Moms Make it Work: Sara from Missouri

Today we have Sara posting for the Moms Make it Work series. I was excited when Sara agreed to write about her take on working full time as a lawyer (in St. Louis!! as a SLU grad!!) because she always puts so much thought into her posts. This one did not disappoint and the beautiful pictures of Baby Mac sure don't hurt, either. I've watched as Sara has grown her blog into one with a large following, and rightfully so. We've exchanged emails about pregnancy loss, finding the strength to blog about the loss and loads of emotions that come with it, and then finding the courage to remain sane during a pregnancy after a loss. I wanted to squeal (and maybe I did) when she emailed that she is pregnant with #2. I have no doubt that her balance of working outside the home while mothering two little kids will be an adventure but one she can handle with grace and thoughtfulness. Enjoy!


Hello everyone!  I’m Sara and I blog over at Running From the Law.  I’m a full-time lawyer and mama from St. Louis with a 22 month old toddler (Mac) and a baby girl on the way (due in July).  You can also find me on Instagram and Twitter.  I’m completely honored to be here on one of my absolute favorite blogs, talking about how it works in our family.  I’m so grateful that Julia put this series together because it is such an interesting topic and I’ve loved reading about how other mamas are doing it all and making it work for their families.  I am by no means a pro at this whole work/life balance thing (and we’re obviously in for a big change in July when we add #2 to the mix), but right now we’re in such a good place and I’m excited to be able to share our story with you.  (And since I know Julia’s grandma is reading, I’ll try really hard to keep my foul-mouth in check.)

-- What is your background story? What was your career/schooling before you became a mom? And now where are you?

I grew up in a small town in Missouri, the oldest child (and only girl), with three younger brothers.  I majored in English at the University of Missouri (go Tigers!) and then went to law school at Saint Louis University, where I met my husband, Ryan.  Practicing law wasn’t something I’d ever really imagined myself doing while growing up and going to law school was never really part of my grand plan, but after college I was at a loss for what to do and law school seemed like a great opportunity that would open doors in and out of the legal field.  I actually loved law school (yes, I’m a nerd) and found a lot of the classes and topics really interesting, all the while knowing that I didn’t want to be a typical “courtroom lawyer,” but not knowing what I wanted to do with this degree.     

After law school I was offered a boatload of money to become an associate at a large corporate law firm in St. Louis in their mergers and acquisitions practice.  I knew it would be long, hard, miserable hours, but it was an opportunity (and a paycheck) I couldn’t pass up.  My then-boyfriend-now-husband took a similar job at another large firm and we spent the next couple years being typical big law corporate associates – way overpaid, but slaves to our Blackberries and at the beck and call of the partners we worked for.  M&A turned out to be much more than I was ready for.  Deals were one after another and the hours were killer.  I tolerated big firm life for about two years and then the late nights, weekends and other demands started taking their toll on me.  (I think Kate called it abysmal in her post.)  I didn’t love the job the way so many of the other lawyers there did and I could tell that you’d really have to love what you were doing to make the type of commitment and sacrifices that it took to succeed in big law. 

I also knew I wanted a family and that this job wouldn’t allow me to be the type of mother I wanted to be.  The women partners in my firm were brilliant and amazing, but they also made serious sacrifices in their family time and social life and missed out on lots of major moments I couldn’t imagine being ok with.  Being a woman partner in a big law firm is an uphill battle, made much harder if you have family pulling you away from the office and billable hours.  The more time I spent with these moms the more I realized they felt like they were failing at both being a good mother and a good lawyer.  Like the concepts were mutually exclusive and you could really only be one or the other.  If they missed out on family time, they felt like they were failing their kids.  If they missed work deadlines, they were failing in their career (and there was always someone else, younger and with fewer family commitments, willing to put in the hours and do the work if they couldn’t).  It’s cutthroat and they demand a lot from you.  I remember going to a baby shower for a coworker and listening to all the mothers in the room tell battle stories about taking conference calls from the delivery room, working on a purchase agreement through contractions and coming back to work three weeks into maternity leave to close a deal.  They missed soccer games, ballet recitals and birthday parties because of demanding clients and travel schedules.  They weren’t necessarily bragging about it, but they weren’t making apologies either.  I knew that day that I had to find a new job. 

It took a while, but I found a position in-house at a large public company that was a firm client, which I believed would allow me to have a more balanced work/life situation.  It was a growing company and the position would be newly created for me to handle securities filings, corporate governance and investor relations.  It was not exactly the type of work I’d been doing at the firm, but I thought that was a good thing (like I said, I didn’t love what I was previously doing anyway).  I started the new job in December 2008 and Ryan and I got married the following summer.  Over the next three years, while we were trying to start a family (you can read all about my struggles with infertility over on my blog), something happened at work which surprised me…I really started to like my job!

I found the work I was doing in my new position interesting.  I liked working for one company (as opposed to multiple clients) and enjoyed being able to follow-through on projects.  I was challenged, but working reasonable scheduled hours (no more billable hours).  But the biggest reason the new job was such a success was that I really liked my boss.  He was a great mentor, easily accessible and quick to give praise for a job well done.  He was also a later-in-life dad with two young boys and put a strong emphasis on family values.  He lead by example; bringing the boys into work occasionally, being the parent to pick them up/drop off at school and staying home with them when they were sick.  He was fine with me working from home, if the situation required it and was flexible, so long as the job was done and done well.  Within two years, my boss was promoted to General Counsel and has continued to be an example and role model for our whole department.  Within a very short amount of time at the company, I knew that this position would comfortably allow me to have both a family and a career, if I wanted it – a rarity in the legal world.

When we finally found out we were expecting, my husband and I had that much-anticipated conversation about what we were going to do for childcare once the baby arrived.  Our first choice would be whether I would stay home with the baby or go back to work.  Ryan and I have similar jobs and therefore similar salaries; if I left my position our household income would be cut in half.  We could definitely make it on one salary, but with a mortgage, car payments, insurance, bills and my (unbelievably high) student loans, it would require a lot of sacrifice and downsizing.  Not to mention it would be nearly impossible to save money for private schooling, family vacations, college funds and all the other things we were used to and wanted for our children.  I also worried a lot about being so reliant on my husband and his income.  I value my independence so much; it would have been a very scary feeling for me to give that up and been so dependent on someone else.  Financially, leaving my job didn’t seem like the right move for us.  In addition, leaving the work force (and particularly leaving a flexible job that I loved) didn’t seem like the right move for my career, either.  I knew if I left, it would be very difficult to keep up with yearly continuing legal education requirements, bar association memberships and required fees and payments.  Plus, I worried about my credentials and experience being outdated if I took years off and tried to rejoin the legal work force later in life.  Who would ever hire me?  So, back to work it was.

However, I was really torn up about our decision.  I never imagined myself as a stay-at-home-mom, but I had a very difficult time with the thought of someone else raising my child.  We had tried so hard for so many years to get this baby, going back to work just three short months into his life felt like abandonment.  There were so many crazy thoughts running through my head at the time.  I wanted him so badly, how could I not then be there for him?  I knew a few hours in the evening and weekends with my baby were just not going to be enough time with him.  How would he handle being away from his mother all day?  How would I handle being at work while he was growing up and doing things as I was missing it?  How could I possibly be so selfish about wanting a career and to take vacations that it was worth missing out on his life?  I wanted to stay home (or so I thought).  So, Ryan and I made the decision that I would go back to work on a trial basis.  We’d try it out for three months and if things felt ok (meaning the world hadn’t ended), we’d give it another three months and make a final decision then.  If I still wanted to stay home, we’d figure out how to make it work.  That would also give us time to save money and give me a better idea about whether I could handle it.  Hypothetically assessing the situation while hormonal and pregnant was one thing – reality would prove to be another.

In the meantime, we decided that we wanted to hire a nanny to watch the baby during the day.  I have nothing against daycare, but I knew right away that having a nanny was really the only way I would be comfortable going back to work.  I imagined that for Mac, having a nanny would be the closest thing to having his mother there all day and I wanted to make the transition as easy as possible for all of us.  Plus, I needed the extra coddling and attention.  It was much harder on me than on the baby!  The price difference between hiring a nanny to watch Mac in our home and taking him to a highly-reputable day care was really not that significant.

We decided to go through a local agency that places nannies with families that was recommended to us by a few other professional couples with kids.  We filled out an application and went through an interview/meeting with the agency, where they figured out what we wanted and explained to us how the whole process worked.  Nannies come to them for placement and must complete an extensive application process, which includes background checks, reference checks, and any additional training (CPR, etc.) necessary to be considered a candidate.  Once the nanny is approved, they are entered into a pool of candidates that could be chosen for a particular family.

In our interview with the agency (which happened after Mac was born and we had a few weeks to settle into parenthood), we discussed what type of nanny we wanted to hire and what qualities we wanted her to have (young or old, mother or not, teacher or playmate, etc.).  Ryan and I were split on a lot of our answers – he wanted someone experienced and grandmotherly, whereas I wanted someone young and active.  I worried about hiring someone that had kids of her own – not because of the experience, but because I wanted to be Mac’s mother and I wanted to make sure the nanny would do what I asked (regarding what to feed him, how to discipline him, etc.), not just do what she did with her kids.  I wanted a nanny that would be more like a big sister to Mac, a playmate, a friend, so I could remain his mother.  I wanted him to be excited to see her every day because they’d have adventures and do fun activities.  I wanted her to be able to chase him around at the park and make sure he got dirty and plenty of fresh air.  Ryan, on the other hand wanted someone that had been-there-done-that and could make educated decisions based on her own experience, especially since neither of us had any.  We both understood where the other was coming from and decided to interview both types of candidates.

After our interview, the agency selected a few candidates for us from the pool to interview, based on our wants/needs and the experience of the nanny.  Instead of having to sort through a hundred applications, we received less than 10 and we chose three to interview.  The representative from the agency told us during our interview that she was very good at placing the right person with the right family and she said she already knew who we would pick, which turned out to be exactly right.  After our interview with Miss B, we made her an offer on the spot.  She was young, friendly, educated and exactly what I wanted.  Ryan also approved wholeheartedly.

When Mac was three months old, I went back to work.  Miss B started with us a few days earlier, shadowed me and got to know the baby.  She was immediately very good with him, based on years working in a day care and having a zillion nieces and nephews.    She put me at ease with how comfortable she was with Mac and how willing she was to do anything to make me feel better about leaving.  Those first couple weeks back at work were hard; I’m not going to lie.  I cried a lot.  I would go home during my lunch break, go home early, leave the house late – anything to spend more time with the baby.  But eventually, our days got more normal and we fell into a good routine.  As I expected, my boss was very understanding about making sure family time was being honored and allowed me to have a flexible schedule when needed.  A month or two in, I started feeling more normal and actually enjoyed working again.  Our self-imposed three-month trial period came to an end with all of us feeling pretty happy and adjusting well (other than the lack of sleep).  We never visited the issue of me staying home again. 

-- What are the best parts of your situation? What are the biggest challenges?

We are so lucky in that our situation has a lot of “best parts.”  I’m happy to say that I’ve adjusted pretty well to being back full-time.  I enjoy my job and it makes me feel like I’m valuable and contributing both to society and to our family.  I’m proud of how far I’ve come with my career and I want my children to grow up with a strong, educated, working mom.  Plus, having that second income allows us to do so many more things as a family and not be so stressed financially.  We’re able to give him excellent childcare, take vacations, go out to dinner, save for college, update our home and sign Mac up for all kinds of fun classes.  He has a pretty amazing playroom, thanks to my bonus last year.  I once read that the number one reason for marital fighting was money.  I’m not saying we’re rich by any means, but being a two-income family where we both make similar salaries and contribute equally almost all but eliminates any financial bickering we might have done, allowing us to argue about really important things like whose turn it is to change the cat litter (his…always his turn).

One of the best things about our situation is the addition of Miss B to our family.  She’s such a huge part of our lives that we kind of feel like we’ve adopted her as well.  Miss B has gone on vacation with us, attended family weddings and birthday parties and stayed overnight at our house with the dogs. We all adore her, especially Mac.  It warms my heart that he is so affectionate and comfortable with her.  They are the best of buddies.  I think our situation would be different if he wasn’t absolutely thriving and having so much fun every day.  Every week is a new adventure – they go to story time, museums, parks, play dates, picnics, music class, swim lessons, lunch dates and open gym time (she always runs these things by me first and texts when they are leaving and when they get home).  They are so active and adventurous, Mac doesn’t have time to miss me.

As well, having a nanny gives me a lot of perks that most people with children in traditional daycare don’t get.  In the early months when I couldn’t stand to be away from the baby for more than a few hours, Miss B would bring him to me at work so I could see him.  We’d meet up for lunch or for playtime somewhere in between us so I could spend time with him.  Even now, I never go an entire week without spending quality time with him during the day.  On Wednesdays she brings him to me for Kindermusik class, which we attend on my lunch break.  Every day I get texts, photos and videos of him, doing fun things around the house or out playing with the neighbor kids.  She keeps me updated on what he eats, how he naps, whether he pooped, how he feels and what he does each day.  She keeps me so involved that it makes me feel like I’m right there and not missing out on anything.  I also really appreciate the fact that she comes to our house.  We don’t have to get him up and dressed and packed to ship off the school.  Our mornings are much more lazy and filled with Daniel Tiger and pancakes.  If Mac’s sick, he gets extra love and snuggles from Miss B all day.  I don’t have to miss work to stay home with him (although I do a lot) if he isn’t feeling well.  This frees my vacation days up for actual vacation and doing fun things with him.  I try to take at least 1 day a month off work just to spend with him; playing at home, going to my parent’s farm or spending the day at a museum or playdate with him.

Another big perk is how helpful our nanny is around the house.  She cooks for Mac, does his laundry and cleans up after him, but she goes above and beyond and helps all of us out by doing dishes, our laundry, running errands, going grocery shopping, taking care of the dogs and cleaning up around the house.  Sometimes I don’t know if anything would get done without her help.  Of course this is especially wonderful because it allows me and Ryan to actually spend our time off of work with Mac, not doing chores.  When I get home at night, I can be 100% focused on him and get good quality time in with him because I’m not constantly trying to keep up with all the little details of all the stuff that didn’t get done that day.  It’s such a blessing and definitely makes me a better mom. 

Of course, our situation is not without its challenges.  Leaving in the morning (especially on Mondays after having us all to himself all weekend) is really hard on Mac (and me).  Transitions are tough and it kills me to walk out the door when he's upset and wants his mama.  Transitions when I get home are also tough.  He's been with Miss B and had fun all day and sometimes he has a hard time shifting back to me.  I think this will get easier as he gets older...or maybe it'll get worse. I'm not sure.  Also, if Miss B can’t make it to work for any reason, we have to find back-up childcare.  This really hasn’t been a problem for us, since she always gives us advance notice if she needs the day off and Ryan and I can both work from home if necessary.  Plus, Ryan’s parents live in town and have helped us out in crunch-times when we’re sick or need an extra set of hands.  In addition, the nanny agency we used has temporary nannies that they can send over in that type of situation, if necessary.  We’ve never had to take them up on the offer, but it’s there if we need it.

--  Is this how you expected it to be pre-kids?

Like I mentioned, when I was pregnant with Mac, I didn’t think I would ever be able to go back to work.  I thought I’d need to be with him 24/7.  But prior to actually being pregnant, I always imagined myself going back to work.  My mother was a very young stay-at-home mom that had babies instead of a getting college degree or having a career.  After my parents' divorce she had a hard time finding employment and I watched as she struggled to make ends meet and be self-sufficient.  She was incredibly dependent on a partner's income and therefore made a lot of decisions that I didn't agree with.  I grew up with a strong desire to have a degree, a stable career and make my own money.  I think the independence and self-sufficiency that working gives me is necessary for me to really be comfortable and happy.  When I was working at the firm, I couldn’t imagine how I’d ever be able to balance a career and a family.  However, this job has really surprised me, both with how enjoyable it is for me to do and with how flexible it is to have a life outside of work.  It’s not how I expected it to be – it’s better!

-- Is this your ideal situation? If not, what is?

It’s pretty close.  I’m incredibly happy with the way things are right now.  My transition back to work went really smoothly and I’m pleased with the way we currently have things structured.  However, I can’t predict how I’m going to feel this fall when I have to leave another baby and go back to work.  I’m sure it’ll be hard all over again, but hopefully we will have a similar outcome where we all adjust and make it work.  It’s just so hard initially leaving them when they’re small and so helpless.  But I’m hoping to feel as comfortable (if not more) this time around after a couple weeks back. 

In an ideal world, I’d love to be able to work from home (or not work at all) one day a week.  Five days in a row away from my child(ren) is hard.  It’d be much easier if I could be home with the kid(s) one day during the week.  Maybe on Wednesdays, so my away time would only be two days in a row.  But I’m not sure if that’ll ever happen.  I’ve realized that working is really healthy for me and I feel like it actually makes me a better mom.  If that ever changes or I feel like my career is causing problems at home or not living up to expectations, you can bet we’ll reconsider our options and figure out how to make it work for us.  Our kids are the most important thing in life for us and I’m willing to make whatever sacrifices are necessary to make sure they are happy and taken care of.  But for right now, we’re all really happy with the way things are.

-- Do you see yourself making a career change (whatever that means) in the next 5-10 years, or is this current set up staying put for the long haul?

No, I don’t foresee any career changes in the near future.  I mean, it’d be pretty great to be a professional photographer or write a novel, but that ain’t happening.  Not that’s it all about money, but I probably make more as an attorney than I ever would being a writer or photographer.  Surprisingly (to me and most attorneys I know), I really like my job.  I like using my degree (that I will be paying off for the rest of my life), I love my boss and I would be very lucky to stay with this great company for the next 5-10 years.

--  Tips on how you make this work for you?

Is this where I ask my nanny how she does it all?  Just kidding.  I think the main way we make it work is to have a strong support system.  Not only does our nanny help out with a lot around the house, I have an amazing husband that does everything.  He’s just as involved in Mac’s life as I am.  He changes poopy diapers regularly, makes dinner when I can’t and does bedtime better than I do.  When one of us is busy at work, the other picks up the slack.  We try to make sure we each have our separate free time to do things with friends or on our own and the other spends Q.T. with the munchkin.  We take turns letting the other sleep in on weekends or sleep through the night.  Despite me giving him a hard time about his fishing trips and happy hours, I feel like we are a great equal parenting team: we both work, we both contribute equally financially, we both parent.  It’s a good situation.  I’m still not sure how everything will play out when we move to man-to-man defense this summer, but we’ll make it work. 

As for advice for other working moms, when I read Allison’s post I found myself nodding emphatically to so much of the advice she gave, so I’m going to echo her thoughts on a few things and add my own spin on a few others.

1.      Find childcare that you trust implicitly.  There is no way that I’d ever be this happy or comfortable returning to work if I didn’t feel like my child was in the best possible hands.  Whether it is daycare, a nanny, a sitter or a family member watching your child, make sure it’s someone you trust and have confidence in.  You are your child’s biggest advocate, so make sure you are looking out for his/her well-being first and foremost.  I’m way less concerned about my kid learning his ABC’s from our nanny than I am about her knowing what to do in an emergency and making sure he’s safe.  It also helps me know he’s safe that she keeps me informed on everything that’s going on with him, where they are and texts me photos and videos throughout the day.
2.      Get help with some things.  There is nothing wrong with asking for (or paying for) help in other areas of your life so you can focus more on your child.  Being a working mom is hard because my time with my child is very limited.  When I am with him, I want to make sure he gets the best of me and all the attention he wants/deserves.  I can’t do this well if I’m constantly trying to do a million other things (especially those that I despise doing) around the house, too.  So, I get help with some things.  This may make me sound completely spoiled, but we have a cleaning lady and a dog groomer that both come to our house and help us out with jobs I’d rather not do (clean the toilets).   I work hard for my paycheck and I make no apologies for getting help with those things so I can spend time with my baby.  I realize it’s a splurge, but to me it’s worth it.  If it’s something that would make your life easier and you can work it in your budget, why not.  Of course there are always a million other chores to do and errands to run, but it helps. 

3.      Save special firsts for just family.  When I first went back to work, I think I was most terrified of missing out on all those big first milestones with Mac: first trip to the zoo, first time in a pool, first slide at the park, first time going out for ice cream, first time painting, etc.  I wanted Mac to get out of the house and experience things, but I wanted him to do them with us first.  So, we made a deal with our nanny that she would let us experience all of Mac’s first trips/events before she took him.  That way we got to take him to the zoo first, and then after that, they could go anytime they wanted.  Same with The Magic House, our local park, the pool and some of the other fun kid-friendly places.  Maybe it’s silly, but it meant a lot to me that we experienced those firsts together as a family and made me feel like we weren’t missing out on those things.  (I’m way less crazy about this now that he’s almost two, but I think I’ll probably be the same way with the new baby and we’ll want to do all the first again with her as a family.)

4.      Take off work if you need to.  I love that Allison said this too and I whole-heartedly agree.  Some days are really hard for me to leave my baby.  Some days I miss him so much I don’t know if I can spend another minute at work.  Some days he’s sick and I want to be the one to cuddle with him all day.  Some days I just want to take him to the park myself.  That’s what vacation days are all about.  I’m a happier mom and employee if I can take a day every now and then in the middle of the week to spend time with my kid.  I’m lucky in that I can work from home if necessary and am reachable on my phone if a client (or my boss) has a question, but for the most part, on my days off, I put my phone away and spend time with my little dude.

5.    Surround yourself with other working moms.  I know women can be really hard on each other sometimes, but there’s nothing like mama camaraderie to get you through the tough times.  I’m lucky in that I have a lot of girlfriends from law school balancing young children and demanding professional careers, who fully understand where I’m coming from and what my struggles are.  They are a wonderful resource for advice, tips, recommendations, horror stories or to just offer a supportive “I totally understand” response to my bitching and whining.  I even have mom-friends from the law firm that are (in my opinion) doing an awesome job at being supermoms and kick-ass attorneys, proving to me that maybe it actually can be done.  And being a lawyer-mama doesn’t make me unique; I have the same working mom woes as anyone else.  Surrounding myself with other working moms is incredibly helpful because we’re all faced with the same challenges with our kids, restrictions on our time and pressure from our jobs.  There’s never enough time, never enough sleep, never enough coffee and never have you been happier.

6.   Make the most of your weekends.  Since weekends are our fun family time together, we try to do as much as we can on Saturday and Sunday.  Sometimes after a hard week we just want to spend the weekend at home in our PJs, but most of the time we try to get out and enjoy doing things as a family.  We go to the zoo or a park, schedule a playdate or dinner with other friends that have kids, go out to dinner/lunch, spend time over at Mac's grandparents' house, take walks, go fishing, etc.  Sometimes we'll do fun weekend getaway to my parent's farm, down to our friends' bison ranch or maybe up to Chicago to visit Ryan's brother.  A few times  when Ryan's out of town, I've taken Mac on trips by myself to visit friends out of town.  Traveling alone with a baby/toddler is tough, but always worth it to have those amazing memories.  We've spent amazing weekends in Naples, Florida and Dallas, Texas, just the two of us.  I cherish that one-on-one time I get to spend with him so much.

-- How do you handle mommy guilt that comes with each role?

Poorly.  I’m probably the last person you want to talk to about mommy guilt.  Honestly, I’m still struggling with it quite a bit.   I am so hard on myself and I know it’s something I need to work on.  Even though we have a great situation and have created a wonderfully happy home, I still struggle with the guilt of not being there for my child 24/7.  I’m insanely jealous of stay-at-home-moms, even though my child is thriving and I know that’s probably not the right role for me or our family.  Sometimes I even feel guilty that I don’t want to be a SAHM.  Also, since I’ve had Mac, I have an incredibly hard time doing anything for myself or by myself during my time away from work because I have such limited time with him.  For months, I felt like if I wasn’t at work, I had to be with him.  Even a quick trip to the store left me feeling awful and guilty.  Over the last two years, I’ve gotten better at making some time for myself and realizing how important it is for me to have a life outside of work and family.  It’s also good for Mac to have bonding experiences and quality time with his dad (or grandparents) while I’m away.  It’s healthy for all of us, yet I still struggle with it.  I just want to be the best mom I can possibly be and it’s hard to convince myself that I can do that by getting a massage or having dinner with friends, as opposed to being with him.  As he gets older and more independent, I feel less guilt, but I’m worried we’re going to start all over again when the new baby arrives this summer.  Wish me luck.

-- Advice for new moms struggling with returning to work outside of the home? Or struggling to decide if staying home is the right choice? Both can be so hard and overwhelming for new moms…

Making the decision whether to stay at home or go back to work is monumental.  I can’t think of another decision since having children that has more impact on our day to day lives.  It’s so personal and completely up to each family to make that decision for themselves.  I will say first off that if your family can afford it and that’s something you think you want to do, being a SAHM is probably one of the greatest gifts you can give your child.  Your love, your time and attention are really all a kid needs to be happy.  I don’t think I’ve ever met a single person that regrets spending more time with their kids instead of working.  Work (maybe not the exact same job, but something) will always be there later, once the kids are grown.  As they say, babies don’t keep. 

That being said, if staying home is not in the cards for you (either for personal or financial reasons), then try to make the transition back to the office as easy as possible for both you and the kids.  Maternity leave is this strange time in your life when your world has been turned upside down and you live, breathe, eat and sleep baby for months on end.  Regardless of whether or not you want to, you become a different person when you become a mom.  Returning to work is a shock.  You’re expected to be your old self again, but that will never be possible.  Give yourself a grace period to ease back into things (weeks/months, not days) and eventually you’ll start to remember that person you were.  For me, the thought and anticipation of returning to work was much harder and stressful than actually going back.  Like I said earlier, make sure you have childcare you trust implicitly so while you’re away you don’t spend the entire time freaked out and worried.  And don’t be too hard on yourself for working.  Children of working moms grow up with wonderful, strong, self-sufficient female role models.  Some of the happiest mothers I know (with the most wonderful children) are full-time working moms and proud of it. 

Whatever path you choose, just know that nothing's permanent.  Situations, circumstances, people and jobs change over time.  If later down the road you feel like your current arrangement isn't working for you, then make a change.  You're not locked into anything forever (well, other than being a mom...that's forever, thank goodness).

*    *   *   *   *   *

I just want to thank Julia again for letting me share my story today (and thank YOU if you read all the way to the end of this ridiculously long post!).  I want to give a big hug to all the moms out there, whether working for a company, working for themselves or working for their children.  Whatever our situation, we’re “making it work.”  All moms are superheroes in my book.
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  1. Sara, what a GREAT post. I had (and still have) so many of those same thoughts about being a working mom. You captured the struggle just perfectly. I'm so glad you have such a great care system worked out for Mac! While I work at a VERY family friendly mid-size firm, your in-house gig sounds AMAZING. I hope the right in-house position presents itself to me one day. I long to leave billable hours behind and to get those wonderful little things called vacation days. One day! Thanks for sharing this great post Sara & Julia!

  2. Love all of Sara's posts and that sweet baby Mac! :) I just need to know where to find a Miss B?!

  3. Such a great post!! Love Sara and so glad she chose to share it. So many great lessons to learn and relate to.

  4. Love sara! her blog! Mac and her perspective!

  5. This was my favorite post by far Sara! Thanks for sharing! I felt exactly like you - before having kids I couldn't imagine not working, the second I had my first, I wanted to stay home. I didn't have the choice because I'm the primary breadwinner in our house and we couldn't live like we were used to without my salary. It took awhile to transition back to semi-wanting to be at work (some days I still struggle), but I made it and I truly believe my kids do well at home even when I'm not there. I really enjoyed your thoughts - and your pictures, maybe that photography career isn't such a pipe dream ;) Thanks for sharing!!

  6. Such a great post! I love that you shared all the decision making about going back to work and hiring a nanny. I don't think you should feel guilty or spoiled for having a cleaner or dog groomer! It's all about choices and what works for you. THanks for sharing all this! Have to check out the rest of the series!

  7. Thanks so much for letting me share my story, Julia! This is such a wonderful series and I'm honored to be a part of it. And now I want to know what your grandma thinks. :)

  8. Love this post and love you Sara! I'm a SAHM, but if I were to work, I'd like to think I'd swing things just like you do. :) What a great read!

  9. As always, soooo good! Love Sara so much!

  10. Love this post! I'm a lawyer too, and I don't have any babies (yet) but I'm kind of already terrified of leaving them. Your situation sounds ideal for your family - what a blessing!

  11. Whew, what a post! Really enjoyed it. Love being a working mom but could not work such a high-stress job like the one you described at your old firm. I kind of freak out if I have to work a moment over 40 hours one week ... can't quite imagine being away from my family any more than that! But at the same time, I don't long to stay home and feel very confident my decision is a good one, for many of the reasons you describe!

    I understand the feeling of guilt being away from your kids anytime other than when you're at work since your time is so limited, but it does get easier as they get older and more independent. As long as they're happy and you know their needs are being met, it's important to do things for you, too - and it's important for them to see you doing those things!

    So agree with making the most of your weekends, taking random days off, and surrounding yourself with other working moms. All great advice!

    We just hired a nanny and she starts this week ... hoping the experience will be as great as yours has been, and that she'll make our life a bit easier!

    Thanks for sharing and good luck with the transition to two!!

  12. Loved reading this post. I'm a SAHM now, but am thinking about going back to work part time. I love that your nanny situation has worked out so well. I can only imagine that makes everything so much easier.

  13. Sarah I loved this post and getting to see a little bit into your life. I can't imagine how hard it was for you when you first had to go back to work. But I'm glad you have a great nanny to put you at ease and take care of Mac. I worked as a nanny through college and a little bit after and I absolutely LOVED my kids. I still have a strong bond with them today and take vacations to go and see them!

  14. Loved learning more about your background and about your nanny. I nannied in the summers before my fresh and soph year of college for the same family and it was the best job I ever had (aside being a SAHM now), it's actually how I knew I would want to be a SAHM and not return if it was something we could swing. Nannies really are part of the family, it's so great you have a wonderful relationship with yours. You are most likely leaving just as big a imprint on her heart as she is on yours or Mac's.

  15. Such a great post, Sara! One of my favorites in the series. I'm so glad you've found such a great fit for your family career-wise. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't jealous of my fellow-lady-lawyers who are rocking both a full time job and motherhood! Well done!

  16. Amazing post, Sara! As a big law associate on maternity leave struggling with whether or not I want to return after my leave is over, you've given me a lot to think about. Thank you for sharing your experience!


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