From a Working-Mom & Litigator: We can do this!

I’m Veronica. I am the Chair of the Litigation Department at Trembly Law Firm. I’ve been a litigator since 2012. I am a mother to a energetic and rambunctious 3 year old boy named Leon. My husband works as a producer of a morning radio show that starts at 6am. I am tired. I was tired before the coronavirus pandemic. And after 4 full days of working from home while taking care of my son, I am even more tired. My husband has not been able to work from home. We don’t have family that lives nearby. We don’t have a nanny and daycare is closed. Like many families, I have to “home school” and work a full day. I have to use my brain. We live in a small two bedroom condo in Brickell. My “home office” is the kitchen bar. My living room is a disaster. Toys are everywhere. I’ve watched Frozen II at least 10 times. We are in survival mode. And that’s OKAY!

Now I don’t tell you any of this for sympathy. Believe me, I know how lucky I am. But I tell you this because there are many working parents in my shoes. I am telling you this to give you hope. To motivate you. YOU CAN DO THIS. Not only can you do this, but you can be productive. You can meet your billable hours.

Now, as a working mom – like most working moms – I’ve been able to figure out how to work from home when needed like the days my son is home sick from daycare. I even brought my son to work with me after maternity leave for 5 months. But this is a whole new animal. I’m not a super mom. I don’t have super powers. I am simply a hard worker. It’s not easy but YOU CAN DO THIS.

Here are some things that have helped me through this first week:

Be flexible with your routine.

Try to maintain your routine as much as possible. Wake up at the same time. But allow yourself to sleep in if you’re exhausted. Let your kids sleep in – they probably need it. Eat a healthy breakfast. Get dressed. Now you don’t have to get dressed for the office but change out of those pajamas! Maintain your routine. Everyday I do a “To Do” list for the day first thing when I get into the office. Then I check all of my unread emails. I respond to those that won’t take too much time or don’t need a thorough review or response. Then I work on the “To Do” list for the rest of the day. Of course there are interruptions. Of course I don’t complete the list each day. But I prioritize what needs to be done. I still do that routine at home. Make sure to comply with deadlines. RESPOND TO CLIENTS – they need you now more than ever. Take lunch at the same time or at least for the same amount of time you normally would. And when you take lunch, tell your team you’re taking lunch so that you are not disturbed. Disconnect. Stop working when you would normally leave the office. Working from home does not mean working 24/7. Go to sleep at the same time you normally would. Take the weekend off.

But be flexible. Know that some days you’re going to wake up early or stay up late to get work done that you couldn’t during the day or to comply with a deadline – after all you’re also taking care of your kids during the day too! And tweak your routine to fit that of your child’s. They need routine more than you do. If you’re not sure what your child daily routine is while they are at school, ask their teacher. Like I said my son is three so his daily routine is significantly different from a school aged child.

Be honest.

Don’t pretend like things are “business as usual.” They are not. Your team likely knows your family situation but your clients and opposing counsel might not. When talking on the phone with a client or opposing counsel or even attending a telephonic hearing, deposition, or mediation, tell them upfront that you’re working from home and that your child is also home. Tell them how old your child is. If you have a toddler they will expect noise. If you have a teenager there should be no noise. If someone else is home, have them watch your child during the call. If you’re alone, do your best. Apologize for the background noise if there will be any. They will understand. We are all in the same boat. And if they don’t understand or make a rude comment, well quite honestly, that’s their problem NOT yours. It is not a reflection on you. Remember how people react to you is on THEM.

My son loves having the work phone at home and insists on saying “hi” and “bye” to anyone I talk to. The first time I was mortified. I kept apologizing to my client. But then I realized, it’s okay. I’m working from home and taking care of my child. I warned the client. What else am I supposed to do? I’m doing my best. I didn’t have someone to hand him off to. My husband was at work. Most people think it’s cute and talk to him. You just have to go with the flow. And let any negativity roll off your back. I mean even Jimmy Fallon has his kid all over him and making noise while he’s trying to do his opening monologue from home!

Check in with your team.

BE AVAILABLE. But set boundaries. I brought home my office phone and I have my cell. I’ve been doing zoom meetings with the team and clients – and even friends for virtual happy hours! Respond to your emails. If you can’t be available, let your team know! Utilize your calendar. Circle time for my son’s school is at 11am via zoom everyday. I had my assistant put it in my calendar so people know and so I don’t get booked during that time. So no one calls me during that time. It’s on the calendar! Reach out to your team and check on them. They are going through this too. They likely have kids too. They can relate to the madness.

Be kind to yourself.

Be your own hype-man. Talk to yourself how you would talk to your best friend. You are not perfect and these are not perfect circumstances. If you mess up. It’s ok. If you’re less productive now at home, it’s ok. You will get the hang of this. There is a learning curve. This is hard! This is new! You are doing two full time jobs at once.

Have fun.

Now is the time to be creative! To have fun! Yes we are working. Yes the kids are learning. But we are doing this together. Be silly. Take a break to play with your kids. Do yoga with your kids in the morning (there are plenty child friendly yoga classes on YouTube). Go swimming during lunch. Go for a walk. Let them watch Netflix or Disneyplus more than usual. Do an art project. Play dress up. DANCE! Do puzzles. Make slime. Buy them new toys from amazon (we are loving our new wooden train set). Bake cookies. We are making banana bread because we overcommitted in the banana department.
You’ll find, the less stressed and more relaxed you are the more productive you become. You get less distracted. And your child won’t feel as neglected!

Ask for help.

This is hard. You can’t be everything to everyone all the time. It’s okay to ask for help. Delegate what you can. Request that extension. Say no.

But be specific. Exhaust your options before you ask for help. Don’t just say you need help. Specify what you need and why. Now is not the time to be vague. Miscommunications are common but when working remote they are frequent and often go unnoticed until it’s too late! Make sure you and your team are all on the same page.

Remember most work is a team effort and just because we are not physically together does not mean we cannot work together!

If you are struggling or just need someone to motivate you or hear you vent please reach out to me. My email is veronica@tremblylaw.com.

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