My Shingle

4 p.m. – Another Reason that I Love Solo Practice

by Carolyn Elefant on August 31, 2005 · 11 comments

in MyShingle Solo, Work/Life Balance & Women

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At four p.m., my workday ends , at least until late at night.  Four p.m. is when I leave the house to pick up my daughters, nearly 6 and 9 from the bus stop around the corner.  I walk them home and we talk about their day.  The older one generally blurts out a million events a mile a minute while the younger one needs a little more prodding.  Some days they’re grouchy or tired and don’t say much; some days they’re angry that I didn’t bring the car or cook the dinner that they wanted.

I have my own practice so that four pm is mine.  Sure, there are days every so often when I’m delayed downtown or have a lengthy deposition where my husband or mom have to step in for pick up instead.  But in general, the four p.m. deadline is etched in stone, it’s one of those aspects of my practice (probably the only one!) that I’m committed to not compromising. And because I’m committed, I’ve been able to make it happen.

Four p.m. until 8:30 when my daughters go to bed is a fairly long
time, long
enough for them to get bored if they don’t have an after school lesson
that day or for me to get tired shuttling them around if they do.  Long
enough that much of our time
together is quantity time rather than quality time with all kinds of creative activities programmed in.   Long enough to sometimes even make me wonder
whether at their age, I even need to be home for them at all.   But
then I remember that the reason that 4 pm is so important isn’t because
my girls need me every day, because they don’t.  Rather, it’s for that
one day every so often that they might want to confide about a bully or
a friend who was mean or a teacher who was unfair and if I’m not there
on standby everyday, I’ll miss out when they need me most.

Do you have your own four pm in your life, an uncompromisable
commitment that you abide no matter the cost?  And if you don’t, why
not?

  • Me

    Your children learn from you when you least expect it. The time and dedication to your children is the best investment you can make. Your priorities set a great example for working mothers. Well done!

  • Me

    Your children learn from you when you least expect it. The time and dedication to your children is the best investment you can make. Your priorities set a great example for working mothers. Well done!

  • http://www.popgadget.net Hoyun Kim

    I was a solo practitioner until recently, when I started an internet business. My reasons for doing both are the same – I’m a single parent and feel the need to be available to my daughter on a moment’s notice. Now that she’s a teenager, I can go for hours without hearing or seeing her even when we’re under the same roof. But when she does need me, the emotional urgency of that need is something I can’t imagine leaving in the hands of another person or to an empty house. There was a time when I thought I could go back to my “normal career” once my kid was able to navigate her own way to school and pour her own cereal, but now that college is just around the corner, I’m even less inclined to go back to my old corporate life. I agree that quantity time (being on “standby” as you call it) is just as important as quality time. My daughter feels differently when I’m just around, feels taken care of emotionally, even if she isn’t in the mood to interact. So, I actually work more hours scattered through the weekdays and weekends than I used to in a law firm, but I choose which hours to work and when I can drop everything.

  • http://www.popgadget.net Hoyun Kim

    I was a solo practitioner until recently, when I started an internet business. My reasons for doing both are the same – I’m a single parent and feel the need to be available to my daughter on a moment’s notice. Now that she’s a teenager, I can go for hours without hearing or seeing her even when we’re under the same roof. But when she does need me, the emotional urgency of that need is something I can’t imagine leaving in the hands of another person or to an empty house. There was a time when I thought I could go back to my “normal career” once my kid was able to navigate her own way to school and pour her own cereal, but now that college is just around the corner, I’m even less inclined to go back to my old corporate life. I agree that quantity time (being on “standby” as you call it) is just as important as quality time. My daughter feels differently when I’m just around, feels taken care of emotionally, even if she isn’t in the mood to interact. So, I actually work more hours scattered through the weekdays and weekends than I used to in a law firm, but I choose which hours to work and when I can drop everything.

  • http://legalblogwatch.typepad.com/legal_blog_watch/2005/09/4pm_and_the_sch.html Inside Opinions: Legal Blogs

    4 p.m., and the school bell’s ringing

    Carolyn Elefant stops work every day at 4 p.m. to pick up her daughters, who get her full attention until their 8:30 p.m. bedtime. Do you need a better reason to go solo?

  • http://legalblogwatch.typepad.com/legal_blog_watch/2005/09/4pm_and_the_sch.html Inside Opinions: Legal Blogs

    4 p.m., and the school bell’s ringing

    Carolyn Elefant stops work every day at 4 p.m. to pick up her daughters, who get her full attention until their 8:30 p.m. bedtime. Do you need a better reason to go solo?

  • http://blaggle.blogspot.com Aggle

    Hear, hear!
    When my first daughter was born, halfway through my second year of law school, I immediately decided that I was going to be a “Father who happens to be a lawyer, instead of a lawyer who happens to have kids.”

  • http://blaggle.blogspot.com Aggle

    Hear, hear!
    When my first daughter was born, halfway through my second year of law school, I immediately decided that I was going to be a “Father who happens to be a lawyer, instead of a lawyer who happens to have kids.”

  • Mena

    I am expecting my second child this fall after having my first during my 3rd year of law school. I am now realizing that I cannot continue working for a firm and will have to go on my own. My daughter needs me more than ever (she is 2) and this new baby will need me just as much, if not more. Any advice?

  • Mena

    I am expecting my second child this fall after having my first during my 3rd year of law school. I am now realizing that I cannot continue working for a firm and will have to go on my own. My daughter needs me more than ever (she is 2) and this new baby will need me just as much, if not more. Any advice?

  • LabrecqueL

    Mena,

    I went solo after only 3 or 4 years working for others, because I too wanted to have children and a flexible schedule. I had my first child, a girl, and went back to my office 7 days after a ceasarean operation. She was in care by her 3rd month of life, with a series of dayhomes, daycare, individuals. All inadequate compared to me, but I thought I was doing it for my children too, esp. if I could earn a good income. As I was committed to nursing, I endured unbelievable sleep deprivation, high stress and financial pressures as I juggled both to everyone's amazement, and given my standard of expectation, not well enough for me. Then baby 2 was born 16 months later, and I changed my “flexible” 5 day a week solo practice to a “flexible” 3-5. 3.5 years later, and 4.5 years after I started my solo, I shut it down.

    It all seemed so important before. Now I see that I am not making a lot of money, and my idea of “keeping myself current” by working albeit not too profitably b/c I had to choose files that could accomodate my dual roles, I realized very recently that this endeavour in fact came at a greater cost to my children, then to me. It is they who smile and beg for more time to spend with me, and see me repeatedly place them in the care of others who are inevitably inferior quality caregivers compared to the mom, in order to complete my work mission. What is it all for? The precious 3.5 years I missed with my first child, and the 2 I missed with my second… I will never, ever get them back. And I know that if I am healthy, I have the “privilege” of proving myself all the way to 60 or 70 yearas old if I really, really want to.

    So I'm going to do the most with the time I have left with my children before they have no time for me, b/c of school. And the “clients” can replace me with a phone call. My children would never replace me. No one will do this job better than me.

    So that's my advice. Don't make them pay for you proving yourself. And they would rather have your presence then your money.

    - Laura

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