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Advice to (New) Mom-ttorneys

congrats

Recently a friend-of-a-friend asked me for some advice since she had just both passed the bar to become an attorney as well as found out she was pregnant.

I wanted to say “congratulations” to the baby and “oh, I’m sorry to hear” to the bar passage – but instead, I came up with this list, which I hope will find its way to her somehow. I usually don’t do advice in my blog, because the only topics I’m really qualified to opine upon are either irrelevant (“don’t try to wax your boyfriend’s face”) or scientifically unsound (“you’ll get severe stomach cramps if you sleep in a crop top”). But because this woman is about to have a baby and become a work from home attorney – she wants to start up her own family law practice – I feel like I need to warn her pass on some words of encouragement.

Top 10 Advice for New Work-at-Home-Moms:

10. Flexible work arrangement = baby first, work second, and mom third. This is bad.

I’ve talked to a lot of WAHMs, moms with a flexible work schedule, moms who telecommute, and moms who own their own businesses, and they all agree – you end up working 24/7 when you work from home. Work begins to bleed and consume all of your waking moments that aren’t occupied by your offspring. Document review and phone calls are scheduled around nap times. Briefs are written late into the night, and police reports are read in bed, in the dark, so as not to awaken the ticking time bomb that is your child.

But you’ll burn out that way. What they say in parenting books about “setting boundaries” or “creating routines” needs to be applied to your work. Try something like “no work emails after 10pm” or, at least, “no squinting at client emails/texts at 2am in the dark while nursing.”

9. Expect your views on your career to change.

Assistant Branch Manager looks pretty good too.

It’s only a title.

I never expected to give up my practice, but I’ve pretty much all but done just that – and I’m much happier now than I have ever been.

Also – I never thought I would consider going back to work as a government attorney, but the temptation of great coworkers, a steady paycheck, and top benefits are extremely alluring once you have a family. Stability and good companionship are underrated when you’re a mom.

8. Also underrated when you’re a mom? Sanity.

bad day

Your attorney/mom friends will be much more sympathetic than this.

Solo practice can be very lonely, and at the same time, so can motherhood. Although I often think “ain’t nobody got time for dat,” I find myself infinitely recharged after spending time with my friends, especially attorney friends who can relate to my complaints about judges or clients or baby DAs.

Also, I used to think mom groups were dumb. I don’t know why I thought that; I just did. I now love spending time with a select group of mom friends because, again, they know exactly what I’m going through. As a new mom/new attorney, you’ll need that support from people who’ve been there, done that.

7. Be selfish.

Which brings me to being “selfish” enough to take some time for yourself. Otherwise you’ll seriously go batsh*t crazy. Right now I’m blogging this from the parking lot in front of a Skate Depot because after a day where I took Tiny Boss to gymnastics and the children’s museum and was rewarded with only a 20-minute-nap all day, I could not spend one extra second with him anymore. As soon as his dad came home, I was out the door.

I did this even though I know my son prefers I stay home with him and not his dad. It’s a developmental age thing, I’m told.

I did this even though I know that if Tiny Boss wakes up, which he is wont to do, he’ll cry incessantly for me until, well, he stops and accepts the fact that Dad is the one who’s going to give him milk and lull him back to sleep to the sounds of the Imperial March hummed in baritone.

And do I feel a little guilty for not giving my son “the best,” or at least, what he wants? Yeah, I do feel a little bad. But mind over matter, I know he is fine, and so here I am, blogging to you fine folks in my car, using stolen wifi.

6. Write down all your ultimatums – and thrown them away.

hundredpercentYes, this includes things like breastfeeding, cosleeping, baby food-making, sleep training, and anything else that has to do with parenthood.

The number one lesson I’ve learned from being a mother – never say never. Your own flexibility and open-mindedness will surprise you. Have I thought about trying the cry-it-out method with my second, still unborn child? Yes, even though a year ago I was convinced Ferberizing a kid would turn her into a psychopath, or worse, Donald Trump. Will I do it to my second, still unborn child? Probably not. But still – never say never.

5. You can’t have it all.

Nope, you can’t have it all – there will be some things that you’ll give up, even if you think now that you’ll never do it. For me, it was working out regularly – as well as regular hair highlights and manicures. Nothing like pushing a human being out of your crotch in front of a room of strangers to rid you of most of your vanity!

4. Set realistic goals and expectations.

tumblr_inline_mpa7m7vTV51qz4rgp#5 and #4 kind of go together. In all honesty, the learning curve is steep for both lawyering and parenting. You’ll have self-doubts about your abilities at both. But you’ll be fine when it comes to the mom thing, at least.

3. Get help where you can. 

In the beginning, let others take care of you. I once read that lawyers have a hard time taking physical cues from their bodies because we become extraordinarily talented at making counterarguments – especially with ourselves – and also focusing on analyzing and interpreting facts rather than listening to how we feel. For new attorney moms, my advice is to make sure to say yes to the people who want to help – whether it’s to bring you food, or wash your dishes, or to watch the kid for a couple of hours so you can take a nap. Which brings me to . . .

2. Don’t be a control freak.

perfectionist

You don’t have the luxury of being a perfectionist in your work anymore when you’re a WAHM. I can’t stress this enough.

1. Ignore everything I just said. 

For one thing, everything I’ve just written about is much easier said than done. Also, everyone will give you advice, but you’ll mostly pave your own way by finding out what works for you.

awesome

Yes, mom-ttorney, you are awesome.

And lastly, and most importantly, you will be fine at being a mom, and somehow the lawyer part will work itself out. And trust me – at the end of each day, when you look at your baby for one more time before you go to bed and wake up in two hours to make sure she’s still alive/to feed her, you’ll know without a doubt that yes, it was all worth it.

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The Case For Sleep

The Case For Sleep

As a (former) trial attorney, I’ve actually thought of some pretty compelling closing arguments that I could deliver to Tiny Boss, convincing him that the only reasonable decision, given the facts at hand, is for him to lay down, close his eyes, and drift off peacefully into an eight-hour-slumber. What I didn’t realize is that this same message needs to be said, and said again, to moms everywhere, myself included.

Sleep. I know you can come back to me with that verdict.

Hey toddler: the evidence will show that sleeping is the only reasonable thing to do.

A little background on why I’m coming up with closings on sleep for a one-year-old: tonight was the first time this week that we didn’t have to drive Tiny Boss around to get him to fall asleep for the night. My son is like a drug-resistant microbe. We’re constantly changing our methods of inducing sleep because he seems to adapt and become immune to each routine after a while.

Our latest routine is to play the “We Are Young” music video by Fun (how ironic) on the iPad and drive down straight roads with mostly green lights until Tiny Boss knocks out for the night. I don’t know what it is about this music video that makes him sleep, but the lord works in mysterious ways. By the way, if you don’t have an iPad mount for the car, I highly recommend this one, which was a gift from my dad.

As a result of our latest sleep battles, I’ve been exhausted, and I was planning on writing a lighthearted post about fatigue, stress, and motherhood, until I came across this heartbreaking story, written by Stephanie Gray in remembrance of her son Joel.

Last summer, Stephanie Gray lost her five month old son to heat stroke because she had forgotten to drop him off at day care, leaving him in his car seat instead while she went back home, where she runs her own law practice.

When I read this, my heart went out to her. I can’t imagine the pain she has gone through. Like me, Stephanie Gray is a work-from-home attorney. I completely understood where she was coming from when she said her mind was on her cases that morning and how her practice was in a complete disarray. The day of that horrible accident was the first day she would have all four of her kids out of the house. This would give her uninterrupted time to catch up on work.

I totally get it – when I have just one kid out of the house, my mind goes into a frenzy trying to figure out what I can and should get done. Alone time is the most precious commodity when you’re a mom, especially a work from home or stay at home mother.

Jeanne Sager over at The Stir wrote a really good article defending Stephanie Gray, pointing out that on the day of the accident, she would have been dropping Joel off for only his second day of daycare – meaning, this was a new routine for the family. She points out that parents depend on routines:

“When you’re a mom, especially mom of a baby, routines are everything. They keep us functioning when we’ve had so little sleep we can barely stand up. The little stuff (ahem, showering, washing the dishes), might not get done, but as long as you’ve got a routine down for the big stuff , your body can function on a sort of auto-pilot.”

This is true. But it made me think, how often do we mothers, go on autopilot? I know it’s somewhat of a necessary evil, but if we can all somehow to get some help when we need it, maybe we can avoid tragedies like Stephanie Gray’s, or even simple, stupid mistakes we all make as parents that could be avoided.

If only I looked this good sleepy. What? The 90s are making a comeback.

If only I looked this good sleepy. What? The 90s are making a comeback.

When I was a new mom, I was exhausted from breastfeeding and taking care of Tiny Boss every night. Diaper changes, feeding – these were all my tasks, and mine alone. I let my husband sleep during the night – my attorney brain convinced me that because my husband was the main breadwinner, I would let him get as much sleep as possible so he wouldn’t be tired at work.

I didn’t yet realize that 1) as a parent, he signed up for this and 2) I needed sleep as well because it’s dangerous to take care of an infant when you’re as fatigued as I was. Here’s a mommy confession: I was so tired, I dropped Tiny Boss twice because I fell asleep while holding him.

The first time, I was nursing him in bed. I don’t remember falling asleep, but the next thing I knew, Tiny Boss had rolled out of my arms and landed on the edge of our bed. Fortunately, the nightstand was there, otherwise he would have completely fallen to the floor. I’m also grateful he didn’t land face first into a blanket or a pillow, or suffocate.

The second time, I was nursing Tiny Boss on our couch. I fell asleep and woke up because my arm had also relaxed, causing Tiny Boss’ head to hit the armrest with a horrifying clunk. He cried, but fell back asleep quickly. That was the first time I had hit his head.

But I was fortunate. Beyond lucky. I swear Tiny Boss has someone watching over him because of incidents like this, and others – for example, the two times I forgot to strap down his car seat in the rental car, and who knows what else.

Now that Dad's on board, he's just as tired as me! Yay!

This is pretty much what happens every time we try to put Tiny Boss to bed. But now that my husband’s on board, he’s just as tired as me! Yay!

Now I know my limits better. Although it’s hard for me to ask for help, I try my best to do it. I still have a hard time carving out that alone time, but I’m improving. I have to do it – not just to be a safe and effective parent, but also to feel kind of like a normal person, at least from time to time.

By the way, if you still aren’t convinced about the necessity of alone time as a mother, read “What We Mean When We Say We Need A Break” by Amanda King. It’s worth your five minutes. Which you can spare, by the way.

How Did We End Up Like This?

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1 out of 2 people say this is a great sleeping arrangement.

Let me break it down for you. We once had a reasonably nice bed. Sure, it was from Ikea, but it was a nice black-brown (the actual color name by Ikea) and didn’t squeak, creak, or fall apart (I know my standards for beds might be low).

Then we had a baby.

Then the baby turned into a toddler.

Now the mattress is on the ground. There’s just no other way we can keep him from plummeting to the floor while sleep-crawling.

All pillows are removed from the bed in case he rolls his face into one and suffocates in his sleep. Boppys are allowed, but unfortunately for Dad, he didn’t get his head on top of one before Tiny Boss decided to use his chest as partial lumbar support.

No/minimal blankets for the same reason. Tonight Tiny Boss obviously wants us to play a game of remove-the-stacked-pile-of-blankets-from-beneath-the-world’s-lightest-sleeper.

We have a full size mattress. Although it looks roomy in this picture, it is not. Note that Dad, who is by no means fat, but is also not quite svelte, has been smushed to the very far edge of the bed. Good thing Dad won’t have far to fall!

We have a pack and play mattress extending the top of the mattress by a generous 25.5 inches. Can you say luxury?

Productive Momsomnia?

Tiny Boss (aka Raynor) is taking up all the room in the bed, so I figured I might as well just stay up and blog.

Yesterday was my 33rd birthday. Hence, this:

 

 

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But something happened during those 24 hours of well wishes. As I was going through and responding to posts, I started feeling nostalgic. I started really missing my friends I hadn’t seen since high school, or even before that – although to be honest, our lives have completely grown apart to the point where if Facebook didn’t exist, we wouldn’t be in touch.

So what was happening? It’s because I’m a mom. I realized that as a mom, I was now mourning my old life. That part of my life pre-baby – it’s gone. What do I mean?

Well, for some of us, it means that the days of late-night partying, clubbing, and drunken debauchery are gone. We’ve settled down. We’ve given up vanity in exchange for parenting and what little sleep we can get. I used to think that I would never leave the house without wearing eyeliner or go to bed without washing my face or other similarly silly thoughts. Now that I’ve worn maternity pants post-pregnancy, probably pooped on a table in front of strangers (during delivery, although my husband swears up and down that I didn’t), spontaneously leaked milk, gained 50 pounds during pregnancy, spent entire days in the same clothes I wore to bed – well, you can definitely say I am somewhat less image-conscious.

But still, there’s an even more subtle change. The best I can articulate it is to simply say you will never be the same once you become a parent.

Sure, you will have the same dislikes, likes, attractions, sense of humor, taste. But you’ll also have new fears, or at least feel them more intensely.

For example, nothing frightens me more than the thought of something happening to my child. This is easy to understand, but only a parent really knows that special fear.

Child abuse cases, starving babies, the state of the world and our humanity – you can’t and you won’t look at them the same once you’re a parent.

But while there are more fears, like Dr. Seuss says, your heart will grow three times bigger.

Grinch's heart size

No higher heaven, no lower hell.

I am 33 years old. Many of my friends are having kids – and I can’t explain to them what being a parent is like. I can only wait for them to experience it.

 

Things I Never Thought I Would Do … and Then I Had You

(This is you, by the way. No diaper, missing one sock – typical day.)

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I grew up an only child, but had my fair share of babysitting and an impressive number of cousins. Still, I wasn’t prepared for these experiences:

  • Being more concerned about someone seeing my backfat than my boobs while breastfeeding in public
  • Wearing Mom Jeans*
  • Carrying a 20-pound weight while pooping
  • Drinking chunky water (albeit this was unintentional. lesson learned: if your kid drinks out of your water bottle, THROW IT AWAY. immediately)
  • Going caffeine-free for almost a year
  • Not give a flying f— if I pooped on the delivery table or not (note: this was during labor; before labor, I definitely gave a flying f—)
  • Crying because I love someone so much
  • Being a stay at home mom

I seriously thought I could pop you out, nurse and bond with you for a few months, then drop you off at daycare and be on my merry way, seamlessly integrating back into the life I knew. I had no idea how the hormones and biology and bonding would turn me into a **stay-at-home-mom.

Today, I look at my life, I look at you, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

*Ok, I don’t really wear Mom Jeans, but it’s not beneath me to do so. If it’s comfortable and reasonably clean, I’ll take it.

**I actually work from home as a practicing attorney. I like to call myself “in-house counsel.” Get it? Anyone?

This Year, I Will Be A Less Than Perfect Parent

Last year at this time, 34 weeks pregnant with my first child, I was blissfully unaware of what laid ahead. Enjoying the friendliness of strangers, the excitement from my family, and as much pickles and cheese sticks as I wanted – I was in the moment of pregnancy and unprepared for what awaited us.

Oh, we were “prepared” – we had a bassinet, crib, swing, bouncy chair, wraps and Ergos, sleep sacks and footed pajamas. We had some bottles that mimicked breasts; others that promised to reduce colic and fussiness. We had countless gifts and hand-me-downs from friends, cousins and even our neighbors.

What we completely missed was the parenthood part. When you’re pregnant, there is an end date – delivery. After you pop that baby out, there’s just … parenthood. For the rest of your life. And it becomes your life.

So unconsciously, naturally, I found myself putting my Little Squish first, before anything and everything – as he should be, in his early infant months. But as time wore on, my slavish devotion to my child began to challenge all aspects of life as I had known it for 32 years, and its associated strain became more and more obvious.

If I was vain before, now I was paying for it – even nuns were more fashionable than me. I managed to shower every day, but only because I was breastfeeding and didn’t want my kid to have a gross boob. One day I found myself cutting out knots from my hair rather than taking the time to brush it.

My obsession with being the Perfect Mother tested my relationship with my spouse. For the first time in the seven years I had known him, I seriously contemplated leaving him. He had the same thought. We both had these thoughts more than once.

It also left me with a forced job change. Things I loved doing I gave up completely. Until now.

This year, I vow to be a better parent by giving myself permission to be me again. It’s hard to say because it feels a little selfish, but I know now that my child does not need the Perfect Mother.

What is that, anyway? The mom who stays at homes, breastfeeds exclusively, doesn’t use bottles or pacifiers, and screams at her spouse for trying to light incense because oxygen replacing pollutants increase the risk of SIDS? Been there, done that, and a happy mother it does not make.

But a happy mother is important. I know my child senses my emotions and stress. My tension carries over in my tone and patience. Being a Happy Mother It is much more important than the Perfect Mother – which, in actuality, doesn’t exist. You have to give yourself some leeway; like all things in life, this job has a learning curve. This year, I will choose to be a little more relaxed and do the best I can rather than experience mommy guilt for just needing some alone time.

Because my kid doesn’t need the perfect mother. He just needs me.

Day 29 / The Time Machine

It’s amazing how many excuses my brain will come up with to get out of writing. In the evening, when all the work is done for the day and I watch my 4-month-old Raynor snuggled up a few inches away from me, I suddenly get too tired to blog and instead the two of us fall asleep quietly into the night.

In the morning, my mind just doesn’t work quite right.

But now, I really have no excuse other than I’m hungry. But getting up to make food will surely wake the little hellspawn, so I better just keep writing.

I was trying to describe myself the other day and I figured I should just blog about it. One of the great things about journaling about yourself is you get to re-read it in a few years and laugh at how you were and how you’ve changed (so you think). Indeed, the blog is basically an online, intangible time capsule.

WANTED: somewhat insecure but smart 32-year-old stay-at-home lawyer and mother of one human child and two rescue dogs. Has more patience with kids and animals than with her own husband, unfortunately. Is often filled with doubt, easily irritated, and somewhat judgmental of her friends. Into all sorts of crunchy-granola stuff, like boycotting dolphin shows and learning the fine art of composting. A recovering people pleaser. Enjoys snowboarding and yes, walks on the beach.

If someone wrote a personal ad like that, I’d have to answer it because that pretty much sums me up.

Now I just have to wait 5-10 years so I can look back on this post, and laugh.