Monday, 5:45am. My youngest (2) wakes me up with lots of kisses. That’s a way to start the day, I think, though I only had 6 hours of sleep. Shortly after, my oldest (4) joins us and demands her breakfast. Alright, that’s another way to do it.
Mornings are the best time to spend with them. No calls, no emails, just us. Normally daddy would take them to daycare / kindergarten at about 9am, but… no such help these days. Daddy takes them somewhere – anywhere really – so that I can have a few hours to concentrate on work.
Computer on and – full speed. No time to lose, none at all. Focus. Deadlines, call preparations, calls. Delegate. I was never so efficient and well organized.
Lunch time – Mama needs to be there. If there’s a call or a deadline, I have to leave. If they see me, they stick to me and won’t let me work. It can actually be very inspiring to hold a call while walking through a park, in spite of the cold winter.
Our little boy is asleep, our older girl is enjoying her screen time. Push the button again, full speed, complete focus. Use every minute you got. Finish up the email I started in the morning, two or three more documents to review, wrap it up until the next shift.
Daddy needs to work now, my turn. I take the children outside. A distant park, the university campus in Frankfurt. Somewhere they can run around with no dangers. Sometimes I have to make calls in the afternoon. The kids let me be if they are busy. If they are hungry, tired or simply need attention, they can be extremely loud and unreasonable. They are 2 and 4, after all. I – or anyone for that matter – could hardly expect more.
Dinner, bath, storytelling, bedtime. From 6 to 8pm the kids really need me. If work also really needs me at that time, I take their call and deal. Most of the time, the matter can wait for 2 hours. Of course there are also cases that can’t wait. Just last month a very intensive transaction (200 hours in three weeks!) required me to hold countless calls at this time. By the end of the transaction my daughter and the client’s son were calling each other by their first names. They both really dig Paw Patrol.
This is all doable, as long as it’s exceptional. If it becomes the rule, it’s not funny anymore. It’s pure stress.
Corona lockdown has taken us where we never thought we would go. Boundaries have disappeared, which brought us closer. It has become normal to admit that our children are around – that we are parents in the first place. Ultimately, it is now less of a taboo than it was before.
Kids in bed – uff! Switch back to lawyer me. This is my favorite time to work. Peace and quiet. I usually save the more demanding tasks for the last shift, analysis, memo drafting. Being able to work for 4 or 5 hours without interruptions is a luxury these days.
I will not mention the chores that are required to keep a family alive – groceries, cooking, cleaning – because I want to keep this positive. Let’s just say the house has been far cleaner and we are proud supporters of the local gastronomy!
There is not a single day I do not think about how lucky I am for the possibility to have such flexible working hours and to be in a team that recognizes and supports me. In the end, it is all about trust. Flexibility, support, trust – all three absolutely essential. Otherwise, the situation is simply not sustainable. You can hold your breath for some time – years perhaps – but at some point you are pushed to the extreme of having to choose between being a mom or a lawyer. Which is not only absurd, it is also a pity for everyone involved.
I am convinced that it is possible to be an excellent lawyer and an excellent mom, though not if moms are alone in this. We need help. From everyone. We need help from our partners so that we can concentrate on work; We need help from our colleagues to play along and be flexible with us; And we need help from society as a whole to recognize that we are not any less professional, less competent, less willing or less committed because we are part time working moms. Quite the opposite.