Family Equality Part 3: How to Get More Time for Fun

FAMILY EQUALITY PART 3: HOW TO GET MORE TIME FOR FUN

Lawyer Moms have many demands on their time. That usually means that fun and relaxation are the first things to go. What do you do when everyone else in your family is getting time for leisure except you? You create leisure time equality!

In this episode, we discuss the benefits of doing this and also the “how.” You’ll learn the six steps to creating more time for fun and relaxation – medicine that every Lawyer Mom needs!

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN FROM THIS EPISODE

  • What leisure time equality looks like.
  • What leisure time equality can – and cannot – do for you.
  • The 3 forms of high-quality leisure time that give you more energy.
  • How to get more deliberate rest and deep play, as described in Alex Soojung-Kim Pang’s book, Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less
  • The six steps to creating leisure time equality in your home.
  • The hurdles that Moms face when trying to get more time for themselves.
  • The skill that dissolves those hurdles.

TRANSCRIPT

Welcome to episode 5 of the Happy Lawyer Mom Podcast! The podcast that takes lawyer moms from beyond stressed and barely hanging on, to finally getting what you want at work and at home so that you can be TRULY happy.

I’m your host, Charise Naifeh and I’m thrilled you’re here.

Hi there and welcome to episode 5. This is the third episode in a 5-part series on creating equality at home. In last week’s episode, we talked about establishing equality with regard to caretaking, and in the previous episode we talked about housework equality. Once you establish equality in those two areas, you’ll find that you have more bandwidth to address another area where inequality might be lingering, which is with regard to leisure time.

Why are we talking about this? Because having the time and space to relax, recharge and actually enjoy yourself – is critical to a happy and healthy life. And having something that’s just for you – not as a lawyer, not as a mom, but you as a person, helps keep you grounded and strong, even when there’s a lot going on in your life and work that you can’t control.

Leisure time, when done right, gives you the fuel that you need in your fuel tank to do everything else in your life. It prevents you from becoming depleted.

And yet, in the legal profession, which is so centered on overwork, leisure time is widely undervalued. And when you add motherhood into the mix, finding time for yourself and for fun or relaxation can seem about as viable as going to Mars.

When I became a mom, leisure time was the first thing to go. After I returned to work from maternity leave, every spare minute was going to either my family or my work. Weekends became a series of kid-focused activities like going to the Zoo or museums or birthday parties. And then I’d get to Sunday night, exhausted and wondering how I was going to get through another week all over again.

For me, cutting out leisure time lead directly to depletion. My expenditure of energy was greater than my reserves, and that meant that daily life felt really hard. I was dragging myself through the day. I was still functioning, but not nearly as well as before kids.

Another consequence of this was that I was establishing a dangerous precedent in my family: when Mom is always around, standing ready to take care of what everyone else needs, families begin to expect that to continue.

And what are they NOT learning?

    1. They’re not learning to respect Mom’s free time.
    2. They’re not learning that Mom is her own person with her own interests and goals and pursuits.
    3. And they’re not learning how to operate in Mom’s absence.
    4. And they’re not seeing what self-care looks like, and specifically what it looks like for a mother to take care of herself.

Another consequence is that Moms lose their sense of self in motherhood. They forget who they are and what they like to do.

One year when my kids were little, we took a 10-day whirlwind trip to Spain to see my husband’s family at Christmas, and it was our first international trip with both kids. It was the hardest trip of my life: it felt like an odyssey, where everything went wrong, almost with comedic timing, but it wasn’t funny at the time. And so after we got home from, I was utterly depleted.

And I needed to recharge my batteries. So what did I do? I went to the office for an entire Saturday. It was New Years’ Eve and I was there completely alone, working, just to get a break. That was my only escape. I had cut out all other forms of leisure time, so that when I needed some time for myself, the only place I knew to go was an empty office building in downtown DC, so I could fling myself into the brief I was working on at the time.

And then when I went home, how did I feel? Revitalized? Not really. Because even though I was getting quiet time, I was still expending mental energy. My work wasn’t really restorative.

Here’s what my leisure time looks like now:

Every day, at a minimum, I spend 20-30 minutes on something that’s just for me: It can be exercise, it can be playing the piano, it can be a hot bath. But it’s like a vitamin that I take every day.

And my weekends look totally different as well: Now, everyone in the home gets to do something that they enjoy. I spend time every Saturday and Sunday working on whatever creative projects I’ve got going on. And when the weather cooperates, I also go out on my bike. The kids get to choose a fun activity every Saturday and Sunday as well, like a playdate, or swim lessons, or going to a park. And my husband gets time for what he wants to do.

So we’re all getting time to do what we want. We do have family time where we play games and do puzzles with the kids, but the kids are also expected to entertain themselves in unstructured play time. So weekends are much more restorative now.

And then at least once a year, my husband and I get away and the kids have a blast with their grandparents – so we all get a break.

And about twice a year, I get away for retreats and time for myself, and my husband does the same thing. These are working vacations: but in the age of working remotely, you can work from anywhere: and when you’re a parent, getting time to yourself in the mornings and evenings provides a much-needed break.

So that’s what leisure time equality looks like.

Contrast that with what’s usually happening in the unhappy lawyer mom household, which is very often that the only human not getting leisure time is the mom. Or if she does get leisure time, it’s so infrequent that it doesn’t really make an impact on her health and happiness.

Even family vacations, which are supposed to be relaxing for everyone, are often not relaxing for moms: they can create a lot of extra work and it’s not uncommon to end up feeling more drained than before.

So today we’re going to talk about how to change that and to create leisure time equality so that everyone in the home is getting leisure time, and everyone is viewing leisure time as the necessity that it is. Just like everyone in the family gets to eat, everyone in the family gets leisure time.

And to do that, today we’re going to discuss 3 things:

  • First, we’re going to talk about the benefits that you can expect from leisure time equality – but also what you can’t expect from it, because leisure time is often expected to solve problems that it cannot actually solve. So I want to be clear at the outset about what you can reasonably expect from leisure time equality.
  • Second, we’re going to talk about the steps to creating leisure time equality in your family, so that you can enjoy its many benefits
  • And third, we’re going to talk about some of the common obstacles that come for moms when they try to take those steps, and what dissolves those obstacles.

Ok, so let’s start with what you can expect once you create leisure time equality.

If you are getting a decent amount of sleep each night, you can expect that adding in leisure time to your day and your week will bring you a vitality that you might not have felt in years. This seeps into every part of your life. If you think of energy like a bank account, high quality leisure time gives you ample deposits of energy, so that you come away from that time with a positive energy balance.

But here’s what leisure time equality cannot do:

  • First of all, it can’t make up for chronic sleep deprivation: if you’re not getting a decent amount of sleep, then leisure time probably isn’t going to have the same effect.
    • When given the choice between leisure time and sleep, sleep is probably your best bet.
  • Second, it can’t cure other forms of inequality happening in the home: many moms will take time for themselves, but the benefits of doing that will quickly fade if they’re returning home to a heavy burden of housework inequality or childcare inequality, or some other form of inequality.
    • So leisure time equality on its own is not a substitute for solving other inequality issues.
  • Third, it can’t solve a miserable, unsustainable work situation.
    • If you’re working long hours on a regular basis, or if you’re supposed to be working part-time but you’re actually working full-time, leisure time can’t fix that.
      • If you truly have no hours in the day for leisure, then the next step is to change your work situation, so that that you do. We’ll be talking about that in later episodes.
    • If you’re dealing with a toxic work environment or you have a role mismatch and you’re miserable at work, leisure time equality is not going to cure that problem.
    • Leisure time is often prescribed as the remedy for overwhelm for working moms, and although it can be a potent painkiller, it’s not a standalone cure.

When I was drowning and seeking help, I was often told to add in bubble baths. And although that can definitely help to soothe the nervous system, it didn’t help me actually solve the underlying problems that were causing my stress in the first place. It wasn’t a true substitute for that.

But what can help is adding leisure time into your life while you are concurrently building your skills and solving the larger problems. When you use leisure time to fuel you in the process of solving these problems, you end up in a much happier place, where you love your work situation, your role, your family life. And that’s when you really move the needle on your level of happiness.

Ok, so now that we’re clear on what leisure time equality can and cannot do, we’re going to talk about the steps to creating leisure time equality in your family.

There are 6 steps to doing that.

Step 1 is to cut out the excess that’s getting in the way of leisure time equality.

And that can mean 2 things:

First, it means that you cut out or cut down on all forms of “low-quality” leisure time: these are the things that fill up our free time that do not actually give us any benefit:

Low quality leisure time is a lot like junk food: it fills you up, but it’s not really helping you.

Scrolling on our phones is probably the most common form of low-quality leisure: it fills up so much of our time, without us even realizing it.

The problem is, that statistically speaking, the more time we spend scrolling, the worse we feel.

The same thing goes for any kind of activity that you find yourself doing out of habit that’s either not restoring your energy, or is leaving you more drained than you started.

And the second is cutting out the excess activities that are taking up time and preventing leisure time equality in your household.

So if the weekends are consumed by the kids’ activities, then something has to go:

You can let the kids pick their favorites, and then create a little more white space in your weekends by cutting out the excess.

If you have a lot of weekend activities that you do out of obligation, even though you find them draining, cut those out as well, or if you can’t cut them out completely, cut down on them.

This step allows you get greater enjoyment and benefit of your existing free time and it creates more space for leisure time equality to exist. Ok, so that’s step 1.

  1. Step 2 is to Consciously choose high-quality leisure time:

This means activities that actually restore your energy and trigger the release of feel-good hormones and neurotransmitters, which help us to feel better and gives us the rocket fuel we need to get through our week.

There are lots of different ways to get high quality leisure time, but here are 3 categories that I’ve found to be particularly effective:

  1. Deliberate rest
  2. Deep play, and
  3. Connection with others.

What do these mean?

Deliberate rest is a concept that’s discussed in the book Rest, by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang. I’ll put a link to that book in the show notes. Deliberate rest is an active and intentional form of rest that’s both physically and mentally restorative. Things like meditation, yoga, particularly restorative yoga, being in nature, walking outside. This type of deliberate rest will give you more bang for your buck in terms of restoring your energy in the free time that you do have.

It also calms your nervous system. And right now, in January 2022, most people could use a calmer nervous system. So deliberate rest helps you get that.

The second category that I’ve found to be particularly helpful is deep play, which is also discussed in Alex’s book on rest. This means doing something that’s both enjoyable and mentally engaging. Deep play hones your skills in a setting that’s different from work and allows you to step out of your responsibilities and engage your brain in something that’s both interesting and fun.

This can be sports, games, gardening, creative hobbies, music – anything that you enjoy immensely that takes you away from your role as a lawyer and a mom.

Deep play is deeply restorative and neuroscientists tells us it’s good for our mental health.

Deep play is not only fun, it’s also deeply restorative.

Then, the third category is connection:

This means connecting with people who energize and uplift you. If you’re an extravert, you’ll need more of this than if you’re an introvert.

Not all social interactions are equally restorative: many can actually be quite draining. So you’re going for the ones where you walk away feeling better and more energized than when you started. That’s the kind of connection I’m talking about.

Now, I just want to pause here and say: do you need these 3 forms of leisure? No. You don’t have to do these. Many people survive without them. But I will say that these 3 things ARE key ingredients for happiness. So if you’re less happy than you’d like to be, adding these three forms of leisure into your life will help to feel better so that you can get going and make some real changes.

And you can invite your family to do this as well. Are they getting enough deliberate rest, deep play, and connection? If they are, then maybe they don’t need this. But I will say that a lot of dads out there, especially lawyer dads, aren’t getting what they need either. And a lot of kids, particularly teens, need more of this as well. So inviting them to get what they need helps you create true equality when it comes to leisure time.

Ok, so that’s step 2.

And then step 3 is to Calendar your leisure time. Put it on the calendar, block it off.

You’ll need daily and weekly time – and also the once or twice a year getaways. Those need to go on the calendar too. Otherwise, they’re not likely to happen. This takes 30 seconds and it’s done.

Then the fourth step is to Communicate:

This is where you communicate that you’ll be unavailable to anyone who needs to know: usually, this will be your spouse, or anyone else who will be providing childcare coverage.

If anyone at work needs to know about it, let them know.

So you just communicate it and then also send any calendar invites to people who need it, so they don’t forget.

The fifth step is to Carry out the plan:

You just follow through and take the time for yourself. Delight in it. Notice how to you feel before, during, and after a little time to yourself.

And then, the sixth step is to Continue:

One Saturday afternoon isn’t enough. One girls night out isn’t enough. Leisure time works best when it’s a regular fixture in your life. So continuing means that you cycle through the different types of leisure, preferably a little each day, with a larger block of time on the weekends. And by doing that, you’re easing your family into a way of life where everyone is getting time on a regular basis.

Ok, so to recap, the 6 steps are: 1. Cut out the excess; 2. Consciously choose; 3. Calendar; 4. Communicate; 5. Carry out; and 6. Continue.

Now we’re going to talk about where people get tripped up with these steps.

  1. A lot of moms get tripped up at the outset in Step #1.
    • It can be hard to cut out the excess;
      • Especially if the excess involves things that the kids like to do.
      • It can also be hard to get out of the patterns that we’re in: so stopping old patterns and starting new ones can seem disruptive. It can feel easier to just stick with the status quo for now and put off doing this until later.
    • Step 2 can also be surprisingly hard for moms: many don’t even remember the last time they did something fun that was just for them maybe they’ve even forgotten what they used to like to do.
    • Or they tell themselves they’re getting leisure time, but it’s not really high-quality restorative leisure time:
      • Going to the grocery store by yourself doesn’t count as high-quality leisure time.
    • Another struggle happens if you’re already feeling like you’re not getting enough time with family. So guilt seeps into this and makes it hard to take time away, just for you.
    • A lot of moms worry this will create conflict in their homes:
      • Scheduling conflicts that will turn into arguments about who gets to do what.
      • This is especially true if you have a pattern of people pleasing: it will feel hard to interrupt that pattern.
    • Some people want permission to do this: they want it to come from some one else: but this can mean that they’re waiting for that permission waiting a very long time.
    • I’ve heard from some moms the fear that if they take time away for themselves, and their families do just fine without them, that this means their families won’t need them anymore.
    • I’ve talked to moms who grew up with the idea that if they’re not working all of the time, it means they’re lazy or selfish or some other equally disdainful character flaw.
      • And so they feel compelled to do something productive all of the time.
      • Or they don’t let themselves take time for a break until everything on their to-do list is crossed off – but the to-do list is never-ending, so leisure time never happens.
    • Many lawyers, in particular, worry that leisure time costs too much:
      • We’re keenly aware of the value of each billable hour and there are a lot of hours already spoken for, so we resist leisure time.
    • Another thing that happens for moms is that they fall into the “it doesn’t matter” trap, and they put off doing what they want.

I was in that trap myself. It took me years to get out of it, but I finally did. Here’s how:

A few years ago, I decided to go on a news fast for a few weeks, so I took a break from reading or listening to the news, and from social media. Without realizing it, I was doing Step 1: cutting out the scrolling that was filling up all of my free time. Once I did that, it turned out I had more free time than I had realized.

And then I came across something new to me, which was songwriting. I heard a podcast interview with a songwriter who wasn’t a performer: and she was talking about the creative process that she used and collaborating with other songwriters, and I don’t know why, but that lit a spark for me: It sounded fun.

So I began to dabble in songwriting, in tiny, bite-sized bits of time: For me, this was deep play. It was a high-quality form of leisure. So that’s step 2: I made the conscious choice to add this into my life.

Then, I began to calendar it and spend 20 minutes a night on this and an hour on Saturdays taking classes on songwriting; I communicated it to my husband so that he could take the kids on Saturday afternoons, I carried out the plan, and I continued with it. I was doing the 6 steps. And here’s what happened:

Even though it wasn’t a big investment of time, the return on that investment was huge. It was a game changer.

This was something that I was doing for the sole reason that it was fun: I didn’t see myself going into the music industry – I just wanted to have fun and do something that was just for me. Not for my job or my family – but for me.

And what I found was that this one thing gave me an energy that I hadn’t had since before my kids were born.

It gave my husband his wife back. It gave my kids a much happier mom. It gave my employer a much more energized attorney.

And eventually, it gave me the fuel I needed to go on to make some major shifts in my career.

And when I saw the effects of this one thing, I realized that all of the reasons I had come up with for NOT taking time for myself paled when compared to the actual benefits that I was seeing, not just for me, but for everyone around me.

And I’m not a unicorn: I’ve since learned that this is replicable. When a mom decides to get happy and begins to make positive changes in her life, including adding in high-quality leisure time, good things flow from that.

Often, surprising things flow from that. One happy discovery that I often hear from clients is that their productivity and billing increase when they add in leisure time in this way. Others report that their marriages improve. The benefits of this are many.

The hardest part of this is getting over those initial hurdles at the beginning: those struggles that, if we boil them down, all come down to some form of fear that every act of leisure will result in a winner and a loser. If we take time for ourselves, it will be to someone else’s detriment, or it will cause some sort of harm or backlash later down the line.

And it seems like this is just reality. If we take time away, someone’s going to lose out. And so we either don’t take time for ourselves, or if we do, we often feel guilty about it.

So what’s needed here is a mechanism to switch into a different mode of thinking, at will, when we’re stuck in a zero-sum-game quagmire.

And that mechanism is a skill that I call win-win thinking.

What win-win thinking allows you to do is to shift out of that zero-sum-game way of seeing the world, and start thinking more globally about how everyone involved can get what they want.

When you have this skill, creating leisure time equality is no longer something that’s “good for you, but bad for them.” Instead, leisure time is constructed in such a way that it actually serves everyone: your family, your employer or clients, you and your health.

And when you do that, the fear that someone is going to lose goes away. Fear exists in the realm of the zero-sum game, where there’s a winner and a loser. But when you adopt the skill of win-win thinking and you’re keeping everyone’s benefit in mind, and the prospect of losing goes away, and so the fear diminishes.

When moms learn this skill, they’re able to finally get over those hurdles that are keeping them stuck, so they can take the steps to create leisure time equality and raise the level of happiness in their homes. It’s especially essential to lawyer moms, who have so many competing demands on their time and energy.

It’s applicable not just for creating leisure time equality, but in many situations at home and at work.

So, if you’re tired of playing a high-stakes game against yourself and you’re ready to try on another way of thinking to get better outcomes for everyone, then the skill of win-win thinking is for you.

Ok, so what’s the next step? Stay tuned for Episode 6 because we’re going to be talking about how to create career equality in your home. A lot of lawyer moms are trying to play a major league game without the time, space, and resources they need to do that, which sets them up for frustration and exhaustion. Career equality turns that around and gives you and your career what’s needed to thrive. So stay tuned for that and thank you so much for being here today! Have a wonderful week!

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Family Equality Part 2: How to Create Caretaking Equality

FAMILY EQUALITY PART 2: HOW TO GET THE CARETAKING SUPPORT YOU WANT

Caretaking can take a lot out of you, especially if you’re the default caretaker in the family. A heavy caretaking burden limits your ability to go after things that you enjoy and leads to depleted mothering. In this episode, find out how to change this dynamic by creating caretaking equality. I share with you the 3 steps to that will take you from a never-ending juggling act to real support so you can take a breather.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN FROM THIS EPISODE

  • How to recognize caretaking inequality and how it usually begins
  • The 3 steps to creating caretaking equality
  • Common obstacles that moms face and the antidote to overcoming those obstacles

TRANSCRIPT

Welcome to episode 4 of the Happy Lawyer Mom Podcast! The podcast that takes lawyer moms from beyond stressed and barely hanging on, to finally getting what you want at work and at home so that you can be TRULY happy.

I’m your host, Charise Naifeh and I’m thrilled you’re here.

Hi there and welcome to episode 4.I’ve been under the weather, so just finally getting back to be able to record again, and I’m so glad to be feeling better. I hope all of you are staying well right now.

So today’s episode is part 2 of a five-part series of episodes dedicated to the subject of creating equality in different areas of your life at home: in the last episode, we talked about housework equality and today we’re going to talk about caretaking equality.

And I want to begin today’s discussion with taking a look at what happens when you don’t have caretaking equality happening: when you have the exact opposite of that, which is caretaking inequality:

Caretaking inequality happens when caretaking is falling to one caretaker in the family in a way that’s disproportionate to what’s happening for other caretakers in the family, and as a result, that person is overburdened.

This sets up a pattern where the overburdened caretaker enjoys fewer opportunities to have the kind of life she or he wants to have. It also creates a hierarchy within the family, where you have some people who get to freely pursue what they want and other people who don’t, because the caretaking responsibilities hinder that.

Caretaking inequality has greatly diminished as many of today’s dads are very much involved in the caretaking of the kids, which is something to acknowledge and celebrate.

And yet, in two-career families, particularly in demanding professions like law, caretaking inequality still surfaces.

    • This can happen to moms or dads, but here we’re going to talk about how it affects lawyer moms.
    • It often happens after the parental leaves are over and both parents are back at work, but only one of them is getting up every single night with the baby. That’s a sign of caretaking inequality. The overburdened caretaker is not enjoying the same opportunities for sleep and becomes chronically sleep deprived, which by the way, is a form of torture.

Because Moms do the nursing, it seems logical that Mom would be the one getting up with the baby at night. And once this pattern starts, it’s very common for Mom to become the default go-to person for caretaking, and when Mom becomes indispensable, she ends up exhausting herself.

Another way this plays out is that Mom’s career is the one that’s squeezed when there’s a disruption in childcare during the workday.

I saw a post online during the lockdown in 2020 from a lawyer mom who wrote: my husband and I are both lawyers. We both have the same billable hour requirements and we make the same amount of money. We both have court appearances and depositions over Zoom. So why is it that he goes into his office for 6 hours of uninterrupted work, while I’m left to deal with both my work and the kids by myself? She was posing this as a question to the group: why is this happening?

This is classic caretaking inequality. One person in the family is overburdened with caretaking and it’s affecting her ability to get what she wants in her life and career.

In some families what happens is that caretaking equality exists most of the time. But when something blows up with your spouses’ job, that goes out the window. And what do you do when your work also blows up at the same time? If you’re the fallback caretaker but you have your own fires to put out at work, that can leave you with the enormous burden of scrambling to sort it out on your own.

These are different ways that caretaking inequality can come up and overburden lawyer moms.

So what do we do about this? How do we replace this with caretaking equality, so that we no longer have a situation where one person is overburdened with the caretaking?

There are 3 steps to creating caretaking equality in your home.

  1. The first step is to Decide.
    1. This means that you look within and make a conscious decision that there will be caretaking equality in your home and then you decide what you want that to look like:
      1. You decide for yourself how much time YOU want to be spending on caretaking right now and how much time you need for breaks.
    2. This changes over time. You may find yourself wanting to do more caretaking at certain times – or you may find yourself particularly in need of some time to yourself.
    3. This will also vary based on what’s going on in your life right now. If you’re working on a big deadline or a trial, what you want will be different.
    4. There’s no right or wrong answer here – there’s only a simple decision about what YOU really want.
    5. Generally speaking, caretaking equality means that both parents are contributing to caretaking and they’re also both getting regular breaks. And it often means bringing in some form of caretaking outside the family as well.
    6. If you’re a single parent, then this means that you’re getting some form of outside support, so that you can get some time just for you, when you’re not working and you’re not parenting.
  2. Once you’ve decided to create caretaking equality and what you want that to look like, Step 2 is to Inquire to the other caretakers in your family how much time they want to be spending on caretaking right now, given the broader context of what they have going on in their lives right now.
    1. If you rely on extended family for caretaking support, then this inquiry can include them as well.
    2. If you or your spouse travels a lot, then the aim is to figure out what caretaking equality looks like when everyone’s home, and then you would have a separate plan for how much caretaking support is needed when one of you is traveling.
    3. The reason this step is important is because this problem is only truly solved when the solution works for everyone in the family. So this step ensures that the concerns of the other caretakers are addressed.
  3. Then, once you do that, the third step is to Find the win/win solution.
    1. This is the mutually beneficial solution that works for everyone.
    2. This looks different for every family, but it’s usually going to involve either redistributing some of the caretaking within the family or bringing in additional caretaking from outside the family, or maybe a little of both.
      1. For millennia, humans raised their kids in clans and tribes and communities that extended far beyond two parents. That support network is no longer a given for us, so today we have to create it ourselves.
      2. For some families, it might mean getting a night nurse for a few nights a week if you have an infant – or it might mean having a regular sitter in addition to the weekday childcare coverage, so the parents can get regular breaks when they’re not working.
      3. Other families will prefer to share most of the caretaking within the family: this might mean that mom is sleeping in the basement every other night after going back to work while her partner gets up with the baby. Or it might mean the parents tag team for each other so they can each get the time they need.
      4. The exact path for each family will look different, but the end result is the same: one person is no longer overburdened, both parents are getting breaks, and there is a network of support.

So to recap, the 3 steps are: decide, inquire, and find the win/win solution. These steps rearrange the order of what most people are doing when care-taking inequality is not being solved. What most people do first is to inquire: can I have this? The answer is usually some form of “not really”, so then from there, they try to find some kind of solution – not what they want, but what they think they can get – and then the third thing they do is decide this is just the way it is right now.

So we have to move the decision from last step to the first step: without a conscious decision this whole process falls down. The clarity of a decision is a powerful thing. Once you decide for yourself that this is happening, it will change how you show up and what you do, and it will change what outcomes you’re able to achieve.

These steps are clear and simple, but many moms struggle to take them. Why is that?

Let’s look back at the post of the lawyer mom whose husband was working for 6 hours a day, while she was left with the kids. What was preventing her from taking these steps and creating caretaking equality in her family?

This is a great example of approaching this situation with a question: she realizes that this is an unequal situation – but she doesn’t know what she gets to do about it. So she goes online and asks a group of moms: is it ok for me to ask for what I want here? Is it okay for me – as the mom – to even want this?

But let’s dig a little deeper. Why is she doing this? The reason that she and so many moms are asking first what they can have is because there’s an inner conflict happening:

She’s conflicted about what’s okay for her to want and what isn’t ok. Usually, this conflict is between the external rules about what it means to be a good mother on the one hand, and a mom’s own assessment about what she needs on the other hand. Every mother has a wise mama bear instinct that can guide us toward what is good for everyone.

But when the external motherhood manual casts doubt on that instinct, that’s when Moms lose their power. They become fearful and hesitant. They question and doubt themselves, and they look for external validation about what’s okay for them to do, just as this woman was doing by posting this question.

At the root of this conflict is a fear that if we don’t follow the external rules to the letter, we’re going to end up harming our kids or our families in some way. The expectation that moms need to take care of everyone else and put themselves last is everywhere, so many moms find themselves paralyzed or walking on eggshells, afraid to get what they really want. This fear cuts moms off from their ability to act decisively and powerfully as leaders in their homes.

As long as this fear is present, the entire issue of caretaking equality will be approached with hesitancy. And when you approach a problem with hesitancy, chances are, the problem won’t actually get solved.

Maybe you try some things like throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks. But if nothing sticks, you may resign yourself to not being able to do anything about it.

There was an undertone of powerless in that woman’s post: she didn’t believe there was a good way out of this problem. It didn’t appear to her that there was a win-win solution in that circumstance. This happens in a lot of families that have a lot of other challenges going on, and it just seems like there’s no way to get what both spouses want  – and so you think “why bother?” And you feel defeated before you even begin. And maybe you never begin. Or if you do make an attempt, but you’re already feeling defeated, that defeat taints the whole process, which of course is going to affect the outcome.

Powerlessness doesn’t help us get what we want or find new solutions: it keeps us stuck.

And eventually, it turns into resentment or anger, which usually boils over in some way  – but often by that point, most people are not really in the best frame of mind for finding a win-win solution.

Another issue that trips Moms up here is the worry that the other caretakers can’t or won’t do the caretaking as well as you do.

When this worry is present, it can seem like the only way to get the standard of care that we want is to step in and do it ourselves.

  • But at the same time, when you get caught in a pattern where you’re always stepping in, it doesn’t give the other caretakers the chance to develop their skill, and it doesn’t give the kids the chance to adapt to new ways of doing things, so it turns into a vicious cycle that’s harder and harder to get out of.

Another common issue that can prevent moms from getting additional help is concern about money. Usually, this happens for two reasons: the first is that there’s under-earning happening, which is creating a cash flow issue. We’ll be discussing underearning in future episodes, but I want to say here that spending money is not always required to create caretaking equality.

The second reason is not because of cash flow, but rather because inequality is happening with regard to finances, which stops you from taking action to solve the caretaking issue. We’ll be addressing financial equality specifically in episode 7.

Another concern that moms have with recruiting help is the fear that the caretaking relationship itself won’t be all that helpful. I’ve talked to women who are hesitant to bring in additional caretakers because they’ve had experiences in the past where a caretaking relationship become yet another burden or source of stress for them. And so that stops them from getting the help they need.

This is surprisingly common. Mom finds herself going to great lengths to make the employed caretaker happy, while not setting boundaries or asking for what she wants. If that occurs, then the caretaking relationship can become quite draining.

If you find yourself bumping into any one of these obstacles, following the 3 steps will feel harder than it should. But combined, these obstacles create a perfect storm that explains why Moms struggle so mightily with this issue.

If none of these obstacles were present, moms wouldn’t be asking questions about what to do about this problem and they wouldn’t be getting stuck on this problem: they’d just be fixing the problem decisively and without hesitation.

But when you’re faced with this lineup of obstacles, it often feels easier to just stick to the status quo, even if it means burning the candle at both ends, rather than solve this problem. But we know that burning the candle at both ends isn’t really a sustainable solution because it leads to burn out.

So what do we do about this?

 

What we need here is a panacea that addresses all of these obstacles that are getting in the way of taking the steps toward caretaking equality.

 

Not a quick fix, but a remedy that permanently dissolves those obstacles.

 

And the remedy that does that is a skill. Specifically, it’s the skill of becoming an inclusive and internally-driven leader within the home.

 

What this means is that instead of looking at the world and asking “what can I do? What am I supposed to do here?” and following the external rulebook, you start leading from within. From that innate wisdom that you have inside of you that the world has tried very hard to make you forget.

And being an inclusive leader means that you’re leading with everyone’s best interest in mind: it’s not about you versus them – you’re thinking about everyone in the family.

And you approach getting the support that’s needed and setting the standard of caretaking from a place of certainty and strength.

Effective leaders know how to motivate people with both warmth and directness to achieve a common desired result without having to be doing all it all by themselves: no one would expect a managing partner of a firm to pe to run the daily operations all by themselves – and it’s the same thing with our families. Getting excellent care for the kids without having to be the one to provide it all of the time is a leadership skill that every mom needs.

Let’s look at the difference that this skill would make in the life of the mom whose husband was working for 6 uninterrupted hours a day:

  • Instead of posting a question to others about what was okay and what wasn’t, she would decide for herself, based on her own internal compass, what is best for her family and for her;
  • Then, she would approach her husband not with criticism – but with curiosity. She wouldn’t be asking him “can I have this?” Rather, the entire conversation would be approached with the certainty of a leader who’s committed to being inclusive and to finding a viable solution.
  • There might be several possible avenues toward solving this problem, and there might need to be some testing of those avenues and some tweaking, until a solution is reached that’s working for everyone.

When Moms develop this skill, it teaches our families that:

  1. Mom deserves the same opportunities to pursue the things she wants to do as anybody else;
  2. It also teaches the family how to be more creative and inclusive in solving problems.
  3. If you have a spouse that is also currently overburdened in one way or another, this skill opens the door to fixing that as well because, again, the goal of family equality is for everyone in the family to be getting what they want.
  4. And perhaps the biggest shift that happens when moms develop this skill is that they begin to see their options differently:
    1. They go from asking “can I solve this?” to saying with a grounded certainty, “I am going to solve this.”
    2. They begin to show up differently and take action to get the support that they need, so that they’re no longer overburdened and stressed out about the kids’ care.
    3. As a result, they begin to feel better and have more energy. They’re no longer exhausted and overextended, so their careers and lives become more manageable.
    4. And having a network of support for caretaking – including back-up care -alleviates a huge amount of lawyer mom stress and anxiety.

A question I sometimes hear is: can I create caretaking equality when my spouse and I have different work situations? Like if my spouse works more than I do, or is the primary breadwinner? Or travels frequently? Can I still create equality of caretaking?

  • The answer is yes: you still follow the 3 steps: you still get to decide: what do I want here, in this circumstance? And you still inquire what your spouse wants in that circumstance. And you still find the win-win solution in that circumstance.
  • And it’s also important to remember that caretaking equality doesn’t always mean exactly 50/50 with regard to time: the goal here is that everyone has the same opportunities to get what they want, and since we all want different things, this will look different for everyone.
  • Equality can happen in all kinds of family circumstances: when one spouse is working and other isn’t; when both spouses have big careers; when one or both spouses travel: it’s not the circumstances that determine whether equality can exist. It’s what the family members are doing to create equality in those circumstances, which is determined by their level of skill. Those who have the skill of leading from within to create favorable outcomes for everyone are the ones who create family equality.

The skill of becoming an inclusive and internally-driven leader within the home reverses the trend of moms doubting themselves and it also puts them in a position of strength within the family. One of the attributes of feminine leadership is finding solutions that work for everyone: and that’s exactly what happens when Moms develop this skill. They help everyone in the family – including themselves – get what they want.

It’s an important skill that we work on in a weekly group call in the Happy Law Mom program.

Leadership is as much about your mental game as it is what you do and what you say. Both the internal state of mind and the external actions are critical to creating results that work, so in this program, we work on both. And when Moms begin to apply this leadership skill in different situations inside and outside of the home, their confidence grows as they begin to realize their own ability to effect the change they want.

That’s the power of this one skill and that’s why we spend so much time in the program developing this skill.

Ok, so once you’ve created caretaking equality and housework equality, you’re probably going to have a little more time on your hands for the next area of focus, which is leisure time equality.

Doing things you enjoy or having time for fun is often the first thing to go when you’re a lawyer mom – but it’s key to a healthy and happy life. So join me next week to hear about how to create leisure time equality in your family so that you can have more time to rest and recharge.

Thank you so much for being here today and have a wonderful week!

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Family Equality Part 1: How to Do Less at Home

FAMILY EQUALITY PART 1: HOW TO LIGHTEN YOUR LOAD AT HOME

Keeping up with the house and feeding and clothing the family can be a heavy burden that impacts time both your work life and your health. Not to mention, it’s just not fun to be bearing such a heavy load when others in your family are not. In this episode, find out how to lighten your load around the house and what to do to create family equality with regard to housework. I share with you the six steps to take you from bearing the lion’s share at home to lightening your load, so that you can spend more of your time doing the things you actually enjoy.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN FROM THIS EPISODE

  • The problem with inequality and how to recognize it
  • The 6 steps to creating family equality with regard to housework
  • The common pitfalls that moms face when trying to create a more equal division of labor at home
  • The research on the effect of housework equality on marital happiness
  • The research on the effect of housework equality on kids’ happiness and wellbeing later in life
  • The leadership skill that every mom needs to lead her family to a happier and more equal home life

TRANSCRIPT

Hello and welcome to episode 3 of the Happy Lawyer Mom podcast, the podcast that takes lawyer moms from beyond stressed and barely hanging on, to finally getting what you want at work and at home so that you can be TRULY happy.

I’m Charise Naifeh and I’m thrilled you’re here!

Hi there and welcome to this week’s episode. In episode 2, we talked about dissolving both motherhood and marital inequality from your home and replacing them with family equality in five different areas of your family life. And today, we’re going to be talking about the first of those five areas, which is housework.

When I say housework, I’m talking about anything related to the care and maintenance of the home and also the feeding and clothing of the people in the home: These day-to-day tasks, especially once you have children, require a lot of work and they can present new opportunities for inequality within a family.

So why are we talking about this?

Sometimes my clients will say to me “I feel sheepish even bringing this issue up. I should be able to get a handle on this.” It can seem like it’s not that big of a deal.

And yet, I’ve had many conversations with brilliant lawyers who hit a wall in their careers because of this single issue.

When you’re overburdened at home, of course it’s going to impact your career. Not only in terms of time, but also the quality of your performance. It affects how much sleep you’re getting, how much leisure time you’re getting, and your level of stress – everything.

So how do you is housework inequality is happening in your family?

Here’s how to recognize it:  Housework inequality happens when household responsibilities are burdening one or some members of the family in a way that’s disproportionate to what’s happening for the other members of the family and it’s affecting their ability to get what they want in their career and in their life.

This is usually not happening because of a conscious decision or because this is what the overburdened parent wants. Rather, it usual happens by default. That’s the crux of the problem we’re solving here.

Does this have to fall on gender lines? Absolutely not. Dads can be overburdened in this area, too.

And in fact, another way that inequality can come up is that both parents are completely overburdened with respect to the kids.

In modern American parenting today, parents going above and beyond for their kids, and in doing so, they’re often making themselves miserable trying to ensure that their kids are happy.

So you can have a very supportive spouse who is working hard to care for and maintain the home and still have housework inequality.  If the kids are enjoying an elite status where all they have to do is play and have fun, without making any contribution to the home or the family long past the point at which they could be contributing, while the parents are running themselves ragged, that’s indicates that housework inequality is happening.

Ok, so that’s what housework inequality looks like: it creates misery for the overburdened family members and if it’s not corrected, it only gets worse over time, because it teaches the other family members to continue to expect the overburdened individuals to step in.

So obviously, we want to get out of that situation as soon as possible and into a much better situation where everyone in the family is contributing in the way that they want to be contributing and that no one in the family is stuck doing things that they hate all by themselves. The people who live in the home unite as a team for the care and maintenance of the home.

That’s family equality and that’s where we’re going.

Ok, how do we get there? There are 6 steps that solve this problem of housework inequality. If you follow these six steps, you will create family equality with regard to housework.

What are the 6 steps?

    1. Ok, so the first step is to resign. And what that means is that the currently overburdened individuals need to resign from the role as the steward of the home: This is no longer one person’s job or the parents’ job. This is everyone’s job. When you get clear in your own mind that this is no longer your job – because you already have a job, which is being a lawyer, you can then move to the next step, which is to:
    2. Reassess:
      1. There are 3 prongs to this step:
        1. First, you reassess what actually needs to be done around the house. And I mean, what absolutely needs to be done.
        2. Second, you look at the tasks that each parent in the home is already doing and reassess: what tasks does each parent want to continue doing?
          1. Your spouse may enjoy cooking. You may enjoy organizing the kids’ closets and you may want to continue to own that. Or you may want to own the kids’ schoolwork while your spouse prefers the doctor’s visits.
          2. This step identifies what both parents actually enjoy and what they don’t enjoy.
        3. And then, third, you reassess the gaps:
          1. This means that you identify the things that need to be done that neither of you want to continue to do
        4. Ok, so once you do that, we move to Step 3, which is:
    3. Recruit. This means that you assemble a team to fill those gaps: and you start with your own family. If they live in the house, then they are contributing to the care and maintenance of the house. They’re on the team. The contributions may be different, but it’s a shared responsibility.
      1. This means that the kids meaningfully contribute to do things that need to be done around the house.
      2. If you have a baby under the age of 1, Baby gets a pass. But everyone else, can start to contribute. Even a 12-month -old can put her toys into a basket or tear lettuce, if you get them one of those learning towers that allows toddlers to stand at counter height. They’re fabulous because they allow kids to get involved in what the adults are doing in the kitchen from a very young age, which is actually what they want to be doing anyway.

Whatever age your kids are, if they’re over 1 year old, they’re on the team. When they’re younger, their contributions will obviously be smaller, but they can start taking on responsibility over the things that are theirs: they can put their toys away; they can carry their plate to the kitchen; they can put their clothes in the laundry hamper.

  1. And then they can begin to contribute toward shared family experiences: they can learn how to set the table; or clear the table; or sweep after dinner if you get them a child-sized broom.
  2. When kids learn how to do this when they’re young, it becomes a way of life for them as they get older: and that not only helps the family, it also helps them. It helps them learn how to do things for themselves, but more importantly, it helps them learn how to contribute to something larger than themselves and instills in them the value of helping others. And what we know from the data on this is that people who help others and contribute to causes larger than themselves are happier in the long term. So learning this when they’re young sets kids up for long-term happiness throughout their lives – which I’d say is a pretty compelling reason for doing this.
  3. Now, for the wage-earners in the family, they’re already contributing a substantial amount of time and energy toward something larger than themselves, namely the work that they’re doing in the world and the generation of money for the family. So in their case, the bulk of their contribution doesn’t have to always be in the form of time: they can contribute in the form of money toward getting the absolutely necessary tasks done. But the upshot is that there is a contribution toward the common goal of a well-cared-for home from every member of the family in one form or another.
  • If, after recruiting the entire family to the team, there are still gaps for things that need to be done, then there are 3 options:
    1. First, You reassess again as to that task: if nobody wants to do the task, then maybe the task doesn’t really need to be done.
    2. If you decide that, yes, it does really need to be done, then the second option is that you recruit someone outside the family to do the task.
    3. Or, the third option is that you share the responsibility for that task.
      1. Now, I just want to pause here and say that it’s very tempting if you can afford to outsource everything or almost everything, to just outsource everything to a third party and not assign anything to the kids: but if the kids grow up thinking that they don’t have to contribute toward the care of the home, then they end up losing all of the benefits of becoming a contributing member of the team that I mentioned earlier. So even if you can afford to do that, query whether doing that will result in the outcome that you want in the long-term, which is independent, self-sufficient, and helpful humans.
    4. Then, after you recruit your team, the fourth step is to redistribute the tasks, based on ability and also interest:
      1. My youngest son loves doing laundry. My oldest prefers to sweep. So on Monday nights, which is laundry night for my boys, the youngest gathers the clothes, loads the washing machine, and starts the washing machine, while my oldest sweeps the kitchen and dining room after dinner.
      2. When possible, I give them a choice in deciding what roles they want to play when we’re distributing tasks.
    5. And then after tasks are redistributed and everyone’s clear on what to do, the fifth step is that you refrain from doing their tasks. You do NOT step in and do it yourself, even if you can do it faster or better.
      1. Of course there can be times when your kids will need some help. I have to get the laundry detergent down for my son – but he does the rest. If they’re sick, they get a pass – and if I’m sick, I also get a pass.
      2. But the general rule is that they’re doing it themselves.
    6. And then finally, step six is that you release the outcome:
      1. Your kids will not fold laundry like you do. Their beds will not be perfectly made, especially when they’re little. There will be a lot of imperfection happening.
      2. Your spouse probably has a different way of doing things, too. Step 6 requires that you release control of this and give your team agency over their tasks, because that it how they learn to master this themselves.
  1. So, to recap, the 6 steps are: Resign + Reassess + Recruit + Redistribute + Refrain + Release
    1. The 6 R’s. (And yes, I’m a sucker for alliteration.)
  2. These steps are very simple: but they’re often not easy to implement: why is that?
    1. For most moms, here’s what happens:
      1. A lot of women have Martha Stewart in their heads, dictating the standard of a happy home, when what would actually make them happy is minimalism.
        1. This is particularly true of married women: research shows that moms who are married do more housework than moms who aren’t married, which is the opposite of what you’d expect. Researchers hypothesize that this happens because of the societal conditioning that women have about what it means to be a good wife and mother –
        2. In other words, all of those women’s magazines have gotten in our heads and are turning up the pressure. I call this the manual for motherhood: it’s a set of unwritten instructions about what we’re supposed to do, according to external sources. As long as you have an external manual running your operating system, you will find yourself compelled to do things around the house that probably aren’t necessary for your or anyone else’s happiness.
        3. If one person in the home is miserable because of this burden, the goal here is not to redistribute misery evenly: it’s to eliminate misery altogether by doing only the things that the people in the house really want to do.
      2. Here’s another thing that happens: You set the kids up with chore charts, and you give them tasks: they start strong, but then they forget. They don’t do the things. And then you’re left either nagging them about it or just doing it yourself – because if you don’t, the house becomes an intolerable mess or they don’t have clean clothes or clean water bottles. And so when you step in, it reinforces what everyone already suspects, which is that it really is your job to make sure everything’s taken care of.
      3. Another common scenario is that Mom doesn’t want to have a conversation with her spouse about redistributing tasks because she’s afraid it will create conflict.
        1. Maybe they’ve tried this before. Maybe there’s a standing agreement that it will be 50/50, but it never seems to work out that way in practice.
        2. So Mom is policing the housework, nagging, or just doing all of the work herself but silently seething and resentment is growing. That resentment bubbles up in different ways: it might be a passive-aggressive comment, or an air of chilliness that comes over the relationship and creates distance between the spouses – which actually leads to more conflict, which is paradoxically the thing that she was trying to avoid.
      4. Another thing that often happens is Mom does have a conversation with her spouse about redistributing some tasks, but then either the spouse forgets to do them, or does them differently than she would, or waits until the last minute, and so she doesn’t follow either step 5 or step 6: she either steps in or she doesn’t release control of the outcome.
        1. She may start judging her partner for this, and her partner feels that, which creates more of a rift in the marriage, and actually makes the other spouse less likely to want to be part of the team, or to do so resentfully.
      5. For most moms, this is the way it goes. Why does this happen to most moms? Because they lack certain skills to make this work.
    2. Here’s what it looks like when you implement the process with the right skills:
      1. From the outset, you are showing up differently and your family notices.
      2. Instead of approaching these steps with heaviness, you approach them with lightness and ease. Your family feels that and this issue is no longer rife with conflict.
      3. Everyone feels heard – including you – and everyone’s concerns are addressed.
      4. No one is overburdened.
      5. And because everyone has choices with regard to how they’re contributing, this is no longer just an obligation – it becomes something that they want to do.
      6. Not to mention, everyone is just happier. Research backs this up:
        1. When there’s housework equality in marriages, both spouses are happier.
        2. And when kids are making a meaningful contribution to the home, the kids are less anxious and higher better self-esteem, and do better in school because they feel capable and useful.
  • We’re wired to want to work and contribute to something larger than ourselves – and if your kids aren’t expressing that, they can be taught how.
  1. My kindergartner is now helping to make his lunch, he gets his water bottle and backpack ready each morning; after school, he empties his folder for school, and then he washes his bento box. And when he’s doing that, he’s engaged in something other than complaining that he’s bored or bickering with his brother like he used to do when I was the one doing all of that.
  2. A Happy Law Mom group member implemented this in her home and her kids who were 2, 5 and 7, started doing their own laundry, picking up their toys, keeping their rooms neat, putting their clothes out each night, helping to clean up after dinner; and what she noticed was once they had a job to do, they complained less about being bored; they fought with each other less when they had something to occupy themselves around the house. And it creates a positive feedback loop, where they’re getting very positive feedback from their parents, and they enjoy that, so they’re doing more around the house.
    1. So the kids not only can do it, they will do it, they actually want to do it (even if they don’t know it yet), and it makes them happier to do it.
  3. Many moms struggle to take these steps because – at some level – they’re afraid that this will make them less of a mom.
    1. I talk to women who are totally overwhelmed with kids and work, but their motherhood manuals prevent them from resigning as the steward of the home, and from recruiting additional team members, lest they be judged as “less of a mom.”
    2. When I was at my most unhappy, I was the supermom who was exhausting herself trying to do everything by the book: I made the homemade organic baby food, I made homecooked meals every night, I stayed up late planning Pinterest worthy birthday parties – all of it. My husband was very active and involved and we were exhausting ourselves trying to keep up with the house and the kids, on top of our demanding jobs.
  • When we stopped trying to do it all, we got much happier: we brought in an au pair and she gave the kids breakfast in the morning and got them dressed while we got ready for work, so that we could come downstairs and play with them before it was time to leave for daycare. She prepared our family dinners so we could focus on talking with the kids at dinner; she helped clean up after dinner, which meant that we could spend more time with the kids after dinner playing and reading stories. Recruiting help allowed me to do more of what I wanted to do as a mom.
    1. And when I was doing only the things that were very important for me as the mom to do, that’s when I was most a mom: I was more present and connected and relaxed when I was focusing on those things.

What will feel good and what you want to do will change over time.

What it looks like now is that we don’t outsource everything because our kids are older now and they know how to do much more on their own. They’re learning how to be team players, how to be helpful, how to be part of a family.

And because they have those skills, I’m able to focus the time I’m with them on things I want to be doing: talking with my kids, playing games or reading with them. And also just being together as a family even if we’re all doing different things. This is the fun part of motherhood that I get to enjoy more when I’m not trying to be supermom.

I’ve seen it again and again: when mom develops the skill of creating an equal home where everyone pulls together, it changes everything.

    1. The tasks at home go from heavy to light.
    2. The kids have ownership over what’s theirs and genuinely enjoy playing a more important role in the family.
    3. The external motherhood manual is gone and has been replaced by a new manual that’s been consciously chosen.
    4. And the tension between spouses dissipates.
  1. When you go to apply this process, there are the common things that trip people up that you should know about:
    1. If you want housework to be exactly 50/50 with your spouse, that indicates that you haven’t truly resigned as steward of the home: because you’re still thinking it’s your job, so if your spouse isn’t doing exactly half, then it feels like that work is being shunted on you. So that’s one thing to watch out for.
    2. Or if you’re arguing with people in your home about this, or trying to force your spouse to do things that he or she doesn’t really want to do, that also means that something’s gone awry with this process.
      1. If there’s conflict happening around this, particularly with your spouse, then this is being done incorrectly. Done correctly, this process eliminates conflict and leads to a better outcome for everyone, where everyone is happier and getting what they want.
  • So if any of these are happening for you when applying the 6 steps, that’s a sign that there’s a wrench in the gears that needs to be removed. What we work on inside the Happy Law Mom Program is how to do this without fomenting tension or rancor. If conflict is coming up for you, join us in Happy Law Mom because we work through this with you.

A member of the group had been contemplating divorcing her husband because of this issue before she joined the program. They were at an impasse because she wanted him to do 50% of the housework on the weekends. He was a partner in Big Law and didn’t want to spend the little time he was at home doing housework: he wanted to spend it with his family. They were both feeling like they were being treated unfairly and nobody was happy.

So what we do in Happy Law Mom is we help you navigate this in a way where everyone gets what they want. Now, this woman no longer wants to get a divorce: she’s happy, her husband is happy, and they’ve actually decided to have another baby. So we’re saving marriages in there.

  1. The skill of creating a home where everyone pulls together and the house is equally maintained is really a leadership skill that is used in home in a way that helps all members of the family get what they want and to do so without conflict.
    1. The woman who was on the verge of divorce told me that her husband has remarked on the leadership that she’s showing at home to tackle this issue. Learning this one skill took the atmosphere of their home from heavy to happy.
    2. We’re often led to believe that we should just naturally have leadership skills like this, and if we don’t too bad. But this is a skill that can be learned and refined and improved upon, so that it becomes second-nature to you.
  2. When you have this skill, you go from feeling powerless to taking control over what’s happening at home, and it’s incredibly effective for managing and leading teams at work as well.
    1. As lawyer moms, there are two go-to strategies that we typical use at home:
      1. we either tap into our legal training, where we’re taught to plow ahead, argue, and make our case, and go head-to-head with our families.
      2. Or we take a more passive approach, which is the opposite: we don’t make waves, we hold back, and don’t say anything that would create conflict. Meanwhile, resentment builds and we’re silently seething.
    2. This skill offers a third approach: it raises the happiness level for everyone, because it’s focused on helping everyone get what they want.
    3. Ok, so we’ve talked about the steps of this process and I’m going to go on and talk about creating family equality with respect to caretaking, leisure time, career, and finances in upcoming episodes, but right here, I want to pause and say:
      1. This one issue ends marriages. It can destroy the quality of your home life. Maybe not all at once, but over time, it eats away at relationships and creates deep-seated bitterness and unhappiness.
      2. So before we go on to talk about the other areas, I want you to know that if you’ve been struggling with this one thing and you’re banging your head against a wall, and there’s tension with your spouse or your kids, join the Happy Law Mom program because you need to solve this and you will get help doing that. You can to HappyLawMom.com to find out more.

Ok, so once you develop this skill and create household equality, what’s next?

We create caretaking equality. That’s the second area of focus for dissolving inequality from your home and replacing it with family equality. Research shows that moms are happier when they aren’t the only one doing the caretaking – and it also shows that caretaking is still falling disproportionately on Mom’s shoulders in most families in the United States. This is also an area where moms do not want to lower their standards: the care of their children is a non-negotiable and a top priority. In the next episode, we’ll talk about how to get the care you want for your kids while also having the time and space for other things in your life, so that caretaking is no longer overburdening you. That’s what caretaking equality looks like.

If that sounds appealing to you, join me next time and I’ll tell you how to create it your home.

In the meantime, thank you so much for being here today and have a beautiful week.

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Happy at Home: How to Create the Home Life You Want

HAPPY AT HOME: HOW TO CREATE THE HOME LIFE YOU WANT

Everyone wants a happy and harmonious home life, and yet that goal eludes many of us. In this episode, find out why so many moms are stressed out at home, and what turns that around.  I share with you the five areas of family life that need to be addressed, so that you can transform your home life from hectic to happy.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN FROM THIS EPISODE

  • The #1 cause for tension and conflict at home for moms
  • What every mom needs to know about getting happy at home
  • The skill that dissolves tension and conflict faster than anything else
  • The 5 areas of focus to create a more harmonious and happy home life

TRANSCRIPT

Hello and welcome to episode 2 of the Happy Lawyer Mom podcast, the podcast that takes lawyer moms from beyond stressed and barely hanging on, to finally getting what you want at work and at home so that you can be TRULY happy.

I’m Charise Naifeh and I’m thrilled you’re here!

In episode 1, we talked about the six most common issues that lawyer moms face that interfere with their happiness at work and at home, and today we’re going to be talking about solving the first two issues that we discussed last time, which are motherhood inequality and marital inequality. These issues are widespread and they not only create frustration at home, but they spill over to your career.

So before we can tackle unhappiness at work, we have to address these issues first. Some people want to jump straight into the work issues, and if that’s you, I’ll be talking about that at length starting in episode 8.

But I recommend that you listen to this episode even if you’re not seeing a lot of inequality happening at home because inequality – however big or small – is a joy stealer: so if you’re not 100% happy with the way things are going at home, it’s possible that there is some form of inequality happening that needs to be addressed because tackling it will create a higher level of happiness for you and for everyone else in the family. That’s why this issue is so important and that’s why we’re talking about this first.

As I discussed in Episode 1, I define motherhood inequality as: mom putting herself last with respect to everyone else in the family, because of her role as the mom. And marital inequality is one spouse taking a backseat to the other spouse. If you didn’t hear Episode 1, I recommend that you go back and listen to it so that you have the complete definition of these issues.

Both motherhood inequality and marital inequality exists on a spectrum. I’ve seen extreme cases, where a mom feels like she has absolutely no freedom to choose the direction of her life and career because the weight of the family obligations is so overwhelming that she dedicates all of her time and energy to her family. So she ends up giving up what she wants so that she can serve everyone else in the home. That’s an extreme case.

And then, more commonly, I see situations where mom is giving up little things and it can seem pretty innocuous. It almost seems like this is just part of being a mom: you give up things for your kids.

For example, before I had kids, my husband and I used to go bike riding pretty frequently. We lived in Washington, DC, right next to Rock Creek Park, and we would bike through the park, down to the Potomac; we’d sometimes go all the way down to Alexandria. It was something we loved to do and we went out on the bikes pretty frequently.

When I got pregnant with my first child, I stopped biking, for obvious reasons, and then even after the baby was born, I never returned to biking.  Our second baby came along two years later and I never once considered getting back on my bike. My husband would still take his bike out. He would go less frequently than before but he still went with some regularity.

But I never did. My bike was just accumulating dust in the garage and I remember at one point realizing that now that I was a mom, I just wasn’t ever going to biking. It was a luxury to which I was no longer entitled, because I was so busy taking care of what everyone else needed.

And with that realization, I also felt a sense of resignation: I was resigning myself to not being able to do what I wanted to do and I decided to give my bike away. I wasn’t using it and I thought, well, somebody should be using it, so I just gave it away.

This resignation that motherhood means being relegated to last in line and giving up what you want is something that I see happening in lawyer moms every day.

  • Maybe it’s not a bike they’re giving up: maybe it’s other things that they want to do but they’re not doing.
  • I see lawyer moms who are feeling stuck in jobs they hate, because it’s convenient for the family.
  • And I see lawyer moms give up jobs they love because it’s convenient for the family
  • Sometimes it’s leisure time, sometimes it’s spending time or money on their careers or something else they want.

Somewhere along the way, we’ve decided that this is just part of motherhood. This type of inequality is driving moms everywhere to put what they want on hold because it’s what we think we’re supposed to do: we’re told it’s the definition of a good mother.

But what are the immediate and long-term consequences of this? There are too many to count, but here are a few:

  • First of all, there is a dramatic, sustained reduction in your own happiness.
    • I loved riding my bike. There’s nothing that made me happier than being out in the sun – or sometimes the rain – riding my bike.
    • When I’m outside on my bike, my brain and body are flooded with feel-good neurotransmitters and hormones, while the stress-hormones are being cleared away. The exercise, the music, being outside, all of this works together to change my brain chemistry for the better every time I hop on the bike. And even though this activity made me happy, isn’t it interesting that I just assumed that when I became a mom, I would become less happy?
    • And that of course impacted how I felt. It impacted my energy levels and my stress levels. Which impacted everything: my performance at work, my demeanor at home, my outlook on life: it’s a chain reaction that happens and it affects every part of your life. So that’s one consequence, but there are other consequences, too.
  • When inequality is happening, what Mom wants for her career often takes a backseat to everyone else’s career – including the future earnings potential of our children. When professional women begin thinking more about their kids’ hypothetical earnings 30 years from now, than their own career and earnings right now, that’s a symptom of inequality.
    • A lot of lawyer moms report feeling like they’ve lost the ability to call the shots of their own careers. They might have been doing just fine in their career until they became a mom, but after kids there’s a change in command: they’ve gone from being the pilot of their careers, to being a co-pilot.
    • I hear from a lot of lawyer moms that they no longer feel free to drive their careers in the direction they want to go because now that affects the entire family. A common pattern is to defer to their spouses’ opinions on major career decisions.
    • The problem is that spouses don’t know what we want as much as we do and they also have their own limited views about what’s possible. So if you’re taking career cues from someone who doesn’t know what you want or doesn’t think you can get it, it seriously stunts your career growth and leaves a lot of women feeling stuck and unhappy.
  • Another consequence is that there will be a gradual chipping away at the way you feel about your family because when there’s inequality happening, the treatment of the person who goes last declines over time:
    • And if that happens, you’ll always love your kids of course, but you’ll also begin to resent them after a while and it won’t be the relationship you could have had.
  • Same thing with your spouse: You’ll probably still love your husband, but a lot of time when you think about him, you’ll be silently seething and that erodes marriages. You may not get a divorce, but it’s not the relationship you could have had.
  • Another consequence is that our kids learn from us by what we model for them:

I see this every day in my practice in talking with adult women who are struggling with the aftermath of having grown up in households where motherhood inequality and marital inequality were modeled for them. One of my clients had some big dreams she wanted to create, but she wasn’t taking the time to do it because she felt compelled to take care of the house, the kids, the laundry – anything but herself. She was very frustrated and she couldn’t understand why this was happening.

It turned out that this woman had watched her own mom do the very same thing when she was growing up. Her mom had given up on her dreams to take care of everyone else, and the mother reminded her children of that over and over again.  So when she became a mother herself, she felt the need to do the same thing: to give up on her dreams and busy herself with the house, because that’s what mothers do. That’s the lesson that she learned growing up and she took it with her into adulthood. Thankfully, we were able to turn things around and she’s now realizing those dreams while also being a mom, but it would’ve been easier for her if she had had equality modeled for her growing up.

So what we can glean from this is that what our daughters need us to do most is not to be selfless and ignore ourselves. If you don’t want your daughter to do that in 30 years, then it requires modeling something different for her now.

The same is true if you have sons. Another client of mine was struggling mightily in her marriage after becoming a mom, because her husband grew up believing that it’s mom’s job to take care of everything around the house and related to the kids. So my client’s husband took that expectation into his modern-day marriage – despite the fact that his wife already had a full-time as a lawyer. We were able to turn things around and establish equality in their home, but wouldn’t it be better if our sons just grew up seeing equality modeled for them, so they could take it into their own homes and avoid alienating their wives, avoid unhappy marriages, avoid divorce, etc.

So even though it may be tempting to think, “well, it’s just a bike, it doesn’t matter that much.” Or, “it’s just a weekend away with friends – I can do it later when the kids are older” – that type of putting what you want on hold and prioritizing what everyone else wants teaches your family that you go last, and that kind of belief snowballs over time and it becomes harder and harder to snuff out, and the consequences get bigger and bigger.

Okay, so you might be asking yourself: well, what’s the alternative? Are you suggesting that I put myself first and my family last? No, that’s not what I’m suggesting. That’s just inequality in another form.

What I’m suggesting is that you establish family equality in your home: this is where everyone in the family is simply equal. What everyone wants is valued, and everyone is playing on the same team to help each other get what they want.

What’s the first step to creating that? It begins with banishing both motherhood and marital inequality from your household: how do we do that? We focus on the following areas:

  • First, we create housework equality, so that the care and maintenance of the house is not one person’s job: it’s the job of everyone living in the household.
    • When housework equality is established, responsibilities are distributed so that everyone on the team is doing tasks that they can do, preferably the tasks that they most enjoy doing. And the tasks that nobody wants to do are either shared, eliminated altogether, or offloaded to third parties.
  • Second, we create caretaking equality:
    • this is where the caretaking of the children, pets, and other family members is viewed as a team effort, so that no single person is responsible for all of the caretaking.
    • If an adult in the home can’t or doesn’t want to personally provide the amount of care that’s required, then they take ownership in recruiting help and allocating resources to find other sources of caretaking to cover the current needs.
    • This is also the case even in a single-parent situation: help is recruited from outside the home on a regular basis so that the parent is getting regular breaks.
  • Third, we create leisure time equality:
    • This is where everyone gets to have fun and do things they enjoy. Everyone gets time for leisure, and that time is respected by the entire family.
      • This means that the leisure time of some people in the house is never considered more important than the leisure time of others in the house.
      • Rather, each person in the house has the same right to enjoy leisure time as every other person, just as everyone in the house has the same right to eat food as every other person: leisure time is viewed as fundamental part of health and happiness for each person.
    • The fourth area is career equality: this where everyone in the family’s careers – including studies or future careers – are valued and respected. You no longer have mothers who are sidelining their current income for the future income of their 5yo. Everyone is free to pursue their own careers and interests, without guilt, and this is celebrated and welcome.
    • And the last area is finances:
      • This means that both spouses are equal with regard to making financial decisions. Full stop.
      • This is true regardless of income: if you’re a part of the marriage, you have equal say to financial decisions.

When you focus on creating equality in these five areas, you solve motherhood inequality and marital inequality, and you transform them into family equality. This also addresses the issue of depleted mothering. You’re no longer depleting yourself by putting yourself last: you’re able to get what you need as an equal member of the family.

What are the benefits of this? There are too many to count, but the main difference that people report is that the happiness level of everyone in the household goes up. Tension dissolves. Conflict ceases. Kids feel more grounded and less anxious, parents are more productive at work and happier at the end of the day, which the kids enjoy immensely.

For example, when I created leisure time equality in my home, it had an impact on my entire family. Now, I have a bike, which I ride nearly every day. I view it as a necessity and so does my family because they know that after I go out riding, I always come back feeling better, with more energy and more patience. After I get that time to myself, I’m more present with my family when we’re together. I also make sure that my husband is getting out, too: we help each other remember and we all feel happier getting the time we need. This is just a small example, but there are so many additional byproducts that come from creating family equality that add up to more happiness for everyone.

Everyone wants this: our kids want it, our spouses want it, and we want it: humans love both connection and autonomy, and that’s exactly what family equality allows us to create in our homes.

Addressing these five areas will change your family life for the better. And it will also help you at work as well: it will give you more energy and focus so that you can be more productive and engaged at work.

Okay, so how do you create equality in these five areas? Join me in the next episode and we’ll look at the first area that needs to be addressed, which is how to create housework equality: if you find yourself overburdened with household or family tasks, and you’re wondering how to lighten your load so you can spend more time relaxing at home, you don’t want to miss it. Have a great week and I’ll talk to you then!

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The Top 6 Causes of Lawyer Mom Stress – and How to Fix Them

THE TOP 6 CAUSES OF LAWYER MOM STRESS – AND HOW TO FIX THEM

Every lawyer mom eventually finds herself asking: why is lawyer mom life so hard? This episode examines the six most common causes of lawyer mom stress and gives you a fresh take about how to fix those issues.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN FROM THIS EPISODE

  • The 6 most common issues at home and at work that make lawyer mom life so challenging
  • What lawyer moms can do to solve those obstacles and get happy
  • My hardest moment as a lawyer mom
  • What strategies worked – and what strategies didn’t work to get happier as a lawyer mom

TRANSCRIPT

Welcome to episode 1 of the Happy Lawyer Mom Podcast! The podcast that takes lawyer moms from beyond stressed and barely hanging on, to finally getting what you want at work and at home so that you can be TRULY happy.

I’m your host, Charise Naifeh and I’m thrilled you’re here.

Hi there and welcome to the first episode!

We all know what lawyer mom life looks like:

  • You’re waking up exhausted from working late.
  • Juggling work emails at the same time you’re trying to get breakfast for your kids.
  • Arguing with your spouse over who will take the kids when you both have calls at the same time and your childcare for the day has fallen through.
  • Feeling anxious all day long because there’s always more to do and there’s never enough time to do it well.
  • Not a second to yourself.
  • Trying to squeeze a 12-hour workload into an 8-hour day.
  • When your kids get sick it turns your work life upside down and you wonder how it will affect your job security.
  • And when was the last time you washed your hair?

This is the daily struggle of lawyer mom life.

On top of that daily struggle, which is hard enough on its own, many lawyer moms experience an existential struggle that leads them to ask some bigger questions, like: what do I want to be doing with my life? How do I want to be spending my days, now that I have children in my life? Why am I not happier at work and what job would I like better? How can I support my family financially and still have time to actually see them?

And how do I achieve success in my career without sacrificing the family life I want to have?

This is where a lot of lawyer moms get stuck. Daily life feels like a treadmill that just keeps going faster, and these larger, important questions just go unanswered. Meanwhile, the demands from both family and work keep piling up, and mom finds herself drowning in them. This is where I found myself a few years ago.

On my worst day, our au pair took pity on me. I was an associate at a big DC firm with a baby who was still nursing and a toddler. My husband was out of town for a 2-week trip to Asia, I had a big production that was due, and it was a weekend. And our au pair would see me working she went to bed at night, and she would see me working when she woke up the next day. I was trying to be supermom during the day and working at night. And she could see that I was drowning and so, out of the goodness of her heart, she decided to spend her day off helping me with the kids. I made sure she got extra days off later – but in that moment, when I could see the pity in her eyes when she looked at me – I realized: I can’t keep doing this.

To add to the misery, I didn’t feel that I had any right to be miserable. I had a good job with benefits, an au pair, etc. – which was more than many people have. I had worked so hard to get where I was and had done all the things that were supposed to lead to a happy life, and yet – I was miserable.

  • Most days, I would try to just “be grateful” for what I had. I hadn’t come all this way to quit.
  • But when I was particularly tired or stressed or found myself eating Halo Top ice cream in a Whole Foods parking lot at 9pm at night because that seemed to be the only thing that would make me feel better – I knew in my bones that this wasn’t it.
  • This wasn’t the life I had envisioned when I decided to go to law school. This 80 mile-an-hour life was not making me happy. I didn’t even know how to begin to fix it, but I knew I had to try.

So I started working on solving the problem of lawyer mom misery and I found the way out.

And that’s what this podcast is about.

There are six things that need to be fixed for lawyer moms and fixing them is the recipe for getting out of lawyer mom misery and into lawyer mom happiness.

The first thing that we have to correct is what I call Motherhood lnequality:

  • Motherhood inequality happens when Mom or others in the household are operating under the paradigm that the rest of the family goes first and mom goes last.
  • If you’re a lawyer mom and you aren’t happy with the status quo, but you don’t even let yourself consider making a change or even entertain the question of what you might like to be doing differently in your career because your family responsibilities eclipse any thought about what they might want – that indicates that motherhood inequality is happening.
    • And what happens for many women is that, in not even letting themselves ask the question about what they want, they begin to lose themselves in motherhood. They go from women who go after what they want to women who consistently put themselves last. If you hear yourself saying; “Now that that I’m the mom, I don’t get to do what I want anymore,” that’s a tell-tale sign of motherhood inequality.
  • This creates a pecking order in your household, in which mom is last in line. Your needs and wants are now an afterthought. Maybe your family doesn’t see it that way – but how you see it is what matters.
  • And it seems like what you want and what’s good for her family are mutually exclusive.
  • When motherhood inequality is present, Mom is also bearing the lion’s share of tasks around the home, and she doesn’t have the bandwidth to consider her own goals.
  • When I started out as a coach for lawyer moms, I intended to focus on helping women get happier in their careers.
  • But what kept happening again and again was that this problem of motherhood inequality kept coming up as a barrier to them in their careers.
    • When you’re firmly entrenched in a pattern where mom goes last, you either:
      • don’t even know what you want, or
      • you don’t consider that you can have it until the kids graduate from college.
    • As you can imagine, this was preventing these lawyer moms from getting what they wanted in their careers:
    • It was also interfering with their overall happiness – and of course it would, because it’s not fun to lose your identity and not know who you are anymore.
    • So I realized motherhood inequality could not be ignored: I couldn’t fix career issues until we had solved this issue.
  • Once we solve it, here’s what their lives look like:
    • Mom is no longer putting herself last. She’s stopped operating with a zero-sum game mentality, in which if she gets what she wants, her family loses.
      • Instead, she knows how to get what she wants AND do what’s best for her family in parallel: and she no longer views these as mutually exclusive.
    • The pecking order has been replaced by a round table where everyone is heard and everyone is encouraged to get what they want.
    • If there’s something that’s not working for any member of the family, they put their heads together to come up with solutions that work for everyone.
    • What also happens is that Mom lightens her load considerably because everyone in the family is contributing at home, either in the form of time or resources. So Mom has the latitude to pursue what she wants.
    • Eliminating motherhood inequality not only makes moms happier – it elevates the happiness levels for the entire family because everyone is being heard and encouraged to get what they want.
    • And here’s the remarkable thing about all of this: when Mom makes the decision to tackle motherhood inequality, the dynamic of the entire family changes.

People don’t believe that this will work, because for most people, it doesn’t work. They try to solve this problem their entire lives and it doesn’t get solved and so the question is: why? Why doesn’t this problem get solved for most people? What’s the dividing line between those who solve it and those who don’t?

  • For most people, it doesn’t get solved because they lack the skills to solve it. The people who solve this problem have certain skills that the other people don’t have.
  • So when you’re facing this problem, the solution is to acquire the skills you need to solve it – and we’ll be talking about that here on this podcast.

The second thing that we need to correct for many lawyer moms is related to the first, and it’s what I call marital inequality.

  • This is where one spouse takes a backseat to the other spouse.
  • Of course, inequality can happen in any type of relationship and it can happen to any person, but here we’re talking about the form of inequality that commonly occurs for lawyer moms in marriages.
  • This usually shows up as one spouse being overburdened relative to the other. For example: if two spouses have demanding full-time jobs, but one of them is bearing the lion’s share of work at home and with the children, while the other focuses on work, that puts the overburdened spouse in an unequal position.
  • Sometimes these types of arrangements are made because it’s what both partners genuinely want and it’s been a conscious decision, then that’s fine.
  • But if mom’s career is taking a backseat to her spouse’s career not because it’s what she wants, but by default, that indicates marital inequality is happening.
  • This doesn’t have to be coming from your spouse. You can have the most supportive partner in the world and still be grappling with the effects of marital inequality.
  • If the end result is that someone is taking a backseat to their partner with regard to career, financial decisions, or any other life decisions, it means that that person isn’t enjoying equal status in the marriage.
  • Lawyer moms struggle with marital inequality in other scenarios too:
    • When mom’s career is deemed to be primary and she’s the breadwinner, marital inequality looks a little different.
      • When Mom wants to make a change in her career, but she’s seeking permission or approval from her spouse, or there’s a deference to her spouse and she’s giving more weight to his opinion than to her own: that’s indicates marital inequality is happening.
    • Or it could be that mom has decided to stop working altogether to focus on the family, and because of that, she doesn’t feel like she’s an equal partner in making financial decisions within the marriage.
      • Or maybe she wants to return to work and brush up on her skills, but her spouse doesn’t really see the need. If she finds herself deferring to her spouse on that decision, that indicates that marital inequality is happening.
    • Regardless of where it comes from or the exact form that it takes, marital inequality takes a toll on careers, families, and happiness. And of course it does, because anytime adults aren’t feeling free to call the shots on their careers and their finances, it creates unhappiness and insecurity.
      • Marital inequality doesn’t have to exist and in many families, it doesn’t.
      • So the question is: how can you avoid experiencing this? The answer is skill.
      • The people who have the skill of eliminating marital inequality from their lives and replacing it with marital equality are the ones who are happiest at home and at work. (And by the way, their families are the happiest too because when you create equality in a family, it’s a better experience for everyone.)

When marital inequality is solved, here’s what it looks like:

  • Both spouse’s careers are valued and treated equally. Both careers are deemed essential and both spouses are free to make decisions about their own careers.
  • They’re also equal partners in making financial decisions, regardless of their current employment or income.
  • When both spouses want to work, they support each other in growing both partner’s careers in tandem.
  • And nobody in the family is doing work that they hate. Solving this problem means that both partners are flourishing and happy at work.
  • They’re also playing on the same team with regard to parenting: there’s a clear understanding of the common objectives, and they work together to achieve those objectives.

If you don’t solve the inequality issues, they can lead directly to the third issue that we see which is what I call Depleted Mothering. Depleted Mothering happens when you’ve exhausted your reserves and there is nothing left for you. You’re running on fumes and eventually, you’re not going to be able to continue.

Depleted mothering is separate from post-natal depletion: that’s a physical condition that happens when your body is depleted of nutrients following the birth of your children. That’s a medical issue that needs to be treated by your physician, particularly when your children are very young.

Depleted mothering is a distinct issue that comes not from giving birth, but from what’s happening while you’re raising your kids. It’s a pattern of continually exhausting your physical and mental reserves because you’re trying to do so much for your kids and your family.

  • When your weeks and weekends are filled to the brim with work and kids, when you’re the one bearing the lion’s share of work around the house and with the kids, then there’s no place for the kind of restorative or reenergizing activities that humans need to recharge their batteries.
    • Things like getting enough sleep, or exercise, or healthy food, or connection with other adults like your spouse and friends; time for yourself, time for fun. Remember that? For most lawyer moms it’s been a while since they had fun.
    • We know that a lot of lawyers are already depleted by their work. When you combine that with depleted mothering, it takes depletion to a whole new level. Women who deplete their reserves in this way eventually hit a wall because it’s simply not sustainable. The impact this has on your health and happiness cannot be overstated.

What we read in blogs and magazines is that depleted mothering is driven by exceedingly high expectations for motherhood, causing moms to feel tremendous guilt when they don’t measure up to those impossible expectations and that guilt drives them to ignore their own health and exhaust themselves. So the standard advice is to just lower our expectations. But most moms don’t want to lower their expectations.

What’s actually happening here?

  • The real problem here is that the current paradigm for motherhood needs a complete overhaul because everything we’re doing for our kids that leads to depleted mothering is actually the opposite of what creates success for both kids and moms.

It feels like depleted mothering is part and parcel of being a mom, but in fact, depleted mothering is caused by a lack of skill. Specifically, the skill of creating a household in which mom isn’t the go-to solution for every problem, every task, every single thing that needs to be done.

When you develop this skill, you go from being a depleted mom to a rested, happy mom,

  • You’re getting 8 hours of sleep at night.
  • Not only that, restoring your energy is no longer an afterthought: it’s an integral part of your life that’s built into your day and your week.
  • And because you’re no longer depleted, you’re able to be more productive and efficient at getting things done, which leaves more time for fun.
  • Your weekends are no longer just about getting things done around the house or getting ready for the week, you actually have things that you want to do and you’re doing them without hesitation because the family knows how to handle it when taking some time for yourself.
  • You’ve created a robust support network built up around you, so that you are getting what you need to be able to do your job and parent your kids in the way that you want.
  • Your life is no longer a series of obligations: you’ve pruned away the excess: you’re no longer drained from doing things that aren’t really helping your kids become independent and self-sufficient.
  • The old paradigm of motherhood that leads to depleted mothering has been replaced by a much healthier and sustainable one that you feel good about modeling for your sons and daughters to take into their own families someday.
  • So that’s what happens when you solve the issue of depleted mothering.

Sometimes, addressing the issues makes such a difference in a lawyer mom’s life, that she finds that she doesn’t even need to make any change to her career because the real source of her unhappiness was what was going on at home.

But in many cases, there are very real problems happening at work that need to be addressed. There are 3 common problems that interfere with happiness at work for lawyer moms.

The first thing that needs to be corrected at work is what I call a role mismatch:

  • A role mismatch occurs when the skills that you need to use for your current role are skills that you do NOT enjoy using, AND
  • It occurs when the skills that you really love to use are NOT being used by your current role.
  • If you’re questioning whether you really want to keep doing the work you’re doing or you’re dreading getting back to work because you don’t enjoy using the skills you’re developing, you have a role mismatch.
  • Role mismatches are a common problem for lawyers in general:
    • many people go into law because it’s thought to be a safe profession. And we’re told we can do anything with a law degree, so many, many attorneys go to law school without having a clear idea of what they actually want to do and after they get out of law school, they just want to get a job, so they get any job that they can, which is often not a good fit for the skills they enjoy using.
  • It’s not uncommon for attorneys who have been practicing for years to still not know what they really want to do, but to be really good at skills that they don’t actually enjoy using.
  • It’s also not uncommon for the skills that you need to use for your job to shift over time.
  • So role mismatches can creep up on you as you advance in your career and you can suddenly find that your role is requiring different skills that aren’t a good fit anymore.
  • But role mismatches are particularly common for lawyer moms:
    • For many, many women, becoming a mother involves a massive shift in identify that they don’t anticipate.
    • Their value system changes and their priorities change overnight. They find that the role they used to have no longer aligns with those new values and priorities.
    • Or sometimes they just develop a new area of interest.
      • Several of my clients experienced a lot of challenges during their own maternity leaves, and so the issue of parental leave accessibility has become something that they’re intensely passionate about, and so advocacy in that arena has become the skill that they want to focus on and they’ve made career changes that allow them to step into a role that fits that skill set.
    • Or it could be that motherhood has simply uncovered an existing role mismatch. The job that was just okay or tolerable before they kids is no longer the job you want to be doing now.
      • I’ve had many women tell me that if they’re going to be away from their kids during the work day, it needs to be for a job that they truly love and care about.
    • When you’re in a role mismatch, work feels miserable: you drag yourself to your desk, you force yourself to stay focused; you’re drained and dragging throughout the day, and there’s a sense of dread that infects even your free time, because you know you have to return to that work that you just don’t enjoy.
      • But when you’re a lawyer, you already have the job that you worked so hard to get – and a job that many people would like to have. So it’s very common for lawyers to have guilt about not liking their jobs or wanting something different. So not only are they not enjoying they’re work, but they’re judging themselves for it.
    • When you correct a role mismatch, you go from feeling miserable at work to being delighted by your job.
      • You leave work feeling good: you may be physically tired, but you’re mentally engaged and also energized by what you’re doing.
      • You’re developing and stretching the skills you want to be using. There’s growth happening and a sense that the work you’re doing matters.
      • You’re productive at work, your workdays pass by quickly.
      • And when you enjoy what you do and you enjoy honing your skills, people notice: they want to work with you.
      • Employers and clients want to hire you, and so your opportunities increase.
      • Not to mention, you come home feeling happy, and that flows over to other parts of your life.
      • You enjoy your weekends and your vacations more because that sense of dread is gone.
      • Solving a role mismatch problem is a game-changer.

The second common thing that needs to be corrected at work are what I call workplace environment problems:

  • This is where the work environment is not a good match for your life right now:
    • What happens to a lot of moms is that the work environment was fine pre-kids, but after kids, it’s no longer a good fit.
      • This commonly comes up in the hours that are required for the job: maybe you were fine with working around the clock before kids, but after kids, that schedule just doesn’t work.
      • Maybe you need more flexibility than your current employer wants to offer.
      • This problem arises if you’re working at a place where the culture or values are no longer aligned with your own,
      • And it’s particularly common in work places that aren’t set up to handle the kinds of challenges that lawyer moms face on a regular basis, such as needing to pick up the kids or the kids getting sick or snow days or unexpected gaps in childcare.
  • Work environment problems can sometimes be solved without leaving your current workplace. This surprises many lawyers that I work with: sometimes you can solve an environment problem by making some changes to your current job.
    • I was able to do that by creating a flexible work arrangement, and I’ve helped a lot of my clients do the same thing.
  • But in cases where a severe environment problem exists, what lawyer moms want is to find or create a new work situation that’s compatible with the motherhood they want to have.
  • Once you fix a work environment problem, here’s what happens:
    • You’ve decided what’s important to you in a work environment and
    • You show up in a way that opens the door to the types of opportunities that you want: this can be at your current job or a new job.
    • Your work environment fits like a glove: you have the schedule and flexibility that you need, so you’re no longer being asked to work more than you can work, and you’re thriving and productive, so your clients and colleagues are happy, and you’re happy.
  • People think these work situations don’t exist because they’re not often posted online, but there are specific steps that you can take to find or create these opportunities, and in doing so, you find the right work environment for you, which eliminates so much unnecessary lawyer mom stress.
  • We’ll be talking more about that here in later episodes of this podcast because it’s key step on the path to becoming a happy lawyer mom.

And the third common issue that often needs to be fixed is what I call anxious lawyering.

This comes from questioning and doubting yourself and your abilities, which causes you to hold back at work. When you’re consumed with worry about how you’ll be perceived instead of stepping into your own expertise, you know that anxious lawyering is happening.

Anxious lawyering requires you to work more than necessary to get the job done well and it causes you to be less productive with your day. Spinning in doubt about what you should do next or what you should’ve said differently takes up valuable time in your day, so it slows you down, which leads to working later. It’s also just not fun to work in this way.

There are many drivers of anxious lawyering, but the most common that I see are:

  • fear of making a mistake,
  • the lack of trust in your own abilities,
  • trouble setting boundaries, and
  • trouble asking for support.

What often happens is that anxious lawyering was there all along – but when you become a mom and you suddenly need to stop working promptly at 5:00 or 5:30 or whenever it is, the toll that anxious lawyering takes on you becomes particularly glaring.

 

When you solve the issue of anxious lawyering, here’s what happens: You’re no longer second-guessing your every move and paralyzed by fear: instead, your focus is on building your expertise and skills. Your confidence grows, your nervous system relaxes, and you’re able to tap into your creative mind more quickly to find solutions.

  • Because you’re focused on serving your clients at the highest level, you become a professional of the highest caliber and clients feel that and want to work with you.
  • This high level of service does NOT mean that you’re working around the clock.
  • On the contrary: you’re fully engaged when it’s time to work and you’re more productive and efficient during your work day, so that you can log off on time, enjoy your evenings with your family and recharge your batteries, and start the next day ready to go.

Challenges no longer knock you off course: instead, each new challenge is a chance to grow and develop the skills that you enjoy using, and you find yourself energized from your work, rather than depleted.

There are no doubt many more issues for lawyer moms that we’ll be exploring on this podcast, but fixing those six common issues are the fastest way that I’ve seen again and again that to create happiness for lawyer moms.

To recap, we’re talking about solving:

  1. Motherhood inequality
  2. Marital inequality; and
  3. Depleted mothering;
  4. Correcting a Role mismatch
  5. Solving workplace environment problems, and
  6. Solving Anxious lawyering

These issues are real and they need attention because each and every one of these issues is a barrier to getting what you want in your life and career. You invest north of a $100k plus years of your life getting a law degree: but when you combine a demanding legal career with a family, it creates the perfect conditions for these issues to surface and they wreak havoc for many lawyer moms. When left unchecked, these issues tank careers, create conflict at home, and take a toll on your health.

People think these problems can’t be solved. Many lawyer moms get stuck trying to decide: is it me or is this just the way life is for lawyer moms?  And the only options seem to be (1) live with it or (2) leave the law altogether. But neither of those options is what most lawyer moms want.

The good news there is a third option, which is to solve the issues that are making lawyer mom life so hard.

Today, we’ve taken a 30,000 foot view of these steps, but stay tuned for upcoming episodes. I’m going to break down these steps even further, we’re going to look at common pitfalls that can happen when you implement the steps, and what you can do to avoid those pitfalls.

When you take these steps, you’re no longer staying stuck: you’re making meaningful changes that are fixing these issues. You’re moving forward and you’re getting what you want at work and at home.

These steps are the fast-track to fixing what’s not working. When you’re a lawyer mom, you don’t have time for trial and error: you need to be able to efficiently and effectively resolve the issues getting in your way so you can move forward toward exactly what you want. That’s what these steps will do for you.

I’ve walked this path, I’ve helped other lawyer moms walked this path, and that’s what this podcast is about.

So join me for the next episode because we’re going to take a detailed look at how to solve motherhood inequality and marital inequality. Doing this will change your family life for the better and it will give you the time and space to think about what you want for your career. You don’t want to miss it, so I will talk to you then!

Thank you so much for being here today. Have a wonderful week!

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A New Approach to Happiness for Lawyer Moms

A NEW APPROACH TO HAPPINESS FOR LAWYER MOMS

Welcome to THE HAPPY LAWYER MOM PODCAST, a podcast that takes lawyer moms from beyond stressed and barely hanging on to finally getting what they want at work and at home, so that you can be TRULY happy.

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