There are many different ways to be a working mom. In Having It All, women with kids and careers tell us how they organize their lives.
I have two kids, three dogs, and a law practice. With both births, I worked until I drove myself to the hospital to have the baby. One of our partners decided to leave right after my first daughter, Lilana, was born, so I was waddling back into the office a week after my C–section. Luckily my mother-in-law was available to help out. If I had stayed home for three months and ignored work, I think going back would have been more difficult for me. Returning early forced me to rip off the Band-Aid.
The second time around, with my daughter Genevieve, I didn’t go back full-time until she was 10 or 11 weeks old. I still managed my own caseload during my leave, I just didn’t take on new litigation work. Moms like to be judge-y and say, “You deserved to take that time completely off!” But it wouldn’t have worked for me. We don’t have a formal maternity-leave policy, and I share the profits, so if I don’t bill for months, that impacts my income and bonus.
I put both my daughters in day care instead of hiring a nanny because day care has finite hours, which forces me to stop work and pick them up by six. I know myself, and I know that if we had a nanny, I would have slipped into a “sure, I can stay for that meeting” mind-set. Now we actually have a nanny two days a week, but that’s only because my former secretary retired and wanted to watch the girls since she doesn’t yet have grandchildren of her own.
I work a lot, but I used to work all the time, often from seven in the morning to ten at night. After Genevieve was born, I had to admit that I didn’t want to be at the office as much, so I took a pay cut. I’m still full-time, but now I don’t feel guilty about going to zoo camp Thursday morning or taking Friday afternoon off. In exchange for that flexibility, I lost a little income. It’s a worthy trade-off.
Now I feel entitled to work less, whereas I would have felt guilty if I was getting paid the same amount as I was before. I was honest with our office about reducing my hours and income, because I didn’t want to create jealousy or have them thinking, She’s the boss and isn’t here. They used to see me 60 hours a week and now they don’t, but they know my pay directly correlates.
My husband works 40-plus hours a week as a strategist for a utility. I do more of the child-rearing, which is my fault because I love it. He’s the greatest dad, but I’ve made parenting my territory. I’ll get up around 4:45, work out, get myself ready, and wake the girls up at seven. I need to be ready before they wake up or the morning is stressful. I’ve learned to get them dressed and get their teeth brushed within 40 seconds of waking up. We have less than an hour to do the whole morning routine and be on the road, so every second counts. Then I pick them up from day care by six or head home the days my nanny is there. My husband could do it, but this way I have to leave the office.
At night, both of us hang out with them. He’ll brush Lilana’s teeth and read her a story, then I go in and read a story and sing a song. My husband does all the laundry and dishes and otherwise maintains the house. We’ve never gotten in a fight over housework or taking care of the kids — not once, and Lilana’s almost 4. Don’t get me wrong, we fight about other things. But we both just really enjoy parenting. It helps that the girls go to bed in about ten minutes. For most of my friends, bedtime is a daily battle.
I feel almost guilty that I love everything about being a mom. I even volunteer with a hospital, calling new moms in their first 12 weeks. I don’t mean to sound superior or anything — there have been stressful times — but the overarching experience has been great. I have really good kids, but mainly I credit my work-home balance.
If I were a stay-at-home mom, I don’t think I would be so fond of motherhood. I never considered being a stay-at-home mom, never. Having to decide whether to go back to a dead-end job you hate that barely pays for day care? That I don’t envy. Just having to make a decision about it at all is hard. For me, it wasn’t even a decision.
I didn’t worry about labor or breastfeeding either. I think when you have a really stressful job going to trial and handling high-level business transactions, it trains your brain that freaking out about things doesn’t do you any good. I had to have C-sections for medical reasons, but breastfeeding went fine.
In fact, when I went back to work after having Lilana and started pumping, I noticed my freezer was getting full and decided to start donating to a milk bank for NICU babies. After I had Genevieve, I met a mom who’d adopted a boy named Harvest, and I fed him until he was 7 months old. Now a friend with epilepsy is about to give birth, and she can’t breastfeed because of her medications, so I’ve agreed to feed her baby for a few months. I was planning to breastfeed Genevieve, who turned 1 in July, until she was 2 anyway.
I’m kind of sick of pumping, but I can do it pretty quickly. I pump in five to ten minutes, whereas some moms have to pump for an hour. When my kids were babies, I’d get 12 ounces in ten minutes. Now I get three ounces each time, so I have to pump more. I store a lot of the milk at work because we have a large freezer there. The office is used to my donations. My partner, who’s 56, will shout, “Your milk person’s here!” He’s gotten used to it.
I haven’t had to sacrifice my marriage or my social life. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law actually fight over who gets to watch the kids. Sleepovers are something I’ve encouraged since they were 2 months old, because I wanted to keep up a relationship with my husband. They spend the night away maybe once a month. I’ve gotten over the whole “you don’t see them all week and you need a break on the weekend?” thing real fast. My daughters love it, and if I’d waited until they were a year old, it would have been hard on me.
Having kids has actually broadened my social circle. I’m definitely not going out to the bars every night, but I go out a couple times a month. We’ve taken our kids out to restaurants since they were born, so they’re pretty good at it. Every Monday night I still meet up with three of my girlfriends, and I’ve joined a lot of moms’ groups on Facebook, mainly to dispel judge-y moms. A new mom will be on there, and people will write, “If your kid is crying at day care, she’s not ready!” And I’ll say, “He probably stops crying 40 seconds after you leave.” A lot of my purpose on Facebook is to be supportive.