For this installment of our Week in the Life of a Working Mom series, I’m happy to introduce CorporetteMoms reader Lori, who lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and two kids and is the founder of Mindful Return as well as a partner in Biglaw. (Mindful Return’s tagline is “Planning a peaceful, empowered, and radiant return from maternity leave.”)
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
First, Some Basics About This Working Mom…
Location: Live and work in Washington, D.C.
Job: Entrepreneur (founder of Mindful Return) and a partner in Biglaw
Home Situation: I live in a house with my husband (44-year-old career coach) and our kids (two redheaded boys, ages 7 and 9 [now 8 and 10 in 2021]. Each kid has his own room, and we’ve all gotten very into gardening in our little patch of grass in the front yard.
Childcare Situation: At the moment (i.e., COVID), almost non-existent! Both of my boys went to daycare when they were young, and before COVID hit, they were in elementary school + aftercare. Now, we have a babysitter coming for a few hours a day Monday–Thursday, but that solution is only for the month of June . Then we have NO idea what we’re going to do.
Note: Lori submitted her Week in the Life in 2020, so she recently shared this update about childcare:
We wound up having a 4-day-per-week babysitter for most of the summer last year. Then we had a few weeks without childcare before school started. Our kids went back to school virtually in September, and we had a tutor come from 9:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m. for 4 days/week to help out so that we could work. The kids finally — after 13 months at home — went back to in-person school last Monday!! Now they’re in school 4 days/week, and we’re left to split up childcare between us on Wednesdays.
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?
Both entrepreneurs and lawyers struggle, generally speaking, with work bleeding past time boundaries. Client needs can’t be anticipated, and a business will take everything you give it. I am on a 50% schedule at my law firm — so that I can also run my company — and my husband and I are very much equals on the home front.
We asked Lori to tell us more about her 50% schedule, e.g., how she negotiated it:
I actually joined my firm as a Partner on a 60% schedule back in 2015. I left a full-time in-house role at a trade association and only interviewed with firms that were willing to be flexible about hours. I wanted to spend some daylight time working on my own company (and passion!) Mindful Return, and I was very straightforward about that during the interview process. Nearly every firm I approached was open to the idea, and when I decided I wanted to be a Partner (rather than entering at a Counsel role), they also said yes. The key lesson I learned — helpful for all moms — is that you never know what you can get unless you ask. Never assume that a particular situation is off the table, just because you haven’t seen it before. These creative asks are worth making.
I shifted down to 50% in January of 2020, when Mindful Return had really taken off, and more than 70 employers were offering my program as a parental leave benefit.
How do you handle household chores, such as laundry, grocery shopping, housecleaning, etc.? Who does what, and when — and how often?
I’m it for laundry, and I probably do a load every 2–3 days. My husband is it for grocery shopping. Pre-COVID he went to the grocery store a few times a week. Now, he only goes once. We outsource housecleaning (well, we did until COVID hit!). Now, on the housecleaning front, we play a game of “not it!” until someone caves. We split the cooking (though my husband admittedly does more of it). One benefit of COVID has been no dry cleaning to worry about!
A Week in My Life
Hubby and I get to sleep in until around 9:00 a.m., which is glorious. On the weekends, our kids are allowed to get up when they want and can start watching some TV at 7:00 a.m. after they’ve done one assigned chore.
I did some yoga on our screened-in porch when I woke up, and my husband made pancakes for breakfast before he headed out to the grocery store. When he got back, we packed up and headed out to a nearby park for a hike, and the kids swam in the creek.
In the afternoon, my hubby got his weekend three hours of “alone time” while I played board games with the kids (and broke up innumerable fights).
I cooked dinner around 5:00 p.m., we ate around 6:00, and we did a Zoom call with my parents at 7:00. Then the kids took a bath and were in bed by 8:30.
My husband and I then had our “weekly meeting” to plan out our week, and we went to bed around 10:45.
Those three hours of “alone time” sounded pretty great, so we asked Lori if she could elaborate:
We started this weekend tradition of swapping “alone time” in the spring of 2020. We were at our wits’ end with remote school, all of us being home all the time, and never feeling like we had time to be alone and just think. This weekend “alone time” (which my kids started calling our “reward time”!) has worked so well that it is one of the 5 things I’ve declared that I refuse to give up, even after the pandemic is over.
I was the first one up (alarm went off at 6:15 a.m.). I took a shower and did yoga out on our porch for 15 minutes. By the time I was done, everyone else in the household had woken up.
My husband packed up our breakfast and we hopped into our family minivan to head to a park for a morning hike. We arrived at the park around 7:30–7:45 a.m., ate breakfast in the car, then went on a hike from around 8:00–8:30. We drove back home and our babysitter arrived around 9:00.
I then attempted to work from 9:00–3:00, including doing an interview for BronxNetTV and advising a legal client. This stretch was punctuated by some kid fights and temper tantrums that my husband and I took turns addressing. Sigh.
At 3:00 p.m. I was on “kid duty” while my husband finished his workday. I played with the kids until 4:30, when they’re allowed screen time as “reward time.”
I made dinner around 5:00, we ate around 6:00, and then we all watched an episode of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood before bath and bed.
At 8:50 p.m. I led a community call for the parents who are alumni of my Mindful Return program. Then I worked for another hour and went to sleep around 11:00.
Truly a replay of Monday, except with different clients and work calls.
Truly a replay of Tuesday, except that (1) I was able to work until 6:00 p.m., as my husband was “it” after the babysitter left at 3:00; and (2) we watched Fraggle Rock instead of Mr. Rogers together in the evening!
A replay of Wednesday
We have no childcare on Fridays, so once we got back from our morning hike, we split our day in half. I was with the kids in the morning from 9:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m., and then I worked in the afternoon from 2:00–6:00.
I needed to go to the post office to mail out a few copies of my book, Back to Work After Baby, which a few new moms had offered to read and post a review for me. So my kids and I donned our face masks and took a walk (about a mile) to the post office and back. We stopped to identify birds and flowers we knew along the way.
I made them lunch when we got home. My oldest played chess with a friend online from 1:00–2:00 p.m. while I insisted that my younger son read me a book. I worked from about 2:00–5:00, called my mom, and then joined the family for dinner and Mr. Rogers.
After the kids were in bed, my husband and I settled in for an episode of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
Exact repeat of Sunday, except that: (1) I got “alone time” for three hours (used it to read a bit, journal a bit, and wander the neighborhood while talking to a friend); and (2) we had challah French toast instead of pancakes for breakfast!
Thanks so much to Lori for sharing a bit of her life as a working mom! Readers, what’s your biggest takeaway from her week of work as an entrepreneur and Biglaw partner as well as her general work/life balance?
Stock photo via Stencil.