A Week in the Life: the Work-at-Home-Parent
Ever wonder what it’s like to be a work at home parent? When I knew I would soon be making my full time move to WAHP a couple of years ago, I obsessively sought out blog posts about what it’s really, truly like. The unedited kind of blog posts. So here to do my part, I chronicled my week – which happened to be Halloween Week! While I left out things like potty training trials (you're welcome) and preparing approximately 20,000,000 snacks, pretty much everything else is in there.
Working at home while taking care of your kids is very challenging. It isn’t something that clicks for everyone, and sometimes it takes time to adjust. In the first 6 months of doing this, I didn’t know if I would continue – it was a massive adjustment from having the kids in daycare 40 hours a week and working around awesome coworkers in an office. It requires a determination that I didn’t know I had, masterful time management skills, the ability to switch mental gears on a dime, and the ability to set and stick to boundaries.
Some days everything falls into place and I end the day feeling accomplished. Other days the plan derails, I’m grabbing moments of time when I can to get things done and I finish the day burnt out. In the end being a work at home parent is the right fit if you wouldn’t trade it for anything and you want to keep doing it, even after the really hard days. And that is true for me.
Without further ado, welcome to the chaos, joy, exhaustion, accomplishment and badassery that is being a work at home parent:
The week is off to a bit of a weird start. I woke up at 1am with a sore throat. After drinking chamomile tea with honey it felt better so I wrote it off as a fluke, but lost some sleep. I have a 9am call with a client in Tuscon, AZ – I’ve been working with this particular client for a couple of years.
5am – Up with Little 2. He is two and a half (almost) and an extremely early riser. We snuggle for a little bit, then set him up with a morning video about savannah animals. I dive right in to check any emails that came in overnight (yes there were some that came in on a Sunday night), then move on to creating graphics to promote a Christmas event for a client.
6am – Little 1 is up. He is six and would probably sleep much later if he didn’t hear his brother playing. He usually comes out of his bedroom with a pen and paper in hand ready to start drawing, and does that until we tell him it’s time to get ready.
6:30–8am – Absolute chaos :) Dad is getting ready for his office job, I’m getting Little 1 ready for school and making sure Little 2 doesn’t destroy too much, and I also shower and get dressed for the day. Oh and breakfast.
8–8:30am – It’s just Little 2 and I now, so we do some reading and play with some animals. Then my MiL arrives for something we call “Murma School”. She takes Little 2 one day a week so I can get stuff done and it. Is. Glorious. She is a saint.
8:30–9am – I open and review multiple die-lines that will be discussed on a call at 9. Instructions and labels in Spanish.
9–9:20am – Call with client in Tuscon, Arizona. I’m working on a large packaging project right now, and we had just finalized packaging for the first product when the vendor changed the die lines. We touched base on that quick and also one other project.
9:20am–12pm – Updated dielines, began laying out 30 days social content for a client, delivered a quote on a full page ad for a CBD product.
12–2pm – Because I lost two hours of sleep last night, I’m exhausted. Since Little 2 is gone, I know a nap is possible, so I try. I sleep two hours and wake up feeling great, but a bit groggy.
2–3pm – It’s menu planning and grocery order day and I’m pretty behind on that because we had a busy morning. I sit down with some tea (sore throat is back, no!) and pull together a menu and list that is very simple to fit our busy week: Crockpot Italian Wedding Soup, Lime Chicken Tacos (crockpot), Cheesy Chicken Broccoli Soup (also crockpot), Rotisserie Chicken with mashed potatoes and salad (for tonight, premade), pizza takeout. Missed optimal Shipt delivery window. Damn. Chat husband asking if he’s cool with going to the grocery after work because I won’t have time because I just slept for 2 hours, sorry. Awesome hubby says no prob. He’s cool like that. Food, taken care of. I eat a salad when I realize I haven’t had anything all day and carry on.
3–3:30pm – Little 1 gets home from school. We chat. It was library day so he showed me the book he got, and he reread it afterward. Then he read a chapter of a mystery book about a school skeleton while I cleaned up the kitchen.
3:30–4pm – One more change to that packaging. Little 1 is drawing now.
4–5pm – Fold laundry, pick up, vacuum.
5–6:30pm – Little 2 is home now, so I get them dinner – toasted whole wheat PBJs, green pepper, a banana. They love it.
6:30–7:30pm – Dad is home with groceries. He starts bedtime for the kids right away because it takes two years, while I put away groceries and make salads for us.
7:30pm – Kids are in bed (Little 1 reads until 8 in bed) so we eat and watch one episode of Schitt’s creek. I am in bed by 9.
I have a call with a newer client in Denmark this morning, but I’m not sure what time it’s going to be. Their calls are pretty quick and easy, so I’m OK with doing them a bit more unscheduled for now, and they are OK with hearing my kids in the background, so it all works out. Oh also it’s trash day.
5am – Up with Little 2. He doesn’t want anything to do with snuggling, gets right into his new magic track set. Our cat is seeing the car move on the track for the first time, and she is very interested. She approaches, and sits across the track. The car slams into her, she stands up to let it pass, bats at it as it goes by and then lays back down. This happens maybe 20 times and Little 2 and I cannot stop laughing. Morning is off to a good start.
6:30–7am – I finish up those Christmas graphics from yesterday and send them for review. Little 1 is up. He wants a turn with cartoons. Fighting ensues. Distract them with cereal.
7–8am – Dad woke up later today. Hurried morning. Call with Denmark client was under 15 minutes and happened in the middle of it all. Dad and Little 1 make it out the door on time. Quiet for a moment.
8–9am – Reading and flashcards. He chose “Scary Stories 3” – this kid is really into scary things. Picking up toys from this morning together.
9–10am – It’s super cold still and neither one of us is feeling going outside yet so I allow him part of a movie (the Nightmare Before Christmas of course) while I get some more work done and throw dinner in the crockpot. I set up two packaging files for CBD products for an adventure company client in California – one is a roll on and one is a bottle. We’re waiting on fine artist artwork so I have to pause on it after file setup.
10–11am – We play outside in the morning sunshine and it is amazing. The leaves are falling from the trees and he’s running through giant piles while I do some yard cleanup.
11am–12pm – Lunch (leftover chicken) and play time. Then stories before nap.
12–2pm – Little 2 naps while I work. I make requested changes to yet another CBD product for a different client – this time a local Minnesota company using nanotechnology. I sneak in some social media strategy work for a different client, also local. That involves a lot of brain work and isn’t something I can do with the kids distracting me in the background. Then I work on the social graphics for my Denmark client from my earlier meeting and send those off for review.
2–3pm – Outside play time! Its sunny and we enjoy the fresh air.
3–5pm – Clean up time when brother gets home from school.
5pm – Dad’s home! Dad’s home! We play outside – it’s cold! - before a hot dinner.
5:30–6:30pm – Dinner of cheesy chicken broccoli soup and ciabatta. Good.
6:30–7:30pm – Dad administers bathtime, then bedtime. While he does that I paint gold stripes on Little 1’s dragon warrior costume. We’re both tired.
7:30–8:30pm – We finalize Little 1’s Ice Dragon Warrior costume. It’s badass. We enjoy costuming together. We tried to involve Little 1 a lot this year, but with a curious Little 2, he spent most time helping by keeping his brother distracted and out of our hair. That’s OK. I’m out by 8:35, but Andy edits photos from multiple family shoots until after midnight.
Halloween crunch time. There’s surprisingly not that much left to do on costumes. We are winging it and going with last minute original characters, just having fun this year. I have yet another client call this morning scheduled at 6:30am.
5:30–6:30am – Up with Little 2, he slept an extra half hour! It makes all the difference even though it sounds like nothing. He’s happy playing by himself this morning so I answer an email from my Denmark client and organize my Trello to do list.
6:30–7am – Call was rescheduled with my Minnesota Nanotechnology client – 11am works better. They want to discuss the ad I sent a quote about Monday, and a website.
7–8am – Chaos, but I got a shower in!
8–8:30am – Dentist appointment for me for a lump on the roof of my mouth that's been there for a week or so. Brought Little 2 because dad has to get to work. Get referred to an oral surgeon, who happens to have a 9:10 appointment in another town. I prefer to get this stuff out of the way so I can stop thinking about it, so I take it. There goes the morning. Life happens. I take a breath, let go of the tasks I had assigned to the next two hours, remind myself I’m in a place in this world where I can quickly go get checked up on when I need to, and drive us 15 minutes away. Little 2 made the receptionist’s morning in the waiting room by telling me he loved me so much over and over, showing them all of his toys and calling their autumn decorations “bootiful”. The surgeon said it’s probably a burn/injury that caused a lump and/or salivary gland issue, but I need to rinse with a prescription antiseptic mouthwash and follow up in two weeks. I briefly wonder what this just cost us and then make a mental note to stop eating my food directly when it comes out of the oven. Lump is gone by Tuesday of the next week.
10:30–11am – Playtime before call. Call rescheduled to 11:30 – he’s in a meeting regarding the projects we’re working on and it’s running late.
11–11:30am – Lunch (leftover soup, toast, grapes).
11:30am–12pm – Call with nanotechnology company. Ad has changed to an advertorial, website project is as discussed in email and gets a green light – I’ll put together a contract later.
12–2pm - Little 2 naps while I work. I started sketching ideas for a small iconography project for a Florida staffing company. I get a little cleaning done while he naps too – we’re hosting a Halloween playdate with his bestie tomorrow. And more social media graphics for the Denmark client.
2–4:30pm - The kids play together when Little 1 gets home, and I let them pick a mutually agreeable movie to put on so I can get through some work. Social media graphics for Denmark are complete now, sent off for review. A lot is coming in right now, so I do my best to stay on top of emails and organize my to do list.
4:30–5:30pm - Clean up
5:30–6:30pm – Cook and eat dinner (chicken lime tacos)
6:30–7:30pm – I clean up more (Halloween costume mess in the art studio) and stretch with my chirp wheel and occipital release device while Andy gets the kids put to bed.
7:30pm – Holy crap I’m tired. Modern Family’s Halloween episode is on tonight so I can’t tap out just yet. I eat another taco and surf Instagram and Facebook while waiting for the show to start.
8–8:30pm – Modern Family!
8:30pm – We realize we didn’t carve our pumpkins. Andy starts hacking into one as I go to bed.
The big day! It’s here it’s here! Everyone sleeps in, which throws the day completely off. It’s Halloween so we just roll with it without grumping too much.
6:30–7am – We all wake up at the same time. Usually it’s just me and Little 2 easing into the morning together so this is kind of..jarring. Ha. I dive into emails and get the kids breakfast, while reminding Andy that I have to do his Halloween makeup before a dentist appointment so he’s gotta hurry.
7–7:30am – Get the kids ready for the day and then tell Andy we only have 15 minutes to do makeup!
7:30–8am – Do a quick Emperor Palpatine costume makeup (20 minutes, new record!) and send the hubs out the door to a dentist appointment, Little 1 out the door to school.
8am–12pm – The morning goes super fast – I clean the house from the morning chaos and we play and then have lunch (pbj, leftover tacos)
12–1pm – Short nap for the Little. Ugh. I spent nap hot gluing a couple more pieces of black onto my witch’s hat, cleaning the bathroom and mopping the floors. I was about to dive into a work project when he woke up.
1–2pm – I create a simple contract template, I have to send contracts and invoices tomorrow and I would like to be ready. Little 1 is playing and whining at the same time.
2–3pm – Witch’s makeup and getting dressed for Halloween.
3–4:15pm – Playdate with bestie! Little 2 had his friend over for a costume party. She is a fluffy pink bunny and her baby brother is a pumpkin who hates his pumpkin costume. Little 2 is an elephant. They run around in their costumes, fight over a blue food truck toy, play with animals, touch the baby, eat a cupcake made by bestie’s mom. Yum! When Little 1 gets home from school, he pretty much parks himself next to the 10 week old. He holds him, rubs the top of his head, and talks to him. He LOVES BABIES. Friends leave just as Andy is getting home.
4:15–5pm – Order pizza, clean up from playdate, answer an important email (in costume, of course).
5–6pm – MiL arrives, we eat pizza and start dressing the kids in exactly 18 layers of clothing before putting their costumes on. It’s so cold.
6–6:30pm – Trick or treating with the four of us while MiL hands out candy! Both kids are so cute and polite, and everyone loves their costumes.
6:30–7:30pm – I head back with a super tired, very cold-nosed elephant and put him to bed.
7:30–8pm – Dad and Little 1 get back from trick or treating, eat some candy, brush some teeth, put him to bed.
8–8:30pm – We post Halloween costume pics as we laugh and reflect on the day. Good Halloween.
8:30–9:30pm – Schitt’s Creek on Netflix, beddie bye.
Homestretch. Although not really because I usually end up working at least a little bit over the weekend, and definitely will this weekend (including photographing CBD product for a nanotechnology company and working on social media graphics). That’s OK though, because Andy is home and can help with the kids so I have more solid blocks of time and that leaves me feeling less stressed going into the week.
5–7am – Up with Little 2. He’s happy playing with some animals and watching cartoons. I break out the laptop and get to work. Since yesterday was a little crazy, there’s catching up to be done today. The TV will be on more than normal. That’s OK. On my list for today: Setting up a brand book, updating coffee packaging, finishing that icon project, modifying kombucha labels, finishing NYE bash promotion graphics, creating and sending contracts, taking down Halloween decorations, showering, paying the mortgage. Oh and mom-ing.
7–8am – Dinner in the crockpot! Italian Wedding soup with homemade meatballs. Also get everyone ready to go and take down all Halloween decorations, putting them in a pile in the office.
8–10am – Little 2 and I go for a chilly and pretty brief walk. It is snowing. We read stories and make a fort. He plays in it while I set up that brand book. Setting up a file for me includes: importing and sizing logo, defining body and title text, building a cc library with colors and imagery, if not already done. Pretty simple but necessary and the trigger for me to start creating mental space for a project. I pay the mortgage and start boxing up Halloween stuff. Also call AT&T about a charge that was supposed to be refunded but wasn’t. “Oversight”. Mmhm.
10am–12pm – Finish icon project for Florida company, R1 off for review.
12–1pm – Contracts and invoicing during another ONE HOUR nap for the Little. Sent contracts just in time.
1–4pm - Finished NYE Bash leading graphics, off for review. Started a social media campaign for a non-profit scientific advisory panel (I’m on the steering committee) and completed one graphic, coffee packaging update and sent for review. Kids play while I do this. First Little 2 alone while watching “the Grinch”, then both kids when brother gets home. Now they’re too quiet, go to check. Just playing, nothing mischevious.
4–4:30pm – Load dishwasher, vacuum, pick up any stray toys/junk.
4:30–5:30pm – Make and bake meatballs for soup, make cheesy bread to have with soup. Eat dinner.
5:30–7pm – Family movie night! We choose Missing Link.
7–8pm – Kids to bed. I realize I forgot about the kombucha labels today, so I text Jess and let her know I’ll do it over the weekend. She was referred to me a couple years ago as a client through a label vendor I work with for another client, and we have become friends since then.
8–10pm – Andy and I watch The Day After Tomorrow because we can't use our brains anymore this week. I fall asleep on couch around 10 while he stays up for a couple hours to edit photos. And that’s a wrap!
Calls with clients in Denmark, Arizona and Minnesota.
Worked on print ads, social media strategy, social media graphics, packaging design with die cuts, packaging design with labels, brand books, icon designs and digital illustrations.
Worked with clients in Florida, Arizona, California, Minnesota and Denmark.
Read 12 kids books.
Completed one non-profit project.
Billed approximately 25 hours (after the weekend was done).
Took one two-hour nap.
Had five bowls of soup.
Vacuumed and ran the dishwasher five times. Did three loads of laundry.
Made two costumes.
Ate so much Halloween candy I stopped keeping track.
Swore off candy.