First-Year Lawyer -- And Mother

Welcome to the "On Balance" guest blog. Every Tuesday, "On Balance" features the views of a guest writer. It could be your neighbor, your boss, your most loved or hated poster from the blog, or you! Send me your original, unpublished entry (300 words or fewer) for consideration. Writers need to use their full names. Obviously, the topic should be something related to balancing your life.

By Kathryn Beaumont

I am a third-year law student. Graduation is on my horizon, as is a coveted spot at the biggest law firm in town. After nine years as a journalist, I went to law school seeking an intellectual challenge. Frankly -- as a single 30-something -- I also wanted financial security. I found both, as well as a husband, and then a daughter, who was born last July, halfway through my stint as a summer associate.

Law school, it turns out, is a relatively flexible environment in which to have a newborn. Yet, as this fulfilling, action-packed experience winds down, I feel only terror. Come September, I will be a first-year associate (with no part-time option) raising a one-year-old. The ramifications of my choices overwhelm me: Will I leave in the morning and not see my baby until the next day? Can I justify paying someone else to, quite literally, raise my child?

Reading a recent Newsweek essay on Michelle Obama titled A Real Wife, In a Real Marriage, it hit me:

"Black women have never been burdened with the luxury of choice. Our heritage does not include the gilded cage, and we certainly never fought to labor outside the home--black women have always worked. This is why many of us never inherited the remorse about balancing work and family that plagues our white counterparts."

Recent journalism and fiction, (and blogs, of course) perpetuate the notion of hand-wringing women who try to have it all (and, as the story line would go, find out we can't). But, really, this angst-ridden dilemma is experienced only by a privileged minority of working women. Kelley suggests that Michelle Obama exemplifies a new approach for all women. The key here is "choice."

Instead of "You have to choose kids or career ... and if you don't choose, you'll fail at both," we should embrace a new mantra: "We are going to work, we are going to have kids, and we are going to find balance." No drama, no remorse. I am going to do it all, my way: a kick-ass lawyer -- and mother.

Kathryn Beaumont attends Boston College Law School and lives in Boston with her family.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  March 4, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Guest Blogs
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Comments

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I think choice is a beautiful thing. I think it is the most important outcome of education. You don't become educated simply to make more money, although that usually happens. You get educated to increase your choices. With choice comes consequences. There is no utopia or free lunch. Your constantly making choices that will have some pros and some cons. Balance means different things to different families. In some families, having a SAHP is the best way to balance the entire families needs. For us, me going down to a four day work week was the best thing I could do for my family. It allowed me to continue working in a field that I enjoy and that I was heavily invested in. I bring in a good pay check with a strong retirement. It is allowed us the financial flexibility to pay down our mortgage early, save for two retirements, and put enough money away for my kids college education. Meanwhile enjoying a few small pleasures that two income professional families can provide: a few kids shows a year, a trip to the theater once in a while for adults, a nice family vacation every year, a couple of trips abroad etc... With all of that, my kids go to a great day care and preschool. I have the time to be a real prescence in my daughter's school, it gave me one precious day of the week where I got to have my baby home with me alone (priceless in my opinion), make routine doctors appointments, weekend getaways easier. All in all, it is what is best for my family. There are families that can balance two full time careers. I guess it would depend on the careers, the type of hours, the commute etc... And there are even families that can balance two very demanding (50+ hours a week) careers. Maybe those families find the balance with a full time nanny, housekeeper, lawn service, family help. There is no one universal right formula. Find what works for your family and be happy. Your kids will be happy and healthy too.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 4, 2008 7:28 AM

I think it's a plus to have just done it.

Your life will be busy, but you won't have the angst of "is this the right time" for motherhood.

Sometimes a lot of choice can be paralyzing. You've made yours and all you have to do is live into it. Good luck!

Posted by: RedBird27 | March 4, 2008 7:58 AM

"The ramifications of my choices overwhelm me: Will I leave in the morning and not see my baby until the next day? Can I justify paying someone else to, quite literally, raise my child?"

Is your husband overwhelmed by the ramifications of these choices?

Posted by: chittybangbang | March 4, 2008 8:16 AM

Good luck to you, Kathryn. Personally, I'm having one of those weeks where I'm feeling cynical about ever achieving balance. I agree with foamgnome about balance meaning different things for different people and families. I just saw a Dilbert cartoon where the staff was being trained on work-life balance. They were given a list of things (work, eating, hygiene, fun, travel, education, family, sleep) and told to pick three things, of which work must be one, and those would be what they had time for in their lives. I can relate!

Posted by: WorkingMomX | March 4, 2008 8:38 AM

Michelle Obama needs to shut up with the whiny "oh it's tough to be me" thing. You went to Ivy League schools, you make a zillion dollars a year, you live in an expensive home, you send your kids to prep schools, shaddap with the limousine populism already.

Posted by: mucus99 | March 4, 2008 8:48 AM

"Is your husband overwhelmed by the ramifications of these choices?"

I don't see how this is relevant. Kathryn is sharing with us her feelings, not her husband's. I can relate to what she said because my previous job was all or nothing situation. So I was asking myself similar questions. My husband, however, did not have the same intensity of feelings towards our children. He loves them but it does not bother him to be away from them for extended period of time. I remember reading something on this blog that resonated with me a lot. I think it was Leslie who wrote that some women who are dedicated to their careers bring the same feeling of dedication to their concept of motherhood. In a sense, they want to be "high achieving mom". To me there is no contradiction, it is a sense of dedication and perfection that one brings to all his/her endeavors. As in if you are going to do something might as well do it well. For me it means being there for my kids as much as I can. A lot of these activities take place during working hours so I realized early on that I would have to scale down my ambitions. And I think that it would not have been fair to ask the same of my husband because he did not need to do it emotionally to the extent that I did.


Posted by: tsm | March 4, 2008 8:51 AM

ack...wapo ate my post.

You left a major component out in your balance: your spouse (as Chitty notes). It isn't being supermom that is hard. It is being a superspouse. It is more difficult to support your spouse through the varying needs of their job and whatever than to earn your own stripes. What are you going to do when both of you need to travel in order to get ahead? What are you going to do when he needs to move for a better position? What will he do in the reverse situation? How do you tell your boss your position doesn't come first right now, but rather your spouse's does. Being a kick-behind lawyer is great for you in some rather obvious ways. Supporting your spouse in what s/he chooses to do isn't so obvious to yourself and to others. Supporting others just isn't so obvious a 'payback.' FYI: we solved these questions by truthfully answering the question: who needs it more right now? Each time it was a different answer. More than once, the answer was noone...and the travel or whatever was simply not done.

I am glad you seem to be kicking guilt to the gutter. That is where it belongs.

Posted by: dotted_1 | March 4, 2008 8:51 AM

In my world, we concentrate on raising the little ones. No guilty or lawyers needs. It is the law of the (sea) jungle and I am the judge! Chomp!

Posted by: nonamehere | March 4, 2008 8:59 AM

i think a lot of life can be handled by simply deciding, " I AM going to do this." great guest blog. It's so nice to hear from someone who isn't constantly whining about how hard life is, who instead knows it's going to be hard as hell, but is willing to suck it up and do it all because it's what she wants to do.

you'll find a way to make it work somehow, but firmly deciding you want to is the best first step to take.

Posted by: newslinks1 | March 4, 2008 9:21 AM

newslinks, that's so true. As my father-in-law says, do something, even if it's wrong. Taking control of you decisions, great or small, is very empowering.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | March 4, 2008 9:25 AM

Kathryn,

I can relate to your situation. I was "downsized" when I was 7 months pregnant with my first daughter and went back to work at a new job when she was 4 months. I was very worried about how it would all work. I can now say 3 1/2 years and a second daughter later that somehow you will make it all work. You will not always know how you will do it and some days will be easier than others. In the end you will figure it out and you will succeed at both being a lawyer and a mother.

I wish you the best of luck!

Posted by: kbj | March 4, 2008 9:31 AM

Excellent guest blog, and good luck, Kathryn. Not everybody would make the same choices as you (particularly becoming a lawyer - yuck!) but congratulations to you for making those decisions and owning them. There'd be a lot less whining and a lot more success in the world if everybody did that.

(Can you tell that ArmyBrat is an engineer who has spent far, far too much team dealing with Intellectual Property lawyers lately? :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | March 4, 2008 9:35 AM

Chitty and Dotted -- It feels to me that you are implying that the writer is responsible for her husband's level of involvement, and his feelings of stress. Why is SHE responsible, instead of HIM? This attitude contributes to the Supermom problem. In addition to juggling work, kids, and our own inner mommy wars, we have to manipulate, nag, coerce, and cajole our husbands as well? Aren't men responsible for themselves? Why do you give dads a pass here?

Posted by: leslie4 | March 4, 2008 9:49 AM

LESLIE

"Chitty and Dotted -- It feels to me that you are implying that the writer is responsible for her husband's level of involvement, and his feelings of stress. "

You missed the point.

"Why do you give dads a pass here?"

Again, you missed the point. The irony is how may passes you have given Perry...

Posted by: hillary1 | March 4, 2008 9:55 AM

Been there, done that. It wasn't easy, trust me. But here's the thing: it can actually be done. Not without some strain to your health, I hate to inform you, but it is possible.

Here is what I would recommend: get up very early and exercise. Get out and get a run (or something) in by 5:00 am. This is the only time left to you, and it will help with the stress.

Second, be into work early. Most of us mothers find that, if we skip lunch, we can bill a serious day without staying too late at work. Whether or not "face time" is required at your firm may well dictate your strategy - but if all that matters is the numbers, start your day early and you have a good shot at getting out by 6:00 pm.

Third, work after the baby is asleep. Come home at a reasonable hour, spend a couple of hours playing with your baby, and then - after she's in bed - get out the computer and log a couple of hours researching. Especially as a new associate, a lot of your work will be portable. Take advantage of that now while you can, and get used to a schedule of getting in (BILLING) two hours after the baby is in bed. Of course, you need to be in bed by about 10:30 if you are going to get up early and run.

The real problem with being a big-firm lawyer is that you learn to run the meter during every aspect of your life. That's grossly inhumane, and will lead to problems over the long haul - but it is so hard to avoid. I'd say try hard to make it a year; when you get to the end of that year, try and make it two. If you have two years of this under your belt, you have the makings of a different career. Or staying at home - with some of your loans paid off. And your husband is established enough at his firm to figure out what your next move is going to be.

If you think of it that way, you can hang in. You might even find that you like it. What it requires, more than anything, is steely discipline to keep the lines drawn where work belongs and where life belongs. Serving two masters is very difficult - and I wish you nothing but success! You can do it. Your clever, stretched women friends will be a wonderful resource for you.

Posted by: badmommy | March 4, 2008 9:57 AM

I really don't understand the whole 'someone else is raising my child' thing.

Am I truly alone in having very, very few memories prior to elementary school? There are a couple spotty memories of the place where I went to 'be raised' like the fact that the lady had a peacock. Aside from that, it's pretty much a blank. I remember one scene from pre-school with our teacher playing guitar under a tree.

That's the extent of my memory prior to full time school. The first vivid, detailed memories I have are really of kindergarten.

So, why is it such a big deal if both parents work and send the kid to day care? As long as the day care (or nanny or whatever) is one that educates your child well and provides a safe environment, what's the problem? It's not like the care provider will be their new mother/father. My mother and father have always been mom and dad, there was never a question in my mind. I do not feel adversely affected by having been 'raised by someone else' and have no qualms about sending our son to day care.

After they're in elementary school, they're gone all day anyway...so you might as well work. It is really baffling to me. Would anyone care to explain why it's such a big deal without yelling or ranting as people on this blog are occasionally wont to do?

Posted by: hokiealumnus | March 4, 2008 9:57 AM

"Aren't men responsible for themselves? Why do you give dads a pass here?"

Leslie, when I married my wife we became responsible for supporting each other - emotionally, as well as in all other ways. That's part of being married.

No, DW is not a child, nor am I; we're each adults fully capable of supporting ourselves. But entering into a marriage means combining the two into one.

It means realizing that the other has to be taken into consideration when making major decisions, like jobs, moving, extensive travel, finances, etc.

Making major decisions that impact the other partner without fully involving the other partner is a sure recipe for a failed marriage.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | March 4, 2008 9:58 AM

Hi, Kathryn,

I'm currently a first-year lawyer in "BigLaw" and had my child during law school, too. It IS possible to do all of this (I also worked full time during law school)! It is not the easy route, that's for sure, and the main thing that I've seen go by the wayside is time for myself. Make being home before your daughter's bedtime a priority. It won't happen every night, but you can always "log back on" after you get home and tuck your little one in bed. I try to keep weekends mostly for family time, as much as I can. I won't comment on "balance" other than to say that my husband knew what he was getting into when he married me & he's been extremely supportive the entire time. Good luck and don't listen to the naysayers!

Posted by: plawrimore1 | March 4, 2008 10:02 AM

hokiealumnus, just because you don't have memories before elementary school doesn't mean that the things that happened to you and around you didn't have a huge impact on you. Just sayin'.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | March 4, 2008 10:13 AM

Once again, Army Brat says it better than I do. It is the emotional support and making decisions together over a span of time that is hard, not being a kick-behind lawyer and a mom for the nonce (full disclosure: I'm not a lawyer and I believe being a lawyer is hard. I was just a tenured engineering prof)...This guest blog, while really nice in that she cans the guilt, forgets that the decisions are made as a couple. It isn't giving anyone a pass, indeed, it is the exact opposite. It isn't her decision...it is *their* decision as a family unit encompassing all their needs, wants, and desires. The husband has to support their decision of what each does, for anything to really succeed. She, in turn, has to support their decision on what he wants to do in life too.

Posted by: dotted_1 | March 4, 2008 10:31 AM

hey workingmomX - I remember this weird game from preschool...something about knocking a ball through holes in some sort of sandbox contraption. I haven't seen the game since. Huge impact: that was when I discovered I like to win. he he he....

Posted by: dotted_1 | March 4, 2008 10:33 AM

hokiealumnus, so much of the basics of who we are is developed during the time we don't remember. When I was pregnant I remember wondering how my parents instilled certain lessons in me when I didn't remember the lessons. They all happened during those early years (don't hit, share, respect your parents, etc.), so the message sticks but the multiple lessons are no longer remembered.

Posted by: S1234P | March 4, 2008 10:39 AM

But hey, you guys are missing my point: why do you blame women (whether it's me, the guest blogger, or anyone else) for your perceived failings of our husbands? Do you blame men for their wives shortcomings? What's up?

Posted by: leslie4 | March 4, 2008 10:41 AM

Interesting comments. I also had a kid in law school. It was actually quite easy. Life didn't get hard until I started practicing. I lasted 2 years because I found that law firms were more sexist than racist (although we only had 3 black attorneys of 500, but that's a different issue.)

Mucus99, why are you talking about Michele Obama's whining. She's not whining. I love her comments because being married, having a successful career, and raising kids is hard. It's hard regardless of your education level. I am now an investment banker and make a good deal of money. That doesn't mean that when I get home, I still don't have to put away the dishes because my husbands seems to have forgotten where the plates go. I talk to all of my "high powered" friends about it. No matter how much help they have, the leftover work always seems to go to the woman. It's very real.

You'll make it. It won't be easy. I didn't mind having a nanny when the kids were little. Now that they are 5 and 9, it is much harder. Homework is a beast and kids need so much attention. It only gets harder, but once you're in the cycle, you just do what you have to do to get through the day.

Posted by: kellyvbrinkley | March 4, 2008 10:43 AM

WorkingMomX & S1234P,
It's definitely agreed these years have an impact. I guess my question would be why does it have to be the parent that gives the lessons? If you find a place / person that instills the values you believe are important & gives a good education during the day, and you do so before and after work; where is the harm in working while 'someone else raises your child'? I may never understand the guilt issue. Not like it's a choice anyway for us (plus we both enjoy our careers), but like WorkingMomX, I'm just sayin'.

Posted by: hokiealumnus | March 4, 2008 10:47 AM

Leslie, I am not sure it is about blaming your husband. There are two issues. 1) Why do women feel guilty about leaving their children in child care while (most) men seemed to have no issues with it. I have asked men about it and this what they have said. Men have been conditioned for generations to be the bread winner. They grew up knowing that they would spend 40+ hours away from home earning money to support or help support their families. It is like breathing. There is no choice. Therefore they don't feel guilty about it. It really takes a new generation of enlightened men to even question the status quo. Right now, the mass amount of men today still feel their primary responsibility is to be the bread winner to the best of their ability. Although I do think this attitude is changing with the younger generation. Even gen Xs seem to have a high % of men that still feel this is their destiny. 2) The second issue is regardless of whether men feel guilty or not they can help with the life balance issues. Why does someone else need to be hired to "raise" her baby if the father can also make modifications in his work schedule? Can't he do pick up from day care etc... Again, I don't think they are saying you are responsible for your husband's feelings or actions. Just that don't sweat it the guilt because clearly he isn't and consider having him help with life/work balance.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 4, 2008 10:52 AM

"Why do women feel guilty about leaving their children in child care while (most) men seemed to have no issues with it. I have asked men about it and this what they have said. Men have been conditioned for generations to be the bread winner. They grew up knowing that they would spend 40+ hours away from home earning money to support or help support their families."

Count me in the minority. I dropped my 1 year old to daycare this am and hated leaving him with strangers.

Kathryn, count me as a naysayer too. I'm a lawyer too and a father of a newborn and you just can't have it all. Something's gotta give - your work, your family, your health, something. There's a reason most lawyers are miserable people. Even if you can fit all this work and family time in your day (and it's extra hard with a newborn), you wind up exhausted, withdrawn and getting old before your time.

Posted by: bobh1967 | March 4, 2008 11:22 AM

". . . as is a coveted spot at the biggest law firm in town"

Sheesh. I hope the author loses all the self-laudatory adjectives before she re-joins the real world. "Coveted"? "Biggest Law Firm in town" "kick-ass lawyer"? She's all set to join that subset of lawyers with a well-deserved reputation for insufferable arrogance.

"Aren't men responsible for themselves? Why do you give dads a pass here?"

Posted by: leslie4 | March 4, 2008 09:49 AM

Interesting. I don't see anyone giving dads a pass but Leslie. What chitty and dotted have pointed out, quite eloquently, is that the author - so busy trying to impress everyone including herself with her achievements - speaks about her choices as if her partner did not exist: "Will I leave in the morning and not see my baby until the next day? Can I justify paying someone else to, quite literally, raise my child?" Ignoring the offensive, ignorant attitude that childcare means someone else is "raising" her child, why is she "her" child and not "their" child? Why is she excluding her husband from such a key decision about their daughter? If she's not, and if this is how they both feel (someone else will be RAISING my daughter), how is this a successful plan for this family?

The Michelle Obama quote, with which I wholeheartedly agree, deserves a column all its own, unframed by this guest columnist's immaturity.

Posted by: mn.188 | March 4, 2008 11:27 AM

Congratulations on your baby and your new job. I always wanted to be a lawyer and admire anyone who combines such a profession with motherhood.

As a forty-something with older children, I would suggest one thing, especially as the workforce is evolving: decide how you want to live and try to work around that, not the other way around.

And,actually, when children are very young, it's easier to give your all to work, since they don't have any outside activities yet! Good luck!

Posted by: readerny | March 4, 2008 11:27 AM

Foamy,
What you said. But I'd like to add that Leslie does have a point that women are often chided for feeling guilty about working, having ambition, and such things because the rationale is that if the husband doesn't feel the guilt, you shouldn't either. I think that was Chitty's point (although I am sure she will correct me if I am wrong). And I think chiding women for these feelings is a bit unproductive. We are what we are, and we feel the way we feel, regardless of how our husbands feel. Saying that if men don't feel the guilt, women shouldn't either, is just not helpful. Someone has to think about the kids. It's too bad that more men are not as involved with their kids as they should be, but that does not mean that women should become less involved or less attuned to what their families need. It just means that men should be more involved. And in that sense, beating up on women with less involved husbands will not make their husbands more involved, and it does take the responsibility away from the men, once more, and puts in on their wives. I don't think that;s very fair.

Posted by: emily111 | March 4, 2008 11:28 AM

"But hey, you guys are missing my point: why do you blame women (whether it's me, the guest blogger, or anyone else) for your perceived failings of our husbands? Do you blame men for their wives shortcomings? What's up?"

Leslie, "what we have here.. is a failure.. to communicate" (Sorry, I can't spell Strother Martin's accented pronunciation.)

Chitty asked why the guest blogger is overwhelmed by the ramifications of her choices when apparently the guest blogger's husband isn't overwhelmed by the ramifications of either his choices or his wife's choices.

dotted extended this by pointing out that the guest blogger, in this excellent guest blog, omitted any mention of her husband's role in her life and choices - that is, the choices aren't the guest blogger's alone; they're hers in conjunction with her husband. (Unwritten in dotted's post, but implicit based on her past writing, is the point that the guest blogger's husband's choices are not his alone; they're his in conjunction with his wife.) I later attempted to agree with dotted's point. It was slightly tangential to the guest blogger's original point, but it's relevant to reality.

You responded with "Chitty and Dotted -- It feels to me that you are implying that the writer is responsible for her husband's level of involvement, and his feelings of stress. Why is SHE responsible, instead of HIM? This attitude contributes to the Supermom problem. In addition to juggling work, kids, and our own inner mommy wars, we have to manipulate, nag, coerce, and cajole our husbands as well? Aren't men responsible for themselves? Why do you give dads a pass here?"

And that's where a number of us think you missed the two points in play. Point one: chitty's "why are you concerned with this when you're husband isn't?" Not that she's responsible for his feelings, involvement, being overwhelmed, whatever - but why is it different for these two partners?

Point two - dotted's point that it's not that women are responsible to "manipulate, nag, coerce, and cajole" their husbands; but wives and husbands have to work together. They have to support each other. And that's hard.

I don't think anybody's blaming the guest blogger, you or anybody else for the failings, real or perceived, of husbands.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | March 4, 2008 11:30 AM

MN! love ya babe...How are things going for you?

Emily! Ditto to you ...?

Someone posted yesterday...where is Patrick? though I am somewhat afraid to knock too loudly on Patrick's door

Posted by: dotted_1 | March 4, 2008 11:32 AM

Emily, point well taken. I am not all suggesting that women should be less invested in their children. But I wish women (myself included) would drop the guilt. It really isn't productive. I found when I stopped feeling guilty and starting working on solutions to help with my work/life balance, it approved. I still have brief moments of guilt. Who doesn't? But I don't let it control my life. I don't inherently understand why men don't feel guilty at all (or most men) or why a lot of men are less invested in their children. But I can't spend my life worrying about why the opposited sex does what it does.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 4, 2008 11:34 AM

Army Brat - your eloquence is amazing...you can teach me writing any time.

Posted by: dotted_1 | March 4, 2008 11:34 AM

Oy vey, will this ridiculous "Mommy Wars" discussion ever end? Make your choice, make it work, and, if it doesn't work, change things up if you can. Many of my friends have made very personal and unique choices--work full-time, stay home, work part-time, some have started down one road and then switched paths. Each choice is filled with anguish, and very few rid themselves of guilt, no matter how certain they are of their choice. So go do what you need to do, but it might not work! You'll never know if it's working until you try. That's not a "you go girl", by the way. I don't think that you can feel satisfied as a mom with a big-firm job and tiny ones. That's why so many professions lose women in their 30's. But you'll never know that until you try.

Posted by: amhass2002 | March 4, 2008 11:36 AM

dotted - thank you. (blush!)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | March 4, 2008 11:37 AM

"But I wish women (myself included) would drop the guilt. It really isn't productive. I found when I stopped feeling guilty and starting working on solutions to help with my work/life balance, it approved."

You are right on the money, Foamy. But I have a theory about why things worked out for you. Your level of involvement with your family caused you to make some adjustments to your work life in order to be able to have a quality family life (for example, you work 4 days a week instead of 5). So you don't feel guilty about your choices, because your choices are aligned with the needs of your family. Some people make choices that are not so aligned with family needs. They take on jobs that are much too demanding to be compatible with family life. Men do it and feel no guilt. Women do it, and often feel very guilty. But to me, that guilt is a signal that something needs to change, because in my view, when we have families at least, we should work to live, not live to work. I think that we should train men to become more attuned to those signals that make them feel guilty when they are neglecting their families in favor of work. But I don't think we should train women to ignore these very important signals. You are a great model that both women and men should look to for balance, because you were able to let go of the guilt by making some very important choices in favor of time with your family. I think guilt is something we should listen to, because it is telling us to change something. Hopefully, when these changes are implemented, the guilt will go away.

Posted by: emily111 | March 4, 2008 11:45 AM

"I guess my question would be why does it have to be the parent that gives the lessons? If you find a place / person that instills the values you believe are important & gives a good education during the day, and you do so before and after work; where is the harm in working while 'someone else raises your child'?"

I am SO with you, hokie. I was prepared to feel for the author before that statement of 'someone else raising her kid' hit, and at that point, I just rolled my eyes.

I see absolutely nothing wrong with our son being raised by lots of people; us, our parents, the people at daycare, the people he'll meet in school, his roommate in college, and so on. There will always be other voices around him -- I already know we won't be around him 24/7, and I'm fine with that (and, I have to guess, that can also be a relief to kids at times).

What also blows my mind is this mentality only seems to 'count' for daycare. But how is daycare any different from pre-K or 1st grade? Aren't they still in school and being cared for both 'others' just the same? Personally, I worry more about what they'll "pick up" when they're older than when they're in daycare...

Posted by: Corvette1975 | March 4, 2008 11:45 AM

Right back at you, Dotted. I am back at work, feeling the guilt, as it were. :)

Posted by: emily111 | March 4, 2008 11:50 AM

so true -- one of the best things about being in daycare is that my three kids learned to trust people besides me and my husband. in the process i think they learned to trust themselves more too -- they are all very independent.

separately -- the "mommy wars" won't end until we as a culture support disparate choices when it comes to mothering styles. most women are vulnerable to judgment because it is so pervasive in our culture. the few women who are totally independent and confident of their choices -- rock on. but don't blame the vast majority of moms who are riddled with some degree of self-doubt...it is very hard to escape.

Posted by: leslie4 | March 4, 2008 11:53 AM

What a timely post - fresh back to work at my big law firm job from maternity leave...

I did have to chuckle at the statement - "No drama, no remorse. I am going to do it all, my way: a kick-ass lawyer -- and mother." I felt that way in law school too. That I was going to be able to do it all. I know better now.

I agree with a lot of what has been posted re: trying to balance a law firm job with raising children, but I unfortunately have to say that something usually DOES have to give. There is very little time for myself (to exercise, etc. - there is no way I can wake up at 5:00 am to exercise after being up all night with my 4 month old) and not a ton of time for hubby.

What helps (in addition to what some of the others have suggested) - using some of the money I make to ensure that I don't have to do things like clean (we have a cleaning lady come in twice weekly) or grocery shopping (online! and then delivered). So - my time at home while the kids are awake is devote ENTIRELY to them. I also think working makes me a better mother - I am acutely aware of being away from them, so I focus a lot more on the quality of our time. I do wonder though how long I can keep this up - I think by the time they are in elementary school I may want to cut back my hours...

Posted by: londonmom | March 4, 2008 11:58 AM

Londonmom,
Nioe to hear from you again. I agree that something has got to give. And I second the idea of farming things out, like cleaning and grocery shopping. I find that online grocery shopping is a great time saver, and highly recommend it.

Posted by: emily111 | March 4, 2008 12:10 PM

Agreed. I use the buckets theory:

1) essential stuff i want to do myself (always involves time with kids)
2) chores i can pay or beg others to do (grocery shopping is a good example -- for large orders peapod doesn't even charge for delivery)
3) stuff that doesn't matter that i can jettison (buying the perfect blahblah present for my aunty philma who doesn't care anyway...)

Posted by: leslie4 | March 4, 2008 12:15 PM

Army Brat and Dotted are especially on target today: a couple should be operating as allies looking out for the team's best interests, not as opponents nor antagonists (the way Leslie seems to be describing). As long as each partner's sacrifices more or less balance out with the other's in the long term...

Good to hear from you again, London Mom! Foamy, how are your feeling these days? Congrats on back to work, Emily, although it's gotta be a challenge-and-a-half (I hear flan is a good cure!).

Posted by: mehitabel | March 4, 2008 12:47 PM

Kathryn wrote: "Come September, I will be a first-year associate (with no part-time option)"

Haven't read all the posts, but I assume this is a CHOICE on Kathryn's part, not something she's being forced to do against her will. Either "own it" (as they say in psycho-babble) or look for an alternative (even if it, gasp, doesn't pay as much or isn't as prestigious).

Posted by: mehitabel | March 4, 2008 12:50 PM

Amen to you, my wise young (new found) friend. I am regularly grateful that I had no "choice" about whether or not I would work full time as a lawyer as I raised my girls (now 10 and 13.) My husband teaches school, any we like the upper middle-ish class lifestyle my career allows us. So we threw financial caution to the wind and paid a lot of money for a nanny, becuase it gave us flexibliity and still allowed our kids a lot of hang out time at home. That was the first of thousands of decisions that were all geared towards trying to make reality work as well as it could for us.

Whenever I wondered whether I was sacraficing their future because I wasn't signing them up for all the classes and enrichment activities my friends who didn't work found time for, I remembered that I was also remaining relatively sane, and that was important too.

Yesterday my 10 year old announced that "most normal moms just work during schoool hours, so they pick up their kids after school." Even a few short years ago I admit I would have suffered at least a little guilt. Yesterday I laughed. I know she's wrong -- there are plenty of full-time working moms in her classroom. And even if she was right, who cares? We've got a pretty good life. I practiced law for 22 years in a firm, and now that my kids are a bit older, earlier this year jumped into new career with a long-time client. It's fun, I'm fulfilled, our family life is strong, and my kids are doing just fine thank you!

So you go girl. It will work out. Go easy on yourself. Laugh at the inevitable screw-ups, and when they lay the guilt on you, remember that all parents face that, kids just find different trips to lay on those who face different circumstances than you face.

Posted by: rdaszkiewicz | March 4, 2008 12:52 PM

Check out Kathryn's comments re today's comments about her guest blog:

http://marburyvmadisonave.wordpress.com/

Posted by: hillary1 | March 4, 2008 12:57 PM

Again with yet another lawyer. You do realize there are other professions, and even non-professions, out there, right? And I'm not referring to CPA's or MBA's.

Posted by: sb | March 4, 2008 1:03 PM

Posted by: mehitabel | March 4, 2008 12:47 PM

Hi, not feeling too bad. First trimester was bear but second is going along smoothly. Hope your doing well.

Emily, I hear you. I don't understand working mega hours and having kids but I guess some people are better equipped to handle it. Sorry your back at work but glad the baby is doing well.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 4, 2008 1:21 PM

Hillary, Thanks for the link to Kathryn's blog.

'Tis strange indeed that in her "On Balance" offering today Kathryn makes no mention whatsoever of her mother -- least of all of her mother's impressive recent week-long stay (despite a sinus infection and having to sleep on the fold-out couch) taking care of Kathryn's and her husband's baby so Kathryn could take care of law-school commitments (and whatever).

Mind you, I'm NOT being in the least critical on general principle of parents who come to stay with a grown child in order to help with grandchildren -- as Kathryn states in her own blog that her grandmother did for her and her mother when mom was in law school. In fact, I think it's a great family value. It's just that I think Kathryn should've given credit to her mother where credit was due here on today's "On Balance" blog.

Curiously, no mention on Kathryn's personal blog entry today re her husband's caregiving activities toward *their* child. Is that because he does little if anything toward tending a child that's half his? Is Kathryn trying to leverage him via the "On Balance" blog?

And where on earth does she find time to blog so often on her own blog, or to run 20 miles this week, all the while attending law school, being a mom, etc.?

Posted by: mehitabel | March 4, 2008 1:23 PM

Others have made far more eloquent points than I (dotted, mn, foamgnome, emily and Army Brat) but the thing that struck me is there is no way to predict how her next year will all play out. My favorite phrase is life is what happens when you're busying making plans (I think borrowed from someone on this blog). I wish Kathryn well but her balance could be offset by a demanding supervisor, an assignment that requires intensive travel, etc. I hope her enthusiasm (which could be perceived as arrogance) continues in the face of adversity.

Posted by: tntkate | March 4, 2008 1:25 PM

tntkate -- It was John Lennon.

Posted by: mehitabel | March 4, 2008 1:28 PM

Off-topic to Fred: How was your & Frieda's vacation?

Posted by: mehitabel | March 4, 2008 1:31 PM

Very good blog today, though I also wondered where Kathryn's husband fit into the equation (other than she found him while in law school). This blog does make her sound as though she is doing this all on her own...but she at least has some help from mom, and what a great role model mom is (based on the Marburyvmadisonave blog). And perhaps dad is helping; we just don't hear that from Kathyrn, which is a shame.

Folks, don't take your spouses for granted. My ex-husband felt zero guilt about leaving his daughter behind and leaving the country. I don't have the luxury of feeling guilty about working because I'm the only parent providing for our daughter. If I had married a responsible, loving husband, I would certainly not make light of it or take him for granted.

Posted by: pepperjade | March 4, 2008 1:51 PM

mehitabel, you are just plain mean sometimes!

Posted by: leslie4 | March 4, 2008 2:00 PM

Specifically, Leslie?

Posted by: mehitabel | March 4, 2008 2:03 PM

I'm going to have to agree with mehitabel - she sure seems to have a lot of time to study, run, read and blog. Based on what I'm seeing, I don't see where there are any compromises made except for maybe sleep or time with her child.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | March 4, 2008 2:05 PM

you too mm! don't you remember what it was like being a new mom? she's facing a new career, a relatively new marriage, and new baby? and you guys criticize her that her mom has come visit? you all give the sisterhood a bad name!

or maybe you all are just perfect all the time.

all kidding...but i do think you are being too harsh.

Posted by: leslie4 | March 4, 2008 2:10 PM

Very good blog today, though I also wondered where Kathryn's husband fit into the equation (other than she found him while in law school).

--Posted by: pepperjade | March 4, 2008 01:51 PM

The answer is pretty simple. He is probably working to support the family (someone has to). And will continue to do so until mom makes her choices and then he will get to make his choices.

Posted by: daves000 | March 4, 2008 2:11 PM

Moxie, more than anything I was saddened that Kathryn chose to omit completely her mother's vital child-care role -- as well as her grandmother's care for her as a child -- from her "On Balance" blog. I can't help but wonder what her mother would think if she reads it.

And what has Kathryn's husband done besides be a one-occasion sperm donor? We can't tell from her "On Balance" blog, but maybe he's actually a lot more helpful than she depicts him. "I am going to do it all, my way," indeed!

Posted by: mehitabel | March 4, 2008 2:14 PM

First off, kick ass post in general. Yeah, it colors things differently to know of the additional help and such, but the core remains- parents whining about how tough it is to live in their fabulous castles without being grateful and understanding that most of their "problems" are of their own creation. OWN your choices!

To Leslie:
But hey, you guys are missing my point: why do you blame women (whether it's me, the guest blogger, or anyone else) for your perceived failings of our husbands?

I don't blame anyone for any one else's failing. But I DO hold people accountable for their choices. If they choose a spouse who is lazy or immature or irresponsible AND then choose to procreate AND then choose to engage in a career, I'm not going to be very sympathetic to their not being happy with the situation. I'm nto going to blame them, what's to blame?

And it doesn't matter to me whether we're talking wives or husbands or anyone.

Do you blame men for their wives shortcomings? What's up?

Well there is still a cultural standard that women are somehow "in tune" with how to be a good parent and men are clueless inept dorks who need good training. The reality is of course that most everyone sucks as a parent and needs to be trained (sadly they do so by completely messing up their kids in the process) but due to this standard, women are given a lot more leeway and men are harped on.


Posted by: EmeraldEAD | March 4, 2008 2:35 PM

But the very real problem is that it is tough to tell how supportive your spouse is going to be -- before you get married and actually have kids. There is no test for it. And people (myself included) don't usually discuss in detail while they are dating just who is going to stay home with a sick baby. So I say, be a tad more understanding that life is not so simple and black and white. Especially when it comes to marriage, relationships and childrearing.

Posted by: leslie4 | March 4, 2008 2:50 PM

EmeraldEAD

"Well there is still a cultural standard that women are somehow "in tune" with how to be a good parent and men are clueless inept dorks who need good training."

I agree. A "bad" mother/wife is usually judged much more harshly (skank!) than a "bad" father/husband. Even for the exact same behavior. A double standard - what else is new?

Posted by: chittybangbang | March 4, 2008 2:54 PM

moxiemom, I don't have the impression she was saying that things are hard right now, just concern about what will come with going to work. She says that "[l]aw school, it turns out, is a relatively flexible environment in which to have a newborn."

That was my experience having a baby in law school as well - it was great for me. The school was flexible and supportive, I had a lot of friends who were willing to baby sit, and it was nice to have so much time in that first year or so with my baby while still making progress towards my degree. If you can swing it, I think it's a great way to do things.

Posted by: LizaBean | March 4, 2008 2:58 PM

"you too mm! don't you remember what it was like being a new mom? she's facing a new career, a relatively new marriage, and new baby? and you guys criticize her that her mom has come visit? you all give the sisterhood a bad name!

or maybe you all are just perfect all the time.

all kidding...but i do think you are being too harsh.

Posted by: leslie4 | March 4, 2008 02:10 PM"

Leslie, What is up with you today? Are you even reading the substance of the comments? It's as if you are reacting to an entirely different conversation! No one is giving "the sisterhood" a bad name except you with this defensive attitude. This seems to be one of those days when you're only interested in participants saying, "you go, girl" when, in fact, there are several things about this blog worthy of conversation and discussion. What purpose does it serve when you chastise every comment with which you don't agree?

Posted by: mn.188 | March 4, 2008 2:59 PM

Okay, I'm late to the conversation and maybe changing the subject a bit. My mother and both of my grandmother's worked. My mother by choice. My grandmother's didn't have a the "luxory of choice" and they were white. It was called the depression. They had to work.

I work partly because I want to, partly because I need to, and I'm exhausted. So is my husband! The hardest thing to remember when we are making these tough choices is that we are blessed. Blessed and exhausted!

Posted by: marcia | March 4, 2008 3:00 PM

Do people really think it's hard to tell if someone is going to be a supportive, mature, responsible adult before having kids? Do mothers really think "Well I have no clue if this guy is going to be any use to me, so I'll just roll the dice?"

And you're right- most people don't discuss parenting issues before becoming parents. Which is part of why most people should not be having children at all. I have no clue why so many people feel this is a GOOD way to have babies and then wonder why so many problems keep happening with each generation...

I agree that people can be awesome adults but bad parents. But I think it's only a surprise when people choose not to see the truth about themselves or their partners because they prefer their selfish immediate goals over long term relationship fulfillment.

I give people some slack- but when you CHOOSE to bring another person into the world and force them to deal with your own incompetencies, mistakes, and selfishness, well I admit it kinda goes out the window then.

Ruin your own life as much as you want. Bring another around? Totally different story.

Posted by: EmeraldEAD | March 4, 2008 3:06 PM

I don't think that you can feel satisfied as a mom with a big-firm job and tiny ones.

Posted by: amhass2002 | March 4, 2008 11:36 AM

Wow. Copyright 2008 Carolyn Hax.

Posted by: mn.188 | March 4, 2008 3:21 PM

No matter what your job is, working with tiny ones is hard. Feeling satified as a mom at home or at work is hard. As for who's going to take care of the sick kids is a hard thing. Even when you discuss ti before you have kids. I am usually the one who stays home with the sick kids. Not because my husband couldn't or didn't want to, but because I wanted to stay home with the sick child. Recently, he has spent a few days home with our 14 month old son and our six year old daughter. While he said he was happy to stay when I had to go to work, my husband was less than thrilled about staying home. When I came home at the end of the day, the house was a mess, my husband was exhausted, but the kids were happy. But, despite his exhaustion, my husband said he was glad he stayed home with the kids. He bonded with the baby and said he had a much better understanding of motherhood and all I did. He was happy to stay home with the kids and I was happy to go to work. Finding the satisfaction has to come from within.

Posted by: marcia | March 4, 2008 3:34 PM

I'm surprised by the number of rather angry or attacking comments about this blog post today. The point of this post was to say that she is nervous about taking on a lot of responsibility in "Big Law" while having a 1 year old. Despite her fears she is going to jump in and find a way to make it work. Why can't we support Kathryn in her endeavour and be happy for her that she is going to move forward despite her fears? Fear is often the thing that stops us from succeeding or trying new things. I give Kathryn credit for facing her fears and going for it no matter how it turns out.

Posted by: kbj | March 4, 2008 3:56 PM

Sure, "big law" is exciting and lucrative, as well as enormously time-consuming. But how come no one here mentions solo practice? Years ago, I got this book called, "How to Go Directly into a Solo Practice Without Missing a Meal," by Gerald Singer. The likelihood of "missing a meal" ought to be less if one has a spouse with income to tide you over the slow spots in your practice. Certainly, the income from my mother's solo insurance brokerage helped during slow times in my father's solo practice. And the best part was that neither of them had to take orders from a boss or a senior partner.

In 1993, Mr. Singer updated his book. It is now, "How to Go Directly into Your Own Solo Law Practice and Succeed: Into the New Millennium and Beyond."

Posted by: MattInAberdeen | March 4, 2008 4:03 PM

Interesting, Emerald. The other day on Hax's chat, a man was asking what to do - i.e., his wife wanted kids, so quit using birth control. He told her that he didn't want to have kids with her til she quit smoking. So they stopped having sex. He didn't want to risk it, he didn't think she was going to be a good mom if she couldn't at least give up smoking while pregnant (which, I will note, my mom did not do with three children, and only quit when I, the youngest, was 16 - and only because her best friend died of lung cancer. She did indicate that even back in the 60s when she was getting pregnant, everyone was well aware of the healt risks). So what does one do? It's a great question. People do say to me at times: oh, you're so 'lucky' your husband does XYZ. And I always respond with: it wasn't luck at all - I knew what type of person he was when I married him, and wouldn't have married him if I didn't think he had ABC qualities.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | March 4, 2008 4:08 PM

I am totally in favor of ditching the guilt. And I agree with hokie that kids, as long as they're reasonably safe and happy, don't remember much before they turn school-age anyway. AND I agree with Leslie that it's good for kids to know there are other adults out there who can care for them.
BUT when my firstborn was little, it often broke my heart to be away from her so much of the day when she was growing and changing so fast. And I've seen other passionate career women surprised to find themselves feeling the same way. I count myself so lucky to have been able to stay at home for two years after my second child was born. So I'll cheer Kathryn on in her choices, but I want there to be part-time, stay-at-home and all variety of choices available to as many parents (women and men) as possible to balance work and parenting.

Posted by: anne.saunders | March 4, 2008 4:18 PM

"But how come no one here mentions solo practice?"

Maybe because: (i) it only works for litigators, so half of us don't have that as an option starting out; and (ii) the more you learn of the law, the more keenly aware you are of what you don't know, and the more you value the mentoring that comes from more senior and experienced souls. I'm sure your father was very wise and skilled. Nonetheless, on average, the attorney who is self-employed often has a fool for a boss.

Posted by: mn.188 | March 4, 2008 4:21 PM

I'll second that, MN. As a young attorney, the thought of going solo has never even crossed my mind. I will take the mentoring, knowledge, advice and companionship I get from my boss and peers -- as well as the freedom to not deal with the business aspects of running a firm -- as more than adequate compensation for having to answer to someone. But then, I have a great boss who I respect and from whom I have learned a great amount, and I feel I am certainly a better lawyer for having worked with him, so maybe I'm just lucky.

Posted by: LizaBean | March 4, 2008 4:31 PM

Yikes...mothers not even understanding what the big deal is that your own child is warehoused for 40 hours (or more!) a week...this is terrifying. I was a daycare worker for years before becoming a teacher. Tell yourselves whatever it is you have to in order to avoid guilt, but, like it or not, the goal of all daycare warehouses is to make sure no one bleeds. They may be telling you otherwise. You may think you see otherwise, but as soon as you're gone, the babysitter or teenager working for minimum wage is just trying to make it to 6:30. There is no love, no tender moments, no value teaching.

As a teacher it was mindblowing to me how different the warehoused kids were from those who were actually raised by their actual parent in their actual home. Most daycare kids had behavior problems, poor grades and came to school unprepared and hungry.

Don't minimize this debate by calling it "mommywars". We're talking about the lives of children here.

Welcome to the breakdown of society. Disgusting, all of you. My God.

Posted by: monkeymonahan | March 4, 2008 4:49 PM

"'But how come no one here mentions solo practice?'"

Maybe because: (i) it only works for litigators, so half of us don't have that as an option starting out; and (ii) the more you learn of the law, the more keenly aware you are of what you don't know, and the more you value the mentoring that comes from more senior and experienced souls.

Posted by: mn.188 | March 4, 2008 04:21 PM

I can't argue with (ii), but (i) is too broad a generalization. My father's practice was mostly real estate law, making deals for clients. He did very little litigation.

Posted by: MattInAberdeen | March 4, 2008 4:50 PM

Atlmom- now THAT's responsible life management :)

Posted by: EmeraldEAD | March 4, 2008 4:56 PM

Welcome to the breakdown of society. Disgusting, all of you. My God.

Posted by: monkeymonahan | March 4, 2008 04:49 PM

Judgmental much? Wow.

Posted by: vegasmom89109 | March 4, 2008 5:07 PM

Yikes...mothers not even understanding what the big deal is that your own child is warehoused for 40 hours (or more!) a week...this is terrifying. I was a daycare worker for years before becoming a teacher. Tell yourselves whatever it is you have to in order to avoid guilt, but, like it or not, the goal of all daycare warehouses is to make sure no one bleeds. . . . There is no love, no tender moments, no value teaching. . . .. Most daycare kids had behavior problems, poor grades and came to school unprepared and hungry. . . . We're talking about the lives of children here. . . .
Welcome to the breakdown of society.

Posted by: monkeymonahan | March 4, 2008 04:49 PM

Wow. (a) What does this have to do with first-year lawyers? (b) Where was this poster at 8:00 this morning? There would have been a time for such a post.

Posted by: MattInAberdeen | March 4, 2008 5:08 PM

"People do say to me at times: oh, you're so 'lucky' your husband does XYZ. And I always respond with: it wasn't luck at all - I knew what type of person he was when I married him, and wouldn't have married him if I didn't think he had ABC qualities."

You know, that's pretty much how I feel about my husband too - it's not like I just randomly married a guy who happened to be someone I was compatible with. But on the other hand, I've seen people I know and love go through some pretty dramatic shifts in their lives, triggered by things ranging from mental illness to loss of a loved one to being laid off or other fincial crises. Life is just that way.

Posted by: LizaBean | March 4, 2008 5:11 PM

"Tell yourselves whatever it is you have to in order to avoid guilt, but, like it or not, the goal of all daycare warehouses is to make sure no one bleeds. . . . There is no love, no tender moments, no value teaching. . . .. Most daycare kids had behavior problems, poor grades and came to school unprepared and hungry."

Step back from the ledge. Further. Further. You can do it now.

*smack*

Well, that made me feel good, LOL.

I'm so very glad the neither of my kids spent one minute of their lives with ANYONE who held this narrow-minded, judgmental view. No minimum wage workers. No "centers". Most of all, there as been no opportunity for them to be inflenced by someone who believes that children are raised only by mothers, that fathers are irrelevant, and that the use of the perjorative term, "day care kids" is appropriate in a conversation about how important children are.

Guilt is for sissies. Inducing it is for the small-minded and thoughtless.

Posted by: mn.188 | March 4, 2008 5:26 PM

MN - I'm fixing dinner and 'warming up' the TV for a Tuesday night basketball fix...are you ready?

Posted by: dotted_1 | March 4, 2008 6:09 PM

Yikes...mothers not even understanding what the big deal is that your own child is warehoused for 40 hours (or more!) a week...this is terrifying. I was a daycare worker for years before becoming a teacher. Tell yourselves whatever it is you have to in order to avoid guilt, but, like it or not, the goal of all daycare warehouses is to make sure no one bleeds. They may be telling you otherwise. You may think you see otherwise, but as soon as you're gone, the babysitter or teenager working for minimum wage is just trying to make it to 6:30. There is no love, no tender moments, no value teaching.

As a teacher it was mindblowing to me how different the warehoused kids were from those who were actually raised by their actual parent in their actual home. Most daycare kids had behavior problems, poor grades and came to school unprepared and hungry.

Don't minimize this debate by calling it "mommywars". We're talking about the lives of children here.

Welcome to the breakdown of society. Disgusting, all of you. My God.

Posted by: monkeymonahan | March 4, 2008 04:49 PM

Wow, that's harsh. And I take offense, since I was one of those "daycare kids" myself. I was an excellent student when I went to school with no behavior problems at all. In fact, I was always considered one of the "good kids" -- teachers always wanted me in their class and coaches wanted me on their teams because of my good attitude. It's the same in the workplace now that I'm an adult.

Sure, some "daycare kids" probably have behavior problems. So do some kids of SAHMs.

Posted by: sandiego_mama | March 4, 2008 8:04 PM

Mrs. H is rushing home. It's already late in the evening, and she was supposed to leave the office some time ago, but her boss held her back with instructions for tomorrow's conference, so she is in a hurry. She's late, and at home, she is welcomed by a disgruntled babysitter.
- Sorry, - she says. - I'll make it up to you at the end of the month. How are the children?

She is informed that Susie is fine, but 3-year-old Daniel has caught the flu again. He has already fallen asleep. It is unlikely that he will be able to go to kindergarten tomorrow morning. Can you come, then? No, Mrs. H, terribly sorry. Good night.
At that moment, 7-year-old Susie hears Momma's voice and comes out of her room. She runs forward and kisses her mother.

- Can you help me with homework, Mommy? - She asks.
- Not right now, sweetie. - Says Mrs. H. - Mommy's tired. Maybe later.
The door opens and Mr. H comes in. He looks exhausted
- Good evening! - He says, taking off his shoes. - What a day!
- Daniel has the flu again, - tells Mrs. H. - And the babysitter is busy in the morning.
- Oh... again? Could you stay with him tomorrow, dear?
- I have an important meeting tomorrow. - Snaps Mrs. H. - What about you?
- Well, I can't be late tomorrow either, dear... you know how busy it is now in the office...
- I'll call my sister. - She resolves. - She knows many babysitters. Maybe she can suggest someone.

Finally, that problem is settled, and Mr. H says:
- I'm starving. What's for dinner, dear?
Dinner! Mrs. H hasn't quite thought of that. She opens the freezer. Fortunately, it's not quite empty. She quickly pops a frozen pizza into the microwave, and the family sits down to eat.

After Susie goes off to bed, Mrs. H looks around her. Nobody has cleaned for days. Dishes are piled up in the sink; the kitchen floor is covered with sticky, greasy stains; the dirty laundry hamper is overflowing; children's toys, clothes and books are strewn all over the living room floor. Grumpily, Mrs. H loads the dishwasher and the washing machine, mops the floor, and picks up her children's toys. In the meantime, Mr. H tidies up the children's rooms and measures Daniel's temperature. It's nearly midnight when they are finally in their bedroom, ready to go to sleep.

- We need to consider hiring someone to help around the house, - says Mrs. H. - It's too much for us to handle on our own!
Mr. H looks troubled.
- I'm not sure we can afford it... but I'll try to take on another project. Might mean even longer hours in the office. Oh, and dear, a button fell off my shirt today; could you fix it, please?
- I'll take it with me tomorrow when I go to pick up my suits from dry cleaning. I'm sure they can fix it there, - Mrs. H replies sleepily.

Mrs. H's last thoughts before she falls asleep are about the dry cleaning; the babysitter; the new car she needs, because her current one doesn't look respectable enough anymore...
Mr. H, before sleep overcomes him, thinks about the long day he had; the even longer days he is going to have if they need to hire help; the shirt he will have to iron for himself tomorrow before he goes to work...

So, once Mr. and Mrs. H are asleep, let's think what we have here. The general picture is this:

We have children who spend more time with their babysitter than their parents;
A husband who feels he is unappreciated and his needs aren't taken care of;
A wife who is overwhelmed with duties both at home and at the workplace;
An unorganized household, where not much is done and a lot of money is spent.

Let's now have a more careful look at Mrs. H's expenses.

Mrs. H pays a babysitter and is considering hiring someone to help her around the house because she just doesn't have time to clean; she doesn't have time to cook either, so she stuffs her freezer with expensive, unhealthy, commercially prepared foods; she doesn't have time to plan her shopping carefully or compare prices, so every week, she just loads her cart with whatever items she looks upon.

Mrs. H also needs to keep up with a certain image that is expected from her at work. So she simply has to buy expensive shoes and suits that require dry-cleaning, even though that is not quite her style. She also needs a car that looks good, so she changes cars about every three years. Add regular visits to the hairdresser, and you will get an estimation of the sum Mrs. H spends every month just to look like she is expected to.
On top of all that, Mrs. H is feeling exhausted, overwhelmed and unfulfilled. She doesn't spend time with her children, and communication with her husband is close to zero. She is constantly tired and on the run. She has been taught she is supposed to have it all! Why doesn't she seem to be able to do it?!

All her expenses that we listed before have one thing in common: they are work-related.
If it wasn't for her work, Mrs. H wouldn't need a second vehicle or expensive clothes. She wouldn't need hired help. She probably wouldn't need even a dishwasher and a dryer! If Mrs. H stayed home, she could cook from scratch and plan healthy, nutritious, economic meals. And she certainly wouldn't depend on anyone to fix a button on her husband's shirt.

If Mrs. H took the time to be with her children and tend to their needs, she would know about little Susie's dreams, her ambitions, her friends and the influences she is experiencing. And if she found out about the new word Susie learned from one of her girlfriends at school that day, Mrs. H would probably decide to homeschool.
But most of all, if Mrs. H stayed home, she wouldn't constantly feel as though she is running a race that leads nowhere and never stops.

If Mr. and Mrs. H sat down together with a pen and paper and considered the numbers carefully, they would have realized that the "second income", in fact, melts almost into nothingness - or even forms a negative number!

But that, alone, isn't enough. Mr. and Mrs. H belong to a generation that has been taught to think that a woman must find employment and join the workforce ranks, or she is unhappy and unfulfilled; that being a homemaker and a mother is a form of oppression; that children belong in daycare, and not in their mother's arms. Unless they question that unquestionable "truth", they will not realize what a toll it is taking on their family life.

To see it, we just need to take a sober look at the typical day of Mrs. H. The typical day of the Modern Woman Who Has It All.

Posted at:

http://ccostello.blogspot.com/2008/02/woman-who-has-it-all.html

Thought this would make for interesting comments. At least to question what it actually is that makes a fulfilled life.

And as for the precious hours in this short life - live at super-fast pace and then die? And what do you imagine you'd like said at your eulogy?

Posted by: coolblue702 | March 5, 2008 6:43 AM

The Lattice Group is a new grassroots campaign to get young people to engage in issues relating to work-life balance. See what the youngest generation of professionals (and soon-to-be-professionals) are thinking about their own future balance (or lack thereof) between work and family life.

www.thelatticegroup.org

Posted by: astri | March 5, 2008 9:06 AM

hey coolblue -- amazing (and sad) how you pile all the blame on Mrs. H. doesn't Mr H bear any weight here? and our society, legal system, divorce courts, media, etc that don't treat working and stay-at-home moms with the respect they deserve? the problems will never be resolved if people like you continue to focus only on mothers as the ones at fault here. the problems, and solutions, are not quite so simple as you outline!

Posted by: leslie4 | March 5, 2008 9:56 AM

"But most of all, if Mrs. H stayed home, she wouldn't constantly feel as though she is running a race that leads nowhere and never stops."

Most of all, if Mr. H stayed home, Mrs. H wouldn't constantly feel as though she is ru . . . well, you get the point.

coolblue, your post includes so many out-there assumptions, there's no place to start other than to say, (a) what Leslie said, and (b) how nice to have a choice. You need to go to the top and re-read that Michelle Obama quote. It seems as though you've missed the point in your need to comment on a topic about which you no very little from personal experience. Or is this little story one you cut and paste all over the Internet whenever the topic of working moms comes up - no matter how tangentially -- whether or not it adds any light to the topic at hand?

Posted by: mn.188 | March 5, 2008 10:03 AM

Coolblue,
Your post is a crock of ridiculous, misogynist propaganda. I especialy liked the part about Mr. H having to iron his own shirt. Even my grandmother would laugh at that.

Posted by: emily111 | March 5, 2008 10:08 AM

To the commenter who posted about the "daycare warehouses"...I have an even more SHOCKING story for you...I was a latch-key kid in the 1970's! (cue dramatic music)

And no, I'm not writing this from a jail cell or from behind the counter at McD's, but rather a nice comfy desk at my lawyer job. My MBA credentials hang on the wall too.

But, I suppose I'm simply one of the "lucky" ones who escaped doom, eh?

Posted by: hockeyfan1 | March 5, 2008 10:29 AM

I agree with other posters reaction to this post. What really ticked me off is the implication that Mrs. H only takes care of herself because of her job, the reverse implication being that she would look like a slob if she was not working. Anyway, this was clearly posted to provoke our reactions.

Posted by: tsm | March 5, 2008 10:32 AM

OK, coolblue's post was seriously one of the funniest things I've ever read! It reminds me of how awesome it must be to be an anthropologist! You get to fly around the world and experience new cultures. Why, you may even be chased by cannibals! (Or you spend the majority of your time in a dimly lit basement office sorting through piles of pottery bits.) I could go on an on.

Posted by: atb2 | March 5, 2008 10:50 AM

I am also an attorney and had my first child during law school (and the second shortly after taking the bar exam). However, I choose to work part-time (2.5 days), a balance which I find works well for our family. I make some money (definitely not as much as I would like), have some intellectual stimulation, and I am able to spend time with my children and engage them in a variety of extracurricular activities.

That said, we are expecting our third child in three weeks and I suspect I will probably stop working for at least a while. Kids require and demand a lot of attention (especially newborns). Personally, I don't believe that the attention and care received from a caregiver (nanny or daycare) can compare with the care and attention provided by a parent (not to mention the difficulty of finding really good affordable care).

My question is this, what is the point of having children if you are only able to see them a couple of hours a day? The child may be fine and may become an interesting, independent, and successful individual, but why bother having children if you don't want to raise them.

Putting aide the advantages and disadvatages of child care, why have kids only to put them in child care. Sure someone else can raise them, but why have them if you aren't interested in doing it yourself.

I understand that many families don't have a choice and both parents must work, but for those who have a choice, between work and children, hopefully the balance is on the side of the children, rather than work.

This isn't to say that mothers (or a father) shouldn't work at all, but that in considering the work-family balance that family should be the priority. As the adage goes, "you may love your job, but it won't love you back."

Posted by: late_nate | March 21, 2008 11:32 AM

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