A Day with Gehl's Iben Falconer
6pm: I wake up at 6 and jump in the shower before my daughter wakes up (with an 8-month-old, let’s be honest, they really dictate the schedule.) I used to glance at my email first thing while still in bed, but it’s a bad habit I’m actively working to break. Everything is about multitasking now, so I listen to NPR while in the shower. I have less time for the newspaper (aka the NYT app) these days, so the radio has become even more important.
7am: I like to maximize my time with my daughter and husband in the mornings. I’m a morning person so I’d rather get up a bit earlier and have that relatively relaxed time with them, rather than rushing around. Once she is up, I nurse her, then it’s some playtime while once of us makes the rest of her breakfast. I always eat breakfast: oatmeal or PB toast, some fruit, and a mug of tea. I’ve never been a big coffee drinker, and I try to get enough sleep so I don’t need it!
8am: I commute by subway which is a bit of precious non-work-related reading time. Right now, I’m switching between Masha Gessen’s The Future is History and The New Yorker. I’m a Luddite who doesn’t do podcasts and likes real, old-fashioned books. I'm also in a book club, which I've rejoined after parental leave, so that keeps me up to my ears in non-fiction - just the way I like it.
9am: I recently joined the team at Gehl, the Danish urban design and research consultancy that is focused on the human-centered design of cities and public spaces. My first project is an internal one: a business development strategy for the two American offices. This means a lot of internal meetings to understand how we get work and how we could do it better and more efficiently. Since I work a lot with our Copenhagen office, it’s not uncommon that, first thing, I have a conference call with colleagues there.
10am: As a relatively new mom returning to work, my work day is divvied up for me by my pumping schedule (3x a day). In my experience, this is the hardest thing about pumping at work! Just when you settle into a task, bam! You’re due back with your robot baby! I am working diligently to set up my tasks in one-hour chunks so that I can be really effective and efficient in between. And then I save small bits of correspondence for while I’m pumping.
We have access to a nice mothers’ room. This has made a HUGE difference in the ease of returning to work while also continuing to breastfeed. So many women understandably give up on it because it’s SO DAMN HARD. I should add here that I’m super lucky to work with a family-friendly company with a number of other parents and moms. Our CEO is a woman, Helle Søholt, the partner group is 40% female, and the NYC office is a whopping 80% women! When I was looking to change jobs, I was actively looking to be in a women-led office.
12:30pm: Usually I like to pack a lunch, because I like to cook. But Gehl’s NYC office is co-located with SYP, and they have this amazing open kitchen full of food and snacks. Now that I have less time in my day, this is a total godsend.
3pm: More meetings, emails, and pumping! Even though most of my projects right now are long-distance collaborations, I really make an effort to chat with my colleagues in the NYC office, so that I can learn more about their projects. We're doing some amazing work in places like Chattanooga, Halifax, West Palm Beach, Lima, and right here in NYC. I'm really in that sponge stage--trying to soak up as much info about the company, our work, and all those great little anecdotes you only get from hanging around people and asking lots of questions.
5:30pm: The last thing I do at work is to check the schedule for the next day, and to see if there is any prep I need to do for that beforehand.
7pm: My husband is on leave with our daughter right now, so that makes life a lot easier. When I get home, he is usually feeding her dinner, so I'm greeted with big smiles. Sometimes I'll take over, or just join them at the table. Family dinners were always a big part of my life growing up, so we want to start that tradition early, even though at this point, she's the only one who eats at 5:30! Then I nurse her, and we trade off the rest of the bedtime routine.
After she's asleep, I'll cook dinner for the two of us. Sometimes I'm a little self-conscious of how gendered it is that I do most of the cooking, but honestly I really enjoy it. I enjoy menu planning and find cooking cathartic, so oftentimes my husband will do the grocery shopping, and he always does the dishes! We like a leisurely dinner, if we have time, so that we can check in with each other about how the day went. I've come to value this time together just the two of us even more since we've had a kid. We put some candles on the table, maybe open a bottle of wine, and just talk.
8pm: Post-dinner I check in with work. I do a 9-5 schedule with an hour in the evening. Usually there's some correspondence to stay on top of, or some Slack conversations to follow. Sometimes I also do my best thinking about work when I'm not there; there's something about being in a different environment that allows me to think about the more complicated, high level challenges and how I can tackle them. I also usually have some "adulting" tasks: bill paying; laundry; family scheduling; etc. All that really sexy stuff, ha. Oh and did I mention pumping? Because I do that again.
You'll notice here what I'm not doing: I'm not going to the gym, or meeting up with friends, or doing a lot of evening work events. We're in a period of transition as we get used to being working parents. I am hopeful/ambitious to find time for these sorts of things in the future, but now, they're really a weekend thing.
9pm: It's becoming extra important to me to turn off screens an hour before I go to bed. With new responsibilities and a new job, it can be hard to "turn my brain off" in order to sleep. I like to read if I can; I miss reading as much as I used to. I listen to NPR again while getting ready for bed, though these days the news is not exactly relaxing...
10pm: The last thing for bed is either meditating with the Headspace app or scrolling through a few photos and videos from our daughter's day. She always makes us smile, and that seems like a good reason to break the "no screens" rule.