Real Moms, Real Work-Life Balance: What It Looks Like

Christine Ryan Jyoti

working momsSince having my first child six years ago, I’ve been fascinated by moms who manage to bring home the bacon and fry it up.

How do they achieve the elusive work-life balance?

CEOs like Marissa Mayer make it look easy, but other high-profile women like Sheryl Sandberg have even gone so far to say that work-life balance doesn’t exist.

What about the other 70.5% of American moms in the labor force with kids under the age of 18? It’s probably fair to say that everyone’s balance, if it does indeed exist, looks a little different—from moms who take time away from work to stay home to moms who run Fortune 200 companies.

To get an idea of how moms across the country—both with and without partners—juggle their children and their jobs, we asked five moms how exactly they divide up their days (and nights) between work and family.

Cecilia, 34, Manager, Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

San Juan, Puerto Rico

working mom 3Kids: Eighteen-month-old son, a baby on the way and a 10-year-old stepdaughter (who lives with her mother during the week and with us on weekends, school breaks and summers)

My day starts around 5:30 a.m. In the first few hours, I nurse my son, do a few chores and then put my son in his jogging stroller and run three to five miles with my husband. I push the stroller halfway, then switch with my husband and he pushes it back. It’s a wonderful way to start the day, and my son loves his morning “runs.” After everyone is cleaned up, my husband gets our son dressed and usually prepares breakfast for us all. He’s a business owner who’s recently returned to school, so he’s gone a lot. By 7:30 a.m., my work phone starts ringing.

I work eight hours a day, usually between 9:30 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. When emergencies arise at the airport, I don’t have an official start or ending time.

How do I make it happen? A live-in nanny! You give up privacy but gain sanity (especially with a job that doesn’t have set hours and revolves around a 24/7 operation).

Our nanny’s main responsibility is child care, but sometimes she cooks, does laundry or cleans (usually the chores I never have time to do, like washing windows and cleaning toilets). I handle all the shopping, errands and fixing problems around the house. She will help me if I ask her, but generally I’m with my son in the morning, and she takes him right before I leave for work once he’s dressed, fed and ready to start his day. If I get work calls and the baby is in the background, I don’t mind … sometimes it’s nice for people on the other end to realize that you are still home starting your day (what do they expect when calling at 7:00 a.m.?).

RELATED: Hello, a Stay-at-Home Mom IS a Working Mom

I run a quick errand on the way home from work, and my son and I hang out while I cook dinner (sometimes the nanny cooks dinner while I catch up with my son). When my husband gets home from school around 8:30 p.m., we eat a healthy dinner together. My son, who takes a late nap so I’ll have more time with him, goes to sleep at 9:30 p.m. I follow him to bed an hour later.

I usually don’t work weekends, and try to handle as much from home via the Blackberry in the mornings and evenings.

My husband and I both have jobs that require a lot of travel. Most of the time I bring our nanny and my son so he can be near me—I pay out of pocket for their flights. Right now it’s cheap because it’s just the nanny’s ticket (my son is free until age 2), but we stay in the same hotel room. He flew 26 flights last year, and I’ve been on two work trips without him this year.

  • Michelle

    All of these parents have flexible hours and/or jobs, it would be nice to see a few examples where both parents have full time, 40+ hour work weeks….

  • Sara (Price) Fickes

    I would have liked to see an example of a single parent going to school and working full-time with kids like I do!

  • Amy

    It’s great the so many woman have flexibility in their work. I don’t have that same flexibility so the job suffers, as my little girl is my first priority. I do wish society were caught up with the times and offered more alternatives.

  • gea2006

    This was an excellent topic and great post. The first lady makes my life sound like a breeze. Nice variety of experiences too. I’d love to see more articles on this topic. I know it’s something that affects many of us significantly.

  • Renee

    Agreed, a flexible schedule is great when your employer treats you like an adult and trusts you to get your work done. However, some bosses just aren’t like that – and we are required to be in the office from certain hours to certain hours and time outside of work is not respected…

  • simplyput

    I hear some of you are complaining about flexibility and i can understand that. I think that these people in the article have built their lives and careers around their children. I think that with some creativity and thinking outside the box, many of you could accomplish this. Even if that means leaving your current job. I have a tendency to believe anything is possible ;)

  • Tisha B

    These aren’t single parents. I thought this article would specifically speak about how they achieved balance between work, school, and their families as SINGLE parents. I work full time, attend school full time, and parent a 5 year old alone. I need to see how one keeps a balance doing what I do, or working 40+ hrs with more children.

  • Camren

    I feel like all of these stories are of the “outliers.” What about the moms that have a typical 9 to 5? This article just made me feel WORSE that I can’t figure out my balance and I have a “normal” job and only 1 kid…. Hell, the only single mom in this article is able to get by working part time with 3 kids! I commend these women all the same, but realistically, there are more single women working at least 40 hours a week with little to no flexibility and are desperately seeking a work/life balance and this article provides no consolation, nor does it even acknowledge such a large population of moms in our society.