[This post has been sitting in draft-form since mid-December ... largely because of the things explained here - I was too busy to finish it. I find myself coming back to continue the theme, but realized I hadn't followed through on starting the theme.]
I’ve read on several blogs that us lawyer moms are too close-to-the-chest with the reality of our work-life balance issues. I have always hesitated to say much in that regard because my job is important to me, and I’m not willing to have a bitch-fest in a public forum. Not that I’ve had much to bitch about, really, for the most part. I also don’t think “oh, things are going so well! I come home at 5:30 every day!” sounds all that genuine. Even though for almost my entire first year, it was true.
Now, however, I am willing to share my recent challenges. I am challenged because the case I am working on is in the throes of a discovery deadline. I am challenged because this is what I went to school to do. It is no fault of my firm or the partners and senior associates that I am working with that the opposing party filed a motion to compel that required our response the Monday after Thanksgiving. Everybody on my team (a small one) is working as hard as I am – likely harder. The senior people are certainly juggling more cases than I am, and they are adding in a ton of travel on top of the things we’re doing together that have me running ragged.
The past few weeks (or so) have been hectic, chaotic, harried, stressful and generally insane. I feel like the first year of easy-breezy first year associate life came to an abrupt end somewhere in October. Or so. Or maybe before – I’m not really sure, because it’s all a blur.
A big reason for the all-out chaos, however, is because I refuse to put certain things aside. E was in a play during this madness, and I prioritized that. Not only attending the play (all 4 performances), but fulfilling my commitments and responsibilities to pitch in to the parent-run event. I was completely unwilling to let her – or my community – down. I informed the partner and the associate that I work with early in the week, and assured them that I was willing to work late nights (at home, after the play) and early mornings in order to make up for the lost time.
In retrospect, I could have worked during the play, late nights, and early mornings, and done a better job. But I don’t for a second regret that I kept that time sacred.
I have been exhausted. Before the holidays, I had been functioning on very little sleep during the weeks. I was setting my alarm for 5 and 6 a.m. on the weekends, and parking myself and my research at our dining room table for the entire day. Or at least until the latest possible moment before stopping to cook dinner for dinner guests, or to dress for a holiday party.
During the holidays, despite making very early announcements that I planned to take the week of Christmas off (because my sister was coming to town), I ended up working almost every day that wasn’t a real “holiday.” The stress levels were high, and there was a lot going on.
So I guess now I know what it really means to be a lawyer. To juggle at a frantic pace, to see 7:30 or 8 p.m. as a perfectly reasonable dinner time for a family of four … and a couple of times, to miss dinner time (as many times in the past month or two as I had in the entire last year). And now, to top it all off, travel is starting to creep in as a possibility on a regular basis.
It’s been tough. But I knew that going in, and I enjoy having work that keeps me mentally engaged. I also am more than aware of the fact that layoffs in law firms are becoming almost routine, and I’m grateful to have this job. I do not think it’s irrational to work my ass off right now in exchange for a feeling of security and stability. I hold onto the reality of peaks and valleys. Once we hit our deadline on January 30th, I may find myself twiddling my thumbs.*
And, as always, I can’t really talk about my comfort level with the situation without talking about Beloved, and his daily presence. The girls are not alone – they are not knocking around an empty house. If that were the case, I would be much less comfortable. But instead, they have help with their homework, they are helping him and learning to cook, they are working on projects.
Anyway. These are my balance struggles. Which I should likely keep dumping onto this forum, rather than whining to everybody in my day-to-day life about how busy I am.
* which could also be read as: putting all my time and attention to the school play that I am PRODUCING. What the heck?