She works hard for the money (so you better treat her right!)

For this story I interviewed Lauren Johnson . (Names have been changed for protection of source.) 

Mother working while her child plays. Photo by Ketut Subiyanto.

5:45 am

BEEP! BEEP! BEEEEP! The alarm won’t stop blaring. It’s a jarring  shock to Lauren’s nervous system. Although it goes off every. Damn. morning.  She jumps out of bed and splashes water on her face.  “While I’m brushing my teeth I’m checking my emails,” she says.

Immediately, she heads into the basement to workout (typically begins at 10 minutes after 6).  Her husband, Jeff, is still asleep. 

Lauren says, “there’s a difference between a working father and a working mother.” But for Lauren, work doesn’t wait for anyone. Luckily her kids, Jordan and Jacob, are old enough at this point (5th and 8th grade) to wake themselves up and get downstairs.  Despite her children’s age and ability to get up without help, her maternal instincts kick in and she sends a text to make sure everyone is awake and moving.

Comfortable with everyone’s speed of waking up, Lauren hurries downstairs and begins to lay out the  breakfast and lunch for all. 

Jordan is on a specialized food allergy immunotherapy program, where she is required to ingest a certain amount of allergens daily. To make it easier/ more desirable to eat, she gets a special pancake that Lauren crafts using 1 macadamia nut ground down, half a teaspoon of ground sunflower seeds, 16 millimetres of hen egg yolk, ¼ teaspoon of pumpkin seeds ground down, ¾ teaspoon of ground pecan, 1 ¼ teaspoon of almond, and 20 millilitres of duck egg white. And once weekly ½ teaspoon of chestnut flour is added to the mixture. Lauren  takes it all and mixes it with store bought pancake mix. The separation of the hen egg cannot have egg white, so first she has to gently cup the yolk in her hand,  let the white run off, then put the yolk in tepid water, let it sit in water for a couple minutes, then finally roll the yolk on piece of paper towel, in an effort to get the last of  the white off. Any white that doesn’t come off, needs to be hand picked.  Finally, she takes a toothpick, and punctures the yolk and proceeds to milk it like a cow.

“I then measure it out like Heisenberg,” with a syringe, then mix it in with the batter of the pancake mix.  Her whole process to make a few weeks worth  of breakfasts takes more than 5 hours.

 Jacob is decidedly easier. He just wants some cereal, specifically “peanut butter puffins” or exactly 10 Mini Eggo pancakes arranged perfectly on his plate.  Both Jordan and Jacob have lunches that were prepared by Lauren the night prior.

Lauren told me her lunches “aren’t the healthiest,” nor is it “something I’m proud of.” It’s usually some kind of sandwich or pasta with a fruit or a snack. In the morning she puts the fruit in containers and dresses it with ice packs. This takes Lauren  about 15 minutes to make.

7:46 am

“I then drive them to school sweaty because I  don’t have enough time for myself  to shower.” As they’re in two separate grades, they have two separate school drop offs. Jordan gets dropped off first, and then Jacob.  Their schools are close together, about a  mile ½ away. They leave 15 minutes in advance, to make sure they arrive on time. Jordan isn’t even dropped off at the right door due to traffic. She has to walk a bit to get to her building. 

7:52 am

Both kids are dropped off for an 8AM bell. From there, Lauren comes home and quickly showers, gets herself dressed and ready to face the outside world. “I am hustling the entire time.”

Fashion choices are pretty last minute. Her wardrobe is very monotone because it makes picking out an outfit easier when everything matches. Lauren utilizes two different hair dryers, one regular to get the wetness out, and one heated curler hair dryer from Revlon, to maximize timing.

She has about 2 ½ minutes to put on makeup. “I don’t do a very good job,” maybe that’s because while she’s doing all of this she is simultaneously reading on her iPad because she loves to read but never has any other time. It takes Lauren 40 minutes to get ready.  She laughed really hard and told me that I may not want to include this small bit of information in the piece, but  “When I was breastfeeding my children,  I was using a breast pump, while reading on my iPad, while blow drying my hair getting ready for work.”

Woman simultaneously texting while working on her laptop. Photo by Polina Tankilevitch.

9:00 am

She gets in her car and begins driving to work . Lauren explained her role in her company, as the president and chief sales officer of her business; they have nine locations, “five of them, including the headquarters, are more local.”  She decides where she’s heading every morning, travel time can range from fifteen minutes to an hour and half depending on where she feels she needs to go. “While I am commuting, I am simultaneously conducting business on the phone. There is no breathing time.”

“I’m trying to keep up my social life, but I operate on such opposite schedules with everyone.” For her business, all times of the day are hectic, but the hours in the middle of the day are the craziest. 

 “For a long time we did keep shabbat every Friday. It was hectic trying to organize it. I had Jeff and the kids go around the table and say something [they’re] thankful for and a good deed that [they] did this week.  We also had everyone put some money into our Tzedakah box, and then at the end of every year, we let the kids decide where the money would go.” A tzedakah box is a traditional charity box where Jewish families would deposit their spare change and then give it to a charity. The hours of cooking and cleaning and prepping for Jewish holidays are countless. Her company doesn’t close for the major Jewish holidays, despite the owners being Jewish themselves, but mentioned that everyone is very flexible with the Jewish holiday schedule.

“I am so lucky that I have the kids that I have, because if my kids were difficult I don’t know how I would manage the life that I have in regards to work.” Recently Jordan has been asking her mother to watch an episode of Friends with her every night. “I never have time to watch TV.” Lauren spoke about how not having time makes it difficult to have a relationship with her husband. “My mother and my grandmother were  able to turn off their work lives when they got home.” The speed of the working world has increased drastically. 

 “Now I’m racing against time and competition. You have every connection at your fingertips. My husband tells me I never turn it off and I have to tell him ‘well that’s because I can’t.’”  Lauren expanded upon her religious duties a little more, “Yom kippur is the one day a year I try not to check my email as much. I have to announce to my staff annually that I may be slower in answering for the holiday.” Family and being together for holidays is so important in Jewish culture. 

Woman exhausted from trying to balance her work and social life. Photo by Anna Tarazevich.

With all the technology and innovations to make life “easier” for the full time working mother, one would think in 2021, her life would be smooth(er) sailing. In truth, the never-ending access to one’s work, family, and social life, through email and social media, actually makes navigating the waters very difficult.  Mothers are held to a new standard of “girl-bossing” whilst simultaneously adhering to the outdated norm of taking care of the household.  Let their stories be the guidepost for the development of new norms and support systems for the women who do it all, with all due respect.

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