January 28, 2013

Work-Life Balance – Advice from the Trenches, Part 1

by: Kelley Johnson, Attorney
I am a wife, mom and busy litigation attorney in private practice. Since I was a little girl, I always thought I would be a working mom. Even in law school, I never gave it a second thought and had my first child my last semester of law school. In fact, I think many of my classmates thought that being a working mom would just be the norm. Now, eight years later, I realize it is not the norm, and I know why. It is tough. But I wouldn’t change a thing. I am a better mom because I work. I am a better attorney because I am mom. In my life, I can’t imagine one without the other. So how do I make it work? Honestly, I don’t know, but I do pay attention when any mom (working or not) gives me advice. I have been blessed to be the recipient of many good words of advice from some really great moms. It’s only fair that I pass some of that great advice on to you.

Find a calendar system and use it. Can you have too many calendars? Probably. I am sure I do. At work, I use Outlook calendar that syncsschedule.jpg with my ipad and iphone. I also have 2 old-fashioned written calendars – one that I keep at work and one that I keep in my purse so I have it at all times. I also use 2 monthly dry erase calendars at home and use different color markers for each kid. Yes, I may have calendar-overload, but it works for me. The point is find what works for you and use it. Between family and work, I can have so many deadlines in any given week, my head spins. And we all know that it can be just as devastating to forget a library book or some other school event as it is to miss a court deadline.

Take work home and use remote access. If I had to rank the advice given to me over the years, this would be number one. Always take work home every night – always. If motherhood is anything – it’s unpredictable. I like to have that back up of work deadlines that I need to get done with me every evening – even if I don’t get to it and I just lug it back to the office. Lugging files to and from the office is a pain, but having those files when my child gets unexpectedly sick and can’t go to school . . . priceless. Along those same lines, get remote access. Remote access is having your desktop computer at work — on your computer at home. It’s genius. I sometimes wonder if a working mom invented it.

Get help. I know we think we can do it all – but in reality, we can’t. Find your best support system and secure it. My parents and in-laws live out of town so we have a part-time nanny who helps us after school until we come home in the evening. We also have incredible neighbors who have helped us in a bind, and we do the same for them.

By using my calendar system and being prepared for the unexpected I have been able to ensure that my work is done on time no matter what the situation. I also see asking for help as a strength. It means that I recognize the importance of being present both in my career and with my family. Having someone step in and provide assistance allows me to focus more on the priority of the moment. Later I will share with you a few other words of advice that have helped me along the way.
What are your thoughts about asking for help? How often do you do this in your daily life?
photo credit: Mike Rohde via photopin cc

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