What My Kids’ Favorite Shows Have Taught Me

We are thrilled to introduce you to Leigh, a lawyer with Sutliff & Stout. It is always our honor and privilege to partner with fellow working moms.

Looking for Work-Life Balance? Watch TV with Your Kidsoccasionally, after active play, within age-appropriate screen time limits, of course. 

There are so many things to feel guilty about as a mom, especially if you have other responsibilities fighting for your time.  Well, you don’t have to feel guilty about television anymore!  Today I’m going to share with you some essential lessons embodied in some of my kids’ favorite shows.  You’re welcome.

Wise Words from Paw Patrol

Do your best and forget the rest!

–Marshall, fire pup

When my older son, D, was born, I fully intended to return to work after 4 weeks {I had used up most of my leave feeling sick during my pregnancy}.  Then I extended it to 6, and again to 12, by making arrangements to work from home for a while.  When I finally went back, I was miserable.  I ached for my baby {Literally! Pumping is not the same as nursing, am I right?}, and I quit a few weeks later.  I had the “luxury” of staying home with D until he was four.  By that time, my younger son, A, was around also.  It was magical.  It was my choice.  But it was so hard.

I felt entirely responsible for keeping the house, planning the meals, managing the {tight} budget, and directing the kids’ upbringing, and I felt so guilty for removing my old salary from the family’s financial equation.  I worked various part time jobs {e.g., Weight Watchers leader}, took the patent bar and registered as a patent attorney, and did quite a bit of volunteer work for our Church, but I still didn’t feel like I was contributing what I should have been to the family.  At the same time, I felt like I wasn’t giving my kids the best they deserved if I didn’t focus on them 100%. 

Finally, when my husband and I were going through a rough patch {we’re good now…I think…honey?}, I realized that it was important to me that I be able to support myself.  I went back to practicing law full time.  I had been doing administrative law work for a while, but when I went back after kids, I wanted to be able to have a more immediate and direct positive impact on individual lives.  I found the perfect fit in a small personal injury firm with high standards.   It was magical.  It was my choice.  It was so hard!  I felt like I had to do it all or my kids would miss out.  In addition to my full time job, I tried to be there every time preschool needed help, continue to bake bread from scratch at home and create confectionery masterpieces for the kids’ birthdays, and do everything else that I was doing as a primarily SAHM.  But y’all, I’m not that girl.  It was exhausting.  I often think I know some moms who can do it all {more on that in a minute} and it’s tempting to compare myself to them and find myself falling short.  For me, the way I was going was not a path to contentment, and I so wish to show my boys that we can strive for self-development while still feeling content in the present.

Things started to change after a conversation I had with D.  We were talking about something he had worked on that he was unhappy with.  “Did you do your best?” I asked him.  “Yes.”  “Then that is good enough,” I told him.  That is excellence.  We talked about how God doesn’t put challenges in front of you that you can’t handle, and if you try your best, there’s nothing more anyone can reasonably ask of you.  When you try your best, you can feel good about it.  Aha!  Since I’ve started framing my own life and work in this way, I feel so much better about the things I accomplish and the things I don’t.  I still volunteer at church and sometimes bake cupcakes or decorate cookies for friends’ showers, but sometimes I can’t, and I feel okay about saying no.

Wise Words from Daniel the Tiger

Take a step back and ask for help.

–Daniel Tiger

Don’t you just love Daniel Tiger?  He’s nostalgic.  He’s modern.  He has a song for everything, even outsourcing.

I perfected my chocolate chocolate and vanilla vanilla cupcake recipes for D’s second birthday.  I have the icing tips I prefer; I have a baker’s supply store where I get my colored sugar for dusting and meringue powder for perfectly stiff buttercream; I have spent days at a time in the kitchen preparing these recipes for various occasions.  D turned 7 last week, and I picked up some plain jane cupcakes off the shelf at Central Market on the way to his party.  The kids loved them.

A lot of working moms I know are crazy about outsourcing.  A few months ago, there was a lengthy conversation in a lawyer moms group I’m part of about the best service to come wash your car while it’s parked at the office.  I know it’s not news to you that you can hire a nanny, have your meals delivered, or your dog walked.  And if any of these services help keep you sane, use them!  At our house, we’ve found that outsourcing the laundry does wonders to enhance our enjoyment of our home and each other, and when we do, I feel good getting that help for the level of happiness it gives us.

Not all help comes with a price tag, though.  Moms of other kids in D’s class are always happy to take him to after school playdates or parties.  My parents shuttle both of the kids around to extracurricular activities and even bring them by the office sometimes for hugs and kisses.  We’ve taken neighbors’ kids to school when both parents had to catch early flights.  And when I decided to go back to full time legal practice, I held out for a firm that would allow me the flexibility to work from home when I need to and to shift my hours to accommodate school schedules. 

Asking for help is not new to parenting.  Haven’t you heard? It takes a village to raise a child.  But it does seem to be getting harder and harder to do, because we have to try to make connections with people.  Some of us don’t even know our neighbors.  May I suggest you meet them?  My next door neighbor sure came in handy last summer when I shattered a giant fluorescent bulb and freaked out that it would poison the boys.  He took them in and watched them while I cleaned it up.  {I still don’t think I overreacted.}

Whether you have a nanny and an Instacart account or not, I firmly believe there’s help out there for you if you ask for it.  And for those of you going it alone, bless you!

Wise Words from Thomas the Train

Don’t judge a book by its cover or make your mind up too soon.  Things aren’t necessarily always what they appear to be.

–Thomas the Tank Engine

FONRYKAWATPMYK.  Fear Of Not Raising Your Kids As Well As That Perfect Mom You Know.  Are you a victim?  If you’re on social media, probably.  Comparisons can really hurt, especially when you’re skewing the view against yourself. 

You know that mom whose roots are never showing and still gets regular mani-pedis?  Her kids only bring organic, locally grown, cage free, pasture-raised, preservative free, gluten free food for lunch, and they’ve never had a drop of red 40.  She taught them to read at a second grade level when they were two, and she’s already addressed over 200 Christmas cards depicting that perfect family photo they just happened to get on their last trip to Costa Rica.  I swear to you—she messes up, too.  We all do.  You can’t see her whole life like you can see your own.

My biggest FONRYKAWATPMYK trigger is a clean house.  When I go into another family’s immaculate house, I think of the four foot laundry pile waiting for me at home, or the playdough I haven’t gotten out of the rug yet, and I can start spiraling down fast.  But when I see a closed door, I can think about Thomas, that wise old train, and I can imagine there is a mountain of laundry behind that door even bigger than my own, or maybe I know that her housekeeper left a few hours ago, or maybe she didn’t get to play with her kids today.  Not that I wish these things on her, but I just know she struggles, too. 

So thank you to those of you out there who post pictures of real life. And if you’re that early Christmas card, nail polished mom, do your friends a favor, and let them in on the secret.  Tell us that you fed the kids ice cream for breakfast this morning or forgot to send a snack yesterday, or whatever it was that you recently did to mess up, and maybe we can retire FONRYKAWATPMYK because it’s really not a very good acronym. 

The idea of work-life balance may have been made up by the same guy who put underwire in bras, and I don’t know if it’s ever going to be easy.  But the lessons taught by our animated friends can certainly help us find balance in ourselves, and through that balance, I believe comes life balance.

Finally, I want to wish you luck in finding joy and fulfillment in all of your jobs—as a mother, a wife, a professional, a fundraiser, or whatever other paths you are presently pursuing.  Because boy, does that make things easier!

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Leigh moved to Houston for law school in 2004. There, she met the love of her life, Richard, with whom she now shares two rambunctious sons and a mortgage payment.  When she’s not devoting herself to achieving the best possible result for her clients at Sutliff and Stout, PLLC, Leigh can be found leading a cub scout troop on a hike, following a three year old’s directions for building and decorating a gingerbread house, or surrounded by kids and toys listening to her husband’s band play.







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