Sunday, March 6, 2011

Interview with Kristen Ayers

Kristen Ayers
I met Kristen Ayers at our neighborhood Starbucks. To look at her, you wouldn’t think that she has a bit of stress; she is so poised. As a fellow customer so aptly put it, “she is a ray of sunshine.”

As I got to know Kristen, I found that she does indeed have her share of stress. She is a mother of 3-year-old, Taylor. She is also an immigration lawyer. So I was curious about how she led her seemingly stress free life.

To look at you, you don’t look like you have a bit of stress. You always look very relaxed and never frazzled.

I really like everything I’m doing. I like spending time with my daughter. I really like what I do. I like my clients. All of the things that make my life hectic, I really like. You always see me at Starbucks, so I’m relaxing. I do get stressed when I’m at home. When I don’t have anyone to help, I do get stressed.

How do you handle the times you do have stress?

I try to ask for help with Taylor or delegate help and schedule my work.

Stress can be self-created. I often start to feel more stress than is necessary, so when I divert my attention to Taylor, it often helps, so I can refocus when I get back to work.

Taylor is my first priority, so I have people to help that I can call on if something is really pressing at work. Sometimes I can reschedule work for later in the day and that lessens my stress. I also have office staff support for work.

How do you separate work from family?

You hear people talk about balance. I call it juggling. Some days it works; you can switch seamlessly from one thing to another, other days, the juggling doesn’t work.

I haven’t found a magic solution yet to conquer the stress of juggling, but I try to focus on how much I enjoy both my time with Taylor and my work and that seems to help reduce stress. Also, I have a really specific niche, immigration law. I can work in my office or at home or Starbucks or wherever I happen to be. My clients can be anywhere in the world, so I rarely meet with them in person. My work life works because of its flexibility. I’m often not hemmed in by a strict time frame, so I can
do work at my convenience and almost always by telephone or email and on the computer.

I see many women set up work-family juggling or balancing. People wonder if it’s possible to do both. Some women choose to put their children in daycare or hire a nanny and work full time. That works for them. What works for me is having a really flexible work schedule so that I can do both.

My doctor, Kathryn L. Moore, MD, at Columbia Women’s Healthcare, was a mother of two, while still maintaining her practice. So I asked her how she did it. She told me she chose to cut back her hours when her children were young in order to make more time to be at home.

Can you have it all? You can have it all, you just can’t have it all at the same time. You have to find a way to fit both into your schedule. Accommodate your schedule to include both. I decided that owning my own law firm would work best for me because it allows me the flexibility I want to spend time with my daughter. I’m trying to have as much time with Taylor as I can, while also continuing my career on
my own terms.

My advice to parents who have less flexibility in their work schedule is to try to find resources, family or friends who can help or support you during the day. Or help for an hour so you can have some time to yourself, some downtime, time to recharge. But try to leave work at work. Keep things separate.

You have to take bits and pieces of what works for others to find what works for you.

Do you have any techniques for de-stressing?

Finding a relaxing place like Starbucks is a great way to de-stress, so I look forward to that.

And for other techniques and ideas, well, that’s why I read your blog!

c. 2011


  1. Love Kristen's comment on how "stress can be self-created". That's hard to remember in the moment sometimes, but so true! We get to choose how we react to circumstances. I also like her example of asking others how they handle certain situations. Seeking counsel from others helps us grow.

  2. thanks so much for reading & commenting, christina! yes, kristen is very wise. i was very lucky to be able to interview her this week!...b