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Your Back-To-Work Wish List

Feb07

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Advice Smackdown ArchivesToday’s Smackdown question comes not from our own queue, but via special request from the advice column guru over at 40:20 Vision. She’s hoping we could offer her OP our perspective and thoughts on the following motherhood-centric question, which, like, just try and stop us, right?

I recently found out I am three months pregnant, graduating from law school, living with my boyfriend, and studying for the bar exam. For those of you professional women with families, what do you do? Plan ahead, pick career over family? What job benefits have you found absolutely essential to you as a mother? Flex time? Ability to work from home? For those of you who quit jobs over lack of certain benefits, or if you have a wish-list of benefits, which ones would you like to see?

Is it possible to ‘have it all?’

Some personal background: I was about waist-deep in my own career in publishing/editing when I got pregnant for the first time. I was doing well, but of course had my eye on at least a couple more promotions for the immediate years ahead. I was conflicted during those nine months — alternatively 100% confident in my plan to return to full-time work, then nervous that I wouldn’t be able to juggle it all or even WANTED to juggle it all, THEN occasionally gripped with a fantasy of quitting my job entirely to stay home and pursue a full-time freelance writing career la la laaaa like that’s ever going to happen.

I went back to work as planned. Then I quit about six months later to pursue a full-time freelance writing career.

Point is: Life is really weird and unpredictable, sometimes in a really good way. So…yes, you plan ahead, but you also stay loose, and ready for anything. Jobs change, minds change, amazing opportunities ebb and flow and having a baby both complicates everything….and makes everything absolutely fan-freaking-tastic at the same time.

But given my own personal experience with returning to a job I loved only to find it both great AND lacking, post-baby, here are the benefits I personally found essential AND the stuff I wish could have been different:

1) Make sure childcare arrangements are not solely YOUR duty and responsibility. I chose a daycare close to my office because I hoped to stop by over lunch to nurse, and thought it was the wiser choice for fighting rush-hour traffic. My husband worked about an hour away in the opposite direction. If I had to do it all over again, I would have chosen someplace more central to our home, so my husband could help with pick-up and drop-off and other inevitable issues that crop up unexpectedly. The baby ran out of diapers — who can go drop some off? The baby is running a fever — who has to take the rest of the day off and pick him up? Your baby is healthy but YOU need a sick day, the center is closed because of the weather but YOUR office is open, etc. etc. etc.

2) Flexible, flexible work time — including sick and personal days. Huge, for so many reasons. My office didn’t really care if you arrived at 7 am or 10 am, so long as you stayed your full eight hours, and allowed for working from home occasionally, within reason. I don’t think I would have lasted a month otherwise. I was unprepared for how hectic my mornings would become and just how many daycare bugs would knock me on my ass. No one WANTS to be that coworker who is always out or leaving early for a sick kid or running late because the daycare drop-off took extra long, but sometimes you just plain WILL be that person, so an office culture that understands is a gigantic plus.

3) Staying home is already enough work. “Working from home” sounds great, and you may even find that when your baby is brand-new that it’s the easiest way to juggle things. After all, they sleep all the time! They stay put in swings/bouncers/cribs! You can learn to nurse and type emails at the same time! And then…they learn how to crawl. Work starts getting confined to not-always-predictable nap times, or consuming your evenings after bedtime. The TV starts getting put on more and more during the day, the guilt over not paying enough attention to your child or participating in enough playdates/activities starts to grow and suddenly working from home — even occasionally — starts to seem like the worst of both worlds, where you are unable to properly focus on either job. Then, horror of horrors, you blink and your baby is WALKING and is a TODDLER and NOW WHAT. So: Work from home but continue to drop off at daycare without guilt, have some back-up babysitting options to call on, a neighbor willing to occasionally share their nanny with you, advertise for a part-time mother’s helper.

4) Pumping options. I had an office. With a door. While I was out on maternity leave, a lock was installed on that door, so I could lock myself in and pump breastmilk with total privacy. I couldn’t have asked for anything better, but I’m still shocked to hear that so many women have to beg for even the barest, supply-closet-like accommodations for pumping and pumping breaks. Talk to HR ahead of time and find out your options. And know your rights.

5) I don’t know what to even call this last one. Even if you find a job that meets all your requirements (flex time, working from home, little to no business travel, etc.), there’s still a kind of intangible vibe sometimes, where employees who actually take advantage of those benefits are…well, kind of overlooked, or even looked down on. If you work remotely most of the time, will you be considered equal competition for a promotion with someone who shows up at the office every day? Will you get stuck with projects that aren’t really equal to your title and position because your personal day usage is too high for that really awesome high-profile one instead? How much business travel are other employees at your level doing, on average? If the company or firm were to have layoffs, would you be the one perpetually on the potential chopping block because the corporate culture values workers without children or sees mothers who need the flexibility as less dedicated? These are hard things to really pick up on ahead of time, unfortunately. Sadly, it happens, and can require big changes on your part that you weren’t necessarily expecting to make, in terms of your hours and childcare and priorities.

That last one ended up being a problem for me, a little bit. There was a change in my job duties once I returned and even a subtle shift in how I was viewed there, professionally. On the surface I had a great, supportive, family-friendly workplace. But beneath that, I was the one who was going to watch the younger or childless editors get promoted while I stagnated, because I simply couldn’t put in crazy 60-hour weeks anymore and spend my free time writing giant extra marketing packages just to maybe possibly impress someone and get a promotion. I guess I hadn’t noticed how often I did that, until I couldn’t anymore. Or…more accurately, until I didn’t WANT to anymore. So I quit, and found something different, work-wise, that worked for me, my professional goals and my family. I work from home, I have two children and one more on the way, I have a million deadlines a week, I drink too much coffee and occasionally my toddler calls our part-time nanny “Mommy Tati” and me “Mommy Mommy” and you know? I find that actually really, really sweet and not weird at all.

I don’t have a closet of fancy suits anymore, but I would say that yes, I DO “have it all,” or something pretty darn close to it.

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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39 Responses to “Your Back-To-Work Wish List”

  1. Megan Feb 07 at 11:44 am Reply Reply

    Some advice from a fellow lawyer (I am 7 yrs out of law school, have a toddler and one on the way). Law firms are notoriously bad about handling work/family things. In some parts of the country (big metro areas) it’s next to impossible to balance both. In other areas, like where I am (smallish city), it’s workable, if you’re at the right firm. Talk to as many people as possible (associates, not partners) to find out which firms have a good reputation of supporting and promoting women with families (and which ones actually mean it and which ones just talk a big game). The big issues are reasonable and flexible work hours. IMO, clerking positions or jobs in government are better for women with young children because, no matter how flexible a firm is, you’re going to get the stink eye if you consistently leave at 5 p.m. Sucks, but it’s the way it is. As for me, I ditched the big firm job for an in-house position and was happy to take the pay cut.

  2. Olivia Feb 07 at 12:02 pm Reply Reply

    Flex time is the big one for me. Also plenty of personal/sick leave and no expectation for me to work overtime on a regular basis. 40 hrs is (more) than enough time away from my family. If a boss or company expects more time than that, then it’s not the job for me.

    I also love living close to work and daycare, so if there is any way you can control how long your commute is it would probably reduce your stress.

  3. Ally Feb 07 at 12:36 pm Reply Reply

    I was a teacher before my kids came. I don’t live near any family and thought about a lot of options. We decided the best thing for me is to stay at home with the kids. Luckily there are a lot of home-schooled kids in our area and I teach them three mornings a week. I do miss teaching full time and as soon as my kids are all in school I will go back. I never regret staying at home. I’m so glad I get to be with my kids all day and I don’t feel pulled in a million directions. This time in my life is so short and I’ll have the rest of my life to work.  

  4. Leigh Feb 07 at 12:43 pm Reply Reply

    It IS possible to have it all, just not all at once. Something is always going to slip–either you’re not putting in as many overtime hours as your coworkers, or you have to miss an occasional school play or leave a sick child with a sitter, but I just don’t think it’s possible to always give 100% at work and always give 100% at home and still function as a sane human being. It’s a constant balancing act, and my best advice as a full-time working-away-from-home mother is to take it one week at a time. Literally, sit down with the calendar once a week and say to yourself, I can be late to work this day to have breakfast with my kid, and I can leave early this day to get to her school program, but I’m going to have to miss her softball game to make that meeting. And then, most importantly, BE OKAY with those choices. Remind yourself each day that you’re doing the very best you can, and that’s all you can do.

  5. Sheila Feb 07 at 12:54 pm Reply Reply

    I actually work in government (not a lwayer though), and that last “I don’t even know what to call it” is the kicker for me. HAVING benefits is one thing; having a workplace culture that allows you to freely use those benefits without guilt/guilt-trips is another. I work on a team where every other person is childless (most are also single) and are willing to absorb infinite amounts of work. I am just not. I leave when my tour ends and I work in the evening after the kids are in bed if I need to, but that just doesn’t compare to sitting there in the trenches until 10 pm with my teammates. I would put this in the categories both of workplace culture and supportive leadership. It may be hrd to suss this out before having kids, but if you work in a place/team where no or few other people have kids, that is a BIG clue. I am not sure how to put this into a wish list, since it is not addressed by having actual policies in place … it is having a workplace where everyone is given the opportunity to contribute meaningfully, even if no in the same exact way.

  6. Jeannie Feb 07 at 1:20 pm Reply Reply

    I think it’s impossible to “have it all” if “having it all” means a skyrocketing career, kids who have as much of you as they need, a spotless house and a home made meal every night. Something has to give. There just aren’t enough hours in a day.

    That said, I think there are many women who do “have it all” in that they’ve found a balance that works for them in their own lives. I’m a WOHM and I do it by working four days, having excellent on-site daycare, a flexible employer and masses of sick time. I wouldn’t be able to any other way.

    It takes time and effort to find what will work for you and your family but it can be done. Good luck!

  7. AJ Feb 07 at 1:22 pm Reply Reply

    Our key is that I can come in super early (6:30am). My husband drops the baby off and I pick up. By staggering work hours she is only in daycare for 8 hours.

  8. b Feb 07 at 1:23 pm Reply Reply

    I’m still trying to figure this one out myself, and my daughter is almost two. Right now I’m working full-time and the primary breadwinner for our two-income household. My company says they have flex time and work from home options, but no one ever uses them because of the stigma around employees that have used them in the past. And…it sucks. Before she was born, I thought I would be with this company forever. Now I just want to be with my daughter all day more than anything. I think you need to be flexible on what you might want after the baby comes- you may want to work full-time outside of the home- or not. There’s plenty of time to figure that out. :) That being said- flex time would be huge IMO.

  9. Laura Fair Feb 07 at 1:44 pm Reply Reply

    I have a fabulous employer, it’s a non-profit so pay is not all that wonderful but still ok, when my first kid was born they let me work two days from home a week which was amazing and possible until like Amalah said, she started moving. I then went back full time with a nanny three days a week and a daycare two days. This was great as getting kids to daycare was a pain in the butt.

    I recently stopped working full tome when my second was born as the daycare bill was just to high. I work about 15 hours every two weeks from home writing grants. I love this arrangement.

    My best advice I can give is make no big plans until after the baby comes. Unless you are absolutely positive you want to stay at home. Line up a daycare, take the most maternity leave you can afford and that your work will allow. Things just change when you are holding the baby in your arms and not in your stomach. You may think you can do the full time job thing or you may decide screw it I want to be at home.

    Also remember you are going to do what’s best for you and your family, don’t let others guilt you into doing what you are not comfortable with.

  10. Shannon Feb 07 at 1:47 pm Reply Reply

    Hi! I also got pregnant in law school, graduated, and took the bar when she was 18 months old. My advice deals entirely with the bar study period. If you are taking a prep class, most of them offer so much flexibility (for example watching lectures on-line to going to live or pre-recorded sessions at your school). Don’t be afraid to use the flexibility and take things week by week. Don’t feel pressure to be at school all the time because everyone else is. You can pass the bar studying in whatever way works best for you and your family. I did!

  11. Jessicawp Feb 07 at 1:56 pm Reply Reply

    The article and responses made me appreciate my situation even more. I have a toddler and baby #2 is due in just a few weeks. I work for a bank full-time and daycare is just two blocks from me and five blocks from my husband. We have only a 15-20 minute commute from work to home. My boss is ridiculously understanding; she doesn’t have children but, in her words, has had women work for her who have made every possible decision and tried every solution in regards to work and children. I come in at 8 and leave at 4 but check email and answer my cell phone until 5:30 if I need to. I can work from home if I need to here and there and the company as a whole is very understanding. The CEO worked and raised her child and that has permeated the corporate culture to both women and men. We all have personal lives that have to function so we can function at work. With all that said, it is still hard to make everything work all the time.

  12. Minnie Feb 07 at 2:12 pm Reply Reply

    I’m a 3L and will be taking the MPRE in March and the bar exam in July. Baby is due in October. Just wanted to wish you good luck!

  13. Karen Feb 07 at 2:20 pm Reply Reply

    My part time schedule of 24 hrs, MWF, is amazing. I’ve never loved my job as much as I do now. Of course my employer is also very family friendly, not just to moms, but for anyone who has sick family members, aging parents, etc. I agree with the previous posters who say just take it one week or month at a time. And short commutes plus centrally located daycare are priceless if you can manage.

  14. Stephanie Feb 07 at 2:48 pm Reply Reply

    I have an extremely flexible work situation. First, my boss has a 3 year old, and as such, is very understanding. Second, we moved much farther from my work (but much closer to my husband’s), so to beat traffic, I get in at 7:30 and leave at 4. My husband handles drop-off for our 19 month old, and I pick her up. Yes, it’s hard not to see her in the mornings, but since her babysitter provides breakfast, it’s not like I’m missing anything important. Also, I work from home every Friday and every other Wednesday. If have to work on a Saturday, I stay home the next Monday. It also helps that I love what I do, and that there has been a major baby boom at our office in the past few years. I work at a non-profit, almost all of the employees are women, and every single new mom has come back to work full-time. If that’s not a testament to family-friendly, I don’t know what is. We also have a very generous sick-leave. Finally, I echo Amalah’s recommendation of daycare by your house. For my daughter it means spending five minutes in the car, as opposed to an hour.

  15. Katie Feb 07 at 3:05 pm Reply Reply

    Another lawyer here.  I took my first bar with no kids, living at home for the summer, with a bar study loan (ie, no other job).  My second bar, I took newly married with two young stepkids.  And guess what?  I passed both.  In a way, it was almost easier to focus during the second bar, because I knew I had to be focused and efficient during the time that I had…no more two hour internet study breaks :)   I highly recommend the PMBR CDs…just play them in your car, whenever you can.  Somehow, you absorb the stuff.

    As far as jobs–I now have a 9 month old, and I have what I would consider an ideal job situation.  Government job, a 40 hour a week expectation (nothing more), and a boss who is very flexible about hours and leave.  Which is essential.  You will have to take more sick days than you know.  

    There are days when I feel regret in both directions–that I’m not living up to my potential careerwise, or that I wish I could be home with my son full time.  Most of the time, though, I’m pretty happy.  And when the career stuff bothers me, I just remember that my son won’t be little forever, and at least I’m keeping my license active.  

  16. Melissa Feb 07 at 3:07 pm Reply Reply

    Another lawyer here. Both me and my husband are. However, I’ll refrain from giving you advice as a lawyer, since it’s going to absolutely depend on your situation (firm/government/solo, city size and location, practice group, etc). Here’s what’s been key for us:

    1. Awesome back-up care. We have a nanny, but on days she’s sick, we have both the option of back-up care in a center OR a back-up nanny, both subsidized by work. 2. Flexible hours. My boss doesn’t care if I’m in at 8am or 10am or whatever. He doesn’t really keep an eye on where I am, so it’s easy to come in late for baby doctor appointments (of which there are many) or any other issue. However, I try not to abuse it too much. 3. Work from home. This is sort of specific to us, but it helps that my husband’s employer is 100% fine with his working from home, since that’s what we do when we use a back-up nanny. Finally, if you can swing it financially, I highly recommend a nanny. More work to find one on the front end, but in terms of convenience, it’s a life saver.

  17. April Feb 07 at 4:11 pm Reply Reply

    I’m a pastor with a flexible and understanding work place, encouraging of families, and my husband and I are pursing adoption. But in America there is the inner guilt and outside pressure to conform to the stereo-types of motherhood rather than to be happy with who I am best at being. I appreciated this recent blog post: http://www.workingmomsagainstguilt.com/2011/02/outsourcing-to-make-life-easier.html
    A lot of my stress has been reduced since hiring a cleaning person. I am thinking about next getting our laundry hired out and also groceries pre-packed for pick-up in the future. I would much rather do anything for my job than cleaning, laundry, or shopping.

  18. radiem Feb 07 at 4:18 pm Reply Reply

    I’m a professional working mother of a 5 month old, and I’m regularly needed for far more than the typical 40 hour work week. One option that you might not have considered: asking your significant other be the stay-at-home parent. We had to make major financial adjustments as we turned into a one income family, but I don’t have to worry about getting the baby to daycare in the morning or dealing with unexpected illnesses/catastophes/etc because my husband has it handled. If I need to stay late at work, I can do so without scrambling to arrange childcare. Also, my son has an awesome relationship with his father. Of course, this arrangement only works because I make sure my husband has plenty of baby-free time when I’m around, and I make sure to pull my weight when it comes to middle of the night feedings/awakenings and housework. We take turns letting each other sleep in on the weekends too. Having a great coffee maker is a must as well. “Having it all” will still leave you sleep deprived, even if you have help 24/7!

  19. liz Feb 07 at 4:48 pm Reply Reply

    Amen to what Amy said about pumping resources. If your workplace hasn’t got ‘em? That’s a big clue right there.

    I’ve pumped in broom closets, bathrooms (outside a stall, because that was the only available power outlet), and in borrowed offices (where I had to hang my coat over the window next to the door).

    The company I worked for touted their family friendly policies and their pumping facilities, but all those things were in the OTHER building.

  20. Suzy Q Feb 07 at 5:15 pm Reply Reply

    As a new associate at almost any law firm, they will expect you to work at least 60 hours per week, including weekends.  YOU will be the one attending the 8:00 am hearings a hundred miles from your home.  Choose carefully, and don’t assume that working for women will automatically be better.  Sometimes women are even worse when it comes to kids, etc.

    Old-fashioned assvice:  If your relationship with the BF is solid, get married.  It’ll make everything better for your little family.  Good luck!

  21. Amy Feb 07 at 6:16 pm Reply Reply

    I’d been with my firm for 6 years when I came back from maternity leave, so not exactly the same situation, but I that said, it’s important to set boundaries– early. Before I went on maternity leave I told them how long I’d be out (manager “so you’ll be out for 6 weeks, right?” “uh no” “oh, 8 weeks” “uh no, more like 3-4 months”), and that when I came back I was going to be part time initially. I came back when my son was nearly 4 months, and I gradually worked up to full time by 6 months.
    Since coming back I haven’t made any guarantees of “I can work as much as you need me to”. I try to average 8 hour days and will let them know that I can push that from time to time, but that won’t be the norm.
    If you’re going to work from home (ha ha, like Amy said, doing that with a toddler– “sorry, my son just went for the dogs’ water dish, what did you say?”), telecommute, have a flex schedule, or work part time, putting that into writing or having some sort of a formal agreement is good. I telecommute, and my firm requires a telework agreement, including what resources I have access to from home and how often I might go into the office. Even if you have a nanny, working from home with a kid screaming is still distracting. Daycare has been a great option for us.
    Benefits: health, dental, life insurance, disability (if you get hired before baby arrives, short term disability should cover those 6 weeks of maternity leave, and 8 weeks if you have a c-section). My firm now does “paid time off” (vacation, sick, and personal days rolled into 1), which is good for most, but if you’re pregnant or have other medical issues, like I do, those appointments can take away from time that could otherwise be used for vacation. Paid parental leave: my firm offers 10 days off to be taken any time in the first year for all parents of newborns (and adoptive parents; moms and dads).
    When I do go into the office, I ask the receptionist if there’s an empty office where I can pump. They generally know who’s out, and will find a free office for me.

  22. IrishCream Feb 07 at 8:36 pm Reply Reply

    I have an infant, and my husband and I both work full time. He switched to evenings and I have some flextime, so we’re doing tag-team parenting. Even with two incomes, day care would have been a huge financial burden, plus she’s so liiiiitle! Challenging as it is to not see each other during normal waking hours, it’s worth it to be with the babe. The one thing I wish I’d know before I went back to work: how glad I would be to be back at work! I spent the last weekend of my maternity leave hugging the baby and crying, and the first couple of weeks were very tough, but then I hit my stride, remembered what it was I was supposed to be doing all day, and began to appreciate my job. It’s quiet, no one throws up on me, I can go to the bathroom whenever I want, and I get to use my brain in a different way than I do when I’m at home in mom mode. Both require smarts, but in very different ways. Knowing that my husband is taking care of the baby means I don’t worry about her when I’m at work. I’m not going to lie, there’s a lot more stress now post-baby, but it’s more manageable than I thought and I am also much happier to be back at work than I had imagined!

  23. Kimm Feb 07 at 9:28 pm Reply Reply

    I’m not a lawyer- but flex time would be great, and not working weekends or nights. That’s why I am changing jobs at the end of the school year. I play piano for choirs at several schools, working many Saturdays, and 12 hour days during concert/contest season. That won’t work with a baby and my husband’s hours, as he often comes home at 9 pm or later. Can’t bear the thought of leaving our little one in childcare 12-13 hours a day. I’m going to just teach piano lessons even though it’s a big pay cut.

  24. Astrid Feb 07 at 9:50 pm Reply Reply

    I’m currently 18 weeks pregnant with my first, so I have to advice, but I just wanted to say that number five scares the crap out of my. My company officially has relatively family friendly policies, but I have no idea how it will work in action. My workplace skews young, gay, single, childless, or some combination of the above, and there really aren’t a lot of mothers. The only women who I’ve worked with who have gotten pregnant didn’t come back after their babies are born. As it is now, we currently often work through out breaks to get things done, and I don’t know how people’s opinions of me will change when I have to take them all (or more than normal!) to pump. Especially since I recent reaction to a woman breastfeeding in our store was “ew, gross.” It makes me really nervous.

  25. Name (required) Feb 07 at 9:53 pm Reply Reply

    Well, this is going to be advice unlike any other comment I have read posted here on this blog. I am also a lawyer. I graduated almost 18 years ago. When I first got out of school, I worked for about 3 years before I had my first daughter. I then continued working until my second daughter was born, 2 years later. I hated every minute of being away from my daughter. I knew in my heart that no one can take care of a child like their own mother. And, I felt like I couldn’t always be “good” at taking care of a baby, so how could anyone else!! It is truly without a doubt the hardest job there is. It takes patience, kindness, love, grace, humor, patience, patience and patience every day, every minute. My oldest daughter is 15, and my youngest now 12. I am just now getting back into working again, anticipating college, retirement etc. It is not easy to do, and we have given up a lot financially of course, but nothing could even come close to the rewards of being home with my girls while they have been growing up, learning about life, and becoming the people they are today. You never know how you will feel about working until after your child is born. But, if it is at all possible, and by possible, I mean by any means, including sacrificing a lot financially, you will never regret staying home. I agree with all of the comments posted before me, by the way. Working moms aren’t always treated with the same regard as those without children. And, it is not possible to have it all. I don’t think we were meant to have it all. Something has to give, and I would say, it should be the career, not the kids.

  26. Liz Feb 07 at 10:33 pm Reply Reply

    I echo Amalah’s advice to be prepared for things to change majorly once you’re holding that little one in your arms.  I was all prepared to go back to work part-time (like 24 hours a week) and put her in daycare one day a week (my husband and I have the ability to trade off the rest of the time with our schedules).  Bahahaha.  Once she was home, there was no way I could have put her in group childcare.  So, I work about 15 hours a week, trading off with the hubby and getting help for a few hours from another mom.  It’s perfect because I get my “get out of the house and interact with other humans who can talk” fix, but I get to spend MOST of my time snuggling, well, now chasing, my little lovebug.  Good luck figuring out your situation.

  27. Lizzie Feb 07 at 10:50 pm Reply Reply

    Before my baby was born, I had a job I loved, but it was one of those where you work until your job is done each day, whether that was 8 hours or 12. But, you know, I went to college for 8 years and it took me a few years after that even to find a niche I really loved. And then I had a baby. And my work was pretty supportive. They actually let me split my job in half and find someone to be “my other half”. We each worked half the week, split salary, days off, CE, etc. The thing I did lose was health care, but my husband had equally good coverage so it wasn’t an issue (otherwise yeah, that would’ve been a deal breaker). And it worked great. We had a nanny 2 days a week and my husband kept her my other work day. I got to be home and still work some, which was a great balance for me. THEN…we decided to move closer to my family. So we went from a metro area to a relatively small town. And my little “niche” I carved out, well it doesn’t exist. My work options at the moment seem to be 1. work SUPER full time in another realm of my profession I’m not excited about, 2. don’t work, or 3. say “screw the YEARS of schooling/training” and do something else. Right now I’m not working, and I love staying home, but I didn’t realize how much of my identity, self esteem, etc was wrapped up in who I was as a PROFESSIONAL, and it’s something I’m struggling with. My best advice is don’t lose sight of who you are as a person, a woman, an individual aside from who you’re married to, what your job is, and whose mother you’re about to become. I am realizing it’s okay to not want to do the job you spent years wanting to do, and you shouldn’t feel bad about it!

  28. heather Feb 08 at 12:33 am Reply Reply

    I haven’t read all the comments – so forgive me if I’m repeating something. Things that are essential for me as a Career+Mom. 1) a good care provider who I trust with my baby. It’s expensive but soooooo worth it. Working outside the home will not happen if you don’t have a good care situation. 2) a job that I LIKE and am intrinsically rewarded by. If it’s going to keep me away from my baby then I need to be getting something besides a pay check out of it. Ultimately having a fulfilling professional career allows me to be a better mother who is also able to provide an additional level of financial stability for my child. 3) a flexible workplace that allows flex time, comp time, etc. 4) extended family support. This is also key. I am not be with my child all the time, but my heart is so much more at least knowing that Auntie or Grandma is putting my baby to bed at night if I’m not able to.

    Go easy on yourself Mama. It’s easy to think of these things in terms of “my child over my career” epic decisions. Give whatever your decision is (working, staying home, working at home, part-time, etc.) three months ‘probation’ period. Things are rarely permanent and you usually have more options than you know.

  29. andrea Feb 08 at 9:06 am Reply Reply

    I wish we didn’t have to make that decision before the baby is born. While I completely understand your company’s right to know your intentions it’s just totally unrealistic to expect you to know right now how you’ll feel about work and motherhood. I have friends who returned full time and wished they were part time or SAHMs and friends that changed everything to work only part time and regretted it. No easy answers.

    I work at a law school and I’m fortunate. They are flexible with my hours and I can work at home. So there’s an idea as a recent grad.. work at your law school? I often interview our alums some bits that they have passed on.. 1. Don’t expect to work full time, have a child and have a life and friends. You end up letting that last bit go while you are raising your child. 2. Even women who are now partners in law firms with young child say that they wish that they had the work life balance thing figured out. Lawyering she said I have figured out.. how to balance work and life.. I’m still working on that.

    good luck to you on the bar exam and congratulations!

  30. Rebilou Feb 08 at 3:12 pm Reply Reply

    1. Engage the grandparents/family now and feel out their level of potential participation in child rearing. Are they retired? Do they have flexibility in their time? Our family is the first line in at an early school pick up and keep her on sick days, and they generally dote on her more than I could ever expect anyone else to outside of my husband and I. They have made work pressure significantly better by being engaged, helpful, and generally awesome people.

    2. Working from home one day a week has saved my mind. My boss is based out of a different company site than I (and across the country from me), so my job and performance has never been measured by my physical presence. My one day a week has eliminated home pressures tenfold. It is a day I load with conference calls and participate while I do laundry, make dinner that quickly becomes leftovers for the next night, and complete countless administrative tasks from home. I send my daughter to school, but I start work before she is up and then use some extra time to have a long breakfast and snuggle before I take her to school. 3. Working at home from night is a necessary evil if I have wifi and can do it from my couch/treadmill. Once everyone is asleep that is my time to power through work or personal projects. 4. My life depends on planning ahead and an unbelievable partner. Clothes are laid out and lunches are packed the night before, meals planned ahead of time and purchased on the weekend and started as much as possible the night before to cut down on the prep time right after work so I can spend more time with my child, a partner who jumps in and keeps things moving as much as possible with home projects and parenting has made everything enjoyable. I keep an active to do list that is currently two pages long, but it keeps me focused on small and big picture items that need to get done in the near future.5. Catch up on sleep over the weekend. I know that isn’t the greatest answer, but you make it work. And while I would love 9 hours of sleep a night, I can handle 5 to 6 and know that my family benefits from it.

  31. Jay Feb 10 at 4:03 pm Reply Reply

    Totally off topic, but where did the post about introducing foods and choking go? I know it was up yesterday, but now this is the first question again. What happened?

  32. IrishCream Feb 10 at 7:08 pm Reply Reply

    I was wondering that too! I wanted to email it to my husband.

  33. DawnK Feb 11 at 11:26 am Reply Reply

    I am another lawyer chiming in and I hate to be a bubble burster but the practice of law is the absolute worst place to be if you are a woman with children looking for flexibility. You would think they would know better as laws exist to keep them from dicriminating but lawyers, and large law firms in larger cities eapecially, feel they are exempt from all of this. They will expect a level of commitment from you that you will just not be able to deliver with children waiting for you at home. I agree with Megan who suggested a smaller firm or partnership or work as in-house counsel or with the government. I am a state employee and have found the hours much more reasonable and flexible and the people more amenable to a working mother/lawyer. And I have been happy in my career choice, for me and my family. I really hate that my chosen profession is so hostile toward working mothers, but the bottom line is that practicing law is one of the least forgiving and flexible careers a working mother can have. I wish you luck!

  34. DawnK Feb 11 at 11:31 am Reply Reply

    As a working mother/lawyer I have to chime in here and say that law is one of the least forgiving and flexible careers for a working mother. Especially large firms in larger cities. I agree with Megan that it works much better in smaller cities with smaller firms and partnerships. In house counsel positions and government positions will give you much more flexibility. I am a state employee and have worked in law for 21 years. I have two teenage daughters and I have enjoyed my career in state government. It has afforded me better hours and flexibilty. I hate that my chosen profession is so unforgiving toward working mothers, but I have no regrets about the path I have chosen. Good luck!

  35. Maggie Feb 11 at 12:52 pm Reply Reply

    I will second the flexible work schedule. So important. I work for a major university that allows me to work 80% and still get full benefits, I can pretty much make my own schedule and they are very understanding about time off for sick kids. Working from home with little ones is difficult. My kids are 5 and 9and I can barely get a chance to check email (and update my facebook status) before they need something from me and they are wayyyy less needy now than a few years ago. Good luck!

  36. christina Feb 13 at 9:07 pm Reply Reply

    Well, I have to disagree with the name withheld who maintains that one will never regret staying home…uhh, I could easily give you 2 dozen women’s names who definitely regret their choice to stay home and not continue working in some capacity. These women span the generation of my mom’s friends to mine, and in between. Maybe you told yourself that only a mom could take care of a baby well to justify what worked for you…but really, there’s no need to push that on anyone else. As for me, I work in consulting and it’s not easy, but it’s doable. There’s no such thing as a typical day, or a 9-5:00, and I work 50-60 hours, but with a great nanny we’re making it work. Best of luck to you

  37. Beth Feb 13 at 11:45 pm Reply Reply

    I am a lawyer who is currently staying home with two boys. I worked for 4 years and then decided to stay home with the kids until they are off to kindergarten to ease the stress in my life. I am chiming in, like some of the fellow lawyer commenters, to agree that being a lawyer and a mom are extremely difficult. The culture of law firms is one that does not allow for personal time on any front. The lawyers I have seen advance are single women and men who work 60 or more hours a week. I worked at a firm where leaving before 6:30 pm was completely frowned upon, well, my kids go to bed at 8 pm, so this isn’t going to work. I agree that a government job or an in house position will allow you more flexibility and potentially a set amount of hours per week that is not completely unrealistic. Good luck with your new baby, the bar exam, and your upcoming career!

  38. Cebene Feb 18 at 12:17 pm Reply Reply

    Unfortunately, I am dealing with this situation right now, and it isn’t turning out how I expected or wanted it to. I’ve been with this company for over 15 years. For the first 12 of those years, I was single, could come in early, work late, be on call for nights and weekends, and pretty much devote my entire life to work. My career blossomed. I entered management at an early age. I was on the fast track to become the “heir” to our CFO (we are a small, private corp.). Then, my 1st child was born. I was given 6 weeks unpaid maternity leave, which I stretched into 8 weeks using my two weeks’ annual vacation. I then asked for, and received, a part time schedule which was wonderful! I worked mornings, 5 days a week, and my daycare was 5 minutes away. Suddenly, though, my boss pulled the plug on my part time schedule, said it wasn’t working, and asked me to return to full time. Having no choice financially, I did so. My second child came along last year. After another 6 weeks of maternity leave (but no vacation time, as I’d used it all up when my 1st child was sick), and the unexpected closing of my wonderful daycare (with a one week notice), we moved the boys to a daycare closer to our house, which costed $50 more per week. Suddenly, commute times were longer. I was struggling to make 40 hours. The boys were constantly sick, which meant I ran out of both sick leave and vacation time before the end of the year, and we could no longer financially handle the increased childcare expenses. Finally, my boss called me in a few weeks ago and gave me an ultimatum: either commit to 40 hours per week or leave. I chose to leave and will be staying home with my kids during the day and working either an evening work from home job or an overnight shift. While it hurt to leave the “family friendly” company I considered to be my extended family for so long, I know I’m ultimately making the right decision, and my stress levels are waaayyy down now. My husband and kids are happier, and in a couple of years, when the boys go to school all day, perhaps I’ll return to grad school myself, like I’ve always wanted to.

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