Here’s The Truth: Work-Life Balance Was Easier During COVID As A Working Mom With 5 Kids

Crystal Maloney with her husband and their children.

Ask any American with young children what their No. 1 household expense is, and you’ll hear the same answer almost every time: child care. Each family finds its own way to manage. Some parents are pushed out of the workforce. Others work jobs they wouldn’t take otherwise or hold down multiple jobs in order to meet their families’ needs.

In order to show you how real families are navigating this child care challenge, HuffPost is profiling parents around the country. If you’d like to be featured in an installment, email us at

Crystal Maloney with her husband and their children.

Children’s ages: 7 years, 5 years, 3 years, and 10-month-old twins

Occupations: Maloney works as an operational director at a large
financial institution. Her husband, Michael, works at an IT firm.

Annual household income: $230,000

Monthly household take-home pay: $9,700

Monthly child care costs: $4,000 for the nanny, plus $1,600 for two weeks of summer camp, and $160 per month for membership to an infant gym where kids can be dropped off.

Work situation: Maloney works from home three days a week and from the office the other two.

“I work a lot. Normally from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on most days. I’m checking my computer at least until 7:40 p.m. And that’s an improvement, whereas last year, I was working till 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. two to three times a week.

“When people want you to go back into the office, it’s also, ‘Well, do you expect me to stay in the office those hours?’ The type of job that I work, people can be done trading, but my books or my risk assessment-type tasks are not done. The traders or the salespeople are gone, [but] we still need to clean and tidy and prepare for the next day. So it’s definitely a balance.”

Her husband’s hours are shorter. “I’m required to work probably eight to nine hours a day. He only has to work seven, and then three days out of those five he only has to work six. He can also flex his time. In his industry, he’s not required [to do] overtime or stay late. Whereas for me, in my industry, it’s very common. It’s a give and take to just make sure it’s balanced for our kids or us, because it is a lot to manage.”

Child care arrangements: “We have a full-time nanny right now, which is just amazing.” Maloney’s husband leaves early for work, and Maloney is with the kids from around 6 a.m. – 9 a.m., when the nanny arrives. The nanny stays with the children until 3 or 3:30 p.m., when their father returns from work.

The family has only had the nanny since Maloney returned to work from her maternity leave after having the twins. When they had their first child, “My girlfriend was pregnant at the same time, and her abuela watched our son. We loved that.” He ended up at a nearby Montessori school, and his younger brother followed him there after a brief stint in a day care center.

“When Josie [their eldest daughter] came home [from the hospital] and I was on maternity leave, I was like, ‘Look, let’s just bring [the boys] home. We can save money.’ And I was actually debating quitting and just becoming a stay-at-home mom. I think the reason I went back [was] because Josie was born in 2020 and she was a COVID baby. So when I went back [to work], there was no talk of me having to go into the office, and I was like, ‘This is amazing. We’ll just make that work.’ I worked from home with them, with some help here and there, but mostly it was me and them for a year to maybe two years.”

Maloney described what this period of working from home looked like: “I baby-wear, I breastfeed, I have a standing desk, and we raised our children to be independent but not unattended. I would be baby-wearing while on a call, and I could make my kids breakfast. We would do home-school in the morning and then they would go out. I also had neighbors’ support, so like the neighbor [might] help and take them for a walk. Then my husband came home early, because he didn’t take his full paternity leave. He would be home at noon, so I was really only working for four or five hours by myself. That was the first year. Then from there, the kids and I and Josie, we all had just like a schedule and it actually worked really well for us.”

Given the circumstances, her managers were supportive. “It’s not like people didn’t know that they were home. It was in the midst of COVID. Our baby was born with several heart problems. She would be more susceptible to have a severe reaction to COVID, so my managers were all aware. I was like, ‘Look, they’re home because it’s not safe. And that’s that.’”

Eventually, Maloney sent her daughter to the same Montessori school her sons had attended. “She really liked it.”

“When I had the twins, I did the same thing. I was like, ‘OK, I’m done. I’m staying home.’ It’s actually a running joke. Every time I have a kid, I’m like, ‘All right, I’m not going back to work, not doing it.’ At the end of my maternity leave, I was like, ‘Hey, let’s try just a little bit.’”

Maloney had imagined she’d feel comfortable stepping away from her job once she had accumulated six figures in her retirement account, a goal she has now surpassed, but the family had just purchased a home that needed much more renovating than they initially anticipated, so going back to work seemed to make sense. While she pays the nanny more than she takes home with her paycheck, Maloney saves “aggressively” and uses FSA and HSA accounts. The family’s insurance also comes through her job. While the dollars don’t seem to add up, her financial contribution to the family remains substantial. For now, she said, “I’m just gonna keep working and just manage expectations on what our dream life would be.”

Maloney’s husband had a stay-at-home mom, but “I didn’t grew up in a household like that. My mom, my dad — my grandmother worked until she was 70. The idea of not working, to me, is baffling.” Yet she can still imagine a point in the future where she cares for the children full time and runs “hobby businesses ― business that we’re not dependent on, but I’ll still have something to structure my mind.” Then again, when she imagines the future costs of her kids’ braces and their college education, it’s difficult to imagine making do with less income. “Sometimes like when I’m having a bad day or I’m like, ‘What am I doing?’ I just need to remember, I’m a mom that’s working. I’m not a working mom.”

Her kids have always been the first priority. When she returned to work after having her first, she negotiated being able to leave the office at 3 p.m. in order to pick up her son, completing the rest of her work from home. “I was able to just go in, work till 3, get most of my structured reports done, and then pick my son up, or have my husband pick my son up, and still be a part of dinner and bedtime.”

“I know that my priorities are always going to be my family. It’s just being able to say to someone, ‘This is not healthy or worth the struggle. The chokehold of this job is not worth my family’s dynamic of what we value and what we need.’”

Maloney’s leave with the twins coincided with summer, so the family spent time last year vacationing and camping together. She decided not to pay her daughter’s preschool tuition again that fall, and all the children have been at home ever since. (The older two boys are home-schooled.) When her husband’s paternity leave ended in October of 2023, they hired the nanny.

While the nanny enables her to work, Maloney said, “I’m still a mom while working. It’s not like when I’m home I’m not participating. I’m the default parent in a lot of aspects. I’m the rule setter, I’m the home-school planner. I am that parent. To some extent, I feel like mentally it’s about the same as if I was at home with three kids. And to some people, that’s probably crazy.” It was a bit easier during the lockdown, when others were understanding of small, child-related interruptions in the workday. Maloney says she has noticed that there is less patience for these now. It’s harder to pretend that she doesn’t hear the conversation happening right outside the door to her home office.

“When people understood that I was processing two conversations it was much easier to be like, ‘OK, one minute. Let me just talk to this [person] and handle that, and I’ll be with you.’ It was a lot more grace and understanding, and just flexibility.”

Managing a large family: “We literally cannot go anywhere without old, young, white, Black, everyone just be like, ‘Oh, my gosh.’ Like yes, I know. People just say the most inappropriate things to us, it’s crazy.” Once, a stranger asked her husband if he was sure the children were all his. Others have insinuated that the family must rely on government assistance.

“I feel like a lot of people don’t see when you have large families, the sacrifices you make at the beginning of your marriage before you even have those kids. Most of our friends still have student loans. There’s a lot of debt going on. They don’t rearrange their entire life to just be debt free. That’s a lot of freaking work.” Maloney and her husband did that work, and now, she says, “When our kid needs ear tubes put in or another kid who grows like a freaking weed [and] needs to buy new shoes, or cleats — all of that stuff. We’re not batting an eye because we already financially prepared for these things.”

Read more

Leave a Reply