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My Decision to Step Onto the Mommy Track

A personal story about giving up a great job for a great kid

by jlauren  |  3701 views  |  8 comments  |        Rate this now! 

It's been approximately one year since I started working as an attorney. Of course, I was not technically an attorney yet. I had my son during my third year of law school, took the bar, took three months off, then started at a mid-size litigation firm in downtown Seattle. It was exactly what I went to law school to do. I loved the firm, loved the people, and they agreed to let me work 7-4.
But, I did not want to go. In fact, I begged my husband to convince me to stay home instead. I loved those three months. Yes, I was bored silly. I started emailing law firms, hoping they'd send me writing projects, begging my old lawyer friends to come over, only to be a little shattered when they showed up in ironed clothes and I was covered in baby food, usually the kind that leaked from my body.

But I went, and it felt wrong with every single ounce of me. Yes, I wanted to work. But add a commute to that and I was away from my little guy for 10 hours a day, five days a week, when everything went right. We had an ideal child care situation, a live in au pair who was very talented, but he cried and cried and cried. Frankly, so did I.

I made up my mind after about three months that I was going to find a part time job. I wanted $XX an hour, a schedule from like 8 to 2 M-TH, Fridays off, to keep doing litigation, as much unpaid vacation as I wanted, the ability to work from home, and a supportive boss. It had to be close to home. Oh, and I wanted the opportunity to go to court occassionally. And it had to be civil, no criminal work (this would be easy to find in criminal if I lowered my salary hopes.) My friends and I had great laughs over this plan.

I started aggressively seeking part time work. I had one interview, it was not close to home, the pay was horrible, and the expectations unrealistic, at least for a newbie. Every where I asked, people told me the same story - part time work is a dream job, it's something you earn. Try in five years. Five years? Great, so much for enjoying my baby.

This carried on for months. Somewhere in there, one of the partners sent me to court on a motion I was supposed to lose. The thing was, I won. Then he sent me on another. I won. I've now won five in a row and am currently undefeated. Suddenly, other attorneys - more experienced attorneys - started asking ME what I thought. At first I laughed - hard, thinking, how nice they were to try to make me feel good. Then other started asking me questions. Huh.
Then, they gave me a trial. Trial work is my dream. No one in civil litigation, at a big firm, gets to do a trial their first year. Ok, some people do, but it's not normal. In fact, I know people who have practiced civil litigation for YEARS and never tried a case. It hasn't ended yet, so who knows if I'll win this one, but I love my clients, they are wonderful people who deserve to win. I close the case Monday.

8 comments so far...

  • I'd love to hear an update now that almost a year has gone by! How does the reality compare to your hopes?

    I chose to be a SAHM for two years, then found a mommy-track job in software that I didn't believe actually existed. Although I can relate to the "might-have-been" thoughts, one year on, I'm very happy with the balance I have today.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by SoftwareMom on 1st August 2008

  • Wow, your new job sounds perfect! I'm pulling for you -- hopefully it will be just the right balance, and your little one will adjust to having you around more often!

    I know you'll wow your new boss! It sounds like you can choose your hours so if the part-time gig doesn't suit you, maybe you can commit to more. You'll find the right mix. :) I enjoyed your article!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by el-e-e on 25th September 2007

  • jlauren - I was thinking about you last night when I met with a friend of mine - one of these super moms with 2 kids and a full-time gig at an ad agency that you probably have in mind when you talk about amazing women who juggle full-time well. She's been doing this for 9 years now and she told me she is really struggling. I was surprised - she always seems to have it together. But what I learned is that appearances might not be true - and many of us working moms who are juggling full-time gigs are envious about the strength that you have to change your life in this way:)

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Nataly on 25th September 2007

  • Thanks for your support everyone.

    On the "strong enough" comment - I agree that what I am doing also takes strength, but it's different than the kind of strength I'm talking about. I know some amazing women who do the full time juggle well - they are remarkably strong people, and I envy them a little. Hence the comment.

    I know I am very lucky to have found this position. I had decided that if I had not found something like it by June, I was just going to bag the whole thing. I'm not sure I could have not worked at all, it's not my personality.

    nicu101 - I can really relate there. People told me the same thing about "half time" litigation. I'm hoping they are wrong, but I've gotten a lot of raised eyebrows. Since I'm paid by the hour, I guess my consolation is that if I'm working 40 hours per week, I'll be making way more money.

    Today is my last day at my old job, maybe I"ll post about it later.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by jlauren on 25th September 2007

  • It's easy to forget that no path you choose has to be forever. You stayed home for three months, you worked for a big firm, now you're working part time, in the future you can choose to work full time again. You never know, it may turn out that you are getting in on the ground floor of a revolutionary firm -- one that attracts amazingly talented parents who value balance in their lives and delivers more value to the clients as a result. You could end up making partner before some of your friends at the old firm, or take the experience and start your own firm when your child leaves for kindergarten.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by SoftwareMom on 24th September 2007

  • This has nothing to do with not being strong enough. I think it takes strength for a highly educated woman to look at her life and realize it's not working. I graduated from medical school, and I haven't practiced a day in my life, because I know my kids are worth more than all those hours I'd lose with them doing my residency. At least you can find part time work. Even a shared residency position would occupy me as much as the typical full time job, and we'd have to move.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Kristie McNealy on 24th September 2007

  • I, too, can very much relate to your story. I went part-time after trying the full time working mom thing. I too was sad to leave a job I loved, but I found part-time work to be a wonderful balance. I do disagree with one thing you said -- you did not "fail" at the full time working mom thing because you aren't strong. We should not and cannot blame ourselves for a Corporate America that is decidedly family unfriendly. We should all have the courage to do what you did -- find ways to make things better for ourselves and for our country (if you haven't already, join, a movement to make our society better for moms). As far as it being "too late" with your son, there's no such thing. If you were a great mom while you were working full time, that's all that counts. I went part-time only when my second daughter was born. My first daughter holds no resentment against me being gone for 50+ hours a week those first three years of her life. She holds fond memories of our first nanny. Best of luck as you embark on a new and hopefully more peaceful chapter in your life.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Amy@UWM on 23rd September 2007

  • I left a too-long comment on your note about this great article, but wanted to just say again thank you for sharing this. I can relate to so much of what you wrote...

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Nataly on 23rd September 2007