I’ve always been pretty outgoing. I’ve made friends relatively easily, and I have a large and diverse set of interests that makes it easy for me to connect with many different types of people. However, as a post-higher education adult, I have mentioned on many occasions how difficult it is to make new friends when you’re not forced into a college classroom, a sorority house, or a weekly Friday house party. But friendships are so essential to good mental health, so it’s important to go out there and forge new relationships. The problem with making friends as adults is that everyone’s schedules are vastly different. And when you work full-time, it’s exacerbated because you have so little free time to begin with. But it’s not impossible. I’m fortunate that my closest friends have been in my life since high school or even earlier, but I’ve made some truly awesome friendships even post-kids. Read on for a few tips for creating meaningful friendships even in the crazy life of a working parent.
A few months ago, we went on a family vacation for the first time in three years. And since then, we have had the opportunity to go on a kid-free trip to New York. So when my husband’s best friend gave us two months’ notice for his wedding in France, I figured due to time and cost, we’d be sending my husband alone. My parents had already agreed to watch the kids for our trip to New York only three weeks earlier, so I was confident that even if I could take the time off work, we wouldn’t have a plan for the kids. But my incredible parents agreed and we were able to buy my flight with frequent flyer miles, so off we went for a very quick trip to France.
Our preferred airline is American Airlines, and we used my husband’s miles to buy my ticket, since I didn’t have enough. The day before we left, my husband, who has priority from all his work travel, got bumped to first class for the domestic part of our flight. Since my ticket was booked on miles, I wasn’t eligible. But my husband insisted I take the spot and let me enjoy the first class seat on the way to Dallas. I’ve only flown first or business a handful of times, but it was a nice treat to have a meal and a glass of champagne.
We sat in our regular economy plus seats for the longer haul from Dallas to Paris, and although I can never sleep well on planes, I was only able to get 30 minutes of shut eye the entire trip. We then had to take four(!!) trains to get from Paris to Évian-les-bains and by the time we arrived, we had been traveling for 24 hours, and I hadn’t slept in about 30. I felt hungover without any of the fun that caused the hangover.
In an attempt to curb jet lag, we opted to spend the evening out. We had a drink at a harbor-side bar before having dinner at Villa Borghese. The wine was great and the food impeccable. By the middle of dinner, I was working overtime just to stay awake at the table, so we hightailed it back to the house and I slept a glorious 10 hours.
Full Day One
We stayed in the bride’s grandfather’s house. There were seven adults and one baby in a 3 bed, 1 bath house. It was certainly a tight squeeze, but it was nice to be able to spend so much of our short trip with the bride and groom. We had fresh croissants and tea for breakfast at the house, then went out in the rain to walk around the town. Évian-les-bains is a nice little lakeside town on Lake Geneva.
Most of the people we hung out with spoke little to no English, and although it was difficult to work so hard to try to understand anything (which I didn’t) it was nice to eat and drink with locals. We stopped for drinks at Le Carafon. At the bride’s recommendation, I chose a Kir, which was white wine with crème de cassis. It was very sweet, but a nice warm up before lunch.
When our table was ready, we had crepes at a local creperie. I chose a sausage and cheese entree, and it was delicious. We had to head back to the house, so we all ordered dessert crepes to go, and I had a Nutella and salted caramel crepe. It was so good I forgot to stop and take a photo before devouring it.
For dinner, many guests had begun arriving, so we ordered a variety of pizzas and about 15 people squeezed into the living room for wine and pizza. It felt exactly as I had imagined to be with a bunch of locals, speaking a language I don’t know–a little out of the loop but a totally warm, welcoming environment.
Unfortunately, jet lag got the best of us and both my husband and I were awake at 4:30 am despite going to bed after midnight. After some tea and croissants, we got to work to help set up for the wedding reception. The bride and groom had gotten married in Bali one week earlier, so the Indonesian theme carried through the event. The groom is Tunisian and the bride is Indian, so the home-cooked food for the reception was absolutely amazing.
The party began at 12:30 pm and lasted well into the night. A group of us went into town and some opted to gamble at the casino while the rest of us hit a pub for drinks and then a late night (11:00 pm!) dinner like true locals. Thanks to the jet lag, we were wrecked by the end of the night. Having been the main event we came for, it was a wonderful day and totally worth the exhaustion.
Half Day in Paris
My husband grew up in Paris, and I have been there a couple of times, but I loved the idea of being there together without the kids, and I begged him to let us spend Saturday there. We hopped back on a train early Saturday morning and arrived in Paris by 1:00 pm.
For the first time, it didn’t rain on my Parisian exploration. It was chilly, but I was just happy for no rain. Since I have been to Paris two times before and had done all the touristy things, this trip was more about exploring the neighborhoods.
We had about 90 minutes before our lunch reservation, so after checking into our room at Hotel Saint Dominique, we walked over to Champs de Mars near the Eiffel Tower. It was a beautiful day and it felt good to walk around and enjoy getting to know the city a little better.
We had lunch at Louis Phillipe in the Marais district at the suggestion of my husband’s friend. It was a lovely spot with a covered outdoor patio, and the food was good (not great). I had entrecôte with a mushroom sauce, but surprisingly, it was overcoooked (who knew the French could overcook a piece of meat?!) and didn’t have a lot of flavor. It was disappointing given we were only having two meals in Paris.
After lunch, we were full and tired, but we didn’t want to waste what little time we had, so we went for a walk. We walked through Place Vendôme near the Ritz Carlton and enjoyed walking through small cobblestone streets and simultaneously admiring the architecture, people watching, and reminiscing about my husband’s childhood in Paris. We windowshopped on Rue St. Honoré and indulged in fantasies of extraordinary wealth while passing rows of luxury cars and trying on obscenely expensive watches.
Our dinner reservations were at 9:00 pm, so we grabbed a drink at Bistrot Alexandre III, a barge on the Seine that is fixed in place. It was fun people watching and getting chic Parisian outfit inspiration from all the impeccably dressed French women.
We hopped an Uber to our dinner reservation at L’Ogre in the 16th district. We sat on the window with a view of the Eiffel Tower, which was just as romantic as it sounds. The menu is on a chalkboard on the wall, and after exchanging pleasantries with our unusually cheery waitress, who we later found out was from Corsica, explaining her friendlier-than-Parisian demeanor, we opted to let her choose what we should order. The menu is built for sharing, and we ended up with an absolutely incredible piece of meat accompanied by fries, salad, and a bottle of delicious French red wine. This was exactly the meal I hoped to have in Paris and totally made up for the mediocre lunch.
After dinner, we were exhausted, but we decided to walk the roughly 30 minutes to get an up-close view of the Eiffel Tower lit up. We topped it off with street crepes for our walk back to the hotel. It was a perfect, beautiful, romantic end to our jam-packed day.
My previous trips to Paris were fine but nothing spectacular. I have much preferred other European destinations (Florence being my absolute favorite). But this trip was different, and although it was [insanely] short, it was truly a wonderful trip. I’m excited to come back in the future and explore it with more time, but between both our trips this month, we sure have proven we can pack a lot of city exploring in a short amount of time.
Planning a wedding? Or an elaborate party for your child’s first birthday? Maybe a milestone birthday for your spouse? You’re probably hiring vendors either without a contract or without reading the contract before you sign. While most vendors are legit, here’s what to look for in vendor contracts in case of a disastrous experience.
I’ve read a lot of parenting articles and books in my four short years of being a parent, and I’ve concluded that if they’re (mostly) fed, (sometimes) bathed, and (generally) not in harm’s way, I’m doing an okay job.
I came across a few articles and posts about positive parenting (here, here, and here), and it intrigued me enough to consider how I could apply it in my life. There is a broad spectrum of what is considered positive parenting tactics from simply removing corporal punishment (which we haven’t used before) to super crunchy versions that include never saying the word “no” and praising everything a kid does. Everyone can find their happy place on that spectrum. For me, it was simply about trying to change some of my habits in an attempt to see if I could get a different (better) outcome. I’m not a total drill sergeant as a parent, but I’m definitely not some zen yogi patiently humming quietly to myself and smiling through my toddler’s next-level tantrums.
Adjusting to life as a mom is difficult for anyone, but for moms with a Type A personality, it can be downright sanity altering. I’ve learned to mostly laugh my way through the chaos, but sometimes it feels like my family does things just to see if I’ll break. My kids are like little torturers, testing the limits of my sanity and regularly putting a check on my perfectionist personality.
Meet one of my best friends, Julie. I met her the day after I moved to Sacramento for law school. We were on our way to an overnight whitewater rafting “bonding” trip with all the new students, and she looked nice enough, so I asked her if I could sit in the empty seat on the bus next to her. We rafted, shared a tent, and got to know each other. And we basically never left each other’s side through the rest of law school. She’s brilliant, hard-working, and she’s one of those moms who always lends a nonjudgmental ear and provides just the right balance of experience-based advice. So as you can imagine, I was thrilled when she agreed to let me kick off my new series of working mom interviews with her. Read on for some of that excellent experience-based advice.
Give me the elevator speech on what you do.
Professionally, I am an attorney for the State [of California]. Specifically, I work for the division that regulates financial institutions (banks, credit unions, money transmitters, etc.). Personally, I’m mom to a five-year-old, two-year-old, and a lab, and I have been married to my husband for eight and a half years.
How has your career changed, if at all, since having kids?
My priorities regarding my career definitely changed. Planning for, and having, kids helped to put into perspective how important it is to have a job that you actually enjoy and coworkers that you like being around 40+ hours a week. I had jobs where one or both of these things weren’t true and I would bring home my dissatisfaction (and sometimes anger). That wasn’t fair to myself or my family. Now, I’m in a position where I enjoy being at work, the people I work with, and I (generally) come home in a good mood!
What has been your greatest career accomplishment?
Related to the previous question, finding my current job has likely been my great accomplishment. When I went into law school, I wanted to be a corporate transactional attorney. But it’s hard to find a job in that field that will also allow you to have regular hours and a sense of work-life balance. Prior to this, I had a job that gave me a lot of flexibility, but it wasn’t the type of work I wanted to be doing. I wasn’t challenged and it was pretty far from corporate transactional work. But I was good at it and could be there for my family whenever I needed. In other words, I was comfortable, but not necessarily happy. I realized that I needed a challenge and to feel like I was actually making a difference in my work. A posting for my current position came up and I jumped at the opportunity. It was a new practice area so I knew the transition would be hard, but it was the right move.
What do you find to be the hardest thing about juggling career and motherhood?
Mommy guilt. It’s almost completely self-imposed. But, man, that guilt can take a toll, especially when your five-year-old is asking why you can’t come in to class at least once a week like so-and-so’s mommy. I have to remind myself and my kids that I have a job other than raising them and that it is an important job that I am proud to have.
How do you and your spouse divide the household/parenting responsibilities?
I work a 9/8/80 schedule where I have every other Friday off. To make that happen, I leave the house by 6:00 am so I can leave work at 4:00 pm and pick up the kids on time. My husband is in charge of mornings. He is generally responsible for everything associated with the kids’ drop-off, including getting breakfasts and lunches together, making sure the kids look semi-put together, and getting out the door early enough for him to drop them off and be at work 30 minutes away by 8:00 am. Our kids are super-early risers so I can usually start getting at least one of the kids ready before I leave. (I just started making freeze-ahead lunches like tortilla roll ups and nut-free butter and jelly sandwiches to take some of the load off of my husband. So far those have worked out well!)
I am in charge of dinner for most of the week. On Sundays, I try to make enough food for at least two or three days. I can usually get something together within 30 minutes for the other days. That is usually about the time my husband gets home. My husband is in charge of figuring out Friday dinners because, by the end of the week, I just don’t want to think about it anymore.
Deep cleans happen on my Fridays off. The day-to-day cleaning is mostly my area of responsibility, only because of my control issues over how I want things cleaned, not because my husband isn’t willing! (But he’s in charge of cleaning up after our dog in the backyard!)
I really feel like we evenly split our parenting responsibilities. Our strengths/weaknesses generally complement each other in this area. Our kids’ personalities are very similar to ours’ (my son is like my husband, and my daughter is like me) so those differences can be beneficial. For example, I tend to butt heads with my son in certain situations where my husband will be more calm and can communicate with him more effectively.
We are both attorneys. We both take our jobs very seriously and do everything we can to encourage each other’s professional endeavors, so that means picking up the slack when the other needs to prioritize work. For example, when I started my current job, I needed to travel for training and my husband didn’t hesitate to do pick up, drop off, dinner, and bedtime. Last year, he even had to take the kids trick-or-treating alone because I was stuck at a three-day training in San Francisco!
If you could do anything differently in terms of being a working mom, what would it be?
I would be more patient with my kids. They are not the reason that I am up before 5:00 am and only home by 5:30 pm. That’s just part of my decision to be a working mom. But, because I’m exhausted, I’m also short-tempered and impatient and I end up becoming really frustrated with them when they aren’t just listening to me the first time I ask them to do something or when they seem bewildered by the fact that they need to put on pajamas and brush their teeth before bed. I have to remember that they’ve had long days too and that they’re just doing what most kids are doing. (“Why are you acting like a five-year-old?! Oh wait…”)
Do you have any advice you would share with other working parents?
We’ve all heard that it takes a village to raise kids. But it’s hard to find your village, especially if you don’t have family nearby. Make a concerted effort to find it, though. It can make a huge difference in your life. Your kids will have a constant non-family presence in their life, and you will have a non-judgmental ear to bend when you need to vent, brag, or get advice.
Also, get a babysitter. Not a family member, either; just a regular babysitter that you trust in your home and with your kids. It took us over five years to do this and my only regret is not doing it sooner.
Finally, take time for yourself and allow your spouse to do the same. We’ve been encouraging each other to go for nights out or weekends away with friends, to go work out, or just to pamper ourselves outside of the house. It’s hard not to feel guilty about being away from your spouse/kids any more than our full-time jobs already require but I think that time away lets me reset and I’m a more patient, attentive mom because of it.
Have you ever come across your dream job on LinkedIn or been chatting with an acquaintance who offers to connect you with an executive at a company you’d kill to work for only to realize you haven’t updated your resume in about five years? Trying to update a resume in a short time is a recipe for disaster. The likelihood that it will be sloppy and include typos is high, and you’re sure to forget major projects or milestones when you’re under the gun. Don’t get caught empty-handed when an opportunity arises. You should spend at least 30 minutes once per quarter updating your resume. Spend a little time on these areas to ensure you’re not missing any important pieces when the time comes to send your resume for a potential opportunity.
My kids were never human garbage disposals, but my daughter did, at one point, eat more than just [organic] chicken nuggets and french fries. I mostly blame myself. Because I hate cooking, I stick to easy, tried-and-true meals. After a long day at the office, I just don’t have the energy to fight her on it, so I feel very responsible for her picky palate.
And I am not exaggerating when I say this girl is picky. There is literally not one vegetable on this planet that she will willingly eat. NOT. ONE. I can’t even get her to eat the pouch purees with both fruit and veggies. She only wants the fruit and yogurt ones. I guarantee my kid is pickier than yours.
Any working professional, parent, or adult can tell you they have a lot going on. Life is busy and we move quickly. Working parents, in particular, are in a constant state of context switching between professional, parental, and household responsibilities, and it creates serious overload. It sure helps to have a supportive partner, but there is plenty of research that suggests women take on a lot of the “noticing” about all the little to-dos and it can be overwhelming. I tried to explain it to my husband once, and all he heard was that he’s not pulling his weight (which he is), so it was very reassuring when I came across this article a few months ago.
But what’s a working mom to do when you just can’t shut off the noise? And even if you could, what about all those to-dos that still need to be done? Below are some tips for managing (and coping) with the working mom overload.