Saturday, March 27, 2010

Our Day

I was flipping through my archives the other day and came across two posts of my schedule as a law school mom: one from Landon's perspective at 6 months old, and another from mine at 9 months. They were fun to read, even if the second one made me tired, and I decided I should memorialize our current schedule in a blog post somewhere. And not because it's difficult- due to a combination of factors (my flexible work schedule, JP's status as a graduate student, Landon's excellent health and sleep habits, etc.), our days feel pretty easy. This is going to be far more detailed than necessary, but I just feel like our life is never going to be easier than this - when we have two real jobs, two kids, and the kids start having their own evening and weekend activities, things are going to be so much more hectic, and I want to remember this time clearly.

7:30-8:00ish: Wake up. As we have since the day Landon came home from the hospital, JP and I take turns getting up with him. Now that he's a big boy, this is less about bleary mornings leaning over a crib, and more about shepherding him through the dressing process and getting him set up with breakfast. You also change his diaper, feed the dogs, and generally get the day started. The other person gets to linger in bed, which feels delicious even if it's just for another 30 seconds before jumping in the shower. The big boy bed has made mornings much easier, and I do love being the one to get the cheerful "Hi Mama, I wake up!" when I open our door (he comes downstairs so quietly I'm actually not sure when he does it; this morning I found him reading a book to the dogs in his play room), but it's also great to loll in bed for a few minutes flipping through my blackberry and planning my outfit.

8:00-9:00ish: The general morning routine. I used to fear this part of being a working mom, but it's actually very calm and happy. Landon eats his cereal and a banana, sometimes with JP or I sitting next to him at the table, and sometimes with Thomas on TV (his only tv show of the day; I do love the PBS kids on-demand) while JP or I come in and out of the kitchen as we do other things. After he's done eating Landon joins us in the bathroom while we get ready, asking for a blast from my blow dryer or reading me a book while I'm in the shower. I keep my blackberry on the bathroom counter and check and respond as needed, while Lilly plants herself in the middle of everything and looks annoyed if you come close to stepping on her. We make Landon's lunch while he takes 10 minutes to put on his socks and shoes "BY MYSELF", and then he stands by the door asking when we can leave for "daycay" while I throw my work computer in its bag and gather up whatever I was working on the night before.

9:00: My goal time for getting out the door. If I leave at 8:50 and it's not raining, I can be parked in my work garage in 8 minutes. If I leave much before that, there's traffic and I get to work at 9 anyway. I always get a big hug and lots of blown kisses Landon before I go. JP doesn't have class until 11 Monday through Thursday, so he takes him to daycare (which is 1.0 miles from our house) on those days. I think they usually leave the house around 9:30 or 9:45.

9:15-5:30: I work. Usually pretty productively, with the occasional interruption from colleagues and friends. Sometimes I get annoyed with myself when I enter my time and realize I lost over an hour chit chatting, but then I remind myself that an enormous part of my job satisfaction comes from enjoying the people I work with. And besides, on most days, I work pretty hard. I generally go out for a quick lunch with a friend/co-worker. I've found I don't actually work when I try to eat at my desk, so unless it's a really crazy day I like to give myself an official break.

5:30-5:45: On Tuesdays and Thursdays I get Landon and Outlook alerts me at 5:30 that it's "time to pack up". I un-dock my laptop, throw it in my bag, and gather whatever I need to continue what I'm doing later that night. Even if I don't think I need to do any work I always bring my laptop home because on the nights I don't I'll invariably get an email at 8 or 9 asking for a document I can't access on my blackberry.

6:00: Pick-up Landon at daycare, one of my favorite things, and get a toddler-led tour of his new artwork hung on the wall and/or whatever toys he's particularly fond of that day (yesterday it was a little plastic beetle). We drive home while Landon tells me what he did that day. The dogs greet us enthusiastically at the door while Lilly looks on with disdain at their unseemly exuberance. The dogs go outside and Lilly gets lots of pets from Landon; she pretends not to be pleased but I notice she doesn't move away. (On the other days when JP doesn't have an evening class he picks up Landon around 5:30.)

6:15 Dinner is started or reheating. On the days I don't pick up Landon I get home about now and JP is the one playing chef (or he's not and I'm on the verge of being crabby because I am hungry and food is not in the process of being ready for me to eat it). Landon is immediately settled at the table with milk and a fruit or vegetable to ward off crankiness while dinner cooks (I should probably start doing the same for myself) and he sings me songs or tells me all about the random things that pop into his head. Somewhere during this I'll flip through the mail and make stacks to file, recycle, or otherwise deal with, wash out his lunch box, and feed the dogs. And change into sweat pants and a comfy shirt.

6:30ish: We hope to be eating by now, though it frequently doesn't happen until 7 depending on the meal and what time everyone got home. If it's later, Landon will play with his toys between his appetizer and entree and I'll go join him.

6:30-7:45: We eat, clean-up, and play. JP takes the dogs on a walk and Landon usually goes with them. I join on occasion, but lately have felt a strong need to sit on the couch immediately following dinner. When they get back we play some more, read Landon's books, build block towers- basically do whatever Landon wants. By 7:45 we help Landon put his toys away and head upstairs for bed. JP and I take turns with the nighttime routine, and just like in the morning, while I love my turn to kiss his damp head and read him his books, I also love the evenings when my off-duty light turns on right at 7:45. This is all going to be so much harder with two children.

7:45-8:00: I've written about the nighttime routine a few times before, but it's special and usually very easy. Bath, teeth, books, snuggle, "make me cozy", sing a song, lights off, walk out, close the door. Landon has done awesome with the big boy bed. Sometimes when I go back upstairs later to feed Lilly or put clothes away I'll hear him singing to himself or talking to Puppy, but he never gets out of bed until morning.

8:15-11: JP and I are both on our laptops working- usually with him in the study and me at the kitchen table. Even if I don't need to work on an assignment, I'll clean up my Outlook inbox, enter my time, or do whatever other "wrap-up" items I didn't finish as I ran out the door to come home. On Thursdays we watch our NBC shows and then I watch Project Runway, but on most other nights we don't bother turning on the TV. If I'm just sitting on the couch with my personal laptop, JP will come out and work next to me so we can talk and be near each other. On some nights we'll run a load of laundry because I hate when my weekends feel chore-heavy, and I always straighten up the counters before heading to bed. I've found that if clutter never builds up, it's never takes very long to put away.

11-11:30: We start getting ready for bed, or at least start thinking about getting ready for bed. I always read, even if it's only for 20 minutes, and sometimes JP does too. But usually he just falls asleep next to me and then I snuggle into him once I turn off the light, always promising myself that I'll go to bed earlier the next night.

There's variance of course. I've worked until 3 and 4 a.m. on multiple occasions, JP sometimes has all-evening meetings with business school classmates, and once or twice I've come home and had to get straight to work in the study while Landon and JP bring me food and drop in to keep me company (Landon loves to type next to me on my old broken laptop). But life is good. Now that Spring is here we've been eating our dinners outside on the porch or taking a picnic to the nearby park, which Landon loves (and I love because I can sit on a bench and watch him run about while expending very little energy myself; at 30 weeks pregnant and who knows how many pounds heaver, that's very nice).

I worry a little about what it will be like with two kids and both parents working- so far we've always had one parent as a flexible grad student. I'm sure we'll find our own ryhthm and things will be great, but I also know that there will be times I look back on these days with a lot of fondness and not just a little longing.


  1. Sounds like a very full and happy day!! After an adjustment period you are going to love having two! Siblings are fun to watch!

  2. Oh yeah, I have no doubt I'll love it. JP and I were just talking about that today while Landon was playing in the backyard, that it will be so great for him to have a live-in buddy, and I really can't wait to watch the two of them together. I just think two will make the mornings/evenings a bit more hectic since right now it only takes one of us to be on-duty while the other can be off. Or, even if that doesn't change much, things will definitely be crazier once the two of them get a little older and have activities or sports committments of their own. I like that JP and I get to dominate the scheduling right now :)

  3. I used to do these periodically and haven't for a long time -- you've inspired me to do a daily schedule post of my own.

    I would love to hear how you've managed expectations about leaving at 5:30 twice a week and making it home for dinner every day. I usually try to leave around 6:30, and I have let the partners I work with know that this will be my schedule unless they tell me that they'll need me to stay later, but (and this may just be a function of the schedules of the partners I work with) my busiest part of the day tends to be between 5 and 7 p.m. I feel like I'm sneaking out when I leave at 6:30.

  4. CM, truthfully it's just a product of the section I work in. Everyone in litigation leaves between 5:15 and 6; I'd say by 6:15 every office is empty. Nearly everyone has kids and since most litigation assignments are completed individually, most people work from home at night- it's just understood and expected.

    When I was in corporate in the same office, it was harder. I was definitely the first one to leave and while I don't think people felt too negatively about that, I did feel like I was sneaking out and I felt more of a need to "prove" that I was then working at night (through sending the occasional email, etc.). Truthfully I don't know how I would have made a transactional pracice schedule work for me and my family. Deals would often come up late in the afternoon and long calls were frequently scheduled at 4:30 and 5. That has never happened in litigation. I think it's because corporate is almost completely client-driven whereas litigation is set by the courts and rules of civil procedure and both allow lots of time between big events in the case.

    That sounds negative but I'm not sure how else to describe it. In my experiences in both sections the exact same firm, only one floor apart, the general atmosphere and attitude was quite different between the two. Corporate took an odd pride in how late you were at the office the night before whereas if you said that to someone in litigation they'd look at you like you were crazy and ask why you didn't go home to finish up.

    And to answer your question directly, I never officially discussed my plans for leaving at 5:30 with anyone in my section, I just did it (in corporate I left at 5:50). It's never come up and my reviews have been excellent. I also work extensively with partners in other offices so they don't actually know where I am when I'm sending them things. This is true for most of the associates in Austin (very few big cases originate out of our office) so that probably also lends itself to the fact that everyone goes home when they want to. In corporate you were usually staffed on deals that originated with Austin partners with purely Austin-based deal teams.

    So overall I'm very glad I'm at the firm I'm at, but most of all I'm very glad I discovered I really loved litigation and made the switch to that section. I no longer see a definite end date at my firm; it's very possible I will leave one day, but that no longer seems like the only option to have the family life that I want. I didn't feel that way when I was in corporate, though to what extent it was the schedule or the fact I just didn't enjoy corporate work I'm not sure.

  5. Sounds like a very good schedule. It's great that you all make time to have family dinners together each night. Very special.

  6. It's so amazing to read this and see how well you're able to balance everything and how being, not only at the right firm, but in the right group, really helps. It's clear that you've found a great fit. It gives the rest of us hope!

  7. I love your late mornings! It is so fabulous to think I can be a lawyer one day and perhaps have such a late morning. when I was an HR Manager I had to be out of the house with kid and daycare bags packed by 6:45, and boy do I HATE getting up when the big hand is anywhere near the 5.

    I think working from home after bedtime would be so worth getting up in the 7-8 range and being able to leave at 5:30. And I also found in HR that people looked at you askew if you went home at 5:30 - most of my coworkers and some of the higher-ups highly valued people who stayed til 7 or 8 - even though usually those people were the LEAST PRODUCTIVE and the most troublesome coworkers in the office. I really hated the fact that I had the highest performance reviews in the whole company, but half the chatty Cathies down the hall glared at me when I left at a reasonable hour, mumbling "Gee, wish I could get home to MY kids, but I guess I'm just too busy and important to leave on time." It really made my blood boil to have that competition and martyrdom pointed right at me.
    Anyway. I loved reading this. I get nervous about how my life is going to change when I leave law school and get back into the working world, and spend oodles less time with my kids. This seems so doable and lovely, maybe I'm worried about nothing!