Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Working Parents: Don't Be Ashamed to Ask For Help

It's not shameful to ask for help. But parents--moms in particular-- can find it so shameful to admit that parenting is hard work. They see the smiling moms, with their perfect jobs and coiffed hair raising three perfect kids, who make parenting and working look effortless.

Don't buy into that image. It's not always real.

Here's reality: When you're a working parent, it's hard enough to be in several places at once. If you're a lawyer and a mom, it's even harder. But this post isn't just for lawyer moms. It's for all working parents, as the struggle of balancing work and parenting is common.

When you're an attorney working at a firm, in house or operating your own practice, it's hard enough to be all things for all people.

Image from  Momsrising.org

But throw in kids into the mix and you've got a recipe for chaos.

It's a myth to say that humans are good at multitasking. We're not capable of multi-tasking. According to a recent study, only two percent of the human population can actually multitask effectively. What we've come to know as "multi-tasking" is actually the ability for a human to quickly change focus.

For a parent, it's even harder to "multi-task", yet, we've grown accustomed to switching focus at the snap of a finger. As a parent, at any given point of the day, your attention is split between your the task you are trying to accomplish and the need to care for your kids. Children are in some ways the most selfish of creatures. They don't care whether you are preoccupied or whether you have to meet a deadline. They don't care that you have hot oil on the stove. If they want something, they want it NOW.

Sounds like your legal client, doesn't it?

That's why the legal profession can be a particularly challenging one for a parent. You have people making quick demands and expecting fast turnaround all day, at all hours of the day. There's no "off" switch. There's no down time. When a legal client or a partner at your firm wants a task delivered, you must drop everything and deliver.

Many lawyers will opt to go in-house once they have kids, thinking that the removal of the billable hour might ease their deadlines and turnaround times. The in-house legal environment should theoretically be better. The attorney has only one client to represent-- the company. In practice, however, the in-house attorney's role is to be responsive to numerous internal clients, many of whom have critical multi-million dollar business deals to close in short time frames.

The reality is that if you're a working professional and a parent at the same time, it's hard to juggle the responsibilities of parenting and the demands of work.

Some people are fortunate to have parents or in-laws nearby to help. But for those people who aren't as fortunate, it's important to develop a network of close allies and friends who can help--you need good friends who can pick up your kids last minute from daycare if you're running late, share food with you, or even lend you a shoulder to cry on when the stress gets overwhelming. There's no shame in asking for help.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Shout Out to Mommy Lawyers This Mothers' Day

With Mothers' Day creeping up on us, I just had to put my thoughts down, especially after hearing about the riveting swearing in ceremony of a mommy lawyer in Maine.

Nancy Torresen from Maine was sworn in on Thursday as a U.S. District Court judge. In her thank you speech, she gave a shout out to her mother and to her mother in law for helping her with meals and other mommy duties as she sought success in her career.

It's not easy for a woman to rise the ranks in the legal profession. It's even harder for a female lawyer to crack the judiciary. As much as we like to believe that the playing field is equal, it's not. Sure, we've come a long way, but in many cases, women are still far behind when it comes to partnership positions and to salary parity at the large firms.

Part of that is because while many women do have helpful hubbies, many of the duties of parenthood rest squarely on the shoulders of the mom. Pregnancy is one of those non-delegable duties.

Being a lawyer and a mommy is hard work.

No mommy lawyer can do it without help.

Nancy Torresen is the first female in Maine to hold the position of federal district judge.

There were many prominent female jurists in attendance at her ceremony and she recognized their contribution to the legal profession, hailing many of them as her inspiration.

So, in this week before Mothers' Day, here's a shout-out to mommy lawyers everywhere-- in BigLaw, as in-house counsel at corporations and to those managing their own practices.

Hats off to you all. Here's to the mommy lawyers and the difficult choices that many of them have to make.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Pregnant and Working: A Female Lawyer's Lament

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to start a new law job while pregnant?

Yep, that's right. Pregnant.

I had a little chat with some other female lawyers over the weekend. And interestingly, a male lawyer earlier today.

It's so damn hard to work while pregnant, let alone start a new job while pregnant. I've been struggling with this for months now, as I'm officially in my final trimester. The last time I was pregnant, I actually had to quit because I kept throwing up at work. That was a long time ago.

This time around, I can't say that the pregnancy is any better (in fact, it may even be a bit worse) but I am struggling to keep up with my work. It's like the pregnancy hormones take over and my mind turns to mush. I make silly mistakes. I have typos. I submit duplicates of the same document. I can't remember the names of other associates or paralegals.

And every day, all I can think about all day is frivolous Facebook gossip, whether Joshua will win on American Idol or anything else frivolous that I can bring  to the forefront of my mind.

It's driving  me mad.

Of course, let's not forget the fact that I still throw up at work. Even six months into my pregnancy.

Pregnancy sucks, but it sucks more when you're a lawyer and have to work in an industry that doesn't tolerate mistakes. 

Then, I had the chance to speak to a woman who started a new job at Google when she was five months pregnant. In addition to forever being labeled as "the pregnant girl," she claims that she had a very hard time taking on a new job when pregnant. She said she was lucky that they attributed it to "ramping up" at a new job, so mistakes were expected.

A male lawyer I talked to today told me that his wife was expecting and was currently six months pregnant. While she's not a lawyer, he's a partner at a firm and told me that  he has to come home every day and manage household responsibilities, since she's wiped.

Wiped out. Doesn't that sound familiar?

I come home and I can barely keep my head up. Two weeks ago, I asked that the TV be moved to the bedroom. Now, all I do is come home, change into my PJs and sit in front of the TV, soaking in whatever useless crap is on television.

The best advice I was given was to shut off any distractions (such as my Facebook iPhone app) and to get to bed early.

That's easier said than done, since I already have one kid who refuses to sleep before 10 p.m.

Oh well, another two months to go and I take leave.