I am a mother, a wife, and full time attorney. As a teenager/ college / law student, I have read about, known and observed numerous women who were mothers, wives, and amazing professionals. These women seemed to juggle all three roles with relative ease. I was taught in school that women could “have it all.” I observed women who seemed to “have it all.” As I pursued my career and personal life, my goal was to be that woman – the husband, the home, the beautiful children and the career.
My plan was going well – I started practicing law, got married, and had a beautiful son two years later. As I held my son during those first few weeks, I realized that my life would never be the same. My former life and “plan” that was so important, the clients, the deadlines, sleep and regular showers – all went by the wayside. As my maternity leave drew to a close I began to panic. I had emotional conversations with my husband about what I should do – quit and stay home?
My thoughts were a constant struggle of, how could I possibly leave my beautiful child with someone else while I went to work? How selfish could I be? I don’t “need” to work! On the other hand, most days I loved my job and enjoyed the sense of purpose and identity it provided me. If I quit and stayed home, who would I be? What if I became dissatisfied and unhappy at home? Why didn’t anyone tell me about the guilt and constant indecision that came along with the cuddly bundle of baby-ness sleeping (occasionally) peacefully in his nursery?
In the end I went back to work after we hired a wonderful sitter/nanny to care for our lovingly dubbed “tyrant.” I occasionally had days where I had horrible guilt about my choices, but overall, thanks to my job allowing flexibility, I thought I had achieved balance between the three roles in my life.
As the months went by, I actually started to inwardly congratulate myself – maybe this having it all wasn’t going to be as hard or guilt-ridden as I had imagined or experienced. Sure, I got up most days between 4:30-5:00 a.m. to work, sure I didn’t work out as much as I wanted, sure my house looked like toys r us had exploded in the living room, and maybe I told my partners “no” to new projects or cases a few too many times, but I still felt I could have it all – had it all in fact.
When the tyrant was about 10 months old, the reality that most working women do not talk about set in. I received a forward from my husband. It was a picture of our son, at Chuck E. Cheese, for the first time. Our sitter had taken him there on an outing. I was furious and heartbroken all at once. Our sitter had destroyed a “first” for me. I cried for hours (looking back it was probably a bit of an overreaction as my son has no recollection of the event). This incident was the first in many to come, not just with our son but with my life in general.
My “having it all” interferes with every facet of my life – there are days where we eat chicken nuggets for dinner because I didn’t have time or energy to fix dinner. I’ve missed many firsts with our son, I don’t clean my house, I’m not the “constantly available to work” person at my firm, and I’m in bed most nights by 9:30 because I’m exhausted.
Right before our son turned 2, all of my roles, all of my attempts to “have it all” finally caught up with me and I had a pseudo breakdown with my very supportive, very wonderful husband. I felt that I was failing at every role – absent wife, occasional mother, and distracted attorney. My husband turned to me and said something that I’ll never forget. He said, “Christie, you can’t have it all – you can’t do it all. There are only 24 hours in a day and something has to give.”
At first I was shocked, angry, and even briefly considered that my man had slipped back into the 1920s. But after I started to think about it, I realized he was completely right. I can’t work a full time job and also expect to be the mom who has dinner on the table each night, with a spotless house, who experiences every first of her child, while staying up each night to hang out with the spouse.
The reason I share this incident and my life is not to discourage mothers from working, in fact it is the complete opposite. After I had this conversation with my husband, I started to implement this “you can’t do and have it all” concept in my life. It was and continues to be amazing, because it freed me to be okay with the choice to work and have a family.
As I continue to look back over the last two years, I wish that I had come to this realization sooner, that women who choose to work had been more honest about the reality of their lives. I don’t beat myself up when I have to tell a partner, “No, I can’t be at that hearing tomorrow because I’m scheduled to take my child to his story time at the library,” or when we eat corn dogs for dinner two nights in a row. Yes, I am going to miss some of my son’s “firsts,” but it in turn makes me appreciate every second I do spend with him (not including this recent bout with the terrible twos). It doesn’t mean I don’t stop trying to be the best mom, best wife and best attorney out there. It simply means I understand and accept that when real life gets in the way, it’s okay to not have and do it all.
Christie spends most of her days in courtroom(s) arguing for a living (generally in Waco Texas). She strongly believes her profession has helped greatly in her marriage to a wonderfully sweet and genius attorney/professor husband (he begs to differ). Christie also finds her livelihood beneficial in parenting her sweet but oh so tyrannical two year old son. She’s not sure what is going to help her in July when they welcome their second son into our household which also consists of two dogs and a cat named Toto. Christie’s days consist of desperately but happily trying to juggle all her roles, usually with not a great outcome. However, she’s come to realize that despite her failures and the stress of life, at the end of the day she wouldn’t want it any other way. Christie loves reading life stories from moms, both stay-at-home and working, if for no other reason than it makes her realize she’s not alone as a mom/wife/professional.