How I Learned to Let Myself Love My Career
When my girls were small, my days were often a struggle. I worked part time, attempting to maintain my career, while also managing things at home. My husband was a lawyer as well, and we chose together to have me spend more time with the kids, while he focused full time on his career. In retrospect, this was not a true choice for either of us; in 2000, it would have been a non-starter to switch roles. So, I took on the role of primary caregiver for a time—a choice comfortably in line with everyone’s expectations, including my own.
Where do these expectations come from? A hundred different directions. On one particularly difficult day, I was venting to my mother about how I felt torn between two spheres, and she said, “I know it’s hard, but you KNOW what is most important.” She meant well, but this was worse than unhelpful. It confirmed what I already knew: it is fine for a mother to be ambitious and committed to a career, as long she does it in her spare time.
Soon, though, my girls began to grow, and I wanted them to have different choices. I learned that there are many ways to be a wonderful mother, not all of which require being home after school or doing all the things my own mother did. And I learned to give up the overworked, underslept, beleaguered persona that I had acquired as a young lawyer with small children.
Even more critical, though, I stopped feeling disloyal to my family when I had a good day at the office, and I began to allow myself to love my work. This last piece—allowing ourselves to love our professional lives—is critical in combating the constraints of outdated expectations. I once heard a young woman say that senior women in my profession have failed their successors in a critical way: We talk openly about the “cons” of life in Big Law, but not enough about the “pros”—the satisfaction of doing good work, our relationships with clients, the spark of a vibrant workforce, financial success and independence, and the opportunity to make an impact in the world. This was wise advice. I strive every day to show the younger lawyers in my firm—and my own daughters—what it looks like to have and love a satisfying career.