Danielle Mitchell's Juggling Act
How a Solo Mom makes it work
Like most single working moms, Danielle Mitchell has multiple balls in the air on any given day. Mother to 19-month-old daughter, Brooklynn, Danielle also works full-time as a finance assistant for a Washington, D.C.–based nonprofit organization. Here’s how she makes it work.
Finding time for play
Given the often endless stream of household duties she faces, such as cooking and cleaning, trying to fit in quality time with her daughter Brooklynn is Mitchell’s biggest challenge. “When I get home, I make a point of sitting on the sofa with Brooklynn for a few minutes to talk or play," she says. Mitchell will then start dinner—preferably something that doesn’t require her to stand by the stove, so she can return to Brooklynn until dinner is ready. After dinner, she gets Brooklynn ready for bed. Next, they may watch a program together, but then it’s lights-out for the little one so she is well rested for an early rise the next morning.
Fortunately, Mitchell’s 77-year-old grandmother is able to take care of Brooklynn during the day. Mitchell's mother picks Brooklynn up and brings her home. Mitchell realizes she is fortunate to have her mom’s support.
Mitchell’s employer, the National League of Cities, is also supportive, offering flexible scheduling, including time off for her to tend to Brooklynn’s medical appointments and other childcare needs. During spring and summer months, Mitchell can get to work as early as 7 a.m. and leave early enough to enjoy some time outdoors with her daughter after work.
Mitchell hasn’t connected with any formal moms’ groups, but she does have coworkers whom she can confide in and turn to for support.
“Sunday is ‘prepare for the week’ day in my home," Mitchell says. She shares three shortcuts that help her keep her sanity and juggle her parenting and work responsibilities: "I try to cook meals that can be reheated throughout the week," she says, citing spaghetti as a reliable standby. She also braids Brooklynn’s hair on weekends so that the style holds throughout the week. Finally, she has gotten into the habit of laying out Brooklynn’s outfits—as well as her own—for the week on Sunday evenings, saving precious time on weekday mornings.
Taking time for self-care
“At least once a month, I try to get a babysitter so I can have a night out,” Mitchell says. She also tries to get away from the office and take walks during her weekday lunch breaks. “Sometimes work is the break!" she says.
Words of advice
When asked if she has any wisdom to share with other Solo Moms, Mitchell doesn’t hesitate: “If someone offers you help, take it!” she says. “Even if you just lie down and do nothing for two hours while a friend cares for your child, take time to relax when you can.”
Mitchell advises Solo Moms to be proactive about asking employers whether support is available, such as flexible schedules, on-site childcare programs, or subsidies for daycare.
Juggling work and family can be challenging, but moms like Mitchell prove it can be done.
Photo credit: Danielle Mitchell
Brenda Melvin is a Virginia-based freelance writer who specializes in workplace trends and career-management issues. Her work has appeared in various publications, including the Chicago Tribune, Northern Virginia magazine, and Heart & Soul magazine.
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