Wednesday, March 10, 2010

My New Life

Now I finally understand what people mean when they say that formerly foreign phrase, "I don't have time for facebook!" It used to shock me to my core that PEOPLE just didn't have time for FACEBOOK. I mean, Facebook soaked up like hours of my day at a time. It was the only way a lawstudent like myself could socialize- from afar and not in real time.

Well, NOW I know.

This has been a hard, busy and tiring week. And you get to hear all about it.

In some ways coming back feels just like I never left. I get my old office from the summer back. I'm still not quite a lawyer because I'm waiting on bar results so I get to do the same things I did as a summer associate. I know most of the people already so there aren't too many "getting to know the co-workers with small talk" awkward moments. In fact, the social part of work is AWESOME. My first summer I was so nervous and shy. Last summer I was more confident and didn't spend all my time hiding in my office. This year, I feel like quite the social butterflies and am very comfortable in my environment, it feels like an old shoe (except for remembering how to use the dang printer/copier/fax machine). Even annoying guy from the summer is already asking me to buy him coffee and calling me Pooky.

My first day was a little frustrating because my only project was to review and analyze invoices from co-counsel. UGH. It was horrible. The second day was pretty much the same. But today I was assigned three different discovery status reports to go out to our clients. I was also assigned a research project and the task of contacting another client and answering interrogatories. Oh and a Motion to Dismiss! This is more like it! I love working on tangible client deliverables and drafting pleadings! It was great to see the face of the associate who assigned me a status report when just 5 hours later I handed him my first draft- he was shocked and impressed that I had actually completed it the same day! That felt pretty darn good.

I love the partners. They are so friendly, personable, and approachable. I feel like they genuinely care about how I'm doing at the firm. They all have small children at home and they totally understand where the mommy in me is coming from when I show up to work. It feels great to have partners come into my office to give me assignments and end up staying fifteen minutes longer than expected because we are chatting it up about our kids (!).

There are only two frustrating things about work. (1) The famous BILLABLE HOUR. Sheesh. I'm so nervous about meeting my hours. I never had a problem working there over the summer but now that I'm salary I'm worried about slacking on meeting my daily requirements. (2) Learning how to practice law. I mean I feel heads above most first year associates that I know just because I know the very basics of business of insurance law practice already and I have two summers of experience. But there is still a steep learning curve when it comes to learning how to handle a case from start to finish- in that regards, I have MUCH to learn.

Finally, with the return to work comes the return of the Mommy Guilt. I leave the house at 7am and return at 7pm five days a week. That means I have about 1.5 hours each weekday to spend with my fast growing toddler. With Jacob, I'm so conflicted. I enjoy working and using my law degree but I feel guilty for not always being there. I feel like everyone but me is raising him. I worry that I am going to miss out on so much of his life. A heavy weight of guilt hits me each time I walk out the door in the morning. Why is working away from home so hard for mommies and not so hard for daddies (my husband never feels this guilty and conflicted, why do I have to? It's just so unfair)!


Gillian said...

Yeah . . . the guilt. I am so enjoying law school, because I get to spend so much time with my kid. It's way better than when I was working 60 hour weeks, and barely saw him! That was hard. I know one day law school will end, and I'm excited to be a lawyer, but . . . blech. I wish there were a more happy medium. 7-7 is such a long day. I feel ya.

Anonymous said...

The guilt: you should feel guilty. As I posted before, it is beyond me how people can have kids and then not want to stay at home with them. 1.5 hours per day!

Yes, you said you wanted to use your expensive education. But, it appears that most if not all of that lawschool expense was after you had the child. Why not a job that doesn't require 12 hour days?

Do I seem harsh. Of course. As a (soon to be) attorney, get used to it.

Anonymous said...

P.S. -- The fact that your husband feels no guilt says far more about him, than it does about you.

LL said...

I'm glad you're getting settled into your firm and are excited about being there. There's a definite feeling of pride that comes from finally getting to use your degree and provide for your family with the knowledge and credential you've worked so hard to earn.

As far as the guilt, there's not much people on the outside can do to help you with it. Though you can probably help yourself by deleting both of Anonymous's comments above me. I don't think hours are the only way to measure your success as a parent. I read somewhere that what children need most is unconditional love and firm boundaries. You can give those both to your children as a working parent. Going to daycare (or using whatever your childcare arrangement is) does not mean your son is less loved; in fact, I know with Landon daycare has meant that he's been blessed with more people in his life who love him. And he knows the boundaries- boundaries of acceptable behavior and the schedule of his day. He likes telling me on Sunday night ("church day") that he will wake up and go to "daycay" in the morning. He knows the schedule and doesn't think anything of it.

Keep doing your best and keep evaluating your options as you move along. There's nothing wrong with providing for your family and the idea that you must be with your kid every second after he or she is born is idiotic. More than half of the mothers in the US work, it's a fact of life and any guilt I feel about it is usually because someone else is trying to make me feel that way. My own kid is a happy, smart little ball of affection who thinks his life is pretty great!

Proto Attorney said...

STFU, Anonymous Hateful Bitch. If you don't even have the cahones to sign your name when you throw down, then you don't get to contribute to the conversation.

Cee, it will be a tough transition, but you will find a balance. It takes time to figure out what works, and what doesn't. Your commute sucks, but with the nature of your work, and with the sympathy of a family-oriented firm, maybe you'll be able to do some work from home. I'm trying to talk the boss into replacing our stone age dictaphones with digital ones with internet upload capability. Between that, my iPhone, the Westlaw account and wireless internet and remote network access, I'm setting myself up for that option in the future.

It sucks though spending that much time away from your family, I definitely know the feeling. Spending two nights away from my kid really makes me sympathetic to the divorcing parents who have to be away from their kids so much. Feeling bad that you don't get to spend as much time with Jacob because *you're* missing out is one thing, but don't feel guilty that you aren't being a good mom, because you are. Jacob is a happy, healthy baby, with two parents who love him and love each other. He is living a significantly better and happier life than most kids. Working in family law reminds me of that every single day.

Downsized Attorney said...

Wow, the things people say on the internet when they are "anonymous" and know there are no consequences for the hurtful things they say.

Moving on, welcome into the legal profession world. I don't have a family so I'm not sure what the say about the guilt. I did want to lament with you about the long commute. Spending a long day in the office billing hours and then traveling over an hour to get home just sucks. I currently work about an hour away from my office. Nothing sucks more than having to work until 8 or 9 at night and then have to drive home when it's pitch black outside. I try to work from home a few days a week and that helps. I'm sure you can find a way to make it work for you.

LEO said...

Wow, I'm sorry I didn't join this party earlier. I think most people in your position Cee know exactly how you feel. And ignorant comments like those from Anonymous reveal part of the problem... hypocrisy, especially among women. Mothers must want to stay home with their kids if they choose to have them, but fathers spend all day away from home and no one bats an eyelash. So should people only have children if they have enough money to never work again? If that's not what Anon meant, then why is there a difference between the expectations for men and women?

Personally, I think mommy guilt exists because women are split pretty evenly b/w working moms and stay at home moms. Most men work, period. The vast majority probably never even feel they have a choice about it. But women generally make a choice, and they are constantly reminded of the road not traveled because their neighbors, friends and relatives are all around them. If they're at all uncomfortable or regretful about what they decided, their insecurities cause them to preemptively belittle other women who chose a different path. Many moms I know are constantly comparing themselves and their kids to each other, putting down those different from them and trying to overcompensate for things they can't change. It's hard to always feel like you're doing everything perfectly and making the "right" choices because it's a really hard decision to make, but you just have to make the best of the life you've chosen for your family, know that it will work out if you work at it, and be open to change things up if you need to at some point along the way.
And it helps to ignore comments from people who are just out to make you feel worse about yourself. Surround yourself with support and with people who want to see you succeed.

Allison said...

There was just a fantastic study done (or maybe I saw it on PBS) about how the quantity of time with your young children matters much less to their healthy feeling of self and security than the quality of time you spend with them. If you are able to totally focus on him for the time you are home, I think he's going to be a very lucky boy!

I think that what most people think when they read comments like Anonymous's is that she is jealous or insecure about her own choices. Otherwise, why would you care if someone else has kids and then wants to work? To each her own.

Your job is not a suicide pact. If it doesn't end up working for you or your family, you can get a different one!

Cecilia said...

LEO is spot on re: men just work, and that's how it is. There's a Jeff Foxworthy skit that is spot on: women have all these option (WOHM, SAHM, WAHM, etc, etc, part-time, flex-time, etc etc), versus men have two options: employment, and incarceration! simplified, but true! it can be hard in itself to think of everything as a choice.

good luck, Cee, you're doing great.

Portia said...

Congratulations on settling in, Cee. It sounds like you're getting going right away, and that's awesome.

I'm sorry you're being berated for choices you made, but I agree with the others; you're doing a great job from what I can see. Your son is loved immensely and that's what matters!

The guilt thing is hard. Really hard. I've been in practice now for a year and a half and it's still hard for me. But as someone said, it's about quality time, giving 100% of your attention to your child for some bit of the day, making sure he knows he is loved and secure. And for me, knowing that I am doing that, giving her my undivided attention when I'm with her, and knowing that I'm supporting my family, providing a good life for my daughter, alleviates some of the guilt.

But I also agree with CM (on the other tread, I think...) that guilt is a good tool to remind us to prioritize every so often.