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Full Time Career and Full Time Mom (Guest Post by Jen S.)

From daily routines to child care and potty training, Jen covers it all in this guest post! With three kids, she’s had many different work schedules and decided what works for them.

I am the Executive Director of Practice Management at Aultman Hospital (Ohio). I manage physician offices and also have three managers that directly report to me. I am very fortunate to have an awesome job and make a very good living while doing it. I have not always had this great of a schedule at work. I was an RN in Open Heart Surgery when I had Connor. I worked a lot of hours and was on call a lot which meant I did not get to see Connor on a real consistent schedule. During an emotional day at work, I decided hastily that this schedule was not for me and went to casual status. My visions were that I would be spending so much more time with my son and I would also have time to get all the housework done and cook dinner every night. Well, that is not exactly how it went…I would strive to sleep in every day and hope that Connor would do the same. I didn’t get out of my pajamas until late afternoon, or sometimes not at all. I kept putting the housecleaning off till “later”. The days I did get out of my pajamas, I headed to the mall and spent money that I was no longer making. I also put laundry off in hopes that someone other than me would just do it. And to top things off, I wouldn’t have dinner on the table half the time when my husband got home from work. I felt like I was not setting a great example for my son, so I gradually got back into working on more of a full-time basis.

After Reese was born, I went back to work part-time. This was partly because she was premature and her physicians recommended that she not go to public daycare. After about six months, I knew I needed to find someone other than my mom and a friend watching my daughter. I was so lucky to find Kara. I was looking in the paper for child care providers and noticed that one of the ads was in a neighborhood that I once lived in. Since I knew it was a nice neighborhood, I gave her a call….Best decision ever! I will get into more about Kara later.

When Reese was almost 2 and half years old, I found out I was pregnant again. This was not a planned pregnancy so we were shocked! I had thoughts of wondering if it was worth going back to work if I had to pay for day care for 3 kids! I made several pro and con lists about what to do with my career. It changed daily, one day I planned to go back to being a staff nurse and working off shifts so we wouldn’t need to utilize so much day care costs, then the next day, I was back to keeping my current job and just making it work. Finally, we decided it was best to keep my management job which was Monday through Friday. It was 5 days a week, but it also came with flexibility. I rarely have ever missed a school party. I was even nominated to be the 2nd and 3rd grade coordinator this year!

I am very blessed to be able to be a full-time working mom, but also have the luxury to attend all the special days for my kids at school. I did have one day this year that made me feel like a failure. I was at the office and was very busy…one of my physicians was meeting me at my office. Right as I was walking up the stairs, I could see that the physician was there already. At the same time, my phone rang and it was Reese crying…it was Grandparents Day and I FORGOT!! I immediately began crying and questioning if I was doing the right thing by working. I apologized to her and knew the physician was waiting for me. I tried my best to dry my eyes before heading into my office. Fortunately, the physician is a very nice family guy. He saw something was wrong, and asked me why I was upset (I am sure he was hoping it was something minor lol)…I told him that I had forgotten my daughter’s Grandparents Day. He reassured me that I was an awesome career woman and also a great mother. It took me over a week before I didn’t break down just thinking about the incident.

When I wake up in the morning, first order of business is letting the dogs out (extra challenging right now because we recently got a puppy) …and yes we are crazy! I then make my way to the coffee pot to get my morning coffee brewing. At the same time, I start Joe’s truck, throw a bagel in the toaster for him, check the school menus to see if I need to pack Connor and Reese a lunch. If lunches need packed, I quickly do that….I expedite this process by buying the pre-made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pre-bagged chips, pre-bagged cookies and a juice box or bottle of water. Yes I know I could save a little by packaging these things, but time is more important at this point. I then feed the dogs their breakfast, pour my first cup of coffee of the day and quickly check my emails for the first of many times for the day. As I am savoring my cup of coffee and reading my emails, I begin mentally planning my day. For my job, I have to travel to various physician offices, so my days are never the same. I need to prioritize whose offices need me the most. I also give a quick look at my outlook calendar on my cell phone to make sure it is not “show and tell” day at the preschool or to ensure there is not any other special day for the kids.

Next order of business Is waking Connor up for school….luckily he enjoys picking his own clothes out these days (even though I do not approve of his clothes choices, I usually don’t choose this as a daily battle with him…as long as he is clean and brushes his teeth, I usually just shake my head when he comes down every morning wearing the same type of clothes which consists of Nike basketball pants and a school mascot t-shirt. I glance quickly at the clock and do a quick calculation of how much time I have before I need to be out the door…Usually it is later than I hoped and I run to the shower thinking about what I am going to wear…(oh how I miss those days of wearing scrubs)…I have to actually look presentable to go to work every single day and it always consists of suits, heels, and hair done. As I am finishing getting myself dressed and hair dried, Reese usually makes her way to my room. It is always much easier if I can get completely ready without her company…this is due to the fact that she has to do everything I do, including make-up, deodorant, perfume (I am fairly certain she is the only preschooler that wears Chanel to school daily). Now, Connor is heading out the door to catch the bus and I am frantically trying to finish getting ready for work. I do a quick look at my email once again to see what tasks are accumulating and I have not even got to work yet. Finally the magical moment comes when Kara walks through the door.

That was just my morning routine…I then head into work and finally start my work day. Since I am so busy, my days fly by, usually not enough hours in the day. But as late afternoon approaches, I am constantly glancing at the clock and keeping in contact with Joe to make the plan on who is going to pick the kids up. We have to take into consideration if the kids have activities that evening or if one of us has school or late meetings. I will often barter with Joe and tell him if he picks the girls up, I can get a head start on dinner.

Here’s what our weeks look like:

Monday- I am starting back to school this semester to finally finish my MBA. So school is Mondays from 6pm-10pm. Connor also has basketball practice every Monday from 5:30 to 6:30. On Monday’s Joe will be solo, picking the girls up from Kara’s and taking Connor to basketball practice at the church. Then he is also on his own for making sure the kids have dinner. Next comes Connor’s homework, bath time and snack before bed. I will try to put my OCD aside and just come to grips that the house will probably not look exactly how I want it to when I make it through the door at around 10:30pm.

Tuesday- Reese has gymnastics from 6pm to 7pm. While one of us takes her to gymnastics, the other usually starts preparing dinner. I usually try to take advantage of Reese being at gymnastics and help Connor with his homework so he can have some peace and quiet during that time. And of course bath time and snack before bed. After the kids are in bed, I finish dishes (because I can’t stand to leave them in the sink…OCD), and quickly do a run through the house to clean up anything out of place.

Wednesday- This is the only night right now that we do NOT have activities! Love this night. I have plenty of time to make dinner, help with homework, get baths, snacks and tucking into bed. Just like every other night, I make sure everything is in order for the next day. I usually try to get 2 loads of laundry done in this evening so I don’t have so much on the weekend.

Thursday-This day is stressful because Reese and Connor both have gymnastics at 5:00pm. This is a really tough time to get out of work, pick the kids up at two different locations and get them there on time. I usually ask Joe to meet me at the gymnastics place so he can either stay and I head home to make dinner or I stay and he takes Sloane home. Same routine again…dinner, homework, bath, snack, and clean up.

Friday-Another busy night…Connor has basketball practice for his school league from 5:30-6:30 (Joe is a head coach). Directly after basketball practice, he has indoor baseball practice from 6:3 to 8:30. Dinner is a little tricky on Fridays….I usually make dinner and feed the younger ones and just make plates for Joe and Connor so they can heat it up if they want when they get home.

Saturday-Connor has is Upward league games on this day. I usually do not get to attend these because it is right in the middle of Sloane’s nap time. I usually do laundry on Saturday also. I also usually try to do a mid-week cleaning too, like sweeping and scrubbing the kitchen floor.

I know it sounds like they are in a ton of activities but they are all activities that they have chosen to do. If they want to be in activities, Joe and I make sure they get to.

As far as Sloane, I admit that she still goes to bed with a bottle….I know, I can just hear everyone cringing…It is funny how she was really not a bottle baby her first year, and now she really finds comfort in it. She gave her pacifier up on her own at around 7 months old, so maybe that is why she likes the bottle at bedtime. Again, I am not going to sweat it yet….there are seriously more things to worry about and let’s face it, I truly believe that EVERYONE gets braces these days! I swear there is not one kid in my neighborhood that doesn’t have them!

I guess I just never really got too obsessed with how things SHOULD go with raising the kids, especially after the first one. One can drive themselves crazy with reading books and obsessing on what their kids are doing or should be doing. As far as feeding goes, I nursed the two younger ones the longest. I started cereal when I felt the time was right and added the solids again when I knew the baby started getting curious with it. By 8-9 months every one of the kids were eating whatever we had for dinner that night, whether it was salmon, hamburgers, or spaghetti. I would just cut it up in tiny pieces and offer it to them on their tray. I never worried if they ate too much or not enough solids.

As far as potty training goes, I have only been through it twice so far…and believe me both times were different. I had a grand plan with Connor. I thought in my mind that he was ready so I was determined it was going to work. Problem was that he wasn’t really ready yet. I am very type “A” personality and I would get irritated when the plan was not working out exactly how I wanted. So I stopped and let him lead the way….it happened within a couple of months. With Reese, I let her lead the way from the beginning. She quickly learned how to urinate on the potty, but the pooping was way more trying on me. She would go all day without any accidents, and then when she had to poop, she would get a pull up on and go hide and poop. This went on for months! I did get a little desperate with Reese because I thought for sure she indeed might go to school pooping in a pull up. I ended up bribing her with a trip to Disney World. It actually worked and we drove to Florida with a 10 week old baby, a 3 year old and an 8 year old. It was actually a very good vacation. The baby was the perfect age for traveling. At the parks, they had nice baby areas so I could sit in a rocking chair and feed her and change her.

I remember buying all the fancy potty chairs etc. that is out there. Neither one of my children have ever used one of those. As I am typing this, I am thinking to myself that Sloane will be the one to want to use a potty chair. They were perfectly fine using the standard toilet with an occasional toilet seat insert. I never wanted to get them too attached to the toilet seat insert because most public restrooms don’t have them and didn’t want them to freak out.

Now, more about Kara…Kara is who we chose to watch our girls. It would be so hard to do what I do without her. She arrives at our house every morning after she puts her girls on the bus. When she arrives, she gets the girls up if they are not up yet, gets them dressed and feeds them breakfast. She also cleans my house once a week which is so helpful. Kara texts me any updates on the kids all through the day. She send s me pictures of things they are doing or anything new and exciting. Reese has learned how to use the IPhone because of Kara….I know this because I get several texts a day from Reese herself…even though she cannot spell yet, I love receiving those because I know she is thinking about me. Kara treats the girls like they are her own and they love her so much. Kara even helps out if I have to go out of town. It is nice because I totally trust her to keep them if I cannot be home. She is there for me if I am running behind from work, sometimes she even drops them off at our house for us. Another great perk of having Kara is that she keeps them even if they are not feeling the best. The day care centers are so strict about even a runny nose sometimes….I totally understand where they are coming from, but it makes it so much easier knowing that she only has my kids and that she will care for them anytime.

It is an extra special day if I can at least spend a few moments with Sloane in the morning. Thing is she has become quite a great sleeper since she has been about 14 months old…prior to that I thought she was never going to be a great sleeper. When I went back to work when she was 3 months old, she had only received maybe 2 bottles in her life…so she did not take a bottle very well for Kara, which in turn made my nights very long…she made up for it at night….and I admit that I cherished those nighttime feedings because it was only her and I up in the middle of the night. Well those nighttime feedings carried on until she was a little over 1 when I stopped nursing her. I then realized that she really didn’t need to get up in the middle of the night anymore so I got rid of the baby monitor all together…I was so used to jumping up every time I heard her even whimper on the monitor. Once I shut the monitor off, I realized that I would hear her if she needed me. That was such a turning point for us! Both of us have slept so much better since. Reese is still not my best sleeper… She is almost cyclic with her crazy sleep habits. She will do fine for a few weeks and then there is almost a solid week that we are up several times a night.

When I went back to work when Sloane was 3 months old, I had to bring my old friend, the Medela backpack with me. I was so fortunate to have my own private office so I could pump whenever I needed to. Everyone always knew what I was doing in my office if my door was closed…It did not phase me at all…the one surgeon that I worked for would walk by my office and knock really loud and say “what are you doing in there??” He knew, but he always tried to rattle my chain…I was very thankful that I was able to pump at work for her first year of life. I am not going to lie, I really began hating that pump! I felt like I was tied to it sometimes…I had to schedule my work meetings around the pumping schedule, or I would be in a meeting and start to feel very uncomfortable and wish that the meeting would end so I could escape and pump. There were times when I would meet my Kara at lunch time and I would just feed her so I wouldn’t have to pump. I also invested in the car adapter for the pump. There were times when I was on the road, I would have to unfortunately pump in the car.

All in all, I really do enjoy having a career and being a mom. Our lives are hectic at times, but we make it work. I also feel like by working I can offer my children a lot of experiences in their lives that I would never be able to if I was not working. For example, Connor and Reese have traveled with us many times, even out of the country on a few occasions. This has taught them about other countries and how they are different from where we live. I find comfort in the fact that when I am meeting with Connor’s teachers for parent teacher conference they always comment on how well rounded he is and they can tell that he gets to experience a lot of different things in life. I know I never got to experience half the things when I was a child.

I admit that my kids might be a little spoiled, but before the judging begins, I want to explain that they save their money from birthdays, holiday or chores and then they have to put a portion in their savings account which my husband and I contribute to monthly and then they can spend what is left. Anytime Connor asks for something that is more expensive than a pack of baseball cards, I let him know how many hours he would need to work in order to be able to afford that wish list item. I think it helps teach them financial responsibilty.

Jen works full time at Aultman Hospital. She has been married to Joe for 13 years. They have three beautiful children – Connor who is 8 years old, Reese who is 4 years old and Sloane who is 1 year old. They also have two dogs (one of which is a puppy) and one cat. She loves being a mom and she loves having a career with an outlet for adult interaction.

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