Friday, August 5, 2011

The logistics of a working mom with 2 young children

Many people ask me what my days are like with two kids aged almost 3 years and 3 months. I rarely have the time to sit down and go over it step by step. I usually just say "busy". Today I finally got some time, so here it is, my work week, starting in the evening just after Peach goes to sleep:

8:30pm: I first take milk out of the fridge to thaw (if it is Sunday). If it is not Sunday I can use the milk I pumped at work. I prep 4 clean bottles. Bottles are a total PITA. I usually have at least 8 bottles in play at any one given time. I have the 4 going to school and then 4 or more to pump into.

My bottle prep station looks like this (Yes, we converted our "bar" into a bottle prep station) :

When the dirty bottles come home from the school (my preferred term for "daycare" helps with the guilt), the bottles need to immediately be rinsed out, labels removed, separated into parts and washed in the dishwasher. Also, pump parts need to be rinsed and washed every day as well. It can easily take me an hour to deal with just the bottles.

I place the milk into equal portions. The portions are adjusted based on how much Pen's "daily sheet" from school indicates she is drinking. She can now down a 6.5 oz. bottle, up from 6oz last week and up from 4oz when she started. Note the red labels on the bottles. Each bottle needs to have a label with name and date on it (per school regulations). These labels need to be removed before the bottles go in the dishwasher. The bottles prepped for school go in a small black cooler, and then in the fridge. Four or more other bottles go in my pump, along with cleaned pump parts. I bring the pump upstairs since I pump once before bed and once in the morning. This is mostly to keep my supply up.

The next thing I deal with supplies. As dirty clothes come home from the school and other supplies are dwindled, I need to replenish them. I fill a bag with extra clothes for both kids. Usually Pen (the 3 month old) needs more clothes than Peach (my almost 3 year old). I also put extra diapers, pull-ups, wipes, sunscreen, bug spray, you name it - in the bag. The daily sheets that come home from school every day with the kids tell me what is needed. Also, the school often has "show and tell". To prevent myself from having to dig up something that begins with the letter "V" during the morning rush, I try to pack it the night before. Sometimes I pump and just grab a stuffed animal and try to convince Peach that his name is "Vinny". I pack the supplies in the van the night before. This is critical as I will forget to bring the supplies if I don't pack ahead of time.

The next thing I deal with is clothes. Lots and lots of clothes. On Sunday night I lay out 5 "daytime" outfits each for Peach and Pen (10 day time kids outfits total). I also lay out 5 "nighttime" outfits for the girls as well. Peach's day time clothes usually include a dress, shorts, socks, and sneakers. (Peach insists on wearing dresses, but we have to also put shorts on her since there is a lot of active play at school). Peach's night time outfit usually consists of a nightgown and sleeper pants (the sleeper pants are so Peach does not get cold as she likes to kick the blankets off).

Pen's day time clothes consist of a onesie and pants. Her night time clothes consist of a long sleeved onsie and a Halo sleep sack (she does not sleep in a blanket because I am paranoid).

I also lay out clothes for myself.
Yes, as you can see in the photo, those are my gym clothes. You see, my two pregnancies have really taken a toll on my body. I had hyperemesis (barfing to the point of needing to be on IVs for weeks) with both pregnancies. I used to be very fit (I ran 9 marathons). The hyperemesis took all of that away. After my hyperemesis subsided enough for me to eat, my body was in some sort of "starvation mode" and I gained a ton of weight. How fair is that? Anyway, I came up with a plan. My commute is 40 minutes if I leave at 8AM. It is only 20 minutes or less if I leave at 7AM. This buys me 20 minutes - which I can use at a gym very close to where I work. Since sometimes it is hard to be motivated to go to the gym, I pack my work clothes in 5 separate bags and load them all up in the van. This way, I am forced to put on the gym clothes that I laid out for myself and go to the gym to actually get ahold of my work clothes.

This photo shows 5 bags each containing one work outfit and a pair of shoes. In all I layout or pack between 30 and 35 outfits every Sunday night (this is including the outfits in the school supplies bag). I am not an organized person. As you can see, I do a crappy job of folding clothes. If I am to maximize everyone's sleep time, avoid forgetting just about everything, and ease our crazy week, I need to do this.

I also pack a closed tupperware container of cereal in the van. It goes in the cup holder of my 3 year old's carseat. It is her snack for the trip to school.

After the van is packed, I take Pen from Dan (who has been holding her all this time I have been prepping). I change her into her night time outfit, change her diaper, and feed her. Then I put her in the crib next to the bed and turn the Angel care monitor on (it is a motion sensor that detects breathing - yes, I am paranoid). The monitor is more for me than Pen. I find that I am able to sleep much better knowing that the alarm will sound if the monitor does not detect any breathing.

Once Pen is asleep, I may have 30 minutes or so before I need to go to bed. I usually watch the Daily Show with Dan. This TV show gives me both the news and comedy in one shot - and we usually only watch the first 2-3 segments and skip the interview - so 15-20 minutes of selfish enjoyment.

Then I pump one more time, run downstairs to put that milk in the fridge, and then go to sleep.

Dan and I may wake up once or twice during the evening. Pen was sleeping through the night for the past two weeks (heaven) but then decided to wake up for late night feeding again (at around 3AM) - DAM 4th month sleep regression!!! Peach sometimes wakes up in the middle of the night too. It is wonderful to wake up to "I have a POOPY!!!" ...but I digress...

The morning is hectic. My alarm sounds at 6AM. I wake Pen and feed her, change her and get her into her daytime clothes. I then pump as quickly as I can. I throw on my workout clothes. I don't get to shower at this point. That comes much later. Dan gets up at 6:30AM and wakes Peach. He gets her to go potty and gets her into her day time clothes. Make no mistake, Dan does a lot of work. Every time I feel exhausted, I look at Dan and see that he is just as busy as I am.

I take Pen downstairs. I put the milk that I just pumped in the fridge. That milk will be useful when I prep again tonight. I strap Pen into her into her car seat. Ah, the good ole 5 point harness. Ever wonder why it takes parents so long to load their kids into a car? It is the 5 point harness. They need straps over their shoulders, around their hips and between their legs. It is all for safety - but it is also a total PITA. Anyway, luckily Pen's car seat can be easily moved in and out of the Van, so at this point Pen is strapped into her car seat in the house. I grab 3 bags - my purse/diaper bag, my pump, and my little black cooler from the fridge. At this moment I usually hear Peach shouting "No Da Da! I want to wear the GREEN dress, not the blue one!". Dan eventually gets Peach downstairs (with Peach's desired dress color). We put a ponytail in her hair and then the girls and I are out the door.

The doors to the van slide open automatically. I gave up my "cool" car for my big fat ugly green minivan just for this feature. Pen's car seat is easily clicked into the car seat base. Peach is then carried around to the other side (or sometimes she jumps in by herself if I am lucky). I strap Peach in (5 point harness - oh joy!). I toss my 3 bags the back with the girls. I do this because I never want to ever accidentally leave the girls in the van. I don't think I would ever do this but I am not taking any chances. Once I am in the driver seat I am flip the movie screen open so Peach can watch Disney's Tangled for the 400th time.

Once we get to school, I click Pen's car seat out (with Pen still in seat) and then unstrap Peach and carry them both into the school with the milk cooler and supplies. If it is too much to carry I will do a second trip to get the stuff. Peach has to be dropped off first as they don't want older kids running rampant in the infant rooms (safety first)... So I bring Peach to her classroom - but her teacher does not get in until 8AM or so so I have Peach put her stuff in her cubby (including a fresh supply of clothes, her water bottle, and you guessed it, "Vinny"). I then take Peach to the early morning classroom and drop her off. I have a trick where I tell her to push me out the door. She happily pushes me out the door after a hug and kiss. She used to cry when I would leave - the push out trick makes me leaving fun for her (and probably satifies some toddle control issues that I'll cover in another post).

I then head to the infant room carrying Pen who is still in her car seat. I sit on a bench just outside the infant classroom so I can put on disposable blue booties over my shoes. You see, since the babies are crawling around on the floor, they don't want us parents messing up the floor with our shoes. Makes total sense - but just adds to the list of PITA things I do every day. Once booties are applied to my shoes, I bring Pen into her classroom and load her cubby up with her clothes and supplies. I then put her milk in the fridge and fill out a form. I need to fill a form out that indicates when Pen last ate/slept/had a diaper change and leave a phone number where I can be reached (seriously that have my # - but whatever, safety first...).

I was smart with kid #2. I insisted on having her placed in "infant 1". You see, when Peach was a baby, she was in "infant 2" which meant that her classroom was not open when I arrived in the morning which meant that when I dropped her off I had to lug her supplies to the "infant 2" room - including her milk, diapers, clothes and then lug her to "infant 1" - total total PITA. The whole room switching thing is common with daycares - uh, I mean schools. They like to ride the ratios. If there is a 4:1 legally required ratio in the infant room, then if there are only 3 babies - there will only be one teacher. Once more babies arrive, more teachers magically appear and they eventually start opening more rooms.

Anyway, after some small talk with her teacher I give Pen a hug and kiss and leave. Sometimes I forget to take off the booties until I'm a good ways down the road - classy.

So I get to the gym (a 20 minute or less drive from school if I left early enough). I grab my work clothes bag, lock the bag in locker, and run or do weights for 20-25 minutes. I then walk by the cafe, hand the person working there my breakfast order (which they prepare for me while I get changed). I then shower and get ready for work . The gym I go to has all of the supplies I need to get ready (shampoo, conditioner, towels, etc).

Once I am ready, I grab my breakfast on the way out and head to work. At this time I don't dry my hair as it takes too much time. If I get busted for this at work then I'll use the gym's hairdryer and add 10 minutes to my schedule.

Once at work things switch gears. I enjoy my job as a software engineer. I do sneak out twice during the day to pump. I found a handicapped bathroom on the second floor to pump in and it works out well. It only take me 10 minutes or less to pump. I'd like to think that I am a highly efficient and productive milk producer! I put the milk in my black cooler and place the cooler in the fridge at work. I'm not sure anyone has figured out what I am doing. Some coworkers may have noticed that I am always lugging a lot of bags around. Some are totally oblivious. I was offered the office across the hall from me to pump in. While that would certainly be convenient, I'd rather not have anyone hear the pump - perhaps I'm just being weird about this. There are not a whole lot of women at my company so I don't know of anyone else that is doing what I am doing.

At around 5:30 I head home with the milk in the little back cooler. Dan picks up the girls. Dinner is always figured out at the last minute. Sometimes he picks it up, sometimes I do. We also use a lot of prepared meals - Meals that someone else prepared and then froze. These meals can be heated up in the oven.

I try to beat Dan home since he will have his hands full with the girls once he gets home. Once he pulls into the garage I grab Peach and take her inside. Dan grabs Pen and dinner. We all eat dinner, which can turn into quite a mess sometimes. Usually Dan holds Pen while I work with Peach to cut up her food and eat dinner properly. After dinner, one of us takes Peach upstairs while the other stays with Pen, cleans up after dinner, and feeds the pets - 2 cats and one dog.

Peach is taken to the potty and then given a bath (which she usually refuses to get into, and then has so much fun she refuses to get out of). She loves to play with her tea set in the bath - very cute. She is then dried off and put in her pull-up and pajamas (which were laid out for her earlier). We then take her to her room and spend some time with her. We read to her, she also likes to play with my hair. Sometimes we just talk about her day. This is a nice time of my day.

Eventually we leave her room and she goes to sleep (although often she comes running out of her room with a number of issues ranging from "need potty now" to "where's my baby doll?" to "I want a snack!").

While all of this bed time prep is going on with Peach, Pen is being held, fed a bottle, and rocked or soothed. This is also a lot of work as the evenings are generally when Pen is the most fussy.

Once Peach is asleep, I run downstairs and do the bottles (as described above). If it is Tuesday or later, I start sending a sea of laundry to the washer. Dan moves the laundry from the washer to the dryer, and from the dryer to the dining room table (aka laundry sorting table) the next morning after I leave with the kids. The goal is to have all of the dirty laundry washed, dried and on the table by Friday morning. By then we have Mount Laundrymore on our dining room table.

Friday is when the cleaning ladies come and sort, fold and return all of the clean laundry back to our closets - just in time for the weekend when we need to prep the clothes for the next week.

While this schedule seems crazy - I'd like to point out that we have optimized it as much as possible. I take my shower at the gym so we don't have to manage the girls while I am showering. Everything is laid out ahead of time. It takes about an hour from wake up to out the door (I am usually out the door between 6:50 and 7:10AM). We have hired people to help us so we can have more time with the girls on the weekend. We have lawn services and a friendly neighbor who we pay to manage our lawn. We have cleaning ladies who clean the entire house - without them I'd be spending my weekends cleaning. We often use prepared meal services. We have an automated litterbox (Cat Genie) and a locking automatic dog door. ...And of course there is school - which costs around $1800 a month for the two girls. It is one of the better schools in town - with lower ratios for the preschool program. They do a great job with Peach and Pen and it is worth every penny.

So why don't I just stay home? Ha! That's the subject of another post. I'll briefly touch upon it though. I feel that working makes me a better mother. I want my daughters to look up to me and think "My mommy is an engineer, that's cool!". I am a good software engineer. I would not be as good as a stay at home mom.

I have a lot of respect for stay at home moms. I just know I would suck at it. Arts and crafts, cooking and cleaning are all things I am terrible at. I've tried - I've even taken pottery classes where my pottery has ended up thrown in with the "kids camp" because it looked like crap. At Peach and Pen's school - they get all of that stuff - lots of art projects, etc. The girls get good social interaction too. They have a built in playdates every day during the week. The school gives the girls what I can't.

When I am with the girls I can focus on fun things like playing with blocks or going to a splash park or bounce house. We can have fun and I don't have to worry if they are getting enough time interacting with other kids or doing art projects.

While our family is far from perfect, we are doing what is right for our family. Every family is different and what we do may not work with other families.

Dan and I both realize that while our schedule is crazy right now, it will get better. Someday the kids will be able to dress themselves and bottles and diapers will be a thing of the past. I'm sure that once we get to that point, things will be easier. I'm also sure we will somehow miss this.


  1. I really liked the part about "I am a good software engineer. I would not be as good as a stay at home mom." That is pretty much exactly how I feel. I have day dreamed about being a stay at home mom every once in a while, but I really do think I personally am a better mom because I'm not a stay at home mom. Some people make awesome stay at home moms (or stay at home dads), but don't think I would be.


  2. I had to read this at two different sittings. You are going to scare people away with your honesty!!! :) The switching rooms issue is crazy. I'm surprised the number of kids varies that often.

    I've never heard of Tangled. I'm behind the times! :(

    I love that you have a system that works for you, and that you are proud of it. The best mom is a happy, satisfied mom no matter if she's with her kids 100% of the time or some other number. Happy mom, happy kids. :)

  3. Holy Wow. 2 kids is a lot of work, huh?

  4. You are amazing! I'm a software developer too, I'm 25 and my husband and I are thinking of having kids in 2 - 3 years. It's so inspiring to see how it's possible to manage kids and still code (for fun and profit), right down to the way you "optimize" your day - love it! :)