The Working Mom Life of The Mom at Law – Q&A with Candace Alnaji
May 4, 2019
Do you remember the many scenes in How I Met Your Mother during which Marshall makes a good to mediocre argument about something not at all law related and says “lawyered.”
It almost made me want to go to law school. Mostly because that’s how I imagine all lawyers get to live their lives. Especially my friend, Candace Alnaji, of The Mom at Law.
Candace is a practicing attorney, working parents advocate, freelance writer, and proud mom to a four-year-old son and one-year-old boy/girl twins. She’s also one of my favorite people that I’ve never met in real life and I’m thrilled to introduce you all to her brilliance, kindness, and wit. Candace is the real deal y’all!
She graciously agreed to join us for some Q&A on being a working mom, her career sweet spot, the 90’s (obvi), and creating your own flexible and fulfilling career. Plus you get to enjoy some of her famous memes for good measure. Hooray!
LET’S GET IT STARTED IN HERE
Can you share with readers a bit about how your blog, The Mom at Law, got started and how you have seen it grow and evolve?
So, the story of The Mom at Law started in January 2016—though technically it was many years in the making.
I wanted to start freelance writing, but I wasn’t quite ready to do so under my actual name. I submitted my first article to Scary Mommy, and, much to my surprise, it was accepted the very next day. I asked that the article be published under the pen name “Mom at Law.”
I published several more that way, but I didn’t launch my blog and social channels until late the following year (October 2017). I had felt the pull to start a blog for a long time—for almost a decade, honestly—and so that is when I decided to make the leap!
Since then, it has grown in so many ways I never expected. I currently have over 75,000 followers across my platforms. I’ve been recognized as one of Working Mother Magazine’s Best Working Mom Blogs of 2019. Every day I receive messages from mothers—often working mothers—who tell me what an impact my words have made in their lives. The goal was always to reach others with my words, but the fact that it has actually happened still blows me away.
How about your day job/jobs? What does lawyer life look like for you these days? And your work freelancing and managing social media accounts?
It’s such a blur most days! I recently returned to legal work after taking a full year off after having twins. I work part-time from home, but I go to my firm’s office for meetings and other appearances as needed.
As a freelancer, I am currently a regular contributor for several sites. I have deadlines to meet for those publications each month. I also have other sites where I appear from time-to-time but most of my writing is done for the ones where I am a regular contributor—and for my blog, which I work to keep current!
As you mentioned, I manage my social media accounts, and I create content to share on those channels as well. I also make memes for another site, and until very recently, I worked as a social media manager for a social media client.
I do a lot of bouncing back and forth between activities. For example, today I worked on a serious legal client matter for a few hours. Then I had a writing deadline, so I switched gears and wrote a light-hearted article about working mom fashion for one of my contributor outlets. Then my husband and I took the kids for ice cream! I also dropped in on social media at different parts of the day to post and engage with followers.
I wear many hats, but I feel fortunate to be doing so many things I love at once.
THAT WORKING MOM LIFE
For a long time I thought there was this big line in the sand between stay-at-home mom and working mom. At home, or in the office. There was no in between. But I’ve been inspired by what you have done to create your own version of working mom life and make it work for you. Can you talk to us about that?
Yes! Right now I live in that grey area between working mom and stay-at-home mom. I’ve worked from home to some degree since my oldest was a baby. At that time, I chose to work from home one to two days per week while spending the rest of my time in the office. Over time that increased until I worked from home exclusively. Since returning to my law firm from maternity leave with my twins, I’ve chosen to continue working from home but also go into the office for meetings and other appearances.
I know working from home isn’t for everyone, but it works for me, and I really enjoy having control over my days to the extent I do.
Any advice for parents who are hoping to approach their employers about an alternate work arrangement? This can be super intimidating, and of course very individual based on your circumstance and your job, but it’s always helpful to see how someone else has taken it on.
Yes—as you said, individual circumstances vary so much, and there are so many who don’t have the same flexibility in their jobs. However, for those who believe they can make it work, I would suggest creating a game plan to present to your employer.
You want to show them how you will still bring value to your workplace even if you are not physically present as often. If there are examples of flexibility in your field you can provide then even better.
THE CAREER SWEET SPOT
How have you found your career sweet spot both as a writer and a lawyer? My career coach mind defines “career sweet spot” as the intersection between your passions/interests, strengths, and the value you bring to others.
As a workplace civil rights attorney, my legal work focuses on assisting employees in discrimination matters with their employers. I also represent workers in wage and hour cases, as well as other types of workplace issues; however, my keenest focus and point of interest has long-been matters affecting working parents—pregnancy discrimination being a primary area.
As a writer, I’ve found my stride writing about issues related to motherhood, career, and workplace matters including employment discrimination. I’ve often written about maternity leave, laws that protect pregnant workers, balancing work and family, career guilt, and other issues that are important to me personally and professionally.
So, both in my blog and my freelance contributions, I’ve been able to unite my personal and professional identities and, hopefully, help others in terms of sharing both practical information and emotional support.
THE WRITING ON THE WALL
How about your favorite piece you’ve ever written and why?
I have a lot of pieces that are close to me, but I think my favorite is a little blog post I wrote about a postpartum trip I took to Washington in 2015.
I wrote it in late 2017 after starting my blog. It’s not my most-read piece and it’s never been republished anywhere, but it’s close to my heart because it perfectly captures the earliest challenges I had uniting who I was as a mother and who I was as a professional.
As I share in the post, my son was barely two-months-old during our trip. I was on maternity leave, and as we walked the streets of D.C. near all these important buildings and among all these important people, I was suddenly struck by an insecurity I had never before felt in my life.
I wondered if the people walking those streets could tell that I was not just a mom pushing a baby stroller but someone who had also gone to law school and worked in high security buildings. I call it my Elle Woods/Leslie Knope moment where I was momentarily felled by the power women of the nation’s capital.
I discuss how a visit to the Supreme Court at the end of that day helped me feel like I was uniting these two worlds of mine—motherhood and professional—as well as how those feelings came full circle when I returned to work two months later.
Reading it always reminds me of that time and those feelings, so I love it even though it’s probably one of my most under-the-radar pieces ever!
ALMOST DEFINITELY FAMOUS
What has been the most exciting moment for you over the past few years as your blog following has grown like whoa?
Oh gosh. There have been so many exciting moments. I appreciate every time someone writes me to tell me something I’ve written has helped them. Also, seeing things I write go viral is always exciting—and a little bit nerve-wracking. I still get starstruck when awesome accounts follow me unexpectedly, or when a tweet or meme I wrote gets picked up by HuffPost or BuzzFeed.
However, I think the most exciting moment was when Meredith Bodgas, the editor-in-chief of Working Mother Magazine, wrote to tell me I had been selected as one of the Magazine’s Top Working Mom Bloggers of 2019. I was eating yogurt when I opened her e-mail and seriously almost choked when I read the first line.
What’s next for The Mom at Law in work and life? Care to share with us your hopes, dreams, and half marathon aspirations?
You know me well! I’ve been training for a half-marathon, which is coming up this month. I’m nervous and excited and won’t be winning any age group awards, but I will feel a sense of accomplishment when it’s over.
On the work front, I hope to continue working for my law firm and growing The Mom at Law. I have a lot of hopes and dreams for my business. I feel a strong pull in the direction of supporting women at all stages of motherhood and their careers—whether presently working or not.
I enjoy seeing my social media following grow, but it’s not about the number of followers for me. I care about reaching people who need to hear my message period—whether that’s one person or one-million people.
I’ve recently started getting a lot of requests for podcast interviews and speaking engagements, so my hope is that I will continue to grow my brand in new ways and collaborate with other amazing women who share in the same goal of empowering women through motherhood.
Finally, I look forward to spending precious time with my family! I feel fortunate that my work life allows me to be home right now—even though some days are beyond chaotic. I love my little people and my husband so much, and I feel so fortunate to be their person.
90’S KIDS RAISING KIDS
A quick break for some 90’s Rapid Fire! NSYNC or Backstreet Boys? JTT or Devon Sawa? Boy Meets World or Step by Step? Fruit by the Foot or Fruit Roll Up? Cucumber Melon or Cherry Blossom?
I think I rocked out to NSYNC a bit more than BSB.
Boy Meets World was my jam. I still remember reading about Danielle Fishel’s haircare routine when I was twelve and mixing up some strange DIY lemon-mayonnaise hair conditioner—which definitely did NOT leave me with Topanga hair.
If pressed, I would say Fruit Roll Up although I was most partial to Gushers!
And I was definitely team Cucumber Melon. I can still smell it now!
DROPPING SOME PARENTAL KNOWLEDGE
Last question! Any piece of parental wisdom you’d like to drop on us? I always like to share that my go-to piece of advice is “none of us know what we’re doing” so the bar is quite low on this.
I love that advice! I always like to say that we are all bestowed with our own personal brand of parenthood and parenting experiences. Basically, if parenthood were a Starbucks, we’d each have our own special blend. Your experiences will not look exactly like your best friend’s experiences or your sister’s or that lady down the street’s.
Some people will receive challenges that seem monumental to us while others seemingly have such an easy go of it. However, the truth is, we all have our own Everest. None of us leave unscathed. We all have our own quirks, idiosyncrasies, and life lessons to learn, and the experiences we get with our children are a huge part of shaping and teaching us.
So, don’t be annoyed if your experience isn’t identical to someone else’s. They have different lessons to learn.
Do you want to hear more from Candace? Of course you do! She’s awesome!
Candace can be found writing about law, motherhood, and more on her blog as The Mom at Law. She can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. Follow her for all the funnies and the feels. 11 Stars, Highly Recommend.
With thoughts about running a half-marathon now… nope… never mind,