How to Level Up Your Childcare/Personal Help (When Money is No Object)

how to level up your childcare | extended options for very busy momsIf you’re a busy working mom, good childcare is a must — but what happens when a nanny doesn’t even begin to cut it? How can you level up your childcare and household management? (Warning: this post is not terribly budget-friendly.)

I’ve wanted to talk about this ever since I read this post from Penelope Trunk (written in 2008 but I first read it more recently than that) about hiring a house manager — an entire position I never knew existed but would love to have if money and time allowed. So if you need more than a nanny, let’s review the “additional childcare options for very busy moms” that I know of (beyond, obviously, getting your husband to be an equal partner and sharing parenting duties)…

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Do, Delegate, NOPE: Holiday Edition

Let’s brainstorm, ladies: what are some of your best ideas for holiday delegating (or ignoring altogether)? I was thinking about that old game “F–, Marry, Kill” the other day (maybe it had something to do with our celebrity crush open thread over at Corporette) and thought we should start a new series here on CorporetteMoms that’s kind of in the same vein, but about work/life balance instead. For the moment we’re calling it “Do, Delegate, or NOPE.” Here’s the idea: as working moms we all have a ton of things on our calendars and to-do lists at any given time — some can be delegated, some ignored, but some you have to do yourself (or want to do yourself). We’ve talked about being overwhelmed at the holidays, picking the best gifts for your child’s teacher, etc., etc. — but let’s talk about the holiday to-do list in general. These are your options:

  • do — do it yourself, either because you enjoy it or want to make sure it gets done right
  • delegate — outsource/assign the task to someone else (partner, caregiver, third party) because you can
  • NOPE — just ignore the task completely because there’s no room for it in your life

I drew up a list of holiday-related tasks for moms, and you can comment below. For each category (do, delegate, nope), choose at least one of the tasks in the list. (It has Christmas-related things on there just because it takes a lot of bandwidth for me personally, but if you follow another religion please use those to-dos and traditions as well!)

I’m hoping this will be kind of fun — but maybe also we can learn a little from each other, recognize that some things can be delegated, and so forth. It can also be a helpful list to sit down with your partner at the beginning of next year’s season and say “OK, these are the things on my radar — what can you do, what can someone else do, what can we ignore?”

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Vacation Planning: How Early is Too Early?

vacation-planning-a-year-in-advanceI’ve mentioned before that I’m not great at planning family vacations. Now that J is in kindergarten, though, the school year feels a lot more constraining on our schedule… and I realize it’s only going to get worse from here on out. In order to try to force myself to plan vacations, my husband and I just picked a few things we know we want to do, are divvying up the planning work, and we’re trying to block the year out ahead of time so we know what’s what, with school schedules and other major dates in there.

I’ve heard a bit about “year planning,” as well as about planning way in advance for some trips (I’ve read articles that suggest you plan Disney 9-12 months in advance!) — so I thought it might make an interesting discussion here.  So: Do YOU plan your year in advance, including visits with far-flung relatives, vacations, mini-trips, date nights, etc? Do you go by the school year, calendar year, or something else? If you have grandparents far away do you try to visit them, have them visit you, or explore a new place together? Does this help you stalk ticket prices/hotel prices and the like, help you with planning (or outsourcing planning), or otherwise mentally help you plan? (For those of you who’ve been doing this a while, are there major pitfalls to watch out for?) I had found a summer planner earlier this year that really saved me this summer (I can’t find it now, of course), and we just had a nice discussion about the best planners and planning tools over on Corporette, so I thought we’d discuss here.

(A blogger’s blogger who I follow, Michael Hyatt, has a single Excel spreadsheet that looks awesome for planning your year — it’s from 2013 but you just have to update one cell to the correct date and it automatically changes the dates to the current year.)

Ladies, what say you — are you this ahead of the game? Does it make division of labor easier or harder for vacation planning, as well as for requesting work vacations and more? 

(Pictured: Private collection; all rights reserved.)

How to Make Mornings Easier As a Working Mom

Make Mornings EasierIt’s every working mom’s goal: to make mornings easier, both for YOU and for the family/kids. So how do you do it? What hacks and tips have you found? What are you considering?

In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg shares the story of a woman who put her kids to bed in their school clothes to save 15 minutes in the morning:

One of the other panelists, an executive with two children, was asked the (inevitable) question about how she balances her work and her children. She started her response by saying, “I probably shouldn’t admit this publicly . . . ,” and then she confessed that she put her children to sleep in their school clothes to save fifteen precious minutes every morning. At the time, I though to myself, Yup, she should not have admitted that publicly. Now that I’m a parent, I think this woman was a genius.

It’s too true!  Some tips I’ve tried over the years to make mornings easier (particularly as someone who is not a morning person):

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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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