Follow-up with Dinah Nicholson

A couple of weeks ago, we interviewed Dinah Nicholson about how she and her husband made their dual-career family work. As it turns out, one interview wasn’t nearly enough space to cover the topic. We had someone request a follow-up. So, Rachel, here are Dinah’s answers to your questions.


4word: How did you handle the early years of childcare? Did you do daycare?

Dinah: I was one of these moms whose kids went to daycare as early as they could – at six weeks. The first trick with this is to pick a high quality daycare.

What you want to find in a daycare is:

The second trick is to be home when you’re at home. I had a rule that, once I was home with the kids, I didn’t check my email or my work cell. That might be tough to do in the current economic climate, but that was the rule I held to.

Oh and one last trick. In the mornings, I would set a timer, and the kids knew that when the timer went off, they had to get in the car. That helped me be on time in the mornings.

4word: How did you handle childcare after school? 

Dinah: Our daycare had a bus that would pick up my older kids at school and take them back to the daycare facility. After work, I could pick up all three kids in the same place. When they were all elementary-aged, there was an afterschool care program at their school.

When the kids got tired of that, we hired a college student to be there when they came home on the bus at 3:15. The nanny would greet them, cook dinner and supervise their daily chores.

4word: How did you choose your nanny?

Dinah: We knew them already. I had known our first nanny since she was a baby; her mother and I were best friends. Another gal had started babysitting at age 12 for us, and she could handle all three kids beautifully. 

4word: So what happened when your kids got sick?

Dinah: We had a rule that they couldn’t get sick. Just kidding! But they really didn’t get sick very often. It usually happened on a Friday night, so they were well by Monday.

But let’s say a child had a bad cold, not a flu bug, I would take him to work, and he’d fall asleep under my desk while I was working. If the child got sick at school or daycare and we got a phone call about it, my husband and I would call each other and figure out who could leave work on that particular day to get that child.

4word: And how did you handle housework? When is it okay to outsource some of that to a maid or housekeeper? 

Dinah: I tried many times not having a housekeeper. If you want to wear the supermom badge on your chest, I get that, but if we do that, we don’t have time for our kids. All they remember is a stressed-out mom.

We had someone come clean the house every two weeks, but we had the kids help out too. The night before the maid would come, we had everyone running around picking up all the toys. And really, it’s a huge stress buster to come home to a clean house. It’s worth the money.

Laundry was the biggest hassle. I could get it washed and dried but never all folded. I learned to have hangers in the laundry room, and I’d hang the clothes up as I took them out and then take them to the kids’ rooms. Or I’d watch my favorite TV show as I folded them.

4word: What about meal planning? Grocery shopping?

Dinah: I shopped once a week for groceries. I’m a coupon-clipper, so it took about an hour to prep list and an hour to shop. Our daycare was in a shopping center that had our hairstylist, a library, clothing stores and a grocery store. So I could drop kids off at daycare, run to grocery store, run the groceries home and then go to work.

Costco became a fun family outing. We’d do that on the weekend with the kids, and that was their big adventure. We’d stay for lunch and get hot dogs too. I usually didn’t take my kids to the grocery store because invariably there would be one child freaking out about something.

As for meal planning, I learned a great trick from a friend. Each week, we’d have pizza night, Chinese food night, pasta night, chicken night and vegetarian night. It was a weekly routine, and all I had to do was add the fruit and vegetable. That made meal planning much easier, and the kids liked it because of the consistency.


Any other working moms out there want to chime in? Or do any of you have any further questions? Just leave us a comment!