For this week’s installment of our Week in the Life of a Working Mom series, I’m happy to introduce CorporetteMoms reader H, who lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son and works as lawyer in BigLaw. 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…
Location: Los Angeles
Job: BigLaw lawyer
Home Situation: I live in a 1,600-square-foot house with my husband (34-year-old in tech sales), our son (currently eight months), our small dog, and some fish.
Childcare Situation: In-home daycare from 7:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m., five days/week.
How is the work-life balance in your industry in general? What are common ways of juggling responsibilities that you see your colleagues and coworkers doing?
Terrible! I’ve been doing pretty good at setting boundaries since I got back from leave this summer, and I have been SO EFFICIENT (aside from filling out this form right now, LOL) while at work. I have had a few late nights/hours here and there on weekends, but nothing outrageous yet (fingers crossed). I was in trial before I went on leave, and I’m not sure how I’ll handle that situation now that I have the kid… Many of my coworkers have a nanny (or nannies), although they are in two BigLaw couples. (My husband works very normal hours.) My in-laws live in the area and can assist if my work gets crazy when my husband travels for work. My mom is also totally fine with flying down to help, with some advance planning (tbh it’s hard to keep her away — first grandkid). Fortunately, my job is not big on facetime, and many of the partners I work with work from home a lot, so, for example, if I need to work from home to get kid from daycare, then that is fine (otherwise, I’d need to leave work at around 4:30 to make it to daycare by 5:30 … love LA traffic).
How do you handle household chores, such as laundry, grocery shopping, housecleaning, etc.? Who does what, and when — and how often?
Baby: I do drop-off most days. My husband does pickup, unless he’s out of town. We switch off on baby wake-ups. I do most bedtimes. We’ll both hang with baby on the weekend, or switch off giving each other time to do something fun without baby. We’re both good about switching out clothes, buying diapers, formula, etc.
Meals: My husband does the vast majority of the grocery shopping and does basically 99% of the cooking. I do dishes, although if I’m putting the baby to bed, then he will usually start the dishes.
Dog: I do most of the dog walks and clean up dog deposits in the backyard.
Trash: My husband takes the trash out and the bins to the curb. We both handle getting Amazon boxes to the recycling bin.
General cleaning: We have cleaners who come twice a month. Otherwise, we both try to keep the house somewhat tidy, although it’s a losing battle … and honestly, we kind of don’t care.
Yard: We have lawn guys who come every other week (so sometimes two times and sometimes three times a month). I do all other garden/yard work. (I have a big vegetable and flower garden, and have been redoing our front garden to be drought-tolerant.)
Misc.: My husband handles contract workers (e.g., plumber, finding a contractor for a bathroom remodel, etc.).
A Week in My Life
5:30 a.m. (ugh) Baby wakes up, happy and ready to party (we switch early wake-up duties). I start coffee, make a bottle, and play with baby in his room until he gets tired again (generally around 7:30 a.m./8:00 a.m.). Baby has been crawling since six months and has been pulling up the past month. He’s just started cruising, so it’s a busy couple hours. If I’m feeling motivated, I’ll pop him into the Ergo and take the dog for a walk.
7:00 a.m. Because it sounds like my husband is awake, we wander in to have playtime in big bed, while mom and dad drink coffee. Baby goes back to sleep at 7:30 a.m.
I’ll frequently go back to bed for an hour, but today I’m feeling motivated to get outside and garden (real garden). I currently have eggplants (again, not a euphemism!), bell peppers, jalapeño peppers, tomatoes, and zucchini going crazy. I also have watermelon, a couple types of squash, mini pumpkins, padrón peppers, sweet corn, beans, and artichokes gearing up to start producing in the next couple months. I’m also planning my winter garden: onions, garlic, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, and more beans. The front garden frequently needs work — weeding (I don’t care much about weeds in the veggies so long as they’re small), pruning, etc.
10:00 a.m. Baby wakes up, we feed him purees, and then husband takes baby (and the dog) down to visit his parents in nearby town. I realize I stayed outside too long and rush around getting ready for a baby shower brunch. Spend a couple hours at brunch with girlfriends, then go get a pedicure and stop by store. If my husband and I don’t have individual plans (we try to switch off so we both get some “off” time) or plans as a family on the weekend, we’ll often go to visit my husband’s family for the afternoon/early dinner.
4:00 p.m. Head home, and play with baby/tidy house/keep husband company while he makes dinner. Give baby a bath. (We’re so lazy about baths… poor kid gets them like two to three times a week.)
7:30 p.m. Baby goes down for the night. Husband and I eat dinner (if not visiting family) and watch TV. I generally start my bedtime routine (shower, organize clothes for the next day) around 9:30 p.m. and am in bed by 10:30 p.m. at the latest.
We asked H how she got into gardening and how long it’s been a hobby of hers:
My parents are big into gardening and I’ve always wanted to have a yard to grow my own veggies and flowers. Honestly only for about a year but I love it!
We also asked how often she’s able to get together with friends:
It’s hard to coordinate everybody’s schedule, but we aim for one or two times per month, and then another one or two times with my moms group.
5:30 a.m. Baby wakes up. I hear him on the monitor and elbow my husband to go get him (even though the monitor is on my husband’s side of the bed, he frequently doesn’t hear it…). Sleep for another hour.
6:30 a.m. Rush around getting dressed, putting on makeup, walking dog, wrangling baby while husband gets dressed, etc. Daycare provides breakfast, so we really only give baby a bottle when he first wakes up, and then he gets more food at daycare.
7:35 a.m. Leave house late, curse LA traffic, and head to daycare. Chat with daycare ladies, try to get baby to acknowledge that I’m leaving (he doesn’t care, LOL), and head to work.
8:30 a.m. Arrive to work. Make more coffee. Log on and sort through emails. Check to-do list. Revise various motions and oppositions that are due this week. Email partners and clients with updates.
11:00 a.m. Eat “breakfast” — two hardboiled eggs and string cheese — while reviewing emails. I’ve recently started IF (intermittent fasting) in the hopes of shaving off the post-breastfeeding 15. So far it’s not working…
12:30 p.m. Order lunch. Continue dealing with emails. Pick up lunch in about an hour (depending on where I ordered from), and take 30 minutes to eat lunch and read this site.
2:00 p.m. Feeling unmotivated, so work on mindless doc review project for arbitration.
6:00 p.m. Leave work, arriving home around 7:00 p.m. Listen to a podcast during the drive, or call my mom or sister. Play with baby until bedtime, then eat dinner with husband. If dinner is ready when I get home, then we’ll eat dinner with baby in his high chair. Husband and I watch TV/relax/read.
9:30 p.m. Start bedtime routine (husband usually stays up later).
5:30 a.m. Baby wakes up. I lie in bed hoping he goes back to sleep, then accept the inevitable. Start coffee, make bottle, and play with baby for a bit. Then take baby and dog for a walk. Depending on how vigorously we walk, I’ll shower off when I get home. Then same rush around getting out the door, and take baby to daycare.
8:30 a.m. Arrive to work, and review emails and to-do list. Deal with today’s filing — wrangle partners, client, assistant and paralegal to get everything finalized, signed off on, and out the door.
11:00 a.m. Eat. Take a short break to mess around online. Then work on some discrete research for a few hours
1:30 p.m. Lunch and internet break. Then spend the afternoon reviewing documents for upcoming deposition and drafting outline.
4:45 p.m. Get hit with a surprise motion to compel. Deal with lots of emails between partners, client, and opposing counsel.
6:30 p.m. Head home later than I’d prefer, and catch baby just before he goes to bed. Same dinner/TV/etc. routine.
So not necessarily the point of this but I’m always interested in how much time people spend with their partners. Like going for a walk together, talking together, cooking together etc. Because my partner and I do this super little now that we have kids.
My husband got together with a childless friend and they were chatting about life with kids. Friend asked my husband when we get time together. The answer was basically never. Some nights we barely sleep in the same bed. We have two little kids, though. I suspect it will improve.
This reminds me of something that a senior colleague of mine said now that she and her husband are empty-nesters (they have two young adult children): ‘We spent so many years giving each other the space to do our own thing that we are now enjoying relearning how to be with each other’.
We spend a lot of time as a family with our toddler, but almost no time just the two of us, and we’re both fine with it. We’re not ‘date night’ people and we feel like family time is still quality time for us (don’t get me wrong, our toddler definitely has her moments, but we can enjoy dinner or an activity together most of the time). I’m also a pretty big introvert and husband is a workaholic so even pre-kid we tended to retreat to separate areas in the evenings and didn’t real spend a lot of time together, except having meals together (every night is date night when you don’t have kids).
Fellow Angeleno says
Thank you for sharing! As a fellow Angeleno, I too curse LA traffic and dearly wish I could get those 90-120 minutes back each day. I’m currently pregnant and while my #1 parenting fear is lack of sleep, my #2 is being stuck in traffic trying to get to my kid. I’m considering changing jobs just to shorten my commute, as I’m not big on working from home.
I changed jobs for commute after my 2nd child was born and it was literally life-changing. Going from 70+ min in traffic each way to 25 on a bad day (with frequently-exercised options for bicycle, bus, or even walking) has spoiled me. I’ll never go back to a long commute, even though it somewhat limits my options.
The “not a euphemism” made me snort out loud.
OP seems to have a good thing going, and I feel like I’m doing BigLaw wrong in comparison! My typical day is work 9:00-6:00, come home and spend dinner and bedtime with my son and husband, and then work again from 8:30-11:00. And I get *maybe* one weekend off per month. My off time on the weekends is hitting up the farmers’ market and playground in the morning before I have to work on the latest brief. I am so tired! Luckily my husband has more flexibility with work, but are other BigLaw parents more in my camp or OP’s camp? (OP, you are an icon, and please enjoy your high-powered/organic-gardening life!)
I’m more in your camp, but I’ve noticed that OP is 35 so probably more senior than I, and also the ramp up from leave takes time before it gets crazy busy (I was working pretty much 10am-7pm + an hour in the evening for the three months after I got back from leave).
Just saw this…honestly, I’ve been lucky thus far in my return from leave. There were definitely times pre-leave where I worked late most nights in a week and/or worked weekends. I also tend to exceed my hours but not try to be the most aggressive biller in terms of hours and I’m not planning to be in big law forever!
I am wondering what the billable hour requirement is for the OP. Seems hard to bill 2000 or more hours on this plan, although it sounds lovely.