How Jane (or John!) works 55 hour weeks, and sees the kids

SONY DSCOne reason, it’s said, that women don’t pursue “big” jobs is that “big” jobs leave no room for family. Even people with superb feminist credentials sometimes buy into this belief. In a piece for HBR, Joan Williams, a law professor and founding director of the Center of WorkLife Law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, wrote that few women would work 55 hours a week, because, adding a normal commute, you’d be gone from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. every day. The assumption is that you’d never see your children. Or as Joan put it, “Most moms have this one little hang-up: they want to see their children awake. Increasingly, many fathers do, too.”

I don’t deny that parents want to see their children awake. But is it true that if you work 55 hours a week, you’ll only be gazing on their sleeping faces? Does a 55-hour work week mean being absent from your children’s lives?

Maybe. But maybe not. After studying the time logs I’m receiving from the Dandelion Project — of consultants, lawyers, accountants and others who happen to be mothers — I’m pretty sure that the choice Williams is presenting is a false one. That matters for women (and men) who ponder how they might combine work and family.

The first thing I noticed is that even in Williams’ 55-hour scenario, you’re not missing out on childhood every day. Saturday and Sunday would feature no work whatsoever. These are actual days when actual life occurs and it’s strange to discount them as not counting in terms of parenting.

But let’s accept the premise that mothers want to see their children on days that don’t start with “S.” To see how family time still fits, we’ll look at the hypothetical case of Jane (who could be John, because none of this is gender specific. But since Williams argues that it’s a reason women in particular wouldn’t work long hours, let’s go with Jane). Jane is a partner in a major consulting firm, She has a 7-year-old and a 3-year-old.

Jane’s kids wake up around 6:30 each morning. So even if Jane worked in Williams’ scenario — gone 8:30-8:30 every week day — she’d still see the kids for two hours every morning (The 7-year-old gets on the bus at 8:30; his school goes from 9-3:30). That’s not nothing. It’s time to play in the back yard, read stories, and enjoy family breakfast in addition to getting the kids dressed and ready.

But Jane isn’t gone from 8:30-8:30 every day. Instead, she thinks in terms of 168 hours, not 24. Yes, there are long days. Let’s take a hypothetical week for Jane. Though she’s based in Philadelphia, she’s got three projects running in Washington DC. She gets in a car (Boston Coach — she’s not driving!) at 6 a.m. on Monday to make a client meeting at 9. She’s answering emails, working on documents, and taking calls the whole drive down. She works all day and takes one of her clients to dinner, over which she pitches her some new work. She sends her last email at 10, giving us a 16 hour day. On Tuesday, she wakes up at 6, does a quick workout at the hotel gym, and is on her first call at 7. She works from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., pretty much straight through, ordering in dinner for one of her teams as they do a team problem solving session. At 10 p.m. she’s back in a car, with the driver taking her up to Philly (2 hours with no traffic). She snoozes the whole time, gets out, and gets back in bed.

So, Monday and Tuesday have been tough. Jane’s worked 31 hours. She hasn’t seen her family. However, if we’re thinking our 55-hour/week total, that leaves just 24 hours to distribute over 5 more days of the week. And Jane takes full advantage of that fact. Indeed, her two long days are by design, because she realizes it’s silly to get home at 8:30. If you’re working until 8:30, you may as well work until later, since you aren’t seeing your kids anyway. 

So the rest of the week is entirely different. Wednesday, she gets up at 6:30 with her kids, and hangs out with them until 8:30. She drives to another client she’s trying to develop, a local one this time, and has some meetings during the day, but she’s back home at 4 to meet the 7-year-old’s bus. She does the mom routine until she gets the kids down at 8, then she’s back to work for 2 more hours. She’s done 8-9 hours of work…and has spent 6 hours with her kids. Who have been awake during this time.

Thursday, Jane works from home since she doesn’t have any client meetings. She hangs out with the kids from 6:30-8:30, then takes a break from 11-noon to go read a story at her 3-year-old’s preschool. They have lunch together. She works until 4, meets the bus, then does another 2-hour shift at night. Our total for the week is 48 hours at this point, and it’s only Thursday. Yet Jane has had quite a bit of family time.

It’s a pattern she continues on Friday. After making her kids a pancake breakfast, she meets a friend to go for a run from 8:30-9:30, and goes into the Philadelphia office of her consulting firm from 10-4, then has a quick drink with a female associate pondering how she’s going to “have it all” from 4-4:30. She gets home around 5, and unplugs until Sunday night, when she does another 2-3 hours of work. The weekend features some exercise, family adventures and — because Jane is so organized — a late dinner out with her husband on Saturday after the kids go to bed.

So here we have Jane who — despite her 55-hour work week — has exercised 4 times, met her 7-year-old’s bus twice in the afternoon, volunteered at her 3-year-old’s preschool, gotten together with a friend, mentored a colleague, had a date night with her husband, and put her kids to bed 4-5 nights per week. And she wasn’t just racing in to do the last story on the weeknights either. She’d been there since late afternoon.

This is the sort of time log I’m seeing in the Dandelion Project. This is why I want to write about this topic. There are so many faulty perceptions out there. I am seeing time logs with yoga classes and quilting sessions, with preschool parties and soccer games. Someone even spent time processing the CSA produce. There are hugs and dandelions. How many hours you work matters less than how much control you have of them. Williams is right that mothers tend to want to see their kids awake. The good news is that you can earn big bucks at a big job and still do that. 

Photo courtesy flickr user Mobile Edge Laptop Cases



59 Responses to How Jane (or John!) works 55 hour weeks, and sees the kids


  1. TG says:

    That schedule looks similar to what people who work 12 hr shifts (or 16 hr double shifts) do. Unfortunately, most people in consulting don’t routinely have that type of control over their schedules. (I say this is the cousin-in-law of someone who got the “most billable hours” award at the Manhattan office of a big 3 consulting firm.)

    Also, it’s unlikely that all the hours on Monday and Tuesday meet your time-log definition of work-that’s why you talk about how most people don’t actually work long weeks, even if they think they do.

    I just had dinner with an engineering college dean who has a work ethic and energy level to keep up with the schedule you describe. Her salary until this last year was around $100k as a professor, so she didn’t have a ton of money to hire help either.

    • WG says:

      Yes, I can’t argue you with you that it’s possible to work 55 hours per week and see your children. I have. I will argue, though, that this time entry lacks sufficient detail and glosses over some common time-related issues. It’s definitely worth focusing on control and client-facing industries. (I notice this week lacked client-related emergencies.)

      However, I’ll say that this log demonstrates how tough it is to hit 55 hours. Looking at this log, I think Jane/John’s actual hours worked and time with the family are lower than you report.

      I’m sure Jane works longer hours on Monday and Tuesday, but it is entirely unrealistic to assume that her entire waking existence was devoted to work. (I say this as someone who bills her time). Did Jane stop to order a meal? Stop working while actually eating breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacks? Did she call her family on either day? Did she use the ladies’ room? Did she take a coffee break? Stop to clear her head? While some of this might be useful time, as you know, it’s not the kind that can be noted on a timesheet.

      Re: Wednesday. In my experience, many people would have difficulty producing high quality work in a timely manner after waking up early on Monday, working so many hours on Monday and Tuesday, and having broken sleep on Tuesday.

      Also on Wedneday, you have Jane waking up at 630 and leaving at 830. You record her as having spent 2 hours with her kids. Does Jane need anytime by herself to get ready for her day? Shower and get ready? Look over her work papers?

      Re: preschool. Any commute time to preschool?

      Re: Friday. Jane stops running at 930. She presumably showers, gets herself ready to show up to the office, and still gets into Philly by 10? You count 10-4 to as 6 hours. So this means Jane did not stop to get lunch (or presumably stop while eating it). She did not stop to get coffee, had no bathroom breaks, and after more than a week out of the office, did not stop by to say hello to any of her colleagues.

      It may be true that Jane is efficient and can minimize the disruptions, but individually each disruption is more than zero minutes, and together they are more than negligible.

      • gwinne says:

        Yes, I think WG’s observations are critical. As a working (single) mom, I also don’t think about my week in 168 hrs. I think about the hours I have paid school/childcare, plus a tiny bit at night after they go to sleep. That’s all I have to work. Or do anything else.

      • Laura says:

        @WG- of course there are interruptions that lead to lower totals. But I’m using Joan Williams’ standard to answer her argument. In her 55 hour week, that involves 5 11-hour workdays, plus a commute, getting us to 12 hours per day. I well know that most people claiming 55, 60, + hour workweeks are overestimating.

        But as you know, you can work long hours and see your family if it’s a priority to do so. The 56-hour week I worked recently when I recorded my time log featured a fair amount of kid time. Some days none, of course, as I was traveling. But some days a lot. That’s the 168 hour vs. 24 hour reality.

        • WG says:

          One of Williams’ points seems to be, though, that a 55-hour work week requires more than 55 hours away from the children. I don’t recall that she specified whether the person was a professional who keeps time, or some other type of employee so interruptions can permissibly blend into work. You specifically chose a consultant. This would allow a narrative where travel and meals count as time worked, telecommuting is permissible, and face-time is not required, among other things. If that’s the backdrop, I think it’s useful to follow the example all the way through. Where do the extra hours come from? Does it mean that Jane works later into the night? Does it mean Jane wakes up earlier? Stays later on Friday? Works more on the weekend? One week of it is fine. In my experience, though, it’s that extra time around the edges week after week, It wears down a lot of people. And Jane did not even have any work or home related emergencies or unexpected issues in the example above.

  2. Alissa says:

    I love this and am so glad you wrote it – there is SUCH a misconception out there. I recently moved my hours around at work, and have way more time with my girls as a result. I was working Mon-Fri 8-5 (add 30 min on both ends for commute. So I had about 2-3 hours a day with my girls. Now I’m working from home one day and two days I work 12-8, meaning I have 10 more hours or so with them. Plus I’m able to do tball/soccer with my older daughter. I think it’s all about being flexible. And if you have a good support system you can make it work – you just have to break out of the traditional mindset.

    • Laura says:

      @Alissa – thanks! If you can choose your hours, you can choose ones that work for you. That’s what I’m seeing in many of these time logs. Some long days, and other much more reasonable ones.

  3. Jenni Levy says:

    It’s all about the support system. When I was in primary care practice, I did almost exactly that – worked long days on Monday and Tuesday, accepted that I wasn’t going to see my daughter in the evenings (she went to bed at 6:30 in those days) and got home by mid-afternoon on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. That worked because my husband made it work. A lot of women docs are married to men who won’t make it work (won’t, not can’t) or not married at all (either never or not at all). If they’re not partnered, they can make it work but it’s expensive…

    • TG says:

      Great point about the need for flexible childcare, either by a spouse or someone else. I just got a contract to return to work and my husband and I are going through this process.

      • Laura says:

        @TG – congrats on the new job! I look forward to hearing more about it. These are obviously difficult negotiations for any couple, but they’re doable if you both approach it with the mindset that you’ll make it work.

  4. Cloud says:

    I actually think your fictitious Jane has an easier juggle than a lot of lower income women who find they need to work two service industry jobs to make ends meet. They probably put in similar hours- but have almost no control over schedule. To me, having schedule control makes a lot possible.
    Having said that, I currently work fairly standard hours, with the occasional weekend work for software releases (such as last weekend- which I informally traded for time off to go on a field trip and to an awards ceremony).
    I do agree with WG that it is actually really hard to charge a full 55 hour week. I rarely managed that back in my contracting days.

  5. M says:

    I like this example, though agree with WG that it’s probably a lot closer to a 50-hour week, if that. Not enough time devoted to commutes, hygiene, housework (even easy stuff like unloading the dishwasher), etc.. I mean, even the comment about how Jane is organized implies she must spend some time doing that organizing. Planning weekend activities, dinners out, any sort of social time with friends… even meal planning… all takes a good chunk of time. I either have to make sure to take time for this on the evening/weekends, or end up taking a few hours out of my work week to organize personal stuff. Either way it comes out of work time.

    It’s inspirational nonetheless, and I do like the idea of working a couple of really long days. My problem is that I do really want to “have it all,” where have it all means eating well, exercising (a lot), having a tiny bit of downtime (30-45 min per day, plus a few hours on the weekend), keeping the house/yard sort of under control, maybe engaging in a hobby (couple hours per week), spending time with family, occasionally with friends, AND having a kickass job. I think I’ve resigned myself to getting in 40-45-hour work weeks, with maybe a push to 50-55 if there’s a major deadline. I don’t have kids yet (I have stepkids who we have half-time), but it is coming soon, and my hope is that my saving grace will be digging deep and becoming approximately twice as efficient due to necessity (i.e., not commenting on this blog:)) I know I’m leaving a lot of potential productivity on the table.

    • Blog commenting is a good nursing/pumping activity. :)

      • Laura says:

        I only wish blog writing were! Though (thankfully) Project Weaning is over and done.

    • Cloud says:

      I think I have a kickass job and I work 40-45 hours a week. Our house and yard are presentable, although we do outsource some of that (we have a cleaner come every other week). And I wouldn’t say I exercise “a lot”- I walk every day at lunch, get one intense workout in per week, and try to get up for a short run or yoga 3x/week. I’ll admit that the morning exercise is one of the first things to go when time gets tight, though.
      I like to say that having kids really focuses you on your priorities: the priorities are the things you keep doing. You drop a lot of things, and realize that they must not have been as important as you thought.

      • ARC says:

        Yes, this is absolutely right about focus. For me (and a lot of my friends), what got dropped was the “meh” job. ;) I think the “Lean In” advice about having a job worth coming back to is amazing, the more I think about it.

        • Laura says:

          @ARC – it is good advice. Of course, there’s always the sub-issue of when you have kids. If you have them in your 20s, do you have time to get to a great career by that point? Or do you just have to trust you’re on your way?

    • agree with M – the planning and organizing piece is missing, not to mention the daily chores of cleanup/bill paying/etc. still, despite this — and the fact that my medical job will never be this flexible — i found this piece inspiring. ended up creating a ‘fantasy week’ last night.

      within my fantasy 168, i managed to commute M-F, work over 50 hours (including some study time for upcoming boards), work out (run ~25 miles/week and get in some yoga), cook easy dinners most nights, see family, have some time with friends, engage in hobbies (blogging), see my husband (including a date night), and spent at least some quality time with my daughter every day with lots of time together on the weekends.

      of course, it was a fantasy, but hoping i can make it come true!

      • Laura says:

        @sarah- I love the idea of a fantasy week! It’s a good exercise. In my fantasy week, I would not be taking my car to get inspected on Saturday morning.

      • WG says:

        hey! I do that too. At first I started with a list of activities and how long I would like to do each activity, given the realities of my life, such as I wasn’t going to be able to eliminate my commute entirely. Turned out, my ideal day was about 26.5 hours. It explained so much about my expectations. Then the next step, for me, was figuring out when I would do these ideal activities.

  6. Karen says:

    This is a great scenario. I tried to make something like it work for quite a while in my previous job, but I just didn’t have the control over my own schedule necessary to make it work. Stuff “came up” on my days at home. And I couldn’t get enough done on long days to be able to leave the office behind when I went home. My workflow was all dependent on when my boss did things, or thought of things, or came into my office unannounced. I think it would be great to move towards the way of working you describe, but many people–both women and men–just don’t seem to be able to. They want you there, or at least available, when it works for them, not when it works for you. Maybe this will change with a younger generation–I hope so.

    • ARC says:

      I think that “face time” is alive and well in MANY companies. I have friends who have rearranged their schedules so they go to work insanely early (like 6:30am) so they can leave to pick up kids from school, and they definitely feel like coworkers think they’re “slacking” because they leave so early. Said coworkers, and managers don’t typically roll in until 9:30 or 10, but they don’t see the early work happening.

      • Karen says:

        ARC, yes, there is that, the idea that coworkers think people who leave early are “slacking,” and I agree that’s a problem too. But what I’m talking about is slightly different. I’m talking about a work environment where there is no routine or regular schedule to fit into or work around.

        For various reasons, the main one being that my boss traveled so much, that the normal flow of the workweek was close to meaningless in that office. There was no such thing as a “typical” Wednesday or a “typical” Thursday. I worked at home once a week for about 4 years, the same day every week, and my boss still didn’t remember which day that was even after 4 years, and made requests that I couldn’t keep because I was at home.

        Standing meetings were standing in name only. Many meetings ended up being called on an ad hoc basis, at the last minute, so if I was out of the office on a day she was in the office, even if it was my regularly scheduled work-at-home day, I ended up coming back to the office the next day and finding out I missed something important.

        I would schedule vacations, or days off, in advance, and then I would try to get all my work done beforehand. I’d get up early and stay late days before the upcoming vacation and try to finish it so I could leave. Some of that time I would have nothing to do, and I’d think, okay, I’m done. And then bang, I’d get an email at 3 pm and another one 4:45 pm the day I was planning to leave at 5. Even if I didn’t have to do whatever it was right then, I still had to figure out how/when to get it done, or delegate it, or whatever, before I could leave. I couldn’t just finish my work, unplug and leave, even if I tried to make a Herculean effort and work extra hours to get it done beforehand.

        I think in order to be a good manager in this day and age, you have to be able to give your employees some predictability and routine in the office, in addition to flexibility. Without some kind of routine–even if it’s a complicated one like Laura is describing–it just won’t work.

        • TG says:

          My family has included a couple moderately high level executives (VP’s for Fortune 100/500 companies) and someone who ran his own multimillion dollar environmental consulting business. None of them had this kind of predictability in their schedules, and no one at their level did either.

          Even at the flunky engineer level, predictability would help a lot. I viewed much of my job as being “on call” so I could respond when a process had problems.

          • Karen says:

            TG, do you think this unpredictability is unavoidable? Just the nature of the work? Or is it something that could be addressed. I’m asking because I honestly don’t know. One of the reasons I didn’t become a medical doctor is that I didn’t want to be on call. I understand the need for it, and I respect it–at least in the medical field–but I didn’t want to do it myself. But nowadays, everybody is a doctor. Everybody has a beeper and is on call. Even for non-life-threatening non-emergencies. Is there any way to change the attitude around that and have people be more accepting of the fact that it isn’t actually a bad thing to wait until regular business hours for a simple piece of information?

          • TG says:

            I think regulatory compliance and just-in-time inventory are parts of the problem.

            When the printing presses all broke at the credit card company, my husband had to work 40 hr straight or customer bills would be delayed, resulting in multimillion dollar federal fines due to consumer credit laws.

            If there was any question about environmental compliance at a mine, the environmental engineering consultant had to drive (perhaps 20 hr, because it’s the rural west) to the mine in order to take and analyze samples and then retake the samples, because the violation/fine is based on the amount of the spill.

            When the power goes out in the fab or the bridge falls into the river in Skagit, people have to figure out alternate ways to get parts for their factories.

            Some of it is avoidable, but some of it isn’t. And I’m not sure that halving the unpredictability would help all that much, because you still need backup childcare, etc. to be there for environmental compliance.

          • Karen says:

            I think that halving the unpredictability would have helped in my case. If it’s a one-time event, like a bridge collapsing, or maybe a once or twice a year event, it’s more manageable than if it’s chronic. My husband is on call for an airline reservation software system for one month every 6 months. It can be a pain–he’ll get phone calls at weird hours and stuff like that–but it only lasts a month and then it’s over for 5 months. And if he is going on vacation during a particular month and that’s when he is scheduled to be on call, he can switch months with someone in advance so that he doesn’t have to be on call during his vacation. That seems more tolerable to me because there’s an end to it and the unpredictability is in fact predictable at some level. But when your whole job is unpredictable, month in and month out, year in and year out, and you never get a break from the unpredictability, it wears you down and burns you out. And that, not the absolute number of hours, is what makes it so family-unfriendly in the end.

          • Ana says:

            Even most (not all) medical doctors have some sort of call schedule, though. Yes, emergencies can still happen there (the person supposed to be on call that weekend ended up hospitalized, etc…) but they are quite rare. I generally know WAY in advance when my call weeks and weekends are and have plenty of time to plan. And to be honest, I would find responding immediately to “non-emergencies” way more annoying than true emergencies. When I would get paged on call, I’d be irate if it was for some stupid clarification, but if someone was truly sick I’d focus only on the work at hand.

        • Cloud says:

          Karen, your boss is a bad manager, full stop. No one who manages truly critical work (and is any good at it) would run their group like that. I have uptime requirements on my systems, so we can have true emergencies, and we do work odd hours when those happen, or to complete scheduled maintenance. But from your description, your boss is manufacturing emergencies due to a lack of planning. I’d either address that directly with your boss or find a new job. This is NOT just how it has to be in today’s work world.

          • ARC says:

            Hah, I was thinking the same thing – that’s crappy management, not something that YOU can fix, except by getting a different job/manager.

            We had a situation where there were only 3 people in the on-call rotation, so every 3rd night someone was getting up in the middle of the night to handle outages, etc. This was untenable and finally got sorted out once 2 of the 3 people threatened to quit. Some groups at my old company were nice enough to exempt people who had a <1 year old baby from the call schedule (male and female!).

          • Karen says:

            Cloud, It’s my ex-boss that I’m talking about. I chose door #2 after door #1 didn’t work. I am now working really part time, with the expectation of ramping up in the fall. There is a little bit of unpredictability in the new job so far, which I think you always are going to have, but I can manage it. So I do think that there is some level of unpredictability that can be lived with, and just working to reduce it consciously, even if you can’t eliminate it entirely is a good goal.

            But I don’t think my ex-boss is *that* unique. I’ve had more than one of her. I see unpredictability as a real problem that hinders the implementation of strategies like the one Laura describes here. It’s just as you say–the manufacturing of emergencies due to lack of planning. I believe that a lot of employees are trapped in that kind of situation, particularly lower-level ones, but not just them.

          • Laura says:

            @Karen – I was glad to hear you quit that last situation. It sounded like a real nightmare. I hope the new job is better!

          • Cara Marcano says:

            I would like to be a better manager and learn more about HR and management — do you know where women can learn this ? books, classes etc. I like the lean in concept but I thought it would have more actual resources for women rather than be just about promoting SS and her brand and selling books for her … like role playing is very important and teaching women to manage would help a lot in this area — i’m an entrepreneur and i haven’t seen these kind of resources really available to female entrepreneurs.. if you know any books etc or groups like on lean in let me know

          • Laura says:

            @Cara- that’s an interesting question. Learning to manage is tough in general – I’m working on a piece on the low percentage of promotions to first-line manager that actually work out. It’s a huge leap to go from being an individual contributor to guiding the achievements of a team. I wonder if there might be resources on athletic team coaching that might have some parallels.

          • Cloud says:

            @Cara- the problems Karen described sounded like project management failings more than people management failings- often one department head does both roles. There are some good resources for learning project management out there, but to me it boils down to thinking about the work to be done, interdependencies, and risks, and then making a plan. I wrote a post about it awhile back: http://www.wandering-scientist.com/2013/02/project-planning-101.html.
            There are also books about the people management side of things.
            The trick is finding GOOD resources- there is a lot of fluff and just plain crap out there.

  7. Cara Marcano says:

    I disagree with 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. as quality time — depending on age of kids — getting little kids dressed, fed and out the door – and for women in high-powered jobs how you look and what you wear are Very Important so you have to allow some time for that — so working from home day at least one day a week can have some advantages in this regard — but this idea that you wake kids up at 6:30 and then from 6:30 to 8:30 have 2 quality hours with them — i think most working parents would take issue with this

    • MP says:

      I agree. It takes about 1.5 hours total for me to get ready for work and then get my two little kids ready for day care and get out the door, and that’s with my husband taking care of any early risers while I get ready.

    • Cloud says:

      I just thought through our mornings, and it is ~1 hour 45 minutes from when I get up (6 a.m.) and when I walk out the door (7:45, with the kids and husband). In that time, I have ~30 minutes to myself (I run, do yoga, or write)- although sometimes the 3 year old wakes up early and joins me for yoga or watches TV while I write. I spend ~30 minutes on my personal care (shower, get dressed, makeup, hair). The other 45 are with the kids, and yes, some days are more fun than others, but I wouldn’t characterize it all as bad time. I generally eat breakfast with the littlest one and help get them both dressed, etc. Sure, it isn’t reading stories and snuggling, but it can be pleasant. Of course, on days when one or both decides to be difficult about getting ready, it isn’t much fun.

      • Laura says:

        @Cloud- one of the things I’ve observed from time logs is the high variance in the amount of time it takes people to get ready in the morning. I’m probably on the short side. I wear very little make-up and my hair routine is quick. When I had an early train into NYC the other day, for instance, I’d showered the night before (10 minutes), and got up at 6:10 so I could be out the door at 6:45, and I was ready at least 10 minutes early. To be sure, I wasn’t getting anyone else ready that morning, and I ate breakfast on the fly. But the longest part of the mornings when I do have my kids is breakfast, and that can be a family meal — I’d put that in the quality time category. On mornings our childcare starts at 9 and we’re up at 7 we are definitely trying to fill that time with activities: playing outside, playing in the basement, stories, etc. It doesn’t take us that long to get ready.

        I don’t know, sometimes I see things on time logs like morning chores — people get up and vacuum the house. A reporter who’s working on a story about making time for fun told me she skipped the vacuuming the other morning to go for a run, and felt guilty at first and then it felt great. I was like…you vacuum in the mornings?

        I would posit that Jane, in my example, does not do a lot of housework. She does whatever domestic activities she finds fun (one consultant’s time log had tons of time devoted to looking at interior decorating magazines…) but not the ones she doesn’t.

        • TG says:

          Who does the housework? How often does that person (if not her husband) visit? I’d be interested in a list of assumptions regarding what one needs to achieve this lifestyle, such as
          1) income, both total and individual for each spouse
          2) assumed marginal tax rate
          3) assumed child care/services costs and number of children
          4) assumptions around services- is there a dry cleaner? does it deliver? are grocery delivery services available? etc.
          5) distance from family, if any help is available
          6) elder care obligations
          7) other services such as payroll for nanny, CPA for filing taxes, etc.

          I think the main difficulty I have with your scenarios is that they feel like the fashion section of the NY Times, only applicable to a minute fraction of the population. In the couples I know, the lower earning spouse (male or female) usually scales back to handle logistics. That doesn’t apply just to women- the male engineer married to a female OB/GYN quit his job and the physical chemistry PhD married to a research lab manager spent extended time as a postdoc while his kids were young- and they had her parents living with them to provide childcare during the day.

          Sometime you should write a post discussing the $$ it takes to make such a scenario work.

          • Cloud says:

            In my house, both adults scaled back career commitments slightly when the first kid was born. My husband and I are both mid-level managers with 6 figure salaries, and we’ve both continued to progress in our fields. It is impossible to say whether one of us would be progressing more if one of us scaled back significantly, but neither of us liked that option. We both want a lot of time with the kids and rewarding careers. There is a lot of luck involved- and a lot of places where our relatively high income allows us to buy our way out of problems- but we don’t outsource everything, not by a long shot. So far our “both ease up a bit” approach is working out well for us, and I think we both feel that we’ll be able to ramp back up when we’re ready, since we’ve both stayed fairly active in our careers. I’ve posted on the details of our logistics, if you’re curious:
            http://www.wandering-scientist.com/2012/11/an-update-on-cloud-household-logistics.html
            I don’t understand the fascination with other people’s schedules- I figure everyone’s situation is so unique that my example will almost certainly not transfer. But I got such a big response when I did a post on logistics (in response to a reader question), that I later wrote the update I just linked to above.
            The NYT Motherlode has been doing a series with people’s schedules, too.

          • Laura says:

            @Cloud – you’re managing 15 people and writing multiple books… I’d hate to see what *not* scaling back would look like!

          • TG says:

            Cloud,
            Great post on the logistics. This is what most of the working couples I know do. The biggest factor seems to be having a couple where you can share the sick kid obligations (obstetricians on call cannot do this) or who have family nearby. My husband’s and my employer has a butt-in-seat time requirement that cannot be met by people with multiple young children without a nanny/babysitter. (15 days of FTO/year doesn’t cut it)

          • Laura says:

            @TG – with multiple kids, and two career parents, why wouldn’t you have a nanny? It’s more cost effective than paying for 3 day care bills, and is pretty cost competitive with 2. Plus you get the flexibility of covering illness and occasional overtime. Ultimately, that’s why we switched — for the flexibility. I loved daycare, but it didn’t really have that.

          • TG says:

            Our twins had medical issues so neither a daycare nor a standard nanny was an ideal choice. I was nervous about leaving a chronically colicky infant and an infant who needed to be nebulized regularly with the level of nanny we could afford. None of my kids were verbal yet.

          • WG says:

            Cloud, I’m not surprised in the interest at all. Really, there is much more commonality than difference in these issues.

    • Emily says:

      Yup, I agree with Cara completely on this.

    • WG says:

      We still put part of the time in the QT with kids bucket. Sure, it’s sometimes rushed and there is a whirl-wind of activity But these are the basics that make up everyday life with small kids — dressing and feeding. We just try to make the routine as pleasant as possible so we can all start the happy, or least not completely frazzled, which sometimes still happens.

  8. Cara Marcano says:

    Is this the schedule of a real person or a compilation of ‘women’ ?
    a compiled woman we all get what she looks like — what women are looking for is this — but with real successes and failures in here – and learning experiences… I do like the idea though.. i’d like to see it with a real woman’s name on it –

  9. just wrote a post about this post :) it really got me going for some reason! thank you for always making me think! http://www.theshubox.com/2013/06/jane-and-ideal-week.html

    • Laura says:

      @sarah- wow, thanks for doing that! Great post – I’m very curious what your perfect week looks like on an hour by hour basis, and how you managed to make the puzzle pieces fit.

    • arden says:

      Bookmarked your blog!

  10. arden says:

    Nice post!

    Will you be sharing any more “real” time logs? You were doing a bit of a series a little while ago. Not sure why, but I love seeing how others designate their time….time managment voyeur perhaps? :)

    • Laura says:

      @arden – I hope to be sharing a lot coming out of the Dandelion Project. All in the works at the moment, but yes, there are some interesting findings, and interesting strategies.

      • Cloud says:

        I really need to get my recent logs analyzed and written up! I have logs from Aug-Dec last year, which encompassed the start of Kindergarten, a big deadline for my husband, and the end of fiscal/goal year madness for me. I have some more sporadic logs from this year, too, in an easier to analyze format (I think). I just need a couple of hours to do the data analysis and write a post, and that hasn’t bubbled to the top of my priority list this year. Do you want to look at them? The Aug-Dec ones are in Google Docs, so I could just share them with you.
        As to the question up thread about what not easing up would look like for me- I’d be doing more networking aimed at the next level of my career, going to more conferences, and probably taking a class or two. Basically, paying more into my career capital. I am able to do a bit more of that now than I did in the first 5 years of motherhood, but I suspect I’ll ramp that up again at some point.

      • WG says:

        Really glad to hear it, Laura, I love the time logs.

  11. WG says:

    Looking at this day, I think we can split the requirements into two categories: (1) things needed at home to succeed (e.g., reliable child care, housekeeping) and (2) things needed at work to succeed (e.g., flexibility). I’m going to leave category 1 to the side. Often, as these comments suggest, people frame category 1 in terms of money (though I sometimes question the math on that), really, I think it’s a matter of values. There is quite a lot of derision aimed towards people who outsource housekeeping, lawncare, laundry, etc. I’m going to leave aside the child care issues as well, because I will start with the assumption that people who want to work like this understand the importance of child care, at least some of which is paid.

    As for category 2, it appears Jane has the following

    (1) no client-generated or team-related emergencies. This means she has very good management and/or very good people to whom she could delegate these issues;

    (2) control of her schedule;

    (3) ability to telecommute;

    (4) no requirement for face-time;

    (5) no requirement that she is necessarily available during traditional business hours;

    (6) ability to push off work, if required, during the 4-8 p.m. window.

    When we recount success stories, it’s important that these factors are spelled out explicitly, otherwise we are missing a key part of the story. In my experience employers do not look to see why some parents can maintain the schedule, while others can’t. Personally, I haven’t experienced an employer adjust a policy regarding flexibility without a reason, and usually a negative reason, like people leaving the organization. (i.e., they won’t fix something they do not see as broken).

    • TG says:

      Absolutely! In industries that are growing, employers are far more likely to be flexible than in industries that are shrinking. Twenty years ago, petroleum companies were laying off good engineers with 10 years of experience. Now, they’re hiring people with no experience due to their empty “pipeline”. (haha)