Week in the Life of a Working Mom: Solo Practitioner in California

A solo practitioner mom shares her work-life balance!For this week’s installment of our Week in the Life of a Working Mom series, I’m happy to introduce CorporetteMoms reader P, who lives in Sacramento, CA, with her husband and two kids and works as a solo practitioner. 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.solo practitioner mom - stock image of a woman doing paperwork

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

Name: P
Location: Sacramento, CA
Job: Solo practitioner 
Age: 35
Home Situation: I live in a large home (3,500 square feet) with my husband (works from home in tech) and our kids (Kid1: 3-year-old firecracker; Kid2: almost 2-year-old with developmental delays). The kids have their own rooms.
Childcare Situation: In-home preschool, $1,800/month.

A Week in My Life

Sunday

5:00 a.m. I wake up early and try to watch Meet the Press and other Sunday morning talking heads (as many as they let me). (I have a small elected position so I need to be on top of all current events.)
7:30 or 8:00 a.m. The girls get up. I feed them breakfast while husband sleeps in.
10:00 a.m. We do an activity together as a family. Sometimes it is Costco; other times we take them to the zoo or fairy-tale town.
1:00 p.m. Get home in time for naps. During nap time, husband watches football (or takes care of yard work) and I usually plan my week out, review last week, and confirm appointments (in preparation for meeting with accountability partner tomorrow).
3:30 p.m. After nap is over, we try to take the girls to the park or get together with friends for dinner and football.

We asked how P got into local politics: 

I have always been politically inclined. A few years ago, my wonderful mentor encouraged me to apply for an appointed position in the city. I did, and was appointed to the West Sacramento Planning Commission. I was invited to a lot of events in that capacity, and decided to get involved on a local level. After the 2016 election I decided to run for a set as a local delegate to the California State Democratic Party Convention. As with the national party, each delegate votes for platform, party leadership, and endorsements. Because of that voting power, elected officials meet with our delegate group and we get to ask them really critical questions. I just recently spoke to my state senator and voted against his endorsement because he has voted against single-payer healthcare (which is a policy against our state party platform). Now that was a very difficult statement to make, but I am really trying to vote according to what is right, and not what will keep me in power. I try to make this about change, not about power. I am hoping to run for other local positions with that type of reputation and just focus on doing good things.

Monday

5:30 a.m. I am up and working by then. Unless I have appearances (appointments, hearing, mediation, or deposition), I tend to work at home. I get in a couple hours of work.
7:30 a.m. I get the girls up and ready for school. My husband wakes up at 7:25 a.m., and he usually gets their drinks prepared while I do diapers, clothes, and hair. Then he gets their teeth brushed.
8:00 a.m. We scramble out the door. Kid2 has an appointment with an education specialist from the county at her school. I remind preschool. After drop-off, I meet with my accountability partner at a coffee shop for 1.5 hours to discuss our week, what we did last week, and how to improve.
3:00 p.m. Finish work.
4:00 p.m. I try to hit the gym.
5:00 p.m. Pick up the girls and get dinner going. We have an hour of playtime before bed.
Note: There are many occasions where my younger daughter has doctor’s appointments of some kind. I schedule them for 4:00 p.m. and take her and skip the gym a lot of the time.

We asked P about how she started meeting with her accountability partner: 

I was part of a larger local moms in business group, and two of us branched out and started our own meetings each Monday instead. We both use the Passion Planner, which forces us to pre-plan our weeks and goals. Having Amy and our Monday meetings has been instrumental in my success and ability to be mindful with my time. She is in real estate. I recently started having case list meetings with another attorney. We meet once a month. That has been helpful as well, since she and I can discuss strategy and litigation deadlines.

Tuesday

Same morning routine.
9:30 a.m. Case management conference downtown for three cases. Work the rest of the day at home.
3:00–5:00 p.m. On Tuesdays, I take Kid2 to her physical therapy appointments across town. My husband works during that time but will take her if I have an unavoidable conflict. I get back in time to pick up Kid1, and take both girls home and start dinner. Kid1 is a vegetarian by choice, and Kid2 hates carbs. I make Kid2 dinner while my husband prepares something for Kid1. Usually Kid2 is done eating before Kid1 even starts. We take the girls for a walk if it is still daylight outside. Otherwise, we read books and play together for an hour.
7:30 p.m. Bedtime for Kid2
8:00 p.m. Bedtime for Kid1, and I start preparing dinner.
8:30 or 9:00 p.m. We eat and then watch a show on Netflix.
10:15 p.m. I go to bed and husband watches TV in bed.

Wednesday

Same morning routine. I appear at a full day of appointments, deposition, or mediation. My husband is on kid duty since I won’t be home on time tonight. I may have to attend a political fundraiser or meeting with a candidate in the evening tonight, if I get out of the other obligation on time. I pick up dinner on the drive home, around 9:00 p.m.

Thursday

7:15 a.m. I end my morning work block because my husband has an early conference call, and take on both kids this morning. Drop girls off, get home in time to work.
10:00 a.m. Kid2 has an appointment with the County physical therapist, so pick her up, bring her home for the appointment, and drop her back off.
2:00 p.m. Have a meeting with other delegates with a political candidate seeking an endorsement for statewide office. Attend meeting. Go home and change into mom clothes.
4:00 p.m. Take Kid2 to her physical therapy appointment. Husband makes dinner tonight so I can get some admin work done for my business. Prepare for the weekend by wrapping gifts for kid party this weekend, and wedding Saturday. Leave everything by the door.

Friday

Regular morning routine. Meet with local business owners for lunch OR attend Rotary club meeting. Once a month, I sit at a coffee shop and reflect on the last month and plan deadlines for the upcoming month. There are a lot of soft deadlines that need to be worked in with the hard litigation deadlines, or cases never get moving. I also return client calls on Fridays, call intakes, and update my case files. Friday afternoon, I run errands to prepare for the weekend (hair, nails, Target, grocery store), and try to schedule Facebook posts for my business page (for the following week). I pick up Kid2 for her doctor’s appointment (she has physical therapy at three different locations in one week — yes, you read that right). Pick up Kid1 on the way home. Regular dinner routine for the kids. Maybe start a movie but still maintain bedtime. Husband usually makes a steak for dinner while I prepare for the weekend (lay out matching outfits for the girls, pack diaper bag, fold laundry).

P had this to say about working for herself: 

I feel like I am always working, but I also feel like I am never working. I love representing clients that I choose and like. I litigate and represent my clients zealously because of how passionate I am about them/their facts. It is much more motivating to do good work when you believe in what you are doing. That transfers to my political work as well. I can only have my hands in all of these pots because I answer to no one and create my own schedule. I almost always drop off and pick up my girls and rarely work during time I could be spending with them. Sometimes that means I wake up really early to work (like through the entire Christmas holiday break) and work nap times, but I have the ability to do that because I am self-employed. My girls know that my work is very important to me, but they also know that they are very important to me. I never have mom guilt (honestly, I never have). I think that is because of how passionately I feel about my cases, the policies I push forward, and also I have the girls in a great preschool.

Saturday

7:00 a.m. Today, husband sleeps in. (This used to be a big deal, but it is not anymore since I decided to be an early person and work every morning. I used to be furious that he never woke up early with the kids. Now I just don’t feel as guilty about leaving him alone at night during political events.) I try to get some work done while the girls eat their waffles. I text with my friends all morning while he is in bed. The girls watch Trolls or we go play outside in the backyard playground for awhile. 10:00 a.m. Husband wakes up and drinks coffee while I feed the girls a snack. He whines about making himself breakfast; I ignore it.
11:00 a.m. Go to a kid birthday party.
1:30 p.m. Bring the kids home to nap. My brother comes over to watch the girls so we can get to San Francisco for a wedding for my law school best friend.
4:00 p.m. Check into the hotel, get ready and at the event by 6:00 p.m. Have a pretty fun (wild) much-needed night out.

Sunday

Wake up by 8:00 a.m. and on the drive home by 10:00 a.m. Home at noon and the girls are napping. My brother hangs out for an hour and then leaves. We unpack and try to get the house in order before the kids wake up. Then do one fun activity, dinner, and bed.

Thanks so much to Reader P for sharing a bit of her life as a working mom! Readers, what’s your biggest takeaway from her week of work as a solo practioner, as well as her general work/life balance?

Stock photo via Stencil.

Our featured working mom shares her work-life balance as a solo practitioner in Sacramento, CA, including how she and her work-at-home husband juggle two kids under 3, how her meetings with an accountability partner keep her on track, and how she balances her legal career with her elected office.

 

Comments

  1. Jennifer says:

    Interesting that the kids and adults don’t eat dinner together on Weeknights

    • Reader P says:

      I know. I just don’t know how to change that. We just don’t eat early, and the kids want to eat right away. I wish that we could all eat the same dinner, and that may happen if we had one dinner time, but we just can’t swing it just yet.

      • Anon in NYC says:

        I mean, I don’t eat with my kid either for the same reasons. So I think it’s totally normal! Maybe when kiddo is older, goes to bed later, and doesn’t need to eat the second we walk in the door.

      • I feel you. We sometimes end up feeding our kids early, and eating later. They are starving when they get home!

      • PregLawyer says:

        We almost never eat with our kid on weeknights. We usually get home by 5:45 and bedtime is 7:00. We try to get dinner on the table by 6:00. It’s a rotation of pb&j, mac and cheese, leftovers, pasta, avocado toast, etc. Stuff we can make in 5 minutes. After bedtime, my husband and I will usually do something a bit more time consuming for our own dinners (or not, we eat a lot of sandwiches).

      • mascot says:

        IME, this is normal. We didn’t do consistent weeknight family dinners until my kid was 4+ although we’d try to have daytime family meals on the weekend. Even then, we’d have to deconstruct the dinner a little bit and make him an appetizer plate with some fruits/veggies because he was so hungry walking in the door. I want dinner to be a somewhat peaceful experience with family conversations. Meals with little kids simply aren’t that and everyone was happier if we spent our family togetherness playing a game or reading or whatever. Even now, we don’t all eat as a family each night, especially if there was a late activity. Last night, kiddo ate before sports practice and wasn’t hungry for dinner so we played cards until is was his bedtime and then my husband and I ate after he went to bed.

      • Eh that’s hard to do with toddlers. My son never eats much for dinner so we put miscellaneous food out for him (veggies and dip, graham cracker, cheese cubes, apple slices) while we make dinner. We get to spend time together but its hit-or-miss if we are actually eating at the same time as him. We always send leftovers from dinner for him for lunch the next day, but its unusual he eats the same dinner as us just due to how long it takes to make it.

  2. Leslie Knope says:

    I like the time management strategies you use and I love that you were real about conflict with husband. Often these posts make me feel bad, like everyone always gets along with their spouse 100% of the time. Thanks for sharing!!

    • Reader P says:

      Thanks. I wanted to delete it all, but this is very much a struggle still. I think with young kids, everyone feels like they are doing too much and are unappreciated. It’s a phase. (I hope!)

  3. So interesting! I’m impressed by your solo practice and political involvement.

    You ladies who work before the kids get up are impressive.

  4. Sabba says:

    I’m really intrigued by the Accountability Partner concept. I’ve been reading Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies, and I am pretty sure that I am an “Obligor.” So that means I need outside accountability to make it easier to meet my goals. I really need to find one of these!

    Happy to see someone who appears to have principles involved in politics.

    As usual, I am a bit jealous of all these children that appear to sleep up to and even past 7am. I am sure the grass is greener, but it is so hard to be a night owl mom with early bird kids. The reverse situation just looks so much easier to manage because if you have high energy in the mornings, you can get some work done first thing while the kids are snoozing. I so relate to the spouse this week, I also sleep in on Saturdays and it is my lifeline to keep me sane. During the week I feel like I am fighting an uphill and losing battle against my body clock. Every night is a struggle to get to bed and asleep at a decent hour, and every morning is a battle to force myself awake and kick my brain and body into gear.

    • Sabba says:

      I forgot to say Thank You for sharing your week! I love this series, and I appreciated this honest take on one family’s life.

      • Reader P says:

        Thank you.

        We got so lucky with two good sleepers. For the most part, they are down from 8pm to 7am. Sometimes we have the baby up at night (kid2) but generally, we really lucked out. That is why I can plan to wake up at 5am to work. Kid1 may get up early so I put on Mickey Roadsters for her.

        My planner helps with accountability. I have to do worksheets at the end of the month about how productive I was. The partner also helps, because if I bail on her for our Monday meetings, that means I don’t have to get my planning done and then I end up wandering through my week aimlessly. I highly recommend finding one, even if it is just virtual or once a month. Since I am completely alone in my business, it is essential to have at least one person who follows along in my goals/cases/projects.

        I think people start out in politics with principals. Then the focus on money, reelection and power. It is especially that way in Sacramento since we are the state capital. I have some really great mentors who keep me grounded. Also, wiping snotty noses and poopy butts every evening keeps you humble. ;)

        Thank you for reading. The feedback made it worth it to share! Great readers Kat!

    • anne-on says:

      +1 – my husband and my son are early risers and I’m a night owl. I can/do fall asleep MUCH earlier now but it does not help the urge to kill everyone who looks at me before 7am…which is only slightly mitigated by coffee.

  5. Emily S. says:

    I’m proud of you for owning that you don’t have mom guilt! No mom guilt is still an aspiration for me. I, too, really like my work as a lawyer, and want to model that for my girls, and mom guilt sometimes gets in the way of that.
    Once you decided to be an early person, how did you make it happen? I need to be up by 5:45 am (30 minutes before the earliest riser in my house) and I hit snooze every.day.

  6. I love this one! Thanks for being real (not that the others aren’t! rather, I guess I relate to this one more?) re: spousal annoying things (but you still adore them) and the no mom guilt thing. I feel guilty having to tell people I don’t feel guilt; how nuts is that? Real question though: how do you wake up so early AND plunge right into work? I am a night owl, though increasingly less so, and can’t make my body sleep before 11-12 or even 1ish am, so while the idea of getting up mega-early would perfectly accomplish my goals, I just haven’t been able to do it. Any ideas? Or maybe it’s just that you’re naturally a morning bird….

    • Sabba says:

      I read Internal Time by Till Roenneberg trying to get myself to be more of an early person. That book convinced me more than ever that we have our own internal clocks, based on genes, that are very difficult to change. Better to do what you can to adapt your life to your internal clock rather than try to change when you feel your best during the day. Obviously, to some extent, you have no choice and need to be awake at certain times, but I found it freeing to let go of the guilt that I will never be an early person and to not feel like it somehow made me lazy because I don’t spring out of bed ready to conquer the world in the morning. I am just the type of person that will always accomplish more in the afternoon. One of the things I am looking forward to when my child is older is adapting my schedule back to take advantage of some of my night owl tendencies.

    • Reader P says:

      I am also a night person. My husband is very much a night owl. I just had to do this, because of Kid2s doctor’s appointments (up to 4 a week). It took me about a month to adjust, and on weekends, I still have to wake up within the same one hour wake up time. I go to bed at 11pm, so I never sleep more than 6 hours. I think my body does fine with that as long as a take vitamins and don’t drink. My litigation calendar got so busy during that tine period that I just HAD to wake up early to finish my work, and take the kid to the doc, and be a normal human after work. It worked out well and now I adopted the schedule forever.

      • Reader P says:

        About, mom guilt. I trust that they are in good hands and we all like what we do all day. I just don’t have it. My mom worked a lot when I was little and I never got mad at her for it. She showed up to everything and I always appreciated that. I DO feel bad when I have a depo or mediation and the kids need to come home sick. That stings. They only want mom and it is sad to disappoint them when they need me.

  7. Mama Llama says:

    Thanks for this! I fantasize about leaving my government position and opening a solo practice and running for office, so you are living my dream! Have you thought about how things will change once your kids drop their naps?

    • Reader P says:

      Omg I can’t go there. I need them to nap. Actually, kind of kidding. My almost 4 year old does not always nap on weekends, so we get to make really fun plans and not worry about getting home for naps. The baby will fall asleep on the way home. But work wise, I do count on at least one nap on weekends to get things done. Maybe workbooks?

      Go for it btw. I have SO much flexibility because of the solo practice. I almost never miss drop off or pick up. When I am with the girls, I am 100% with them.

  8. I really love that Costco is your family activity. Thanks for keeping it real. :)

  9. As a parent whose kid has two PT appointments, one OT, and one speech appointment per week I really appreciate this!

    • Reader P says:

      Big hugs. We still have 2 PT and 2 Edu Therapy, but life has gotten a LOT easier since she graduated out of the other programs. ( So 4 apts versus 14).

  10. nuqotw says:

    I am impressed with how many fun things you seem to do with your kids!

  11. I loved reading about your life and family.. I am thinking of resigning from the law firm where I work and becoming a solo practitioner. The life you describe is my dream life. I have 3 children – 10, 8 and 3. How do you get clients? That has always been my issue. And yes, how do you keep to time? For me time flies past and it seems I never get to finish the items on my list. Thanks

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