Thursday, January 14, 2010

Real Momentum: Q&A with Stephanie Leger, Lobbying Supermom

I was introduced to Stephanie Leger through two different friends, both extremely impressed with her ability to manage life with two active little boys and a fast-paced career as the head of Government Relations for Securing America's Future Energy. Lobbying Congress by day and being lobbied by her sons for more playground and PBS Sprout time by evening, how does she juggle it all?

Q:Tell me about your family (kids, spouse, animals, extra people who depend on you)?
A: My family consists of my 2 year old, Cooper, my almost 4 year old, Seth, my husband, Toby, my mother (she lives with us), Barbara aka Nana and our cat Jackson

Q: What do you do for work? How did your career path lead you here?
A:I am a lobbyist for an energy security non-profit. I actually came to Washington, D.C. from Lafayette, Louisiana, in March of 1995 for a 3 month temporary job in my Senator’s office. It was supposed to be a breather for me before I started law school at LSU. That turned into a 6 ½ year job! I received my law degree while working for him and in 2001, I left the Hill for the private sector. My husband and I were married in 2002. I have also worked for my Governor, another Senator from my home state and finally am where I am now. My career path took a huge turn in 1995 and I’ve never looked back.

Q:What is the hardest part of your day? The best?
A: The hardest part for me is the window right before I have to leave work. Usually my boss is around and needs information, etc. to wrap up the day but if I am not out of here on time, I cannot make dinner or dinner is late and dinner time is the one thing I refuse to sacrifice to work. I made that clear when I interviewed for my job. 5:00 pm – 8:30 pm is my family time. The best part of the day is first thing in the morning. My kids have a routine of coming into our bedroom at around 5:00-5:30 for the last little bit of sleep we all get. When the alarm goes off at 6:00, I usually have one under one arm and the other snuggled between me and my husband. Then we all kind of wake up together. They are usually very happy and smiley and ready to start their day. They love to snuggle and it’s just a really sweet way to get started.

Q: What's your best home organization trick? Office organization solution? Do you use anything to tie them together?
A: Best home organization trick is menu planning and shopping based on that menu on Sundays. I have a routine where I go through my cookbooks to see what I want to make or try and then I get my list together and hit the grocery store while the boys nap. Then I spend a chunk of time cooking on Sunday to get as much done for the week as possible. We also have a calendar up in the kitchen with the ongoing schedule for all of us. The dinner menu is up next to it so if by chance I am late, my husband or mother know what to do. I live by my Outlook calendar and putting EVERYTHING in it (things for school, doctor’s appointments, times my husband has to work late or attend events, and my Junior League meetings, Book Club and Dinner Club nights)

Q:How do you divvy up household work with your partner; what makes you a team?
A:I am very lucky that my husband is 100% my partner. For us, the mornings are key. I am up first and while I am in the bathroom in the shower, my husband pretty much gets the boys dressed. I try to lay out their clothes and get milk ready for them before I get in the shower. Then while he showers and I finish getting ready, I am back and forth finishing them up, getting things together for school and then we all leave the house at the same time. We have a lady come once a week to do a thorough cleaning of the house. We both do clean-up and pick-up duty throughout the week and weekend as well. He does the manly stuff: trash, mowing, etc. and I do the groceries and any shopping we need for the house and boys. I do home organization stuff and he does the handyman stuff. It all balances out.

Q: What special things do you do with your kids to stay connected?
A: Dinner time until bedtime is pretty much our family connection time. We all sit at the table and talk about what they did at school that day. We talk about things coming up or going on or really, whatever they want to talk about. In the mornings, I have one of them with me (we alternate kids but we each have to have one with us to take HOV into the city or our commute is doubled!) and we sing and talk about silly stuff. It’s also sort of “mommy and me” time even though it’s just in the car. On the weekends, it varies. Friday night is take-out night and the boys adore sushi. Lately we get a splat mat and eat it in front of the fireplace then we roast marshmallows. We try to not be so structured on the weekends since our week is so structured so weekends can simply be hanging out at home together or it’s a special run to Target to get new underwear. We just take what we need to do on the weekends and try to make it something fun for them too.

Q:Who are your mentors? How did you find them and what do they do to help you?
A: More than mentors, I am very lucky to have a group of friends who all have children about the same age. We all work and we all are there for each other when things get to be a bit nutty in our lives, even if it’s just a phone call that says “I know you are stressed, what can I do?” Or just listen. I think we are all capable of working our time problems or work problems or family problems out but it is great knowing I have about 5 women I can call on at any given time and they’ll walk me back from my ledge. I don’t know what I’d do without them and even though I don’t talk or see them nearly as much as I would like, just knowing they are there is comforting for me.

Q:I call that my "momtourage!" But specifically can working mothers do to stay on their career track after kids?
A:Stay on track even if it’s not at the trajectory you think you should be on. A little bit up or even sideways is not a failure if you are able to get flexibility to be with your family. In 20 years I don’t think I am going to look back and say, “Wow, when my kids were young and had all the time for me in the world, I wish I would have worked more!” I think that if you can find a balance where you can work and feel ok with it – maybe not moving mountains or writing a Pulitzer book or being the CEO- but knowing you were still in the work force and therefore still on “track” but you can leave every day at 5:00 or you can leave at the drop of a hat when you son has to be picked up from school with a fever or if you can be with them if school is closed, then you are succeeding. It’s not easy to be in DC where people are so driven and things can get to be so hectic to take a step back for several years to be a working mother. But it can be done and if you can let the guilt go of leaving early and you can let the competitive nature of most offices go and be ok with where you are, then you can succeed. It doesn’t make you a slacker and that can sometimes be a hard thing to realize.

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