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Monday, July 18, 2011

My balance of work/baby/life

My lovelies, last week, seven amazing mothers shared how they juggle work/life, including the ups and downs. It's so wonderful to be honest and normalize what all mothers are going through. Thank you again to those brave and lovely bloggers!

Now I'd love to share my own juggle post. I have to admit, it feels strange to be sharing my own routine because I didn't have a decent schedule figured out for a long time. After Toby was born, it took me months to figure out a solid schedule that worked well for us, and I'm still experimenting and tweaking!

OK, my darlings, here goes....

1. What's your work schedule?
I work from home Monday through Friday from 9am to 4pm, plus a few evenings a week. I try to take weekends off completely.

During the workday, I run Cup of Jo, am an editor for Beso, and do branding work and trend consulting. I'll also be blogging for a magazine again later this fall (yahoo!).

2. How do you handle childcare?
Toby wakes up at 6am, and Alex and I switch off waking up with him. So, every other day, I get up with Toby (bleary-eyed!), feed him breakfast, take a quick shower while he chills out and chews his rubber ducky in the bouncy chair, and take him to the playground really early (we're often the only people there!) or take a walk or bike ride together. Even though I'm usually pretty sleepy on those mornings, it's lovely to spend that time with him, and see the city as it's waking up. Then, every other day, Alex will get up with Toby, while I either sleep until 8:30—bliss!—or get up at 7am and start my work early while they hang out.

(A little note: Alex and I didn't always switch off. I used to get up with Toby every day, and after a while, I felt completely exhausted and run ragged. So, finally, I asked Alex to switch off—and we both were sort of like, wait, why didn't we do this sooner? It's funny how easily and subconsciously we can fall back into long-held stereotypes that the mom is the #1 main caregiver, even when spouses are both happy to share parenting responsibilities equally.)

Anyway, then the babysitter arrives around 9am. We have two beloved babysitters: Naudia on Mondays and Tuesdays, and Sophie on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. They stay from 9 to 4. Now and again, they'll stay an hour later if I have extra work or a big deadline.

After the babysitter leaves, Toby and I spend every weekday afternoon together from 4 to 7:30pm. I absolutely adore this special time together. Whenever possible, we try to make it 100% hang-out time—no errands allowed!—and go to the playground or meet up with friends or take bike rides. On Wednesday afternoons, we have a playgroup with a bunch of other neighborhood one-year-olds and their mamas. (Once in a blue moon, I'll take Toby along to an evening work event—but then we run the risk of scary camera flashes!) I feel so lucky and grateful to get this wonderful quality time with him every day.

(Afternoon activities might be a bit trickier in the winter, I'm guessing. I have to admit, I'm a little nervous about this coming winter with a toddler who walks! It will take some imagination to make our tiny apartment fun for Toby every afternoon. We'll have to learn to make soups together or something!)

Then, in the evenings, around 6:30pm, Alex gets home from work, and Toby and I will meet him back at our apartment. And we'll spend an hour together feeding Toby dinner, giving him a splashy bath, reading bedtime stories, or just hanging out on the bed in the nursery.
(Toby also once joined for a beauty tutorial photo shoot at our apartment with Jamie:)

3. Where do you work during the day?
When the babysitter and Toby are outside at the playground or the library, I work at my desk in our living room; when they're at home, I work on our bed.

4. What do you like best about your current set-up?
I feel really grateful that my schedule is flexible. Even though I work full-time hours (40 hours a week), I can decide to work early mornings or late evenings, in order to have my afternoons off with Toby. The other day, I ran into a dear friend who loves her amazing job at a major beauty brand; she looked chic and windswept on the street, wearing a silk dress and a chignon, but she admitted that she was literally running home from work to see her baby. Every work situation has pros and cons, and everyone does such a great job doing it all.
5. What do you find so-so/tricky/hilariously bad about your current set-up? What would you change if you had a magic wand?
You know, I really hate working on my bed! Sometimes I feel like I spend 20 hours a day in my bedroom. It's a nice enough room, but that's a little crazy. :)

If I had a magic wand, I would rent an office space outside the home, where I could be part of a community of people. It can feel really isolating—especially in the winter—to be working at home alone all day. I would love to be surrounded by other creative people during the day, to inspire each other's creativity or discuss last night's 30 Rock episode or order lunch together. (Unfortunately, it's tough to find an affordable place like this in Manhattan, although I'm still looking!)

On the rare day when I have a work lunch or meeting (maybe once a month), I always feel SO revitalized to be around adults and feel part of a working community.

Another thing that was tough, especially at the beginning, was when I was working at home, and I could hear Toby crying in the other room. The sound was heartbreaking to me, but I couldn’t go out to him because I was busy working or on a conference call—and plus I had to respect the sitter and trust her to take care of him. There's a certain stress of being on deadline, and a certain stress of hearing your baby cry, and I was getting both at once. (And when I heard him playing and laughing, I would want to go out to him, too!) I do crave some mental and physical distance from the baby while I'm working.

6. How do you and your husband fit your marriage into the balance?
Toby goes to bed around 7:30pm, so Alex and I have the rest of the evening to hang out together. Alex is a great cook, and he’ll make us dinner—like spaghetti Bolognese, or eggs and sausage, or a big salad with tons of toppings—while I finish up work. He listens to music while he cooks, so it always takes a while (since he'll just stand there, drumming on the counter and watching the water boil:). Then when dinner is ready, usually around 9pm, we'll hang out for the next couple hours, and watch a movie or play games or just chat. Also, a couple nights a week, we'll go out to dinner with friends, or we'll invite friends over. We usually go to bed between 11 and midnight. I cherish that grown-up time at the end of the day.

My parents got divorced when I was little, so I'm really conscious of focusing on my marriage as much as my child/ren. I feel lucky to be able to spend frequent quality time with Alex and love having our own adventures together, separate from the baby. Plus, I think most kids like seeing their parents dress up and go out to dinner together; it's exciting! (There's a beautiful passage in the book Peter Pan about Wendy watching her parents get ready for an evening out.) I love the idea that the goal should be not only to have a happy child, but to have a happy family.

(By the way, a few commenters last week mentioned that it's hard to afford babysitters. I totally agree! At $15/hour, it adds up. Everyone needs to figure out a solution that works best for their family. For daytime babysitters, it definitely makes sense for me to work, financially, and I also enjoy working overall. As for evening babysitters, we talked it over, and we decided we would prefer to spend less on other things so we could afford to spend more on babysitting. It's too bad we don't all live closer to grandparents, aunts and uncles, who would be happy to babysit for free—what a dream that would be!:)

6. Do you have any time for yourself?
Not really! For me, the thing that ends up coming in last place is free time alone. Now and again, Alex will go out to meet a friend, while I'll stay home, have a glass of wine and read magazines; or I'll sneak out at night while he's home and get a pedicure, but overall free time by myself is pretty rare. That's ok for me, though. I'm kind of a pack animal anyway.

7. Do you ever wonder how other women manage the juggle? Have you talked to other women about it?
Yes, I've wondered about it so much, which is why I really wanted to do this series. It's so wonderful to hear from other moms and realize that we're all in the same boat, even though our circumstances might be different. I only wish I'd had time to feature many more parents (single moms, moms working in offices, stay-at-home moms, dads, etc.); but like I mentioned last week, this time, I wanted to feature moms who are in similar work situations, so we could see how they've each created very different schedules that work for their families.

I think sometimes people feel nervous about talking candidly about motherhood and their own scheduling choices, and I understand that. Parenthood is emotionally ridden, because everyone cares so much about their babies—so sometimes it can seems as if, when another mom makes a different decision from you, you are at odds. Differences in parenting choices can make people defensive. But, really, making various parenting decisions is like apples and oranges. We have to remember that there are 824,739,894,536 ways to be incredible, loving parents, so we should all support each other and our lucky babies.

8. What advice would you give to other moms about how to balance work and life?
My own mom often tells me, "Take gentle care of yourself," which I think is a surprisingly profound thing to remember. Of course, it's true for everyone, not just mothers. Everybody feels overwhelmed sometimes, and it's really easy to beat yourself up or put too much pressure on yourself or assume everyone around you has a perfect life. That's not true, and we should be kind to ourselves and treat ourselves like the sweet souls we are.

One commenter last week left a great line: She said, "Bless you new moms. If you're trying, you're doing a great job." We don't have to be perfect; we just have to be gentle to ourselves and take it one step at a time.


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Beth said...

You seem to balance your work/parenting/personal life very well. I'm not a mother, but it's definitely inspiring. I would love to work from home too haha! Thanks for sharing!

Maddy Lucas said...

Wow, your answer to #5 is exactly how I feel! Me and my husband work from home ( and it does get very isolated sometimes! I also wish we could have a separate place to work with other creatives. And I also work from my bed some days, hate when that happens!

Thanks so much for sharing, working from home takes a lot of self discipline, I don't have kids yet so I can only imagine how much harder it is then. It's comforting to read how other people do it.

Julia said...

I've been loving this series and especially your honest post. I am a first time mother myself with a beautiful little boy who is now 14 months old. I never expected the weird combination of emotions that I've had so far about motherhood . I am always feeling blessed, exhausted, happy, lonely for adult company and like I never ever have it together - all at the same time.
I cried when I read your mother's line about taking gentle care of yourself. I so needed that.

Hilary S said...

Someone told me the other day: There is no way to be a perfect parent, but a million ways to be a good one. Lovely. or "uptingly" as word verification says :)

Kate Hand said...

I have really enjoyed this blog series, thanks Joanna x

Jess said...

Seriously awesome series. I loved everything about it. Hearing real mums talking about how they really juggle is soothing to the soul - we all find it hard! Thanks again x

andmybaby said...

Really enjoyed this series Joanna, thanks! The one I enjoyed the most was yours, mostly as you admitted that how you had to change things and are still changing things. Another reader from Ireland here. It is sure one difficult balancing act, parenthood! You're comment on focusing on a happy family, not just a happy child, has given me food for thought. Thank you,

Kate said...

Joanna, thanks so much for these thoughtful posts! I am newly a WAHM after being laid off from my job a few weeks ago and these posts could not have come at a better time! I'm now a freelance graphic designer and am really struggling with how to make a schedule work for me us. I was a freelancer before becoming a mom and always thought it couldn't work with a baby at home too.
It's so nice to hear that other WAHM moms work from their beds! It makes me think I can make it work in our 2-bedroom apt. I worry about feeling isolated but I'll remember that other WAHMS are sitting on their beds with the doors closed, surrounding by papers and cords too! I also appreciate how you respond to your reader's comments. You've created such a great community. Thank you!

Anonymous said...


I have enjoyed this series but it would be nice if you included a mom who works away from the home and does not have a flexible working arrangement - alot of mothers don't.


Anonymous said...

Watching my parents get dressed up and go out together always made me happy as a child. I thought my Mom was the most beautiful woman in the world (still do) Sharing her lipstick with me always made me feel involved in there date. They would always leave me behind with a grape pop and salt and vinegar chips, my world was made! Thanks for sharing Joanna and bringing back these memories.

stacy said...

Joanna- you rock. Thanks for this series. And thanks for being so candid yourself about the imperfections that come with juggling babes and work! You are so right- we all have different schedules and ways to make our families work, and not one of them comes without some sort of compromise.

Joanna Goddard said...

heather, good for you guys for figuring out a routine that works for your family!! xo

Joanna Goddard said...

karen, i hear you. that must be so difficult. i agree that dates/vacations are so helpful for a happy marriage, just to remind you why you fell in love in the first place and to feel like you're stepping away and having a break together. i'm rooting for you! xoxoxo

Joanna Goddard said...

@Learning As I Chop -- 1) How did you find this playgroup?
i'm on an online forum group called West Village Parents, where neighborhood parents can post questions about parenting, doctors, schools, etc. and we set up the playgroup through the site -- and met each other in person when our babies were first born. you might be able to find a similar website for your neighborhood/city, or find playgroups through a doctors office or local children's library? xoxo good luck! it's so helpful to have other moms around you.

2)What advice would you give to women who want to create this kind of schedule for themselves?
hmmm, that's a tricky questions since it depends so much on your field of work. i will let you know if i can come up with any good overarching tips! :)

Joanna Goddard said...

@lilyknits you wrote: "The part I keep wondering about is cooking/cleaning/errands. Does the babysitter help you with all this? Who goes grocery shopping? Who cleans your house?"

my answer is: alex does the grocery shopping and cooking. our babysitters help us with small errands and baby-related household chores, like washing bottles and tidying up the nursery (I LOVE THEM FOR THIS), and we drop our laundry off at a laundromat because we don't have a washing machine. it's expensive but the bright side is that it saves time for us. and we splurge on a wonderful cleaning service, which comes once a month to do a deep clean, and we do all the light cleaning ourselves during the month here and there (mostly on weekend mornings). whew!

another thing is that our apt is really small -- just four small rooms, so it's pretty quick to clean. we don't have a big house or car or garden or garage or anything -- sometime i daydream about having those things, but the bright side is that it's quick to clean up!

hope this helps!!! xoxo

Joanna Goddard said...

@megan you wrote: "I have a question - how did you find your evening babysitters? Your daytime babysitters? Did you use an agency? We're looking for evening babysitters (for once in awhile so we can go out maybe twice a month!) and I'm at a loss as to how to find someone whom I trust. It's a daunting task! Any advice???"

i found our babysitters via word-of-mouth. i asked my friends who had older children, and they recommended great sitters. i also found one of our sitters through a neighborhood online forum that i belong to, called West Village Parents, where people share babysitter recommendation.

you might also ask at a local nursery school, to see if they have any advice, or ask any parents you meet at library storytimes or playgrounds, etc. i wish i had more ideas, i hope these help!

one thing is that when i interviewed sitters, i really tried to trust my gut. sometimes a babysitter's resume would be great but i just wouldn't be connecting with them. i almost treated it like dating--when you know, you know! :)


SuperMarket said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you! This series has been so incredibly helpful and eye-opening. I am a new mom of a 9 month old and I have been trying to figure out "the juggle" ever since I went back to work. I haven't had the opportunity to hear the logistical side of how moms make it work. So often, we moms brush off our challenges with a "we make it work" kind of reply that is meant to justify what we do for the love of our child/ren but also leaves out the reality of the hard work we put in. This series captures the reality of it and the love that we all share for our kids. It was a joy to read this.

Anonymous said...

You two are so cute. Ah!

one claire day said...

I loved this series so much, Joanna! I have a six month old daughter and I'm currently struggling to find balance even without the added responsibility of working and earning an income. Motherhood is beautiful and challenging... it's so lovely to hear mothers speak candidly about their experiences - it reminds me that I'm not alone - and that I'm doing a fabulous job, despite the self doubt that can often creep in when I'm a little sleep deprived and not achieving the incredibly high standards I set for myself. xx

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Parul said...

Hi Joanna,

A big hello from Mumbai, India. This is my first time at your blog. Amazing, given how popular it is. I just wanted to drop in a quick line to say that it's incredible how working mothers, specially the ones that work from home have the same challenges the world over. I am a writer and so don't get to go away from the house to work. And I so hear you about wanting to leave everything to go to the child in the next room and yet, we love the work too, don't we? Lovely post and I am going to be a regular reader from now on.

Tari Toppe said...

This was a wonderful post, thank you so much. I love the words about the different ways to parent - so true. And your thoughts on a happy marriage = a happy family are inspiring me. You also have a wise mother!

Splendor said...

I was terribly afraid of having a baby because I work from 8 to 5 and I am working with kids and its too tiring but after reading your post I feel more comfortable with the idea. In time, im sure everything will be ok.
thank you for your words and ideas.

Katie said...

I've loved reading this series and processing it over the last couple days. I am expecting my first in September and I also work alone from home (but for a nonprofit, not freelance, so the structure is a bit different). One "Motherhood Monday" post I would be really interested in is "moms groups". I know they are all over New York, but how to find them, break into them, know whether it fits your style?

Francesca said...

you are an inspiration as a woman, mother, and fantastic blogger. this series was informative, but more importantly, it was moving and thoughtful- a great read even for a young and single girl with no babies on the horizon. love your blog :)

Eva / Sycamore Street Press said...

Oh Joanna, you're making me tear up here! I LOVE this series. So great. It's been really applicable to me since I am also a work at home mom. It seems like you've done a great job of coming up with a balanced schedule for yourself... that's something I need to work on. I am fortunate to have family around to help, so I haven't hired a daytime babysitter... but the catch is that if they are busy, they aren't able to come and help out.. so each week I'm not certain as to how much time I'll have to work which makes everything a bit chaotic as you can imagine. Not complaining because I love having their help, but just trying to figure out a way to get on a bit more of a regular schedule. :)

KateS. said...

Just joining the ranks to say thank you for such a lovely series! I really needed to read this today and would like to add my vote to another series for moms working outside the home. We are getting ready to send our 4-month-old goober to daycare in two weeks and I'm getting choked up just thinking about it! Would love to hear from other moms who have to be away from home to work and make ends meet. Thanks for your continued wonderful insights!

Anonymous said...

This series has been great BUT, I feel very hard to relate with most of these mothers who are all bloggers and freelancers with supportive husbands. Some (MOST) women have 8-5 jobs, and some women don't have husbands or both parents need to be working full-time jobs in order to support the family financially. I have never desired to be a blogger and quite enjoy my demanding 8-5+ job, it would have been nice to see at least one woman who doesn't have pretty much the same profession as you. The message I got is the best way to balance your life as a mother is to be a blogger and have a husband who can either stay home with the kids or make a lot of money to support everyone.

Andrea said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on how you combine multiple roles. It's a challenge sometimes especially wanting to feel like you're staying on top of it all. It would be terrific if you can have regular posts from other women so we can be reminded on our good days and bad days that we're all in this together.

nodramamomma37 said...

This was a great series. Thanks for sharing with us! Balance is something I'm still striving for.

oilandgarlic said...

I love this series. I would love to hear the husband's viewpoint. How do they balance? DO most of them have an inflexible schedule? Do they miss out on seeing their kids?

The reason I'm asking is that while I do sometimes feel guilt for working, I try to alleviate that guilt by remembering that my husband gets to spend time with our kids. I have friends who stay home and have a lot of time with their kids but oftentimes it comes at the expense of the father having time (working 2 jobs or working longer hours).

Naomi said...

Thank you so much for putting this series together. It's been great to read about how everybody copes with the mom/work situation in a different way. As a brand new mommy of a 2 month old these posts have given me a lot of inspiration to get back to work :)

Rachael said...

Hi Joanna,

Absolutely, beautiful series. I love the way you get into the nitty gritty routines, work spaces, how work/life fits into marriage.
I have spoken to/worked with hundreds of men and women on this topic. Way too many people believe that there is one right way and they just don't know what it is. It's so important for everyone to read about different lifestyles, routines, and ways of defining success and happiness.

Thanks so much for this. I hope we can talk more about this sometime. Thanks again!

Lohasrus said...

Thank you for sharing a part of your life with us! Keep up at being a wonderful wife, mom and business woman all at once!

Ali Masterson said...

Thank you for sharing your routine. I love your mom's wisdom of taking gentle care of yourself. It's so easy to forget this but I try and I try to do so b/c I find when I take good care of myself I'm a better and happier mommy and person all around.

Wendy said...

I really appreciate you sharing this, Joanna! I've run my buisness (Moop) in a variety of situations (from our loft apartment, a studio on a separate floor of our apartment building and now a store front space a few miles from our home) - each situation has its pros and cons but after several years of running a labor intensive business and after 13 years of parenthood, I've finally found a schedule that allows me to be proprietor and parent equally...something very important to me as my daughter becomes a young teenager (and me still a young mom!). Having dedicated time for her at this age feels very important and I feel so so lucky to be able to do so (especially as I think of her younger years when I was a single parent, going to school full time and working three jobs...dedicated mama baby time was hard to come by!). Anyhow, I love to hear how other working mom's find balance to their days. Thanks for sharing :)

Beck's Chic Life said...

I just had a little baby girl 14 weeks ago, and have not returned to work yet. You are an inspiration in keeping calm. I love that you focus on your marriage, I think that is equally important. Thanks for doing this series!

Michelle said...

You have such a nice blog! I'm jealous of the freedom you have with your family and work. Sounds wonderful. However I had an idea. If you're looking for a work space outside the home, have you thought of sharing a space with some other people doing the same thing? Paying for 3 days a week or 2 days a week and that would keep the cost down and give you "world/People" exposure :)

Erika said...

This series was excellent! I have a ten month old baby girl at home and a demanding job--I love my work, baby, and hubby but its a delicate balance! Still struggling with sleep and finding time for myself to exercise and read! We have no immediate family near us to help out, but thank goodness we have an awesome nanny whom our baby loves! Reading about other working mamas makes me feel less guilt ridden. Thanks to all for sharing!

Monique said...

I'm a new single working mom, and a new follower. I can really appreciate this post. Your schedule sounds quite lovely to me. I didn't even think about cooking AFTER I put baby down. That sounds like a GREAT PLAN!

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Jill Riter said...

I love the opening photo of the both of you!

My oldest is 19- so I guess I can safely say that I never did quite 'figure it out'... life is often about discovering the new of the now. Just as soon as you figure something out, something mixes it up a bit. Things are always evolving, so change is part of survival and thriving, I think.

Lauren said...

Hi Joanna,
Thank you so much for doing this series! I initially read them while I was on maternity leave, with the goal of one day doing the work-from-home thing with my little boy...and not really knowing how it would/could work. Well, this year it's happening! I will be looking to this series for ideas on how to juggle, schedule, make do, etc.

Happy New Year,

Jobs Brisbane said...

I really enjoyed reading this series! It inspires not only new mothers (congratulations!) but also single ladies who wants to start a new family.

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M-J Obsessions said...

What a great read!!!

If you are still looking for outside of home work environment, I saw a work lounge on Lafayette street by broom. I am not sure how much it costs and how it works, but I thought it's brilliant where people can just go in with their own laptop and work there whatever hours they want. So maybe some days when you really need to be out of the house, you can go to the work lounge, this way you splurg a little but not always.

Lauren said...

I am so inspired by this post! I've used it to create one on mine:

Thanks so much,

Jessica Paterson said...

This is my first time to your blog and I've really enjoyed your post. I'm a new mum and am just starting to think about returning to work. Thinking about it is daunting enough; actually doing it is going to be a whole new ballgame!

There are some lovely tips here that I might just take up (e.g. the switching wake-ups in the morning. Awesome).

Thanks a lot!

tasmia said...

i am a working mother.I have a very little time for me and i am also sleep deprive too. My baby is 1.5 years old and i am just thinking about another child.Little bit confused about my job.

Kris said...

I've just discovered your wonderful work and look forward to becoming a regular reader. After reading the post about your daily schedule I think you've surely heard of Coworking by now (?). Coworking can provide an occasional, affordable alternative to your bed :-)

I haven't lived in NYC for nearly 10 years so I'm not familiar with NYC spots but found this link that could be helpful:

Best wishes,


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Andreia said...

I'm loving reading all these stories. So many different experiences, so many cultures, backgrounds, working situations...and the same challenge. I feel so connected with this post series because it's truly a great subject today and it has a lot to do with me and the decision I've made recently regarding my job and being a mother of four children (how could that be for a woman who works outside in a cosmopolitan city like Lisbon and has no grandmas or uncles around?)

clara said...

Why don't you go to the library to work? Cheap + quiet :)

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katiekeltnerstudio said...

I love seeing how others do it. I don't have children yet and I am just starting out with my blog, but, this gives me a glimpse at what to look forward to!


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work at home mums

Anna Dewar Gully said...

Love your worklife balance series and the rest of your blog. I've started a new blog project for 2014 and would like to interview 365 working mothers on how they strike their balance. I would be so grateful if you could like my first post and if perhaps you might consider being an interviewee. My goal is to help other women understand how women with a variety of circumstances cope with the challenges of working motherhood warts and all. Best, Anna x

Cassie {Home and Sass} said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phoebe said...

Thank you for being so honest about how difficult it is to balance motherhood and working at home. Also, what you say is true, a lot of mothers tend to be defensive when another does things differently. There is certainly gazillion ways to love our child and families.

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