May 2, 2012
Taking Care of Clients and Baby
“Our bodies are well adapted to this state of affairs and respond appropriately when conditions deviate from their optimal state. This ability of an organism to maintain equilibrium (balance) by adjusting appropriately to the external environment is known as homeostasis. And there in lies the key to understanding balance. Balance is the taking of appropriate action when circumstances dictate so as to maintain equilibrium.” – Stephen Cox, Pick the Brain
I have two babies. One is almost 2 years old. The other is 6 months. One is a virtual law office. The other is a smiley baby girl. Both come with much responsibility and joy (although, admittedly, my little girl is usually more fun than my VLO).
VLO + Baby = Wonderful but Crazy
Needless to say, life can get very messy when you’re a stay at home parent and work from home lawyer . . . all at the same time. That being said, I always intended to be a mom that flitted around the world with my child. I pictured myself managing a career with a baby on my hip. Of course, its not quite as glamorous as it was in my pre-parental fantasy (the clothes are not as nice!) but it is pretty awesome.
So far I have taken my daughter to 5 business lunches, 2 business trips and 1 conference. I have found that toting around a cute baby can be a great way to connect with people. And somehow I manage to actually accomplish quite a bit of work each week, to boot. I am very lucky to have some clients who are also parent-entrepreneurs, so it can be a point of commonality.
Of course, it ain’t all roses. I have been sleep deprived for so long that 5 hours of sleep feels like a good night’s sleep at this point. There have also been times that I’ve had to make tough work versus baby decisions. For example, I had to bow out of being a presenter at LexThink.1 (formerly Ignite Law) and miss the ABA TechShow because my childcare plan did not work out.
That said, as tough as some days are (and trust me somedays are really killer!), everyday my heart overflows and I feel so grateful to have such an amazingly full life.
What Keeps Me From Pulling My Hair Out
If there is a baby and law office in your future, here are the three things that have prevented me from pulling my hair out lately:
1. A Balanced & Productive Day = Breaks + Eating + Napping + Movement + Actual Work. The hardest part of working and taking care of baby is being interrupted. Its difficult to be efficient when you are in your zone and baby suddenly needs a diaper change. After the diaper change, you’ve got to get back into your zone. This can go on all day. What works for me is to accept those breaks and use them as opportunities to eat, take a short walk or even a cat nap. Despite the frequent breaks, I keep getting the same amount of work done by the end of each week (much to my surprise, at first). When you’re a parent with so much to manage, you can become extremely productive at times because you know there may not be another opportunity for a while. And as a fellow lawyer-mom told me recently, you do start to get used to switching between mom and lawyer all day.
2. Delegation For The Win! I have a virtual paralegal who is amazing and really helps keep work moving along in my practice. I also have a fantastic virtual assistant to whom I delegate administrative tasks and some of my marketing and technical needs. I haven’t hired anyone to help me with childcare yet but I plan to in the near future (like next week!). Even if you feel you don’t have much money for delegating, sometimes you can work out a trade of services or payment terms (like being billed at the end of the month after you’ve been paid by your clients) that don’t create cash flow nightmares. Even delegating just one or two activities can make a big difference. Delegation is my sanity saver!
3. Good Enough is the New Perfect. When my daughter was just a few weeks old, I listened to Susan Cartier-Liebel’s audio interview of Holle S. Temple, the author of Good Enough Is The New Perfect: Finding Happiness and Success in Modern Motherhood. Thank God I did! This provided me with some perspective and started me down the path of letting go of my vision of perfect parenting perfectly balanced with a perfect career (that’s a lot of perfect!). While it was hard to accept that making organic baby food from scratch everyday was SO not gonna happen, it was also liberating. Changing my mindset has given me the freedom to just deal with life as it comes and be okay with things not going according to plan (most of the time). At the end of the day if baby is well taken care of and clients are well taken care of, that’s one for the win column despite what else remains undone (like the pile of dishes currently in the sink).
Taking care of a baby and running a law practice is not for the faint of heart (or the perfectionist) but it is definitely doable and can make for a wonderfully full life. I recommend embracing flexibility, having a good sense of humor and a little wine (after the children and the clients are asleep, of course).