Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Day in the Life of the Billable Mom

When I worked in a law firm, I became accustomed to thinking about my day in tenths of an hour, which any lawyer will tell you are the smallest units of billable time. To be a productive member of the firm, every six minutes must account for some activity that can be legitimately charged to a client. Everyone knows that to bill eight honest hours in a workday, one must be prepared to spend upwards of ten or eleven hours in the office... since you can't actually bill for time eating lunch, checking email, or talking to your secretary about last night's "American Idol" elimination.

You also learn that in order to be paid, you need to make your time sound important. Clients don't want to pay for 0.3 hours to "Meet with (Senior Partner) John Smith" because they secretly wonder if you and John Smith are actually just comparing standings in the firm's Fantasy Football league. So you'd better write something like "Analyze summary judgment arguments and discuss litigation strategy with lead counsel" if you want your three tenths of an hour to count.

Now that I've left the law firm culture for life among my boys, I am no longer bound to the requirement of billable time. But I started thinking one day that if I could bill for my time spent at home, what would my timesheet look like? So I came up with a bill for my average day at home... I'll be sending this off to my husband tonight with the expectation that every last tenth of an hour will be paid.
8:00 a.m. - 8:30 a.m.
Conduct strategic a.m. potty training meeting w/3-year old client re: wearing underpants.

9:00 a.m. - 9:10 a.m.
Teleconference w/opposing counsel (i.e. husband) to discuss underpants issue; consider opposing argument ("Just let him go commando if that's what he wants. What's the big deal? Now stop bothering me at the office.").

9:15 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.
Attend breakfast meeting w/3-year old client; engage in negotiations on finishing scrambled eggs.

10:30 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.
Review client trust accounts (i.e. Halloween candy) to determine occurrence of unauthorized withdrawals; investigate possible commingling of assets between 3- and 7-year old clients who both share a penchant for peanut M&Ms. 

11:15 a.m. - 11:45 a.m.
Conduct followup potty training meeting with demonstrative exhibits (namely, Tickle Me Elmo and pull-up diaper).

12:00 p.m. - 12:45 p.m.
Attend lunch meeting with 3-year old client; engage in negotiations on finishing broccoli.

3:00 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Debrief 5- and 7-year old clients re: school day during car ride home; discuss playground ethics. 

3:40 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Review citation from kindergarten teacher; advise 5-year old client on the propriety of borrowing female classmate's show and tell princess wand and using it as a baseball bat at recess; analyze whether said conduct may be considered harassment. 

4:10 p.m. - 4:45 p.m.
Perform mediation between 5- and 7-year old clients re: who drove remote control helicopter into the fish tank.

4:50 p.m. - 5:10 p.m.
Conduct discovery re: helicopter and fish tank incident; interview 3-year old eyewitness who claims both older brothers were holding remote control when said helicopter crashed.

5:15 p.m. - 5:40 p.m.
Adjudicate guilt of alleged helicopter operators, and sentence guilty parties to cleaning fish tank.

5:45 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Prepare 3-year old to enter witness protection program.
Finally, the rest of my day is spent on non-billable activities like sleeping, trying to sleep, reading personal e-mails, forwarding funny e-mails, snacking, feeling guilty about snacking, and talking to my husband about what to eat for dinner. So it's not unlike a typical day at the firm.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Advice for Living with Boys

As the only female in a male-dominated household, I am now realizing the extent to which I am hopelessly outnumbered by boys (five of them to be exact... since as any honest wife can attest, a husband is just a large-sized boy).  I am often asked how I manage with four sons, especially since they are seven years old and younger.  After doing some thinking on the subject, I hereby offer ten practical suggestions on living with boys:

1. Always check the toilet seat before sitting down.

2. Accept that discussion of bodily functions make up a significant portion of conversation among boys. For reasons only known to them, boys derive some innate pleasure in announcing that a bodily function has taken place almost as much as they enjoy the action itself. So you might as well start developing a sense of humor about how many words rhyme with "poop" and "fart".

3. When shopping, resist the urge to browse (or buy for the future, "just in case") frilly pink dresses, tea sets, and American Girl dolls. The only doll you'll have in your house is one that comes with her own weapon and kicks butt (think Ahsoka from the Clone Wars).
4. Learn to play with action figures. To do this properly, you must think like a boy. This requires not only being prepared to debate the advantages of a lightsaber versus a blaster, but understanding that Luke and Anakin actually want to slay each other.  They do not want to plant a garden, have a tea party, or talk about their father-son issues over coffee.  They simply want to dismember each other. 

5. Realize that a little boy is not much different from a puppy. He needs time every day to run in the yard, and he will return to the house covered in mud, yapping about having outrun a squirrel.

6. Stop hating sports. Boys are very active, and it's far better to channel their energy into athletics than keep them indoors (see point above about boys and puppies). Just accept that your Saturday mornings will now be spent on a variety of athletic fields, and invest in a sturdy lawn chair and cooler.

7. Don't be offended if you're speared, impaled, shot with arrows, or fired upon in make-believe battles. You have been considered a worthy adversary. So develop a repertoire of wounded and dying gesticulations, the more dramatic the better.
8. If you want to encourage reading at home, remember that literature is best digested by boys if it comes in comic book format. And accept the fact that boys will never want to read Jane Eyre or Anne of Green Gables together (not unless Anne has a twin brother Andy who has robotic laser guns for arms, and Green Gables is actually a code name for a secret military fortress).

9. Understand that the sole purpose of building a Lego tower is to knock it down.
10. Remember that boys don't give a hoot if their shoes don't match their outfits. The only "accessorizing" a boy needs involves strapping on a bike helmet or shin guards. So if your maternal urges require coordinating sock colors, buy a Ken doll.