One of my friends is interviewing for a new job. She is extremely unhappy in her current situation due to new management and I can’t blame her for wanting to leave. She has interviewed with several companies and she has received a job offer. She feels genuine excitement about the possibility of leaving her current toxic situation and joining a company where she can grow as a professional and move ahead in her career. It seems like a no-brainer to take the job, but she has a major reservation that prevents her from accepting this new job offer. She is in her thirties, so she plans on starting her family in the very near future.
My best dream ever was…
To become a lawyer. You must think I’m crazy. Let me explain.
I decided in sixth grade that my life goal was to be a lawyer. I happened to be a nerdy child, fascinated with United States history, the Bill of Rights, and the development of my nation’s rights and laws. I thought the founding of the nation was really awesome and since the Founders were lawyers, I decided that I wanted to be one, too. It seemed like lawyers had been instrumental in bringing about change so I decided to become one of these people who wielded such a noble power. I wanted to be a girl who changed the world! I had big ideals for a twelve year old kid.
As I grew older, I worked hard and I kept my focus on my dream of becoming a lawyer. I walked away from other opportunities that came along. In high school, although I was a Chemistry whiz, I opted not to pursue a career in the sciences because I had a one track mind and that track led straight to a career in the legal profession. In college, I walked away from an opportunity to pursue a career in academia because I just had to be a lawyer.
I created this idea in my mind that the law was a stately profession where lawyers fought for justice and the betterment of our society. I was a naive, idealistic, silly girl. Within the first few weeks at law school, I realized that my dream was not reality. It seemed like most people were there in pursuit of money and power. Sadly, once I reached my dream, it didn’t make me happy. I learned a tough lesson from this life experience. Sometimes when you achieve what you always dreamed of, the reality is not what you imagined or expected. Achieving this dream ended up being the biggest disappointment of my life.
This seems kind of depressing, but this story has a happy ending.
Fortunately, after several years, I found a position in the legal field where I could help others and fight for “justice.” This is as close as I’m going to get to those childhood ideals I had, so this is a good thing.
And then the greatest thing of all happened.
Although I wasn’t planning on it, I became a parent. Parenting provides meaning, challenges, and happiness to my life that I never could get from any type of career or profession. Being a parent is my highest achievement. It dwarfs anything my career as a lawyer has to offer. Now I can try to make the world a better place by raising empathetic, humble, hardworking, productive, and loving children that will go out into the world and do their best to make it a better place.
So my best dream ever was to become a lawyer; however, my best reality ever was becoming a mama. Even though my life didn’t necessarily end up the way I expected, I got lucky and my reality became better than my dreams.
**This is a link-up post for “Finish the Sentence Friday” and the sentence is “My best dream ever was…” This link-up is hosted by Can I Get Another Bottle of Whine, Janine’s Confessions of a Mommyaholic, Mommy, for Real, and Finding Ninee. #FTSF
This sounds like an interesting and informative read. I am one of those women who waited to get pregnant after starting my career because I incorrectly assumed that getting pregnant would be quick and easy. No women in my social circles had kids because we thought we had plenty of time for a family later. I certainly wasn’t thinking about infertility issues in my twenties or early thirties. I was only thinking about taking on the corporate world because I had plenty of time to have kids. I guess I was one of those women with “blinders” on, as were many of my friends and colleagues.
A review copy of Tanya Selvaratnam’s new book, The Big Lie: Motherhood, Feminism, and the Reality of the Biological Clock arrived in the mail a few weeks ago, and I have to admit, I was curious from the get go. There’s no big secret that motherhood and feminism have an interesting relationship (to say the least). I’m always up for reading more from anyone that decides to take it on. And, I had yet to read something so in depth about feminism and infertility. The book itself is part memoir and part research that focuses mostly on infertility and advanced maternal age.
I dug in, interested to see what Selvaratnam had to say about issues surrounding infertility and especially how they relate to feminism. The memoir parts of the book are particularly gripping. Selvaratnam’s story is a heartbreaking one. She takes us through a number of miscarriages, a cancer diagnosis…
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I must say that changing day care programs feels a lot like a bad breakup.
My daughter, G.G., was told not to return to her first day care, not because of anything she did, but because of me and my husband.
Over the last year, I have thought the infant program was alright; however, for forty-one days out of the year, my daughter’s school does not offer infant care included in our tuition. With all of the breaks (fall, winter, spring), in-service days (an average of two each month), holidays (way more days than I have off work), parent/teacher conference days (why is infant care closed for this?), and snow days (I made it here so the roads really aren’t bad), this situation was not working for my family. The first time that I pulled in and saw that no one was there due to a two-hour delay, I panicked. Then, I got mad. Why isn’t anyone here? Why is there a delay just because it’s cold outside? Where is my kid going to go today? Do I seriously have to waste a personal day for this?
My husband and I are attorneys. As attorneys, we have very unforgiving and inflexible schedules. We have to be at work: there are client meetings, deadlines, court appearances. Neither of us can show up with a baby on our hip. We need a day care that is open typical day care hours because we have to be at work.
So I started making phone calls, setting up appointments, touring facilities, crunching numbers, trying to figure out when to pull G.G. out of her current program, and planning how to break the news to them. It felt like I was cheating. Every time I went to pick up the baby, I felt guilty (especially if I had just toured another day care center).
My husband and I talked a lot about how we would explain to the day care that we were leaving them. My husband had serious concerns that the employees would treat my daughter differently when we broke the news. I thought he was being silly. These are child care professionals. Circumstances change and people need to switch child care providers all the time. It’s really not a big deal.
I just have to say that people never cease to amaze me.
We paid through the new year so we expected to pull G.G. at that time. But then we entered the longest in-service period ever, an entire week-and-a-half with no child care. After one day of this, it pushed us over the edge. We decided to pull G.G. out at the end of the month and place her into a day care situation that works better with our schedules.
We found a reasonably priced day care that had the hours that worked for us and had great recommendations. Even better, we would be paying thousands of dollars less in tuition. So we set up the switch at the end of the month.
My husband met with the Assistant Director of the school and informed her that we needed to change programs because of our work schedules. My husband told her that once my daughter entered kindergarten, we would certainly consider returning. Although she was nice about the whole thing, she made the inappropriate comment, “You are both lawyers so on the days that we don’t offer care, why don’t you just hire a nanny?” Whoa, are you kidding me? Who says that? I shouldn’t need to hire a nanny just so I can have my kid in your day care.
My husband told her that our last day would be the final day of the month. We received an email from my daughter’s teacher noting that she was informed of the change in our situation and confirmed our last day. We would be able to finish out the month, say our goodbyes, and pick up our stuff. We thought that it made sense and everyone was on the same page. This breakup was not going to be so bad after all.
Then the new Director got involved and the amicable breakup got nasty. My husband got an email from her, informing him that their school was open more than the 180 days a year that most schools are open. Gee, thanks for that useless factoid of info. My daughter isn’t in real school yet because she is one year old, so I only care about your infant and toddler day care schedules and since your infant and toddler day care is open way less than every other day care around, adios. The Director went on in her email that it would be better if the G.G. did not finish out the month because it would confuse her. Huh? I don’t think she would be confused, but now I certainly was.
Since there seemed to be some type of issue regarding my daughter’s last day, I called the Assistant Director and confirmed that G.G.’s last day would be the end of the month. I reaffirmed that if my schedule changed, I would certainly consider bringing the baby back to the school.
A couple minutes after hanging up the phone with her, I received a call from the Director who informed me that G.G. could not finish out the month because they needed to focus on new and enrolled students. G.G.’s teacher would leave her stuff in a box outside the classroom. It was beyond my comprehension why a person would say this to a customer who had paid a ton of money over the past year to the program, especially considering that this customer stated that she wants to bring her child back in the future if her work schedule changes. What a savvy businesswoman this Director must be telling a current customer that since you will not be giving us more money in the immediate future, you can take a hike. It’s also great to know that this is the type of person in charge of my child’s care. Thanks to the new Director’s personality flaws and lack of tact, she really made it easy for me to walk away from that relationship.
I guess my husband was right. Some people are ridiculous, petty, and pretentious. This is not the type of person I want involved in my daughter’s well-being so I am quite glad that I got her kicked out.
But in the end, who ended up breaking up with whom? The whole conversation with the Director felt ridiculously childish. The tone was almost like, “You can’t break up with me if I dump you first.” Personally, I think my family came out on top in this break up. Now I just have get my belongings and move forward with my next relationship.
New research shows what I already know from experience: family matters cause more stress for working moms than for working dads. According to Business News Daily:
In a study to be presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association, researchers discovered that contemplating family issues during the workday takes a greater toll on working mothers than fathers in the form of increased stress and negative emotions.
This research is not surprising to me or any other working mother that I know. As a working mom, I juggle a full-time job as a lawyer and a second full-time job as the manager of my home. Inevitably, both spheres spillover into the other, which exponentially increases my stress. For example, today I tried (unsuccessfully) to finish a motion before the end of the day (while worrying about my daughter’s eczema, how I’m going to get her to her upcoming doctor appointment, daycare closure issues next week, and her new biting habit) and then I came home and had to feed and bathe the baby in the one hour I got to spend with her before her bedtime (while thinking about the seven legal briefs I have due in the next month). My husband walked in the door, humming to himself, and asked, “Why do you look so tense? Why can’t you ever relax?” Honestly, sometimes I want to cut him. How is he not stressed after coming home from work? How does an entire evening of completing tasks around the house not compound that stress level? What is wrong with me that I can’t just chill out like he can? I want answers!
The study noted:
Overall, researchers found that working mothers experience about 29 hours of mental labor — the thoughts and concerns that can impair performance — each week, compared with just 24 hours a week for working fathers. Of that time, they each spent 30 percent thinking about family matters.
Wow, this means that working mothers spend over four hours a day on concerns that can impair their performance. Personally, with how full my day is, I don’t need to be wasting over four hours on performance impairing thoughts. After accounting for sleep, that means that I am impairing my own success with this “mental labor” for approximately 1/4 of my waking time. No wonder nothing seems to get done.
I find it interesting that both moms and dads spend similar amounts of time thinking about domestic matters; however, the study noted that men deal with the stress of these thoughts better.
Study author, Shira Offer, an assistant professor at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, feels that mothers are the ones judged and held accountable for family matters which makes this type of “mental labor” a negative and stressful experience. Add to that societal expectations pushing mothers to assume the role of household managers who disproportionately address the unpleasant aspects of family care and it’s a wonder that working moms are able to keep it all together. Talk about serious pressure.
The study also found that fathers are better able to leave their work concerns at work and to draw boundaries between work and home. Offer presented several reasons for this: 1) Dads can afford to leave work at work because moms assume the major responsibilities over the household and childcare and 2) Moms feel that they don’t devote enough time to their jobs and have to “catch up,” making them preoccupied with job-related issues outside of work.
These findings strike a chord with me because one of the most common reasons for contention in my home involves me bringing my work stress home. It takes time away from my child and my husband, making me feel guilty. My husband gets upset because he can’t understand why I can’t leave work at work, but choose to bring it home where it affects everyone. Then I get mad because I feel like I am doing everything and I never get a break, even once I arrive home. This affects everyone in my house.
This study suggests that dads must take a greater role in family care to make the “mental labor” less stressful for working moms and to ease the double burden that women experience while trying to succeed at work and at home.
I don’t see this situation changing drastically, at least for me. Why would my husband want to take on more responsibilities when he already does so much and he knows that I will take care of things like the cleaning and the bills? I certainly am not going to stop taking care of my domestic responsibilities because my household would fall apart. I’m simply not willing to allow that to happen. Also, honestly, even if I stopped doing many of these domestic chores, I don’t think my husband would care much. It doesn’t bother him when the dog hair dustbunnies pile up on the floor, and dirty laundry piles up in the hampers, and cat poop piles up in the litter boxes, and dishes pile up in the sink. These things bother me (I wish they didn’t), so I take care of them.
I wish I could figure out a way to both lessen my domestic workload and keep my work at work. Maybe I’ll win the lottery and be able to afford a personal assistant. That would probably help relieve stress a lot. Until that happens, I guess I’m just going to be handling my “mental labor” less effectively than my husband.
Home Life Stresses Working Moms More Than Dads (Business News Daily)
As both a full-time Pittsburgh attorney and a full-time Pittsburgh mom, I am uber pleased that five BigLaw firms with offices in Pittsburgh made the cut in the 2013 Best Law Firms for Women list, compiled by Working Mother Magazine and Flex-Time Lawyers LLC. The list includes the top fifty firms in the country who use best practices to retain and promote women, such as ensuring that women who use flexible work arrangements aren’t excluded from the partnership track or leadership positions.
The five firms with offices in Pittsburgh are Reed Smith (Reed Smith is headquarted in Pittsburgh), McGuire Woods, Littler Mendelson, Fulbright & Jaworski, and Duane Morris.
The ABA Journal provides some coverage of the results:
All 50 firms offer flex-time and reduced hours, though only 15 percent of the lawyers use flex-time and only 9 percent work reduced hours. Forty-eight of the 50 firms allow lawyers working reduced hours to be eligible for equity partnership, though an average of only one lawyer per firm received a promotion while working fewer hours.
It’s fantastic that these large firms offer flex-time and reduced hours; however, only a small percentage of lawyers are taking advantage of these opportunities. I would love to know more information, like what percentage of the lawyers using flex-time/reduced hours are caregivers for children under the age of eighteen, what percentage of lawyers who are caregivers for children under the age of eighteen are not taking advantage of these opportunities, and what percentage of caregivers not taking advantage of these opportunities are women. I noticed that among equity partners, more than three quarters of flex-time users are men, so why aren’t women equity partners using flex-time? If women aren’t utilizing these opportunities, then why aren’t they? Could there be a stigma for using flex-time and reduced hours, even if the firm offers it? I have a lot of questions about this data, but I’m a lawyer and I always ask too many questions.
I am not sure what to think about the fact that an average of one lawyer per firm was promoted while working fewer hours. On one hand, if you are advancing the firm’s interests while working reduced hours and being just as productive as someone working more hours, don’t you deserve a promotion? On the other hand, if both people are equally productive, is it fair to promote someone over another person when that other person is working longer hours?
As a woman who did not believe she could possibly start a family in her twenties due to her fledgling legal career, I find it encouraging that BigLaw firms are taking women’s family concerns seriously and making flex-time and reduced hours available. So, although things aren’t perfect, progress is being made. It’s also great that several of these firms have offices in Pittsburgh. Go Pittsburgh!
I hope that things continue to improve for women attorneys and other law firms follow the lead of these firms. No matter how you look at it, this kind of support by employers helps boost morale and happy attorneys means more productive attorneys. It is a win-win for everyone.
2013 Working Mother and Flex-Time Lawyers Best Law Firms for Women [Working Mother Magazine]