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Back To School: Work and Play with Heather LeClair

It is hard to believe that summer is almost over. However, that also means that the fun doesn't have to end. Attorney Heather LeClair is a mommy in action during the summer, fall, winter and spring. She doesn't miss a beat when it comes to spending precious moments with her daughter Bryce Abigail and serving in the community with flair. The mommy daughter duo works hard and plays hard all through the year. Heather knows how to keep it fun regardless as to what is on her career calendar.

I got lucky! I had the pleasure of sitting down for lunch, with Heather at the trendy Egan and Sons in Montclair. We talked girl stuff. You know - fashion and all about work and play as kids head back to school in September.

CC MINTON: You're an attorney, community leader, and mom. Tell me about the work that you do in the business world.

HEATHER LECLAIR: I am a sales and use tax consultant with EY specializing in the financial service sector. I’ve been in this space for almost 15 years now (wow! Did I really say that! ) It is fast pace, ever changing and really interesting. When I started out with EY I was doing a great deal of compliance work—but I’ve been really fortunate that my career has evolved to more specifically match my interest and my skill set. Additionally, I have learned to evolve with the times too. In that I’ve learned how to use more tax technology and innovation to assist my Clients.

CC MINTON: What is most challenging and enjoyable about what you do?

HEATHER: The most enjoyable aspects of my job are mentoring/teaching the next generation of EY as they come up through the ranks. I also have a fairly robust tax controversy practice which requires me to always be well read on the latest changes in tax law, creative and witty with the auditors. When my team and I are able to end a case on both a professional and successful note—it’s a really great day! The challenging aspects of the job are the commute—but anyone in metro NY knows that—haha and the hours. I have a very precious daughter that I wish I had more hours in the day with.

CC MINTON: What is the most challenging and rewarding thing about being a mom?

HEATHER: The most rewarding part of being a mom—hands down is being able to watch your child explore and challenge the world. Learn and grow in wisdom, age and grace. I love being a witness to all of the little things (everyday triumphs) and the big things.

The most challenging is finding enough hours in the day and not being able to be all things to Bryce Abigail all the time. But I am learning as she gets older that she can learn and grown with the help of a lot of wonderful people. And I need to not beat myself up over everything. But mom guilt is real! haha

CC MINTON: For the new school year, what type of suggestions can you offer to moms that will make it a smoother transition from the summer?

HEATHER: I try to get Bryce Abigail back on her “school” sleep schedule about 2 weeks before the school year begins. I know with the summer it is easy to get lax. But, if your kids are not “morning people”, like mine it is imperative to get them used to going to bed early and getting up early. Keeping kids in the swing of school work: Math, reading, science, etc. during the summer. I also always looking for fun ways to keep Bryce Abigail thinking about math calculations, counting money, telling time, etc. We are always doing little science experiments and reading! In doing all of these things, I am hopeful that I am keeping her sharp and prepared for school. During the summer I try to stock up on school supplies. It is too hard to do last minute rushes. So at the end of the school year when school supplies are on super sales I like to stock up. It is notice an on-line retailer has uniforms or gym shoes on sales I try to stock-up. Buying a little bit here and there helps to defray that huge back to school hit.

CC MINTON: If your daughter Bryce is anything like her mom, I know she does very well in school. Would type of advice would you offer to keep kids excited about learning and doing well?

HEATHER: Get excited about whatever the kids are excited about—even if it isn’t something you know anything about. Encourage their interests through reading, drawing, documentaries and other outside programs/exhibits. The best example I can give is: Bryce Abigail came home from school two years ago with this burning desire to learn more about King Tut. Ahh… ok?!? Where did this come from? So we went to the book store and picked up several books on Egyptian times, King Tut and unearthing the Pharaoh's tomb. Then we watched several documentaries. I also found a local exhibit of Egyptian artifacts. Every time I read a book, watched a movie or attended an event, I got to see Bryce Abigail grow in knowledge and thrill of my shared interest. I also learned a thing or two. She went on to get a Cleopatra costume to wear to school for dress-up and to do a mini- report on Egyptian times.

Don’t discount the value of time at a park, zoo, botanical garden art museum, etc. We are really lucky to live in an area that is rich in parks, zoos, gardens, museums and open spaces. I am not a fan of iPad and electronic devices. But I love when my daughter is out and about-- running around, sketching and exploring. Encouraging kids to be inquisitive, observational and meditative allows them the freedom to learn, grow and explore outside of the structure of a classroom. There are so many different and wonderful things that kids can be exposed to that can have a lasting, enriching impact.

CC MINTON: How do you spend your time at home and in the community?

HEATHER: When I am home it is very important for me to be “present” and productive. So I try to “park” work and other outside disturbances at the door. My daughter and I really enjoy cooking, decorating, entertaining and pulling together lavish “theme” photo shoots for holidays and birthdays. So when I am home I make every effort to spend my time with her and our dog enjoying the things that we all love.

With respect to the community—well, I think that there is nothing more important that being “the change in the world that you want to see!” Additionally, I think it is imperative that I role model for my daughter the behavior, kindness and generosity that I expect from her. So I’ve spent the last few years immersing myself and my family in causes that are near and dear to my heart. I joined the Junior League of Montclair Newark about 6 years ago, it was a great spring board to meet other women in the community and learn about volunteer opportunities. I was so very fortunate to have met some fantastic sustainers from the League who have done some amazing things in Essex County. They took me under their wing and guide me to some very worthy causes in the area. I like to volunteer my time with CASA of Essex County, I am on the Board with Van Vleck House & Gardens and I am eager to continue to push my mission to bring the arts (supplies, performers and practioners to the schools in my area—that are in need.

CC MINTON: What inspired you you to get involved in the non-profit world?

HEATHER: I try to live my life keeping two principles in mind: Be the change in the world that you want to see—I believe now more than ever those words ring most true. While we cannot control that hurt and harm others are suffering we can most defiantly “show”/demonstrate compassion, empathy, love and support when it is needed most. It is my sincere hope that my daughter will take to heart the wonderful opportunities that she has and choose to be a beacon of change in the world as a result of all of the wonderful role models (my friends and associates) that she has around her.

Never under estimate the value of a small gesture to someone who is hurting or in need. That gesture may in fact make all the difference in the world to that person at that particular moment—No single event, fund raiser or gala is going to fix any one problem or issue. And there is a great deal of need—so sometimes it can be very frustrating and overwhelming. But, it is all about baby steps…. And not losing focus on helping one cause or one person at a time. The smallest of support may make all the difference for that person or charity in that moment.

CC MINTON: Are there any similarities between what you do in business and in the community?

HEATHER: Yes—both require patience, thoughtful/mindful negotiation, strategy, networking, mentoring and a willingness to be humble and learn from others around you. I am thrilled to be able to cross use my skills when I can. I am also happy to learn new information and skill sets that are completely different from my day to day job. Everything I learn and all the people I interact with have helped to continue to round out the person that I am.

CC MINTON: What do you do for play and tell me about your daughter Bryce.

My daughter Bryce Abigail is my biggest joy! We really are well matched. We enjoy Broadway shows and the ballet. She and I are always in the City catching one show or another. She an I also enjoy planning elaborate photo shoots for the holidays or her birthday—complete with props , costumes, backdrops, etc. We usual incorporate the pets and make a day of it. The photos are now part of a collection of beautiful photo cards that we send out to family and friends every few months. We’ve done everything from Marie Antoinette (“let them eat cake”—for valentine’s) to a Dickensian Christmas with a vintage sledge, fake snow and a dog dressed as a reindeer. But I think my favorite was an Alice in Wonderland shoot where Bryce dressed as the queen of hearts and one of the dogs as Alice. We did a complete tea party set-up. Bryce Abigail and I enjoy being creative, witty, silly and fun.

CC MINTON: Tell me about the most exciting or exotic place you've traveled.

HEATHER: My favorite place to visit is London. Unfortunately it is not very exotic. However, I did have the privilege of both being in London and attending the 2012 Summer Olympics. It was a wonderful time to be there and the Olympics were made all the more special since they were held in my favorite City.

CC MINTON: In what way do you use technology to help balance life and the school schedule

HEATHER: I live for reminder calendar invites. I send them to myself the nanny, etc. They keep us all forward thinking and limit confusion about upcoming events, pick-ups and drop-offs, etc. There are also a lot of iPad apps that Bryce Abigail enjoys using to practice her spelling words and math. Her teacher sent home a list at the beginning of the year and I ‘ve made a point to try to let her use them a few nights a week as opposed to the normal pencil and paper method.

Work and play with Heather LeClair is just an extension of the summer time!

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