A Week in the Life of a Working Mom: Dr. Mom Edition

For our first Week in the Life of a Working Mom series, I’m honored to introduce my friend M, who is a 40-year-old doctor based in Washington, D.C., and mom to two kids, 6 and 8. Before we get to the nitty gritty of her life, I’m going to caveat this post with something I plan to preface all of these updates with: This is a real person who has feelings and isn’t gaining anything from this, unlike your usual friendly (soul-deadened, thick-skinned, cold-hearted, money-grubbing) blogger — so please be kind with any comments. Thank you! – Kat

If you’d like to be featured (anonymously or otherwise) for a “week in the life of a working mom” feature, please fill out this form here! Eventually, you can see all posts in this series here.

First, Some Basics about this Working Mom:

Name: M
Lives: Washington, D.C.
Job: Almost-full-time physician, between seeing patients and teaching
Age: 40
Home Situation: 

1 husband, 2 kids (ages 6 & 8). Moved around A LOT pre-kids but have hunkered down for the past 7 years. We live in a 1950s ranch with a claustrophobic cluster of rooms in the most beautiful neighborhood in DC (biased). 4 bedrooms/3 bathrooms, the last bedroom for our au pair so we are guestroom-less.

What’s your childcare situation like?   

Au pair! Life-changer. Started when I was a resident/husband was a firm attorney. Never going back to anything else as long as we need any form of childcare. Has given us amazing flexibility with both our parenting lives and our social lives. (Au pair staying in? Great, we put the kids to bed then head out for drinks on a random Tuesday night. That’s the best part. Plus the flexibility. Plus the kids learning new cultures. It has been all upside for us.)

(Kat’s note: We may circle back to M for more advice on au pairs, because when I asked her a follow up Q or two, she gushed about how she’s the poster child for au pairs — they’re on #4! As for what M’s favorite resources are for au pairs, M said: “My favorite au pair resource is of my own creation: I put together this slightly insane handbook with rules, expectations, sample schedules, how to use the subway, favorite museums, neighbors names/photos, and send it to the girls before they get here. Helpful to be in a city like D.C. with so many au pairs– they often have better social lives than we do. “)

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How to Be a Great Part-Time Associate

how to be a great part-time associateAs I mentioned a few weeks ago, my friend Y has had a very successful run as a part-time associate, working reduced hours (about an 80% schedule) for years now.  I asked her for some of the top tips she’s learned along the way, and she was kind enough to share her tips for both negotiating a reduced work schedule as well as the tips below, how to have a successful run as a part-time associate.  Ladies who’ve negotiated similar flexible work arrangements — do you agree with Y’s tips? What are your best tips for how to be a great part-time associate? 

As an associate working reduced hours, here is what I learned along the way that I would offer as advice to anyone in the same position, or contemplating making the switch:

1) Remember you are making a professional sacrifice. Remember how I said in my first post that you can’t have it all? The reduced work hours approach, in many cases, forecloses certain professional opportunities. In the BigLaw world, when you’re not available 24/7, you’re simply not as desirable for certain assignments or projects. As a junior associate, I didn’t really realize this, but as I got up there in years, it became clear to me that my professional experience was not — and could not b‎e — as well-rounded as that of my peers, and could not progress at the same rate. Most days, this was just fine, since I continued to remind myself that I was making the sacrifice to be able to raise my children as I wanted (by then, there were more of them). Some days I did feel frustrated at my perceived lack of professional development. All in all, I would say: Be prepared to make the sacrifice, and remember what you’re gaining in return.

2) ‎Stick to your agreed-upon schedule (mostly). We corporate types didn’t get to where we are for lack of hard work, and I would venture to guess that many of us have a hard time not going above and beyond. But when you’re on a reduced hours or part-time schedule, you have to be disciplined about leaving the office at the agreed-upon time and/or not working beyond the hours you’ve committed to. Avoiding “schedule creep” can be a huge challenge, particularly when everyone else is working many more hours than you are. I made a concerted effort to remind myself that a deal is a deal and that I wasn’t doing anything wrong by leaving the office at 6:00 every day; in fact, I wasn’t being paid to stay beyond then.

3) But be flexible. No part-time job in the corporate world is truly limited to 9-5 hours. While it’s important not to be a pushover or feel bad about not working to the extent your colleagues are, it’s key to demonstrate that you’re still committed to your job and are willing, when necessary, to stay late at work, get online after the kids are in bed, or travel overnight. It’s a delicate balance, and you have to have the professional experience to determine when the extra hours are necessary and/or would be appreciated by your colleagues.

4) Anticipate some level of jealousy or animosity. While others are burning the midnight oil and you head out to your second job as a mom, some may resent you for leaving earlier. I always just ignored this, since I had an official arrangement with the firm and was getting paid less than them, in accordance with how much I worked.

5) Reassess the flexible work arrangement as time goes on. Just because a reduced hours schedule suits you at one point doesn’t mean that it will always be right for you. There may come a time that you throw yourself back in the game on a full-time basis because the kids have grown, your spouse or partner becomes more available, or your life otherwise changes. Fortunately, it should be easier to transition back to a full-time workload since you’ve had your head in the game as a part-time employee rather than being out of the workforce entirely.

Ladies — have you ever tried reducing your working hours to 80% or less? What were your thoughts on it, and what are your best tips for other women considering such a flexible work arrangement? 

Pictured: Pixabay.

Tips on Negotiating Reduced Work Hours

reduced work hoursI’ve always been in awe of one of my old friends, Y, who’s negotiated reduced work hours at numerous Big Law firms in a major market — and advanced while doing it. I reached out to her to ask for her top tips on negotiating reduced work hours and her own thoughts on the journey. Below, we present Part 1, Y’s thoughts on negotiating reduced work hours — you can find Part 2 here, where we look at her thoughts on being a successful part-time associate.  Thank you so much, Y! – Kat

Working mothers can’t have it all. I truly believe that. Something’s gotta give, and when I had my first child I wondered what that would be — and how much. There are obviously many answers to that question — there is no “one-size-fits-all.” For me, the answer was asking for a flexible work arrangement at the BigLaw firm where I was a second-year associate, so that I could continue in my career while also having time to spend with my family.

I remember when I first negotiated for reduced work hours. I had been on maternity leave with my first child and knew right away that I could not possibly raise a tiny person and also work full-time (which in my job meant being on call 24/7). ‎After contacting the powers that be at the firm about discussing a potential flexible work arrangement, I received a call from a partner, and the conversation was not nearly as scary as I thought it might be. That may also be because I went in with zero expectations, figuring that if the firm wouldn’t agree to a flexible working arrangement, I would walk. At that point in my life, working full time at an AmLaw 100 firm was not on the table for me.

By that time, I had done my homework and knew that some women were already working at the firm on an 80-percent basis. (Depending on their practice area and reason for working part time, they either worked reduced hours on a relatively regular schedule or committed to billing 80 percent of a full-time associate’s yearly billables, even if that meant working long hours on a deal one month and taking time off the next.) When I stated that I wanted to work four days a week and be home in the evenings with my baby, the partner agreed to offer me an 80-percent arrangement. He added that there were no guarantees with regard to the bonus but that the firm would aim to give me one that was prorated.

Having heard horror stories of women who officially worked part-time and were paid accordingly but billed just as much as a full-time associate, I asked what would happen if I ended up billing more than 80 percent of what a full-time associate would. Would I be reimbursed at the end of the year? The answer was no. While it didn’t seem equitable, it did incentivize me to stick to my reduced schedule rather than revert to my type-A personality and try to do it all (despite my cognitive recognition that, as a mother who wants to remain intimately involved in her child’s upbringing, I could not). “One last thing,” the partner said as we continued to talk. “I’m not saying that we’d definitely never make a part-time partner, but we most likely wouldn’t.” I just said “fine” — it was not even remotely on my radar at the time, let alone something that would have influenced my decision.

That started my long journey as an associate with a reduced work schedule.

Here are some tips I would offer to anyone thinking of requesting a similar part-time arrangement:

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Week in the Life of a Working Mom: Corporate Auditor in New Mexico

For this week’s installment of our Week in the Life of a Working Mom series, I’m happy to introduce CorporetteMoms reader Celine, who lives in New Mexico with her husband and two daughters and works as a corporate auditor. Our usual caveat applies: Please remember that this is is a real person who has feelings and isn’t gaining anything from this, unlike your usual friendly (soul-deadened, thick-skinned, cold-hearted, money-grubbing) blogger — so please be kind with any comments. Thank you! – Kat

If you’d like to be featured (anonymously or otherwise), please fill out this form! You can see all posts in this series here.

First, Some Basics About This Working Mom…biglaw partner work-life balance - image of a business woman

Name: Celine
Location: Lives in New Mexico, works in Texas
Job: corporate auditor, 45–60 hours/week
Age: 37
Home Situation: 

I live in a 4,000-square-foot home with my husband (he is a family medicine practitioner), our two daughters (ages 8 and 4), and our dog.

Childcare Situation:

Our children attend an after school program twice per week, and Grandma picks them up from school three days per week (and taxis them to after school activities).

School tuition: approx. $6,000 per child per year. After school program: varies, depends on our use (payment is on a per-hour basis). Grandma is compensated for gas and given a credit card for expenses incurred on behalf of the kids — she uses this to buy the kids dinner, snacks, pay for events, purchase supplies they may need, etc.

A Week in My Life

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Finally Friday: Raven Dress Pump

comfortable heels retroOooh: I first spied these shoes over at Garnet Hill (where they have some crazy sales on their excellent towels — $2 hand towels and $12 bath sheets! Go, go!) — but the shoes were almost entirely sold out.  Sure enough, Amazon has them more in stock, but mostly full price — but if you’ve never had a pair of Gentle Souls, I highly recommend them.  Made by Kenneth Cole, they’re packed with comfortable features like cushioning, wide heels, and here, a flattering strap.  The heels is 2.5″ high, and most sizes are $219 at Amazon (with a few lucky sizes being $154).  Gentle Souls Women’s Raven Dress Pump

Psst: on the hunt for more comfortable heels? Check out The Corporette Guide to Comfortable Heels!


Working Moms and Cloth Diapering

Cloth Diapers and Working Moms | CorporetteMomsUsing cloth diapers might seem too time-consuming or too much of a hassle for busy working moms, but CorporetteMoms reader Miranda Hlady has found a way to make it work for her family. Today she shares her cloth diapering tips and suggests a couple of products she likes. Thank you, Miranda!

Cloth diapering is definitely popular with many moms these days, including working moms. We currently cloth diaper our almost six-month-old baby boy using made-in-China pocket diapers. We use GroVia O.N.E. diapers for daycare, and when travelling we use disposable diapers. (Pictured: GroVia All in One Cloth Diaper, available at Amazon for $23.95.) Before considering starting, supplementing, or switching to cloth diapering I would suggest considering your priorities:
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