Friday, August 23, 2013

Previously, On The Having It All Project...

Summer is winding down and just like the temperatures have started to drop, so have my blog stats. It seems not many people like to be tethered to their computers on Fridays during the summer. What a shocker, right? So just like TV series now ubiquitously start with a recap of some of the prior episodes, here are some of The Having It All Project posts that you might have missed. You can find the gorgeous photo album of all the participants here, and why not give Busy Since Birth a Facebook "like" while you're at it?

T.J., father of two and Iraq war veteran, doesn't stress unless his "@$$ is on fire," because that's actually happened to him while flying over Baghdad.

Gina, a mother of five and a survivor of sexual assault, is forging her own path and make life work on her own terms.

Eleanor, Rabbi and Executive Director of California Faith for Equality, relies on technology and a commitment to date night to survive the chaos of balancing it all.

And from my own personal files, is life all about leaning in, or is luck a bigger factor?

Hope you had a chance to discover something new today. The Having It All Project resumes on Friday, September 6. I'm busy filling slots for the remainder of 2013--please reach out to me at if you'd like to participate!

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Comforter Aisle (A Post on Sponsored Content)

The oldest picture I could find of Hannah in front of our comforter
Disclosure: I received the Yurbuds headphones mentioned below for free. All opinions are my own.

So I think we've reached the end of our series of posts on BlogHer 2013, but I never promised to be brief on such an amazing experience. This is perhaps the hardest post for me to write, but definitely the one I've thought about the most.

I decided to challenge my thinking a bit going into BlogHer, and see what I might want to do in terms of working with brands, sponsors, and paid content in general here at Busy Since Birth. I attended two parties outside the conference (which is very controversial, apparently), and spent a couple of hours walking around the Expo Hall. Since I didn't chose to buy the conference pass that was at the non-sponsored rate, which was considerably more money, I wanted to give the sponsors my time, and see what might be a good fit for me to tweet/talk about on my blog. For example, I spent time listening to the Yurbuds presentation from Best Buy, headphones that supposedly do not fall out of your ears, and decided they'd be a great addition to my commute, and when I exercise doing something other than Zumba. It was a product I didn't mind telling you I'd found--it was authentically something I would use.
But a lot of it felt problematic for me. I just don't use that many "products" in my life, I guess. I watched others talking to this brand or that, and I didn't feel comfortable engaging in the same way. While it's true that women are responsible for the vast majority of purchasing decisions, it's probably not true in my house. Marc does most of the shopping for household goods and groceries, and we've been in our home for long enough that we tend not to buy a lot of extras. When I do buy something, I usually don't spend a ton of time researching it in advance. My time is limited; if it's in front of me, and I like/need it, I'd rather get it done than spend more time on it. Which could help explain why I've had the same blanket on my bed for at least ten years.

Yes, there's a reason for the adorable picture of Hannah above, other than the adorableness of it. As I mentioned in my long "what I learned" post, I attended a session called "The UnMarketing Manifesto," and I've been thinking about it ever since. Panelist Dresden Shumaker said that once a blog starts acting more like a brand than the full range of someone's original voice, post topics tend to become more limited, and she might think of that blog as similar to "the comforter aisle in the big box store." Meaning that it's nice to know the aisle is there, but unless you're looking for a new comforter--an activity that probably doesn't happen all that often--you're not going to visit that blog as much either. I know that's true in my own experience, that when blogs feature a lot of sponsored content and the focus becomes more limited, I don't bother doing a lot of reading...and I'd hate for that to happen here. I buy new comforters far too infrequently.

So, Busy Since Birth, at least for the time being, is going to remain ad-free. However, I hope you'll keep reading when I do find things that I want to share with you. I'd like to be a resource for you to discover new products or services that fit this busy life (like a new app that helps you schedule appointments and activities...), but I can't enthusiastically write about the things that don't fit (...that's only currently available in Los Angeles). I hope you'll trust that anything I'm posting here is worth your while--and mine too.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Having It All Project: Kristen Brown

I met Kristen at an event before the start of BlogHer, and as I often do with complete strangers at blogging events, we quickly dove into her life story and I knew I had to share it with you all. Kristen's life took an unexpected turn, but it led her down a transformative path, and now she helps others to transform their lives too. She's the author of two books, including her memoir "The Best Worst Thing," and you can connect with her company, The Happy Hour Effect on her blog, Facebook and Twitter. Here's how Kristen is having it all.

Briefly describe your life and what you think makes it unique.
I’m a widow mom, author, speaker and coach who is constantly juggling, growing, seeking opportunities and trying to remain grounded and present as a parent at the same time. My 30-year-old husband, Todd, died of a heart attack in his sleep in 2007 despite having no risk factors and being a tall, skinny, healthy former college athlete.

This massive stressor had a profound impact on how we live today. My daughter, Brooke, was only 10 months old at the time of his death so one of my key goals is to ensure she knows what a great man her dad was. I weave stories about him into our everyday life.

His heart attack at a young age also puts Brooke at risk for developing genetic heart disease so I’m constantly educating her on how to make the right choices with diet, exercise and lifestyle so she grows into an adult choosing healthy lifestyle habits. Plus I want her to just be a kid so I don’t want to be too overbearing with all the “rules” for health.

My 100% commitment to her health and safety often causes my own wellness to slip to the bottom of the priority list so I make sure that I schedule in me-time several times per week to recharge and reflect on my own growth and health.

Most importantly I try to live a low-stress, fun and interesting life that is infused with little adventures, flexibility and exposure to new ways of thinking and living. I love traveling with my daughter and now that she is getting to be a little lady (she’s almost seven) our options for travel destinations opens up. She likes travel too as long as we’re going somewhere that doesn’t require a shot!

What are some of your favorite tips and strategies for coping with the chaos?I’ve developed several philosophies for dealing with chaos and craziness as I’ve evolved my business, Happy Hour Effect. Here are a couple of my favorites:

  1. Build in 2-3 minutes every hour to do a mini-meditation. I don’t chant or sit in a dark room. I simply stop what I’m doing and stop thinking about what’s next. We’re always thinking about what’s after this meeting, after work, this weekend, next month – and very rarely do we just stop to focus on the present moment and where we’re at right NOW. By building in just a couple of minutes every hour, I’m able to appreciate where I’m at, evaluate if I’m working on the right tasks to get me closer to my goals and reset my physical body by taking deep breaths.
  2. My Life Mapping process visually lays out all of the moving pieces of life – work, hobbies, commitments, core life (kids, health, etc.), big challenges and big dreams. I use it for myself and my clients to help get a grip on all of the things we juggle everyday so we are better able to decide what needs to rise to the top of the priority list. I’ve had so many people tell me this exercise changed their lives. It’s pretty powerful to see all the stuff that fills up your life down on paper and to have a real grip on what needs to happen to change your challenges.
Please share a moment where it all broke down, and how you got through it.I’ve had many, MANY moments where it all broke down. Since I started my own business I have had periods where money has been tight and I’ve had to get a day job to fill the gaps. Those are the times when I’m juggling way, way too much and it pushes me over the edge into stress, crankiness, unhealthiness and bad decision making.

Trying to remain a happy, positive parent while growing my business and writing life while working 40+ hours a week does not work for me, but it has been a necessary evil a couple of times over the last six years. Now that my own business is thriving, I’m day-job free. Money still gets tight sometimes but I’ve decided that it’s not worth the stress to have a full-time day job busting my ass for someone else just for a big paycheck.

I’m happier and my daughter is happier when I’m doing what I love even if we have to cut back on life’s little luxuries to get through the tight spots.

Do you have any balance role models? Anything you try to avoid because it wouldn't work for you?
I can’t think of a specific balance role model but I have anti-role models – people who I see living super-stressed lives and trying to juggle way too much. I know I don’t want to be in that place so they always remind me to stay on track with what works for me and my daughter. (a.k.a. no full-time day job!)

I also know that I need to avoid getting over-scheduled. When my calendar gets so filled up that I don’t have time to actually get anything done, I get a little nutty. I consciously manage my calendar and spread out my meetings and appointments over time leaving a few hours of unscheduled time every day.

Think back to your 18th birthday. How is your life different from how you expected it to be then? 

When I was 18 I planned on going to medical school, getting married, having a few kids and dogs and living a stable, luxurious life on a hobby farm somewhere. I had no idea how hard real life really is. 

As teens and even into our early 20’s we have such grand, amazing plans for life. Then some big setback occurs to level-set our reality and make us aware that life isn’t a big party all the time. It’s hard too. But the ups and downs create the person you are evolving into every day.

As I’ve aged (I’m 30-something), I become more and more wise to the ways of the world. I have a lot to learn yet and just laugh when I think back to those carefree days of my youth. I had no idea I would end up a widow. A harsh reality no doubt.

I also would never have dreamed I would be a bestselling author, national TV personality, coach and speaker inspiring others to go after their goals and dreams despite the inevitable stresses of life. A pretty sweet reality!

Every setback has turned into a lesson for growth and that’s what I remind myself every time I feel overwhelmed or stressed out.

I CAN have it all but not always all at once!

Relate to what Kristen is saying? Leave her some love in the comments. Read other posts from The Having It All Project here. Want to participate? Send me an email at

photo credit:

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Sweet Suite 2013

Disclosure: I attended Sweet Suite 2013 as a guest, and received the items mentioned below for free. All opinions are my own.

While away attending that event in Chicago that I've already told you a lot about, I was invited to attend Sweet Suite 2013, "The Biggest Night of Play!" party. Local Boston Parent Blogger Charlene of Charlene Chronicles was one of the co-hosts of the event,  so I figured this would be a good way to test out some of my thinking on embracing sponsored content here at Busy Since Birth. There will be more to come on that in a future post, but first, it was time to play.

The event was in a lovely space, and brought together a huge number of toy companies promoting their latest items to the blogging public while offering some desserts and beverages. Kimberly and I went through the two-story space together, though I have to admit I hung back more while watching Kimberly make a lot of connections. In some ways, my kids have aged out of a lot of toys already, and so there were fewer companies I was interested in getting to know.

Chatting with a toy rep at Sweet Suite 2013
photo credit: The Big Toy Book/sponsors
In other ways, I was sad to see that my kids have missed out on some truly great toy enhancements over the past few years (three year old Hannah would have died for the light-up princess costumes, and there were so many kid-friendly tablets). I left the event with some great stuff from Fashion Angels and Peanuts, and an old school Spirograph. Then I was positively stunned to receive a giant box filled with even more toys at home a few days later.

Even more toys.
I let the kids each choose two items to keep, and the rest are being donated to a local charity called Cradles to Crayons--there were over 25 toys still left in the box! Hannah chose the latest Kidz Bop CD and a set of Pinypon characters, and Max chose a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and a Tagamoto racing car kit. Everyone has been pleased with their selections.

I had a great time exploring and playing. A full list of all the participants is below!

Monday, August 12, 2013

I Could Have Opted Out

So it was only two weeks ago that I shared how excited I was to meet Lisa Belkin, of "Opt Out Revolution" fame. I didn't expect to see the article pop up again just yet (I wonder if Belkin knew to expect it herself), but Judith Warner's follow up piece on the tenth anniversary of the article has just been published. Unsurprisingly, the women in the piece have had a hard time with getting back into the work force (there's also been this little thing called the Global Financial Crisis since then). And some of them have seen difficulty in their marriages too (what's that old statistic, 50% of marriages end in divorce?). While the follow up piece doesn't explicitly blame the women for deciding not to work ten years ago as the source for all of their current problems, it doesn't make it sounds like the decision to stay home wasn't the source either.

I remember reading the original article on my commute home from work, in the middle of the second trimester of being pregnant with Hannah. I even remember that I was standing while reading it--no one got up to offer me a seat on the crowded train despite the visible pregnancy--but I juggled to keep reading it along the way. At the time, I knew I was planning to keep working after my maternity leave, but I didn't think it would always be a definite situation.

I could have opted out. Many times, in fact.

We were lucky that our infant daycare for Hannah was only $1,000 a month. But as she grew, so did the costs with a more official preschool setting. Could have opted out then. I could have left when we decided to sell our condo and buy a house, if we chose to live in a less expensive area, maybe further outside of Boston or even another state. I could have opted out when I miscarried, and was so devastated and unsure of my body and health. Or when Max was born, and the year we spent carrying both kids through daycare, wiping out the vast majority of my income (but for the crucial necessity of our health insurance). I could have opted out after any bad day spent unsuccessfully juggling too many things. There are lots of days like that.

But the big caveat that I think is missing from the Judith Warner update is that the women who opted out made the best decisions they could at the time, with the information and opportunities they had. The women left because work, frankly, didn't work. They didn't leave to sit home eating bonbons or to perfect their mason jar craft creations. They made reasonable decisions, as most people do when assessing their lives. Maybe for some it has been more difficult than they anticipated, but it doesn't sound like they would have made very different choices.

There are so many ways to compile a life, and I admit that I'm fascinated by how people decide what works best for them. But people don't make these decisions in a vacuum--a lot of factors come into play. I can see that my own life could have taken a very different path than it has so far, and could still vary from where I currently see it heading. I just hope that when others look at my life and assess my choices, they see that I'm trying to follow what works for me, even if it's not the same thing that works for them.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Having It All Project: Casey Carey-Brown

I'm thrilled to feature Casey, blogger at, on The Having It All Project today. Somehow I only found out about her blog recently, despite her living close by, but I'm so glad I did because as she says, her life rules. She rocked as one of the Voices of the Year at BlogHer, and getting to meet her was one of the highlights of the conference for me. Here's how Casey is having it all.

Briefly describe your life and what you think makes it unique.
We are a two mom family living in Boston. We have one child, a daughter, who is four. She is living the urban childhood dream, climbing fire hydrants, leaping off the neighbor's stoop, and swinging from railings one morning at a time. 

What are some of your favorite tips and strategies for coping with the chaos?
Our main strategy for coping with the chaos is to keep things as simple as possible. Meals are simple. Toys and messes are kept to a minimum. We find that if our home is organized and we manage the clutter, our lives as a whole are much less stressful.  

Please share a moment where it all broke down, and how you got through it.
We always break down around now, nearing the end of the summer. We accidentally over-schedule, it's too hot to cook so we eat out too much, we're tired, we're busy. So we let little things creep in. The rules about screen time (two hours on the weekends only) start to break down, the toys find their way into the living room, cooking at home means quick more prepared foods than we would prefer. Here comes the time when we need to decide: do we just hold our breath until September and try to get through? Or is now the time to start making some changes to get ourselves back on track? We usually go with the changes, but it's hard. We're tired. 
Do you have any balance role models? Anything you try to avoid because it wouldn't work for you?
Has anyone really been able to find the balance? I feel like as soon as I find it, something happens and I lose it again. I just try to focus on the good stuff, we try our best, and know overall that we're doing a good job. I think my role models are usually people who admit they don't have balance, that life is sometimes hard, but they try to find the joy in it.  

Think back to your 18th birthday. How is your life different from how you expected it to be then?
At 18, I envisioned a life where I would be married to a man, have lots of children, and stay home, probably homeschooling them. While that is certainly not the life I have now, I wouldn't change anything about what I do have. This life I have, though it's sometimes tricky, totally rules. I'm married to the love of my life who gives me more than I ever imagined. We have an awesome kid who teaches us about ourselves and the world every day. We really like her quite a bit. And we are able to work at jobs that are fulfilling while providing for our family. The one thing at 18 that I wanted more than anything, that I do have, is the ability to write. I have always wanted to be a writer, but for a long time didn't know what that would look like. My 18 year old self would be very impressed by all the writing I've done and how I've made that a priority.

Relate to what Casey is saying? Leave her some love in the comments. Read other posts from The Having It All Project here. Want to participate? Send me an email at

Sunday, August 4, 2013

#BlogHer13: The "What I Learned" Edition

So ostensibly, I went to BlogHer to actually learn something about this craft we call blogging. For all of you non-bloggers, it probably seems like all you need to do is sit down at a computer and spill your guts, which is mostly true, but I do think there is some art to it as well. I'm hoping to spend more time writing well over the next year, and chose to attend sessions that I think will help me on that journey, as well as the keynote BlogHer experiences. Here's what I tweeted over the weekend, along with the notes I wrote in my little green notebook. Because of course green.

Get ready for a whole lotta links.

Things got started at the BlogHer Newbie breakfast, where I was fortunate to sit with the amazing Cheryl Contee of Jack and Jill Politics, where she started us off with this great soundbite. You can't not be inspired thinking you're a part of something like that.
As soon as breakfast was over, I basically attacked Dresden Shumacker of Creating Motherhood, who had the idea of starting the mentor program, and whose blog I simply love.

Kimberly and I headed over to the morning keynote, given by The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond. Ree claims not to have had much vision when she started off, but has clearly built her own empire since then. It was encouraging to hear that someone with all that success still mostly likes taking pictures of her dog, who she also serenades with "Endless Love."

Next I attended a panel called "Turning Blog Posts Into Published Essays" with Rita Arens of Surrender, Dorothy. No time to tweet during this session as I was so busy taking notes! My favorite takeaways:
  • Be sure to define what success means for you.
  • Stop verbal throat-clearing (too much babble at the beginning - guilty.)
  • Be sure to put in the necessary context when you're submitting elsewhere - don't use names or references others won't readily understand.
  • End the post with lots of one syllable words, as they have more weight.
  • Don't ignore opposing viewpoints. It's easy to just be mad about something; be sure to be specific and have a sharp focus.
  • Don't gloss over the difficult parts.
  • It's okay to acknowledge you might be wrong.
  • Community questions are okay at the end of a blog post, but only if you really follow up and have a good dialogue.
  • Cross-post to BlogHer when you can (something I need to look into doing!).
I followed this up by attending a panel called "What You Learn When You Speak Out." Again, not a lot of tweeting as I was so busy listening to the stories of Lori Duron of Raising My Rainbow, Adria Richards of But you're a girl, Mir of Woulda Coulda Shoulda. Each of them have fought courageous battles and harnessed the power of the Internet for good, and I was so inspired by their stories.

I skipped the keynote with Guy Kawasaki. Turns out it was quite a controversial moment to have missed, but I needed a break, so Kimberly and I hit the Expo floor. More to come on that in my one final BlogHer post.

The last panel I attended was moderated by Courtnee Westendorf of Intel, and featured The Huffington Post's Lisa Belkin, The Chicago Tribune's Jenniffer Weigel and Stacey Ferguson of Justice Fergie. The title was "Glass Ceilings, Work-Life Balance and other Working Woman Worries." Right up my alley. As I said earlier, Lisa Belkin has been a long-time favorite of mine, and I loved getting to see her on this panel. The discussion covered everything from careers to spirituality to marital deal-breakers to making time for friends. My favorite line came from Lisa, when she said that "there are days when we can't fit in everything. That's what tomorrow is for." I need to work on remembering that.

One more shout out about the amazing Voices of the Year celebration. My good friend Jessica couldn't be there, but her post was chosen as one of the honored, and as soon as I walked in, this display was right in front of me. You can read her amazing post here, and be sure to tell her she's a rock star.

Remember when I wrote a guest post for The Outlaw Mama? I was so happy to meet her in person during breakfast on Saturday morning.

Sheryl Sandberg did the morning keynote, and I was surprised to see how tamped down her message was for this crowd. She emphasized that "Lean In" is not just for those with high ambitions, but for all women who need the encouragement to do what they'd do if they weren't afraid. I think it helped her sell a lot more books that day--I just hope her new readers aren't disappointed. But again, I'm a fan of anyone furthering this conversation of work and women.

From there I went to a panel called "The Unmarketing Manifesto" on bloggers who chose not to focus (as much or at all) on working with brands. I have a lot more to unpack on my thinking here, but since I started this blog in 2007, I've never done anything officially sponsored by anyone else. That seems to be a rarity these days, but thankfully, those were the people I seemed to meet most at the conference. Jenna Hatfield of "Stop, Drop and Blog" talked about how it's really hard not to "fall in love with the shiny" when brands are courting you. Lots to think about here. You can read the unmarketing manifestos of all four participants here, here, here and here.

After lunch and a few interesting but not particularly relevant panels, I attended "Anatomy of a Story" for a reminder on what makes blogs worthwhile--our ability to tell a good story. Panelists Tanis, Jenni, Nicole and Vikki reminded us that stories are about the thing that changes, but you need to give the readers a reason to care about why the change happened. Look for the part that emotionally resonates, or figure out what questions need answering. And when all else fails, "everybody needs a gay!" is a great excuse for writing all on its own. Sorry, you just had to be there. :)

My last official session was called "Blogging the Unbloggable" with panelists Adrienne, Alex and Cora. While I wouldn't say that my writing is hitting every hot topic, I've gotten some criticism along the way, and can probably expect more to come. They emphasized that some people are truly unreachable and incapable of seeing different viewpoints, but that we shouldn't let it prevent us from trying. And Janelle commented loudly from the audience a reminder that "some people do need to be disturbed." A great session.

Gale Anne Hurd, producer of the television series "The Walking Dead" gave the evening keynote. I was pretty fried by that point and not listening well, especially because they showed us many clips of zombies. I spent most of this panel tweeting a new hash tag.

Again, the fashion show featuring bloggers of every stripe was hugely inspiring. These women radiated confidence.

And then we went to eat some cheeseburgers and wear bag hats at CheeseburgHer. No, that didn't teach me anything, but it was kind of fun.

So in case you couldn't tell, I had a fabulous weekend. And I can't wait to do it again.
PS: To the women of the Serenity Suite - thank you so, so much. You were the very best.

Saturday, August 3, 2013


For someone as terrible at eighth grade algebra as I was, I love a good reconciliation. You know, the numbers kind. I love the way numbers just have to work, that there is a right answer in the end, even if it's hard to find it. When I was learning to do compliance work at my last job, I figured out a way to get a complicated test usually done by hand, with a pen and a ruler to keep track of what line you were on, into Excel, and I so enjoyed getting it right. No rounding or close enoughs, but down to the hundreths place right.

My Aunt Alison, my dad's younger sister, died a week ago. It was too soon after we had a chance to reconcile two years ago, after essentially not having any contact for 17 years.

It's not my story to tell, really, how that 17 year gap in our lives happened. We live on opposite ends of the country, and it may as well have been opposite ends of the world. But I missed them. I talked about my aunt who took me to see the actual London Bridge in Arizona, who decorated a hat box for storing all of my bat mitzvah paraphernalia, who sent me two dozen roses on my fourteenth birthday.

Uncle Marc, my Dad, Aunt Alison

But my brother now lives in California, too, and Facebook came into our lives. I saw my uncle's profile picture and realized with new clarity that Hannah has Pollock family eyes. Slowly, connections were built again. I now know about the lives of my first cousins, including some that I have never met in person, or not since they were toddlers. Two years ago, at my brother's wedding, I was overjoyed to see my aunt, uncle and his new wife, and eventually my cousin Samantha as well. It was hard to keep my emotions in check that entire weekend, as I had attended so many events as part of Marc's extended family in the past decade, but none with my own. Getting to spend that time with them meant more to me than I'm sure anyone realized. Had I known this was the last time I'd get to hug my aunt, I would have held on longer. As it was, I cried as we drove away, thinking that it was like getting to hug my grandmother again, one last time. My grandmother was taken away too young too. I used to cry every time we said goodbye--it was never enough for me. In some ways, especially considering how weepy I've been this past week, I haven't really stopped crying.

It's not fair. The time we had after we reconciled was just too short.

With my Aunt Alison

I wasn't able to make it to the funeral this week, and that's been hard to reconcile too. If you were to ask me, I'd say that I'm a person who attends funerals, but I have enough evidence now to support the opposite theory. I didn't attend any of my grandparents funerals either, though I wished desperately to be at my grandfather's funeral just after my back surgery.  I would have liked to say goodbye, to have that closure. I went to synagogue alone on the day of the funeral, trying to find something there, but I didn't find it. I'm hoping that by writing this post I can, again, reconcile life a bit. But these feelings don't fit into nice neat columns in Excel, no rulers to guide me into straight lines. There is no down to the hundreths place right, there is only rounding and close enough for time wasted and now, lost.

I do love a good reconciliation. But it would have been better if we'd never needed one.

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Having It All Project: Mrs. Mac

A fan of the #havingitall hashtag on Twitter, I connected with Mrs. Mac somewhere along the way. She's our first non-U.S. Project participant, from across the pond (and all British spellings below are her own :) ). You can follow her adventures on Twitter, and I'm so happy to feature her. Here's how Mrs. Mac is having it all.

Briefly describe your life and what you think makes it unique.I have an Antipodean outlook on the world, being born and bred in New Zealand. I have lived and worked in London for almost 15 years and am married with 2 beautiful daughters (3 and 8) and 2 big stepsons. I went back to full-time work within 6 months of both girls being born and have forgotten what it is like to do a job like this without having a family to juggle so it feels like breathing to me now. For a city lawyer I am a very passionate soul - I work hard and love hard – if you scratch the corporate surface and I am essentially a bit of a hippy. It's in finding a way to be true to myself in terms of my family while also serving the needs of my firm and my clients that the interesting discoveries seem to happen.

What are some of your favorite tips and strategies for coping with the chaos?Flexibility is my stability, I am not the sort of person who needs order and lists and extreme organisation to function. I like to be able to go with the flow and change things as the need arises – the temptation can be to over-plan things without trying them out in reality to see what works and what doesn’t. The thought of running our family life by schedule and too much future planning would bring me out in a rash – but, saying that, of course I do have to be organised especially as my husband works away a lot. Finding the balance between order and chaos is what I am about.

I think, for a lot of female lawyers, particularly those having children later on, they are used to it being “all or nothing” and are quite hard on themselves and perfectionist and it then becomes very tricky to keep working at this level once they have a family as something has to give -  it's hard for them to compromise when they have such high standards for everything.

So I try not to be a perfectionist. I focus on the things that matter to me – unconditional love & stability for my kids, good food (so important to me!), good client service, keeping it real at all times, avoiding unnecessary waste in our lives - the rest doesn’t matter so much. I have no real divide between work and home – I bring my work home in the same way that I bring my home to work; there is a kind of adrenalin in that. This means you will often find me downstairs working in the wee hours (either early in the morning or late at night) while the whanau (family) sleeps. My early career was in fashion and I like to look good, knowing I look good makes me feel better. I like to make my own beauty products and do yoga when I have time.  As a likely result of being the middle of 7 kids, I am not someone who needs “me time” – which is a good thing as I don’t really have any time for “me time” if I did want it! I believe that happiness is made up of a multitude of small pleasures so I just try and take each day as it comes and enjoy all the riches and joy that my life actually brings to me – if I am getting whiny and stressed, I try to remind myself of all the women all over the world who I so much more unfortunate than I am & the importance of resilience, this usually brings me back down to earth (my husband will do it for me if I don’t!).

Please share a moment where it all broke down, and how you got through it.
Life is full of ups and downs – however you look at it! Sometimes I have a bad day, a bad week, a bad month even... when it all feels too much and I think “what am I doing”? Especially when work is crazy (e.g. I am closing a deal) and I am not able to be there for the family like I want to be. But I know that working every day to support my children is an act of love just like any other act of parenting. Things usually come right in the end. As long as my family are healthy and okay then I need to remember that “this too shall pass” in relation to whatever my current drama is. I also chose my husband well; he cuts through the rubbish and reminds me of what is real and important anytime I start to lose my head!

Do you have any balance role models? Anything you try to avoid because it wouldn't work for you?
I have always done things my own way & think we all do things differently but I am also a “girl’s girl” and love to connect with other women from all walks of life. So many women I know inspire me – particularly my neighbour – she is a single mother with a terribly sick daughter and works as a specialist practitioner. She has such strength of character and her love for her children & faith is boundless. She gets home from work, stays in the hospital until midnight with her daughter, gets home and does chores and then leaves the house again at 7am. All out of maternal love, nobody is going to give her a prize in this life.

In terms of what I don’t like to do, I know a lot of people who get back late from work most nights so that they don’t have to bring work home – I don’t judge that but I know that my family functions better when I am home by 6-6.30pm to cook, talk, eat together and put them to bed whenever I can. But we all do what we have to do, right? It might be that I have to change at some point.

Think back to your 18th birthday. How is your life different from how you expected it to be then?
I don’t think I was capable of really looking into the future at 18, I was too wild! I didn’t even know I would be a lawyer then, but I always knew that I would be a mother. I think at 18 that I would have expected to have more than 2 children and I do have a little regret that I am not that mother of a large family (like I always dreamed I would be). But it was not to be and, all in all, I think my 18 year old self would be amazed at how life actually turned out for me and that I would be pleased with the outcome.
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