How Do You Do It?
I read the blogs of other parents on a daily basis, and despite knowing the favorite foods, least favorite activities, sleep patterns, and even the bathroom habits of many of the children of those parents (not to mention the parents themselves), I realized the other day that with a couple exceptions, I know very little about how these parents organize their days. Are they stay-at-home moms or dads? Do they go to offices during the day, every day? Only a couple days? Work from home? Who takes care of the kid or kids, regardless? What does a typical day look like for these other blogging parents, and how do they get through it?
For a long time I didn't really know Ratphooey's work/childcare arrangements, despite the fact that I read her blog daily and have interacted with her in person. I probably know the most about Juliloquy's daily routine because of her Day in the Life series, and it's been so cool to learn about it, not least because she also lives in Philadelphia and her Schmoo is a couple weeks older than the Beaner. I think what makes it most fascinating is that she goes into the kind of detail that other bloggers do not. I, for example, think that everyone MUST have figured out by now what my work/childcare arrangements are and what my routine is because I mention bits and pieces of it all the time... and yet, though I'm sure other bloggers would say the same about their lives and blogs, I'm here to tell you that I STILL HAVE QUESTIONS. Well, one major question: How do you do it? How does your family manage work/childcare/housework/all the other stuff that needs to get done?
I'm not sure I can answer all of that at once, but for the benefit of new and old readers alike, I'll try to give a snapshot. I'd love for other parents to do the same, either in the comments or in your blogs (leave a link in the comments if you end up posting about this!).
I guess I'll start with work. A summary of my work history is available on my about page; what's relevant now is that I work from home at a full-time job for a relatively large company. In other words, I'm a telecommuter rather than a freelancer. The rest of my team is based in San Francisco, CA (except for one other engineer who's also a full-time telecommuter; he's in San Diego). Al also works full-time, at an office here in Philadelphia. He's lucky to have a commute that takes 10-15 minutes, depending on whether he takes the bus or walks.
We currently have a nanny who comes three days a week at 8:30am and stays until 6:00pm. On these days, Al goes off to the office shortly after she arrives, and I start work anywhere from 8:45am to 9:30am, depending on whether I've managed to squeeze in a walk and/or what time the Beaner wakes up. I work upstairs in a messy office outside the Beaner's bedroom, and I generally stay up there whenever the Beaner and Aura, the nanny, are home. When I hear the garage door open and shut, I know they've gone out, and it's safe to go downstairs and get a cup of tea or something to eat. Although I occasionally do go downstairs while the Beaner is home and awake for the express purpose of giving him a quick snuggle, it's a dangerous proposition—I risk not being able to extract myself without tears. Still, sometimes it's worth it. Sometimes I really need it.
The other two days a week, the Beaner goes to sharecare. Enough people have looked at me quizzically or asked outright, "what's that?" that I'm starting to believe the term "sharecare" is not universally understood. Allow me to explain what I mean: We "share care" with another family that also has a toddler and a nanny. In other words, that family's nanny, Jess, takes care of both her regular charge and our Beaner, and each family pays Jess a slightly reduced hourly rate. This way, Jess earns more for watching two children than she would for watching one, and the two families each pay less than we would if we each had our own nanny. The kids love it because they have a regular playmate, so everybody wins.
On sharecare days, Al usually feeds the Beaner breakfast and packs his lunch while I get dressed upstairs. When I come down, Al does his final preparations while I get out the double stroller and make sure there are some Pull-Ups and a change of clothes in the Beaner's diaper bag (a clear plastic bag that I think a blanket came in). I then get the Beaner into his coat and into the stroller, and all three of us leave together. We usually try to leave by 8:45am, but sometimes we don't make it out of the house until 9:00. Al splits off at Market Street, and the Beaner and I continue on to M's house, which is a little over a half mile from our house. (If it's raining, the routine is a little different; in that case, I throw the stroller in the trunk and drive the Beaner over to M's house. It's rained on surprisingly few sharecare days; I think I've only driven him three or four times in as many months.)
The double stroller was a special purchase just for sharecare, by the way; it helps Jess get around to the playground and the Please Touch Museum with both kids. I don't think I've ever seen them both riding in it at the same time, however. Anyway, I usually spend anywhere from 5-15 minutes getting the Beaner acclimated at M's house (though yesterday he ran straight into the kitchen with M, so I left right away), and then I walk back home. I usually stop at Trader Joe's on the way and pick up a few things, and if I'm lucky I'm at my desk at 9:30am. If I'm unlucky, and the Beaner melts down (this really only happened during the month of November; he seems OK now), it could be 10am before I get to sit down at my computer.
The good news is that even though I often get a later start on sharecare days, I also usually get a lot of work done because the house is quieter. (I also tend to get some laundry done, too, because I can run downstairs to change loads whenever I want.) I also eat better, because I can come down and make myself something when I'm hungry, not get stuck eating corn chips, almonds, and LUNA bars upstairs because the Beaner's down in the kitchen, waiting to cling to my neck if I make an appearance.
Jess is only officially on duty with M until 5:00pm, so when M's mom comes home (or her dad, who like me works upstairs at their house) comes down, she packs the Beaner and his lunch and diaper bags back into the double stroller and walks him over to our house. They usually arrive anywhere from 5:20pm to 5:50pm; if it's earlier, they go downstairs to the basement to play. If it's later, they'll come up to see me in my office, and Jess will give me a rundown of how the Beaner behaved, whether he napped, and how often he went to the potty.
Whether it's a sharecare day or a regular day, Al usually comes home around the time the nannies are leaving, which is handy for me if it's not a payday—it means I have a couple extra minutes to finish up what I'm doing upstairs. My San Francisco colleagues seem to go on a tear after 4pm my time (i.e., after lunch their time), so I'm often consulting with one or another of them about a bug or a feature right when Family Time should be starting.
If it is a payday, at 6:00pm I'm downstairs writing a check. Al has written checks before, but I don't think he knows how to do the tax calculations if either nanny has worked more or fewer hours than usual. We have a service prepare our nanny taxes for us, and they give us a sheet with gross and net pay amounts for a regular week of work as well as a multiplier to use when the gross amount differs from the usual amount. Actually, it occurs to me that this alone might be news; from the postings on craigslist and other friends and nannies I've talked to, it seems that it's just as common to pay for childcare under the table. Although neither of us is likely to run for public office or be nominated for Attorney General, we wanted to be legal and above-board.
After the nannies have gone home, Al and I usually decide what to do for dinner (about 2/3 of the time we go out or order in, and the other 1/3 of the time I make something or we eat from the freezer). If we eat in we might go for a family walk afterwards or play in the basement together. Sometime between 7:30 and 8:30 we have bathtime, and sometime between 8:30 and 9:30 I snuggle the Beaner to sleep in his bed while Al cleans up the kitchen. After that I either work for another hour or two, we watch TV together (24, Friday Night Lights, Veronica Mars, Lost, or 30 Rock), or we have a Family Meeting. (We started meeting once a week before the holidays to talk about things like retirement planning, vacation planning, the budget, etc. Our first meeting, in November, was about benefits; our open enrollment periods happened to coincide, so it was a good time to figure out which health plan made more sense, how much to set aside for childcare FSA—the max, without a doubt—and healthcare FSA, etc.)
I'm running out of battery on my laptop, and in reading this out loud to Al I realize how boring it all sounds, so I won't bother covering weekends. Now, let's hear how you do it!