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Thursday, July 05, 2012

My Balance: Emily Kalanithi, an attorney

Emily Kalanithi is actually my sister-in-law! (Her husband is my sister's husband's brother.) She is hilarious and awesome. An attorney for the State of California, Emily lives in San Francisco with her husband Jeevan and their one-year-old daughter Eve. Here's how she tries to juggle it all...

1. What's your work schedule?
I work in the office full-time, Monday through Friday. My actual hours in the office are pretty reasonable—9-6ish. But I frequently check in on email at night and on weekends during naps and after bedtime.

2. How do you handle childcare?
We have an amazing nanny who comes to our house five days a week. When we were looking for a nanny, I hadn't realized how much they become a part of your family and how intimate the relationship is. We lucked out. Our family loves her, she loves our daughter, and her advice and example has definitely made me a better and more confident parent.

3. Did you ever feel jealous of your nanny?
The most threatened I felt was before our nanny started. I remember saying to my mom that I felt like I was the world's foremost expert on Eve and I didn't want to give up that role. My mom reassured me that I would always be the expert and would be the first one to discover whenever Eve was sick. But once our nanny went from someone I didn't know very well to part of our family unit, I became happy to share the expert role.

4. When do you typically hang out with your daughter?
Mornings before work, after work for about an hour and a half, and on weekends. Occasionally I'll work from home for the day, although this has gotten a little trickier as my daughter has gotten older.

5. What do you like best about your current setup?
After my maternity leave ended, I was surprised to find how glad I was to be back at work. It gives me energy and fulfillment and gets me out of the house everyday. My current setup allows me to have a lot of things in my life—a rewarding marriage, solid chunks of time with my daughter and a challenging career. I don't have angst that there's a major aspect of life that I'm missing out on. But...

6. What do you find so-so/tricky/hilariously bad about your current set-up?
The downside of having a lot of things in my life is having lot of things on my mind. I regularly wake up at 4am, just thinking about all of the stuff that needs to happen. But then again, I think a lot of people have this—being an adult probably means juggling a lot of things, regardless of whether we have kids or jobs outside the house.

If I had a magic wand, all of the housework would be done. Housework does not give me energy and fulfillment, and I hate that women tend to bear more of that burden (and would welcome any and all advice on how we can change this!).

7. How do you handle dinner?
Oh, dinner. Our nanny feeds Eve at an astoundingly early hour (4:30 or 5). After I come home from work around 6, I play with Eve until she goes to bed at 7:30. Then, if Jeevan is home, I'll cook an easy dinner (maybe 3-4 nights a week). Or we'll order Chinese or Thai or Indian.

8. How do you and your husband fit marriage into the balance?
It's hard because my husband has a very busy job as well (he's the co-founder of a consumer electronics start-up). When we're too busy or tired for real date nights with a sitter, we have devised something called "internal date nights" where we put the baby to bed and have a date at home. Even if it's just ordering food and watching a movie, it at least means we've set aside the time to be together without email-checking and other distractions.

9. Do you have any time for yourself?
Just a couple of weeks ago, I met my friends in Scottsdale for a girls weekend. We caught a spring training game and hung out at a spa resort. Awesome!

The thing I can't quite fit into the schedule is working out. I try to go before work, but I hate that it takes away from the sweet (and relatively calm) morning times where my husband, daughter and I all hang out together.

10. What advice would you give to other moms about how to balance work and life?
Go easy on yourself. There is so much pressure to do everything and to do everything well (here's a recent blog post on this that I like). Once you realize that doing all of these things is not just a lot of pressure but also a physical impossibility, things get easier. Just decide which things are important to you, and try to leave expectations about the rest behind.
Thank you so much, Emily.

P.S. Last summer's first balance series about moms who work from home, and the rest of the second balance series about moms with office jobs.

(Family photo by Holly Dresher Photography)

59 comments:

sherri said...

Oh, I just love this series! It is so nice to hear how other moms do it, and it makes me feel better that I am not a supermom, making every cute party decoration and breakfast pinned on Pinterest :) :)
Thank you Joanna (and Emily!)

Anonymous said...

Cute hubby!!!

Meaghan said...

Great post! I think with the housework issue, you just need to be firm with your partner about what your roles are, and don't pick up their slack - if you've decided that you do the kitchen and he does the bathroom, or whatever, DON'T CLEAN THE BATHROOM.

I hate that a lot of women just end up making excuses for their partners not cleaning - "he doesn't notice it as much as I do," or "he just doesn't do it the way I like." Have those conversations! Sometimes you just need to say "yo, you forget to clean the garbage can and it's disgusting. Please clean it next time, thanks!" Your partner is an adult, and should be held accountable to their household responsibilities (and that goes both ways, of course). And if they respect you, they'll suck it up and do their share of cleaning, because that's what grownups in partnerships do!

anne said...

i am really loving this series. and your sister in law kind of looks like mary louise parker!

ElsaD said...

Amazing testimonies, darling! Congrats on the series! xoxo

Shoko said...

Emily sounds just wonderful! I love that she and her husband do "internal date nights" - so sweet.

Anonymous said...

Actually, it sounds like she is your sister's sister-in-law, rather than yours. We feel the same way about my husband's brother's wife's sister (ha ha, gets confusing) -- we like to think of her kids as our nieces and nephews though technically they are not.

Anonymous said...

I love these series too. I hope the next iteration is about single moms - how they do it is mysterious and humbling to me.

Cathryn @ Myheartscontent said...

A very wise friend of mine said...you can have it all, you just can't have it all at the same time. Emily's comment about not being able to work out reminded me of that. Sounds like she's doing pretty well juggling it all.

Mary said...

Loving this series as well. I like the idea of highlighting single moms in a future run. Another idea that I'd love to see is moms with school-age kids. I'm entering this phase and would be interested to see how people handle that juggle (drop-offs, pick-ups, afterschool care, making it to school events and activities, etc etc etc). Every phase is different!

Sally said...

This was said above, but I'm pretty sure Emily is your SISTER'S sister-in-law. But family is family, no matter their title. :)

Bethany [at] Powell Brower Home said...

wonderful, fulfilling and empowering series, thank you!

Jessica said...

Any doctors in the line-up? I'm in residency and our hours are insane. I'd love to hear from an MD mom.

Anonymous said...

I really like this series but I would love to hear from some single moms. I would be interested to hear how they juggle their time, as well as if and how they navigate the dating scene.

Hallie said...

Like to read how Emily balance her life and work, I always want to go out and work again, but then, me and my husband decided that being a full time mom is more important than any other work, that's why I like to work at my personal blog right now because I can work at home and the timing is always flexible. might still go out and work though after the kid spend most of his time in the school, we will see. I pretty much enjoy spend a lot of home-time now with the kid which I really want to, they grow too fast!

Anonymous said...

Love this series! I often wonder how other working moms do it and if there is a secret I am not in on.
I think what I still struggle with is the feeling that I would some how be a "better" mom if I were able to stay home.

Stephanie said...

Yes, what Jessica said...I'd love to hear from any MD/moms. I'm in med school and am always thinking ahead to how to balance life in residency or beyond it!

Anonymous said...

Actually, I think Emily is just your sister's husbands sister-in-law and not your sister's anything-related (but maybe she's her good friend or something)

Emily Fleck said...

Great series, Joanna. And YAY for ladies who like baseball. =)

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, no... While she's definitely not Joanna's sister-in-law, she definitely *is* Joanna's sister's sister-in-law, as Joanna's sister is married to Emily's husband's brother.

Anonymous said...

I am really liking this series. I think it would be nice to include some stay at home moms too. They struggle for balance as well.

fawn said...

What a beautiful family! Thank you for doing this series. The juggle is heading my way and the advice here is invaluable.

Anonymous said...

I have a similar schedule (and similar job! I'm an attorney during the week and photographer on the weekends) - the way we've managed to incorporate working out is by bringing our son with us - we run so we put him in the jogger. It's not solid together-time obviously (I'm jogging!) but I do stop and interact with him because he asks questions, etc. along the run. I also play games with him (like, "How many Minis and Smart Cars can you count?") along the way. Then we stop and get coffee and hang out for awhile before going on to work/preschool (he's three). Love this series!

Pearl Grace Hu said...

I love these series! These stories give me great advice on how to handle family in the future! I also like how each women are very honest about the situation. It is hard to seem like you have it together but I really admire women that know they have a lot on their plate and their aren't afraid to show it or ask for help! I also enjoy that the series are about array of different women and this last family was diverse! I love that! Keep up the awesome profiles!

Elisse said...

I'm still in college but I still find this series very fascinating! I'm hoping to become a doctor but never thought too much about how hard it must be to juggle work/family/marriage. When I have kids, I would want to work but have shorter hours once they're in school so that I could come home around the same time as them.

Sarah H. said...

I'm really enjoying this series! I love that Emily says she was really excited to get back to work after maternity leave. So candid, and this point of view can be under-represented. I know many women that have dreaded going back to work after having a baby but also many women that look forward to resuming work too.

The women you've been profiling in this series are inspiring, for sure, since they have all reached a certain level of success. While not all of their situations are relatable for me, what IS resonating with me is that balancing life/work/family/marriage is really challenging, even for these gals that (at least from the outside) seem to have more means than the average parent for making situations work. If you can be a successful, affluent career women at the top of your field and STILL struggle with making everyone run smoothly, there is obviously a problem with the way our society accommodates (or doesn't) parenting.

Whits said...

I'm curios if Emily is at a big law firm, mid-size, small or solo practiioner? And what type of law? I'm a corporate attorney at a large law firm and it seems almost impossible to leave the office at a reasonable time. Thank you for this series!

jenn said...

I would love a follow up series to the two working ones from moms who are stay at home moms and don't work... how the family dynamics change when one parent quits their job to stay at home and raise the kids, how they balance the new budget, and many of the same questions about marriage and day to day rituals and stuff.

Katie said...

I'm loving this series! About the housework problem, if no one really likes doing it, then hire someone to come help ever now and then. Trust me, once you do it, you'll never go back!
Also, if it's money issue that keeps you from getting help, try looking for a college student that wants to earn some extra cash. I did this in college and it worked out very well for me and the people I worked for. I worked for $10-15 per hour. For the price of a pedicure, a new top or good take out, you could come home to a clean house!
Thanks for sharing!

tamara said...

@Whits - Joanna mentioned she is an attorney for the state of California, so she is a government attorney. Probably what makes it easier to get out of the office at a reasonable time.

(I'm studying for the Bar now and looking for employment with govt or non-profit--lower pay, but much better hours. :)

Paige Geiger said...

Another great profile - I felt I could really relate to her lifestyle, hours and schedule similar to mine. One thing I struggle with is even though I theoretically make both family and career 'work' I still struggle with not giving enough to both - am I short changing my kids and, if not losing ground, failing to advance like I should at work. I would like to know if this is a concern for these women and how they deal with it. Thanks for the series!!

Lisa said...

I really agree with Meaghan above -- women shouldn't have to pick up the "slack" with housework! Almost all the women featured here do a TON of work (9-5 job, plus extra work after the kid is in bed, PLUS typically more housework than their partner). I'm not sure if I would call that much work "balance". I guess I'm really waiting for a testimonial where it's mentioned that the husband does 50% of the housework.

Kim said...

I agree with Sarah H. The women and their families profiled so far seem (again, from the outside) to be of a certain economic status. It sort of like when you link to a cute pair of jeans for 200 bucks and I say "who ARE these people who can afford these?"....these people's lives are like expensive jeans to me!

Michele said...

"Internal date nights" are very clever. What a beautiful family too!

Julie said...

I love this post, and the series in general. Having just graduated from law school, one major concern I have is what am I going to do if I decide to have a family. I have heard from so many attorneys that women at their firm either leave after having children and come back after their children are in school, or stay and give up their chance at partner. It's nice to hear that you can have a challenging and stimulating career and still be a loving mother.

Joanna Goddard said...

yes!! thank you so much for these comments -- i definitely have been planning another series about stay-at-home moms and how they find balance. that's coming up for sure. and i hear your points about moms who might have trickier times with budget -- that's a great idea, too. the moms profiled this week are earning enough to pay for childcare (and perhaps worry about money in some ways but not in terms of hiring full-time childcare), but it would be great to talk about moms who are worried about how it will all add up. THANK YOU for this feedback!!!

Joanna Goddard said...

lisa, i hear what you're saying about sharing chores with your husband/partner. i think that's super tricky for couples overall -- not only are the chores part of the equation, but also just household management (like hiring babysitters, figuring how if you're going to sleep-train your child, scheduling doctors appointments, even planning hang-outs with friends...) it's all really tricky to divvy up, and i think some couples split it up in some ways, others in other ways, probably based on work schedules, cultural norms, personal preferences, etc.....would be really interesting to just do a series on THAT!

Joanna Goddard said...

lisa, i hear what you're saying about sharing chores with your husband/partner. i think that's super tricky for couples overall -- not only are the chores part of the equation, but also just household management (like hiring babysitters, figuring how if you're going to sleep-train your child, scheduling doctors appointments, even planning hang-outs with friends...) it's all really tricky to divvy up, and i think some couples split it up in some ways, others in other ways, probably based on work schedules, cultural norms, personal preferences, etc.....would be really interesting to just do a series on THAT!

Joanna Goddard said...

ps. i've read a couple articles in the past about "chore wars," and interestingly enough, one big predictor of marital happiness is how equally you both feel the household chores/food/etc is split. super interesting...

Joanna Goddard said...

ps. i've read a couple articles in the past about "chore wars," and interestingly enough, one big predictor of marital happiness is how equally you both feel the household chores/food/etc is split. super interesting...

Abbey said...

I love this series! And I love her advice to go easy on yourself -- such good good good advice and so hard to follow.

B.Kleine said...

I love hearing from an attorney who has my exact job but in another state. Aside from my INSANE jealously about her reasonable hours I felt so relieved to hear how similar our lives are. I am very impressed that she cooks dinner. Most of my colleagues and I have our nannies cook before they leave. I can completely relate to the middle of the night "I have so much to do" freak outs.

Anonymous said...

That picture of Emily, her husband and their baby is absolutely beautiful. They are a gorgeous family. (But, clearly, her husband has to step up to the plate on housework. I haven't cleaned my husband's bathroom for a year (I use the hall bath), but it is hard to resist. I keep telling myself that he has the ability to wipe out the sink! The thing is he just doesn't notice the dirt and it drives me crazy.) I think she has a really balanced life. She sounds so grounded. I, too, think women benefit from the stimulation of work. Thank God for good nannies/ wonderful baby-sitters/ high quality day-care.

Anonymous said...

Love that top photo.

Anonymous said...

Joanna,

I'm really enjoying these series, but I'm seeing a common thread among them. They all seem to be affluent, middle-to upper class women, which is fine, but not everyone can afford a full time nanny (it seems like all of your guests bloggers have one!). Do you plan on having any posts for the everyday working mother who does not have a live in nanny/housekeeper etc? I'm just curious (and don't mean anything rude by this).

The Search for J Street said...

I liked hearing from an attorney too since I will be moving to New York in a few months to be just that. And while it was interesting to hear about other mothers, I kept thinking that their experiences might not translate into other (especially non-creative, non-internet related) fields. So it is nice to see someone who is balancing it all in the legal field too.

Also, almost every mother mentions their nanny and how much they love them. But how on earth do you go about finding that special person who is smart and sweet and gets along with your child? I would love to know that.

Anonymous said...

They may be affluent women, but I think they share the same problems as the rest of us. How to find enough time in the day for work, their children and a marriage. I really find this series inspiring.

Em Levy {orange + barrel} said...

I feel like I am constantly watching other attorneys to see how they handle things...this is a great series overall because it's always fun to peek into other people's lives, in a small way.

Kalin said...

I love this series. As a working married mom, I often struggle with work/life/love balance. It's nice to know that it's not just me who struggles with this, and I really appreciate hearing from other moms working outside the home. I do often wonder how single moms do it and maintain their sanity/sense of self.

Maker said...

I echo everyone else's love for this series. I especially love that you featured an attorney that works outside of the office AND has a husband with a demanding job. As a preggo in the same boat, it makes me feel like I might actually be able to swing this...

Kate @ Savour Fare said...

The world gets smaller every day. Emily Kalanithi is a friend of mine.

Kate @ Savour Fare said...

As for sharing chores, it helps that I married an order muppet. And we split up things we like to do (me = cooking him = yardwork) and the things we don't like to do (me = emptying the dishwasher him = folding laundry). But the thing that has totally SAVED OUR MARRIAGE (and our sanity) is having someone clean our house once a week. It's seriously the best thing ever.

Anonymous said...

I think this is an interresting peek into these women's lives and I strongly believe that each family must make a work life balance that works for that family if that is both parents work outside the home or one parent provides the child care for their family. I am upset by all the comments that talk about how university important it might be for women (or men) to always choose to work outside the home. I understand that these comments are advocating finding personal happiness and financial freedom but my question is if I was a paid child care provider for a living would my choice be a valid choice as I "work" but if I choose to be the child care provider for my own children then it is deemed not following my passion or working? If I am caring for someone else's child it is working if I am caring for my own child it is not working? Or does our society devalue the work involved in child care so much that even if my profession is child care it is not considered a "real" job?

Anonymous said...

wow, I guess that's the price of affording a nanny. She only sees her child "mornings before work" and 1.5 hours after work on weekdays, and on weekends.
Should parenting be funded better or is this a lifestyle choice rather than financial?

Judy said...

@Anonymous at 9:14am, that's when I saw my mom and dad as I was growing up, though I was lucky to have summers off with her too (she's a public school teacher), but that's the amount of time I saw my dad. Every morning we would sing a song before we all left for the day and when we got home he took us out to play soccer or on bike rides and on the weekends we did hiking with my dad or as a family we'd go somewhere like the aquarium. So maybe those were the "only" times I saw my parents but I'm thankful for them (especially knowing how tired I am after working a full shift).

Anonymous said...

I would also like to chime in with thats when I saw my parents growing up too. In the mornings before school and after they got home from work for a little bit. In fact my first year as a baby, my parents couldn't deal with the sleepless nights so stayed AWAY at a nanny's (at that point are they still a nanny?) sunday night thru Friday evening. They took me home Friday evening and returned me on Sunday evening. I turned out ok. Might have issues with affection but other than that... Just kidding.
Srsly though I don't think it stunted me emotionally.

Anonymous said...

I really have been enjoying your series but I just wonder if you could write a post about mother who balance their work/mother roles when they aren't very clearly in a particular income bracket. I am a social worker who is not yet a mother and my husband and I have a pretty middle class lifestyle....I would like to hear how middle class mothers make this work. I hope to see more varied interviews in your series!

Anonymous said...

This series is totally absorbing. These women are fantastic.

m e l i g r o s a said...

yay SF! i'm not a parent, but more +more of my friends are becoming parents. thx for the fun posts, a world of balance I'm not aware of too much :) <3

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