Working part-time as a mom, part four

8 December 2022

This is the fourth and final post in my working part-time as a mom series! If you need to catch up, start here:

Part One: Background on my work history and some reasons (or not) for shortening my work week
Part Two: Why we chose me over my husband, why we chose going part-time over other solutions, and the financial impact
Part Three: My role, negotiation, and how I structure my time at work

In the first post, I shared a bit about my intentions for how I would spend my extra time outside of work. I wrote that I did not want to add more tasks to my plate, but that this change was largely about shifting the timing of tasks (from evenings/weekends to the workweek) versus adding new tasks or responsibilities. I also planned to prioritize digital tasks, because they are the most opaque and thus least likely to teach my children something, and tasks that are complicated with the ages of our children.

Almost five months in, I would say I’ve hewed pretty well to these hopes. In looking back over what I’ve accomplished in this season of Fridays (which is easy, because you know I love me some good record keeping), a few things have surprised me:

— I knew that grocery shopping would be a constant every week, but I thought cleaning out my email inbox would be, too. (Not getting to email zero, but just responding to anything that came in in the last few days that needed a response.) That has flat-out not happened at all. I also have yet to work on a blog post on a Friday (!), something I definitely thought would happen.

— I have gone to Trader Joe’s WAY more than I expected, ha. Though I love TJ’s, it’s just far-enough out of the way as to be inconvenient. I would go 2-3 times a year, usually when another errand took me past its cheerful doors. My Friday flexibility, however, combined with John’s discovery of this Instagram account, has me going there far more often. This has been fun on the food front but likely not as fun for our budget or my use of time.

— The category that seems to have expanded the most is social connection – the time I’ve spent with and for friends has exceeded my expectations, even though I planned for it to increase. This has been a joy, but has also required me to adjust my expectations for how my time will be spent and what else I’ll be able to get done.

— I’ve also generally had to adjust my expectations for how much I can get done in six hours. I know – I knew – that six hours is not that long, but I am constantly overestimating my capacity for a given Friday. It feels like I get a lot less done than I do on a six-hour workday, and I think that’s because my work days are extremely efficient – I’m basically just sitting in one place and pounding things out (and I’m also very good after all these years at planning my time blocks and estimating what I’ll be able to accomplish). On Fridays, I’m gathering supplies, driving places, moving around our house. That in-between time adds up!

Shall we take a look at a few representative Fridays? Let’s do it.

An August Friday
— An hour of physical therapy
— Grocery shopped + unloaded groceries
— Stopped by school to drop meds and forms
— Visited the Ferguson showroom to look at kitchen lighting
— Updated our kitchen plan doc and sent it to Callie
— Emailed a copy of my Sunday service to an Islander who had asked for it
— Finally purchased the Atlantic subscription I promised my Dad’s for his Father’s Day gift (in my defense, this took longer because I had to call customer service – but a great example of a simple task that I just never seemed to get around to!)
— Registered for mother-daughter camp weekend

A September Friday
— Played tennis with John (this was a treat!)
— Dropped a package at UPS
— Unloaded and loaded dishwasher
— Met with our cabinet painter to finalize details and sent a follow-up email to our other kitchen contractor
— Grocery shopped and unloaded groceries
— Changed the sheets on our bed and the kids’ beds
— Scheduled various appointments
— Picked kids up from an early release day and went to the pool with friends

Another September Friday
— Picked up meals at Donovan’s Dish
— Delivered a meal to friends with a new baby
— Delivered a meal to friends who had just moved into a new house
— Eye appointment
— Picked up supplies from a coworker
— Picked up clothing at the tailors
— Dropped a package at UPS
— Picked up specialty cat food
— Dropped our expired car seat in the Target collection bin
— Messaged our community group to plan the food for our next dinner

An October Friday
— Went to the book fair at June’s school
— Doctor appointment
— Brunch with Lisa and Kristin
— Picked up a necklace repair
— Picked up diapers and a prescription at Target
— Grocery shopped and unloaded groceries
— Paid credit cards
— Photographed and offered several things for sale on our Buy Nothing group
— Packed up coats for a coat drive

A November Friday
— Dropped car for inspection
— Took Annie to a play place with a friend then brought her to school
— Trader Joe’s
— Made a donation drop off
— Grocery shopped and unloaded groceries
— Called to ask a question about our dental insurance
— Updated my Christmas gift spreadsheet and made some more decisions
— Texted our babysitter about upcoming dates
— Found a new date for a rescheduled phone call with a friend
— Attended Shep’s parent-teacher conference
— Met up with a friend from church to walk and chat about an upcoming program

A December Friday
— Walked with a neighborhood friend who asked to pick my brain about starting a blog
— Caught up on text messages
— Met with a friend who’s asked me to edit her new product
— Wrote a thank you note
— Dropped packages at UPS and USPS
— Returned books to the library and picked up holds
— Picked up an item from a friend’s house
— Trader Joe’s
— Grocery shopped and unloaded groceries
— Made our end-of-year celebration dinner reservation
— Posted my monthly Instagram Stories update
— Ordered Yoto cards

Whether you look at these lists and think, I wish my Fridays looked more like that, or you look at them and think, heck no, I’ll keep earning money, thank you, I hope what you take away is a little more appreciation for all that you do to live a thoughtful life and care for others. I have no doubt your own list would be long, too, and that at least some of it is squeezed into less-than-ideal pockets of time.

Friends, thank you for being thoughtful and caring here in this series, and generous and interested, too. It means so much to me. Whatever stage of your career you find yourself in, and whatever plans you have for the future, I hope you took something away from this conversation! Grateful for you. xo

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December 8, 2022 9:45 am

This is so helpful! Seeing it all listed out makes me realize just how much those seemingly small tasks make up our days.

December 8, 2022 11:35 am

I have LOVED this series. Although my work schedule is very different than yours, I’ve gotten a ton out of reading this. It’s made me think about my time, core purpose, values, etc. I love how intentional you are in your life and with your choices and it sharpens me to read about your process and decisions, even if the specifics are different than mine. Thank you for sharing so openly on a topic that can be highly emotional and divisive; I truly appreciate your transparency!

December 8, 2022 12:15 pm

It’s so great and important to list it all out! And than you for this series. As more of my peers (men and women) come to accept what we all knew was true (There’s no such thing as having/doing it all), I think it’s important to show how the sausage is made, so to speak. Last night my husband was lamenting about having to miss a social event for reasons, saying “I just don’t know how people work a full time job, work on their marriage, do crossfit, bond with their kids, eat healthy all the time, take vacations, do their skin care routines, maintain a social life, get 8 hours of sleep, and keep their house clean.” I resisted saying that I don’t know anyone who does all of that, because I think it goes without saying at this point. :)

December 8, 2022 1:10 pm

I have loved this series! Thank you for giving us a glimpse into the heart behind your transition and how it has played out.

December 8, 2022 6:45 pm

Seeing all of your tasks listed is so helpful! It’s easy for me to say “Oh, I didn’t do much today” yet when I write it all down, I got a lot of tasks done that would have taken time away from something else. Thanks again for sharing this series!

December 8, 2022 8:21 pm

Thanks for sharing! I loved that you noted both shopping AND unloading groceries! Because it seems like that second part takes up almost as much time as the first sometimes!
I work as a freelancer and have usually tried to keep my Fridays work-free. And I always loved having that day to socialize and do tasks that would otherwise be squeezed in here and there. This hasn’t been possible for the last couple of months and I can truly feel the difference! It‘s little things sometimes, but they add up. And seeing them written out by you is eye-opening :) But more than the tasks and errands, I have missed the time for social interactions. Just being able to say yes to a coffee date or dropping off a fresh loaf of banana bread at a friend’s house, saying yes to watching someone’s kids… This post motivates me to make „my Fridays“ happen again next year!

December 10, 2022 8:06 am

I feel that this post is a perfect example of how time flies even as a stay at home mom. People ask me all the time what I do all day. And I always answer what don’t I do? Time really flies and your explanation of the in-between times adding up is so true.

December 12, 2022 9:31 pm

Thank you for this whole series, so interesting & important! Xo

December 15, 2022 1:18 pm

I’ve so enjoyed this series; thank you for sharing! As a mom of four, ages 13, 10, 7, and 4, I am consistently surprised by how much TIME daily life tasks take. Thanks for your honest examination of your six-hour increments. Take care!