Today we’re excited to introduce you to Lauren Wilson Geist. She’s the mom of two sweet kiddos (ages 2 and 9 months), wife of three years to Darren, and she works full-time from home the managing editor of First Things.
In this interview, she shares what it’s like to work full-time from home with kids—(hint: it’s not always easy!)—and how her employer has helped her thrive in both roles. A truly family-friendly work environment, she says, means that the employer “values [her] not just as an employee, but as a whole person.”
Tell us a little bit about yourself, your kids, and your professional role—how did you land in the job you have today?
I landed in this job—which has turned out to be my dream job!—in a somewhat haphazard way, through a combination of being open to new and unexpected opportunities, volunteering to do work I enjoy, and working hard to make myself invaluable.
I got my bachelor’s and master’s in English, and went from Starbucks barista to writing tutor to events manager. When the organization I was working for lost the managing editor of their web publication, I offered to take on that work while they searched for a replacement.
My secret hope became reality when I became the permanent replacement after a few months!
A year later, I was hired as managing editor of First Things. I moved to Manhattan and walked to work, spending each day in an office surrounded by colleagues and books.
Now my work day (and night) looks very different! This work-from-home life gets pretty hectic sometimes, but I am so grateful for the flexibility this career has given me.
What is the culture like at First Things, particularly for mothers and for families?
I was the first woman, in First Things’ twenty-plus years, to have a baby while working there. So even though this was a foray into the unknown for all of us, my employer showed me from the start that he valued me not only as an employee but as a whole person.
I think that is the most important quality of a family-friendly employer. My boss put some of his own preferences—for example, that all his employees work in the office—to the side so that I could care for my kids and continue working.
But there’s more to it. I went in to the office yesterday with my nine-month-old for office “picture day,” and I was reminded that my employer’s openness to life and family isn’t limited to his letting me work from home. It’s also a culture in the office! Babies are loved and welcomed there. I used to bring my daughter to work with me twice a week when she was a baby, before I started coming in less frequently.
Everyone was understanding of the extra noise and willing to lend a helping hand. She would sit in on meetings, chewing up magazines and pulling the phone off the hook—and even nursing, when needed. (One particular memory comes to mind: breastfeeding a squirmy six-month-old while gathered around a table with the other editors, conducting phone interviews.)
And no one ever made me feel like she or I was a nuisance. Quite the opposite! And my boss always asks for a picture with the baby to send to his wife (“to make her jealous,” he says—she loves babies too, apparently!).
Having a family-friendly employer has meant that my life, even with two kids two and under, still has space for me to thrive professionally. I’m very grateful, not only for my job—the work itself—but for the people with whom and for whom I work.
Do you feel like you’ve changed since becoming a mother?
How have I not changed since becoming a mother! I got pregnant with Nora basically on our wedding night, so married life and motherhood came hand in hand for me. And both have been a lesson in joy and sacrifice—and how the two are inextricably connected.
I’ve never been so tired in my life (no more sleeping in for this night owl!), but I’ve also never laughed so much. (We’re currently potty training, and Nora’s new thing is running around naked and then threatening to poop on my lap. Followed by maniacal laughter. So…funny and terrifying?)
I’ve also had a complete change in priorities. The kids have to come first. They are totally dependent on us to keep them fed and clothed, and to fill them up with love so they can face the world with confidence and charity. Everything else necessarily comes second.
It goes without saying that I was selfish, much more selfish, before having children. I was on my mind a lot—ha! Now, I just don’t have time for that. I plan for and love my kids, cherish the time with my husband, fit work into every spare moment I have—and that’s my life!
I think I need to make a little more time for self-care (showering more than twice a week shouldn’t be a challenge…). But in the meantime, I’m happy that motherhood has stripped away some of my superficial concerns and comforts, replacing them with deep love and rewarding challenges.
Working from home and caring for kids at the same time can be quite a challenge! How do you manage to do this?
I’ve really had to change the way I work since having kids. During the day, I need to be able to put work out of my head to focus on the children—but I also have to check my email often, always scanning for important messages and being ready to respond quickly if needed.
This responsiveness is important to show that despite being home, I’m always available to my colleagues, which is reassuring to supervisors who may not love the idea of remote working. And as soon as I send off a message or put down the phone, I need to be able to turn my attention back to my babies.
Even though it’s not always easy, most days that works! Then in the evening, after the kids are in bed, I do uninterrupted work. I sit next to my husband with my laptop, and do whatever I need to do. Sometimes that takes two hours, sometimes six. This flexibility to work evenings has been absolutely key!
I’ve also realized that I categorize work as “relaxing” time, which helps my sanity. I enjoy what I do, and most of the time I am happy to pick up my work when I have a free minute. At times, my job even feels like a break from the kids and household chores!
Do you have any advice for a working woman who’s pregnant and trying to decide what steps to take next in her career?
It’s so hard to make plans before you’ve actually met your baby and felt that uncontrollable, abundant love—maybe obsession?—for him. I would say to give yourself as much flexibility as possible. You will thank yourself when you have the freedom to make decisions for your and your baby’s future once you actually know each other.
Some women cannot bear to be away from their children. Others feel they are better moms and more present after some time away.
After two years of working from home full time and being with my kids full time, I’ve finally hired a nanny to be here two days a week. I’m still in the house, but I can get some work done and free up a couple of evenings just to spend time with my husband. It’s been a game-changer!
Know that children are constantly changing, as are their needs. Allow yourself—and your work situation, as much as possible—to change with them.