A Veep Exec Comes To Terms With Her Work-Life Balance

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It's August, which basically means two things to me: Soon the kids will be back at school, and I'll be back on set filming Veep. Every day, I divide my time and attention between producing TV and being a mom. And, my biggest challenge is being okay with not hitting perfect notes in both of those areas of my life.

The week usually starts off great. On Monday, I'll pat myself on the back for being a great mom but, come Thursday, I'll be thinking of all the things I did wrong, and I'll wonder if maybe, actually, I'm kind of a sucky one.

My family lives in NYC, but my work often takes me to other states. When I'm producing Veep, that means taking the train back and forth to D.C. every week — sometimes twice a week. Heck, sometimes I'm taking a train twice a day for five months just so I can get some precious family time in.

It wasn't always like this. When my kids were babies, I only produced one comedy special a year; the rest of the time, I stayed at home. But, by the time my youngest was 18 months old, I went back to work full time, and we started a new journey, thereby defining our own normal.

I'm trying to get better at being content with feeling like a great mom some days and a not-so-wonderful mom other days. Being an awesome producer AND an incredible mom all in the same day takes practice, and it takes patience.

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My family is learning to make it work — imperfect, hard days and all. Coming to terms with the following 10 tenets is just going to have to be enough for now.

Being a mom is exhausting.
We work 24 hours a day, seven days a week — sometimes on very little sleep. On the days I'm not feeling like a great mom, I try to look at it as my day off, give myself a break. I realize that when you're a mom, there's no real break, but you can't be a great mom if you're not giving yourself a chance to recharge. For me, that means not demanding perfection of myself every hour of every single day.

My kids still love me on days when I'm not a great mom.
I'm not Wonder Woman, and it's okay for my kids to see that. I might not make it to every school event, but this will not cause our bond to come undone. In fact, if we make up that time by creating our own events, the closeness only gets stronger. I think it's helpful for my kids to have witnessed a couple of failed family-time attempts, so we can all better appreciate the time we do spend together.

My bosses will still appreciate me on days when I'm not a great producer.
I'm always upfront when I have to leave work for a family event, and I always make up the hours later. Everyone knows not to expect to see me online during my kids' bedtime, but by 9 p.m., they know I'll be glued to my laptop.

I don't expect perfection.
Each day and each hour has the potential to be filled with ups and downs, tears and laughter, a sense of accomplishment and a sense of failure. It's important to recognize these ebbs and flows as a part of life. We need to accept ourselves for who we are — the good, the bad, and the ugly — because this is what will teach our children to accept themselves and their inevitable imperfections.
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We pay attention to the quiet moments.
We don't live an over-scheduled life on the weekends. Everyone stays busy enough during the week that we like to slow way down on the weekends. Cooking, baking, and sometimes simply ordering in takeout make for an awesome Saturday. I don't put pressure on myself to have a homemade Sunday dinner each week; rather, our tradition is to not have a tradition.

I'm lucky because I have a job that I love and that allows me to support my family.
I believe I'm a better mom because I have a career, and that works for my family. I also believe I'm setting good examples for my children, especially my daughter, who has a strong career-oriented role model in her life. I applaud stay-at-home moms everywhere — because god knows that isn't an easy job — but it's not for me, and my kids understand that.

I'm a mom first.
On set sometimes I break away for Skype calls with my kids. If I'm traveling during the school week, which is most of the time, this might mean doing homework with them over the phone. They think this is hilarious, and they also hate it because it means I'm watching them all the time. But, it's a way to keep us close even when I'm geographically far away.

My kids have seen me cry.
I missed my son's guitar recital at school by 5 minutes, and I felt gutted. I had flown home just to be there for that and missed it! I think my son felt worse than I did when he saw my gushing tears, so we decided he would put on a special concert just for me which turned into him playing with the band at a party for the Eastbound & Down cast and crew.
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We have "yes" days.
When I'm not working, and my show is on hiatus, I tend to go overboard and schedule large sleepovers and trips. The kids and I love them equally!

My bottom line? It's not like I look at my kids as competing for my time, but if there were an actual competition, they would win. Hands down and every time. Finding the perfect balance is next to impossible, but developing a system that works for you and your family isn't.

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We're pretty sure Stephanie Laing is our spirit animal. The five-time Emmy-nominated TV producer of Veep, Eastbound & Down, and Banshee may only let herself feel fabulous for five minutes a day, but she spends her nights (once the kids are asleep, of course) curating her own blog, Put Your Pretty On.