Thursday, July 14, 2011


It's been a few days since I've posted. We got back from Galveston around 2 pm on Monday. The kids finally went to sleep at 10:45 that Sunday night and have since reverted back to their normal fall-asleep-immediately-at-7:30 selves. Thank goodness because I feel like we're barely hanging on right now and kids who fight bedtime are simply not something we can handle.

The adjustment to JP working full-time has been... difficult. I don't think it would be so bad to have two normal working parents. But having a full-time BigLaw litigator with a busy deposition and upcoming trial travel schedule + a full-time business division leader with a 45-60 minute commute and an 80+ hour work week is simply untenable. Luckily my job is both very flexible and very close to home. I can leave every day at 5:30 and get the kids at 5:45. I can clean containers, sippy cups, and lunch boxes, chop and prepare food for the next day's lunches, make dinner, feed the dogs, serve dinner, clean up dinner, do bath time, read books, tuck the kids in bed, feed the cat, do laundry, and then log back in to work the extra two hours I missed during the day because I did the daycare drop-off and pick-up and I hate making the kids leave the house too early in the morning. I can do all of that, and it's fine and the kids are happy and our schedule hasn't really changed, but I can't do all of it forever.

JP is leaving the house at 5 a.m. and getting home at 9 p.m. (and then working at the kitchen table till 11 or 12). Some days he makes it home in the middle of dinner, most days he doesn't. Some days he can be there in the morning, most days he can't. I miss him, miss our time together, miss his help- and hate that when I'm frustrated and tired of doing everything, I can't even yell at him because he quite literally cannot do more. We call him on the phone at night and Landon asks where he sleeps. Claire cried when he picked her up yesterday. Not. Tenable.

I don't know the point of writing this, except perhaps to gift it to those who liked to tell me I had it too easy or my blog should come with a warning label. As I say every night when he calls and tells me resignedly that he'll be home late again, "it is what it is." I knew I'd feel the loss of JP as an awesome stay-home-most-of-the-day husband, but I understood that he wanted to pursue the career he went to business school to begin. I'd want that too. And we knew he'd work a lot, but we had no idea he'd work this month. Apparently there's some sort of crisis because he said all of his co-workers are complaining a lot about the unusually high hours. I hope it changes soon. Our goal is to make it a year. In one year we can pay off all my student loans with an interest rate of 7% or greater (nearly $60,000 worth; sadly, not quite half my total). I'll make myself calm down about the rest of it (I've never even had a credit card balance before, debt stresses me the f- out) and we'll reevaluate. If his schedule doesn't change by September, we'll reevaluate sooner. I can't do 100% of the home/child tasks and my job, and when push comes to shove, I still make twice what he does, so if one of us needs to make a change, it has to be him. Plus, while he genuinely likes his work and his co-workers, it's killing him to see so little of the kids (and I can't imagine they appreciate it much either).

Two nights ago, when I was talking to JP on his 10 pm drive home (because his commute is now the only time we can talk), he asked how daycare pick-up went. "Good," I said, wanting to move on to a discussion of our weekend plans. "But what did Claire do when she saw you?" pressed JP, "Did she smile and clap? or just smile?" "Umm, both, I think?" "Did she run up to you or did you walk over to get her? Did she give you a hug? Was she holding her favorite green snail toy?"

Wow, I thought, as he made me recount in great detail exactly how the Biscuit greeted me, he really misses them. And he misses being part of all the logistics that I want to complain about. And then, after years of wishing he had a traditional, steady-paying corporate job, I found myself saying, "have you thought about starting another swim school?"


  1. I love reading your blog, always have, because as a rising 3L with two kids who are about your kids' ages, you've always made me feel happy and confident that I can enjoy my motherhood and my career at a firm. The balance is difficult, and often off kilter from week to week, but I think that for the most part, you and JP manage to right the ship whenever it goes awry. And now, at the risk of extending this metaphor to ridiculous levels, you have another anchor dragging your sail, and that's obviously messing with your course. (I know, the metaphor, it's ridiculous - barf!)

    I dearly hope that as he proves himself at his new job, and gets a feel for his place in that company, JP's hours will dial down. It's always crazy, those first six months in a high-responsibility job. The commute is rough, too - I've done it myself - but I think it's really great that the one of you who has more flexibility is the one who is five minutes from the kids. Moving to the halfway point, if anybody suggests that, would not be something I would recommend. Having worked an hour from my children in the past, and with my husband working half an hour away, let me tell you - you MUST have someone very close to them, for emergency pickups or what-have-you.

    The burden on you, poor Mama, has got to be wearing you out. But I think you're right to just take a deep breath and soldier on, and see this as a temporary high-stress fully miserable time in your life. It will end. The kids will make it through. JP will find a better balance, once he settles in - and if he finds out that a better balance can't be achieved at that workplace, then you'll figure out a different option. Just survive, til then, and know we're all pulling for you! (Except the snotty crankypants readers who are happy to see you unhappy! And they can go jump in a lake!)

  2. Have you thought about hiring a nanny? I know the kids love your local daycare, and I am not suggesting you pull them out, but considering you don't have much "backup" help (aka grandparents) close to you, I think this would be an amazing option to help you get through the next year. When I went back to work last year, we hired a nanny to care for our kids full time. I had a ton of reservations at first, but she is AMAZING! She does the kids' laundry, loads/unloads the dishwasher, picks up the house, starts dinner, and she has even run errands for me. And since you live in a college town, I am sure you could find someone with flexibility who could work, say from 3-7 on Tuesdays and Thursdays and then a little extra on those weeks when you really need help. I found our nanny through, but you UT might also have a job site you could post on for their early childhood education department or something. Good luck!

  3. Ugh, LL, this resonates so much with me. John just graduated with his MBA, I'm working at a firm for the first time, and we have a three month old. I'm really struggling with our efforts to figure out whether it's possible to have two professional careers in the same family in a way that doesn't sacrifice all the kid time we want and need. Sorry it's such a slog right now.

  4. Ugh... this sounds terrible.
    But anonymous makes a good point. This is what I did during April/May/June for a family... Dad travels most weeks for works and mom stays at home, but with 3 kids in 2nd and 3rd grade, there just isn't enough of her to go around. So I helped with pickup and dropoff of kids at school/dance/lacrosse/soccer, started dinner, packed lunches, threw laundry in, helped with homework, etc. Sometimes I even run to the grocery store/Target/Costco for her so she can spend some time with the kids and not have to do that sort of stuff.

    Maybe not a perfect solution for you guys right now, but as the kids get older and have more after school activities (soccer, etc), that might be a good option for you.

    Either way, fingers crossed JP's new job let's up soon!

  5. Hugs to you. And warning label? WTF?

    Reading your post reminded me of the year of hell - M's two back surgeries and the horrid recover/work/drop off/pickup nightmare. I would fall asleep at traffic lights. I wish I were exaggerating. I wouldn't do it again for the world.

    Ditto the suggestion for a nanny. With two kids in full-time daycare, a nanny makes sense- and will pick up the household tasks, so that you won't be frustrated that you're having to do it all and JP won't feel guilty for you having to do it all.

    And some more hugs.

  6. We have the babysitter doing pick-up from daycare and it's STILL a struggle. A huge struggle.

    I often find myself complaining about having to do drop off each morning or being the one that has to relieve the babysitter at night even though I know PJO wishes he could do more (and not have to be commuting instead). It took him nearly two hours to get home from work last night! Yet we are both stuck at our current jobs (and hence, stuck with our commutes and untenable work-life balance) for the time being. I have told him that if for some horrible reason we are still living where we live and working where we work when I return from maternity leave, we have to hire a full-time nanny because I just can't keep doing what I am doing, much less with two! Of course, I would rather continue paying my loans down as aggressively as we are, but you do what you have to do.

    So as you said, it is what it is. I'm hoping things improve for you and your family, and it sounds like they will in time. But I also hope you never feel like you have to defend yourself or preemptively attack naysayers for just being honest about the good and the bad of your life. Because really, that doesn't help anyone.

  7. Wow... that must be so hard.

    I don't think my situation is quite as insane as yours. J and I swap daycare pick-up so I generally only work after-hours on days I pick them up. He gets home by 6 and works many nights for a few hours.

    We have outsourced a lot recently - I started getting meals delivered a couple of times a week and I get groceries delivered and we have a cleaning lady.

    I'm also working just 4 days now. It's basically still a 40-hour work week, but not a 50-hour one, which it was before. It's helped me feel sane in a two-career marriage... I worried it would detract from my 'credibility' at work, but I don't think it has so far, and I really, really love that extra day.

  8. I love this post.

    I love that you realize you can't do both shifts and that you don;t feel like you have to just because you're the woman.

    My husband quit his marketing exec job to teach, and we LOVE both being home with the kids, o I know what you;re missing. I also know the life you;re leading right now, because that was us last year.

    A great post.

  9. I agree with the suggestion of getting extra help. It doesn't have to be a nanny, just a conscientious high school student who can run a few easy errands twice a week would be good (and cheaper).

    I know part this post is just venting, but I think you are right to give it a little bit more time. I hope JP's job will settle down; it's sad that he misses the kids so much.

  10. I have to agree with the idea of extra help. Even if you just have someone come in 2 or 3 times a week to take care of the little household chores and do meal prep/shopping, it would allow you more time to spend with the kids after work. It's all about balance, and although you're a hard worker, you can't do everything. Talk to some of your fellow moms at work and maybe they have recommendations for a good agency? You and JP are great parents and a good team, you'll figure this out.

  11. Ugh, I am so sorry this is such a difficult time.

    No advice, just my sympathies. I hope it lets up soon.

  12. I TOTALLY understand. My role was more like JP's role now, leaving at 6am and getting home at 9am only to work some more. Each family situation and dynamic is different and, obviously, there are different solutions. I know things will work out for you in the end. As much as it sucks, it's probably worth suffering through it now. In the end, things may push you to make a drastic change (like me) or things will mellow out. In the meantime, good luck and strength to you!

  13. We did a similar slog, though for far far less pay, when I had my appellate court clerkship. 90 miles each way, in snow and ice and fog and $4 gallon gas. I lasted 9 months and it was the best job I ever had. Gorgeous office, wonderful coworkers, interesting work. Now I'm working 25 hours a week a 4 minute drive from home and my boys daycare and elementary school is 6 minutes from home. My pay only covers lunch, daycare, and student loans, but life is far more sane.

  14. LL, I'm sorry if it was my posts that got to you-- not my intent at all. I was seriously envious of how well it was working for you. I was the one who missed a large part of my kids' babyhood, and I've wished I could go back and change that somehow. YOU have been doing terrific, and I think this uptick for you will resolve itself. I agree that (even some teenage) help would help you, such as someone to help get dinner on the table and do the evening routine 2 or 3 nights a week. Good luck to you.

  15. I feel for you, I really do! My DH and I have done both the fulltime working mom at big law firm & stay-at-home dad thing; the both working full-time thing; and for the past 2 years on an expat assignment (me) the full-time mom & stay-at-home dad thing again . . . and we're currently facing the choice of what to do next. DH is on leave from his job . . . and we either need to return to the US (and us both back to our FT jobs) or not (which may make the stay-at-home dad thing permanent). Hard decision!!

    We will most likely move back to our FT jobs/CRAZY life but not without many doubts. As comfortable as life is right now (and it is!) I worry about: being sole breadwinner, life once our kids are older and generally whether it's a sustainable thing to be a stay-at-home dad for my DH psyche. (BTW, he is also a UT MBA grad).

    Here's to hoping that JP's work schedule lets up (and once he's not the new guy constantly having to prove himself this should help!). And to thinking about creative solutions (like nanny/babysitter) that can make the day-to-day more tenable.

  16. I'm sorry. I have that feeling sometimes -- I just can't go on like this -- falling into bed after working/commuting/cooking/caring for the child for 15 hours straight. You have it tough. I think you are an impressive person (as well as a really good writer), and I hope you get a break.

  17. Here's another vote here for getting a mother's helper. Seriously! Whatever it takes to get you guys through this, that's what I vote for.

    Hopefully things even out soon. Man, new jobs are so stressful, so I feel for all of you right now.

  18. Oh honey. I'm so. sorry. There are no words. So, I hope, I can offer some help in the way of advice.

    Does your firm or JP's company offer a concierge service? My firm did and it had truly amazing perks. To echo what a lot of people have said, but with an additional tip, it might help to have someone handle things that ideally you would do on your own but objectively could outsource. I think you said you have a cleaning lady already? See if she can come more frequently, weekly or even twice a week, and if she'll handle laundry. The concierge service might be able to rope you into services that will run your errands and take care of the menial things on your list. You may even be able to arrange for one of those services where your food comes prepared in mise en place form (veggies already chopped, etc.) with a full menu plan, so you can just mindlessly plunk and move on.

    Essentially, I think what I'm getting at is if there are things that are literally not worth your time. Human being me says that time with your kids and JP is precious and you don't want to lose it to silly things like mowing the lawn. Mercenary me says you bill "x" amount an hour and JP earns "y" amount an hour; it is literally not worth your time to waste an hour running an errand because you will have lost "x" dollars in value. In addition, you can't be as productive or efficient or effective if you have less recovery time with your children and therefore feel like crap. Don't feel guilty or bad about it - but from both a human and a cold hard numbers standpoint, it just might make sense to get help (or have something like a concierge service do that research for you and save time) so you can survive this rough period, and hopefully soon things will balance out.

  19. Great post! Enjoyed reading, especially right now sitting in bed at 10:30 PM after getting off work at 6:15 and then being single mom/housewife for the evening and my husband is just heading home. It can be very challenging to balance things when both spouses have FT demanding jobs. You have such a positive outlook on things and although I consider myself a positive person, I feel like I get frustrated too easily with some situations and get a little "woe is me." I like having help and miss it when I don't. Anyway, this post has turned into me venting but thanks for your post, it's nice to hear from other people going through similar things. And I am so impressed with you... how do you make dinner every night??? I have got to figure out how to meal plan. Sorry this post is so scatterbrained, I'm tired and need to get some sleep.

  20. I know I'm late commenting on this post, but I wanted to say hang in there. I'm glad you're giving yourself a deadline, but also I have found through trial and error that it's important to live with a set of circumstances for while before making any sweeping changes. It will help you and JP define what is really important and what needs to give. Two working parents is really hard. Two working parents who works as much as you and JP do is nearly impossible. One of your strengths seems to be your ability to distill what is truly valuable, important and meaningful in your life and pursue it. I know that quality will sustain you and help you as you weather this storm. Take care.