We would like to introduce you to Leigh Donaldson. Leigh owns her own production company and works primarily with Laird + Partners Advertising Agency producing print and television advertising for clients like Gap, Donna Karan and Nautica.
Leigh is one of the most loving, down to earth, tell it like it really is moms we know. Her kids adore her and the people with whom she works think she is simply the best at what she does. We suppose at this point it would be fair to disclose that she is also a close, personal friend of the person writing this.
Leigh lives in Newport Beach with her husband Dave and her two precious daughters, Lucy (8) and Sophie (4 1/2). Always humble, Leigh describes herself as a chicken without a head.
Do you work at an office, at home, or some combination?
About 8 years ago, when I was pregnant with Lucy, I had a hormone induced nervous breakdown that turned out to be the greatest thing that ever happened to me. In my crazed state, stressed about my return to work before the baby was even born, I decided that I simply had to live closer to my parents so that Dave and I would have some help with the baby when I went back to work. I also decided that I didn't want to have to go into an office everyday. At the time, we were living in San Francisco and I was working for Gap. While I have no recollection of this, my husband tells me that I came unglued and demanded that he find a job in Southern California. To make a long story slightly less long, we moved to Los Angeles and I was able to continue working for Gap from home. I am lucky; I have worked from home ever since.
What are the best and worst parts of your job?
The best part is that I get to work from home most of the time. The worst part is that because I work from home, I feel like I am always working. I will take calls and check email at all hours because I never want people to think that I am watching Oprah or hanging out at the park.
Would you work if you could afford to stay home? If so, why?
I actually love what I do. My fantasy would be to produce two or three commercials a year and spend the rest of the time hanging out with my family.
Who does most of the domestic duties in your house?
I, like most working moms I know, am responsible for the household insanity. I suppose I shouldn’t complain because my husband is very present and helpful. But I can’t help myself. Here come the complaints. I am the one that makes breakfast and lunch; I take the kids to school; I help with the homework and I’m responsible for cruise directing all the activities and parties. My husband and nanny are great, but really there can only be one person ultimately in charge. Don’t you think?
How often do you have dinner with your kids? What is most often on the menu?
We try and have dinner with the kids as many nights as possible. I would say that for every dinner that passes for a real home-cooked meal, we have two or three order in, left over or here’s yet another hot dog dinner dinners. The last true home cooked meal was roast chicken and then spinach leaves with Parmesan cheese and croutons. Not bad, huh? Do I have to admit that was three weeks ago? We try to all eat the same thing as a family, but the truth is the kids usually scoff at what we eat and end up eating something in the chicken nugget family.
Do you travel for your job? How often? Is it a part of your work that you enjoy or try to avoid?
I do travel for my job. Usually a week a month. Sometimes it skips a month, but sometimes, like last April, I was gone for 1 week and then again for 12 days. That was tough. The girls came out to NY for 5 days with my mom, which definitely helped, and they had a great time. I don’t mind the travel when it’s manageable because it’s fun to go out to “adult” restaurants in NY and not have to worry if there’s a kid’s meal on the menu or when the next meltdown will happen.
What do you do when you feel totally overwhelmed?
I make lists so I can see all that I have to do on paper. (I just got the Mommy Track’d Balance Sheets and they're pretty handy). If I feel like I am really going over the edge, I run out, buy a gossip magazine, and get a pedicure.
Do you ever feel guilty for working?
My daughter's fifth birthday will go down in the history of working mom guilt moments. We were shooting a Gap commercial with Missy Elliot and Madonna on my daughter’s 5th birthday. The whole family was at Disneyland and I knew I would be late. Late turned into really really late, and I missed dinner and cake. I got there around 8pm when my daughter was going to sleep. She still tells people that I missed her 5th birthday.
What is your favorite thing to do with your kids?
We love to go to the movies. It's the one place I don't feel bad about giving them soda and candy.
Do you exercise? If so, where do you find the time?
I do exercise. I walk about every morning at 5:30am with 3 of my neighbors. We all work and it’s the only time we can fit it in. It’s actually pretty nice. We get to catch up, exercise and we’re home before anyone is awake.
Is there one website you visit everyday?
I love celebrity gossip so my guilty pleasure is checking www.thesuperficial.com every morning.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received about balancing work and family?
I used to feel guilty when I traveled and left the girls with my mom or mother-in-law for a few days at a time. A friend of mine told me that I should never feel guilty about leaving them with their grandparents because the time children spend building relationships with their grandparents is the greatest gift I could give either of them.
What are you reading right now, if anything. Not Ramona the Brave -- a grown-up book.
Usually I would just be reading the latest issue of US Weekly, but right now I am actually reading a real book, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. It’s interesting because these kids had such crazy, eccentric, nomadic parents who had a bizarre and laissez faire parenting style to say the least. The kids in the story still turned out fairly well adjusted. That makes me think that even when I lose it with my kids or have to work during an important activity of theirs – they will still turn out OK.