How I Keep Motherhood Sweet
Let's say you have a job. You're a lawyer. That means meetings all morning, all afternoon, and yes - you guessed it - all night too. Now let's say you are a lawyer with a two-year-old son. That's right, two-year-old as in the terrible two's. So you're a lawyer with a son in his terrible two's stage and you're home after a long day. What's the first thing you think of? Is it... granola? Probably not, but when you're a lawyer with a two-year-old who also hand-makes a delicious blend to sell at every weekend green market/festival/pop-up event in New York City, you think granola. Curious to know what life might be like for this full-time lawyer/mom/entrepreneur? Meet Amy.
Name: Amy Leipziger
Title: Attorney, Co-Chair of the Education Committee for the New York County Lawyer's Association
Mama to: Colin, 2
I live in Brooklyn, NY. I am mother to Colin, age 2, who loves chocolate milk, Elmo, Thomas the train, climbing up the slide at the park, chasing bubbles, and eating mommy’s granola. We also have two cats, Winston and Puck, 12 years old who can’t get enough chicken, and love late night cuddles at the foot of the bed.
So how did you get into the Law field?
I came to a career in law because of my passion for Women’s studies. In the middle of my second year of a Master’s degree in Women’s Studies, I realized that my career path meant academia or the law. I knew I really wanted to help people and be of service. I decided to go to CUNY Law School in Flushing, New York, a small law school dedicated to public interest law. I felt a real commitment to social change and a desire to advocate for underserved communities.
I was a housing attorney for a nonprofit in the Bronx (Legal Services NYC Bronx) for six years. For the past two years, I have been a special education/disability attorney for a nonprofit in Queens (Queens Legal Services). We seek racial, social and economic justice for low income New Yorkers by providing free legal services within the community. I am also the co-chair of the Education Committee for the New York County Lawyer’s Association. I love my job because I really enjoy helping people and because I believe that access to meaningful education is a critical civil rights issue.
When did you have Colin, and when did you make the transition to granola?
My son Colin was born two years ago, and while I was on maternity leave, my friend brought me lactation cookies. I devoured them and made a second and third batch of them. I then started tinkering with a granola recipe that I had made years before. After several iterations, I hit upon the recipe that would become my lactation granola that had all the benefits of lactation cookies (including oats, almonds, flax seed, brewers yeast and fenugreek) but without all the sugar, fat and added calories. I started giving it away to friends, and then my husband suggested that I start selling it, so I created All Granola, Inc (the ALL are my initials) and named my lactation granola Milkin’ Honey. I did a couple of flea markets, and then started pushing local stores to carry it, and then made the leap into online sales.
It wasn’t until I had a talk with my OB (who loved the lactation granola) that it occurred to me that pregnant women could also benefit from a healthy, and satisfying snack, and it was then that I created Lil’ Honey as an all natural prenatal granola with the same nutrients found in prenatal vitamins (omega 3, folic acid, and calcium) and but one that would totally satisfy the cravings!
What was your experience as a lawyer, now becoming a mother? Did you feel supported by your company, your peers?
I work for an organization in which all the staff, from attorneys to secretaries and process servers are unionized. We are members of Legal Services Staff Association UAW/NOLSW Local 2320, a wall to wall union of legal services workers (a subset of the UAW union). As a result, we have wonderful health care, and very supportive environment for people starting families. My colleagues and bosses (several of whom are parents) were all incredibly supportive of my pregnancy.
Was finding an appropriate and stylist wardrobe an issue for you? Did your style change as a mom in general? What does a company like Mitera mean for working mothers and their style?
I had a very hard time figuring out clothes going back to work. As an attorney, I needed to have professional business attire, whether it was suits or dresses and nothing fit or felt right. To make things harder, I had a very hard time losing baby weight, and it was very hard to feel comfortable. I continued to wear maternity jeans and nursing tanks until Colin was a year old because nothing would fit and I needed something that had easy access so I could pump at work. In short, I felt like I had no style for a very long time. After Colin turned one, I slowly started to feel that I could feel style again, that there was a new me that could embrace a new wardrobe.
I think Mitera offers working mothers a chance to feel confident during a rough transition, as we learn to juggling the demanding roles of mother and professional, and as we adjust the reality of how are bodies have changed post pregnancy.
What were the challenges you faced returning to work?
I continued to work in the Bronx for the first year I had Colin so the commute was tremendously difficult. I dropped my son at daycare, hopped on the subway and by the time I got to my office, I had to pump. I got out three hours of work, pumped before or after lunch, then scrambled to get four hours of work done before leaving to get his daycare by 6 PM. I often answered emails and did work after he went to bed just to make sure that I didn’t fall behind in anything. That, coupled with having to make sure I was pumping enough to provide him with bottles, and get those ready for the next day, always left me feeling exhausted, frustrated, and overwhelmed at the enormity of trying to be a lawyer and a mother.
My office manager had the glass doors/walls to my office tinted over so I could pump in my office which was a tremendous help. Unfortunately, on mornings I had to head straight to court, I couldn’t pump until midday which often made me rather uncomfortable. Thankfully, my boss was also a working mother so she was very understanding about the needs of pumping and juggling work and understood that I often did work after hours to stay on task.
I continued breastfeeding/pumping for over a year; however, I noticed a dip in my supply at about 8 months and struggled to produce enough milk. I drank mothers milk tea, took fenugreek, and consumed a lot of oatmeal, and my lactation granola, to keep my supply up. I started to supplement with formula to offset what I was producing, and with the transition to solids, I juggled to make sure Colin was eating enough and I was constantly worried that he was getting enough calories and growing appropriately.
How did you manage to juggle all the demands of your new life as a working mom?
Every time I start to think I’ve managed the demands of the life of a working mom, a new challenge comes my way…. These past two weeks my son’s preschool was closed and my husband was unable to take any time off work. I had two hearings, a new client interview, a conference, and two briefs due (and was filling granola orders) and had to juggle all that while creating a patchwork of childcare including friends, sitters, me taking the days off and working late into the evening. I realized the full extend of the challenge of working mom when I had to pay a sitter for two hours so I could run to a coffee shop and squeeze out some work just to keep up with the deadlines.
I like to think of it as learning to adapt to the new normal aka testing my abilities to multitask and being ok with things not going to plan and having to adjust accordingly when my child has a 30 minute tantrum, and the sitter is late, and my client is early. All I can do is take a deep breathe and just keep moving forward.
Has becoming a mother changed you professionally? If so, in what ways?
I think becoming a mother has forced me to become more efficient at work. In order to manage my projects and leave at 5 to get to my son’s school by 6 PM, I have to keep track of my tasks and deadlines and be more stringent about how I manage my time in the office. And I’ve learned what work can be done at night or occasionally on weekends and what needs my immediate attention. Even that, I run into moments that my boss calls “putting the cheese in the freezer” when I tip past just busy enough to too many things on my plate that leads to frozen cheese.
Is there work/life balance?
I think work/life balance is a movable feat that is constantly in flux. It is always moving and knowing that there will always be more to do is strangely reassuring. My brother is in school right now and he asked me how I handled having multiple projects or things to do. I told him I make a list of 10 things that have to be done every day and if I get to 5, then that is a good day. There are always more things on the to do list and accepting that there is never a dull moment has helped me a lot.
I do try hard to make time for myself but I confess it doesn’t always happen. I have a 20 minute train ride in the morning on the LIRR and I relish that time. It’s my time to drink my coffee, listen to music, stare out the windows and enjoy the quiet. I also love to watch T.V. late at night and catch up on my Netflix or DVR shows.
My husband has provided an amazing amount of support. He was the one that first encouraged me to pursue granola as a business. He has tasted every recipe, and I have sought his input on design and packaging decisions. He provides all the transportation to flea markets and other events, and has watched Colin for hours while I did granola events. He has also been great at working through ideas for the business plan. My friends have also been an amazing resource and sounding board. They have helped me come up with names for the granola, made suggestions on how to market it and to who, and also tasted numerous batches, and have been many repeat customers. It’s been an amazing village of support!
What are the ways you keep your life sweet? What are the sweetest moments?
Weekends are a bit chaotic, so the sweet moments often come in between like showing my son how to make cookies (and laughing as he tasted everyone before putting it on the sheet) or watching him get excited about chasing bubbles in the park.
Some of the sweetest moments are when I meet a friend for yoga on the weekend or take Pilates at an evening class and I get to really have quiet time to focus on my breathe.
Slow down from the chaos and just be present in the moment. Those are moments I cherish.