Though it didn’t come till I was 32 and mid-career, I love motherhood. I enjoy it more when there is more of me to give to my children.
Here I relay what I have learned from other moms, and my own experience in nurturing my faith, my children, and my career—in that order.
1. Wake up much earlier before children
When working as a single in Washington, D.C., I had a friend and mentor who decided with her husband to start a family while in the midst of her doctoral research at Harvard. She made it work by going to bed with her children, then waking up at 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. and wrote until her children awoke.
I have not forgotten her story. In fact, I think of it often and have incorporated her wisdom into my daily routine. We recently moved from London back to the States with two tiny children born there: Gideon, age 2, and Esther, age 1.
The move brought many changes, including the loss of consistent childcare. I am attempting to carry on my constitutional consulting work regardless, and thus go to bed early and awake in the wee hours.
After investing time into my spirituality by praying and studying scriptures, I do the heavy mental lifting tasks next, including academic reading and writing.
I leave my email alone at this point and do offline tasks (it helps that my office in the attached barn doesn’t have wireless!). I find the solitude of the morning refreshing, and I am twice as effective working during these hours as later in the days. I hope to get two work hours in at this point, but find that even one allows me to be incredibly effective throughout the day.
2. Coordinate and maximize naptime
When I started my career, I carefully watched my older sister, Anjenette, and how she maintained her sanity and identity while raising her young and quickly growing family of nine children. She coordinated naps, and napped and studied her scriptures during that time.
I also coordinate afternoon naptime. This is no small task.
I prepare for the afternoon nap immediately after breakfast, when I get my munchkins out the door as soon as possible. With the exception of weekly grocery shopping, I leave my errands for the small post-nap window, and do something fun and engaging for my youngsters.
My sister has taught me that the harder they play (and the more physical or mental exercise they get) the better they nap. I will also try to put the longest napper down first, so that I don’t lose any naptime of my shorter napper.
During this time I’ll often get a very quick 10-20 minute nap, schedule my business calls, respond to emails, and then get family business done.
My baby is the shorter napper of the two (though she also gets a morning nap while we are out and about). After her naps, I give her quiet time in her crib with books and soft toys so that she learns how to entertain herself, slowly transition to wakefulness. Plus, this gives me an added 20-30 minutes to do family business.
3. Where appropriate, incorporate children into your work
I was raised by a very politically active mother who would take us to her rallies, lobbying efforts at the state capital, and state and national conferences.
I also will never forget a law professor who did something similar. She was the mother of two daughters, one of whom I found in her office one afternoon while her mother edited the daughter’s Jane Austen paper out loud. Though I had the scheduled meeting time, I was not the main priority. I remained in the office until the professor had finished proofreading her daughter’s paper, happy to do so.
So when I had the opportunity to return to Libya when my son was three months old, I took him. We also brought a research assistant who doubled as a babysitter. All three of us went to my meetings, and I would take my babies when appropriate or permitted.
When people need to schedule calls at times other than naptime, I warn them of baby background noise, and often my children will “ask” to see the caller on Skype or Facetime. I have yet to find anyone who has been offended by this, but I also work in an international and academic sector where children are more welcome.
4. Enjoy your children
I know that I will be able to work and invest in my faith when my children are sleeping, so I am able to concentrate on enjoying them just a bit more. Recently, I have started “school” or little enrichments for them post-naps. They enjoy the one-on-one just as much as I do, and I love seeing near-immediate fruits of my teaching.
I am still seeking the perfect balance (aren’t we all?), but I find the combination essential to maintaining my sanity, individual identity, and focusing on my children more wholeheartedly when they are up.