Beccastone talks to Marsha R., Washington, D.C., married, mother of three (2 girls, 17 and 14, and a boy, 8); business school graduate and senior executive at an international banking organization.
Q: What do you find most challenging about being a working mom?
A: There are lots of challenges, and this may sound trivial, but one of the practical problems that I grapple with every week, is dinner — how to make sure the kids eat a nutritious, home-cooked meal on week nights. I cook every Sunday usually enough for one or two additional nights per week. But there is always at least one or two days that aren’t covered. I have tried getting up early to cook at least part of the meal before I leave for work, but that is really hard to do. Recently, two other families and I asked one of the older ladies in our church if she would be interested in earning some extra money by cooking a couple of main courses that would be enough to feed all of our families. Lucky for us, she accepted. It works for her because she likes having the extra money. She brings the food to church on Sundays and we all have our food for the week. This arrangement has been working pretty well and is affordable because we share the expense.
Q: Do you make it home every night to eat dinner with your family?
A: Most nights I try to make it home by 6:30 or 7 p.m., but I have to confess, there’s usually at least one night, maybe two, when I get home later. I am lucky because my husband has a more flexible schedule because he has his own company. So he is there every night to eat with the kids. When I’m not there, he usually turns on CNN during dinner and tries to get the kids engaged in discussion about whatever topic is being discussed. When I get home late, I try to spend at least 10 to 15 minutes alone with each child. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t if the child isn’t interested in talking. But at least they know I made the effort.
Q: How do you make the transition from work to home every day?
A: Well, I try to decompress in the car on the way home. I take the scenic route and usually listen to books or music that I’ve downloaded on my iPod. I used to try to make calls on the ride home that I didn’t get to during the day, but I found that didn’t leave me enough down time before I got home. When I do get home, if I can, I ask the kids to give me a minute so I can change into comfortable clothes. Once I am in my sweats, I relax more and am prepared to take on the home front.
Q: How do you handle childcare?
A: That’s not so big an issue anymore because the kids are in school and they are older now and can come home on their own. When they were younger, I relied more on after-school programs, a day-care center at work, my mother, and my husband (who, as I mentioned, has a more flexible schedule).
Q: How do you coordinate the activities of three kids?
A: We have a once a week family meeting, usually on Sunday after dinner to discuss what’s going on in the coming week, like sporting events, practices, tests, teacher conferences, parties, etc. We have a big calendar and try to keep everything written on there. The calendar has helped the kids to think ahead and plan. If they don’t and it’s not on the calendar, then they know there’s a chance they might have to forego doing that event, especially if its social. (Although I must admit that our 14 and 17 year olds do not seem to know in advance about parties. They seem to be more spontaneous than not). The calendar also helps me plan ahead and give the kids notice if I know I have to travel for my job.
Q: Any advice for your fellow working moms?
A: Things are not going to be perfect. I have had to learn to accept the imperfections. If there is anything that really bothers you or your mate, such as dirty clothes or cooking or housecleaning, see about getting some help for that chore. The kids and spouse can be a great source of help, and for the kids, learning how to do chores is good preparation for when they have their own household. . Also it’s much better to spend time doing stuff with your kids when they are living at home with you. I feel I will have plenty of time to do other things after they are gone.