Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Problem with Women

There are lots of articles out there about why women aren't in the higher ranks of the legal community.  Why there aren't as many female partners, never mind female equity partners.  Well, the answer is simple.  Women.  We are the problem.  And the backstabbing of one another, to be exact.  Rather than take an opportunity to lift another female attorney up and help her along the way, too often women don't celebrate each other's accomplishments.  Or women will refrain from offering support when support is needed in what is still largely an old boys' club.  The most deplorable offense is taking a stand AGAINST a fellow female attorney because she is asking for something that you didn't get (or perhaps weren't even strong enough to request yourself).
Case in point: A good friend of mine is pregnant with her first child.  Her firm's maternity policy (if we can even call it that) is 6 weeks of paid leave.  That's it.  So on day 43 she is expected to return to the office and pick right back up.  On day 43, when she will likely still be bleeding from her recovering postpartum vagina.  On day 43 when she likely won't even have gone in for her first postpartum obstetrician appointment.  On day 43 when her body has healed just enough to possibly have sex again for the first time postpartum. On day 43, when she is finally getting the hang of this nursing thing.  On day 43 which the La Leche League says is too soon to introduce a bottle if you want to have a successful nursing relationship.  On day 43, when her baby is unlikely to be sleeping more than 4-5 hours at a time (and that's if he's a good sleeper).  On day 43, when her hormones will still be a hot mess (and she'll possibly be suffering from postpartum depression, or the baby blues).  On day 43, when that baby who she loves dearly, finally looks at her and smiles for the first time after 6 weeks of giving all she has to meet his every need.  That's the day she's expected to go back to work. 
It is simply ridiculous.
I've told this dear friend as much and how I don't believe I could've left either of my children at 6 weeks.  It was hard enough to pull out of the driveway at 12 weeks.  She had already thought it would be tough to do, so she approached the partner she reports to and requested an additional 6 weeks of UNPAID leave. He then took her request up to the rest of the partners and she was just told that her request was denied.  Even though she's put in 7 years of service, they wouldn't allow her the standard (which is already too little) 12 weeks of maternity leave that most other firms in town offer.  This alone would've been bad enough.
Here's the kicker:  He told her that the reason the partners wouldn't grant her request was because one of the female partner swayed them against it.  SHE had only taken 6 weeks, so why should my friend need any more?  So that was that.
I don't have adequate words to describe how awful I think this is.  And my friend, she is just beaten down.  And I don't know what can be said to help her.  So her options at this point are to either quit or leave her newborn baby when he is 6 weeks old.  To go be a lawyer, with old men and women who won't stand together.
And this is why women aren't succeeding at the same rates as men. Period.
So what can we do?  Simple.  We can support each other.  We can understand that my decisions may be different from yours.  We can recognize the value in helping one another along.  We can lift up, rather than beat down.  We can set aside any "wrongs" we feel we've endured and help others to avoid those same pitfalls.  We can do whatever we can to help bring back the village. 
So the next time you have an opportunity to help another woman, think of how you would want to react if this woman was your sister, or your mother, or your aunt, or better yet, your daughter. Because one day, it will be your daughter, and don't you want her to have every opportunity out there.  Don't you want her to be supported and encouraged along the way?  I don't even have a daughter, but I know that I want to live in a world where women love one another and stop tearing each other down.  Perhaps I picked the wrong profession for compassionate women, but I know enough amazing female lawyers to know that is not the case.  I know plenty of women who go out of their way to do whatever they can for the advancement and success of others.  It is just unfortunate that all it takes is one bitter woman to ruin it for the rest of us.
So I beg you, women of the law, let us start standing together and stop this nonsense.  Our own happiness shouldn't be dependent on another's failure.  And there are men out there who want to support us, but why should they if we can't even support each other?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Second First Year

Some more thoughts on Julian turning ONE!?!?! 

The Second First Year

And some pictures from the party that Mr. Cob threw for him!  (It was just the four of us, and I did nothing.  Nada.  He bought everything, DECORATED THE HOUSE and surprised us all - it was one of the most loving things my husband has ever done for me.  I'm a lucky girl.  The boys loved the house full of balloons and the noise makers.  It was a hit!)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Happy First Birthday Julian!!!

My dearest baby boy Julian,

Today you are ONE!  It's hard to believe that a year ago you had just been born and we were meeting for the very first time.  How my heart has grown so in the past 365 days!  My life before you came along is fuzzy in my mind - it simply feels like you've always been part of our family. That we've always been four!

Only a few days old - you were so cute!!!

You, my little one, are such a joy.  You are a HAPPY, happy baby (or should I say toddler!) and always full of smiles.  You love to flirt with the ladies, but are skeptical of most men (except those you know well). You've been known to run to the other side of the room when other kids' daddies pick them up from school!  But you're always quick to flash your pearly whites to the mommies and all the teachers at school.  Just the other day we were grocery shopping and three different ladies stopped me to say how adorable you were - you kept giggling and batting your eyes at all the ladies as we walked the aisles.

You have been a chill little dude since the day you were born.  You rarely cry except when you're tired.   But you're not the best sleeper, so there are many tears at night.  Well, there are tears until mommy or daddy goes and gets you out of your crib.  (We're still suckers and come hug on your if you cry out at night.)  You love being cuddled at night, but I think it's because you're too busy to stop for hugs during the day.  You want to just GO GO GO when you're awake.  You're trying to keep up with your big brother, I think.  One day soon I know you'll get the hang of sleeping through the night!
With your big brother  Lukas
You started walking a few months ago and you're just now starting to run.  I see you watch your big brother and you just love him and want to do whatever Lukas is doing.  You light up when he enters a room and he can make you laugh like no one else.  My heart sings when I see you two together.  I know there will be many fights over the years (toys and maybe girls down the line), but my hope is that you will be the best of friends.  

You, my little buddy, LOVE to eat!  Which is funny, because you're really a tiny little thing.  Mommy nursed you for about 9 months and thought we'd make it to a year and way beyond, but you had different plans.  You love your bottle (your "ba ba") and would rather drink a bottle and watch what is going on around you, rather than sit alone with mommy and have your milk - my social butterfly!  I'm trying to switch you over to a sippy cup, but I have a feeling that might be a difficult transition!  But back to the food - you have been feeding yourself for over a month and really don't care for anyone feeding you from a spoon or fork.  Right now some of your favorite foods are blueberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, grilled cheese, eggs, pancakes, peas, corn and cheerios.  Honestly, there's very little that you won't eat!

You have a head full of blonde hair.  Mommy and Sip Sip gave you your first haircut about two weeks ago before Auntie Al's wedding - we just snipped a little off the top so your bangs weren't in your eyes...I couldn't risk cutting out the curls at the nape of your neck.  You have five teeth up top (one of them, we think, is an "extra"! tooth) and four teeth on the bottom.  I think you're weighing in around 20 pounds, but we'll find out for sure at your 1 year appointment later this week!

You're starting to talk more and more.  You say "momma" and "dadda".  We think you're starting to say brother and have said "Ukas" a few times for Lukas.  You say "ba ba" for your bottle and dog for, well, dog.  At night you say "nigh nigh" when it's time for bed.  I think any day now you'll start jabbering on and on!

I am so honored to be your mommy.  My heart is so full of love for you.  I have loved watching you grow this past year and am excited to continue on this journey of life with you as my silly, sweet son!  I super excited about scaling back from full time work and getting to be even more present in your day to day life.  I love being your mommy buddy.  And the words I sing to you every night are true to my heart: I will be your home.  I will be your guide.  I will be your friend.  ALWAYS on your side.

Happy 1st birthday my boy!

Love always and forever,

Thursday, June 19, 2014

WAHM, of sorts

So we're still moving to Macon.  We don't know exactly when or where (house/neighborhood wise) we're going.  We have an appointment with our realtor next week to look at some more potential houses, which is exciting!  I plan on documenting the house hunt on the blog.  But more on that as it actually gets underway.

I have an update on my job situation and it's actually really exciting.  I will be more or less quitting (for lack of a better word) in about a month.  At that time I'll be unemployed and not working, like, at all.  So it's like a maternity leave without a newborn.  But with a big move.  But without legal work.  Hooray!  So I'll take about 6 weeks to move to Macon, get settled in (you know, find the grocery store, hook up the TV/internet/phone, find and enroll the boys in school, unpack), and get a home office up and running.  (All of which I realize can't happen until we actually buy a house. Details, details.)  And then sometime after Labor Day I'll start working with my firm again, but on a contract basis.  The details are still fuzzy and I'm not sure how much work I will be doing, but it is so exciting for a multitude of reasons. 

1.  A paycheck!  While we can make it on Mr. Cob's new government salary (thanks only to the much lower cost of living in Macon), it would be tight.  So my still bringing in some sort of paycheck is very exciting to us.  If I didn't bring anything in, our income would be going down by 66%.  Yes, SIXTY PERCENT LESS money coming in the door.  That's no chump change.  That's a whole LIFESTYLE change.  Thankfully, Macon is opening the door to that lifestyle change and we're grabbing hold, but it's still nice to have some of my money coming in the door.  Especially considering most of our family lives a plane ride away and the last time I checked flights were only getting more and more expensive.

2.  I continue getting to use my law degree and feel like those student loans weren't for naught.  I was not ready to walk away from my career.  Sure, there are days I hate it and moments I wish I'd never gone to law school in the first place, but for the most part I like having a career and making my own money.  I actually enjoy drafting legal documents and love marking up other people's documents (perhaps I should've been a school teacher given my love of the red pen?!).  So this arrangement allows me to continue being a lawyer without having to go find a new firm, which was a very scary prospect for me.  I've been with my firm for 11 years - for a year before law school, as a summer associate, and then the past 6.5 years!  I like my firm and my co-workers, so I'm happy to continue working with them.

3.  I get more flexibility, which is something I've craved since Julian was born.  There's no denying that the past 8 months have been hard for me with the juggling of work and motherhood. The long commute from the suburbs has only made that worse and most days I get home from work and have to put Julian to bed as soon as we walk in the door.  I'm getting very little time with him (and Lukas for that matter).  Working from my house on a part-time basis will give me back some of this wasted time.  No showering in the morning.  No commuting.  My productivity will increase and I can use that time to actually play with my boys.

4. I get time to move without having to worry about hurrying back to work.  I think that's pretty self explanatory.

There are some downsides to the arrangement, sure, but the positives outweigh the negatives.  I'm so excited my firm is working with me and allowing me to continue to be a part of the team.  Granted, I won't be an associate any longer and am therefore off the partnership track, but for me and for my family, the track isn't the number 1 priority.  I think so many lawyers focus on one way of doing it and my impression is that there's a certain stigma associated with being a "contract attorney".  But that's fine.  Being able to continue practicing law while also honoring what is best for my family is what is important to me.  And for the time being, I've found a way to do that!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Swans are Swimming

And by swimming, I mean moving.  We've finally figure out where we're going after this little jaunt at my parent's house.  And it's not where I would've thought a month or so ago.  We're heading about 100 miles south of Atlanta... to Macon!  Bizarre turn of events, I know.

So it all started a few months ago.  Maybe February.  After the end of the sequester all of the United States Attorney offices in the country posted job announcements - all the offices needed lawyers and they wanted to fill the positions while they had money in their budgets.  Being an assistant US attorney (a federal prosecutor for the United States for you non-law folks) has been one of Mr. Cob's goals for a few years now.  So we talked and decided he should apply. He picked a few offices all over the country, sent in his resume, cover letter and writing samples, and then we sat back and waited.  And waited some more. 

Would fate bring us back to his home of Chicago or close to his parents in Grand Rapids?  Maybe closer to my brother in San Diego?  The US Virgin Islands would be a nice change of pace.  Or perhaps our current home, Atlanta, would call and we could continue on with our regularly scheduled life while Mr. Cob put away the bad guys.  We were open to any possibility, figuring we'd make a final decision once it was in front of us - no use cutting off potential jobs because of location before you're even offered something, right?  Detroit was the only city I was really hesitant about even considering, but he assured me there are some upsides to the city?  Admittedly, I secretly hoped someone else called before Detroit. 

So for months we just waited and Mr. Cob continued applying as more jobs opened up.

Then he got a call from Savannah and we got all excited and hoped we'd be moving to the beach.  Unfortunately that didn't work out.  A month or so later, San Antonio called and I fell in love with the idea of canals and everything being bigger in Texas (margaritas included, right?).  A great interview followed by a few weeks of waiting ended in another rejection.  At this point, Mr. Cob was getting a bit down.  It seemed his dream job wasn't going to happen.  It'd been months since he sent out his initial batch of resumes.  A few other "you were one of hundreds of well qualified applicants but unfortunately we cannot offer you an interview at this time" letters came in the mail.  Hope was running out.

But the flip side of not getting a call was staying in Atlanta and continuing with our life here.  We love our life here.  We love our friends and I have a great job.  We love the boys school and my parents are here.  At the end of the day, we always knew we'd be happy to live the rest of our lives here in the A.

And then the Middle District of Georgia called.  And an interview was scheduled.  For my 33 birthday no less.  So he went to Macon and thought the interview went well.  A few weeks later they called back and asked him to come down for a second interview.  He felt confident after the second interview, but wasn't ready to get excited.  We'd done the excitement thing before and feared another round of rejection.  I didn't even look at houses online this time (oh the restraint!).  And then we found out they called his references, and we started to get excited.  Then last Wednesday he got the call that has changed the course of our life: he got his dream job and I couldn't be prouder to be his wife!

He called me before formally accepting the offer and without even considering the alternative, I said yes.  Of course, yes.  This is a HUGE opportunity for him and there was no way we weren't going to take it.  There were (and still are) a lot of unanswered questions, but I knew that we had to jump.  It's what you do when you're married and your spouse needs your support.  I'm not sure what this means yet for my job/career - I realize it means it will now be taking a back seat to his career, but that's OK.  This decision is the best for our entire family.  We'll figure out my job as we go.  I know there are a lot of feminists who will think I am wrong for more or less walking away from a lucrative career, especially when you consider I'm leaving a few months before potentially being put up for partner.  But like I said, it's not just about me.  I'm in talks with my firm to try to work something out - part time or contract work, and hopefully that will work out.  But maybe it won't and maybe that means another door will open.  I no longer know the path my career will take, but I've decided that a fork in the road doesn't necessarily mean I'll hit a dead end.

I'm nervous about moving to a city where I know next to no one.  I'm leaving a huge support network here of great friends, and even harder to leave are my parents.  I know this won't be an easy transition.  I know it will take time and effort for me to make friends.  I know it could be isolating moving and staying home with two small children should that be my fate.  I know I am going to be have to put myself out there, which is scary.

But I also know that everything is going to work out.  I'm so excited for this adventure with my husband and our boys.  I'm excited to find our next house and make it a home.  I'm excited to explore a new town and hopefully fall in love with all it has to offer.  But yes, I'm also scared as hell.  Change is frightening, but change can also be amazing.  So here's hoping this change is for the best!

Building a Support Network

Check out my latest post on 360 Parenting about building a support network!  Oh and in case you didn't know, we're currently living with my parents in the burbs of Atlanta.  But that is all about to change.  Change might be the word of 2014 for our family...details to come soon, once we've figured them out!!!

Building a Support Network

Friday, May 30, 2014

Hiding Behind Emotions

I realized last night that I don't take criticism well.  I thought I'd gotten over that during law school where it seemed that criticism, or at least the lack of positive reinforcement, was everywhere.  Apparently I still have a ways to go and I think it negatively affects my relationships.

As I've mentioned before, we're living at my parent's house right now.  We're a month and a half in.  There are many, many upsides - my mom is an amazing cook, my kids are getting so much quality time with their grandparents, my family of four is getting help in this time of transition - whether it be laundry, free babysitting on date night or a home-cooked meal after work - my mom is helping take some of the load off.  My husband and I were even able to go on a walk the other night after the kids were asleep, which is something we've not done alone in over 3.5 years. I'm getting time with my parents that I wouldn't otherwise be getting.  I love seeing them every day and it's really fun getting to watch my boys with them so much.

But at times it feels like we're living in a fishbowl, especially when it comes to my flaws as a parent.  The task of raising children is not an easy one.  Some days are hard.  Some days I don't have as much patience as I'd like.  Some days I say things I wish I could take back.  Some days I look at my phone when I should be on the floor with my kids.  Some days I am not my best self and don't treat my kids the way they deserve to be treated.  And normally there is no one else to see this but me or my husband.  Which is enough, because I'm acutely aware of my flaws as a parent and replay my actions (particularly the less than stellar ones) over and over in my head. I beat myself up when I raise my voice, knowing that my reaction is harsher than it should be.  I try to remain calm and handle child tantrums in a loving way, but there is no reasoning with a 3.5 year old and it is hard to wait it out when you're running late for work and you just need everyone to get in the car already.  I lose my cool and sometimes it's not pretty.  Sometimes I say F*@K in front of my kids.  Loudly. And then I leave the room to cry, feeling ashamed of my lack of composure and level-headedness.

This is all on display right now for my parents.  I have an audience.  But the hardest truth, is that I always have an audience: my two little boys.  Which I should remember more than I do and work harder on staying zen in my parenting of them.

The past two mornings were particularly difficult. So last night when my mom said a seemingly innocuous comment concerning my yelling and Lukas being little and not understanding his actions, I lost it on her.  I started sobbing and defending myself - didn't she know how hard it was for me right now; that I was doing the best I could; that I was tired from being up all night with a teething baby; that it was really difficult living out loud in front of them.  She wasn't trying to illicit this response from me or make me feel bad.  She apologized, but in hindsight, I needed to hear what she was saying.  I have been raising my voice more than I should.  Rather than allowing her words to be heard, I put up my defenses and attacked her instead.  I didn't want her to tell me I was less than great.  It was hard to hear someone else acknowledge that they saw what I already knew: I could be doing better.  So I hid behind my tears and the conversation ended.

Later that night after the boys had been put to bed I heard a thump from their room.  I went upstairs and realized that Lukas was still wide awake at 9:15, kicking the wall in his insomnia. Rather than peak my head in and tell him to "go to bed!", I brought him in my room for some TLC. We lay together on my bed.  I scratched his back and rubbed his head.  I gave him kisses and we cuddled.  He said he wanted me to sleep in his bed, so we went and I laid with him until he fell asleep.  I was the kind of parent I aspire to always be.  I was the version of myself that I hope my children cling on to.

But the fact remains that I'm not always that version of myself.  If my mom is seeing this, then my kids are seeing this. And I don't want that to be the mom they know and remember.  I want to be a better mom for them. 

So I'm going to consciously try to parent with loving kindness rather than reaction.  I'm a work in progress.  And while it was so hard to hear the criticism truth from my mom, now that I've had some time to reflect on what she said, I'm glad she said it.  And just as her words have such a profound affect on me, it truly hits home that my words (including how I say them) will have the same affect on my boys, good and bad.

And so the rollercoaster of parenting goes.