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  • Work/Life Balance (or Blog/Life Balance)

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    A couple of blogs I read have recently ceased because the time commitment was too overwhelming for the authors. The authors are parents who wanted to spend more time with their kids, and I found myself questioning whether I’m shortchanging my boys by doing as much as I do. Although I would definitely have more time for them if I cut back on my commitments, I think they get plenty of me and we’re all fine. I really enjoy the things I do, and I think it’s good for them to see that Mommy has a full life of her own. It does, of course, help tremendously that my husband does at least half of the childcare, probably more.

    But since work/blog/life balance has been on my mind lately, I was really struck by an article at Law.com about trying to bring in business as an associate. (Law firms are generally divided into “partners,” who own the firm and make the most money, and “associates,” who are employees of the firm and may be invited to become a partner, typically in the 7th or 8th year, though that varies.)

    The article includes the stories of several young associates who spend quite a bit of time cultivating relationships that they hope will eventually lead to a new client. It also mentions that many associates don’t bother.

    It was the first associate they profiled that caught my attention, since she’s a mom with a young kid who billed 2150 hours last year and spends an additional 20 hours a month on developing business. To put that in perspective, 40 hours for 50 weeks equals 2000 hours. An attorney works more hours than he or she bills, so this attorney is working at least 45 hours per week without taking a vacation (probably more). Additionally, she spends about five hours per week volunteering and developing relationships that she hopes will lead to more.

    I don’t know this woman personally, but the article at least makes her sound content with her choices. I know many attorneys who wouldn’t be, but the vast majority of attorneys who are unhappy with their jobs wouldn’t bother cultivating relationships in the first place. So I think it’s probable that she’s fairly content with her choices and ambitions.

    Do I do this? No, but I’m not trying to make partner, nor am I worried about job security. On the other hand, if I didn’t have kids and had more time, I would definitely do this. I think the wonderful thing about it is that you are cultivating relationships that can lead to true friendships and maybe help you in the future, even if they don’t lead to a future attorney-client relationship. Networking is incredibly important in business, so why wouldn’t you do it?

    What do you think?

    Follow-up to my interview with Meredith

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    I’ve unfortunately been too busy to listen to the entire podcast of my interview with Meredith of Like Merchant Ships and expand on what Meredith and I talked about, and I know there were many things I wanted to add! But rather than make you wait, I’ll offer some thoughts now from memory, and later I’ll give you some of the finer points that have escaped me for the moment.

    On balancing work & family
    This is the hardest part of my life, and I’m actually quite lucky in that I have a well-paying job that still gives me a pretty decent quality of life. In fact, I probably have the best quality of life of any attorney I know, although I’ve limited my opportunities for career advancement in exchange. I do think it’s important to not try to have it all. Five years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to imagine that I wouldn’t care that much about my career. The turning point for me came when I had two miscarriages and put having a child ahead of work. I realized that I didn’t miss the importance of work and have been happy about my priorities ever since.

    On grocery shopping & budgeting
    I mentioned in the interview that I shop off a list at the market but that I could save more money if I considered what I have on hand before making my weekly menu. Part of the reason I shop the way I do is that we are frugal but money isn’t particularly tight, i.e., I don’t have to watch every penny. If I did, I would plan out my shopping in much greater detail. Instead, I budget primarily to meet a savings goal. However, I did learn in January that I can probably increase my monthly savings amount by controlling my impulse spending.

    On being a part of an online community
    We only briefly touched on the subject of the support we get from our online friends, but I think it’s safe to say that both Meredith and I really enjoy being a part of an online community. Personally, I can’t say enough about how much I’ve learned from my readers and other bloggers, and how much I enjoy sharing my own knowledge in return. And especially because I blog about money, which is a sensitive topic for most people, I have greatly enjoyed forming online friendships with people who share similar values. I think it’s one of the very best things about blogging!

    Tip for Adjusting to Your Child’s Enrollment in Day Care

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    My best tip, hands down, for making your own adjustment to your child’s enrollment in day care easier is this: Become friendly with the other parents. Exchange emails, report back on each other’s kids, and discuss any concerns that come up. I’m lucky enough to work with the parents of many of the kids who go to the same daycare, and it’s a huge help. For the first two weeks, every time I saw Tyler at daycare, he was crying when I got there and crying when I left. However, one mother who drops her kids off later in the morning than I do mentioned that Tyler seems so happy every time she sees him, which made me feel loads better. I didn’t think he cried the whole time he was there (which my friend’s daughter did when she first started), but I also know his caregivers have a tendency to understate the crying. It was such an enormous relief to hear from someone else that he was actually having a good time that I nearly cried.

    How to Survive Going Back to Work (Again)

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    I’ve been back at work for about a month now, and things are going okay. I can’t really remember the nuts and bolts of going back to work after my maternity leave with Alex. I remember how I felt, but I don’t remember what I did. I felt sad, depressed, lost, frustrated, overwhelmed. The typical emotions of a mother going back to work, even though it’s (mostly) by choice rather than necessity. In retrospect, I think a big part of it was anxiety over not knowing what to expect.

    This time, I haven’t been very emotional about it and I think it’s because I had a much better idea of what things would be like. I know how the kids’ daycare works, I trust the teachers there, and I know Tyler will be fine. Which isn’t to say that there haven’t been some emotional times.

    The hardest thing about going back to work has been time management. Well, actually, the hardest thing has been not forgetting anything when I walk out the door in the morning. The second hardest thing has been managing my time so that I am taking of everyone, including myself, the way that I’d like. In fact, I posted previously about how I’m now cooking less so that I have more ME time, which means I’m a happier wife and mother to be around.

    I keep thinking that I need a checklist to consult before I step out the door in the morning, but I haven’t gotten around to making one. What I have started doing is getting as much as possible ready the night before work. If I am making dinner, it’s usually in the slow cooker, and I load up the removable crock at night so that all I have to do in the morning is pop the crock into the cooker and turn the power on to low. I get breakfast ready. I pack up the non-perishable items that we’ll taking with us in the morning – things like work documents, blankets and extra clothes for the boys, and my breastpump. I put all perishables in the same place in the fridge so that I’m less likely to forget something. I also decide what I’m going to wear the next day.

    This routine has worked pretty well for a couple of weeks now. The funny thing is, some of the things I’m now doing at night are things that I thought I couldn’t do ahead of time. For example, I usually pack some fruit and yogurt parfaits for Marc and I to take to work, and a bowl of fruit for Alex. Preparing the fruit was the most time-consuming part of my morning routine, but the fruit wouldn’t keep too well if I cut it up at night. Finally, it occurred to me to take a large baking sheet covered with a towel, and place the washed fruit on it – that at least would reduce the amount of prep time since I wouldn’t have to wash the fruit. I started by leaving the fruit on the counter overnight, but the strawberries didn’t seem to like it that much, so I cleared most of the bottom shelf in the fridge and leave the tray there overnight. I also discovered that the part of the strawberries in contact with the towel got mushy so I put a cooling rack between the baking sheet and the towel.

    What I’ve learned is that I can make going back to work easier for myself by being adaptable. I take a hard look at the things that are stressing me out and ask how I can make things better. Being kind to myself in this way makes the transition to working full-time again easier because I am able to focus on the positive aspects of being back at work instead of the stress that it’s causing.

    Staying Home with the Kids

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    Every one of my friends who has become a parent has either decided to stay home with the kids or at least thought about whether they could afford to do so. Here’s an article that considers three ways of staying home: (1) quit work completely, (2) work part-time, or (3) free-lance from home. If you’re thinking about staying at home, I highly recommend Miserly Moms, a fantastic book that I’ve previously mentioned. The author, Jonni McCoy, discusses how you might not be making as much as you think you are (thereby reducing the impact of the loss of your income), as well as ways to reduce your spending.

    Going Back To Work As A Nursing Mom

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    I mentioned earlier this week that I’ll be going back to work next month, and I’ve been getting ready for all the pumping that I’ll be doing when that happens. I’ve taken my own advice and purchased extra pumping equipment – shields, valves, connectors, etc. – as well as a hands-free pumping bra from my lactation consultant, Ellen Steinberg. The company that makes these bras also has a handy back-to-work checklist (I hadn’t thought to leave an extra nursing bra and clean shirt at work, although when I read the tip, I thought, “Doh!”).