Monday, September 27, 2010

on realizations.

hello, blogworld.  i have been thinking about writing this entry for awhile, but each time, thought better of it.  perhaps it's because if i actually type the words, it makes them real.  and true.  and then i can't take them back, or pretend that they're not my reality.  in the interest of keeping it real, however, i've decided to forge ahead.

last week was my very first jury trial.  it was alternately the scariest, most exhilarating time in my career.  i worked harder than ever before, and for longer hours than i thought were possible.  it was challenging and frightening and exciting and nervewracking, and at the end of it all, i was exhausted.  exhausted, but i accomplished something.  it was a great opportunity for me, and i am really pleased with the way it turned out.  i am proud of the work i did for the client, and i am proud that my colleagues saw that, too.

after the trial was over, i was speaking with the judge, and i happened to mention that this was my first jury trial.  he was surprised, and then said that i was pretty lucky to have gotten to try a case by myself so early on in my career.  i knew that, and made sure to remember that each time i felt like i couldn't look through another deposition or each time i felt like i was going to fall asleep on my closing argument outline.  this is what i wanted to do.  and i am doing it.

when the trial was over, i decided that i could stop neglecting my husband and spend some time with him.  because of the way the final day had gone, i had had a banana for lunch and was so hungry i was about to knaw on my sausage-like fingers, so instead of waiting at some fancy restaurant, we decided to meet at culver's.  (very classy, i admit, but shut up... they have amazing chicken salad)  as we were sitting there, i started reflecting on the week and the trial gone by and i finally allowed myself to think about THE THING that i had been avoiding thinking about since this trial prep began.

i can't have it all.  i CANNOT have it all.  I CANNOT HAVE IT ALL.

when i first began law school, i had these visions of myself wearing a perfectly tailored suit, every hair in its place, my nails manicured, my legs demurely crossed, juggling a baby in one hand and a trial brief in the other.  and i thought, "of course this is possible!"  i can do this.  i can be the one person who has the perfect career and is the perfect mom.  i can be the martha stewart meets marsha clark, and everyone can marvel at how well i'm managing both.  i can show up to court, and wow the judge with brilliantly reasoned arguments, then run up to my kid's school with homemade cookies i made "just because."  i mean, i'm a good multi-tasker.  in law school, i always took a full course load, worked 20-30 hours a week, wrote for law journal and planned a wedding.  so, i mean, yeah, this career mom thing?  i can totally do that.  no problem, easy peezy.

except that it's not.  i cannot have it all in the way i thought i could.  i can have some version of "it," but "it's" not going to look like i thought it was.  i might be wearing a tailored suit, but it's probably going to have some baby spit up on the sleeve.  and homemade cookies?  john's going to have to make them, or we're going to have to head to wal-mart for those sinfully delish "better than sex" variety.  saying, or rather typing this, makes me feel like a failure.  like i'm giving up on something.  i can't help but feel like that.  because throughout my whole life, i've always been good at juggling all the balls, or, as tim gunn would say, "making it work."  but it's time for a cold, hard reality check.  i'm going to be someone's mother in 6ish weeks.  and the reality of what that means, and how that will change my life and my career is starting to set in.

i don't know what i would have done if i had had to come home to a baby last week.  i asked two of the partners at my firm what they did when they had jury trials and young kids at home.  without hesitation, their answers were, "my wife took care of it, and i just made sure not to leave the office til the kids were asleep."  and this was okay with them.  it has to be okay with me.  i have to be okay with letting john pick up the slack in these situations.  it's not that he won't do it well.  this is my own struggle.  to let him take charge of the things that i would rather be doing.

it was easy enough to ignore john the past couple weeks.  and i don't mean that tongue-in-cheek.  while i felt bad about the hours i was working, i knew he understood, and he's an adult... it's not like he can't entertain himself while i'm engrossed in my work upstairs.  but to ignore a baby?  what if the baby doesn't get it?  what if the baby just feels neglected?  what if the baby grows up thinking that his mom chose work over him?  what if the the baby is grown, reflecting on his childhood, and he thinks, "yeah, my mom was a good lawyer, but i wish she had spent more time with me instead of working."  i. would. just. die.

these are the kinds of things that i lay awake at night wondering about.  i'm not thinking about getting through labor or managing breastfeeding.  i'm thinking 20 years down the road... will i have made all the right decisions?  will my kids understand why i chose the way i did?  will they appreciate the choices i made?  they're the jury i'm most worried about.

i've grown up in a time when i can honestly say (with the exception of a few ignorant comments by a few ignorant individuals), i've never been faced with sexism.  my parents always made sure i knew i could pursue any career path i wanted.  that they would support me whether i wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer or a teacher or a stay-at-home mom.  i remember coming home from college on one of my breaks, talking with my dad about something, and we got to discussing the value of education.  and he was explaining that education is so much more than just a piece of paper, that the experiences i was having and the people i was meeting were just as important as the classes i was taking, and that, if after i graduated from college, got married and started a family, i wanted to stay at home and raise my kids, neither he nor my mom would be upset or disappointed or feel like i was "wasting" my college education.  i remember scoffing at the idea.  me?  a stay-at-home mom?  i was going to new york city, and i was going to live in some high rise apartment.  i was destined to be some powerful litigator, working 90 hour weeks, commanding an impressive salary that i was just too damn busy to spend.  well, fast forward a few years, and that's not exactly the life i'm leading.  my point is, i was taught to dream big, and i did.  i set goals and i accomplished them.  and that's something to be celebrated.  but in the midst of celebrating, no one stopped me to say, accomplishments lead to big middle-of-the-night dilemmas.  would it have stopped me from setting the goals i did?  i doubt it.  would it have changed the career path i was on?  not likely.  i'm just recognizing that on the way to getting to where i am, i never really stopped to wonder how it was all going to come together.

i guess i thought i'd work like my dad did, but still get to have the relationships with my kids that my stay-at-home mom has.  but, i realize now, i can't have it all.  i'm not always going to be there the way my mom was for me and my brothers and sisters.  it seems simple enough to say, even think, even type.  but when i start to really ponder about what that means, it makes me want to cry.  i am not going to be the one who's there when my kids get home from school.  i won't get to hear about their days the minute they come charging in the door.  i am not going to be the one who gets the phone call that they're coming home sick, and i have to take the day to comfort them.  maybe i won't be the one they call out for in the middle of the night.  don't get me wrong.  i am so lucky that john is able to be home.  and i am so glad he will share a special relationship with our baby that a lot of fathers don't get to have.  but the flip side of that is... i don't get that.  i'm giving it up.  and i HAVE to be okay with that.

i can spend my time regretting my choices and hating where i'm at.  and if i choose that route, i'll suck at work AND at home.  i have to accept and embrace my situation.  afterall, i've paid a lot of lip service to our impending arrangement when asked about it by family and friends.  "oh i think it's going to be great to have john home" or "john's going to take care of this and this and this and this, and i'm going to work."  when it comes to implementing the plan, though, how the hell does anyone know if it's going to pan out the way we're thinking it will?  what if this is a big flop and i can't handle it?  what if i can't deal with missing my baby?  what if i get jealous and resent the fact that john gets to spend his days with our son while i'm at work?

i usually refuse to consider these options.  i tell myself that the decision's been made.  it's a decision we've discussed and planned for countless times, so damn it, there's no reason to rehash it.  but when i do let myself consider it for a minute, i am flooded with a barrage of questions that don't seem to stop.  what if? what if?  what if?  WHAT IF?

i don't know how to answer any of these questions.  i don't know that anyone can answer them... today, tomorrow, or ten years down the line.  maybe the answers don't come until the babies are raised, happily embarking on new adventures with their own families, and john and i are sitting in some quaint cafe in europe, retired and reflecting on the fact that we done good.  at least i hope that's where this is headed.  because the other option... that i spend the next 20 years second guessing every step of this journey... is just too overwhelming to accept right now.

i have admitted to myself, you guys and everyone else who knows me that i am, indeed, a worrier.  i like to have a plan and i like that plan to be set in stone months before it ever needs to be implemented.  so maybe you can write this blog entry off as the fault of an anxious mind of a lady that's a little tired of being so pregnant.  maybe that's not so far off.  but, in the event you can relate or offer some reassurance, that would also be much appreciated.


  1. Stephanie,

    This was a great read. Don't let anyone convince you that you can't do it all. I can't believe the baby is only 6 weeks away!

  2. i. LOVE. your. mind.

    Steph, you are incredible. You are such an inspiration to me. If I could do half of what you're doing, I probably wouldn't have these same feelings that you're having with my own life. Not that life is a competition, but if it was, you would be winning. I think that makes sense...hopefully you get what I'm saying.

    I have been having many similar feelings lately, but to a "piddlier" degree: I feel like a bum because our deck STILL isn't stained after two years (and now it's too cold, so we'll have to wait til next year...forgive us, neighbors!), I felt like a terrible homekeeper today after I realized just how disgusting our windows/frames/sills are when I was tucking away the screens and pulling down the storm windows, I feel bad when I see my breadmaker still in its plastic even though I would love to be the baking and homemade-jellying type, and I feel like a failure everytime we have the "what's for dinner?" conversation that usually ends with some kind of convenience food. Just remember you're not alone, and that lots of people (like me), think you're the bees knees.