Every weekday when I leave the office lately, I shut my computer down at 4:57. I say goodbye to my hardworking team and pray that no one stops to ask me a question or chat. If they do, I have to hustle faster than my slow-moving pregnant body can reasonably handle to make the one train that guarantees I won’t be late to pick up my son from preschool. When I don't have to speed-walk, I waddle the 20 minutes it takes to get to the station.
And then I don’t think about work again until I get to the office the next morning because I'm a parent with other things to worry about when I exit the building.
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As most 21st-century moms know, work doesn't stop just because you're not seated at your office desk. As I make my way to the train, I respond to IMs from my phone whenever I get stopped at any of the five don’t-walk signs I encounter along the way.
When I get to my train, I’m underground, so I turn my attention to the dozens of non-pressing emails that have amassed over the course of the day. I write replies that automatically send when I’m back above ground. Or if we’re getting ready to send Working Mother magazine to the printer, I’ll read print-outs of the pages and make my changes in pen on the paper to make the most use of my no-Internet time.
When I get above ground, I might have a story for WorkingMother.com to edit from my phone. If I don’t, I definitely have Facebook posts to check over before they get sent out.
Inevitably, more emails come in, and I respond to them.
If there’s still time left on my 45-minute commute, which there usually isn’t, I’ll brainstorm story ideas and jot them down, read news working moms care about or even start writing a story to publish the next day.
Then, I pick up my 3-year-old from preschool. My phone is tucked in my bag and I don’t look at it for the 20 minutes it takes to pack him up, say his goodbyes and walk him home.
Once I take off his coat and shoes and get him a snack, even though I wish he’d just wait for dinner, I check my work email. Thankfully, there usually isn’t anything I need to respond to while I’m making (or, let’s be real, ordering) our meal.
My husband and I try not to look at our phones during dinner. We both usually fail.
As we get our son ready for bath and bed, I’ll check Working Mother’s Facebook page to see if there are any comments from readers or new emails from colleagues that need to be addressed immediately. There’s often one or the other.
At about 8:45 p.m., I’m truly done working for the day. My husband, son and I snuggle in bed together and talk until about 9 p.m. when I am too tired to keep my eyes open. I, embarrassingly, fall asleep promptly after my 3-year-old helps tuck me in and kisses me goodnight.
I’m so grateful that my team and manager understand why I leave at 4:57—and that they can count on me after-hours if an emergency arises. But I’ve worked in other places where leaving the office before 6:30 meant you weren’t as dedicated to your job as you should be. Coworkers would roll their eyes or look shocked if they spotted someone heading to the elevators at my current quittin' time. Not surprisingly, moms of young kids made up a tiny portion of those staffs. What they didn’t know—or appreciate—is that many moms’ paid jobs aren’t done when they walk out (and their family jobs are just about to start up again).
Luckily, more companies are realizing that a butt in a chair for eight or more hours does not a good employee make. Of course I wish I could get every ounce of work done during my office time, but because so much happens after 4:57, I’m grateful my phone lets me stay connected and productive so I don’t fall behind—on work or family priorities.
This article was originally published on Working Mother.