Raising Teens: One Working Mom's Honest Perspective

by admin 17. October 2014 07:27


Given that my blog is called “Life on the Lattice” and is supposed to address work-life balance issues, I will focus on the balance issue this month.  When my partner and I started our firm four years ago, it suddenly became incumbent upon me to build a book of business, something I had never even attempted before.  (As my regular readers know, my resulting constant refrain to young women is to build that book starting from day one by keeping in close touch with your college and law school colleagues and being a giver when out there in the world networking or meeting with people for informational interview purposes--which is essentially networking).  Anyway, building a book of business has meant at least one coffee or lunch every weekday.  Then there is the work to get done, the hours to bill.  This fall, my older  son started high school and my younger son started middle school.  Although parenting is physically MUCH more difficult with little kids, it is emotionally much more difficult with older kids.  I had heard of multiple working women who chose to quit their jobs and stay home once their children became teenagers and it was hard for me to believe, but now I understand.  (I would still never quit though—I love my work and the compensation is not exactly something we can give up as a family either.)  Academics become extremely demanding and unless you have a very self-motivated child, middle school and, even more so, high school kids need a source of accountability.  Social issues become complicated—it’s much more than being left out of plans one day.  A quest for meaning in life and for self-definition starts to emerge.  You remember being a teenager, right?  

After a few “easier” years of parenting, years when they can feed themselves and tie their own shoes and don’t have many tantrums, while simultaneously being in school all day long and having found a groove in terms of who their friends are and what extra-curricular activities they are interested in pursuing, I have suddenly had to deal with the work-life balance issue again due to the fact that my boys need me often and for increasingly intensive input into their lives.  How to do it all???  For me, it has meant being very strict about the use of my time and definitive in terms of what I need and communicating that clearly and without exception to those around me.  It has also meant saying “no” to many opportunities that are enticing to me personally or professionally but do not serve the goals I need to work toward at this particular moment in my life.  ]

My best friend has three boys, two of whom have already left for college and the third of whom has only two more years at home.  Her endless free time (and loneliness) have really put it all into perspective for me.  In seven short years, I will have all the time in the world to attend all of the incredible events to which I am invited, to join more networking groups, to volunteer to help the Step Up girls and so much more. Right now, however, I have personally prioritized three days a week of one hour classes at the gym, so I can stay healthy and strong to face the many challenges presented between work and my children every day, sitting with my boys during their breakfasts to talk about the day and make sure they have all of their papers, books and laptops ready for school and conducting last minute testing for any quizzes that day, one networking coffee or lunch or meeting or event a day and providing top notch legal services to my clients.  I use driving time on my own and dog walks to catch up with friends and weekends while the boys are doing homework or errands.  Somehow, it all works out—most of the time.  Every night at about 8:30, though, I collapse onto the couch with a glass of wine and I slur my words when I try to talk for the rest of the night (even before the wine kicks in) in a state of pure exhaustion after functioning like a Tazmanian devil all day long. Somehow, I get up and do it again the next day—and I wouldn’t change a thing!

Leslee Cohen is a principal at Hershman Cohen LLC, a boutique corporate and securities law firm in Chicago that stands out from the crowd, combining big-firm experience with small-firm rates and relationships.  Leslee lives in Deerfield with her husband—the true love of her life—and her two amazing boys, ages 13 and 10.  She was a co-founder of the Coalition of Women’s Initiatives in Law and continues to serve on its board of directors, and she is very active in the Small Business Advocacy Council. Her interests outside of work and family include fashion and politics, and her passion is helping younger women rise to the top of their professions.


Balance | Leslee Cohen | Life & Balance | Life on the Lattice | Quick Look

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