My Shingle

This One’s For All of You “Neglectful” Moms, Trying to Strike a Balance

by Carolyn Elefant on March 2, 2007 · 13 comments

in MyShingle Solo, Work/Life Balance & Women

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Just when I thought that I’d probably found the right formula to work-life balance, I discovered that I’m really nothing more than a neglectful mom.  I spent much of yesterday pushing to prepare a motion already a few days overdue to the client because of more pressing deadlines earlier in the week.  Since my daughters have an afterschool activity on Friday, I could work a little bit past my usual 4:15 stopping point before picking them up.  Even so, I still couldn’t finish, so I stopped work and went tearing through rush hour traffic up to the school, about twenty minutes behind schedule.  When I arrived, the school’s security guard greeted me at the door and asked “Is there something wrong?  I see these poor girls left here all the time.”  As I opened my mouth to respond, all kinds of thoughts raced through my mind.  I thought of my messy house, the nights that I worked on my computer with my daughters working along side me, the school events that I couldn’t chaperone because I only have 6-7 real work hours to finish everything.  And my heart sank, because I felt that despite my best efforts to run a law firm and be home for my daughters after school, that I was failing, badly.

Before I could open my mouth however, my ten year old daughter responded for me.  “My mom’s not always late,” she said.  “She was supposed to be late on Tuesday because she had work but she came on time.  She was only really late once before, a few weeks ago.”  The parent part of me wanted to reprimand my daughter for speaking rudely to an adult (which I did, albeit gently), but inside, I felt so proud that my daughter had stood up for me.  And at that point I realized that maybe this work-life balance thing was working after all.

So this post is for all of you who are struggling to keep it together, for wondering whether what you’re doing even matters or whether you’re giving both work and your kids short shrift, for feeling embarrassed about a messy house or ten minute dinners.  Keep it up, it makes a difference.

  • http://basquette.wordpress.com basquette

    I so needed to read this today.

  • http://basquette.wordpress.com basquette

    I so needed to read this today.

  • http://www.questionoflaw.net Lisa Solomon

    We’re all in the same boat. I think I’ve forgotten my preschool-age son’s Show and Tell item 2 or 3 times this school year. When the Show and Tell theme is “an item from Mommy’s purse,” we’ll be rockin’!

  • http://www.questionoflaw.net Lisa Solomon

    We’re all in the same boat. I think I’ve forgotten my preschool-age son’s Show and Tell item 2 or 3 times this school year. When the Show and Tell theme is “an item from Mommy’s purse,” we’ll be rockin’!

  • Lynette Whitfield

    Fabulous post. I have a 13 year old at home and have days like that, ten minute dinners, laundry that piles up, etc. How wonderful that your daughter was so quick to come to your defense. Sounds like she thinks its working just fine. Thanks for sharing that.

  • Lynette Whitfield

    Fabulous post. I have a 13 year old at home and have days like that, ten minute dinners, laundry that piles up, etc. How wonderful that your daughter was so quick to come to your defense. Sounds like she thinks its working just fine. Thanks for sharing that.

  • Amy

    i just quit my job as an associate a little over a month ago and am trying to go solo.
    So as to the house-what we do here, my husband, myself and 5 year old, we do 15 minute cleaning sprees every evening. And with the three of us working together, it is amazing what we can get done.
    See, our house was really trashed and then my brother called to say he was coming down to visit. Well, to clean up the house for his visit took all day. When he left, we thought, this looks nice, lets keep it up! So we’ve been doing the 15 minute a day thing, and the house has continued to look nice.
    Laundry?? well, we keep that in hampers stored in our bedrooms. At least that can stay out of sight, out of mind!

  • Amy

    i just quit my job as an associate a little over a month ago and am trying to go solo.
    So as to the house-what we do here, my husband, myself and 5 year old, we do 15 minute cleaning sprees every evening. And with the three of us working together, it is amazing what we can get done.
    See, our house was really trashed and then my brother called to say he was coming down to visit. Well, to clean up the house for his visit took all day. When he left, we thought, this looks nice, lets keep it up! So we’ve been doing the 15 minute a day thing, and the house has continued to look nice.
    Laundry?? well, we keep that in hampers stored in our bedrooms. At least that can stay out of sight, out of mind!

  • http://www.lawbizblog.com Ed Poll

    Congratulations on having a fabulous daughter!
    Years ago, when my son was 10 or thereabouts, and was playing basketball, I would leave work to see him play. I have always been the type to “push the envelope” with my time, believing I can “do it all.”
    I seldom was early, but also seldom late. Years later, we were talking about his basketball games. He didn’t remember that I was always there; his memory was that I was late frequently or even missed the game.
    You can never tell how one’s conduct impresses your kids. Also, on the positive side, after his mother and I divorced, I raised my kids … I learned how to boil water and even became a good cook. After all, I had to feed my kids. They never said anything about this to me. But, one day when talking to a friend, she said that my kids were bragging about my cooking to her and the others in that conversation. But, my kids never said anything like that to me.
    Moral of the story: Just do the best you can; balance as you see fit. You’re kids do adapt.

  • http://www.lawbizblog.com Ed Poll

    Congratulations on having a fabulous daughter!
    Years ago, when my son was 10 or thereabouts, and was playing basketball, I would leave work to see him play. I have always been the type to “push the envelope” with my time, believing I can “do it all.”
    I seldom was early, but also seldom late. Years later, we were talking about his basketball games. He didn’t remember that I was always there; his memory was that I was late frequently or even missed the game.
    You can never tell how one’s conduct impresses your kids. Also, on the positive side, after his mother and I divorced, I raised my kids … I learned how to boil water and even became a good cook. After all, I had to feed my kids. They never said anything about this to me. But, one day when talking to a friend, she said that my kids were bragging about my cooking to her and the others in that conversation. But, my kids never said anything like that to me.
    Moral of the story: Just do the best you can; balance as you see fit. You’re kids do adapt.

  • Sharon Sawyer

    When I was a new lawyer in 1985-1990, just married and starting to have kids (I have 4, ages 12-21), I worried all the time about giving my kids enough attention and giving my clients enough attention. I worked “mothers hours”, taught paralegal courses, did appellate research and writing from home, etc. until I was just exhausted. So, I did the only sane thing I could think of: I packed up my office and left the law, rueing the daily “you can do it all” propaganda that we young women lawyers were immersed in. Now my children are grown or nearly so, and I have to say, I did a great job. My teenagers talk to me, my eldest admires me and asks for advice. I love my family and they love me. Yes, it has been very expensive. We live in a working-class (when work is available), inner-city neighborhood and we are very frugal. We don’t have TV (can’t afford the cable, and there’s been nothing good on for 20 years anyway). My kids are fluent in internet, reading and board games. They played outside. I look at many of my friends who chose differently. They have lots more money but regret missing time with their children. At this time in my life I am trying to re-start my “career”–having about a ten year gap since I ended my “part-time” practice. I have kept active on community boards, so I do have a network. I guess the outcome for all of us “pioneering women lawyers” remains to be seen. I just remember a lot of really exhausted, guilt-ridden women who never had any time. Is that what we want for our daughters? I don’t think so.

  • Sharon Sawyer

    When I was a new lawyer in 1985-1990, just married and starting to have kids (I have 4, ages 12-21), I worried all the time about giving my kids enough attention and giving my clients enough attention. I worked “mothers hours”, taught paralegal courses, did appellate research and writing from home, etc. until I was just exhausted. So, I did the only sane thing I could think of: I packed up my office and left the law, rueing the daily “you can do it all” propaganda that we young women lawyers were immersed in. Now my children are grown or nearly so, and I have to say, I did a great job. My teenagers talk to me, my eldest admires me and asks for advice. I love my family and they love me. Yes, it has been very expensive. We live in a working-class (when work is available), inner-city neighborhood and we are very frugal. We don’t have TV (can’t afford the cable, and there’s been nothing good on for 20 years anyway). My kids are fluent in internet, reading and board games. They played outside. I look at many of my friends who chose differently. They have lots more money but regret missing time with their children. At this time in my life I am trying to re-start my “career”–having about a ten year gap since I ended my “part-time” practice. I have kept active on community boards, so I do have a network. I guess the outcome for all of us “pioneering women lawyers” remains to be seen. I just remember a lot of really exhausted, guilt-ridden women who never had any time. Is that what we want for our daughters? I don’t think so.

  • Kelly Twigger

    Thank you. Needed this.

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