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The Balance Project Interview: Terrianne Patnode, Attorney

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THE BALANCE PROJECT is a series of relevant and refreshingly candid interviews by author Susie Orman Schnall featuring inspiring and accomplished women talking about work/life balance.

Terrianne Patnode’s interview is part of a package in anticipation of a special event on Tuesday night, June 23, 2015: a panel on work life balance featuring Susie Orman Schnall, author and creator of The Balance Project, along with Jennifer Allyn, Diversity Strategy Leader of PricewaterhouseCoopers; Kristen Bellstrom, Senior Editor of Fortune; Peggy Davenport, Partner of Debevoise & Plimpton; Jillian Griffiths, Chief Operating Officer of Clayton, Dubilier & Rice; and Terrianne Patnode, Counsel to Clayton, Dubilier & Rice. The panel will be moderated by Chris Riback, Author, Commentator and Executive Editor of Working Capital Review.

Age: 37
Where I live:
 Larchmont, NY
Job: Attorney
Three daughters, ages 3, 5, and 7

Patnode, Terrianne-551 LHave you changed jobs or adjusted anything in your career to have more balance?
After I had my first daughter, I dropped down to a 65% schedule at my law firm job. Putting aside occasional periods of work volatility, I stayed at that schedule for six years. When it was professionally time to move on, I made having a reduced and flexible schedule part of the criteria for a new job. I was fortunate to land at a private equity firm with a team that is receptive to and open-minded about my interest in working an alternative schedule. The schedule works differently in a big law firm environment compared to a much smaller private equity firm, but in both environments, I have managed to get the flexibility I need in order to have more time with my daughters at home.

Do you think having “it all” is realistic or overrated and why?
It depends on who is trying to have it “all.” For me, trying to have it “all” is setting myself up for failure. My definition of “all” really is “all”—running smoothly, all the time. It is not realistic or sustainable. For those who are more practical and have a more reasonable definition of “all,” it can be realistic, and, I imagine, quite satisfying.

What part of “balance” can you just not seem to figure out?
I struggle to make time for myself without feeling guilty.

What part of “balance” are you getting better at?
I have learned to better manage periods of time when the balance is off. In the past, I would get very frustrated when work was really busy or my home life was extra demanding. At those times, I felt that the balance was broken and I needed to make drastic changes. I have learned that, at times, I just need to weather the storm.

Do you have a favorite time management tool, hack, or other strategy you use that helps you achieve balance?
My new strategy is to turn off (or at least limit) checking email during certain times of the day. During the weekday evening hours (5-8pm), I try to focus on my family without checking work emails. While at the office, I don’t check personal emails. Occasionally, I am compelled to break my own rules, but I try to stick with them. The new strategy is part of my effort to be more present and to give all my energy to whatever is right in front of me, whether that is my work or my personal life.

What was the best advice you ever heard on balance?
From a mentor/co-worker? To not limit myself professionally because I want to be an involved parent—there are ways to make it work.
From your mother? To focus on doing my best and to stop being a perfectionist.
From your spouse/partner? To stop comparing myself to others (or my perception of others) and to focus on what I want and what works for me.
From your kids? No advice from them yet. I can’t wait to hear what they have to say when they are older.

If you had one extra hour in each day and you couldn’t work or be with your family, how would you spend that hour?
Some activity outdoors. I can’t pick just one; I would choose a new one every day of the week if I could.

What do you wish you’d known when you were 20?
To maximize free time. If I had that time now, I would do so much more with it.

What do you hope to know by time you’re 60?
To know how to truly relax, to not sweat the small stuff, and to not worry about things that are out of my control. I have improved with age on those issues and hope to have mastered them by the time I am 60.

What one part of your home life do you wish you could outsource?
All aspects of weekday dinner preparation—the shopping, the cooking and the clean-up. I would much rather spend that time catching up with my girls.

Favorite book?
I have a hard time choosing favorites. I recently read Black Beauty by Anna Sewell to my daughters and loved it. I am currently re-reading To Kill a Mockingbird in anticipation of the release of Harper Lee’s second book this summer, and am really enjoying it. I also love a good Gillian Flynn-type novel.

What are you reading right now?
 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

Biggest vices…
Activity? Having drinks on my deck with my husband after our kids go to sleep.
Food? Chocolate or cheese.
Website? Real estate websites. We are looking for a new house; I can easily spend hours on Zillow or RedFin.

How many hours do you generally sleep at night during the week?
7-8. I can’t stand myself on 6 or less hours of sleep a night.

What do you read every morning?
My first read in the morning is always my email, then some online news.

Complete the following sentences:
I think I: am managing my balance fairly well.
I wish I:
 had a really capable personal assistant to run household logistics (that would certainly help my balance).
My kids: totally wear me out, but truly make me happy.

43592DSCN8318About Terrianne:
Terrianne Patnode lives with her husband and three daughters in the suburbs of NYC. When not lawyering or chasing after children, she enjoys running, reading, and making the most of the outdoors. She aspires to be a better cook, more successful gardener, and more active volunteer, and is planning to make a career out of those upon retirement as a lawyer.