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.
Relate to what Mrs. Mac 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!

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