I just realized I've shared three different articles on Facebook in the last couple of weeks about working moms. I've also had an ongoing dialogue with some other female lawyers (moms and not) about the retention (or lack thereof) of women in the legal community. And then I realized it's been a while since I've talked about my own feelings as of late about being a working mom, so I thought it'd be a fun topic for today.
I'm in my 8th year as a lawyer. I worked full time in a large firm of over 500 attorneys up until this past July when I took a little over 2 months off to move to Macon and get settled. The plan was then to work part time remotely for my firm and go into the office in Atlanta as needed for meetings, but that plan was put on hold when I was loaned out to a corporation here in Macon where I'm currently an acting in-house counsel while their hiring freeze continues. I'm working full time again.
Then about a month ago I started my own business as a Beautycounter consultant. So I'm currently working 40 hours a week as a lawyer and about another 10-15 hours a week on getting my Beautycounter business up and running. I also write as a guest blogger for the 360 Parenting website. So I'm working more now than perhaps I ever have, certainly since I've been a mom.
But the strange thing is that for the most part I am completely comfortable with the amount of time I'm working and the amount of time I'm spending with my family and on myself. I have not always been in this state of mind. (Seriously, just ask my co-workers, friends and husband and they'll tell you I was a hot mess a little over a year ago with my work-life balance. There was zero balance and I was on the verge of a breakdown most days of the week. I cried in front of my boss on more than one occasion - not my best moments - and I really did not think I could continue juggling everything.)
So why the shift?
14 months ago, at the height of my feelings of "too muchness", I had a six month old who was wearing a helmet to correct his misshapen head. I was a nursing mom of said six month old baby working full time as a lawyer (pumping breastmilk at the office is totally relaxing and awesome, said no-mom-ever). My house was on the market. My husband was looking for a new job. I had a three year old in addition to the infant. We spent 25-40 minutes commuting from daycare to home every day. My body was not quickly bouncing back from baby and at only 6 months-postpartum, my hormones were still raging. It was just too much.
A lot has changed since then. Julian is now a 20 month old toddler who is running around at full speed with a round head (though admittedly the helmet would come in handy now given his proclivity for falling). I stopped nursing a long time ago. My lawyer job now ends at 4:30 every day. My house doesn't need to be spotless every morning before I leave (thank heavens for that). My husband has a job he loves with only a 10-15 minute commute. My 4 year old is at an awesome age and loving his preschool. I commute 6 minutes to work and have the world's most amazing nanny pick my boys up from school and watch them in the afternoon. I'm feeling great about my body and thanks to my nutritionist and a recently discovered thyroid issue, my hormones are chilling the fuck out. And everyone around me is very grateful for that.
So yes, my life is very different today than it was in the early months of 2014. But I'm still working a lot. I'm still not my children's primary caregiver during the hours of 8-5. Yet I'm really OK with that. I think there are a few reasons for that.
I'm finally doing a job (albeit as a side gig) that I am loving. I've always suspected that I'd be more OK with being a working mom if I were spending my time away from the boys working on something I was passion about, something I believed in and something that I felt was impactful. I'm getting that from Beautycounter. I don't get that as a lawyer. Along the same lines, I'm connecting with others in a way that I don't as a lawyer. This morning before my lawyer job, I had a quick one-on-one with a girlfriend. I loved seeing her in person and getting out from behind a desk and a stack of papers. I'm a people person, and I like seeing people!
My lack of time in the car is not something to be discounted. I remember listening to a lecture a few years back from a women's law group about how to "have it all". One of the women said she doesn't go outside of a 2 mile radius of her house. Her children's school, her office, her church, her dry cleaners, they are all within this circle. At the time I thought it was an interesting idea but one I could never implement. Well, I've drawn a 5 mile radius around our house and sticking within it as much as possible - the boys' school, my office, our grocery store. I'm not spending extra time in a car. And it is Fabulous. (Yes, with a capital F).
We hired super nanny. I'm not kidding, our nanny is amazing. She is great with kids and she has helped me in ways I didn't expect. She helps with things around the house (including laundry!) and runs those random errands I always seem to forget (the cat thanks her often). She helps teach the boys manners and works with L on his letters. She taught J to eat with a fork. She meets me at the tee ball field with the boys so I'm not racing around after work. She stays late so the husband and I are able to go on regular date nights and keep our marriage a priority, which is so huge for our boys. She's been a true blessing in our lives and I think every working mom deserves a helper like her, even if just for a few hours each week.
But aside from all these things, which admittedly are major changes that not all working moms may be able (even desire) to make, I think the biggest reason I'm comfortable with being a working mom right now is because of the stage my children are in. It is hard to remember that children and mommy-ing go through stages and each has its own difficulties. That first year of a child's life is so full of these stages and I really wish the United States would hurry up and pass some legislation providing maternity benefits to all mothers. A full year off, without losing your job, would be ideal in my opinion. Or being able to go back at very reduced hours after six months or so. Because that first year is filled with so many emotions and sleepless nights and teething and feeding issues and bonding time and hormonal craziness. Did I mention the sleeplessness? I really believe that the legal community and other industries are going to continue losing out on kick-ass workers because that first year of being a mom is so difficult for many of us.
As I've mentioned, we hope baby #3 will be more than just an idea sometime later this year, but my biggest hesitation is going through that first year again. Infants are so adorable (as I was reminded when holding my dear friend's 4 month old this past weekend), but being a new mom is hormonally and emotionally taxing. And I'm worried about going through that again and trying to keep my wits and my day job. I know it is only a phase, but it was harder for me the 2nd time around than the first, so what will the 3rd time around be like? And I feel like I'm upending the apple cart when I finally feel like I've hit my groove. But my mind's made up. God-willing the boys will get a sibling in 2016. And I'll figure it out when the time comes.
So for you working mommas out there struggling through that first year, you CAN do it. You can, because you are. It doesn't have to look pretty. You don't have to be perfect. And your skinny jeans don't damn well need to fit any time soon. Just take it one day at a time. And remember that you are a great mom! Even if you occasionally cry in your male boss's office. Just blame it on the hormones sister!