Tips for Juggling Work and Home (It Really Can Be Done)

On the day I gave birth to my son, who is now 7 years old, a critical ruling came down in one of my cases, granting our client a hard-fought win in defeating a summary judgment motion. I read the decision on my phone while my son was in the nursery, processed the decision, sent a couple of emails about it, and then put my phone away when it was time to be with my son again.

While this was an extreme example of juggling motherhood and work, like most working mothers, I have always been comfortable navigating these two separate spheres. Of course, prior to the pandemic, I had a physical dividing line between home and office; my kids attended school in person and I was fortunate to have good childcare. However, during the pandemic, my children shifted among no school, remote learning, and in-person school. I worked from home and faced regular interruptions.

Once I was on a conference call and forgot to hit the mute button when I was loudly breaking up a fight between my otherwise normally well-behaved kids. Although these challenges are not new to many women lawyers, I needed new tools to manage the disruption caused by the pandemic. I recognize my tips may not address the challenges experienced by many other working mothers, as there is no one-size-fits-all. However, I hope these tips will help you in some way, as they’ve helped me navigate a difficult year:

First, manage others’ expectations, while adjusting your own. As attorneys, our goal is always to push our cases or deals forward as effectively as possible. At the same time, we need to be realistic about what we can accomplish each day with our families, while continuing to push as hard as we can for our clients.

Second, learn to delegate and ask for help. Some working mothers think they have to do it all by themselves and that asking for help is a sign of weakness. However, I’ve found that working collaboratively with my colleagues not only relieves some of my stress, but also often leads to better outcomes for my clients. The same is true in our personal lives.

Third, let go of perfection. It doesn’t exist and you cannot achieve it. Instead, do your best and accept that you may occasionally disappoint some people.

I believe that when we come out of the pandemic that most of us will have become better at juggling our work and home lives.