How To Balance Your Child While You Work

This week we hear from guest writer Hillary Vaillancourt about balancing parenthood with a legal career at home.

Covid has brought significant attention to the need for childcare for working parents. Many of us have been trying to tend to work while simultaneously tending to children at home, and the result has been massive burnout, frustration, and chaos (at least at times in my household).

At the start of the pandemic, it was wonderful having my two-year-old son home with me. I don’t begrudge parents who happily rely on daycare, but for me, I struggled leaving my son with a caregiver. I wanted to be with him. I wanted to watch him learn and grow and play and laugh. I wanted to be there to comfort him if he fell and scraped a knee.

Despite my idealistic expectations for caring for my toddler son while building a virtual law practice, the reality of trying to manage both roles, mother and lawyer, at home at the same time proved more challenging than I anticipated.

Nearly eighteen months into this new lifestyle, I’ve learned a few tricks to keeping now both of my children (age 3 and 1) entertained while also keeping my law practice afloat. Here’s what you need to know:

You Will Get Interrupted

The first thing to accept when trying to work from home is that you WILL get interrupted. A lot. You will get interrupted when you’re on client calls. You will get interrupted when you’re in staff meetings. You will get interrupted when you’re in class. You will get interrupted when you are in study groups.

I get interrupted the most when I’m on video calls as my kids love to see themselves on the video screen. Being on the phone encourages the next largest amount of interruptions. I’m not sure what it is about being on the phone as a parent, but as soon as I answer a call, it’s like my children cease being able to feed themselves, play on their own, or do anything they could do thirty seconds before the call.

For these reasons, I caution clients that the best way to get a hold of me is by text message. It’s not conventional, but I can easily answer a quick text while I’m at the playground with my kids or pushing them in the stroller.

Once I accepted that I would get interrupted, I became a lot less stressed when the inevitable happened. I learned to embrace my children being part of class or calls and then to turn the video off so I could coax them into going back to their activity.

I also learned to make sure their needs are always met first. By making sure they had several snack options, several toys with which to play, and have had potty breaks or a fresh diaper before I get to work, I can minimize the interruptions.

Bottom line on this one, figure out what will distract your child while you try to work and minimize those types of distractions for both of you as much as possible. Then, just embrace the rest.

There Are Great, Educational Programs On Television

I’ll admit, before I became a parent, I was against too much screen time for my future children. When my son came along, he barely watched any television until he was a year and a half and only then he watched Cocomelon and Bob the Train on YouTube, because he’d been watching them at daycare.

However, being home with my kids and trying to work, I quickly realized that letting my children watch some television allows them to be entertained so that I can get a bit of work done.

To ensure your children are watching quality programs, do a search for things such as “science experiments for kids” or “math for kids.” You’d be surprised the kind of quality educational programming is on YouTube and other streaming programs.

My son has learned to count to twenty in French by watching YouTube videos. He watched story time and circle time throughout the week. This gives me about an hour throughout the day of mostly uninterrupted time so that I can give him my undivided attention later. It’s a tradeoff that works well for my family.

Figure Out What Entertains Your Child

One of the best changes my family made to our lifestyle is to move some of my kids’ favorite toys into my home office.

When I first moved my office into our home, I embraced that my children would be in there on occasion. I kept a spit-up rag on my desk for when I would inevitably cradle my daughter while working. I had a stash of pacifiers, rattles, and other toys for her as well as a vibrating chair so she could sit in the office while I worked.

Some of my favorite days in the office have been the days that my son has played with his train set while I drafted legal documents. I set my son’s wooden train track in my office, and when I don’t have calls, my son will spend hours in the office rearranging his track and driving his train around and around.

By making my office child-friendly, I have created a space that works for all of us. I can accomplish what I need to accomplish, but for short bursts of time, both of my children have had ways to stay entertained in my office while I work.

Figure out what kinds of quiet activities your child would enjoy doing in your office while you work and allow them that little luxury, at least for awhile. You may be surprised at the bonding that takes place even though you are both engrossed in your own activities.

Regular Business Hours Don’t Exist And Neither Do Regular Business Expectations

When my kids were initially home with me as I tried to build my law practice, I worried that clients being able to hear my children in the background of a call might be considered unprofessional. I wanted to prove that I was as professional as any attorney in a swanky corner office.

Fortunately, I created a brand for my law practice that attracts clients who understand family life. I routinely get comments from clients who can hear my son doing math or my daughter singing about how sweet that is to hear and how special that is that I get to share those experiences with my children.

That’s the biggest secret about balancing motherhood and career—find or create an environment where children are welcomed, where parenthood is understood, and where you feel like you can blend both your children and your career (at least some of the time).


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About Hillary Vaillancourt

Hillary Vaillancourt is a lawyer and writer at The Vaillancourt Law Firm, LLC. She has experience in a wide variety of matters including food law, education law, real estate law, family law, criminal law, contracts, and estate planning. She earned her JD from New England Law|Boston and is licensed in Virginia.

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