Four days after Julia Jurgensen moved into her new home, she put her children to bed, cleared the boxes from her dining room and sat down with me to discuss how she stays organized in the midst of a chaotic life.
“We’re not perfect,” she said, glancing at the stack of boxes in the next room. “But we do the best we can.”
Jurgensen is doing just fine. She’s a partner at Beard Kultgen Brophy Bostwick & Dickson, a mother of three and a Sunday school teacher at First Baptist Woodway. She’s also kind, gracious and a great conversationalist. Jurgensen shared a few tips to balancing motherhood and a demanding career. She suggests keeping a calendar, making time for yourself and avoiding the comparison trap.
WACOAN: Before returning to Waco, you practiced law in Houston. What brought you back here?
Jurgensen: It was a combination of family and finding jobs. My husband lived in Waco for the better part of his childhood, and his parents retired here. I was born and raised in Waco. Before we got married, both of our families were living in Waco, and we were living in Houston. We knew we wanted to have a family and eventually come back to Waco, but didn’t know when. Josh saw a job opening here and jumped on it. So we moved back after a year in Houston.
WACOAN: Waco is like a magnet — it brings people back. Were you surprised you moved back so soon?
Jurgensen: Yes. When I graduated from law school, I was not married, and I’d always lived in Waco. I was excited to spread my wings, and I had a great opportunity with a firm in Houston, but long term I wanted to end up here. In the back of my mind I always wanted to work with my dad’s law firm. That’s what I’m doing now.
WACOAN: Tell me about your current position.
Jurgensen: I’m an attorney at Beard Kultgen Brophy Bostwick & Dickson.
WACOAN: What does the firm focus on?
Jurgensen: The firm does both commercial business transactions and litigation as well as a heavy real estate practice and estate planning. I’ve done litigation in the past. More recently, I’ve focused more on construction law and estate planning.
WACOAN: While you were growing up, you saw your dad practice law at the same firm you are now. Were you always interested in being a lawyer?
Jurgensen: I think so. I knew that I was interested in law in college. I was a finance major at Baylor University. My junior year I started interviewing for jobs in the finance industry. The jobs I was looking at were great opportunities, but it wasn’t what I saw myself doing. I ended up going to law school at Baylor, and it was a great choice for me.
WACOAN: Did you meet your husband at Baylor?
Jurgensen: We actually met after graduation, which was crazy because we’re both from here and went to Baylor. Our parents sat next to each other at church. Josh and I met at a bookstore that isn’t in Waco anymore. We made the connection that we had both accepted jobs in Houston and started dating after that.
WACOAN: What was it like working for a firm in Houston?
Jurgensen: It was my first job out of law school, and I was doing litigation with a firm. It was a very different side of the law than what I practice now. But it was a great experience, and I learned a lot while I was there.
WACOAN: What’s your favorite part of your current position?
Jurgensen: The people I work with every day. I’m fortunate to have a group of people I enjoy working with and spending time with. In terms of my job, I enjoy that it’s dynamic and never the same. It’s never dull — it’s always interesting.
WACOAN: You recently made partner. Has that changed your work schedule?
Jurgensen: I made partner in January, but I still work part time. I was full time when I had my first child. But I’ve worked three days a week since having my second and third child.
I am so fortunate to work for a firm that allows flexibility with my schedule. I couldn’t balance it otherwise.
WACOAN: Is that one reason you continue to work there?
Jurgensen: Actually, I never thought about that. When I started at the firm, I was a newlywed and wasn’t thinking about having children. I knew I wanted children, but I didn’t know what my life would look like as a mom. In fact, if you’d asked me, I probably would have said I would be a stay-at-home mom because my mom was. When we decided that I should keep working, we had to look at what our schedule would look like. It was a process.
WACOAN: What made you decide to go back to work after having children?
Jurgensen: I decided that I enjoyed my practice so I should try to do both. I quickly realized that my schedule was not going to be the same as a mom. The partners were generous in working with me. After my second child I knew I couldn’t work full time, and I thought that meant I could work at the firm. But the firm worked with me, and we figured out a schedule. I’ve always said that as long as it works well for my family and I could give my best to the firm, we would keep doing this. So far, it’s working.
WACOAN: What does your part-time schedule look like?
Jurgensen: Most clients have my cellphone, and I’m available seven days a week, but I rarely go into the office on Mondays and Fridays. When I was working long hours, I didn’t feel like I was fulfilling my duties as a mom, and that is my top priority.
WACOAN: You just moved into a new house. How was the moving process with toddlers?
Jurgensen: I am sure my attitude will change as we get some distance from it, but it is not something I want to do again. It was very difficult because most, if not all, of the packing, moving and now unpacking had to be done after they were in bed, which did not leave us a lot of time. We are so grateful for our new home and I know it will be worth it, but the process has definitely been exhausting.
WACOAN: What does your husband do?
Jurgensen: Josh is an engineer. We purchased a water well pump service company [Jurgensen Pump & Well Services] in November 2013, so he owns and runs the business in Valley Mills. It was a big step for our family to jump out there and buy the company. But we knew that’s where God was leading us, so we felt peaceful and confidant about that decision. It’s been affirmed that this is where we’re supposed to be.
WACOAN: As an entrepreneur, what is Josh’s work schedule?
Jurgensen: Generally speaking, he works normal hours. It’s varied because it’s a customer-oriented job. Because he owns his own company, he’s able to help me in the mornings. He is a huge help.
WACOAN: What do your mornings look like?
Jurgensen: Chaos. Our kids wake up before 7 a.m. Josh and I try to get up before then, but he is better at that. I prefer to stay up late, and he prefers to wake up early. I try to do as much as I can the night before, so I pack the lunches and get everything ready. Once the children wake up, that’s when chaos ensues. My dad takes my oldest son to school three days a week. When my dad doesn’t take him to school, my husband takes him. I take the youngest two to school every day. We’re all hurrying to get out the door on time.
WACOAN: Tell me about your children. Where do they go to school?
Jurgensen: We have Brooks, 6; Sarah Catherine, 3 1/2; and Brown, who is my 13-month-old boy. My oldest goes to Waco Montessori School downtown. When I’m working, my dad swings by to pick up Brooks and take him to school before going to work. My youngest two go to Noah’s Ark Pre-School on Lake Shore Drive [at Central Christian Church].
WACOAN: Why did you choose those schools for your children?
Jurgensen: There are a lot of child care options in Waco. I was always interested in the Montessori style of education. My granddad was instrumental in raising money for the Montessori elementary school building. Although I never appreciated what he did when I was a child, people at the school speak highly of my granddad’s efforts. We also love the Montessori style of learning and believe it’s an incredible way to learn. My daughter will start there in the fall. At Waco Montessori School, the parents were able to walk through the journey of how the students learn, and I wish I had learned like that.
The younger kids are at a wonderful Christian school. It has a great teacher-student ratio. I heard about that by word-of-mouth. Noah’s Ark take children as early as 6 weeks. By 6 months, my children have all started child care.
WACOAN: Did you stay home with your children for the first six months?
Jurgensen: That’s looked different each time I had kids. I took eight weeks off for maternity leave for each child. I’ve had a lot of help from my mom and mother-in-law. I feel better about sending them to child care a little older. With my oldest, he was in home care with a wonderful woman, but she has since retired.
WACOAN: What activities are your children involved in?
Jurgensen: They’re young, so they’re just getting started. My son is playing Midway Little League. We spend two nights a week at the ball field. My daughter loves to come and watch, and it’s been interesting having a 1-year-old there as well. My daughter takes gymnastics at Flips. My children enjoy spending time together and outside. We spend as much time as we can outdoors.
My parents live about five minutes from us, and they have quite a bit of land. We go there once a week and spend time on the land, playing and going on walks. With boys, they have an innate need to explore. Brooks asked for a campout by the river for his birthday.
WACOAN: How else has it been helpful to have your parents close?
Jurgensen: It’s helped in every way. My in-laws live five minutes the other direction, so we always see them. My sister and Josh’s sister live in town, and our children are about the same ages. It’s cool to see cousins who are friends. And if I’m in a bind at work, I have so many resources. My children can stay with family, and I don’t worry about them because they’re having fun with their cousins.
One of the hard things about working is when your children are sick. I may be able to stay home, but I may have an obligation and can’t get away. There is always someone to help when that happens.
WACOAN: What’s the most difficult part of having toddlers?
Jurgensen: With toddlers and babies, you are still meeting almost all of their needs. They’re not self-sufficient. That makes it rewarding, but also difficult because you’re responsible for everything. It’s also incredibly unpredictable, especially with my 3-year-old. I never know what Sarah Catherine will need. It also requires a lot of patience to have toddlers.
WACOAN: What’s the most rewarding part of having children?
Jurgensen: I couldn’t list one thing. Being a mom has been the most rewarding, the hardest but most fulfilling job I’ve ever had. It’s the unconditional love that you feel toward a child and they feel toward you. No matter what kind of mom I’ve been that day, I’m their mom. The unconditional bond is so special.
WACOAN: How are your children different from one another?
Jurgensen: My girl is more dramatic and emotional, which may be her personality or because she is a girl. She is very girly, which is funny because I never considered myself to be a girly girl. She loves all things ruffly and pink and all makeup and primping. She loves painting her nails.
My boy just wants to run and play and be outdoors.
My youngest is so sweet and laid-back. He has been a wonderful baby, and the verdict is still out on what his personality will be like.
WACOAN: What are some lessons you and Josh instill in your children?
Jurgensen: There is so much out there to teach your children. You have to stick to what you believe are your core values, and hopefully everything else will be an outpouring from those beliefs. We’re Christians, so we try to raise them in a godly home. It’s our hope and prayer that they will follow in those footsteps and become believers. We try to base our teaching off what we’ve learned from the Scripture. We also try to teach them to be themselves. It’s very important to me that they’re confident in who God made them. Of course, we tell them to show kindness to others. Be someone who people want to be around.
I admire my children, and I respect who they are becoming. They have good hearts.
WACOAN: How do you teach your children?
Jurgensen: A whole lot of prayer and trying to model it for them.
WACOAN: What do your children teach you?
Jurgensen: My kids have taught me how to love in a way I didn’t know I could — it’s a bigger love. They’ve taught me patience. Children are naturally honest and confident in who they are. I respect my children for being who they are without shame. We can all take a lesson from that.
WACOAN: How do you and your husband make a team as parents?
Jurgensen: We’re definitely a team. He helps me in practical ways by making their breakfast and getting them out the door in the mornings. He is helping coach Brook’s baseball team with my dad and brother-in-law.
WACOAN: With a busy schedule, how do you make time for your husband?
Jurgensen: My husband and I spend time together in the evenings after the children go to bed. On the weekends we try to get a babysitter and go out with friends. My husband is intentional about making that happen.
WACOAN: Where do you like to go for a date night?
Jurgensen: We love Ninfa’s, 135 Prime and DiamondBack’s. We just joined the Baylor Club, so we’ve enjoyed going there for dinner. We went the other night and watched a storm roll by the stadium. My husband stares at the Jumbotron and imagines the next season. He’s a Baylor fanatic. We have season tickets and never miss a game. We have a tailgate spot with friends.
WACOAN: Other than Baylor games, what else does your family enjoy doing?
Jurgensen: The [Waco Downtown] Farmers Market is fun. We enjoy being outside, and we spend a lot of time with our family.
WACOAN: What’s your favorite thing about Waco?
Jurgensen: The people. I love the people here. There is a sense of community, and the people are generous and kind. You don’t feel excluded. It’s a wonderful place to have children, but Waco isn’t just a good place to have kids. It’s great for other reasons.
WACOAN: How have you seen Waco change?
Jurgensen: In almost every way. I was here when the Chili’s arriving was a huge deal in high school. The development of the restaurant scene and downtown has been fun to watch.
Today’s Waco looks different than what I grew up in and in a great way.
WACOAN: What else are you involved in?
Jurgensen: We’re involved in our church at First Baptist Woodway. We teach an adult Sunday school class, and we work with the children’s ministry.
I also try to be involved in their schools by going to homeroom parties and performances.
WACOAN: Between work, family and church, your schedule is incredibly full. How do you stay energized throughout the day?
Jurgensen: That’s a challenge. The good news is that I can thrive on little sleep. As long as I enjoy what I’m doing, I can do it. Some days are harder. The hardest phase for me has been when my children are babies. I enjoy my children, and they energize me, but it may not always seem that way. The afternoons, the time between 4 and 6 p.m., are not my finest hours. The kids are tired and hungry, and I am, too. But then we get home and start thinking about dinner. I like to cook, and I try to cook almost every night so we can sit down as a family. I know that will get harder when the kids have more activities.
WACOAN: What’s your biggest day-to-day challenge as a working mom?
Jurgensen: Keeping the schedule for work and children. Organization doesn’t come naturally to me. I have to remember all that I have going on at work and meet my deadlines and then remember who has a show and tell or a project. Keeping everyone’s schedule running takes a lot of effort, and it’s more effort for someone like me.
WACOAN: How do you stay organized?
Jurgensen: I’m a list person. At work, I’ll make a list of what I need to accomplish at the beginning of the week.
Josh and I share a calendar on our phones so we can share invitations to events. We realized that we could sync our phones because we both have Outlook. I don’t share my work schedule — that’s my own. We share personal calendars, so he knows if I have book club and I’m missing bath time with the kids.
WACOAN: How do you separate your work life from your home life?
Jurgensen: That’s a daily challenge. For me, going part time is the reason I can do that. I have two days dedicated to being home with the kids. I try to make a personal effort to leave work at work, but you have to balance that with your clients’ needs. If I didn’t finish something for work, I’ll do it when everyone goes to bed. You have to be intentional with your time.
WACOAN: As a mother and a lawyer, how do you balance pressure from work?
Jurgensen: I think it’s important to take time for yourself. That may be getting up an hour before your children do. You have to have some outlet to relieve that pressure. I’m so busy with my children that they are a relief to me. During the time I spend with them, they don’t know what’s going on at work. It’s just me and the kids, so I can flip the switch.
WACOAN: What’s your advice to working mothers?
Jurgensen: You can do it! I never knew what being a mom would look like for me. I grew up with an amazing mom who stayed home full time. You can find that balance, but I would say you have to stick to your priorities. Do what is right for your family and make it work for you. That may not look like what other moms are doing, and you can’t compare.
And you have to have a good support system. Being a working mom is a family decision.
WACOAN: How do you make time for yourself?
Jurgensen: I think that I have the greatest friends, and I have a husband who supports me spending time with them. I’ve been in a book club for two years. We’re reading ‘Peace Like a River’ [by Leif Enger], and I haven’t finished the book. So I may just be nodding for that meeting. Being from Waco, I have dear friends from here. If I go out, I’ll go to dinner with the girls. If I’m at home by myself, I love to read. A good book is as good as it gets for me.
If I said I worked out, that would be a lie right now. I enjoy working out, and I hope that that becomes a bigger part of my schedule. I would have to get out of the house at 5:30 a.m., and I can’t get up that early right now. I have friends that do it, but I’m tired. I’m trying to get out of the baby fog and start with a few long walks.
WACOAN: It’s like you said, you have to be intentional with your time. You can’t do everything.
Jurgensen: Yes, I’m learning that every day. You can’t compare yourself. We do the best we can as a family, and we try to figure out what works best for where we are in life.