4

Balancing Act

During my first couple of years in the profession, and especially when I was pregnant with Baby Beez, I spent a lot of time worrying about work/life balance.  I was worried over how I could achieve it, whether I could achieve it, and what would happen if I couldn’t.  Most of my law friends are just starting to have kids, and since I’ve managed to keep a child alive and healthy for nearly two years, all while not getting myself fired, I have been asked a few times over the last few months “HOW do you do it?”….  As though I know what I am doing.  Poor souls, asking me for advice…

Here are my words of “wisdom” for soon-to-be or working moms and dads:

1. Stop worrying about work/life balance.  You don’t even have to actively put it out of your mind.  With a small screaming person wrecking havoc, you quickly get too tired to have that worry anymore.  Balance doesn’t exist, and you’ll get over it. All you can do is do the best you can.

2. This is my secret for getting through the day:  Get up, figure out what I have to do for the day, scramble around like a crazy person trying to get as much of it done as possible, crash in bed.  One day at a time baby, one day at a time.

3.  As kids get bigger, they totally get easier.  When Baby Beez was under six months old, it was all I could do to make it through the workday and take care of her.  The idea of packing a lunch was completely overwhelming and impossible.  Forget dinner, we did a lot of take out, because the stress of cooking for myself was too tiring and overwhelming.  As the kid gets bigger, she entertains herself more, and she’s much more independent.  You gradually regain the ability to function as an adult.  Really, you do. I promise.

4. Don’t feel bad about sending your kid to daycare.  I was so worried that I’d feel guilty.  Now, the idea of guilt just seems ridiculous.  Baby Beez is spending her day with trained professionals who keep her happy and engaged ALL DAY.  She is making friends! She is making messes that I don’t have to clean up! And I don’t feel bad plopping down on the couch with her to watch Elmo in Grouchland in the evening, because I know she’s spent all day long playing and learning.  Daycare is awesome, embrace it!

5.  Keep being yourself.  Hang out with your friends.  Do the grown up things you like to do.  Quality time with your little one is invaluable, but so is quality time with friends and grown-ups.

Have you let go of the idea of “balance”?

4

Happy Admin. Professionals/Secretaries Day. Time for cake in the office kitchen?

Is the term Secretaries Day outmoded and insulting? I’m not sure, but I still use it. Mostly because my secretary is a secretary, and it would be weird to call her an “Administrative Professional” because it seems like that is a different thing. 

One thing I learned QUICKLY as a young lawyer is that a great secretary is worth their weight in gold (platinum even!) Yes, a great secretary is extremely helpful for a seasoned attorney, but for a young lawyer who doesn’t know how to do their job yet, a great secretary will help you learn how to do your job, and will save your backside.  I don’t understand when people are disrespectful to secretaries. That is a BAD IDEA. Without a secretary, I would have to keep all my papers organized on my own, and that would be a quick trip to failure.

I’ve worked with fantastic secretaries, and secretaries that were not so fantastic.  I admit, as much as I want to be likeable, I’ve worked with secretaries who hate me.  I do my best to not be a jerk, though.

Principles to Live By So Your Secretary Doesn’t Hate You (and Maybe Even Likes You a Little):

(I tried to avoid using pronouns, but he/she looked weird, and subbing in “your secretary” was very upstairs/downstairs…so I fell back on “she,” but it still feels sexist.)

1. Say “Please” and “Thank You” and explicitly acknowledge a job well done.

2. Do not yell. Even if she has messed something up.  Everyone messes things up sometimes, YOU DO TOO. Yelling doesn’t fix anything.

3. Don’t save things for the afternoon.  Get assignments to her in the morning if possible, if sending something over at the end of the day is unavoidable, give a heads up as soon as is practicable.  If you have to ask her to stay late, give as much of a heads up as you possibly can.  Don’t let your delay become her emergency.

4. Remember presents on Christmas/Hanukkah/Year End and Secretaries day.

5. Be as clear with deadlines as possible. If you need something in an hour, say you need it in an hour. If you don’t need something until tomorrow, say that you don’t need it until tomorrow.  Without that information, it is impossible to prioritize.