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📸 Behind the Filter
What it really takes to manage the daily workload for a busy woman
“You write, bake, parent and have a full-time job, while I can barely get shoes on my kids to get them out the door in the mornings,” is a statement a coworker of mine made to me the other day. This made me think of my social media posts - covered in bundt cakes and smiles - and how that is a filtered reality. In this post, I want to try to explain what happens behind the “filter” and show what it takes (for me) to get through most days and weeks.
It is especially important to talk about the reality vs. what we project because our society idolizes and rewards this notion of “doing it all” especially if it appears effortless.
To be clear, in this post, I’m not talking about my family or friends who provide emotional support (we, unfortunately, live far away from our family). Instead, this is about an additional (seemingly invisible) group of people who give physical and logistical help, while I get touted as “doing it all”. I am not blind to the fact that without A LOT of assistance, I would be functioning at a much lesser capacity.
The Family Firm*
In our family, Adam and I are running our household “firm” where both of us feel like we carry about 60% of the burden of mental load/chores/running the household (we talk about this balance in our post celebrating 10 years of marriage). We each have our own specialties (I own most of our social engagements, kids activities, and date night planning, and Adam takes care of house repairs, financial planning, and family travel), but we are also both generalists (we can both do weekly grocery shopping, get kids in and out of activities/doctor appointments, and pinch hit 100% as needed when one of us is out of town).
* If you haven’t read Emily Oster’s The Firm, I highly recommend it. This book is “a targeted mini-MBA program designed to help moms and dads establish best practices for day-to-day operations" (quote from The Washington Post review).
So here is a list of people and services that help me stay on track:
My nanny/household manager - I have had an additional set of helping hands since our oldest daughter was born. That means that not only are the kids taken care of but the house is also managed (laundry, meal prep, tidying up, chores). Read my post about how I think about hiring and supporting a nanny and/or household manager.
Bi-weekly cleaners - I learned a long time ago that cleaning my house is a tedious chore that I am not very good at so for a very long time I have paid for my house to be kept in good condition.
On and off additional personal assistants - Over the years, I have used both Yohana and ChatterBoss as virtual personal assistants to help book travel, research birthday party ideas, book appointments, and procure gifts. There is still a mental load to manage the list of tasks but it is helpful.
Meal delivery services - The most consistent meal delivery service we have used is Daily Harvest which provides healthy smoothies for an easy breakfast. We often also have groceries delivered (usually on Sunday as we plan the week) as well as have at least one day a week (usually Fridays) when we always do takeout. That level of predictability reduces one more thing to think about.
Personal care - I work with a variety of aestheticians (hairdressers, etc.) and have explored a variety of optimizations to help me keep my wardrobe up to date. I have tried everything from Stichfix to Trunk Club to a personal shopper. The goal is to create forcing functions that keep my personal needs and wellbeing from falling off my radar.
Programming my workouts - I do much better at staying on track with my health when I have an accountability system. So I have workout partners in my neighborhood as well as scheduled blocks on my calendar to help me get outside. Over the years, I have tried classes as well as personal training, and currently, I am enjoying going to F45 Training for lifting weights and taking walking meetings at least once a day.
Carpool systems with multiple parents who make sports and extracurricular activities possible - the day has come when our kids need to be in multiple places throughout the week between gymnastics swim practice, theater, birthday parties etc. To that end, I am part of numerous WhatsApp groups and coordination efforts where we share the load of driving kids. This has been a lifesaver this year as the post-COVID activity schedule has hit us at full speed. Last time I wrote about this, a few people shared a reference for a reliable way to arrange transportation to get kids from point a to point be: HopSkipDrive - we haven’t tried it yet, but I am sure it is in our future.
I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about some of the tools that I use to keep us all organized:
Schedule and keep a list of resources that are easily available - I use the Notion app and found family-focused templates in Notion Family which I use to keep everything in one place from a list of babysitters and household providers to jotting down notes for gift ideas throughout the year for the kids.
Shared calendar - We have a shared Outlook family calendar as well as a paper one to keep everyone in the family on the same page. The rationale for the physical calendar is so that the kids can check for activities on any given day.
Daily Morning Checklist - the kids have a checklist of morning tasks that has to get done that they check off - things like making their beds, eating breakfast, packing their lunch, etc. This keeps everyone accountable and moving in the mornings making things be less hectic. Email me if you’d like me to share the template that works well for elementary school children.
At the end of the day, I have chosen to pick the things that matter to me and give me joy to do. For everything else, I debate how much I can delegate, share with other people or simply not do. In this phase of my life, in addition to working, I am enjoying spending time with my family while traveling, baking, writing, and reading. So I think about how to maximize my time doing that.
The life I lead would not be possible without a whole lot of support - from people, services, and tools. It does not do us as a society any good to put women (or men) on a pedestal for “doing it all” or “having it all.”
I am beyond grateful for the privilege to write this post and would love to see us acknowledge what it takes to be holistically successful as workers, parents, friends, and present family members.