Welcome back to my ‘Diary of a Working Mom’ series! I’m so excited to share this today’s Q&A …the FOURTH one to date. Woo hoo!
Today’s interview is with Lori Hightower. Lori is actually one of my sister’s friends from her med school days. Lori’s husband Cody was in Aekta’s class. I got to know Lori a bit better during Aek’s bachelorette party and loved how she’s an open book with her experiences and thoughts. So refreshing!
Speaking of refreshing, I love that Lori’s response are just that. She’s honest about her motherhood experience and doesn’t sugarcoat anything. I wanted to add my own personal ‘you go girl’ or ‘preach’ comments after every response but held back because this isn’t about me!
With that, let me hand it over to Lori to tell her story…
1. Tell me a little more about your family – number of kids, names, ages.
I have a little girl, Luella LaBelle who is 17 months old. My husband is a 2nd year orthopedic resident.
2. Tell me more about your line of work, role, responsibilities, etc.
I’m currently employed at a local Northwestern Mutual office, and my specific job title is Client Relations Coordinator. I’m in charge of transitioning clients from agents who leave the business. I provide service forms and occasionally recommendations to clients on their insurance policies. I’m also responsible for executing the termination process (even though I don’t determine who is terminated, I handle the paperwork for the process and the transition of our clients). Clients are moved to our Client relations center, which is a group of clients who do not currently have an assigned adviser. My major role is in generating leads to send to a small sales team. I’m responsible for rep development and achieving a sales goal for the client relation center and its members.
3. Walk me through a day in your life.
My Monday, Wednesday, and Friday schedule is outlined below. On Tuesdays, I don’t have to be at work until 11:30 am, so I wake up at 6:00 am to work out for 30-45 minutes. And on Thursdays, I wake up at 5:15 am to work out. On both of those days, the rest of my routine follows the outline below.
6:00 am – I wake up, make coffee, prepare snacks/bottle/water cup for my daughter for school, empty the dishwasher, and try and have my hair and makeup done by 7:00 am. I then enjoy a cup of coffee and some TV with my cat for the next 20 minutes.
7:30 am – I wake up Luella, change her diaper, help her get dressed, give her a bottle, brush and fix her hair, and brush her teeth.
7:50-8:00 am – We leave for daycare.
8:15-8:20 am – I drop off Luella and head to work. On a good day, I arrive at the office by 8:35 am, and on a bad day (due to traffic), I arrive by 9:00 am.
9:00 am-5:00 pm – I work up until lunch and take a break around 12:00/1:00 pm. I use my one hour lunch break to drive home and either squeeze in a 10 minute HIIT workout OR do household chores. I leave the office by 5:00 pm and arrive at Luella’s daycare around 5:30.
6:00-6:15 pm – I change Luella’s diaper and then begin making dinner while my playful toddler keeps me company on the kitchen floor and waits for her daddy to come home if he isn’t there already. My husband works 80+ hours a week and is on call at a minimum of one night a week, which means he is gone for almost 48 hours. Some weeks he is on call 3 days a week.
7:00-7:30 pm – Dinnertime! I try and make meals that we can eat for two days, so that we have leftover. This also means I don’t have to cook a few nights a week. Sometimes during my lunch break I meal prep a little and throw something in the crock pot so it’s ready when I get home or I’ll prep something to throw into the oven. On the nights where I have our meal ready to go, we take time to go for a walk. After dinner, it’s bath time for Luella. There’s about a 60% chance I will bathe with her for some fun time in the tub and to save time.
8:00-8:45 pm – We put on our pajamas, brush our teeth, have some play if time allows and tell daddy goodnight. I take her to her room to say prayers then lay her down for bed.
Soon thereafter it’s bedtime for mama!
4. How has becoming a mom influenced your role at work?
Being a working mom is difficult, especially because I have to plan to do everything on my own without help from my husband due to his job (not because he is unwilling). Also, if Luella gets sick and I can’t find a baby sitter, I have to stay home. We aren’t originally from the area we currently live in, so we didn’t always have connections with baby sitters. It took a whole year for me to develop a network of reliable, trustworthy baby sitters I could call on in my time of need. And there are plenty of times where I play musical chairs with sitters if my daughter has to stay home. If babysitter #1 can only stay 8 am – 12 pm, then sitter #2 comes from 1 pm – 5 pm. Being out of work any part of the day is a constant battle I fight being a working mom… with a child in daycare…who is constantly sick…
5. What is your favorite tip on how to integrate work and life?
My best tip for integrating work and life is to create a routine and stick with it. Be disciplined and find time to schedule quality time with your child, husband, and especially your me time. I know it can seem impossible. That’s why I either workout at lunch or do chores. Doing a workout helps me burn off stress and stay in shape so I feel good about myself mentally and physically. Doing chores helps me chip away at my list of things to do so it doesn’t build up and become overwhelming. It keeps our house tidy and allows me to have time to play with my daughter when I get home instead of trying to do 20 chores. Given I haven’t seen her all day, this is very important to me.
6. How do you handle mom guilt?
Mom guilt is always there. As much as I like my job, I feel my first responsibility is to my family. I constantly go back and forth on staying home or working and keeping Luella in daycare. Because I don’t have family close by, daycare is my only support system with the baby. I am fearful of losing it. Her teachers have been amazing and have taught us so much. She is loved there, and she benefits from learning social behavior as well as routine and boundaries in a group setting. On the other hand, she sick ALL the time. We are lucky if we have 5-7 days of wellness before the next cold/virus hits. As a mom, this kills me. I want to be home with her when she doesn’t feel good, but I can’t because I have to work. I’m also wrecked with guilt by the fact that she’s unwell 95% of the time because she’s in daycare. Most of the time I’m frustrated because I feel like I didn’t get enough time with her during the day. To be honest, I don’t know if there’s a solution. It’s just a battle I take day by day. Some days I’m winning and some days I’m losing.
7. What is the most surprising part of being a working mom? And the most rewarding?
The most surprising thing about being a working mom was finding out how much I actually love and appreciate daycare. I was super against daycare at first. In fact, I was so opposed, I looked into stay at home nannies. However, ultimately my husband and I decided that wasn’t the route we wanted to go down, so I abandoned my search for a nanny and started look for a suitable daycare.
I found a private Christian academy with an early education program, and from the moment I walked into the building, I thought to myself, “This is it.” Don’t get me wrong, it was still very difficult leaving my precious little baby with someone else for the first time to go to work, BUT I quickly developed a connection to her “teacher.” I had a tremendous amount of gratitude and respect for the young woman and her assistant who cared for my child along with eight other infants. She followed Luella’s schedule, gave an account of her daily activities, and most importantly, they helped form a routine for Luella. No one ever gave me unsolicited advice, but during times when I myself didn’t know if what I was doing was “normal” or if I needed advice on certain topics, her teacher was there to support me and give me feedback.
I have a lot of faith in those who have experience. All of the caregivers at Luella’s school have years of experience working with children of specific age groups. Daycare has helped support me as a mother, allowed me to develop a community with the educators and other parents, and provided a wonderful learning environment for Luella. Luella has had a built in routine since almost day one at school (she was 8 weeks old when she started). She learns boundaries and rules, she benefits from social play and educational activities, and above all, she is loved by her caregivers. I have been blown away by how wonderful each member of the staff truly is.
My daughter is now in her third classroom since starting at the early education program, and every teacher she’s had has been amazing. I’m so impressed with the things she learns. For example, she came home singing “row row row your boat” and “The Bible song.” She’s also learned what and where her eyes, ears, nose, fingers, toes and belly button are. She eats a healthy lunch daily and is introduced to a variety of different foods which encourages her to be a good sport and sample all the food on her plate at home and at school. I could honestly go on and on. The bottom line is we all benefit from her being in daycare.
I know I’m blessed to have found such a wonderful place and that not everyone feels this way about daycare. I will say as a mom who was very against the idea of sending my child to a daycare program, I have been totally reformed. As much as I would love to quit my job so I can have more time with her, it’s hard for me to think about Luella’s not attending school there anymore. It also keeps me motivated to work so when we have another baby that child can also go and reap the benefits of school. All despite the con of constant sickness of course! I feel as though the teachers there offer gifts and knowledge I don’t have innately to teacher her myself. I feel so blessed to send her there.
8. How do you carve out ‘me’ time? What does ‘me’ time look like for you? On that same note, what’s your guilty pleasure?
I carve out me time by following a pretty busy and disciplined schedule. I’ve learned that I have to be intentional with my time at all times. For example, I’m a happier person when I work out. I feel better about myself both physically and mentally, but I don’t have the time anymore to exercise in the same capacity I once did. Before having my daughter, I worked out 4-5 days a week for at least an hour. Now, I plan to either get up early and get in a longer workout or do a quick HIIT session during my lunch break. My other “me time” during the day is the morning when I’m getting ready. I like to have a moment to sip a cup of coffee and relax with the pets and watch TV. I squeeze this in by getting up a little early so I’m not rushed to get dressed and run out the door as soon as the alarm goes off.
My guilty pleasures include a glass of red wine or a cookie. I feel like I earned these ‘treats.’ I’m a full time mom with a full time job, plus a wife, cook, house cleaner, dog walker, fitness fanatic, yard woman, etc. So if the baby is fussy or if I’ve had a long day, I give myself a little reward because I deserve it. Ha!
9. What’s the best piece of advice you received when returning back to work after having your baby?
To be honest, I didn’t love any of the advice from some of my friends and colleagues. I felt very differently about returning to work/working in general initially than they did. I did hear a lot of – schedules are important for sanity as is time away (non-mommy time). In a way, I’m also grateful my family and friends didn’t throw a bunch of unsolicited advice my way.
10. What advice would you give to mamas-to-be about returning back to work?
Working motherhood is hard. You’ll probably cry…a lot. It’s an adjustment, and it’s ok that it hurts. Find a caregiver you trust and feel comfortable with and build a relationship with him/her/them. This will help you feel better about who your child is spending the day with.
Also, it’s ok if returning to work is in some way a break for you. I found myself feeling guilty for having a few hours a day to use my brain and not just be a mommy…and liking it. Honestly, it’s good for me psychologically. Sometimes being a working mom can make you a better mom when you are home. I would also say to leave work at the office whenever possible. When you are home, pour into your family and learn to compartmentalize the best you can.
Thank you again, Lori, for your honest and thoughtful answers! Your story just emphasizes that no mama is alone in this journey. We’re truly in it together!