Week in the Life of a Working Mom: In-House Counsel in Texas

An autism mom shares her work life balance as an in house counsel in TX. For this week’s installment of our Week in the Life of a Working Mom series, I’m happy to introduce CorporetteMoms reader Sarah, who lives in Dallas, TX, with her husband and son and works as an in-house counsel. 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: Sarah
Location: Lives in Plano, works in Dallas
Job: In-house counsel
Age: 40 
Home Situation:

I live in a 2-story, 5-bedroom, 3-bath, 3,000-square-foot home with a nice size backyard and pool (hooray for the suburbs!) with my husband (38-year-old architect), our son (4-year-old with autism and speech delay) and our three pomeranians. My son has his own room. We use the other bedrooms (besides the master) for guests/in-laws and our home office/gym. We hope to be able to convert one of the guest rooms into a nursery in the near future!

Childcare Situation:

Right now, my son goes to a special needs preschool from 8:15 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. He rides the bus to and from school. After school, the bus drops him off at daycare, where he receives applied behavioral analysis therapy (ABA) until I pick him up after work around 6:00 p.m. In the fall, my son will go to kindergarten [Sarah wrote this in 2017], but the daycare will be out of the school-bus zone, so we are hiring an after-school nanny. His ABA therapist will also work with him at home. We pay $535/month for daycare. The nanny will be $1,000/month.

A Week in My Life

Sunday

-Sundays are “get ready for the week” days in our house. I wake up around 8:00 a.m., which is the same time that my son usually gets up. I am lucky that I have a 4-year-old that likes to sleep in on weekends!
-I make breakfast for son around 8:15 a.m. My husband likes to make breakfast for the two of us on weekends. My son is a picky eater and will not eat what we eat, so I make his meals separately. Hubby and I ate ours around 8:30 a.m.
-After breakfast, my husband starts laundry and I go over my to-do list for the day. It consists of reminders to meal prep for the week, do dishes, and pack my work bag and son’s backpack for Monday. Before, I get into all of that, my husband, son, and I retreat to the couch to binge watch Netflix (us) and play spelling/reading games on the iPad (my son).
-Lunchtime rolls around at noon and we decide to eat out at a restaurant as a family. We go to a Mexican restaurant where my son and I, who are gluten free, can always find something on the menu to eat.
-Around 2:00 p.m., my husband decides to clean the pool, while I start meal-prepping for the week. Meanwhile, my son is running laps around the house and stopping only to dive into the comforter and pillows on our bed with the iPad blaring loudly because autism. ;)
-Husband is doing laundry, checking on our son, and fiddling with the pool salt levels during this time.
-I get dinner ready at 7:00 p.m. for all of us. We try to eat dinner at the table together most nights, but my son’s utensil skills are not the best, so this night he gets to eat leftover pizza upstairs with us. #winning.
-8:00 p.m. My husband gives my son a bath and helps him brush teeth while I get my clothes, lunch, and our work/school bags ready for the morning.
-8:30 p.m. I help my son put his pj’s on, read a book, and tuck him in.
-9:45 p.m. I go to sleep. Husband stays up until 11:00 or 11:30 p.m.

Sarah had this to say about being a mom of a child with autism: 

As a special needs parent, you also have to be your child’s teacher, therapist, and advocate. It’s exhausting! Since my son was diagnosed at age 2, I’ve had a crash course in autism, insurance, occupational, speech, physical and behavior therapies, individualized education plans, advocacy, federal law covering special education, and biomedical treatments. It’s like having a second full-time job. Each day at the office, I juggle my work tasks, plus anything autism-related, such as coordinating insurance to pay for therapies, making doctor’s appointments, or talking with my son’s teachers or his therapists about what’s improving or not improving with regard to behaviors or skills. I’m always tired. Did I say that already?

Raising a child with Autism can also be lonely and all-encompassing. I’ve made a concerted effort this past year to go on date nights with my husband and girls’ nights out with my friends to combat these feelings. I’m a better parent, spouse, and employee when I have time away to have some fun. So if your readers know a special needs mom, invite her out for a drink. She needs it!

Monday

6:00 a.m. Wake up (me).
6:15 a.m. I do a personal development routine called The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod almost every morning. The routine includes silence (meditation or Bible study), affirmations, visualization, journaling, reading, and exercising. (I cut out the exercise portion this week because I am newly gluten-free and going through a horrendous detox. It should be gone by next week.) My morning routine is amazing and has helped me to deal with my stress level at work and at home. I am a special needs and full-time working mom, so I need all the help that I can get.
7:00 a.m. I make myself and my son breakfast while my husband wakes our son, gets him dressed, tries to help my son to not make too much of a mess while eating, packs his lunch, puts on his backpack, and waits with him until the bus arrives at our house at 7:20 a.m. for school. Meanwhile, I get ready to go to work.
7:50 a.m. Leave for work. I drive from the burbs to north Dallas, which can take anywhere from 35–45 mins depending on traffic, accidents, construction, or all three.
8:00 Husband gets ready. Leaves at 8:30 a.m. and arrives by 9:00 a.m. He works farther away in Dallas than I do and with traffic, so it makes more sense for him to leave later and work a little longer rather than sit in rush hour traffic for two hours each way. I wish that I was kidding.
8:15 a.m.–1:15 p.m. While we are at work, our son attends a special needs preschool.
12:00 p.m. We have a dog walker that comes to the house every weekday to let our dogs out and take them on a 20-minute walk.
1:15 p.m. My son takes the bus to daycare, where he will meet his ABA therapist to work on his therapy goals.
5:00 p.m. I leave work on the dot to make it to daycare by 6:00 p.m. when it closes.
6:15 p.m. Arrive home. After some downtime, I make dinner.
7:00 p.m. My son and I eat dinner together.
7:30 p.m. My husband gets home from work.
8:00 p.m. My husband gives my son a bath and helps him brush teeth while I clean up the kitchen, get my clothes, lunch, and our work/school bags ready for the morning.
8:30 p.m. I help my son put his pj’s on, read a book, and tuck him in. Watch TV and catch up with my husband.
9:45 p.m. Meditate with guided meditation app. Then, I go to sleep. Husband stays up until 11:00 or 11:30 p.m.

Sarah told us a little more about her morning routine: 

I’m always looking for ways to lower my stress and found out about The Miracle Morning book on a wellness blog. The author is an incredible person who turned his life around by performing 6 daily habits (silence, affirmations, visualization, journaling, reading, and exercising) each morning to set the tone for the day. I always wanted to journal, meditate, or read an actual book, but never had the time. The Miracle Morning showed me how to do all of these things in 1 hour — sometimes less. I seriously feel so accomplished and ready to take on the day when I do this morning routine.

Tuesday

(Same routine as Monday.)

Wednesday

6:45 a.m. Wake up a little later today because I am teaching a seminar for work in a town close to my house.
7:00 a.m Morning routine with a quick dash downstairs to make my son breakfast. Husband does his usual routine of getting our son ready for school while I get ready for the day.
8:15 a.m. Our son is at preschool.
9:00 a.m. Drive to work seminar.
11:15 a.m. Drive to the office to work there for the rest of the day.
(Same evening routine as Monday)

We asked Sarah about how she and her husband split up parenting duties: 

My husband and I had this talk a few months after my son was born. I was going back to work, and my husband also works full-time. Back then, we started to take turns doing the nightly feedings. That morphed into sharing who did dinner, bath, bedtime, etc. Our duties are based on who is available. I leave for work earlier than my husband, so he takes most of the morning duties. I arrive home from work earlier than than he does, so I take on most of the nighttime duties. Now that we have a nanny, she makes our son’s dinner. One less thing to do!

Thursday

6:00 a.m. Wake up. I took the day off today to attend a lecture by autism superstar, advocate, and all around great person Dr. Temple Grandin.
7:00 a.m. Morning routine and make breakfast for my son. Husband gets our son ready and out the door by 7:20 a.m.
8:00 a.m. Drive downtown to attend lecture.
8:15 a.m.–1:15 p.m. Our son is at preschool.
11:30 a.m. Leisurely drive home with a stop at Chipotle to pick up lunch for myself. I even have time to call my good friend and fellow special needs mom to catch up. The rest of the afternoon, I sit on my couch and catch up on my recorded shows. 12:30 p.m. The dog walker arrives. I forgot to cancel since I was home to let the dogs out. Oops!
3:00 p.m. Pick up my son from daycare for his dental appointment. His ABA therapist accompanies us in case my son is overwhelmed.
4:00 p.m. Dentist. It goes very well, all things considered! Lucky, the dentist also has a son on the spectrum.
5:00 p.m. Drive home and relax until I have to make dinner.
7:00 p.m. Make and eat dinner.
7:30 p.m. Husband arrives home.
8:00 p.m. Bath and bedtime routine for our son. Watch TV. Catch up with my husband.
9:45 p.m. Meditate and go to sleep. Husband stays up until 11:00 or 11:30 p.m.

Friday

6:00 a.m. Wake up. It’s a holiday, so my son is off from school and daycare is closed. My husband took off of work today to stay home with him. 
7:00 a.m. Morning routine and make breakfast for myself. Get ready for the work day. Husband and son are both sleeping in today. Lucky!
7:50 a.m. Leave for work.
8:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m. Work, work, work, but I enjoy lunch out my with my boys at noon.
9:00 a.m. Maids arrive at the house for our weekly house cleaning. My husband leaves the house with my son to run errands while they clean.
12:30 p.m. The dog walker arrives at 12:30 p.m. I forgot to cancel — again.
5:30 p.m. Arrive home. It’s Friday, so we order dinner in from our favorite gluten-free pizza place. We spend the rest of the night watching a movie (Hidden Figures — so good!), catching up, and playing with our son.
8:00 p.m. Bath and bedtime routine for our son.
11:00 p.m. Go to bed. I am too tired to stay up any later.

Saturday

6:00 a.m. Wake up and begin my morning routine. I can usually sleep in later and go through my routine more slowly on weekends, but I am dropping off and picking up my son today from physical and occupational therapy. Normally, hubs does the therapy runs on Saturdays, but I want to meet the new OT therapist myself. Yes, I am that mom.
7:00 a.m. I wake up my son for breakfast and get him dressed before his therapy sessions.
7:45 a.m. Leave to drop off my son at therapy. His therapy session is from 8:00 a.m.–10:00 a.m. every Saturday.
8:15 a.m. Arrive home and husband makes me breakfast. We do absolutely nothing but putter around the house until I leave at 9:50 a.m. to pick up our son.
12:00 p.m. We go out together to eat lunch as a family. I love these outings!
2:00 p.m. Fence installation company arrives to discuss estimates. Goodbye, falling down fence!
3:00 p.m. Pick up groceries for the week.
4:30 p.m. Get ready to go out with one of my special needs momma friends for pedicures and margaritas!
9:00 p.m. Arrive home after night out (Yes, I am old) and watch a movie with some wine and my husband. While I was out, he made my son dinner, bathed him, and put him to bed. Feeling very lucky!

Thanks so much to reader Sarah for sharing a bit of her life as a working mom! Readers, what’s your biggest takeaway from her week of work as an in-house counsel, as well as her general work/life balance as a special needs mom?

Stock photo: Shutterstock / Alexander Lukatskiy.work-life balance autism mom

An in-house counsel in TX (and autism mom!) shared a week in her life, including implementing The Miracle Morning, fitting in ABA therapy and her son's special needs preschool, and more. Of you've ever wondered about the work-life balance of an autism mom, this is a great post for you!

 

Comments

  1. Wow. As a fellow special needs mom and full-time lawyer, just reading this made me feel less alone. Thank you for sharing how you do it all. If I understand correctly, Sarah wrote this last year and her son would now be in Kindergarten. I’ll be in the same boat this coming fall. Would love to hear how it’s going, whether he’s in a mainstream classroom, etc.? (My son is not on the spectrum but has conditions that require a similar slew of therapies: speech, OT, PT, etc…) Thank you again for sharing this — you are killing it!

    • Sarah says:

      Thank you for your comment! I also feel alone as a special needs mom and full-time lawyer. That feeling was my biggest motivation for sharing my week. I have amazing stay-at-home or part-time working mom friends with special needs children, but I thought that there must be others like me out there. I am glad that you commented. You are correct. My son is now 5 and in kindergarten at a public school. He falls on the moderate to severe end of the spectrum due to him being mostly non-verbal. He spends his academic time in a self-contained classroom and goes to specials (centers, PE, Recess, Art, Music), as well as lunch with the general education class. Our school district has a great special education department, but I did not hear anything good or bad from other moms about our particular elementary school. I was very nervous at the start of this school year about how he would do, how his classmates would treat him and so on. So far, my son has had a great experience. His teachers both SPed and GenEd are kind, inclusive and know how to motivate my son to do his best. His classmates are so sweet, too. The best tip I received from my son’s therapists is to create an “About Me” book which talks about my son’s diagnosis, what that means for his class and how to interact/play with him. They loved it and I feel like it took away some of the stigma surrounding his disability.

      • Never too many shoes... says:

        Sarah and Anon says, you can also count me among the ranks of full-time working lawyer moms with special needs kid.

        Actually, Sarah, your son sounds a lot like mine in terms of diagnosis although my son is in a special ed class (now Grade 1).

        We are not alone!

  2. Everlong says:

    This makes me want to read The Miracle Morning! It sounds like your mornings are awesome and I would love to know how you fit it all in. I exercise, read my Bible and pray most mornings but I can hardly get those things in. I often get sucked in, do those fun things too long, and then have to scramble to get ready.

    Do you shower and get dressed after your routine? It seems like that part of your day was a footnote. Do you have a super streamlined process for shower/hair/makeup?

    • Sarah says:

      Hi! The Miracle Morning has been a lifesaver in lowering my stress level. My mornings look a bit different now. Currently, I do the silence, affirmations, visualization and journaling part of my morning routine from 6:00-6:30 a.m. I make and eat breakfast at 6:30. Shower, dress and do my makeup at 7:00 a.m. Then, leave for work by 7:50-8:00 a.m. My hair takes the longest to do since its thick, but I have found a quick makeup routine that works for me. It’s all about the bronzer. Ha-ha! Once I am in the car, I listen to an audio book on the way to work for the reading portion and exercise at the gym in my office building over my lunch break. I keep myself from getting sucked in by setting alarms on my phone for each activity including breakfast, dressing and leaving for work. My husband jokes about my “20 alarms”.

  3. You got to hear Temple Grandin! I’m so jealous!
    How much is your housecleaning service?
    My “nights out” also start around 4 and end before 7 these days, but I’m ok with that because me time is me time.
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Sarah says:

      Yes! Dr. Grandin is a terrific speaker and so funny. My maid service is $136 a week. It’s steep, but I hear that is a common price in my area. At least they do my dishes, too. I hear you on the early nights out. I cannot “hang” anymore these days and that is fine with me, too.

  4. You are super mom! I’m so impressed with how you balance working full time with a special needs child. Does your office know about your child’s special needs and are they flexible when needed?

    • Sarah says:

      Thank you for the kind comment! My office knows about my son’s disability. I previously worked at another company when my son was diagnosed that was not accommodating at all regarding doctor’s appointments, therapy evaluations, parent trainings or school meetings, which are the norm with autism. I made it a point when I interviewed for my current job to tell them my situation up front and explain my need for flexibility. I do not have flextime or work remotely, but my boss has been incredibly understanding and accommodating when I have to be out of the office. It took a couple of years to find this position.

  5. Also a full time lawyer with a daughter who has special needs. My daughter is younger so we’re still navigating her therapies (and early intervention services, etc). It feels very lonely, so thank you so much for sharing.

  6. Thanks for sharing! I enjoyed reading this, and really admire how you and your husband seem to have split the parenting and household load so well

  7. You sound so charming and together, and like a fellow mom I’d want to hang out with! And concurring with the previous poster – I admire how you and your husband have split up the duties.

  8. Sarah says:

    Wow! That is one of the best compliments that I have received. Thank you! You all have made me feel like superwoman.

  9. Impressed! says:

    wow, I am so impressed. You have a lot to handle and seem to have it all under control!! I really enjoyed reading your post, but it makes me feel sad that you feel alone- that is really hard to overcome. I feel like being a mom can be isolating enough at times without even having to deal with special needs kids. I was happy to see you do have some special needs ‘mom friends’- everyone needs people in the same boat!! Your post came across as so positive -when it seems so easy to be negative. I am thinking about looking into this Miracle Morning.

    • Impressed, I offer this with kindness (because I’m certain you didn’t mean to offend and I’d want someone to tell me if my choice of words rubbed them the wrong way), we special needs parents (i’m the original anon commenter above in this thread) don’t see our kids as something to “deal” with. They are our children, and we love and parent them just like we do our developmentally-typical kids. Yes, it is often lonely and difficult, but so is all parenting. What I’m trying to say is that we don’t want pity from our friends and colleagues, we want grace and open-mindedness and recognition of all the things our kids CAN do and achieve. Stepping off soapbox now. :-)

      • Sarah says:

        I know what you meant, Impressed, and did not take your comment negatively. It is so easy to be pulled down into negative thinking, especially when your child is first diagnosed. However, most special needs moms that I know have so much hope for their children’s futures no matter what that might look like. I’m not going to lie. It is hard to see my son struggle to do things that come naturally for typically-developing kids, but it is also so special when he does master a skill or a new word. It’s like everything he can do is celebrated that much more because my son worked so hard to get where he is. For me, being a part of autism moms groups and making friends there has helped my outlook tremendously, but professional special needs mom friends have been hard to come by. A lot of special needs moms I have met have had to give up there careers to manage their child’s disability or were stay-at-home moms to begin with. There lives are different from mine. Yet, I see from the comments that I am not a rare breed who has chosen to balance a full-time professional career, home and a child with a disability, which is nice.

        Anon, I agree that we special needs moms do not want to be pitied or even celebrated. We just want to be treated like any other mom. Ask us about our kids, invite us out for drinks or coffee, offer to have our children over for a play date or a birthday party. Those last two things come few and far between as the child grows up, which is hard. That was my goal with this post – to spread awareness and understanding for families like ours.

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