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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.