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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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Random day

Two interesting things happened to me today.

First, I almost got a cell phone ticket. I was literally at the light 30 seconds from my house. I had finished my court appearances for the morning and was still wearing my suit, sitting in the drivers seat with one foot on the seat and intently texting my sisters in law (we have a long running group text going on).

All of a sudden I heard a loud honk and I looked up to see a stereotypical, beefy-looking, mustached LASD scowling at me from behind his sunglasses. He shook his head at me. I waved apologetically and meekly put my phone underneath my butt and pretended to concentrate on the car in front of me.

I hadn’t felt that simultaneously embarrassed and chastised since I was in second grade and I got kicked out of class for talking too much and I told the older kids who found me outside the classroom that I was just hanging out when my lupine crone of a teacher came out and blew my cover. She was the worst teacher ever. I would have rather had Professor Snape teach me for the rest of my public school education than go through second grade with Mrs. Sheldahl again.

Anyways, the second strange and unexpected thing that happened today was I got my eyebrows threaded and a pedicure. I know, ain’t nobody got time for that! Except I did!

What happened was our speech therapist is located near the mall, and after an hour long speech evaluation (which is a lot of activity – mostly playing, questioning and observing by the therapist), Tiny Boss crashed out on me. I tried to get him into the car seat but gave up after he would wake up and cry. So I stuck him in a stroller (funny how I can stick him in a stroller without waking him up, but the car seat is an entirely different matter).

So what do you do when you have a sleeping toddler and you’re stuck at the mall? You get your eyebrows done, and you hope he doesn’t wake up. You eat a light lunch, and you hope he doesn’t wake up. You hold him (because he did wake up, but went back to sleep) while you get your toenails done, and try to enjoy the massage chair as much as you can with twenty-plus pounds of deadweight on one shoulder.

And that was my strange day. I had been dreaming of getting threaded, waxed, a pedicure, and haircut for a while and half of it happened today. It wasn’t nearly as fantastic as I thought it would be. It’s hard to relax when you’re constantly wondering when the boss will be back.

Remind Me Again, Why Do I Want a Second One?

photo (1)

If I feel like this and I only have one kid . . .

I am so exhausted. Yeah, I know. Every mom is exhausted.

But today is just one of those special days where you feel like you slept on a bed made of lincoln logs and legos, and someone added Xanax to your coffee. Actually, I didn’t have any coffee today, but Xanax would probably help.

At toddlerhood, or around the age of 1, our children start going from two naps to one. I know this because I read it on Facebook (everything on Facebook is true) and I’m assuming that’s what is happening to Tiny Boss. But it’s just so tiring.

Now that it’s been 13 months, Tiny Boss has finally mentally beaten me into submission and I no longer expect things like uninterrupted sleep, pooping in peace, or a clean house. Taking him out to eat will always result in unprovoked screaming, food on the ground, and myself wondering why I am still taking him out to restaurants.

So why do I want a second one? This must be the answer:

Image

It was 8pm last night when I came up with the brilliant idea to take Tiny Boss to Target. “No one will be there,” I thought. “Who goes to a Target on a Thursday night?”

Um, apparently only everyone and their eight million kids. It was a madhouse. Carts blocking aisles, kids running all over the place. It struck me that Target is really the defining icon of suburban life, and where the middle class watch their pay checks disappear.

Crappypictures.com knows what’s up when it comes to shopping at Target.

I also realized this was the best place for a preview of the years to come. What it’s like having more than one kid. What it’s like having three kids. What it’s like having three boys? The unpredictability of toddler behavior. How loud can one kid really scream?

CRumsLk - Imgur

Pretty much sums up my Target experience last night.

See, I want to have another kid. And I think having them closely spaced is a good thing, you know, so they can play together. Although the mom at Short Fat Dictator is giving me the whoa nelly. And some days I’m so tired that I have no idea what I would do if I had to chase after two kids, put two kids down for a nap, or feed two kids.

I had no idea what to expect with just one, so I’m a little afraid of having another one. But growing up an only child has convinced me that I should have two. Although then my friends who grew up with only one sibling tell me that they were lonely, so maybe three’s the number. Wait, but my husband, he had four kids in the family and they’re all so happy and well-adjusted…

THIS HERE IS A SLIPPERY SLOPE.

Let’s just see how #2 goes. That is, if we’re lucky enough to have a second one so Tiny Boss can have a brother or a sister and I can start working on procuring more gray hairs.

The Most Interesting Man in the World + Breastfeeding

After Raynor’s cleft palate surgery, he went from a happy nurser to a nursing striker. Hence, I am back to pumping. At 12 months, I am nowhere expressing 8 ounces at a time, especially not from the one boob that is still “active,” but I didn’t think saying “2 ounces from one breast” was quite as catchy.
The sudden nursing strike (or maybe accidental weaning) was very emotionally painful for me at first. Whatever hormones that were in place were now suddenly gone, or were fluctuating wildly. I was as teary as I was when I first gave birth, and I felt a deep, profound sense of loss.

I was surprised to find out what I was feeling was common among women who are forced to wean before they or their babies are ready. Apparently depression and weaning all too often go hand-in-hand and are documented, with even the Huffington Post running an article, but unfortunately there isn’t much research on it. What studies that do exist show are that what I was feeling was real, and it can be bad.

The article states that one reason mothers who wean suddenly might become depressed is due to the “actual physiological changes taking place in the body. Breastfeeding stimulates the production of hormones such as oxytocin, known colloquially as ‘the love hormone.’ Mothers’ moods may plummet in its absence.”

Dr. Alison Stuebean , an OBGYN and assistant professor of maternal and child health at the University of North Carolina, told the Huffington Post, “Research on pregnancy has been focused on the effects of pregnancy on the baby. The mom kind of disappears from the radar.”

Yup and yup. How many times do we say “how’s the baby” compared to “how’s the new mom?”

Anyways, I ended up talking to a couple of lactation consultants recommended by my local La Leche League. I didn’t know if my son was accidentally weaned, or if the post-surgery traumatic feeding experience (more on that in another post) caused a nursing strike. Either way, I’m now pumping to give him breast milk in a sippy (which he doesn’t really like) and to keep my supply up.

I’m open to continuing the nursing relationship if my baby wants to. We’ve gone one step forward, two steps back. The first few nights were tough – since infancy he had always been allowed to nurse at night, which he took full advantage of, up until his surgery. Now, without nursing to sleep as a tool and comfort source, I was exhausted.

Walking him back and forth for naps, rocking every hour on the hour when the rest of the house was in a deep sleep – I was dying. I hadn’t felt this tired since he was a newborn. But he’s since stopped the nightwaking, I’m starting to get more sleep (which is how I’m able to blog semi-coherently) and I have to be honest, the newfound freedom is nice. We use sippy cups or regular cups for everything. I don’t have to rush home to breast feed (we had never used bottles before). But I still miss nursing sometimes.

So whatever happens – I’ll be okay with it. Parenthood is all about doing your best, rolling with the punches, and getting your laughs where you can. So The Most Interesting Man in the World Pumping Milk is funny, right? Right?

Maybe I still need more sleep.

For Moms Who Love to Write

I’ve been throwing the idea of being a writer since 2010 but only now, at the busiest time of my life, am I actually trying to come up with a plan to do so. The adage “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail” seems cliche, and I always imagined the masters sitting in coffeeshops, bursts of caffeine-fueled inspiration surging from pens onto the back of paper napkins a la JK Rowling, but slow and steady appears to get results for most of us. Writing plans are common and should be encouraged.

In my case, I’m a stay at home mom (God, how that the emotions and stereotypes associated with that term has changed for me now that I’m a SAHM too) busy juggling (figuratively, of course) a 10-month-old with a part-time lawyering gig. We are fortunate that Baby Raynor only has a cleft lip and palate, but the associated medical issues are taxing on all three of us. Not only are there surgeries, which take substantial time to both plan for and recover from, but dealing with insurance, matching explanation of benefits to actual charges by providers and driving around to appointments just sucks up hours, days and energy. Not to mention, he’s 10. Months. Old. Anyone who has ever had a child knows how insanely active and adorable and demanding these little squishes can be.

So after doing some research and getting ideas on how to make time to write, I decided to try to come up with ways that I can write and things to do that aid my writing ambition, even while taking care of this “high needs” baby, or colloquially, hellspawn.

Much of my downtime is holding him while he naps, so a lot of my ideas deal with how to write with a baby on your shoulder. This list is as much for me as it is for anyone else, because if I don’t write this down, I’m sure I’ll just end up playing games on my iPhone during Raynor’s wonderful but increasingly infrequent naps.

The List

1) Dictate.

This child of mine doesn’t care if I’m blathering away, so long as he’s cozy in my arms, which should by now be Michelle Obama-buff from lugging around a baby for almost a year now, but sadly, is not. Dictation works particularly well if your thoughts sound like decent writing (literally, sometimes my brain sounds like a running blog). Why not just say out loud what you’re thinking and then transcribe it later on? You can use dictation software recommended by writers such as Dragon Naturally Speaking (the Dragon Dictation iPhone app is free). Or you can (as I do) use an digital voice recorder (or even the old school black tape recorder that journalists in movies always use) and just transcribe it later on.

2) Wear your baby.

When mini-me falls asleep in my Ergo, both my hands are free and I can write with impunity – meaning, I can think and type without fear of awakening the little hellion. If he starts to stir, I can usually bounce or dance him back to sleep if he’s in a baby carrier. Otherwise, he hates the sound of the keyboard, so I’m somewhat restricted to writing longhand (and typing it onto WordPress or wherever it needs to go) other times when he’s awake.

3) Get up early to write.

Writers suggest writing when everyone else is asleep, and I can’t agree more. There is nothing to distract you other than what you allow (email, Facebook, yesterday’s to-do list). I find getting up before everyone works better than writing late at night after everyone’s in bed because my kid tends to sleep sounder in the morning. It’s actually 5am as I’m writing this. This single tip is probably the one I find the most important.

4) Read.

We all know that one of the best things to do as a writer is to read, and read some more. I had a mental block to reading because I thought I was too busy, but I just managed to finish Octavia E. Butler’s Dawn – read all on my iPhone and iPad. Now it sucks reading on the iPhone because the screen is so small (seriously, I should just delete the Kindle app off of there) but it’s easy enough to read on a computer or a tablet. I use my iPad, which I kind of hate, but the iPad mini, Nexus 7, or Kindle Fire are all tablets that can easily be held in one hand. An old-fashioned, muthafuckin’ book probably works too but it’s hard to turn pages

5) Exercise.

I haven’t written consistently in a long time, and I know I need to get my creative muscles back, and to do that, I need to work them out. There are a number of writing exercises and writing prompts for all types of writers. For creative writers, i09 provides challenging visual concept art writing prompts once a week.

I also find going back and editing my own work to also be a fun exercise. Maybe my real calling is to be an editor, who knows.

6) Write in Short Bursts.

Finishing a novel is a daunting task but short, witty blurbs are not. Most of us have time to update our Facebook daily – isn’t this writing? Actually, try using your Facebook or Twitter as a sounding board to see what works for the audience when you write, instead of as, say an endless feed of food photos.

I also keep a journal (Everyday.me app) on my phone just for short, neatly crafted thoughts. It also backs up my Twitter, Facebook and Evernote. Lists are also fun to make – the list I’m continuously working on now is “Sh-t my husband says.”

Well, that’s it for now. Actually, part of this post was to try to generate ideas from other similarly situated writers. I’d love to hear other ideas on how to squeeze out as much writing as possible in busy days where simply showering = winning.

Day 4

I’m blogging while waiting for my baby to start wailing since he’s managed to turn himself onto his tummy and is now struggling to move around and keep his neck up. A very smart friend of mine said to me once: “Motherhood – no higher heaven, no lower hell.” I’m glad I’m floating around the clouds right now, because it really has been the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.

Hard: Passing the California Bar Exam
Harder: Getting to Level 2 in Krav Maga
Hardest: Being a Mom

And the scariest (best?) thing about being a Mom? It never ends. I’ll always be a mom. There’s no end in sight to this one. It’ll be the longest commitment I’ve ever made.

Strangely, I feel ready for this.