Welcome to The Work Day, a series that charts a single day in various women’s working lives — from gallery owners to stay-at-home parents to chief executives. In this installment, we hear from Cori Angelino, a mother who has returned to full-time undergraduate education. She recorded a workday in August.
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Name: Cori Angelino
Location: South Fort Worth
Job title: Full-time undergraduate student
Previous jobs: In the past, I’ve bounced between being a stay-at-home mom and working outside the home in various jobs that didn’t require a college degree. I had three children in four years, and one has autism. For several years, it was financially prudent for me to stay home, and once my son was diagnosed, it was easier to juggle his therapy schedule if my schedule was wide open. I’d pick up the odd retail job for extra income if we had the support system to manage it, but there wasn’t ever room for upward growth.
Once all three children were in school full time, I took a job as a preschool aide and took night classes as the local community college to get my preschool teaching certification. I did that for six years before we were approached to become foster parents. I left my job to work with our soon-to-be son because he had significant environmental delays. When we moved to Texas, I struggled to find a job that provided any upward mobility and realized the time had come to complete my education.
What led me to my current role: The biggest challenge I faced in returning to school was the length of time I would have to take classes while working or going without employment to fast-track my education. A friend of mine is a radiologist and encouraged me to pursue a more long-term education in medicine when she witnessed the enjoyment I had as I went through the challenges of anatomy and physiology courses. She has continued to support and mentor me as I work toward becoming a physician associate. And I had the pleasure of meeting her in person for the first time on the day I journaled here!
How I spend the majority of my day: Most of my day is spent at home, bouncing between my desk and wherever my responsibilities lie: could be the kitchen, laundry room or family room. If I’m at my desk, I’m working on school, and everyone knows that Mom is to be interrupted only when most necessary. If I’m up and around the house, I’m fair game for conversation, listening to a new favorite song or asking a favor of, as is so often the case!
6:15 a.m.: The first phase of my day puts me in “mom mode.” The 2021 school year has started for my 10-year-old, so our day begins when I get my first cup of cold brew coffee (it’s HOT in Texas!), and we pull ourselves together enough for him to get to school. We are lucky to be close enough to walk. We see a few neighbors and start our day with some fresh, if humid, air. After I return home, I shift into “homemaker mode” and unload the dishwasher, start a load of laundry and do some dinner prep. I like to listen to a podcast or an audiobook while I’m doing this so I can ease my brain into a fully functioning fashion.
8 a.m.: This is when I move into “student mode” and sit down at my computer. My summer session class is winding down, so I’m studying for my final exam. I’ll spend four hours working on this. I use the Pomodoro method for studying — so I sit for 50 minutes, then take 10 minutes to switch laundry, fill my water glass or let the dogs out. At least one of the dogs will remain nearby (in this case, probably in hopes of a dropped snack). My husband works nights, so I usually keep the lights dim and use ear buds for my lecture videos because my desk is in our master bedroom.
Doing all of my learning virtually at the college level has required walking a fine line, balancing the convenience of setting my own study schedule around the needs of my family with the challenge of the lack of hands-on learning or having face-to-face interactions with my professors and classmates. It has forced me to develop a strong internal discipline, the willingness to speak up in email and video consultations, and the ability to set boundaries around my time and mental health to achieve some balance.
12 p.m.: I break now for a workout — a core workout and a 30-minute spin session — before lunch. This is my brief foray into “wife mode,” because my husband and I operate on opposite schedules five days a week. Lunch is always a salad and leftovers from the night before. I do my best to automate as much of my life as possible to minimize decision fatigue. I’ll spend that time with Rob, talking about our days’ plans and staying up-to-date with what we’ve read in the news or sharing amusing TikToks. As he gets ready for work, I’ll spend another hour or so at my desk before it’s time to sit in the school pickup line.
3 p.m.: I like to use this time to catch up with my “pandemic people,” a group of online friends who I’ve bonded with over Marco Polo and through our group chat over the past 18 months, or make calls to my family back in California. Mom mode is reactivated when Evan, my youngest, gets in the car, chattering about the students at his new school. Our after-school routine probably looks similar to many other households with snacks, homework and chores. Soccer, including today’s practice, is one of our first voluntary forays back into pre-coronavirus pandemic life. The fact that it’s all outdoors with little long-term contact between players makes us feel like it’s a calculated risk.
5:30 p.m.: I get home in time to assemble dinner from my prep earlier. I already had the ground beef browned and the salad veggies chopped for a baked pasta dish and salad. My college-aged kids will be supervising Evan through his evening routine of hitting the shower and sheets while I meet a friend from out of state at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art for some adult interaction.
9:30 p.m.: After returning home, I shut down the house for the evening and head upstairs, checking emails and our class group chat for any new information about our class. I also scroll through social media. Before bed, I spend 10 minutes stretching and then read in bed until lights out around 10:30 p.m.