Sunday, November 15, 2009

Redefining Myself

This is the post that has been stewing for awhile. I am constantly struggling in my head to 'define myself' both as a lawyer and as a mother and as a wife and as a person. Mostly, lately, its the career part that has had me so confused. Before Sammie B, I was the kind of young associate determined to kick ass at what she did, determined to get good assignments, challenging ones, and rise to each and every challenge so that I impressed the hell out of the partners I worked for. I was the kind of associate that wanted to be partner; not the kind that just wanted the big firm paycheck.

But after Sammie, EVERYTHING changed. And after we started the early intervention program with her, I truly felt like my world was upside down. Its been VERY hard for me to have a nanny taking her to many of her PT appointments and the person that spends the majority of her waking hours with her. Somedays, I just wanted to RUN from my career so that I could be that person. The one that gets to spend her entire day with Sammie B.

Work became something I HAD to do, rather than something I chose for myself. I found myself content with the less-challenging assignments, because those I could get done and get home. I never felt on top of my lawyer game. And, on top of that, I felt like I was constantly rushing to be at one of Sammie B's appointments, or feeling like I should be working with her when we were instead out running errands, or whatever. There was little time that was just solely "mama & bean time." B is off every Friday, so those are Daddy-Bean days, but I didn't get MY Bean days.

So, after a whole lot of struggling and soul-searching and a ton of talks with Brian, I made a change. I proposed an alternative work schedule at work, a reduced work load, and it has been approved. Now, in lawyer-world, particularly in big firm land, a "reduced work load" by no means is "part-time." I'll still work 40+ hours a week; but with a little more freedom. Basically, at the end of the year, I'm responsible for less billable hours, and I took a paycut. My plan is that I will not be in the office on Tuesdays, but instead will work from home, and a shorter day. In the afternoons, Sammie B and I will attend a mommy & me group at the place where she does OT. Our Tuesday afternoons will not be about "working" together or running errands . . . those afternoons are solely for me and my Bean to have FUN together.

In law firms, these schedules don't work out for everyone, and require a great deal of flexibility, but I'm going in eyes wide open and optimistic that it will work out. The partners I work for have been incredibly supportive. Many have warned me about the risk of going on a reduced schedule with a reduced salary and still working 100% of the hours. Honestly, I feel like if that happens, it happens. At least then I'll be an overachiever, and not feel like I'm always just barely doing enough.

I also spent last week with my friend from law school and we talked a lot about our careers, and I realized something . . . When I talk about work, I sound so much less excited about what I'm doing than I used to. I remember a year and a half ago, when my father-in-law was in the process of applying for a patent, and I'd just come home from a month-long patent trial. I was so excited to talk nerdy patent law with him. So, after this week in Texas, I realized . . . I'm way too young in my career to feel apathetic about it. And, I DO still have the desire to be a superstar. And, I'm determined to prove that it's possible to be the kind of associate I want to be, on a modified schedule, while still being "mom" (because at the end of the day, that's still the MOST important thing to me). I want to feel challenged at work, I just also want to feel like I'm succeeding in the family part of my life too. Hopefully, this small window of freedom (and my Tuesday afternoons) will help me balance it all a little better.

Since I got back from the short vacation, I've volunteered to write a big brief in one of my cases. Yes, it has had me a little stressed, and it is challenging, but it feels good. I've been pouring through the case law, getting up to speed on both the substantive issues and the facts, and I've found that my days at work are flying by. I found myself washing my face for bed the other night, standing next to B at the bathroom sink, and telling him about work, excited about my project. It feels good.

Hopefully, the reduced schedule allows me to return to my old kick-ass associate self; while being the kind of mama I'm also determined to be.

Here's to optimism! (Who knew . . . sometimes even MY glass is half-full!).


Sarah said...

Hey Allison! I really hope your new work schedule works out for you. I hope it meets your expectations and is something wonderful for you and Sammie! I know you've struggled with this for awhile, so I'll be praying everything works out for you! Good luck!! And ENJOY your Tuesdays! They sound wonderful!!

Anonymous said...

An associate on a reduced schedule at my old law firm told me that while she worked worked/billed more than was required of her, full time attorneys worked/billed more than required of them, so she did end up working less once she went on th reduced schedule. Hopefully that will be the case for you. But yes, it is a weird system where you have to work reduced to just work regular, 40 hour work weeks. That's the law firm world, I guess. Good luck!