Anyone here a lawyer? There’s a blog called “Above the Law” that featured a memo from an associate at a high-profile law firm who was quitting… As part of her “quit memo” she included the following schedule of her daily life.
Day in the life of Ms. X (and many others here, I presume):
4:00 am: Hear baby screaming, hope I am dreaming, realize I’m not, sleep walk to nursery, give her a pacifier and put her back to sleep
4:45 am: Finally get back to bed
5:30 am: Alarm goes off, hit snooze
6:00 am: See the shadow of a small person standing at my bedroom door, realize it is my son who has wet the bed (time to change the sheets)
6:15 am: Hear baby screaming, make a bottle, turn on another excruciating episode of Backyardigans, feed baby
7:00 am: Find some clean clothes for the kids, get them dressed
7:30 am: Realize that I am still in my pajamas and haven’t showered, so pull hair back in a ponytail and throw on a suit
8:00 am: Pile into the car, drive the kids to daycare
8:15 am: TRAFFIC
9:00 am: Finally arrive at daycare, baby spits up on suit, get kids to their classrooms, realize I have a conference call in 15 minutes
9:20 am: Run into my office, dial-in to conference call 5 minutes late and realize that no one would have known whether or not I was on the call, but take notes anyway
9:30 am: Get an email that my time is late, Again! Enter my time
10:00 am: Team meeting; leave with a 50-item to-do list
11:00 am: Attempt to prioritize to-do list and start tasks; start an email delegating a portion of the tasks (then, remember there is no one under me)
2:00 pm: Realize I forgot to eat lunch, so go to the 9th floor kitchen to score some leftovers
2:30 pm: Get a frantic email from a client needing an answer to a question by COB today
2:45 pm: Postpone work on task number 2 of 50 from to-do list and attempt to draft a response to client’s question
4:30 pm: Send draft response to Senior Associate and Partner for review
5:00 pm: Receive conflicting comments from Senior Associate and Partner (one in new version and one in track changes); attempt to reconcile; send redline
5:30 pm: Wait for approval to send response to client; realize that I am going to be late picking up the kids from daycare ($5 for each minute late)
5:50 pm: Get approval; quickly send response to client
6:00 pm: Race to daycare to get the kids (they are the last two there)
6:30 pm: TRAFFIC with a side of screaming kids who are starving
7:15 pm: Finally arrive home, throw chicken nuggets in the microwave, feed the family
7:45 pm: Negotiate with husband over who will do bathtime and bedtime routine; lose
8:00 pm: Bath, pajamas, books, bed
9:00 pm: Kids are finally asleep, check blackberry and have 25 unread messages
9:15 pm: Make a cup of coffee and open laptop; login to Citrix
9:45 pm: Citrix finally loads; start task number 2
11:30 pm: Wake up and realize I fell asleep at my desk; make more coffee; get through task number 3
1:00 am: Jump in the shower (lord knows I won’t have time in the morning)
1:30 am: Finally go to bed
I read through it and thought…..huh…that sounds about right. Anyone who juggles work and kids can pretty much relate to this.
As with any posting, one of the most interesting parts is the comments, so I started to read through. Aside from the expected remarks about her slacker husband, was some incredulity at A) the fact that this woman only appeared to be expected in the office from 9 to 5 and B) how inefficient she was with her time.
Aha! On went the light in my head, as that was the very topic I was intending to write about this week: How to juggle work and family so you feel as competent as possible with both.
So, with thanks to this busy mom openness and some borrowed insight from the other commenters, let’s take a closer look at “X’s” schedule and see which parts could be managed differently to make the day smoother:
4 – 6 a.m.: Can’t do much about this. As a parent, you’re in for a few years of this type of thing. What makes it easier to manage? Not being surprised by it. If you expect to get a full night’s sleep, you are surprised and annoyed when you don’t. If you realize this is a typical morning, it’s easier to roll with it.
6:15 – 8 a.m.: Totally confused how these two hours slipped away. Ideally, clothes for everyone are set out the night before. I would take the feeding/TV time as a prime opportunity to cuddle my babies and start the morning off right. Snuggle next to the toddler while you feed the baby. Can you scroll through your email while you’re doing this? The toddler’s watching TV anyway and the baby just wants to eat. This is totally “together” time and it’s fine to check your email while you enjoy the cuddle.
There’s also no reason to forgo your shower, if you want one. I have found that babies are mesmerized by the whole blow-drying, getting ready process. Stick the bouncie chair on the floor in your bathroom and chat with your baby while you get ready. Use this time to let your toddler dress himself, in a choice of two outfits you have laid out.
8 – 9 a.m.: Boy, an hour-long commute is a bummer. Two choices: use it as quality time with your kids…sing along to a kids’ CD; count red cars; talk about your day. Or, let the toddler zone out and do some hands- free work calls if you can.
9 – 10 a.m.: Conference call. Taking notes is smart, even if you are not directly contributing. However, conference calls where you are not contributing (assuming they are not video chats), are a perfect time to do those tasks that take minimal concentration. Catch up on non-essential paperwork. Enter that pesky time (which ideally you do as you go through your day…so much easier to do it right at that moment); spell check a document; go through email…you get the picture.
10 a.m.– 5 p.m.: Can’t do much about her day here; work is work. Clearly she added “start email delegating tasks and realize I have no one to delegate to” as a way to make a joke of not having an admin. Guess what? In today’s lean office environments, that is the norm. Prioritize and do what you can.
Being stuck without lunch is silly. When you want to work as efficiently as possible to get home to your kids, you shouldn’t be expecting a lunch break. Pack something healthy and eat it with colleagues in your break room or at your desk while you catch up on reading.
5 to 7 p.m.: Rushing out the door at 5 is a challenge in most office environments. Maybe she could switch off with her husband to pick up from daycare? Traffic with screaming, starving kids is a nightmare — and avoidable. Take a few minutes to feed the baby while you hear about the toddler’s day before you get in the car, and then give the toddler a granola bar and some raisins while you drive.
Organize your home life so that whomever is not picking up the kids has started something in the oven for dinner. It doesn’t have to be chicken nuggets. Baking a chicken breast, baked potatoes and some broccoli takes the same amount of time and feels more like “dinner.”
Obviously we all know about “cooking ahead” on the weekend and having something ready to throw in the oven on weeknights. Spending an hour on the weekend planning meals and getting some parts ready (roast an extra chicken, brown an extra pound of ground turkey for weekday tacos) can make your evenings so much smoother.
8 p.m.: Bath, books and bedtime should be looked at as a reward, not a chore. If you were away from your kids all day, this is a great time to reconnect and have quality time. While they’re in the bath, you can talk about your days, play games and enjoy together time. While they get their pjs on and brush their teeth (depending on their ages and supervision needed) you can set out the clothes for the next morning.
9 – 11 p.m.: Yuck. Evening work is a bummer, no doubt about it. Instead of coffee, I would go with a cup of tea, though. Sometimes if you look at evening hours as the “price you pay” for working 9 to 5, when many others might be in the office a much longer day, it can seem less galling. And working at night provides uninterrupted time to knock out a few tasks that are harder to do at your desk.
If you know that a computer program is going to take a long time to load, start the process while you are working on bedtime, so it’s good to go when you are. You can check back here and there to make sure it’s still on track.
And if you find yourself falling asleep, go to bed. Trying to work half asleep ensures you are neither working nor sleeping.
Looking through this schedule I realized that writing down how you spend your time can be the catalyst for seeing where you could work smarter, not harder.
There are always going to be days when things don’t go your way; when there’s an unexpected work demand or time gets away from you.
However, the day described above is a normal day…it’s neither good nor bad. Sometimes all it takes is a reframing of your expectations to better deal with the days.
Thinking about the commute as “together time” makes the traffic less annoying. Using the bedtime routine to reconnect makes it seem less of a slog.
Remind yourself that the hectic pace of early morning wakeups and day care drop-offs don’t last forever.
These next few years juggling little ones and work are tough ones…no doubt about it. And every day you get a little better at the juggle!
~ ~ ~
Series on Parental Leave
- Part 1: Yahoo! Baby in the Boardroom: Parental Leave, the Basics
- Part 2: Leaving for Your Parental Leave in Good Terms: Five Tips For Making Your Workplace Exodus Easy and Smooth
- Part 3: Are Babies Work? Or Is Your Work a Baby? – Taking Care of Your Child While Staying in Touch with the Office
- Part 4: “A Day in the Life” – Finding Ways to Juggle Work and Family More Efficiently
by Cathie Ericson