddieSherbert*

      I mostly enjoy my job, but I have acknowledged it’s not what I want to do with my life at all, so was feeling pretty “meh” for awhile… plus, I have “slow seasons” that last for weeks (*ahem* I’m monitoring this thread closely today).

      What has helped me A LOT was finding something I really care about and volunteering there. So let’s say I enjoy rescuing homeless llamas. I started volunteering with a llama rescue taking care of llamas for 2 hours one evening a week. After awhile, I offered to help out other ways, and now I do a lot of social media/email coverage for the llama rescue… which can be zero hours one day and then 5 hours another day if I want, and I can dedicate a few minutes here and there during the work day to do those things if I have down time…

      I think my spouse gets tired of hearing about the llamas at home! But is happy I am feeling fulfilled and out of the house doing something at least one night a week.

      I think BOTH the activity (something I’m passionate about) AND *scheduling* it (blocking out the time, I will *not* be home or available during this time, even if spouse is busy and it means we have to pay the dog walker to stop by) where equally helpful to me.

      Hopefully that’s somewhat helpful? I’m sorry you’re feeling lousy :(

    2. Baby Fishmouth*

      Oooh I feel this comment a lot! This was me a little more than a year ago. Part of what gets me through now is making an effort to do things outside of work even if I don’t want to- things that are scheduled, that I can’t miss, but revitalize me. So things like: scheduling classes at a fitness studio (where if I cancel last minute or no show, I have to pay $10-20), volunteering, working a very occasional part time job helping with road races, going to the movies (and buying the tickets ahead of time). I feel so much more energy than I did a year ago, and I think it’s because I’m making an effort to do things.

      It was really hard at first to make myself do anything after work because I was so mentally drained from staring at a computer all day. Like, really really hard. But I started adding things one by one. Find one thing that you think you will enjoy, and try that once or twice a week to start. It really helps.

  37. LSP*

    We all get sold on the idea of “having everything”, especially as a woman, but I think more men are experiencing that as well. The problem is that this idea seems entirely based around having a successful career and being a successful mother, and the idea of a health marriage and self-care never enter into it.

    I’ve worked full-time since my almost-5-year old was born, and it’s a struggle a lot of the time, even with a husband who is an involved father and caring husband. I am fairly successful at my career, but I admit my job is not my main priority. I am now pregnant with my second, and I know it’s going to take some energy I may not have to keep up the level of work I’ve been doing, and I am seriously considering scaling back to part-time after the baby comes.

    Being a mother is a constant struggle of holding on vs. letting go. Like most mothers, I have had to let go of so many ideals about what kind of mother I would be. I’ve had to accept that (especially now that I am pregnant and exhausted all the time) sometimes my kid is getting fish sticks with cucumber slices for dinner, or that my house is just going to be a disaster because I need to just sit with my swollen feet up. Out of all of my friends with kids, I am the only one who works full-time, and most are stay-at-homes. I choose to work, because it fulfills me. I have a friend who is a SAH who for everyone of her daughters’ birthdays, it’s like a Pinterest explosion! I am in awe, but I don’t beat myself up about not painting 27 rocks to look like the heart of te fiti for a Moana birthday, because I am busy managing multi-million dollar government projects instead.

    The most important thing to remember is not to beat yourself up for not doing everything perfect all the time. And don’t judge other parents for their different priorities. The best thing we can do as parents is support one another, both at work and outside of work, and understand that we are ALL just struggling to make it all work.

  38. What's with today, today?*

    I work for a small family-owned radio cluster. Our benefits aren’t great, but they are fabulous about kid stuff.

    Have to leave for a half hour to go get the kids, and then bring them back to the office? No problem! Our office manager has custody of her grandkids and is always having to leave for kid stuff. My husband is self-employed (attorney) so if our 4-year-old gets sick he can stay home with him, but it would not be a problem for me to bring him to work with me.

    Our bosses kids are teens now, but when they were little they were here all summer, every summer. And a co-worker that got his daughter for 6 weeks every summer brought her daily when she was small(also a teen now). We’ve had baseball games in the hallway, and a little romance onc summer (see co-workers daughter and bosses son, it didn’t end well/s).

    I kind of laugh when I see the cringing letters from co-workers about the kids coming in regularly, but we all kind of just let it be here. Of course, I got my start in radio when I was 11. I was the kid running around the station where my Dad worked and they started letting me cut commercials. I was hooked.

  39. lab tech*

    I have three kids 5 and under. My husband works in the day and I work evenings. We don’t have child care or family in the area, so we pass the kids back and forth. It’s easier now that the oldest is in school.
    1. Try to stay organized. Have a paper calendar that stays at home. Make lists of what needs to be done by priority so that they can get passed back and forth between adults.
    2. Function as a team. If you look out for your own interests first, you’ll just fight. It drives us crazy when people talking about my husband “babysitting”. No, he’s parenting.
    3. We prioritized living close to our work to minimize commute time. That makes such a difference.
    Challenges: (a) I didn’t get any maternity leave, even unpaid, so I was back at work a week after giving birth (and answering emails in the hospital). That was hard. Sleep deprivation is hard. Fortunately I had an easy recovery.
    (b) I have to do a lot of stuff late at night. I try to tell myself that it’s a phase, and I’ll be able to switch my work schedule to days when the kids are all in school. My job isn’t what I want to do forever, but I try to see it as keeping my resume going so I can get something better later.
    (c) The guilt is real. No matter what, I feel like I’m not doing well at either parenting or work, or both (usually).
    (d) If something goes wrong–someone’s seriously ill, a parent needs help out of town, etc–it throws the whole system off. We’re trying to get a better support system here.

  40. Grainy*

    I don’t think it’s possible with a 40-hour work week. I don’t have children yet and I barely have energy at the end of the day and my job is not even that demanding. The only solution I see is people organizing and asking for a 30-hour work week or a 4-day work week and not allowing any exemption. Any overtime needs to be very compensated because you can never get your time back.

  41. ragazza*

    Long commute: I’ve got 45 mins to an hour in the AM and an hour on the way home, which I have to drive. I am lucky enough to have enough flexibility to come in at 9:30 and leave at 5:30 or 6, which helps to avoid the absolute worst of the traffic. I also am allowed to work from home one day a week, and if there is snow or other weather that will cause my commute to be 1.5 hours or more, I work from home.

    Still, driving sucks. I take side streets when I can, because while it may cost me a few minutes it’s way less stressful than sitting in traffic on the highway. I also refuse to work in the evenings or weekends (unless it is an unusual situation) and don’t check work email at those times. Again, not everyone is able to do this, but it’s how I stay sane. I also meditate, which helped lessen road rage.

    I earned a master’s degree while working at my current and I did it by sacrificing exercise and social time with friends, because I knew I needed enough sleep to stay on top of everything. I was also very organized with my time, as in “I know I will need one full day complete this assignment, so I will do that on Saturday, because Sunday I do want to have brunch with my friends” or whatever. I did gain a few pounds and felt like I missed out on stuff, but I also knew this wasn’t going to be forever. It would be harder if there was no foreseeable end point.

    1. Pineapple Incident*

      I so feel this one – I finished my Masters in January while at this job, which is about 50 mins. away in the morning and 1:20 in the evening to get home, depending on how bad traffic gets. I have pretty good flexibility at this job though I don’t like the job itself – I can telework when I’m sick but not totally down, or when the weather is bad. I shifted my schedule to 7:30-4 so that I can still get home at a decent hour. I still feel like I’m not giving my full time at work, because we’re short-staffed and some of my colleagues work in the evening, but I wouldn’t sacrifice my remaining health and emotional well-being for that especially since I have stressful health issues. I don’t feel like it’s held against me, which I appreciate. I’m up for a promotion that may make that more difficult, but we’ll see if I even get it.

      It helps that I don’t have kids and my fiance and I’s dog is fairly low-maintenance. But when I was a student, lots of stuff fell by the wayside including exercise, which I’m just getting back to now after having gained a bunch of weight :/ Juggling is hard, something is always getting only half-done.

  42. ggg*

    Both of us work full-time. We have a nanny for our two school-age kids, and a cleaner once a week.

    The big challenge: there is no time left for anything beyond what absolutely needs to get done. Dinner, cleanup, homework review, baths, bedtime. Mornings are similarly regimented. There is no getting ahead. Everything is done just in time.

    People without kids ask me how I do it and I’m honest with them — I just DO IT. Somehow everyone, including me, gets most of what they need, and we are reasonably happy.

  43. Iris Eyes*

    Clearly defined priorities are step number one and then ruthlessly defend them.

    If family dinner is a priority for example then a job that requires a long commute, lots of overnight travel, or late hours is not a job for you.

    Put your time and money where your mouth and emotions are.

    My sister and I have very similar lifestyles (we live together and both have one child in daycare and are single moms with no support from the male half of the parenting equation), I have several months of expenses saved, she has none. Her company is spiraling into chaos (every payday is a game of pay check or no paycheck) and has been a significant source of stress for a long time. She is looking but can’t just walk away from the crazy. Even though she works regular hours her mental/emotional resources for parenting are stretched thin. Just the sense of security that you could walk away from it all at the drop of a hat.

    Pro tip: take into account not just the money in the bank but your credit buffer as well. So say you only have a month of cushion in the bank but you could put another in a HELOC and then another on a credit card if you had to.

    Jobs are about trading time for what money can buy. Is your job worth what you are trading your time for?

  44. GeekChick*

    For me, it took a village and, thankfully, I literally had a village when our youngest (of 4!) was newly born and I was headed back to work.

    1. Solid daycare that can be flexible when you may need to work a little late.
    2. Dog walker.
    3. Cleaning service every 2 weeks.
    4. Household chores for older kids including some meal prep and doing their own laundry.
    5. “Instant food” solutions such as cheese sticks, crackers, carrot sticks, apples, anything the children could get on their own when my hands were already full with nursing or changing the baby.
    5. Husband who also could help with child care/drop-off & pick-up/housework/meal prep/etc.
    6. Most importantly – lowered expectations. As long as the trash was taken out, the dishes were clean, the laundry was clean (might need to find it in the dryer, but it was clean), and everyone was getting food and sleep, NOTHING else mattered for housework.

    It does get better and you find your rhythm for the day-to-day. Before you know it, they’re in school and you look back and wonder how you did it all!


  45. Where’s my coffee?*

    My husband and I both have intense jobs and we have two kids. I’ve tried cleaning services and such but it wasn’t honestly that helpful.

    My best advice is this:
    1. It gets better. Yes they have school and lessons when they’re older, but it all seems more manageable when you’re getting sleep.
    2. Keep dinners really simple.
    3. If YOU are ever a boss/leader in your company, don’t forget to pay it forward by being flexible and reasonable with your employees. I know some industry cultures resist this change, but in many companies, even one or two leaders can really shift a culture.

    1. Murphy*

      Yes. My husband does most of our cooking and he Does.Not.Listen. to your #2. He enjoys cooking and likes trying new things, but there are a lot of “Oh, this recipe took longer than I thought….” or something not going right that increases our stress. I’ve asked him a million times on the weeknights to stick to things he’s made before that he knows are fast and simple so there are no surprises, but he ignores me.

      1. Snark*

        I sympathize with him, as an adventurous cook, but he really needs to rein that shit in. Dinner happened 40 minutes late a few times, and you pay for it.

      2. AdminX2*

        My answer would be to always have frozen pizzas in the freezer. If dinner won’t be done by reasonable time you both agreed on, pizza it is! Whatever he made can be lunches and leftovers.

        1. ggg*

          Lowering dinner standards is a lifesaver. Now that my kids know how to make pancakes, I can set them free in the kitchen one day a week (I still do the stovetop part) and get a few extra minutes to catch up on things.

        2. Grapey*

          +1, if I was in a situation where late dinner would stress me out, I would have easily reachable backups like granola bars. This is why “appetizers” exist in restaurants!

        3. hermit crab*

          I don’t have kids, but I imagine this tip can apply to all ages — get a panini press. My husband and I have sandwiches for dinner probably 4 or 5 out of every 7 nights. There is an endless amount of stuff you can smush between two slices of bread (including “fried” eggs made in the microwave), it takes like 30 seconds and one plate per person, and the panini factor makes it feel fancy.

          1. Koala dreams*

            Oh, another person that like the sandwich maker! I got one as a Christmas gift and I’m using it so often.

            To get back to earlier comments, sometimes I use leftovers on my sandwiches. Stews, vegetables, tofu, cheese, sauce… A lof of things can be put on a sandwich!

  46. JerryLarryTerryGary*

    Daycare was 45 minutes away from home (because otherwise would need to pay for aftercare) and so, leftovers worked for me. I would make dinner after kids went to bed. Dinner would be on the table 5-10 minutes after we walked through the door. Frozen pizza once a week because = no effort.
    Also meant I could play with my kids a bit instead of parking them in front of the tv while I cooked.

  47. Book Lover*

    This has already been said by others above, but my solution (which I recognize is not available to all) is to spend money to gain time. I have someone come in to clean weekly, pool person, landscaper, and I have a nanny morning and evening to help with the difficult times – the getting the kids ready for school and getting them home from school. Then the time I have at home can be time enjoying them instead of stressful or trying to get a bunch done.

    When my first was tiny, I was really opposed to help – I thought I should be able to do everything alone in terms of the actual childcare and that it was wrong to use a daycare or a nanny. It was awful. Now that the kids are older, realistically, I might be able to do without the nanny with family help alone, but it is a really nice luxury and means I don’t have to worry about how long it is taking to get home and can leave early if I feel like it and have a lot of paperwork to do.

    I recognize this doesn’t help people with financial limitations, but for those who just feel they should be able to do it alone but do have the resources, or for those with tight resources but who can spend for a couple of years and save later (as long as you have emergency funds) this is the way to go.

  48. Non-profiteer*

    I’m not in this stage of my life yet, but have heard from multiple other coworkers that one thing to do while you have young kids is to just give up on trying to cook interesting or time consuming dinners. Figure out the 5 meals your kid will eat while being relatively healthy and not hard or expensive, and eat those every week. Makes shopping easier, helps with routine, etc. Your kid won’t suffer from the routine, and you can change things up at breakfast or lunch instead to keep you from getting sick of the same food.

    It sounds really bland to me now as a childless adult, but I totally get the appeal and how this would make lives easier, and how I would stop prioritizing interesting food during my kids’ early years.

    1. Persimmons*

      I’m childfree and I still kinda do this, to a point. Eating a week’s worth of meals that all feature ingredients X and Y is really the only way to use up fresh food without waste. Realistically, I don’t see a way to maintain a healthy diet of mostly produce without just buckling down and consuming it until it’s gone.

    2. Birch*

      I’m currently childfree but my partner and I actually did this while I was finishing my PhD. He can cook a few things well and for everything else defers to me. I am an awesome cook but after spending all day on research I would often just not even have the brainpower to decide what to eat. Then I’d leave it up to him and it would be hours of texts “what do you feel like” “do we have tomatoes” “do you put fresh basil in the lasagna” “should we have bread or potatoes with the fish” and it drove me NUTS. So we spent an hour one Saturday making a list for “Dinners We Both Know How To Make And Will Eat Any Day.” Below the name of the meal I listed all the ingredients needed for it. There’s maybe 10 things and they’re all like store bought pasta bolognese, vegetarian tacos, salad with halloumi, fish with boiled potatoes, etc. I put the list in our shared GoogleDrive. I highly recommend having a version of this list for your house!

      1. Persimmons*

        To clarify, since you’ve mentioned elsewhere that you want kids, “childfree” means you never want any, so there is no “currently childfree”. Childless means you do want them. The goal of the distinction is to be sensitive to the infertile, so I wanted to mention it.

        1. Birch*

          I didn’t know this, thanks for letting me know! That’s interesting. I really dislike the term “childless” because it sounds like there SHOULD be a child here but isn’t, which I think is insensitive to people who want children but for whatever reason don’t have them at the moment (both people like me and also people who have tried). Like, are people who have had many miscarriages forever “childless”? It may be accurate but it sounds so cruel! I think I’ll just avoid both terms in the future.

  49. Nisie*

    I was lucky in some ways. I worked in a dysfunctional job longer than I should have because my asthmatic male boss was primary parent and realized it was hard to be one. I got some flexibility in work from home days and understanding when I was dealing with my daughter’s asthma. He did drop offs as I left to go to work by 6 am, I did pick ups- my commute was 80 minutes one way. My professional life did suffer because I was fried from dealing with the long commute, two kids, diabetes and depression.

    What made it work was hiring help as we could afford it. Grocery shopping, cleaning, child care. Amazon prime was a life saver.

    Currently, I’m a contractor working part time from home on the path to replacing the income I made at work. Life has become as simple as it can be for two kids under 7.

  50. ListCrazy*

    I’m in a typical 8-5 and my spouse is in medicine with long work hours, call shifts, and unpredictable late nights sometimes. Here are some of our tactics, though I warn you that I am already a pretty organized person and this is fairly family-with-small-children centric:
    1. Joint Google calendar. We have separate work calendars/personal calendars as well (I’m an addict, my spouse doesn’t want notifications about every event I put on my calendar but the join calendar DOES send alerts for every new event) This allows either of us to know whether we are available to do an activity, fun or work related. We are not fans of the “wife keeps the calendar, husband asks permission” format.
    2. we have a weekly “logistics” check in over the weekend about the kid dropoffs/pickups (3 under 5 in daycare…$$$) and dinners so that we know our responsibilities. I do 80-85% of the transport, but it’s important to know in advance, especially if I have something I need to get to.
    3. we have go-to dinner options available in the freezer (think Indian curry sauce, frozen veggies, chicken breasts that can be in the crockpot or instantpot) that don’t require a grocery trip. Costco has great prepared meals that can go straight in the freezer for this type of evening as well. We even have a shared Google doc of the freezer contents so that we know what we have (we’re not always the best at updating, but it’s usually 90% correct)
    4. checklist on the backdoor for leaving for work – this is essential right now given that we have an infant and there are so many things to remember in the morning for the infant and our pre-k and preschooler. my laptop/lunch/food for baby/kiddo soccer jersey – it all goes on the post it and/or on the google calendar to remind in the morning.
    5. baby sleeps in daycare outfit for next day. kiddos eat dry cereal from snack cup in van in the morning. shoes and jackets live in a bin by the door to avoid last minute scramble to find them.
    6. I download my brain to Evernote and Wunderlist. My spouse isn’t into those systems, but we have a shared grocery app. All items we need to buy/things that need to happen are captured and are not floating around in my brain to remember later so I can focus on the immediate need at hand.
    7. we are all hands on deck during the dinner/bath/bed crunch time – one of us might be doing dishes while the other is doing bath, or one is doing bedtime with the baby while the other is doing books with the older two kiddos. either way, all that is likely to happen and be done by 8:30-9pm so that we have an hour or two to have an adult beverage/watch a show together/do work side by side on the couch
    8. weekends – at some point my spouse and I will each communicate what is important to us to do during the weekend (workout, go to the farmer’s market, dinner with family, mowing the lawn, etc) so that we are on the same page about fitting that in among the meals/naps/activities we have going on.
    9. as for prioritizing things outside of my family/work – I have a brainstorm of things I want to do (think Laura Vanderkam’s 100 Dreams – she’s an excellent writer to seek out if you want a framework about seeing your weeks) so when there’s an open weekend or weeknight, I can pounce on it.
    10. I watch very little TV. maybe this will be better when the baby gets older, but it’s not in the cards right now.
    11. time with friends- establish a standing date (lunch every second Monday, book club every first Thursday, or poker night every third Wednesday and rotate hosts). avoiding the scheduling aspect allows it to be much easier to plan around and make it actually happen.
    12. commutes – mine isn’t long, but I do a lot of walking/driving to meetings and I am all over podcasts and audiobooks.

    1. Snark*

      Joint Google calendar, departure checklist, and all hands on deck all work for us really well too.

    2. DataQueen*

      Oh my gosh, you’re my organizational idol. I have so many abandoned google docs from attempts to be like you… but maybe this is my motivation to try again!!

      1. ListCrazy*

        ha, I’m sure there are some downsides and that some effort is wasted when thinking big picture, but it keeps me sane and I feel like I do get a lot of what I want out of life (if not daily, but at least on a weekly/monthly basis!) so it’s a system that works for me.

  51. caryatis*

    Time diary. Spend a week or two writing down exactly where your time goes in ~15-minute increments. Then, take a look at that data and figure out whether it accords with your priorities. Eliminate activities that aren’t adding value. Hint: most people spent too much time on commuting, TV, and time with extended family.

    An active commute is also a great timesaver. Why are you sitting on your fat *** for an hour a day and spending money to sit in traffic when you could live close to work, bike a couple miles a day, and, you know, be fit?

    1. PhillyRedhead*

      Why are you so judgmental? As if it’s just so easy for everyone to get a new job closer to home?

    2. Where’s my coffee?*

      Ah, I should just be putting my kids, groceries, laptop and dogs on my bike as I commute to work in the snow for 45 minutes on roads with no bike lanes, as I am working through my morning and evening conference calls. Why didn’t I think of this 10 years ago!

    3. blue canary*

      I can think of a ton of reasons why someone wouldn’t be able to live right next to their job but zero for this unnecessarily mean comment.

    4. Blue Anne*


      You know, I’m busy and fat and spend too much time with my extended family I guess (???), but at least I’m not a jerk.

    5. aebhel*

      SO right. In fact, I think I’m gonna make my kids, aged 1 and 4, bike to daycare every day. I mean, yeah, it’s five miles away down a busy highway with no bike lanes or sidewalks, but why worry about that?

      More seriously, ‘just bike to work, you lazy fatass!’ isn’t just mean, it’s totally impractical advice for most parents of young children, even those who live in a walkable metropolitan area. So, you know, maybe this wasn’t the right forum for it.

  52. Kathy*

    Ahahhh I recently decided to go back to school to finish my degree while working a full time job. I don’t have kids and I’m not married, but I do have a roommate who is working two jobs while also going to school. I struggle with anxiety and panic disorder as well as mild depression, he struggles with depression and mild anxiety. Basically, we cry a lot. I’m mostly joking, but also kind of not, but for real, the balance thing is f’ing hard.

    What personally helps me is a schedule, and flex hours at work. We’re 8-5, but since my boss was the one who was pushing me to finish the degree, I asked him if I could do 7-4 and he okay’d it. That one hour in the afternoon makes SUCH A DIFFERENCE. I hit the books by 5 and take a break every hour on the hour for 10-15 mins until about 9, 9:30P. That schedule helps me out tremendously. I used to be a more absent-minded study-er and you can’t do that with online classes. There’s no set time I have to be online, but at the same time, I still have firm deadlines and I can’t afford to procrastinate like how I did in college anymore. There’s no, “I can do this in the morning, let’s sleep.” In the morning, I have work.

    Since I’m not married and don’t live with my bf, it’s easier to balance my relationship; we just spend the weekends together. But I imagine that if we were living together, he would be understanding that Monday through Thursday is my class time–don’t look at me, don’t touch me, don’t breathe my air but maybe bring me food and make sure I’m hydrated–and the weekends we can be all over each other. It helps to have that time blocked out.

    As for balancing all that with hobbies… I sacrifice sleep. I love video games, so I block out an hour after study time to veg out with video games before sleep. I build some stuff so I block out some time to do that on the weekends. It helps that the stuff that I need to balance with is stuff that I can go hard on and get done early in the week and have the rest of the week to do what I want. It’s not like you can just take care of your kids extra in the beginning of the week and they’ll be a-okay for the rest of the week, and I understand that. But hopefully this will help someone else too!

    1. Red Reader*

      I’m gonna tack on here – for the last ten years I’ve worked 50-60 hour weeks while also being a full time student. (Ten? Three for my AA, another three to finish my BS, four in grad school. Yes. Ten. And I just started my second BS in July.)

      I got divorced right before those ten years started (wow.) and got married a year ago, to a fellow I’d been dating for three years or so. We also have two housemates, but I (not we, I) own the house and handle all the cooking and landlording and house management responsibilities. And I have two large dogs.

      My big thing is my calendar. If it isn’t on my calendar, it is. not. happening. “My calendar” is actually like nine different calendars on my phone/computer/tablet, all synced, some shared out with other folks. I also live by lists. Some of them electronic – I also have a whole pad of tickybox lists that I can list things on and tick off as I finish them, a mostly pre-generated grocery list pad with tickyboxes in the kitchen, a “how am I adulting today” list pad that lives on my desk. I like writing things down but lose papers – so I write things with an Apple Pencil on my iPad in an app called Notability that lets me organize them and share them across devices. (It’s amazing, includes blank “papers” and lined “papers” and graph “papers” and and and. I use it for school notes and work notes and personal notes and you name it. Best six bucks I ever spent on an app. Anyway.)

      1. Find an organization method that makes sense to you AND THAT YOU WILL USE. All the cute koala file folders in the world won’t help if you lose the papers before you can file them.
      2. If you have the money to throw at a problem, do it. Maybe that’s hiring someone to clean the bathrooms (me). Maybe that’s paying the extra $6 to have someone else pick up your groceries and deliver them (not me, grocery shopping is my downtime activity, don’t judge!).
      3. If a problem can’t be solved by throwing money at it, either because it just can’t or because the money isn’t there, decide if it’s really a problem that needs solving. “I don’t have time to go to the gym!” Okay. Do you actually WANT to go to the gym, or is it that you feel like you should and that’s just stressing you out? Maybe the answer is give yourself permission not to go. Maybe the answer is switch to a gym with 24 hour service. Who knows.

      And yeah, for me, sleep suffers. I don’t stay up late, but I get up super early if I have stuff to do. My niece came to visit a couple weeks ago and I didn’t want to use a whole week of PTO when she was going to sleep til noon anyway, so I worked 4am to noon that week. I would much rather get up dirt early than stay up late, I’m pretty much always in bed by 9:30. (And then I read for at least 20 minutes because that’s important to me.)

  53. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

    I’ve crossed this land y’all are in, kids are 24 and 27 now, and while it wasn’t easy I will tell you it was ALL worth it. So many things have changed idk if any specific tips would be worth it (no online grocery ordering then, Amazon on the regular only when they were older, working from home wasn’t possible, etc.) but generally I’ll say, the things I most afraid of never came to pass. I worked my career hard & worked being a mom hard and made a lot of choices to let standard expectations for me to go hell. I was either working or playing with/reading to/hanging with the kids & the hubby and that was it. Basic housekeeping got done but I don’t think the house was company clean but one time a year in 20 years. I didn’t do PTA, I didn’t keep up well with friends, I really really did nothing but work and be with the family.

    Things I was worried about – I had no maternity leave (various reasons), so I started back on a more than full time job IMMEDIATELY after babies were born, both of them. OMG BONDING. Well, of course we bonded and if my boys and I were any closer at this point, it wouldn’t be healthy.  We are a very close family and my work choices did not harm that in any way. Did I have to give them absolutely everything else to have that be so? Prolly, I’ll never know for sure.

    Another thing – losing my identity. If you give everything to work and to your kids, what is left over for you? NOT MUCH FOR 20 YEARS. However, turns out, it snaps back! I’m fine, I’m happy, my marriage is fine, my family is strong and I’m catching up with all of those friends I didn’t hang with for 20 years.

    All I can say is that I made very specific, conscious choices that I thought were best for my family, I consciously flipped the finger to what anybody else thought, and it worked out for us.

      1. Wakeens Teapots LTD*


        I should have mentioned that my kids were naturally good natured and easy. A lot of that is a roll of the dice and I got lucky. While my oldest is autistic & was only rote speech up until age 10 (which *obviously* is quite a stressor & parenting an autistic child is a Big Deal their entire lives), I managed to get a lucky dice roll there also as he had very few inherent behavior issues (as long as you didn’t mix up his food or ask him to do anything when the digital clock wasn’t showing an even number :D )

  54. Marty*

    I took a pay cut to work from home 95% of the time. Norm in my field is $80k/yr but I’m making $55k. I work as a public University as an assistant to my regular role.

    I have a disabled child (who is in school usually) and a shiftworking spouse. My job accommodates them both. Yes, I miss the money, but there is far less stress in my life and $55k with no expenses is still pretty good. Most women with autistic children have to give up their good careers so I can’t complain. My advice is to consider the stress/money balance. Is it REALLY the right choice to make more? That different by person.

    1. You're Not My Supervisor*

      Do you mind if I ask how old your child is?

      I have a 2 year old that was recently diagnosed with autism and I am the primary breadwinner. I’m wondering if things are gonna get harder and I’m gonna need to take a pay cut to do the same sort of thing.

      1. Marty*

        He’s 8 now. 1-4 was certainly the hardest stage because you have to deal with so much early intervention. 4-6 was easier, 6+ (full-time school) has been much, much easier as you are past early intervention and start to adjust to life. Hang in there, it’s a rough ride at 2, but it’s well-worth every effort. I do recommend an “easier” or less stressful job if you can manage because the appointments start to interfere – plus childcare is so much harder. If possible, a stay at home spouse or nanny is always a great option for an autistic child too.

    2. Specialk9*

      I’ve asked my husband to take a similar approach, putting family a bit above career. I’m disabled (but working, and high performing) and we have a toddler, and it’s really hard sometimes. (By which I mean, always.) The first 5 years are the hardest, he can really push after that.

      (I think that’s what you’re saying, not that women shouldn’t be ambitious — but that sometimes home life is hard enough that people need to make family priority for a few years.)

      1. Specialk9*

        Oops this comment was for writerboy. But even then, I didn’t read carefully enough, I get now why people are objecting.

  55. Adrianne Beasley*

    My husband and I both work full time, both of us travel within the state about 2x a month (day trips) and overnight for work conferences about 4-6x a year, so not crazy travel schedules but we both have Director level jobs which are pretty demanding. We have a 3 year old and 10 month old. Our oldest is in preschool and aftercare so we drop him at school at 8am, then pick up at 5-5:45pm. Our baby is with our nanny, who picks him up either at 7:30am or 8:15 and then we pick up at her house around 5pm-ish.

    1. Our nanny has been our biggest asset in balancing work and life. She was with us when we had our first child. At the time we were on daycare wait lists with no hope of having a spot in the newborn rooms and panicking because I only had 6 weeks of paid maternity leave. Hiring a nanny was not in the financial plan, and it is a HUGE chunk of our expenses each month, but it has been worth every penny, even when we have to save in other areas to make it work. She helps when things get too overwhelming (if one of us is traveling), and can keep one or both the kids late or if they are sick and we can’t miss work.

    2. The other big help was a job change. After my first kid, it became apparent that even though every single one of my co-workers (all male) and my boss had kids, they also all had stay at home wives, so they just didn’t understand that now I needed to take time off for doctor visits, sick days, or leave on time to pick up. After trying to fit that square peg into the round hole for a year and a half I decided to look elsewhere. I ended up finding a new job the week before I got pregnant with our second child (not great timing), but finding a better work culture has been MASSIVE!

    3. Sharing the load – it is easy even when both people are working to just assume that one parent is the “worker” and one is the “parent.” Usually this means the Mom is doing all the doctor visits, school paperwork, pick ups, etc. and the Dad is working later, going in earlier, etc. Push back on that from both sides! My husband is proactive at our 3 year old’s school to make sure that the administrators and teachers know that they can call him and not just me for anything. We share pick ups and drop offs, we split doctor visits so the pediatrician knows us both. It’s not just sharing the chores within the home that is important, it’s also making sure that the people that take care of your kids know that you are both available!

    1. Bibliovore*

      oh, yeah. Job change. My old position replaced me with two full time people. Just that would say, whoa, that must have been a lot of stress.
      Commute- when from over an hour to ten minutes.
      The old job fixed class schedule- 1