No Stereotypes for My Daughters—or Yours

I describe how people approach responsibility in terms of opening dresser drawers. Some open one drawer, grab what they need, then close the drawer and move on—the compartmentalized approach. Others, like me and many women I know, like to open all the drawers, flinging out every item and considering every possibility.

I am not shy about wanting to have it all. I enjoy picking up new activities and juggling responsibilities, from the office to the home. My goal and constant challenge is achieving harmony. I know many consider work-life balance to be the ultimate goal, but to me, that implies allotting equal time, and as a result, the two are inherently in conflict.

I try to look for harmony rather than balance. Some days, that means all of my attention is on my work; on other days, I try to stay away from email and am immersed in family, friends, and personal life. I trust that, even with so many drawers open, all of the roles I play come together and I find fulfillment that way.

Even with my proclivity for taking on new responsibilities, my time is limited. Choosing to do a lot means you won’t always finish what you choose to do. These are lessons I’m beginning to accept, as I learn that a crucial element of having it all is embracing imperfection. I wish I had received that advice as a first-year associate, and I try to share it with colleagues (women or men) now. We need to learn from imperfect situations and recalibrate our expectations to reach a true state of harmony.

Of course, guilt still arises from societal expectations of working parents and undoubtedly more so of mothers. My youngest daughter’s birthday overlaps with a big annual firm meeting that I attend, so we often arrange her celebrations for earlier or later. It’s a solution that isn’t always perfect, but has worked for us.

When my daughters were younger, we discussed the topic of stay-at-home moms. One asked, “Why do you work?” I answered truthfully that I love meeting interesting people and engaging with complex ideas, and I enjoy the stimulation.

As my daughters were growing up, they loved coming to the office. Over time, they have seen the other side of their mom’s life, as well as their dad’s—also a lawyer. My hope is that by observing us, both as parents and as professionals, my children will be ready for all the opportunities available to them and challenges that lie ahead, and know that there are not societal stereotypes they must fit into.