A Week in the Life of a Working Mom: Part-Time, Work-at-Home Attorney

work-at-home attorney momFor this week’s installment of our Week in the Life of a Working Mom series, I’m happy to introduce CorporetteMoms reader Mindy B., who lives in a suburb of Detroit and is a work-at-home attorney mom with a teenage daughter. 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…

Name: Mindy B.
Lives: A Detroit suburb
Job: Work at home (part time) for a boutique law firm
Age: 49
Home Situation: I live in a Tudor home in a community-oriented small town with my husband who travels frequently for work, our 14-year-old daughter who’s in all honors classes (plus band) in 8th grade and swims competitively 20+ hours per week, and two 2-year-old CRAZY pups.
Childcare Situation: Because I work from home, I only need babysitters when we will be out past the time our daughter goes to sleep (i.e., theater, etc.) but I do need “chauffeurs” to drive our daughter to/from activities when I have afternoon or evening commitments and my husband is traveling/working late.

Mindy pointed out how her schedule may be different from other Week in the Life moms we feature:  

(1) we only have one child (I have NO idea how parents juggle more than one child!), (2) she’s more responsible than most adults I know, and (3) my husband’s office is an hour away from home and he also travels out of town 1–2 nights a week, 2–3 weeks per month.

A Week in My Life

Monday

5:30 a.m. Wake up.
5:45 a.m. Make hot chocolate and get Clif Bar for 14-year-old daughter (Hayden).
5:50 a.m. Wake up Hayden, drive her to swimming. I clean up the house (housekeeper comes today).
8:00 a.m. Pick up Hayden and drive home.
8:00–8:50 a.m. Make Hayden’s lunch and shower/dress while she is showering/dressing/packing backpack. Sit and talk with her while she’s eating breakfast.
8:50 a.m. Hayden leaves to walk (five minutes) to middle school. (School starts at 9:00 on Mondays, 8:05 Tuesday–Friday.)
9:15 a.m. Leave for annual physical appt.
10:30 a.m. Home to start working (lawyer, mostly work at home).
3:30 p.m. Hayden comes home from school, has snack, does homework. I’m continuing to work.
5:15 p.m. Drive carpool (Hayden and friend) to swimming.
5:45–7:00 p.m. Continue working.
7:00 p.m. Make dinner, eat with husband.
8:40 p.m. Carpool drives Hayden home from swimming, I feed her dinner, do dishes/clean up kitchen.
9:30 p.m. I sit with Hayden in her room and talk, then kiss her goodnight.
10:30 p.m Fall asleep!

When we asked Mindy about her part-time schedule, she wrote: 

My hours really vary. Since I work for a litigation practice, it can be as little as one or two (just to review incoming discovery, for example, if nothing is on the calendar for a week) or as many as 80 (witness prep, pre-trial motions, etc., for the week before a trial). However, since I usually am the third in the line of attorneys assigned to a case (behind a partner and senior associate who work full time and in the firm’s office), my hours generally are less regular than if I worked at the firm. This working relationship has pros (I am able to see my daughter much more and am able to drive her to her activities) and cons (it’s harder to know when I’ll be busy) but, at this stage in our lives, it fits my needs and my family’s needs better than if I worked full time in an office.

Tuesday

6:15 a.m. Wake up, shower/dress, make Hayden’s lunch.
7:00 a.m. Wake up Hayden. She gets ready and has breakfast on her own.
7:10 a.m. Leave for mentoring at inner city high school.
7:50 a.m. Hayden leaves for school on her own.
8:50 a.m. Leave mentoring, drive to client site.
9:15–11:00 a.m. Work at client site.
11:00–11:15 a.m. Drive home, change into yoga clothes.
11:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Attend yoga class.
12:30 p.m. Grocery shop.
1:00 p.m. Shower/dress.
1:30 p.m. Put dinner in slow cooker.
1:45–2:30 work
2:30 p.m. Conduct phone interview of new university president and prepare introductory remarks to deliver at Friday fundraiser.
3:30 p.m. Hayden comes home from school, has snack while we chat. She does homework. I pack her bag for swimming.
4:00 p.m. I leave for pool (I coach 4:15–8:15 p.m. tonight).
5:15 p.m. Carpool picks up Hayden to drive her to swim (5:30 p.m.–8:00).
8:15 p.m. Since I am already at the pool, I drive Hayden and carpool home.
8:30 p.m. Husband, Hayden, and I eat dinner. (I say Hayden’s late swimming has turned us into Europeans in that we now eat dinner much later than most Americans. Lol.)
9:00 p.m. I do dishes / clean up kitchen.
9:30 p.m. I sit with Hayden in her room and talk, then kiss her goodnight.
10:30 p.m. Fall asleep!

Wednesday

6:15 a.m. Wake up, shower/dress, make Hayden’s lunch.
7:00 a.m. Wake up Hayden. Sit and talk with her while she’s eating breakfast.
7:50 a.m. Hayden leaves for school, I leave for client site for dep prep.
9:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m. Dep prep.
3:30 p.m. Hayden comes home from school by herself, has snack, does homework. Packs her bag for swimming.
5:15 p.m. Carpool picks up Hayden to drive her to swim (5:30–8:00 p.m.).
6:00 p.m. I drive from client site to committee dinner meeting, meet husband there.
8:00 p.m. Leave husband at committee meeting, drive to pool to pick up daughter and carpool.
8:30 p.m. Feed dinner to Hayden (leftovers — poor girl). Husband arrives home.
9:00 p.m. I do dishes / clean up kitchen.
9:15–11:00 p.m. I work.
9:30 p.m. I put Hayden to sleep.
11:15 p.m. Fall asleep!

Thursday

6:15 a.m. Wake up, dress, make Hayden’s lunch.
7:00 a.m. Wake up Hayden. Sit and talk with her while she’s eating breakfast.
7:50 a.m. Hayden leaves for school.
8:00–10:45 a.m. Work.
10:45 a.m. Leave for tennis.
11:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m. Tennis clinic
12:15 p.m. Shower / dress.
12:45 p.m. Work
3:30 p.m. Hayden comes home from school, has snack, changes into tennis clothes. I pack her swim bag, tennis bag, and make a sandwich and fruit for her to eat between tennis and swimming.
3:45 p.m. Drive Hayden to tennis lesson.
4:00–5:00 p.m. Work in car during Hayden’s tennis lesson.
5:00–5:15 p.m. Drive Hayden from tennis lesson to swimming.
5:30–11:00 p.m. Work.
8:30 p.m. Husband picks up takeout.
8:40 p.m. Carpool drives Hayden home from swimming.
8:45 p.m. Husband, Hayden, and I eat dinner, husband does dishes / cleans up kitchen so I can get right back to work.
9:30 p.m. Husband puts Hayden to sleep.
11:30 p.m. Fall asleep!

Mindy explained how things have changed as her daughter has gotten older

My whole life has gotten easier. … Partly, I think, it is attributable to her needing less hands-on parenting (i.e., she can dress herself, etc.) and partly the ease is attributable to me feeling more comfortable as a working mom. The luxury of working at home has helped to ease traditional working-mom guilt, because I actually am available to participate in many of the events other parents cannot. It also helps because Hayden is able to witness what I do, she asks real-time questions, and so my career doesn’t seem totally independent of her (if that makes sense), which also reduces working-mom guilt. Because Hayden sees me working, she is very sensitive to when I can’t make the dinner I promised, for example, when something pops up that I have to prepare or edit. This is a great benefit I could never have anticipated. Having Hayden see me working as she’s grown up almost has taken away the mystique of a career, in a good way.

Friday

5:00 a.m. Wake up.
5:15 a.m. Make hot chocolate and get Clif Bar for Hayden.
5:20 a.m. Wake up Hayden and drive her to swimming.
5:30–7:00 a.m. Work at pool while Hayden swims. (Practice starts at 5:30 but she always arrives 10 minutes late on Friday mornings.)
7:00 a.m. Drive home
7:15 a.m. Make Hayden’s lunch, write permission slip for her to be picked up early from school by friend’s mom.
7:50 a.m. Hayden leaves for school.
8:00–10:30 a.m. Work.
10:30 a.m. Prepare food for Hayden to eat at afternoon/evening swim meet, pack Hayden’s swim bag.
11:00 a.m. Drive Hayden’s swim bag, Border Patrol authorization letter to friend’s house, drive to yoga.
11:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Yoga.
12:45 p.m. Shower / dress.
1:30–4:30 p.m. Work.
3:00 p.m. Friend’s mom picks Hayden up from school to drive the girls to swim meet in Canada. (Not including border-crossing process, meet is only about 15 minutes from where we live in MI.)
4:30 p.m. Get dressed.
5:00 p.m. Friends pick me up to drive me to a fundraiser I’m chairing.
6:00 p.m. Meet husband at fundraiser. (He drove directly from his office.)
7:00 p.m. Introduce new university president.
8:30 p.m. Leave fundraiser with husband for home so we can be home when Hayden returns from meet (arranged different friend’s dad to drive her home, including authorization for him to transport her back across the border).
9:30 p.m. I sit with Hayden in her room and talk about school, the meet, etc., then kiss her goodnight.
10:30 p.m. Fall asleep!

We asked Mindy about her thoughts about having her daughter during her 3L year in law school:

If I could do it again, knowing what I know now, I would not have created the circumstances so I could get pregnant during my 3L (or, actually, during law school). … The coalescing of events in the three months between my daughter’s birth and taking the bar exam created craziness in my life that, under other circumstances, could have been disastrous. Hayden was born at 6:20 a.m. on Saturday, March 29. It was awful and ended in a near medical emergency. Yet I was so scared I wouldn’t be offered a permanent job (I was interning for the Committee in the House of Representatives where I did end up working) that I returned to work on Tuesday, April 1. My mother-in-law and my mom both were able to come to D.C. for extended periods of time to help my husband with the baby at night. If they hadn’t been there, my professional and educational life could have been wiped out! I half feel guilty for this, but both moms and my husband let me sleep as much as I could every night because I was back to work (interning 2–3 days per week), studying for full-time law school finals (mid-April), and then would be taking the bar exam (July). Without the help I had, I could not have finished school, secured permanent employment, and passed the bar exam. On the other hand, Hayden was born during a natural transition (between law school and my legal career) so I didn’t have to worry about the possible messages my pregnancy could be sending to my superiors about my career intentions (and other fears experienced by professional women trying to advance their careers while starting/expanding a family).

Thanks so much to Mindy for sharing a bit of her life as a working mom! Readers, what’s your biggest takeaway from her week as a work-at-home attorney mom, a part-time lawyer, and her general work/life balance?

Picture via Stencil.work at home attorney mom

A work-at-home attorney, mom to a teenager, shares her thoughts on work-life balance, working mom guilt, & getting pregnant her 3L year of law school.

Comments

  1. avocado says:

    It is nice to see a mom with an older child featured, especially a sports mom. Other than carpooling with other parents, how do you find “chauffeurs”? We have a sixth-grader in a similarly intense sport, and transportation is a perennial issue for us.

    • Mindy B says:

      I often hire high-schoolers (or, during school breaks, college students) to drive my daughter. The drives are pretty short (20 minutes max, most are closer to 10 minutes) and I pay them $10 – $20. Because the time commitment is pretty short and the pay is good, I’ve found that they’re willing to take time away from studying, etc to drive my daughter. Many high-schoolers in my town are involved in sports themselves so I have to know enough responsible, driving-age kids so I still can have someone available no matter what high school sports are in season.

  2. Sara C. says:

    Just want to say how much I love reading these.

  3. Spirograph says:

    Sometimes I forget about this series, and then it feels like Christmas morning when I see one pop up.

    I really appreciate the insight on older kid + sports “chauffeurs” logistics, Mindy! I see this in my future and I’m dreading it. You seem to have a really great work-life balance. Are the mentoring and the fundraiser chairing through work, or are these what I would call “professional hobbies?”

    • Mindy B says:

      Definitely “professional hobbies.” Some are organizations that helped me when I was younger and some are causes that I value. I grew up in a house where volunteering was a part of my mom’s and dad’s lives and I saw the mutual positive impact volunteering had on my parents and on the groups they supported. So I never thought twice about getting involved. I’ve continued to volunteer because it’s important to me, and also because I want my daughter to learn the same lessons about giving back to the community that I did growing up. Thank you for the work-life balance observation: it’s definitely a choice, because I’m not as passionate about my work now as I was in a prior full-time job, but in exchange I have much more time for other important things (family, volunteering, exercise, etc.).

      • Spirograph says:

        That’s really wonderful to hear. I used to be fairly active volunteering and I’ve largely switched to $$ donations right now while my kids are young and I’m very strapped for time and energy… Looking forward to getting back into it in a few years when they don’t need as much hands-on attention.

        • Mindy B says:

          I did the same thing when I worked in an office full time and had limited time and a young daughter. :)

    • elizabeth says:

      I love the thought that Hayden has a better understanding of your work life balance because she can actually observe you working. Thanks for sharing your juggle with us!

      • Mindy B says:

        This post was an eye-opening exercise for me. It made me think about my interactions with Hayden. I loved realizing that she’s getting exposure to “work” that I never had growing up and hopefully it will help her make educated choices about what kind of career she’d like to pursue.

  4. 19 Weeks says:

    This makes me yearn for the future when my child(ren) are grown enough to do the things that Hayden does — being self sufficient, etc, although I didn’t think much about how one child can spend so much time outside of school doing something like sports.

    Thanks, Mindy.

    Any comment on your weekend life? Does kiddo have more meets on weekends?

  5. Man, it almost seems like Hayden’s schedule is worse than Mindy B’s!

    • Mindy B says:

      Ha! She does have a pretty busy schedule. As she’s gotten older, she stopped participating in some activities so she can spend more time focusing on the ones she likes the most. So even though it’s a full schedule, I think Hayden, my husband, and I are all happy that it’s no longer a little bit of this and little bit of that (when we wanted her to try everything that seemed interesting to her). So while it’s now busy, it seems easier to us.

  6. Mindy B says:

    Sometimes I try to bribe Hayden into scaling back swimming with Hallmark Mystery Movies, but she hasn’t taken the bait yet. Ha. I actually am very proud of her motivation and I can see how, on her own, she prioritizes homework so she doesn’t have to worry about it while she’s swimming. But her swimming does impact our family. One of the major benefits we realized when I stopped working full-time in an office is that I am able to accomplish during the week a lot of the tasks that used to consume our weekends (dry cleaner, grocery shopping, laundry, etc). So we do spend some weekends at swim meets, but most of the other weekends are available for fun family activities instead of chores. (We play with our dogs, we watch movies, Hayden and I cook together, Hayden rides her bike with friends, etc.).

  7. How did you make the transition from full-time to part-time? And how old was your daughter when you did it? I have one toddler and one in elementary school. We’re making it work for now, but I’m actually interested in downshifting when the kids get older — which is the opposite of how most people do it!

    • Mindy B says:

      I agree with avocado. My interactions with Hayden are much more meaningful now than they were when we “played” together after pre-school.

      My transition actually was not intentional, though. I was working full-time in a miserable job. My husband and I planned our budget so that I would be able to stop working in the future if I didn’t find a better workplace in the meantime. Nothing came up, so I resigned. Within days of giving my notice, I received a call from a former colleague (who had left the miserable firm about 6 months before I resigned), asking if I’d be interested in working for her new firm – and I could work on my own time and at home. Hayden was 8 years old. While I’m sure Hayden would say she liked having me at the house after school then, I think the most valuable time of her life so far for me to be more available and observant was when she began middle school.

  8. avocado says:

    I think it makes total sense to downshift when your kids are older. If you have high-quality day care, the preschool years are actually much easier than the school years. My kid needs me much more now than she did as a preschooler–not just to drive her to all her activities, but to help with homework and academic enrichment, and to be there for her through all the typical tween stuff.

    • anon for this says:

      I’ve got a 2.5 year old, but the reality of older kids needing you as much, if not more, than toddlers is making me think more about my career path. I’ve been toeing the line at a small firm with decent work/life balance, but think it may make more sense for me to strike out on my own now to maximize flexibility as kiddo grows up (I’m an attorney).

  9. EP-er says:

    Thanks for sharing your story, Mindy! Can I just say how heart-wrenching your birth story is? Going back to work after two days! You are amazing! I don’t think I could sit comfortably after two days, let alone be functional at work/school.

    • Mindy B says:

      Thank you, EP-er! I think there was a lot of adrenaline keeping me going during those days because I was afraid of not being offered a permanent job and not passing the bar!

  10. Mindy B. –

    I’m curious at what age Hayden was when you started working from home? I’m an attorney who has recently gone in house and I have the ability to work from home occasionally. I do nanny care, and my children are young (under 6). I had not considered the beneficial side effects of them seeing me work during the day. However, I feel like working from home while they are this age would be counterproductive for me. What age did you think it became manageable with Hayden?

    • Mindy B says:

      Hi JJ. Hayden was 8 when I started to work at home so she was at school all day. So, for the most part, I worked (and still work) while she was (is) at school. However, a variety of factors contribute to me working when she’s in the house, such as responding to emergency motions (like requests for TROs) or choosing to attend a field trip with her (so then working in the afternoon/evening). I also taught as an adjunct at a nearby law school for a couple of years so she saw me preparing lectures and even helped me put together presentations. I think it would have been very difficult for me to work at home if Hayden also was at home, even with a nanny!

  11. ThatGirl says:

    I absolutely love this series. Hayden seems so responsible! I appreciate that you highlighted how your working from home presents real-time opportunities to talk with her about your work. That’s something I definitely hadn’t considered about WFH. Great post!

  12. AnoninBoston says:

    Thank you for sharing Mindy!

    I’m curious to hear from other moms with older children about how they instill responsibility and independence in their children. My stepdaughter (who lives with us full-time) is 12 and has been packing her own lunch since she was 10, is responsible for her breakfast on weekdays, wakes up on her own (alarm clock) and is responsible for various chores (setting table, folding laundry etc.). She is also on a competitive dance team, though the schedule is not nearly as grueling as a competitive swim team.

    I’m curious to hear what other people do because she has said that her peers do not have chores. When I was her age, I had many chores including preparing a simple family dinner once a week. My husband had even more responsibilities because he was the oldest child of a single mother and has three younger siblings.

    • Mindy B says:

      Hayden has a variety of chores she is required to do every day. For example, she has to walk and brush the dogs, set the dinner table, and clean up her room every day. My husband and I have talked about having Hayden wake herself up, pack her own lunch, and make her own breakfast because these seem to be very appropriate for a middle-schooler. These three particular tasks, however, each have a unique tradition for us and so we’ve opted to keep them as-is for now. Hayden has other responsibilities though that we think serve her well: she watches the house of an elderly couple across the street and she knows she has to check their porches, etc even if it’s raining or she’s tired; she walks another neighbor’s dog after school; and she takes mail to and spends time with her Grandma (who lives near us and whose mail is delivered to us) almost every day. Like your step-daughter, Hayden has told us she is required to do more than many of her friends but my husband and I think she has a good mix of responsibilities.

  13. Katie says:

    Thank you Mindy for sharing! And thank you Kat for starting this series! Don’t have kids yet but the planner in me is always concerned about how to make it work as a working mom, and these series have been the best explanations and examples of how to do it.

    • Mindy B says:

      I agree, Katie. There’s so much information on Corporette and Corporettemoms that I don’t think I would have thought to have sought out, and am thankful for Kat for thinking of it all and compiling it on these sites!

  14. Genuinely curious, is it standard to have nighttime baby-sitters for middle schoolers now? I started babysitting when I was 11 and by 14 my parents would have only had someone stay with me if they were going away overnight. Have norms changed?

    • Mindy B says:

      Hayden also started babysitting when she was 11 and so, beginning around that age, we hired babysitters only when she needed to be driven or when she had to go to sleep before my husband and I would home. We did feel silly hiring a babysitter for someone who was, herself, a babysitter but Hayden hated to fall asleep in an empty house. In the past few months (shortly after turning 14) she has become comfortable falling asleep before we come home so we now only hire babysitters when she has to be driven.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience Mindy! Hayden sounds like a great teen.

    With hubby traveling a lot, how did you make the adjustment in terms of chores/household responsibilities? Or did it just happen organically?

    • Mindy B says:

      Hayden is remarkable. I don’t think my husband and I can take credit – she was just born with her own sense of responsibility and drive. We’re REALLY lucky!

      Wow that’s a good question, though I think my answer probably won’t help much. I am very Type A. I try to allow others to take on tasks, but I find myself frustrated when others don’t perform them exactly as I would. With my husband, I give him a total pass on almost all household responsibilities. Partly this pass is a result of my crazy need for everything to be done as I would do it and partly it’s a result of his demanding and stressful job, which provides our family with a significant proportion of our income. I look at the household responsibilities as part of my contribution to our family because I’m not earning close to what he earns, I have a lot more flexibility with my time than he does, and I don’t travel for work. Some tasks we share – like if I’m busy, he will make the bed before he goes to his office; he does a lot of the house maintenance and gardening chores; and he eagerly wants to drive/attend Hayden’s activities and be involved as much as possible in her life.

      I am trying to teach household tasks to Hayden and have Hayden her help with them though because I don’t want her to get her first apartment someday and have no idea how to do anything. ;-) I also want to teach her that it’s okay if tasks aren’t always completed perfectly!

  16. Lavande says:

    I notice that you wake your daughter up. I wake up my almost-15-year-old son, too, but now that he’s starting high school, I feel that he should be able to get himself up. But he can’t. Even with setting 6 alarms and going to bed at a decent time, he just doesn’t wake up on his own. My mother handled it this way: if we didn’t make the bus, we had to find our own way or miss school (and face consequences). It was so stressful and I’d have nightmares about missing the bus. I don’t want to inflict that stress on my kid, but I also want to prepare him for being an adult. Any tips ?

    • alarms going off says:

      I don’t want to overstep here (I am an attorney, not a doctor), but is it possible your son may have a sleep disorder? I have idiopathic hypersomnia, and one of the frequent ‘symptoms’ is an inability to wake up in the morning. Even on medication, regardless of how much I sleep, I still set upwards of 6 alarms on both my phone and a separate alarm clock that shakes my bed. And I’m late to everything.

      I was not diagnosed until college, but my mother used to yell at me to turn off the alarms that literally would go off for hours before I woke up. My father was more understanding, and he was the primary one advocating for me to get the medical care I needed. I truly appreciate[d] that, and I have a wonderful, strong relationship with him.

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