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Working Kendra vs. Mommy Kendy

April 21, 2010

by Kendra Ringenberg

Let me start by saying that I feel privileged to be writing about my life as a working mom and balancing life as a mom and as a professional.  But, I do by no means have all the answers.  What I can say is that being a working mom is a constant balancing act but is also very rewarding! With each of my entries, I will try to give you insight into my life and things that have (and have not) worked for me.  I don’t think any one person has the answers and everybody’s situation is different so take what I have to say for what it is worth and nothing moreJ

Two Personas:  I remember when a friend at my first job told me that she did not like to have her kids stop by the office because she wanted to keep her “mommy” side apart from work.  At the time, I did not have kids and I didn’t understand.  Now, while I love to show off my kids every chance I get, I can understand where she was coming from.  I think a lot of working women do in fact have two different personas- I know I do!

There is “Kendra” the ambitious, hard working, dedicated, confident attorney, who can hang with the men in the office and who always strives to be the best.  Kendra stresses about transactions she is working on, climbing the ladder at work and office politics.  That Kendra exists from about 7:30 in the morning until 6ish (and then again after 9 a lot of evenings).  At home, I turn into “Mommy” or, perhaps “Kendy”, Mallory and Garrett’s mother and Scot’s wife.  This person typically wears sweatpants, t-shirts and tennis shoes, plays with her kids, bakes cookies, cleans the house, and is constantly doing laundry.  She is the person who hugs her children, tries to make them feel like they are the most loved kids in the world and who tries very hard to be there for her husband in every way too.  Mommy’s stress revolves solely around her children, things to be done around the house and that damn scrapbooking that she just never seems to have time to do!

Most of the time, these two people live in what seems like different universes and they certainly are in a lot of ways very unlike each other.  Most of my family would not recognize the person I am at work.  And, my colleagues would likewise be shocked to see what I’m like at home.  Yet, both of these identities are me – neither one is an act!  I know that sounds like a contradiction but it is true.  Only a couple of people really know both sides of me – my husband, my sister and my parents.  I don’t think I would be whole without being both a mom and an attorney.  I love both jobs (yes, parenting is wonderful but it is also a huge responsibility and your job).  And, I feel that I am successful at both (with plenty of room for improvement on both fronts) and that they serve to balance one another and make me the person I am.

Despite the fact that these two personas exist generally apart from one another, I have learned that letting one persona into the other universe can be helpful and I have started to let that happen a little more.    Who you are at work is in fact a big part of who you are and I think it is important to let your family and friends see that side of you.  I want my kids to see the professional side of me – I want them to know the strong, intelligent, confident woman I am.  Mallory already says she wants to be a “Loir” when she grows up.  When asked what a Loir does, she says gets dressed nice, carries papers and emails people – pretty accurate, actually!  My husband sees both sides of me most days and I think it is important and helps us to work as a team in every way (but that is another topic for another day).

Who you are at home is also a big part of who you really are and you shouldn’t feel like you need to hide that side of you at work.  I started at my current firm when Mallory was just 5 months old so everyone knew I had a baby and it was often a topic of conversation.  But, that was primarily with the secretaries and other women in the office.  The men really didn’t talk to me about family (actually they didn’t really talk to me much at all).  So, from the outset, I really did not talk about my family life at work.  I figured I needed to put the time and energy into proving myself and didn’t want to be known for being too focused on family.

But, shortly after I started, we had a Halloween party, where everybody brings their kids trick or treating around the office.  I quickly realized that darn near every attorney in our firm had small children and, by having this type of party, the firm must be at least some what family friendly.  Scot couldn’t be there at the beginning so I brought my Lil’ Stinker, 6 month old Mallory, by myself.  I had to hold Mallory the whole time and the skunk outfit was so freaking hot that I was sweating profusely from holding her.  A now very close friend of mine offered to hold Mal for a little while.  Once she started holding her, a number of attorneys came up and started talking to me about Mallory and about me.  I think that bringing Mallory was the best way for me to introduce who I was to the rest of the firm.  It turns out men (and other women) at work actually do have home lives too and are a little more understanding than we may initially give them credit for.

So, while I still have two different personas and I certainly act differently at work than I do at home, I am not afraid to show both sides of me and feel that I do a better job in both spheres by just being myself.  I guess, if you are like me and feel you have two different personas, I would say I think that is ok (and, perhaps, even normal) but you should introduce the different sides of you to all you meet.  After all, that is who you are!

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