Laura Collins answers the door to her Las Colinas home with a snoozing baby swaddled warmly to her chest. “Sorry, this is pretty much where my kids nap until they start day care,” jokes the 35-year-old mom of two as she gently pats her bundle, evoking several sleepy grunts.
Currently on maternity leave, Collins is looking forward to returning to her daily routine as deputy director for Bush Institute-SMU Economic Growth Initiative. The George W. Bush Institute, a nonpartisan policy organization located on the Southern Methodist University campus, monitors global issues in order to solve some of the United States’ most pressing challenges. Collins is focused on researching and advocating for policy changes regarding one challenge in particular: immigration. And though she’ll miss the dozing bundle at her chest, she’s eager to get back to work.
“I work with a fantastic group of people at the Bush Institute,” she says. “There’s something really nice about going back to the office and getting back into the daily grind of the work that I do.”
What duties does your job require on a day-to-day basis?
I start out every day by checking out the news and what’s happening in Washington. Most immigration policy and immigration law is made in Washington, D.C., so I always have to have a feel for what’s going on in Congress and the executive branch. I structure my day around what’s cycling in the news. If there’s nothing going on in the news, I focus on pre-existing issues. We’re always looking at ways to find touchpoints or issues that haven’t been covered in immigration policy yet. If there is something popping in the news though, we like to be on top of it and make sure that we’re there with good, fact-based commentary so that everyone knows what’s really going on, how it affects you personally, and what you can do about it.
As a research writer and policy advocate to lawmakers and the general public, I try to spread awareness of the economic benefits of a robust immigration system. Immigration is what made the United States the leader of the free world and the strong economic engine that it is. It’s what makes the U.S. as prosperous as we are.
Is there a personal connection you feel towards immigration policy?
My great-grandmother came to the United States from Romania through Ellis Island by herself when she was 18. She didn’t speak any English, she didn’t have much formal education, and she only knew enough reading and writing to sign her own name. She made the journey from her little village on her own and built a long, successful life here starting from basically nothing. It makes you stop and think about the amount of courage and bravery it must have taken to make that long journey, first across Europe on a train and then across the ocean on a boat, all alone. All of her kids ended up being successful and pursuing higher education, and for that to be only a few generations removed from me, to me, is really the story of America. That is the American dream. That is what we are all striving for.
What’s your advice for moms out there trying to balance parenthood and a professional career?
The important thing to remember when you’re working outside the home and raising young children is that nothing is ever going to be perfect. You aren’t going to be able to make and pack the perfect little bento box lunches that you saved on Pinterest, and you’ll probably have to leave work early or come in late occasionally. But you give it your best effort, and that’s more than enough. You don’t have to be perfect.
You find ways to cut corners to make life easier on you so you can make sure the decisions you have to make for work aren’t cutting into your time at home with your family. For example, it sounds a little silly but one of my little life shortcuts is that I only wear black and white clothes to work and just add a pop of color with an accessory here and there, simply to eliminate the time and stress of figuring out what to wear. That way, I’m fully present for my family in the mornings. You figure out what works for you. There is no “perfect” way to parent.
What’s your favorite educational place to take the kids?
We love going to any of the amazing public libraries near our home any chance we get. I’ve been bringing my daughter since she was an infant, and she’s so excited because she finally got her own library card recently.
Where’s your go-to spot for some “me” time?
Anywhere that’s quiet! I don’t really have a “me” spot, but I really love quiet. Even if I’m not doing anything, if it’s quiet, that’s what I appreciate the most.
What about date night?
We actually don’t “go out” on date nights. I’m an introvert, and by Friday night the last thing I want to do is get dressed up, find a babysitter and go out. We are more likely to open a bottle of wine, put something on Netflix, and hang out at home. So I guess our favorite date-night spot is our couch!
Are you naturally a night owl or early bird?
Unfortunately I’m both by necessity. Personality-wise, I’m naturally a night owl, but I’m an early bird because you have to be when you’re a mom. When the kids are up, you have to be up too and get things done.
So when you’re not working, parenting or spending time with your husband, what’s an ongoing project of yours?
I’m currently trying to declutter. I want to just get rid of the unnecessary things we own. I have to tell myself over and over that we don’t need to store it just in case we need it in six months.
Any words you live by?
Yes, it’s actually “no.” I’m not afraid to use the word “no.” I think that it’s easy to say yes to every birthday party, event or opportunity that life throws your way, but the more comfortable you can get with saying no, the easier it is to manage the chaos that comes with working, kids and life in general.
What are some small things that make your day better?
A really good cup of tea or coffee, someone holding the door open for you, someone letting you over in traffic when you forgot to change lanes … just little kind gestures that in general make you more willing to be more gracious to other people as well.