GUEST BLOG – Lessons from a Woman in Law

Women in particular need to keep an eye on their physical and mental health. Because if we’re scurrying to and from appointments and errands, we don’t have a lot of time to take care of ourselves. We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own “To-Do” list.

Michelle Obama


I am very proud of my circle of girlfriends. Looking around, we are loving daughters, girlfriends, wives and/or mothers in addition to successful physicians assistants, nurses, speech pathologists, business owners, attorneys, government employees, accountants, financiers and lecturers of law.

In speaking with my friends about the Mommy, ESQ. maternity and life coaching program, I’ve come to recognize that each of us is on our own personal journey to “have it all.” We’re all searching for balance in our home lives and careers and face our own unique struggles in striking this balance.

I have learned so much from listening to my friends’ stories. Each of them has challenged me to think outside of my own life experiences and recognize that there is more than one path to a happy, balanced life. That, while no two lives will look the same, both of these lives can be fulfilled, balanced and happy.

In that spirit, today’s blog post is brought to you by Erika Pagano, a friend, writer, and speaker and an associate director, Eversheds Fellow, and lecturer of law for the University of Miami’s Law Without Walls program. In our work together through the Law Without Walls program, Erika and I often discuss the limitations of our society’s traditional views of an “office” and changes that could be made to make our work environments and schedules, well, better. Together, we mentor students (or, as we call them, “change agents”) dedicated to innovating the future of legal education and practice. In fact, I was so inspired by our work together that I decided to publicly launch the Mommy, ESQ. maternity and life coaching program.

I believe that there is much to be learned from Erika’s story, and I think you will all agree. A big THANK YOU to Erika for courageously sharing her personal struggles and tips for finding balance in a busy, crazy work world. I look forward to collaborating with her again to bring you more innovative ways to bring more balance to your home lives and careers!

With love,

Mommy, ESQ.

****

There’s something in the air today. You know it well, as do I. Like Homer’s sirens, this something sings so seductively to smarts, talent, ingenuity, and grit—the qualities in which we women lawyers vest our pride. So what’s that sweet something? It’s the pervasive pressure to be nothing less than a total, utter, smashing success.

Hi. My name is Erika. Today, I’m here to play Circe, and advise you to plug your ears. The sirens’ song of perfection will kill your personal, professional, and interpersonal lives.

How do I know? It nearly killed mine.

Six months ago, I was a living, breathing legal Wonder Woman: in addition to teaching three law classes, running a global nonprofit, and planning my wedding abroad, I kept up strict megaformer pilates and kundalini yoga practices (and a solid golden tan, too). I thought I looked great. (One of my mentors recently claimed that I looked absolutely lifeless during this time.) I thought I felt great. (In retrospect, I didn’t feel a thing.) As I laid on a stretcher in a Miami Beach emergency room, unable to move or speak, I very quickly realized that my calculated decisions and deliberate structure were full of critical errors.

My literal and figurative collapse forced me to reevaluate my working style, lifestyle, and work–life balance. I may not be a mom, but I’m no stranger to high pressure, fast paced, results-driven work environments. Next to tropical beaches, they’re my favorite places to be. In lieu of my love for coconut oil, Lisa asked me to share my top lessons with you.  Let’s begin:

  1. The two-minute dance party: “What do you mean, dance party? I work in a biglaw office. I can’t dance. Partner will see me. How do I bill this? She’s ridiculous.” Stop. Look away from the document. Turn on a great song. Dance if you can. Bop your head and move your shoulders if you can’t. The key here is to break a destructive or unproductive train of thought with some positivity and physical activity. Confession: I just finished one myself.  (Junior Jack’s “Stupidisco,” a mid-aughts dance anthem sampling the Pointer Sisters’ “Dare me,” always does the trick.)
  2. Square breathing: Worry is like a vortex: It’s tough to break the flow, and easy to spiral out of control. It is 100% okay—no, it’s absolutely necessary—to stop and take a breath. My favorite technique is called “square breathing.” Inhale for four counts, hold the breath for four counts, exhale for four counts, and hold the emptiness for four counts. Repeat. Think back to snake, the Nokia classic, and picture your breath as that pixelated, crawling creature. I dare you not to smile.
  3. Friends: One of my biggest mistakes was pushing my friends aside. “Surely, they understand how busy I am,” I thought.  What I didn’t understand was the need for and importance of quality friend time.  A mid-day coffee, evening walk around the park, or shopping date for that theme + destination + summer camp + Pinterest explosion combo of wedding you’re both attending will prove therapeutic. You’re guaranteed a laugh or two and have the opportunity to feel supported and support a loved one. Talk about efficient!
  4. Calendar your life: You wouldn’t use a hammer to shape a bush of star jasmine, would you? (If you do this, email me. I’m interested.) Calendaring can be a great tool when used properly. Consider using yours as a tool to dedicate time to you. Block out an hour to use that cache of bath bombs you’ve had since last Christmas. Carve away a Tuesday night to detangle and polish all those tarnishing middle school Tiffany necklaces to the sweet sounds of Kroll Show reruns. Just like a meeting or conference call, you’re more likely to get on task when your device reminds you it’s time.
  5. Do your home work: I work from home (read: a tiny, beachside Art Deco apartment) a ton, with no plans to move my bed to the living room for the sake of creating a home office room. So, I snuck a vintage 5×7 rug from my parents’ house (Hi Mom, have you noticed yet?) and made it my dedicated working area. The rug is topped by a table, two chairs, my computer, and any necessary books, bills, or papers. I don’t dine here, nor do I wine here. This rug is where work—and only work—gets done. Cultivating a dedicated working space makes it much easier to focus my mind when necessary and walk away when the day is done. Tips: Root pothos for a tabletop science experiment. Read The Tao of Dana for more spatial insight.

So, what’s the takeaway? Ignore the sirens. Dance a little. Meet your bestie for a quick break at that kombucha speakeasy. Totally schedule that five-step hair mask your sister-in-law brought you back from Seoul. Breathe, snake-style. Embrace the decorating opportunity. It’s easy to write a thousand words of prosaic advice. It’s tougher to be authentic and straightforward. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to share my past and impart some personally impactful lessons. Quality of life is more than an important ideal to me—it’s a way of life. I am grateful for the space Lisa has created for us to discuss our collective and individual journeys. I wish you happiness, health, and a lot of fun along the way.


What’s your story? What unique challenges have you faced? What are you tips for striking a balance between your home life and career?

We’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below, e-mail us at mommy_esq@outlook.com, or reach out through any of our social media pages.

And, if you’re struggling to strike this balance on your own, know that you can always reach out to Mommy, ESQ. for help. Schedule your free thirty-minute session today!

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