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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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Unsolicited Career Advice for Moms

corgilawyer

I’ve been dissatisfied for a while with being a lawyer. In terms of personality, it may have been a very unfortunate career choice, since I hate conflict (so no more litigation for me) and I’m not a bean counter (no transactional either).

How did I end up a lawyer? Well, I’ve always been a “leap before you look” type of person, which has resulted me in doing things like:

  • spending $10,000 on useless career coaching
  • moving to Phoenix from the beautiful Bay Area for a boyfriend only to dump him two weeks later
  • enrolling in (and graduating from) law school
  • having a baby
Not a sustainable work model. This was me almost exactly a year ago.

Not a sustainable work model. This was me almost exactly a year ago, when I still had unrealistic views about working from home.

But I’ve been a lawyer for a while now, switching jobs or titles every two years on the dot – deputy public defender, private firm, partnership with a friend. Now I’m just kind of picking up work where I can, and making Tiny Boss my full time job. But his two years are almost up and it’s time for a new job (kidding!)(sort of!). Besides, I’m sure once I have the second kid, finding a career will be the least of my worries for at least another year or so, right after “shaving my legs” and “organizing the pantry.”

no mom

I’m very lucky that my husband can financially support us for the time being so I can stay at home with Tiny Boss and #2 (Tiny Bossette?). I love spending time with Tiny Boss (although I love my alone time too). I also love writing (and reading even more) but is it better to work 10 hours as a writer, or a couple hours as an attorney, for the same amount of money? Because when it comes down to it, work is time away from Tiny Boss. So I’m seriously reconsidering this lawyer thing.

Because I had a little bit of extra time tonight because Tiny Boss went down in a record 10 minutes, I thought I’d be practical and Google “how to choose a career” instead of watching pet videos, like this one of a cockatiel feeding a dog spaghetti. I clicked on the first two search results, which were ads, because I wanted to take the free career test. They’re completely pointless, but I love career tests, personality tests (I’m an INFP), and even those Facebook quizzes like “What is your inner spirit animal?”

Did I mention how much I love personality tests? Where can I find that application for the assassin position?

Did I mention how much I love personality tests? Now where can I find that application for the assassin position?

Unfortunately, you have to enter in a bunch of irrelevant contact info and since I don’t want to get spammed by every for-profit college out there, I kept scrolling until I found this article on Lifehacker, “How to Pick a Career You Actually Like,” by a mother and blogger named Penelope Trunk. It’s a quick read and I’d recommend it. I went to her blog and was pleased – she’s like me, only in reverse. She worked in LA and ended up marrying a farmer in Madison, Wisconsin and having kids. Well, maybe not reverse-me exactly, but I did go to school in Madison, Wisconsin and ended up working in LA and having one kid (soon to be two).

In her blog, she talks about a lot of things I can relate to – in particular, postpartum depression/working after a new baby, and not doing what you love for a job. Check her blog out. Most of the articles are a quick read. If you’re a work at home mom, you might find it especially relevant.

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?

Silly Lady, Don’t You Know You Can Only Drug Your Own Kids?

Photo by Posterize at Freedigitalphotos.com

Photo by posterize at freedigitalphotos.com

A couple weeks ago, a daycare worker in Morgan Hill, CA, was arrested for allegedly trying to drug the kids in her charge with Sominex, an over-the-counter sleeping pill.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, the 59-year-old woman “admitted that she placed an over-the-counter sleep medication into the cups.”

But wait! The exact same thing apparently also happened in Texas less than two years ago.

What?

The daycare worker in that instance was arrested for allegedly actually giving the kids – ages 20 months to four years – milk laced with over-the-counter antihistamines. The woman in the California case was apparently in charge of the toddlers between the ages one to two.

As the mother of a thriving, active, food-throwing, headache-inducing, dog whistle-mimicking, sleep-depriving 13.5 month old little boy, I can see where the woman is coming from. Sort of.

I mean, there are days where I find myself chugging coffee at 6pm because I just can’t keep up with Tiny Boss otherwise.  Days where I start fantasizing paying for a babysitter just so I can close my eyes for half an hour. Where my lower back begins to ache from overwork despite my best attempts to use my glutes and hammies to deadlift the 22-pound Tiny Boss up into my arms when he so demands, and the demands can be often.

A little Ambien in the applesauce, and none the wiser.

A little Ambien in the applesauce, and none the wiser.

But I would never, ever, ever drug him (or any other kid) with sleeping pills. The idea is just beyond me. But then again, I don’t even give Tiny Boss anything with artificial colors, unlike my in-laws, who have a tendency to feed him Fruit Loops.

Or so I say now. I guess one thing I have learned from parenthood is that “never” doesn’t mean crap. Ask me two years ago if I would be a stay at home mom and I would have said laughed and said no. Ask me that same question 10 years ago and I would have probably kneed you in the crotch.

And here I am today. Granted, a WAHM, but I wouldn’t want to work at an office and have to place Tiny Boss in daycare. So who knows, maybe in thirty years I’ll be dissolving Benadryl into my toddler grandkids’ Kool-aid and Tang.

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.