We Don't Know How She Does It

We went searching for Supermom. We found her in Chevy Chase.



Photos by Erick Gibson; See more in the gallery below.

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It’s a late Saturday afternoon, and I’ve just finished pouring chocolate ganache over four cakes that are sitting on the kitchen table. Pasta boils in three large pots on the stove, and vegetables are strewn all over the counter, waiting to be sliced into crudités.

My 4-year-old daughter bounces underfoot as I weave from table to counter to stove. I’m catering my first event—a 50th birthday party, with dinner and dessert for 75—and I’m frantic about getting it right.

Suddenly, my husband rushes through the front door and throws a bloody towel onto the table, just missing the cakes. Seven-year-old Emily follows, holding bloodied paper towels to her mouth, with her forehead and knees scraped raw. Emily tripped and fell, Brendan says, and her teeth have sliced through her upper lip.

She has to go to the emergency room, and of course I want to take her. I want to be there to hold her hand, to reassure her as she gets the stitches. But I have food to cook and a party to cater. So instead, I watch my husband and daughter head out the door, thinking, not for the first time or the last: worst mother EVER.

If I sometimes worry that I’m the worst mom, as I did on that day several years ago, a case could be made that MelissaMissyLesmes is the best, a veritable Supermom, the kind of mother just about every woman I know aspires to be.

A fit, petite, vivacious blonde, Missy is at age 46 a wife, a mother of four kids ranging in age from 11 to 18 and all in separate schools, a partner at a prestigious Washington, D.C., law firm whose practice takes her on the road several days each month, a party maven always up for a gathering at her Chevy Chase home, a longtime friend to women who profess she’s always there when they need her, and a woman who still manages to give back to the community.

Ask about women who epitomize the Supermom phenomenon in the Bethesda area, and Missy’s name comes up time and again. That’s why I’ve come to her expansive, Craftsman-style home off Connecticut Avenue: to learn how she does it.

It’s the morning of July 5, and Missy has taken the day off from Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, where she specializes in construction insurance litigation. She greets me at the door with a wide smile, looking trim in workout clothes, with perfectly styled hair and wearing makeup, then apologizes for how she looks.

Her husband, Scott, lounges on the couch at the end of the great room, watching the day’s tennis matches at Wimbledon on a huge, flat-screen TV. Tall and broad-shouldered at 46, with receding brown hair, he’s a partner in corporate finance law at Morrison & Foerster in D.C., and also works long hours, but travels less.

Missy tells me about her mother, a fastidious woman who reigned over the family home in Olney like a queen over her castle. “She was always perfectly coiffed. She would never sit in front of you right now looking the way I do,” says Missy, who was 26 when her mother died of an aneurysm. “She was beautiful, the house was spotless; you could eat off our kitchen floor at any given time. That’s not the case here.”  

I’d have to disagree. Her French country-style kitchen appears pristine, with its ivory-colored cabinets and gleaming white tile. Then Missy, quick to laugh at herself, fesses up: She called her nanny/housekeeper of nine years, Margarita Arcega, to come tidy up earlier.

On weekends, Missy and Scott typically drive to the girls’ soccer games—Maggie and Anna are on different travel teams—or to Scotty’s Special Olympics basketball games. And the kids often have friends over, Missy says. Weekends are always busy. But weekdays? They’re madness.

On weekdays, Missy rises at 5:30 a.m. to run on the Capital Crescent Trail or head downtown to work out with a personal trainer. She’s back home by 7 to make sure the kids are awake and getting ready for school. Anna, 11, is a fifth-grader at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda; Maggie, 15, is a sophomore at Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School in D.C.; Scotty, 17, who has Down syndrome, attends The Heights School, a Catholic school for boys in Potomac; and Emily, 18, is a freshman at Southern Methodist University in Texas.

On a given morning, Missy might drill Anna on math skills before she or Scott drives the girls to their schools. Margarita arrives by 7:15 to take Scotty to Potomac. Later, Missy stops at Starbucks for a venti Americano, then arrives at her spacious office by 8:30 or so, where piles of paperwork cover her desk, cardboard boxes full of case files line one wall and family photos and mementos occupy shelves on another.

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