Planning for Babies

Planning for Babies | Corporette

2016 Update: Check out our latest discussion on planning your career for babies

Over at’s The Careerist, Vivia Chen ponders one of the most interesting lessons from Sheryl Sandberg’s TED talk: “Don’t leave before you leave.” As she notes:

But it was Sandberg’s third point that really stopped me in my tracks: Women sabotage their own careers because they consciously or unconsciously put the brakes on their jobs. Often young women are so concerned about balancing work and family that they pull back from challenging work–even at the starting gate.

This was also one of the most interesting points to me, if only because I know that I’ve done this to some degree, and so have other friends.   (Pictured: Naked Mohawk-Baby Carrot Jockeys, from the fabulous humor blog Cake Wrecks.) So let’s talk about this:

1) Did you plan your career with a family juggle in mind? I know one friend who, upon starting her MBA, was interested in the investment banking track — and she was overwhelmed with “don’t do it” advice from other people, all of whom pointed out that no women do that track because the job requires too much.

2) Have you changed your career due to babies on your brain? How so? I think I can speak for a lot of women when I say that babies and the family juggle were absolutely not on my mind when I applied to law school — ah, the hubris of youth!  It was only several years later, in my late 20s, when friends started to have kids, that I took a long look at working conditions of the few supervisors I worked with who were mothers and seriously assessed my career options.

3) For those of you *with* kids — what’s your advice to those of us without kids? Plan ahead?  Roll with the punches? What job benefits have you found absolutely essential to you as a mother? Flex time? Ability to work from home?  For those of you who quit jobs over lack of certain benefits, or if you have a wishlist of benefits, which ones would you like to see?


  1. Group hug as we start this topic. (Deep breath). Excuse short, direct sentences as I blurt this out. On “don’t leave before you leave” — Tough pregnancies, difficulties trying to conceive, and a host of other problems sometimes force you to downshift before you go on maternity leave. Co-workers and bosses are patient (sorta) during your preggo time, and then you leave for maternity leave. And then you come back. After 3-6 months, with other folks doing your work (begrudgingly, most of the time). And….when set foot back in that door, you’re swimming upstream to create a reputation that you can work just as hard (or harder) than when you had a baby. Which is impossible for most women. JMHO.

    • Yep. Same here. They hired a new associate while I was out, I think to replace me because they thought I’d change my mind about coming back. Now I’m competing with him for work.

      And yeah, working while pregnant is not always easy. My hours suffered major damage during the first trimester depression/fatigue.

    • Anonymous :

      I don’t think what you describe is what Sandberg meant by leaving before you leave. You’re describing having to scale down your work in response to your medical or emotional needs, which is perfectly reasonable. What Sandberg meant is the phenomenon of women choosing a certain job track before babies are even on the horizon.

      • Sheryl talked about in her speech how it takes x months to conceive, x months of pregnancy, x months of maternity leave… All of this was described in the “leaving before you leave” scenario.

        • Anonymous :

          Yes, but she began the point with the story of a young woman who was trying to plan a career track that would balance motherhood with work when she didn’t even have a boyfriend yet.

          • Good point. I actually think that is an extreme example to make her point (i.e., woman with no boyfriend talking about having a baby, being a wife). Ridic. Most women I know bump into the “reality” the way that Kat did — go to law school, go to a high-powered law school/B-school, land “golden” job,” get married, stay married for a few years, ponder a family in the future, take a look around to find role models of women who “have it all.”

          • Yeah, I think that kind of “leaving before you leave” – planning for kids when you don’t even have a boyfriend – is a really bad idea. Particularly because if a woman goes into a field she is passionate about, does well, receives accolades and gets a good reputation, it will probably be easier for her to create a flexible arrangement for herself later – as a consultant or advisor, in a part-time or flex position created especially for her, etc. Being a “star” in your field can bring a lot of flexibility to your life; people who are in-demand as professionals can often write their own tickets. In my experience.

    • My deepest belief is that you have to know, deep in your heart, which matters more to you. Fighting, for most law and industry careers of power involve fighting, or deeply engaged physical proximity-type motherhood. Equally as important, those careers have to find a way to allow that period where one has to choose to be a short and seamless as possible.

  2. I work for Big Oil, and graduated college in December 09 with a degree in logistics. I asked every single interviewer, across all industries, about their work-life balance programs. While I never specifically asked about maternity leave, sometimes that information was offered up to me after asking that question. I also chose not to pursue a career in a particular field of logistics, because of the implications I knew it would have on my future (way, way in the future) family.

    Also, while I’d prefer to wait until I have a few years of experience under my belt before going back to school for a Master’s, I’ve decided it’s easier to do it now, before I have a family, and an even more demanding job. I’m fortunate that my company will pay for me to go back to school part time and for now, I only have myself to support and think of.

    • I work in BigOil and not in the US. While I planned my maternity (we got luck that stuff happened when it did) to fit around my assignments, I know that’s not always so easy. But a trusted boss gave me this advice: if at all possible, plan ahead – not to dump your career, but for instance, try not to get preggers when you just start a new role, etc type of planning.

      My career is important to me, and I’m grateful to live where i can easily afford a fulltime carer for my son. I also took a few mths off work (unpaid) before starting my next role, which was due to the ‘planning’.

      That said, my good friend in the US is undergoing a really tough pregnancy (bleeding, bedrest, you name it) and she has n’t slowed down at all. Her bedrest = sitting on the sofa all day and working/taking calls. I admire that and am sure she’ll be great at resuming her life.

      I’ve seen scores of women who’ve ‘left before they left’ too….as LPC says, it’s upto you to choose.

  3. The biggest perk of my current job is that it’s as great a legal job as one can have for having kids. I can take time off, have flex. hours, have reasonable hours as is, no one expects me to work on the weekends or most holidays, and no one expects me to be chained to my BB 24 hours a day.
    I can’t say I sought it out for that reason, but it’s definitely in the calculus for why I may stay here long term.
    I do, however, wonder if I am missing out on other opportunities right now as a result.
    The thing that most impressed me in what Sandberg said was that if you got pregnant *right now*, it really wouldn’t be that big a deal; that it’s the planning that can ruin things. I think she’s probably right. It sounds simple but I think it’s really affected the way I now think about my future.

    • May I ask what this dream job in the legal field is?

      • Government.
        It comes with the appropriate pay cut vs. private practice, but it’s def. a “living wage” & for me the perks & security are really worth the trade offs.

        • Awesome, that’s where I want to be. Local, State or Fed? How did you find, end up there?

          • State.
            Networking and volunteering (or if you are still in school, internships) are basically the best way in. It’s very hard to get hired “off the street.” Try to figure out where you want to be & then interact with the people who can let you know of positions as they are about to open & who can recommend you for the positions when they do open.
            Before accepting this job, I also interviewed at federal agencies, and it’s very similar. They want a commitment to public service, to feel someone is “one of them.” Best way to show that is with relevant experience, even if it’s just some occasional pro bono work at the pro se office.

          • Anonymous :

            I work for the state government, and the pay really does vary from state to state. In my state, the benefits are good, but the pay is nowhere near what you’d make in almost any other legal job. With the salary freezes, I would have made much more as a teacher as I will probably be able to make in my current job. There are other public sector/family friendly options in my state that pay a decent enough wage.

        • I work in state government also and agree that the benefits for me are really worth the lower salary (which isn’t that low, unless compared to biglaw.) I am pregnant with my third child and am very happy with the sort of balance I have between work and home.

          • Preggo Angie :

            I moved from a corporate job to a government job with less pay but better benefits. And much better work-life balance. It’s tough, but it’s worth coming home every night being able to spend hours with my son (and soon-to-be-here daughter) as opposed to an hour.

        • OldHouseGal :

          Further to AIMS–well we’re not on the same track, but have found legal careers that work for us. I’m in private practice and my area is trusts & estates

    • Anonymous :

      Same here, but I don’t have kids yet. I am a lawyer for a non-profit, and I love having reasonable hours, holidays off, only working on the rare weekend, and having flex time available to me so I can work from home when I need to. Because these things are the norm at my office, it doesn’t affect the career trajectory of parents who choose to take advantage of them in order to care for their children. It’s at companies where these benefits are not the norm that women end up being disadvantaged when they ask for them.

    • OldHouseGal :

      I might be on the same track as AIMS. I’ve done the work-life balance for over 25 years, and still have a child (with special needs) I’m caring for. My reputation has not suffered, people seek me out, I have the respect of my colleagues, I do interesting work for interesting clients, and I love it. My compensation, however, has suffered, as I’ve chosen to bill fewer hours/year. But I’m certainly not going hungry.

    • I’m in state government too, newlywed, and only vaguely starting to think about babies. But, I have to agree with your comment: “I do, however, wonder if I am missing out on other opportunities right now as a result.” I know that state government is an amazing position for me to be in when I want to have kids, but am I missing out on advancing my career now for a stable job with good benefits but lower pay? Is it a “grass is always greener” type situation?

  4. Never considered med school because school + residency take too long.

    Am I insane for thinking I don’t want to and won’t be out of the office for 3 months when I have a baby? I’m thinking within 2 weeks max I’ll be back part time. I worked while I studied for the bar, I worked during the second half of my 1L year (against ABA policy); I’m just generally a much more productive and better person when I work. Has anyone else gone back right away?

    • I haven’t had a baby, but from previous discussions on this topic on this blog, I think there are some serious real physical issues (for both you and baby) that would prevent you from going back to work in two weeks, even assuming you had a breezy vaginal birth. You’re assuming you’ll be physically recovered, getting good nights of sleep, that your baby won’t have any feeding, etc. issues. I would think most employers would be alarmed if you came back any earlier than 8 weeks.

      • “I would think most employers would be alarmed if you came back any earlier than 8 weeks.”
        I think this might be a little bit of an overstatement. Most employers will only pay you for 8 weeks if you have c-section or 6 weeks if you have vaginal delivery (you know, if they pay you at all). So I doubt that they would be “alarmed” if you came back at 6 weeks after a vaginal delivery. In fact, a 6 week leave is pretty standard.

      • OldHouseGal :

        Two weeks is pushing the limit. If you can work from home, however, you could be doing some billable work and certainly staying in touch w/colleagues and clients

    • Physically, I was not ready to go back for 4 weeks. At 6 weeks, I was ready to go back. When I went back at 8, I was miserable and exhausted from working and then being up all night. But if I waited any longer than that, I feel like I would have been too out of it and behind.

      I know women who have gone back after 3-4 because they had to to keep their job (small businesses). None of them were thrilled with going back, but none of them killed themselves to do it either.

      • Yeah, while I was happy to be back after 8 weeks (caring for a baby 24/7 is a kind of stress I’m not well-adapted to!), night after night of truncated sleep is STILL taking a toll on my work day (and my son is now 7 months old).

    • Yes you are insane. 6 weeks is do-able. For me, 8 weeks was right. But 2 weeks is insane, and probably not physically realistic. I wasn’t even allowed to drive for 2 weeks after delivery, and mine was uncomplicated. You may underestimate the physical toll on your body that having a baby takes (and the how consuming keeping a 2-week-old alive is).

    • Physically, you may not be able to go back that soon. With my first I lost a lot of blood with delivery and even walking around the block for 4-5 weeks was a struggle. Plus your hoo-ha will be all messed up (even with the best of deliveries) and you will be bleeding for at least 6 weeks – trust me, you won’t want to go back to work that soon!

      • I did go back to work within 48 hours of breaking my leg, so I’m okay with working with physical discomfort (and working with a fuzzy mind). Thanks all for the heads up on unrealistic expectations!

        • Umm, are your bosses/clients OK with you working with a fuzzy mind? Yikes!

          • Yep – its not like I’m a partner. I can still read and understand legal documents on pain pills.

        • But breaking your leg is totally different. You are dealing with caring for yourself alone. Giving birth is both physical strain on your body AND creates a small person who wants/needs no one but mom for a period of time. To emphasize, it’s not just the physical recovery, though that is a large part of it. It also is fitting this little person into your life and meeting his/her needs which are particularly demanding in those very early weeks.

          • Very honestly, the first two weeks after my son was born went by and I didn’t even notice what day it was until my husband told me he had to go back to work the next day (his employer gave men two weeks paternity leave, paid, and the amazing thing is, in this country that’s considered generous). I was not ready to go back at 6 weeks and I was barely ready to go back at 8 weeks. I didn’t get “cleared” to go back until 10 weeks (and I had arranged for a 12-week leave, paid partially with short-term disability and partially with leave) because I had a complicated delivery and had some lingering effects from it.

            Once the baby is born, unless you get an exceptionally good sleeper, your days and nights are no longer dictated by the clock but by when the baby is awake and when they are asleep. My baby never slept more than 2 hours at a time, round the clock, and I was breastfeeding 3o minutes out of every 2 hours he was awake. By the end of the first two weeks I could have been on Mars and I wouldn’t have realized it, I was so out of it. This is one of those situations where no one can explain to you fully what it is like, you have to experience it for yourself. I am a lifelong amnesiac and have gone days without sleep, used to regularly pull all-nighters and weeks with only 4 hours a night of sleep, etc. The total reversal (or maybe blending) of night and day and the sleep-wake cycle you have been in since your infancy is unbelievably disorienting. My OB, who was a battle surgeon in Vietnam in his early career, told me that sleep disruption has been used as a form of torture in nearly every modern conflict where the enemy takes POWs. After I experienced having a non-sleeping newborn, I understood why!

      • [email protected] Hoo-ha. :)

    • Agreed with previous posters. Aside from being swollen from water retention and feeling sore “down there,” I was so exhausted for at least the first month, if not two. My baby still wakes up 3 times a night to eat and I’ve been back at work for 2 months now. I am just like you – a more productive and better person when I work – but geez, I am tired and I miss my baby, too. :(. I highly recommend taking at least 6-8 weeks off for your own sanity.

    • Anonymous :

      Having a baby is a lot of work. It’s not like you’ll be unproductive the whole time you’re on maternity leave – in fact, you’ll be busy as hell. I can see not wanting to be just on vacation for six weeks, but maternity leave is anything but a vacation.

    • I had a c-section w/ twins. I could have gone back after 6 weeks, but only because I’d given up nursing, and my kids were decent enough sleepers. But at 2 weeks? No freaking way. You’re lucky to get 3 hours of sleep a night during the first 4 weeks. I’d have been committing malpractice on a daily basis. Physically and emotionally, I would have been OK, but the sheer exhaustion would have done me in.

    • It’s all true that the physical (and hormonal) aspects of childbirth are intense, especially if you have a c-section — but the bigger issue is that two weeks after birth you will have a two-week-old baby who will need you more than your job will.

      • quantjockette :


      • AtlantaAttorney :

        This is absolutely correct. EVEN IF you were somehow superhuman and could surmount the sleep deprivation (there is simply no way to describe it until you live it) and your own physical recovery, the baby needs you in that time.

      • I had a baby right after starting law school in 2006. I missed 2 days of school with a c-section. I only worked part time but I went back after 2 weeks because they were being mean to my replacement. I still made law review my first year. I was fortunate to have my saintly mother to watch the baby. The only thing I had to worry about with my mom’s daycare is that she will run away with my baby and not give her back. And now thank you economy I have tons of time to spend with my kids.

    • AnonforThis :

      I worked as mgmt for cut-and-sew factories for years. One of my fore-women worked an 18-hour day, went home, popped out a baby (her 3rd or 4th) and was back in the factory sometime late in the afternoon the next day (I assume baby was with grandmother). I cried like a baby when I went back to work 6 mths after giving birth. We are wusses.

      • Anonymous :

        I think we need to address “can” vs “want to” – my mom was back at work less than a week after a c-section (my sis) because she didn’t have the option of maternity leave. So in that situation, either you quit forever or you suck it up. We have come a long way since then, in a relatively short amount of time… but, it is something to think about nonetheless.

      • Haha. I was born during my mom’s last year of nursing school (on my due date which happened to be her day off from classes – I was such a convenient baby). While she was going through clinicals. I’ve since learned from friends who have gone through nursing programs that missing clinicals isn’t like missing class – there’s not much of an option about going. She was a trooper (and a wonderful working mom and a fantastic role-model). :)

    • I wasn’t even allowed to drive for two weeks after my c-section, let alone go back to work. But I went back at 8 and was getting antsy to go back around 6.

    • What’s the point of having a baby if you are planning to march back to the office without the commitment it takes to care for the baby in the first stage of its life?

    • Believe, I know where you’re coming from because I used to be of the same mindset. “I’m tough, I love my job, I’ll be billing from the hospital!” But no — I have a 7-month-old baby, and after having a c-section, learning how to breastfeed and take care of a whole new freaking human being, there is no WAY I could have gone back at 2 weeks, let alone 6, let alone 8. (My maternity leave was 3 months.) My hats off to you ladies who did go back “right away,” but for me it would have been both physically and emotionally impossible. Oh, and I just have to throw this out there — I’m not wussy; I run marathons so this is not for a want of stamina.

      • I agree. It is not possible to plan for these things because every birth, and every baby is different.

        My son had a rough birth and it took us eight weeks to get him breastfeeding. He was a nightmare of a sleeper too. It would not have been physically possible for me to return to work before I did (18 weeks).

    • Yes. You are insane :) In my very recent experience, I needed a full 4 weeks to leave the house, 8 weeks to feel human, and 12 weeks to figure out the feeding/sleeping bozoness of it all. For frame of reference, I am a uber-Type A , enjoy my job, and love getting out of the house, had a “normal vaginal delivery” and a healthy, (fussy) baby.

    • I went back as soon as I had the clear from my OB, I was two weeks late, and had to been induced and, as per most inductions stories, had a c-section after midnight. I had an easy recovery (despite the c section) and was up and walking and running errands within a few weeks. I was also very active prior to and throughout my pregnancy, and it’s my understanding that makes a big difference. My advice, go back when your ready, but hit the gym before, during and after your pregnancy to help your body cope, and remember your mental health as well. PPD can really suck.

    • I was back part time from home after 2 weeks. I’m a partner in an IP boutique, and I had no intention of passing my clients to other partners while I was out. I took off two months, by taking off two weeks fully, then handling only email and client contact, and then slowly ramping back up over two months.

      I never did go back to truly full time, but since I’m a partner with my own book of business, everyone has handled it fairly well.

      I also have an incredibly supportive husband who is the primary caretaker for the kids.

    • Sorry to say this, but yes, 2 weeks is pushing ‘insane’ limits. You’ll need AT LEAST 4 weeks to recover (physically, mentally, etc). That’s assuming all goes to plan, you have a perfect vaginal birth etc.

    • I do know a female partner who has only taken 2 days off for each of her four children. (She induces labor on a Thursday so that she can be back on Monday. BTW, she’s very nice and her kids are great.)

      I think it’s doable if you 1) don’t nurse (even pumping will keep you up nights) and 2) hire a nighttime nanny (along with the daytime nanny I presume you’ll be getting).

      • I don’t doubt that she is nice, and that her kids are great, but wow, that is the saddest thing I think I’ve read in a very long time. Taking only two days off for the birth of a new baby is not something to be applauded; it is to be mourned. She (and her babies) missed out on what is perhaps the most amazing time in the human experience.

        I feel sorry for her.

  5. Oh wow, glad you took this on, Kat! I have not changed my career goals because of my desire to also have kids. But I have thought about timing. The hubs and I are getting close to ‘pulling the goalie’ and, if it works, I am going to stay at my big law firm through it to get the awesome maternity leave. Then apply for Dream Job. But if we are having trouble conceiving (probable, as I am 31), I am going to apply for the dream job this summer and keep the pedal to the metal, as Sandberg suggests. This could turn into a whole big mess, either way that it goes (will I even want Dream Job after having a baby?). This is just our initial thinking and I think having babies is an area of your life where you can pretty much expect that nothing will go as planned. So I am trying to stay open to the possibilities.

    It was a pretty interesting conversation with the hubs trying to get him to see how the “when should we try to have a baby” question is closely tied to my career goals/timing. He had just never thought about it.

    • My hubby and I are in the planning stages, and I too have had trouble getting him to understand the connection between my career goal timing and having a baby. I guess that for him, looking for a job while pregnant is not something he’d have to worry about, but it is a big factor for me. I have to assume that it would be taken negatively.

    • I did exactly what you are planning to do (was 30 at the time, and it took 10 months to conceive). Right after I gave notice (but before moving across country to start my “dream job”) I found out that I was pregnant. So, I started a new job and was not able to take as much leave (and a lot of it was unpaid). But, I have no regrets at all. You need the dream job to pull you back to work after you fall in love with your baby. This is exactly what Sandberg is talking about. If your current job is not your dream job, pursue your dream job now. It might take awhile to get pregnant (or it might not, in your case), but either way, you’ll be happy. I also have friends who took their biglaw maternity leave first and then went for their dream job and it worked out great for them as well, except one of them had to pump right before and right after a long day of interviews for her dream job and that did not sound like fun.

    • “It was a pretty interesting conversation with the hubs trying to get him to see how the “when should we try to have a baby” question is closely tied to my career goals/timing. He had just never thought about it.”

      This is the truest statement ever. Love my husband, but he just doesn’t get it.

      • So true! When I unexpectedly got pregnant, my husband at first accused me of doing it on purpose! He totally did not get that I had soooo much more to lose career-wise than he did over this.

        And don’t get me wrong–he’s fantastic and helps me with baby more than your average dad. But love it or hate it, the brunt of the responsibilities and life changes fall on mom in the early years, and it’s mom’s career that takes the hardest hit.

        • Leaving for a new job right after maternity leave or taking the full leave and then not returning will alienate at least some of the lawyers you work with. Just something to keep in mind, you may be hurting both yourself (you will be perceived as abusing the maternity leave policy and might burn some bridges) and other woman i.e. the reason some posters have noted their firm hired their replacements while they were on leave is because a decent amount of women do leave right after the maternity leave and firms then try to protect themselves.

    • Yikes, do we really think 31 is old for having a baby? I’m just reading that into you saying you expected it to take a while to get pregnant. As someone who’s 31 and single, I find that a bit depressing–hopefully that’s not universally true!

      • It’s not too old to have a baby, nor does it necessarily mean you’ll have difficulty getting pregnant absent other complications.

      • Another Sarah :

        ^^Agree with Anon above. My Mom had me when she was 30, my sister when she was 33 (nos. 1 and 2). It might be different depending on each woman’s personal situation. My friend’s MD has basically told her that, because of some gyno issues, she’s not going to get pregnant past the age of 32-33. So for some, 31 is pushing it; for others, it’s not. :-)

      • Not saying that at all! I’m just not taking it for granted that I will be able to get pregnant easily — it might take some time. 31 is not old (my gyno actually said “you’re young….for a professsional”), but the stats are out there that it just isn’t as easy as if I were, say 20.

      • Anonymous :

        My mentor, fwiw, conceived her healthy, smart, pretty daughter at 37, almost 20 years ago.

      • Yeah, I don’t think that it’s “probable” that one will have fertility difficulties at 31. The probability of difficulties is higher than it is at 21, but it’s still more likely than not that a 31-year-old will get pregnant without medical intervention.

      • I think it’s healthy to realize it might take a while. But I didn’t marry and try for kids until I was 36. Conceived my kids in 3 months each at ages 36 and 38 (with the fabulous assistance of a fertility monitor, which was worth every penny). I am thankful every day for that and for their health. But it can happen quickly for some — 31 is nothing!

      • Conceived at 32, no trouble at all. Relax! There are good stories as well as horror stories for everything under the sun.

      • I am in my late 20s, and most of my friends are single — certainly not married and/or thinking about having kids yet. I don’t think you should worry too much.

        My boyfriend’s mom was 45 when she had him (dad was 50). He is by far the most “traditionally successful” of his siblings (he’s the youngest), and did the Ivy League BA + T5 JD + Vault T10 thing (the latter still going strong).

        • I think there can also be a difference as to when you have the first child. I’ve heard that having the first child later in life can be more difficult vs. having subsequent pregnancies.

          I think of my grandmother who had kids well into her 40s, but she had several children prior to those late-40s pregnancies.

      • There’s a huge misconception that 30 year old women would have difficulty getting pregnant. The chances of a typical couple conceiving in any one menstrual cycle is thought to be no higher than 25% (Ref: Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler, MPH). Men are always fertile but for women, there are only a few days in each cycle. The key is timing. I suggest getting the book referenced above, understand your body and cycle. Know when you are fertile so that you can try to conceive at that time.

        Although it’s a known fact that fertility declines as we age, the marked decline for women is usually after 35. And even then, there are women who are able to conceive. I highly doubt that the poster will have difficulty conceiving at 31. Infertility affects people on all ends of the spectrum but that is most likely not a large part of the population. I would say if you are yet to meet someone, don’t despair. Also take care of yourself, eat healthy, exercise etc. Sometimes our own habits can sabotage our health.

    • As someone who is 31, hates her current job and is actively and desperately looking for and interviewing for a “dream” job (or really just a different job), and pregnant but not showing yet (this baby was definitely a surprise and not at all a part of the “find a new job” plan), I am a little heartened to hear that a new job won’t necessarily hold it against you if you show up pregnant. But still very stressed that I am going to be stuck here forever because if no one wanted to hire me before baby, there’s a fat chance they’ll want to hire me once I’m a mommy.

      • I started a new job when I was 7 months pregnant. I interviewed for the job when I was 4 months pregnant and I fully disclosed it to everyone. I thought it might be a problem but everyone was great – especially since the VP has 8 kids and a wife that is a nurse.

  6. anonforthisone :

    1. No, not consciously. I went to a top 5 law school and then biglaw. But I did choose a specialty (estate planning) that is typically no-emergency and in which the hours can be controlled, and which is generally considered more “family friendly” than other specialties.

    2. Yes. I was actually fired from biglaw when I was 8 months pregnant with #1. The partner made some terrible statements to the effect that “moms don’t want to work so hard”, “you will want to be home for your kids,” etc. (despite the fact that there were 2 other people in the dept with small kids, who were both PT, one of them a man!!!). I got a settlement from the firm so that they paid me through maternity leave (3.5 months), plus an additional 3 months’ pay, plus I was listed on the web site through that whole period, so that I could look for another job but still be employed there. I switched over to another job that is 80%, but 80% of fewer hours than the big firm required. Note, I wanted to go PT at the big firm after maternity leave, but obvs didn’t ever get to that conversation!!!

    3. Don’t make changes until you have to. A lot of times, the big firms and companies are the ones with good health insurance and long paid maternity leave. At my small firm job, I could only take a 3 month maternity leave with child #2, and that was a stretch for them to cover (it was 2 months paid and 1 month of accrued vacation). After that, I have found the best thing to be working PT – I have that one day a week (during which I absolutely do not work) to do laundry, get the house looking less like a pigsty, etc., which you can’t do if you’re working 5 days a week or more. A close second is working from home one day a week – saving on the commute time and not having to get dressed up is AWESOME.

    • Ballerina girl :

      Isn’t firing you for being pregnant illegal? Is that why you got a settlement or was it just severance? That’s horribly sexist! Good luck to you.

      • anonforthisone :

        Yes, that is why I got the settlement. I got an employment lawyer to negotiate with the firm on my behalf. It ended up being fine that I left the job, but boy was I PO’d at them!!! I blame them for baby arriving early.

  7. I think this is my first comment! Anywho, I am definitely planning for a family, but not because I’m selling myself short, but because I know what I value and want out of life. Yes being a high powered corporate attorney has it’s allure, but I remember one day when I was a young girl at a family barbecue, and I saw my great grandmother sitting in the center of the barbecue, as almost a guest of honor, looking out over all that she had (in a sense) created, and I thought–I want that to be me. I want to see myself in generations of people, I want to be surrounded by love and community in my old age, and if that means less money, power, or prestige, I think I’ll be happier in the long run in my last days with the former.

    Also, as driven as I am as a person, I also value my personal time, opportunities to volunteer, and time spent with friends and family. As a result, a high-powered career is not in the cards for me.

    This is not a judgment to other women who make different choices–in fact this has been a difficult decision for me to come to considering my ambition. But it’s my basic perspective. The goal for me now is to do my time in biglaw for as long as I don’t want kids, and transition to a less demanding job in the public service or as a teacher after I’ve made enough money to feel comfortable doing so. Of course, this isn’t a huge amount for me, just enough for a downpayment on a nice house in a good school district. Writing it out makes me feel terribly un-feminist, but it’s honestly the path that I think will make me happiest.

    • You go girl! I remember thinking the same thing when I saw a matriarch at a family gathering–how rich she is!

    • Ab, you are far from alone in your beliefs and ambitions. Love your story. Thanks for sharing it.

    • Two cents :

      Your story about your great grandma got me teary. Thanks for sharing.

    • Ballerina girl :

      Sounds great–I share similar goals and it’s not because I’m not a feminist (meaning I don’t think you sound like a non-feminist for wanting this either) but because that’s something that’s important to me. Doesn’t have to be important to others and yes there are risks involved with banking on being able to make it financially, but it seems great. So many people around me would be shocked to know feel that way.

      • I’m with ya Ballerina girl. People think that just because I became a lawyer that I don’t want to take time to be a mom someday, which I do. And I’m ok with the reality that my career will be set back a bit (or even a lot) for that.

        My question to others is their view on having a baby early on in your career. I have heard it commented here before that you are penalized less if you take time off early on in your career than when you have reached more senior ranks. The flip side would be the idea that it’s easier once you have worked a lot and ‘proven yourself’. Any thoughts on this?

        • I’m staying tuned for answers to this. More because I’m curious (and looking for hope?), since that’s water under the bridge now that I had a baby (oops!) 1 year into my career. Will I ever be able to think clearly again? Will I ever be able to kick butt and take names at this job, or will I always be sneaking out at 5 to pick up baby before the daycare closes?

    • Confessions :


    • I respect your views, though I don’t share them. Thanks for sharing.

    • First-time commenter (longtime lurker) here! Bur I had to respond to your story about your great-grandma…so lovely. And FWIW, i think true feminism is the ability and desire to choose the path you want and that works for you. Nothing unfeminist at all about what you wrote!

    • I feel similarly to AB as far as feeling the wealth of family and love around you–I come from a large family, and my grandma starts most sentences these days by reiterating how lucky she is to have 16 grandchildren.

      I didn’t plan my career with a “family juggle” in mind, but I did plan it with a “life/enjoyment juggle.” Which ends up working out for family. I knew I’d want to travel, run outside (in daylight, at least in the warmer months), cook dinner on weekdays, get some errands done on a weekday, and other things that are incongruent with working 14 hour days.

      I was married during law school, and I’ve known before I got married that I want to have children one day (unlike some law school friends who are confident that they do not). But I still think the path I *chose* (do we really choose when the economy sucks? Maybe “fell into by dumb luck” is more appropriate?) is obviously better for family and other out-of-office activities that I find essential to a happy life.

      I knew I didn’t want to work work work now and travel and learn to roast a chicken or knit a hat or use Photoshop *later*. Life doesn’t last forever (my mother has been a breast cancer survivor since her early 40s). I want to work hard at my job (and LIKE my job) but also enjoy my life outside of it, as much as possible.

  8. As Lawgirl mentioned, that things may not go as planned. There’s a limit to how much you can put your life on hold. Even when you “plan” for conceiving, things may not go your way. You have to find a balance between that goal and other goals (promotions, new jobs, or even whether to take a vacation, or save your vacation for that maternity leave that may or may not ever happen).

    • Tell me about it. I stayed at a job I wasn’t thrilled about for four years because I had trouble conceiving and I didn’t want to put it on hold in order to qualify for paid leave at another firm.

      Don’t do that! Keep living your life!

  9. I did not take my current position because of work-life balance thoughts. In fact, because I travel so much, I thought for the first three years of this job that I would have to find a new job in order to raise kids. I am so glad that I didn’t! Although we are now getting closer to the whole baby thing, I have no plans to leave my job. I enjoy it and I’m good at it. DH is planning to stay home once we have kids, which is a total switch from what we talked about initially.

    But as PP said, I assume that nothing will go as planned, and am trying to stay open to the possibilities.

    • I, too, have a high-travel job, and while I fell into a career more than picked it, I’m glad I didn’t (haven’t) planned with kids in mind. While I’ve thought about it, and contemplated how life would work…when I was in college, I thought getting married by 25 and kids soon after would be a great plan. And here I am, 33 and still single, definitely no kids on the near horizon! That’s a lot of working life that I could’ve planned away from for something that might not ever happen.

  10. I don’t appreciate that this is a “women’s issue.” What year is it that men don’t need to take the same calculated risks and make career decisions with family in mind? As women, we’re too easy on our men. And the men of this generation need to step up big time.

    I say all this as a second career lawyer who attended a top-5 law school with a toddler at home thanks to the support of my (previously- and since-) career driven husband who worked as a stay-at-home dad/ consultant during my law school education. Some people may have thought I had it easy, but I chose this man, this relationship, this family, and this career with these issues in mind — and my husband and I have both had to make sacrifices, not least of which was an extended period of sleep deprivation.

    I am now a public interest side litigator. Billables are not a concern, but I still have the ups and downs of litigation, so I try to make as much time for my family as I can when I’m not on a deadline and then my husband takes over when I am. But no matter how hectic things are, I make sure to keep a standing “hot chocolate date” with my daughter before school once a week, and I try to remember, whether at work or at home, that being focused and present are as important as putting in the hours.

    • I don’t think of this as a female issue, my husband and I had this conversation up front as equals. But I see where you are coming from in that most men’s magazines or blogs won’t discuss this issue, even if a lot of couples do on an individual basis. I think that’s a function of the mechanics of child rearing, because if you want to give birth, you must take some time off to do so, and if you want to breast feed, you become almost the defacto primary care giver (or at the very least you must modify your work life to accommodate the baby in a way that men don’t).

      Of course the other side is patriarchy. And we can argue against patriarchy until we are blue in the face, but int he end it’s still there, and in the end we (women) still have to deal with this issue much earlier, and with greater burden than men do. The question is how you deal with it. And it seems you and your hubby have found a good balance.

      • I don’t think it’s a women’s issue so much as it’s an issue that most men just do not think about in this way. That’s not to say all; and that’s not to say that men don’t have other concerns.

        If having a partner who is just as concerned about this as you are is very important, you just have to find those men & not have kids with those who think you’re going to bear the brunt of it. If enough women did that, it would absolutely become a men’s issue.

        All that said, I think men get a bad rep sometimes. I know plenty of guys who work 70+ hour weeks at corporate jobs they hate, in areas of law they find mind numbing, because they want to give their wives the opportunity to work a “less demanding” and lower paying job and to be there for their kids more. And, it’s not because the guys don’t want to do what they’re wives are doing; it’s because their wives made this decision & expect them to support them through it. Everyone makes their own choices I guess.

        • Agreed.

          My former husband literally didn’t realize that female fertility declines gradually with age. He thought it remained the same from puberty on, and then WHAM! menopause. So when I mentioned last year (at age 29) that we needed to start thinking about our plans in that area, it was clearly the first time that he’d *ever* thought about that particular intersection of biology and my career.

    • I started to write almost the same thing, but from the perspective of someone planning to do that, rather than someone with your actual experience. Thanks, I loved getting to see it!

      Personally, I don’t think it’s a good idea for both parents to have high pressure jobs- either both parts of a couple should be type A driven career people with no kids, or one partner should step back. I think that, by women not insisting that that decision (who steps back on their career, at least for a little while) is planned intentionally, women almost always wind up taking the step back. We need to approach this differently.

      • My husband is a stay at home dad, which we planned long before we ever had kids. I already made twice what he was making, and he did not see his job as his ideal career. He is also much better as a stay at home parent than I would be. He doesn’t feel overwhelmed taking the children with him to the store or trying to cook and clean with small children running around. He has always been much more patient than I am. He does continue to work on a contract type basis that could go back to full time whenever, which makes me feel better. That way should something happen we would not be without an income.

        • That’s really great. My fiance and I have talked about a similar arrangement when we have children (depending on our careers and income disparities). He has a job that could very easily translate to contract work.

          Do you/he get snarky “Mr. Mom” comments? And if so, how do you handle them? I think he is less concerned about those issues than I am – I know that my temper will get short if people are constantly questioning a decision of that magnitude!

          • He says he occasionally felt that people were snarky, but he genuinely got a kick out of attending “Mommy & Me” in our neighborhood! I should clarify that he went back to work full-time (but worked from home) in my last semester of law school once our daughter was in preschool, and we were able to juggle his job, my law school, and the demands of our family.

            We now both work full-time outside the home, and, because we have no family in the city where we live, we take advantage of afterschool care and a local “no school today” program (but don’t have a nanny). I’m lucky to work in a great office where it’s no big deal to leave for events at school or doctor’s appointments, and where my child’s sick days are taken as seriously as my own.

          • He does get some Mr. Mom comments and some people have said that children, especially babies should be with their mothers. But we do what works for us and I completely trust him with our children.

            He did not feel comfortable in one of the “mommy and me” classes they tried, but he does like the baby/toddler storytime at our library and a different music/gym type class.

          • Anonymous :

            My husband was a “manny” for years, and got all sorts of snark. But working mothers get snark, stay-at-homes get snark, blondes get snark, overweight people get snark, skinny people get snark… Just ignore mean people.

        • This sounds like such a great scenario, and your husband sounds like a great guy. There’s no cookie-cutter way to make it work for everyone and it’s great to hear stories of people who are carving out their own solution.

    • North Shore :

      My husband and I looked at this issue together. He was in BigLaw and I had BigLaw offers, but we both decided to take government jobs, instead. This way we both have careers that are flexible enough to cover for each other, and our combined income, while nothing like BigLaw, is pretty decent. We’re both litigators with two school-age children, and it’s worked pretty well.

      Another key factor was I proved myself before getting pregnant, and always volunteered to help others on leave with family issues. In fact, I still do, and find that helps with avoiding the co-worker resentment one might normally get for working part time and/or telecommuting.

  11. 1. I chose a career that is perhaps more family-friendly than others. If I had to do it all over again, I would choose my first choice — other people do it, you can make it work too.
    2. Nothing has changed in my career. I would advise women to think carefully before they try to plan in too much detail (e.g. “I’m going to have a child in June so I can start school in September.”). Babies cannot be planned like that, as many have learned. It might work out, but there’s no guarantee.
    3. The two things that have saved me since having a child are flex-time and the ability to work from home. During the first year, I was allowed to work from home two days per week. If I didn’t have a flexible employer, I couldn’t keep this job. I know not everybody is that lucky, and I know not everybody wants that. I do wish we had better maternity leave, but I can’t complain too much.

  12. Thanks Kat, for posting on this topic! I’m so curious as to what others have to say, as I definitely want to have children in the future but am curious as to how to have them without derailing my career aspirations as well. I’ve seen other women engineers (too few) with children and have finally made their way to the top of the chain, but it’s a twisty path. Anecdotally, over half of the female engineers here of all ages (I’m not accounting administrative/support staff) are single and childless. It’s such a curious thing to me.

  13. There are really two separate issues here:
    – how do you handle pregnancy/birth/nursing
    – how do you handle the 18+ years that come after
    They require separate considerations.

    With that having been said, what would Sheryl Sandberg have us do? Throw ourselves into that big job, have the babies, keep trying at it until eventually we realize that we are constantly stressed, chronically tired and malnourished, we’re snapping at the kids, we’re not putting our all into our demanding jobs, our marriage/partnership is hanging by a thread, the house is a mess, we haven’t had a day out with friends in six years, and we’ve developed terrible addictions to caffeine/sleep aids/alcohol?

    Most women don’t have enough support to have a challenging career and a family. Our choices are constrained by a wide variety of causes (all linked by the sexism in our society), so that what is de riguer for a man is extremely difficult for a woman.

    Sandberg is wrong. We’re not sabotaguing our own careers out of the gate. We just know that we’re running a longer race, with a heavier jockey, with strategically placed potholes on the track, and we pace ourselves accordingly.

    • Agree with this. Times a million. Because I’ve been here:

      “Throw ourselves into that big job, have the babies, keep trying at it until eventually we realize that we are constantly stressed, chronically tired and malnourished, we’re snapping at the kids, we’re not putting our all into our demanding jobs, our marriage/partnership is hanging by a thread, the house is a mess, we haven’t had a day out with friends in six years, and we’ve developed terrible addictions to caffeine/sleep aids/alcohol?”

      And it is a bad, dark, bleak place, my friends. Avoid getting to that place by any means necessary.

    • co-sign @Sarah!!!!!! (sorry for the exclamation marks!)

    • I agree. I’ve been practicing law for 8 years, in both biglaw and smaller firm settings, and to be honest I have never met a female partner in biglaw who has children and whose life I would want to emulate. Seriously. The choice for women who stay in biglaw and make partnership appears to be between (a) not having children and concentrating on career, and maybe if you are lucky having a decent relationship with your husband/SO, or (b) having children, farming them out to daycare or a nanny, never seeing them, never seeing hubby, and either having a really dysfunctional marriage or potentially divorcing. I have not seen any biglaw female partner who is respected in her field and who has managed to tread a happy medium. The trouble with biglaw is that once you are deep into a lifestyle like that, you lose perspective and don’t see things objectively anymore. If everyone around you is doing the same, you forget that things can be different – or even that you might like it better if they WERE different.

      Maybe my viewpoint is overly cynical but honestly, I have looked hard for women whom I could consider mentors from this perspective, and I have not found a single one in biglaw. The women I meet in smaller firms seem to be much happier and much more able to have quality relationships with their children and spouses. I don’t think the support networks are any different between biglaw and small law – I just think it comes down to figuring out what is important to you, focussing on that, and making the choice to stay in for the long haul rather than unnecessarily killing yourself and your relationships.

      What I think is a desirable lifestyle or way of managing family/children/relationships is not necessarily what is right for other people – but I do think it important to step back once in a while and ask yourself – is this really what I want? As career women, we get on this treadmill and because everyone around us is doing the same thing, we think it is expected and it becomes hard to stop.

      • Ditto to this. I have never seen a female partner in biglaw who is not both (a) a workaholic, and (b) has a family setup that is at least a little bit dysfunctional.

      • I’ve been lucky to have worked with two wonderful female partners in BigLaw who manage to spend a lot of time with their kids and are very well respected at work. The caveat is twofold: (1) they are appellate litigation partners, and are thus able to plan their schedules, and (2) they work on a 60 – 80% schedule. I’m lucky to work at a firm where people can actually manage to work on a reduced hours schedule without it being a huge stigma. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it can be done. Just wanted to offer that perspective, lest we all feel discouraged that it’s hopeless being a happy female partner in BigLaw.

      • reg biglaw but anon :

        Agree. I have yet to meet a professionally successful female biglaw partner whose life I want to emulate. Options seem to be: 1) have no kids, a really nice house, and really nice stuff; 2) have had kids before law school; 3) have live-in family members to raise the kids, parents never see kids; 4) husband stays home to raise kids, mother never sees kids.

        After recognizing these patterns, I suddenly realized I would have to get out of biglaw if I wanted to have a child and spend time with my husband/child. I’m not ready for kids yet, but the usual model seems to be to quit/not come back from leave after baby #2. I hope to emulate that.

      • Anon in NY :

        This. I simply don’t think its possible to work the jobs many of us do without taking a serious look at when we want kids/how many/and how we’d like to raise them. For me, living in the ‘burbs of NYC working a pretty easy 8am-6pm day means it would be necessary to have a full-time live in nanny in order for my husband and I to both get a 7am train into work and we still wouldn’t be home until 7pm. And god knows, there simply aren’t many pre-schools (or schools) that will take your kids that early, or hold them that late. And don’t even get me started on days that don’t end until much later than 6pm!
        Thank god my company allows me to work from home nearly full-time, honestly a one-hour commute to the office and the hours I mention above are pretty standard, yet the child-care hassles they result in are ridiculous!

    • Great way to break it up into the two phases. Tying this into a comment above, I think phase 1 is a women’s issue, since we are the one’s who will be pregnant and breastfeeding, and that fact will impact our careers (both because of needing some time off to feed the baby, but also because who would want to go to a job interview visibly pregnant). The second phase is very much about the couple as a whole. I would have a hard time even applying for my dream job with a new baby around if I didn’t know that my husband had switched jobs to something with better hours, and my mother-in-law would be around full time to help. And then this ties into Sandberg’s “make your partner a full partner” comment.

    • YES!!! Thank you!!!

    • “Sandberg is wrong. We’re not sabotaguing our own careers out of the gate. We just know that we’re running a longer race, with a heavier jockey, with strategically placed potholes on the track, and we pace ourselves accordingly.”

      Amen! Seriously, the Sanberg quote assumes a lot, including that the end goal for all women is to be some kind of high ranking powerful corporate monkey (which may be the audience’s end goal).

    • Anon today :

      I respectfully disagree. It’s doable, and I do have female partners I would want to emulate. I personally work in BigLaw litigation, have twin 3 year olds that I spend time with, and have a stable relationship. There are a few keys for me. One is that my husband is a true partner–maybe even slightly the primary parent. His job is more 9-5, so he does daycare pick up every day and stays home with sick kids. He’s also fabulous at handling the whole dinner/bath/bed routine if I get stuck at work. I drop the kids off at daycare in the mornings. I see them in the morning and then most nights have dinner with them, play with them, give them baths (with hubs), read them stories, put them to bed. I also spend most of the weekends with them. Yes, I have to get up early and work before they get up, and I have to work in the evenings after they go to bed, and I sometimes I have to work on the weekends; but most weekdays I spend 2-3 hours with my kids, and most weekends I spend 10-12 per day. My hours are good, I’m close to making partner, I have meaningful assignments. I’m happy, my husband is happy, my kids are happy, and my employer is happy. The house is a mess. I don’t exercise enough. I don’t have enough free time. The dog is probably feeling neglected. I’d agree you can’t have it “all,” but you can have kids and a big job.

      • Legally Brunette :

        Thank you thank you for this! You give us hope that it’s possible.

      • Loved the comment that “The house is a mess. I don’t exercise enough. I don’t have enough free time. The dog is probably feeling neglected. I’d agree you can’t have it “all,” but you can have kids and a big job.”

        I’ve been in BigLaw tax for over six years and lucky enough to have a husband that is a stay-at-home dad. Like you, I see the kids at family dinner every night, put them to bed (and usually do firm work after the kids are in bed), and do family activities during the weekend – with the occassional (usually minimal) work that pops up on the weekends.

        I, too, neglect the dog and the house. And for the past 6+ years, I neglected myself. I reversed that recently (by exercising 7 hours per week), and I feel great. All of a sudden, a happier mom, a less stressed associate, and a new slimmer me.

        • Where/how did you find the time to exercise? I’m completely sleep-deprived and need advice.

          • Elissa – mostly I find time to exercise through good time management. I go to the gym or run outside early mornings – 6:30 am to 7:30 am, 4 days during the week. Also Sat and Sun at 9:00 am. From past experience, I figured out that fewer work conflicts can arise if I work out early in the morning before work, instead of after work. It’s only calls with Europe that can interfere with my early am workouts. When those come up, I just juggle the schedule.

            I also live 15 minutes from the office, so commuting takes up basically nil time in my life – that helps tremendously. My husband and I decided to take the financial hit and live in a smaller house for me to have a dream commute. That makes the work/life balance so much better.

            I’ve also learned to figure out what tasks at home/work are TRULY important and/or time sensitive. If it’s not critical, it can wait until tomorrow. I think it helps that I’m a senior associate now, so I can set my boundaries easier than when I was a junior associate.

            Also, regular exerise helps with my energy level – I feel so much better during the day, leading to a more productive day.

            If you decide you want to do it, you can do it! I told myself for YEARS that I was too busy to exercise. When health problems crept up due to obesity, all of a sudden I found time to exercise – and have been a gym rat ever since!

          • Anon today :

            The only way it works for me is to get up at 5:00 a.m. and hit the treadmill. And yes, that is vastly easier said than done.

      • This sounds wonderful and doable — but only if you have a flexible partner, right? For Anon Today and Anon 2, do you think you could do what you do if your husbands had the same jobs you have?

        • MM – I owe everything to my husband. There is simply no way that we could function with 2 kids if both of us were BigLaw lawyers. Emergency late night? No problem – hubby is at home to do the nighttime dinner and bed routine. Have to travel? No problem, hubby is at home. Conference call that conficts with my ability to take my son to pre-school on the way to work? No prob, hubby can do it. Sick kid? No prob, hubby is at home anyway. I try my very hardest to be at home with the kids as much as possible, but when work emergencies arise, I don’t have the stresses that other working moms have.

          I also attribute a somewhat successful work/life balance (yes, it’s not always easy and there are issues) to my practice group. As I said, there are problems, but the partners in my group are genuinely trying to make life in BigLaw tolerable.

          • Anon today :

            I would agree with the good practice group too. In getting an assignment yesterday, I was actually asked by a partner if I was too busy and encouraged to tell someone if I was. No associate in my 450+ lawyer firm bills 3000 hours a year. The highest is in the 2300-2400 range. I’m in the Midwest as opposed to NYC, so I don’t know how much that impacts it.

        • Anon today :

          No. Definitely not. The only reason my life works is because of my husband. To be a truly successful lawyer, I tend to think your job has to be the most important job in the household. Not that what my husband does isn’t important and meaningful to him. It is. But there is no question that if it came to one of us staying home, it would be him. And we are both okay with that. And so it works.

      • I’m a general surgeon at a big university. My husband is a cardiologist. We have an amazing two year old. We engage in split second timing on a regular basis and have a fabulous nanny that dotes on our son, sweeps our floors, does baking and generally keeps our house afloat. We have quality marriage and manage to get a good amount of family time and a bare minimum of “self time.”

        It can be done. You have to prioritize. We are sacrificing financially (and our fortunate that we can) to afford our nanny because it would be very difficult to do it any other way. Additionally, we are looking to move to a different area in order to further improve that magical work-life balance.

        Thanks for everyone for not turning this into some degenerative anti-woman conversation, which I feel like these conversations can turn in to. It is a lovely reinforcement as to why this community is so important to me.

      • I completely agree. Nothing is more frustrating that the judgment we pass on and recieve from other parents/those without children/anyone with a different lifestyle than we have. What works for one family doesn’t always work for another. I work full time plus. So does my husband. We make it work. Our kids are happy, get good grades, participate in extracurricular activities, and the 4 of us spend good quality time together. My kids are proud of me, and I’ve worked hard to build a support system so there are others (parents and those without children) to help when necessary. Am I tired? Yes. Do I get stressed out? Yes. But I am not going to waste my time feeilng guilty or feeling like I am not a good mother. My kids are thriving. If they are happy, enjoying school, making friends, and all of that, my husband and I are okay. Should this change, we’ll reevaluate. Working mothers are not farming their kids out. We work hard, love our kids, and usually help develop contributing members of society. Those who work at home raising the kids are not sitting around watching reality TV. They are also developing contributing members of society. The mommy wars are ridiculous and a complete waste of time.

      • But you can’t discount how lucky you (and some others on this thread) are w/r your employer. At the first law firm I worked at out of LS, I had clients who demanded they be staffed 24 hours a day (meaning that, like nurses, the associates on the deal were taking 12-14 hour daily shifts) or partners that would scream at you on the phone to get back in the office at 3 am. This may not be common, but it’s also not that rare in law firms.

  14. reg but anon for this :

    I chose the firm I am with because I had no other choice due to the crappy job market. It’s a small firm, with no other female attorneys. Interestingly, when I started, the partners changed out health insurance plan so that the associates now have a $3,000 deductible. Since I am just starting out, and have tons of loans to repay and many other expenses, having a baby is financially impossible until money is saved to cover the deductible. There was never any discussion at the time of hire about what type of maternity leave I might get later on. But there was also no discussion of vacation time, sick days, etc. Those just don’t really exist here. If you are sick, you don’t come in, you get paid. If you want to take a vacation and you aren’t a partner, ask to take the vacation and see what happens. I hate this type of closed-offed-ness. I thought that taking this job would be a good move for me because it would be fewer hours than BigLaw (it is 50 – 60 hours a week) and more family friendly. I will have to wait and see, but since I am basically committed to stay here for another two and a half years in order to have this look decent on my resume, there’s really nothing to be done about it.

    • I was in a very similar situation (except with all female attorneys) until the end of November. For better or worse (I happened to be unhappy with the people I was working with), I was let go in November quite suddenly. I think my employers though that the loose policy was kind, but it drove me crazy. I felt like couldn’t ever take a vacation (and actually ended up being let go while I was on the first vacation I’d taken), and when the only other associate became pregnant (which she was very clear far in advance was her plan), it was a nightmare for her to negotiate her maternity leave time.

      I guess I don’t really have anything to offer… I just needed to vent.

      • reg but anon for this :

        I feel quite of bit of anxiety about the uncertainty. What size was your former firm? We only have three partners and three associates (myself included). I feel like by the time I have children, my workload will be high enough that it will be difficult for me to take much time off without putting a huge burden on the other attorneys in the firm. It definitely worries me, and I agree, not having a policy about stuff like this is worse than having a crappy one.

        • We had 2 partners and two associates. I was under the impression that I was hired on both because they needed a second associate, and because they would need one desperately when the other assocaite went on maternity leave (she was not yet trying when I was hired, but everyone knew she wanted to). I think that there are concerns, but most are based on personality – ie., how well the partners will handle it. The work load works itself out.

    • I don’t have anything to offer to the discussion regarding planning for a baby and balancing your career but one thing to keep in mind regarding the cost to have a baby. If you are on a high deductible plan you will need to pay a deductible for yourself and your newborn. With my plan, the cost to have a child is close to $10,000 for both our care. Definitely something to consider when in the planning stages of growing your family.

      • The deductible cost is a pittance compared to what you’ll pay for good childcare. My nanny cost me $36,000/yr, and I’m in a LCOL area. A good infant daycare center will cost $18,000 a year, give or take. Unless you’re one of the lucky ones who has a mom or mother-in-law willing to help with childcare for free or cheap, this is where the REAL cost concern comes in.

  15. 1) Did you plan your career with a family juggle in mind?
    No, not at all. I was going to be a high-powered executive and travel the world making big decisions with big people. I did not want to get married or have children. Then, I met my now-husband, and well, things changed.

    2) Have you changed your career due to babies on your brain? How so?
    Yes, absolutely. And as a result of it, I went into business for myself where I can work less-than-full-time and still have a decent income. What I do will never lead me to major success in the corporate world, but I don’t care, and here’s why. This may enrage some people, but here it is.
    I finally realized something about myself, that Sheryl Sandberg didn’t take into account in her presentation: not every working woman wants to be defined by her work, or rise to a certain level of “success.” I am a throwback to an earlier age. I am happier managing the house and being a wife and a mom than I am being a high-powered executive. All respect to Sheryl Sandberg, but I don’t want to make it to the “c-suite.” I don’t want to work 80-100 hours a week and travel all the time and rise to the top of some megacorporation and have my son prefer the nanny to me, because he only sees me about 2 hours a week. What I want is to have a nice, simple, quiet life where I can spend lots of time with my family, we have ample money for our basic needs and some fun extras, and at the end of the day I can say “I did a good job being a mom and a wife today.” Jackie Kennedy said “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do well matters very much.” That’s pretty much how I feel. I don’t care if a woman is the CEO of the biggest company on the planet, if her kids feel they are failures and have deficient lives, she failed. She is a failure. Period. I may fail at everything else, but I am determined to be a good mother and give my son a good life. That is really all that matters to me any more. I realize I am lucky to be able to make a choice to work part-time – but very honestly, I see a lot of women who claim they “don’t have a choice” to work less, and they do – if they would give up the new cars, large houses, designer clothes and fancy vacations they are purchasing. Those things aren’t going to make up, later, for the fact that they spent very little time with their children. Children need their parents’ time, and their love. Not their money.

    3) For those of you *with* kids — what’s your advice to those of us without kids? Plan ahead? Roll with the punches? What job benefits have you found absolutely essential to you as a mother?
    My advice is:
    -Realize that how you feel about being a working mom before your child is born may change after your child is born. If at all possible, try to set up your situation so you can take extended maternity leave, go part-time, “off-ramp” for awhile, or work flextime. Save money and live beneath your means so you have some options.
    -Figure out, for yourself, what you really want, going into having kids. Not what your partner wants or your mom wants or your boss wants or your friends will think. This is your life, you have to live it and live with your choices.
    -I do honestly believe that women can have it all. I am just not convinced women can have it all at the same time. Trying to be on the fast-track and devoting 80 hours a week to your career when you have two small children is probably a recipe for some bad outcomes all the way around. Nancy Pelosi raised five kids and stayed home while they were young, and still ended up Speaker of the House. Here is the news flash: the media image of the attractive mom of three kids who has a high-powered job, great marriage, runs five times a week and keeps a spotless and attractive home where there’s a home-cooked meal on the table every night is a fantasy. Straight up. It does not work that way for people in the real world, at least not without a lot of household help and perhaps some methamphetamine. Stop trying to make fantasy into reality in your own life. Create your own reality that you are happy with.

    • To [email protected] 3:56: All so true, and thank you for your last paragraph in particular.

    • Anonymous :

      I finally realized something about myself, that Sheryl Sandberg didn’t take into account in her presentation: not every working woman wants to be defined by her work, or rise to a certain level of “success.”

      No, but a lot of us do want this, and Sandberg was speaking to us, not to women who don’t want it.

      • Annonymous :

        Also agree with anon @ 3:56. And to the poster who said that Sandberg was speaking only to “us” (i.e., women who want to be defined by their work or rise to a certain level of success) — I didn’t hear her that way. I heard her encouraging women to WANT, even to insist upon, that level of success, and not worry about babies or family until they are “on the ground.” And while I see the value in her comments, in encouraging women to “take a seat at the table,” I agree more with those who recognize that it’s ok for us all to have different definitions of success. I spent 8 years at big law, and agree with all the posters who said that none of the “successful” women there had lives that I had the remotest interest in emulating. None.

        But where I diverge from other posters, and from anon @3:56 in particular, is that this doesn’t have to be a “throwback” perspective. In fact, it could be a forward-looking one — in which women AND men are permitted to make decisions geared to protecting their personal lives, if that’s what they want. The fact is that I wouldn’t want to emulate the successful MEN at big law, or have my husband emulate them, any more than I do the women. I would love to see more room for alternate track careers for women AND men. Relevant to Sandberg’s comments in particular — she seems to attribute all decisions by women not to take the next big project, not to force themselves into “the table” to the fact that they are already thinking about husbands and babies. But maybe those women just have a different version of success. Maybe they would rather make a little less money for a little less work. Maybe they would rather spend more time practicing yoga, reading, walking, whatever, and pass on the next promotion. If there are others who want that promotion, who want more money and more prestige and are willing to make the sacrifices necessary, why not let the marketplace play out like that? Right now, I think the “problem” is that more women than men make the decision to shift the “work life” balance towards “life”. Of course, a certain amount (pregnancy, breastfeeding) is biology, but that accounts for little time in the grand scheme of things. I think the bigger issue is not to make sure women don’t “leave before they leave” but to acknowledge collectively that there is room for different career paths for both men and women, and to not assume that a woman or man who passes up projects or promotions is “checked out” or just interested in making babies. If people do the work that they “signs up” for well, there should be no stigma attached to “signing up” for less.

    • Love this. Especially the part about meth.

  16. “Interestingly, when I started, the partners changed out health insurance plan so that the associates now have a $3,000 deductible.”

    I wouldn’t read too much into this. Health Insurance costs have risen a lot and recent years and its esp hard on small firms. My deductible doubled one year and the price of the plan still went up from the previous year.

    • reg but anon for this :

      I don’t think that the motive was to prevent me from being able to afford to have children, but I do know that taking on a female attorney of baby-making age caused their group plan to become much more expensive so they chose to change the plan completely. I was taken aback by it, because our deductible went from $500 to $3,000. And, initially, the partners told us that they were just going to up our salary to compensate for that, but then they changed their minds about it.

  17. Mrs. Marbury :

    Longtime lurker, first time poster — but this topic is close to my heart.
    I did plan my law career with family on the brain because I was pregnant and had my first child in law school (between 2L and 3L years — during my summer associate position). I did angst a bit over whether to (1) accept and then (2) actually begin (two distinctly different periods of anxiety!) my BigLaw firm job. My anxiety was over the unknown — what is life as a first-year associate like? Is it totally grueling? Would I ever see my baby? But I really didn’t know, and I was about to make a huge career decision on the unknown. This, I think, is the danger in this whole conversation and the question Kat poses: You just have NO idea until you have your baby whether you’ll be someone who weeps when you leave every day (and that’s OK if you do!) or whether you’ll get to your office, grab a Starbucks, and actually be pretty psyched to sit down at your computer and go through your emails and chat with colleagues, etc.
    I told myself I’d work at my firm for six months and quit if I had to. But I had to see for myself whether it was possible so that I’d have context and the big picture for future decisions.

    I’m now in my third year and have recently returned from maternity leave after baby #2. Is it easy? No. Do I miss my children? Of course. Desperately. But my firm — and maybe this is where you can make some choices — because it is so large, actually has a pretty flexible part-time (though I cringe at that word! I work 40+ hours a week on my part-time schedule!) policy, almost no real face time policies, 18 weeks paid maternity leave. I did consciously chose a firm that had these benefits, knowing that the tradeoff might be the BigFirm work ethic. Still, were I at a smaller firm or non profit (though my real interests might lie there…), I wouldn’t have had the great maternity leave or part-time flexibility (not to mention I’d be paid much less!)

    I can’t believe I’m actually writing all this because half the time I want to quit — but the reasons for this are not so much that I don’t spend enough time with my children, but because the majority of my fellow third-year associates do NOT have children and thus are able to stay well into the night, bill more hours, etc. And I hate feeling like a slacker. But that’s a whole different issue that working moms face (i.e., the old chestnut that you can do nothing 100%, and nothing very well…)

    My advice is: please, please don’t change your career ahead of the fact. In this economy and job market (especially if you are a lawyer), get in as much work and experience as you can before you have children. You do not know how things are going to change after you have children. You may decide to up and out quit. You may decide to look for a part time job, but you may also decide that you love it. You may find a great daycare arrangement and have a flexible spouse and decide that supporting your family and being a great working-mom role model to your children is worth some sacrifices. I also know that were my husband to lose his job or get hit by a bus or something, I could support my kids. That peace of mind can be for some people worth a few afternoons at the playground. Just consider this before you take yourself off a track that it’s very hard to get back on. (Read this article in the New Republic for a more eloquent take on what I’m trying to say!:

    • I particularly like what you said about being a working-mom role model. As a mom of two little girls and a lawyer, that concept helps keep me from feeling guilty about LIKING my job!

    • I could have written a lot of this. I had my son between semesters of my third year in law school and now am a few months into being a first year associate in BigLaw. I had 15 months between the bar exam and starting my job, and couldn’t have been more anxious to start working. I love being at the office, and while I wish I had more time with my son (who just turned 2), I don’t sit in my office and cry because I miss him all day. Sometimes the logistics are tricky…we use daycare and have a babysitter bring him home everyday…but nothing too bad. The thing that I find the hardest is the fact that many people I work with are night owls, so they expect me to work late into the night and then I wake up early with my son. Since I am brand new, I can’t really push back or set my own hours, so I just have to deal with it. But in general, being a full-time working mom is a lot more doable than I would have thought back when I was a stay-at-home mom. You just have to give yourself a chance to make it work.

  18. Thanks for posting on this topic. I spent 7 years in Biglaw corporate, including one maternity leave. I felt like I was treated pretty fairly, but most likely because I proved myself before having kids. I think building up goodwill and learning who your allies are can take you very far once you have kids and desire to have some flexibility in the hours you spend in the office. I talked to my department head before I went on leave and previewed what I *thought* I wanted – some kind of reduced schedule (80%), in exchange for working from home (with childcare) 2x a week and the understanding that I needed the 6-8 pm time slot to see my baby, barring true emergencies. I continued working on good deals, for good clients, but focused my work toward those partners who I knew would have a good attitude toward my arrangement. Not everyone gets it, and you have to be OK with that. I don’t think the “reduced hours” arrangement is a good deal financially, but I felt like it gave me the right to say no a little more often. If you work in a client service business, and you’ve spent time building those client relationships and doing good work, I think it can be done!
    Of course, I say all of the foregoing having left Biglaw for in-house while 4 months pregnant with Baby #2. Note that decision wasn’t made because of the balance, but rather because of “what I want to be when I grow up.”

  19. I worked in Biglaw for 10 years (was a junior partner) , left when I was three months pregant with my first, and returned to a government job after 5 years at home (and one more kid).

    If you are interested in continuing to practice law after having children, I would highly recommend not having a kid during your first three to five years at the firm. You simply will not get the best assignments (and best training) if you are on the mommy track that early in your career. And you will be considered to be on the mommy track if you have a kid, regardless of your true aspirations. This is not fair but it is the way law firms work.

    Second, and this is where I disagree with “don’t leave before you leave,” consider both your job and your husband’s when planning for post-baby. Someone will need to have flexibility in their schedule, or you will spend all of your weekend running errands, and will wind up shortchanging your kids. Biglaw in particular is geared towards families where one spouse (could be the woman) works Biglaw hours and the other works part/flex/or stays at home.

    My husband is a surgeon and often has to work evenings and/or weekend days with little advance notice. If I can’t finagle a p/t position (and I work a 40 hour government job now), I will return to being a SAH parent. Kids take far more time and energy than you can ever imagine before you have them.

    So, if you can find a position that is interesting and suits your needs prior to getting pregnant, you could seamlessly return to it after pregnancy and maternity leave.

    BTW, of all my women lawyer friends who started out the Biglaw route and have had children, none remain f/t at their firms (including one who made partner at a Top Ten firm and then quit when had kids). Most would love to work p/t but there are very limited opportunities to do so in law in other than a low level position, and so most are home with their kids.

    • I would love to hear more about your story. I am interested in taking a few years off when I have children (which, hopefully, will be soon — we’ll see), but I do not think I would want to SAH for the rest of my life. Having done the “opt out” for a few years and then coming back yourself, … how reasonable is this as a lawyer? I’m a fifth year BigLaw associate now, in a specialized field, and wondering what the job market will think of me if I take a chunk of time off of legal work and then come a-knocking with an out-of-date resume.

      • You can take the time off and come back as long as you are willing to take a cut in pay, and be able to be behind your peers who kept working. I have no regrets and I came back to the job market in 2009, a dismal market for lawyers, and got a job in less than six months without looking very strenously (and I only interviewed for federal gov’t positions). I do think that I could not have stayed off-ramp any longer without it becoming a much bigger issue. I left without a plan just thought I could get back in when I wanted because I felt I was a very well-trained lawyer when I left. If you are in a specialized area, that will help a lot (I am a litigator). My job now if very family friendly, almost no travel, nobody in my office works weekends, and the work is interesting. If I could work only three or four days a week it would be perfect

  20. Lawyering Mom :

    Knowing what I do now, I wouldn’t have become a lawyer. I find it very difficult to balance my family and my career. Like another commentor, when I went on maternity leave, my “replacement” was hired and now we have to compete for work. If I have a doctor’s appointment, I’m not “committed” but if a man has an appointment, he can go without notice. A mother going to her kid’s play is seen as not being available, a father doing the same thing gets brownie points. Having children means that partners will look at you with an exceptionally critical eye, searching for signs that you will check out or that you are inattentive.

    It’s also very hard to bill BIGLAW hours when you’re pregnant and exhausted, nursing, or plan to spend any time mothering. Part time is usually not a viable option – some firms portray themselves as having part time programs, but those are typically for show. Part time partners are often Supreme Court clerks and part time associates usually don’t make partner (and were among the first to go when the economy went downhill). Look at the female partners at your firm. I have yet to meet a single femal partner (with children) who has a lifestyle I would emulate. Typically they don’t see their kids, their personal lives are a mess, or they are the primary – or sole – breadwinner in the family. Also, pay attention to whether the female partners had their children as associates (usually they didn’t) and to the percentage of female partners who actually are mothers.

    • I too would not have chosen to become a lawyer if I’d understood how hard it would be to do this work after having children for many of the reasons you mention. This is why I have very mixed feelings about whether it’s a good thing for young women who know they will eventually want kids to plan, and possibly down-scale, their careers accordingly.

      No one discussed these issues with me when I was making choices about my education and goals — the message was that women could and should “have it all.” I was totally unprepared for the enormous demands of children and for the intensity of my own feelings for my kids and strong desire to be with them.

      My kids are now 7 and 10. I would not be happy as a full-time at home parent (though many of my highly educated and trained friends have eventually made that choice). I continue to work full-time as an attorney, but it’s a struggle. I wonder if I would have been happier if I’d made a more informed decision and perhaps chosen a somewhat less demanding and more “family friendly” profession? I’d hate to see young women sell themselves short . . . but there are definitely tradeoffs in life, and it’s probably best to be at least aware of them.

      • Where did this concept of selling ourselves short come from? Somehow, somewhere, someone convinced us that raising a family was not a worthy career choice. Is this feminism gone awry? I’m not criticizing you b/c I drank the cool aid too.

        I always thought it would be a waste of my intellect not to have a professional career. Well, now that I’m there, I see that the same intellect could raise some very smart, healthy and well-balanced kids and I would enjoy being home with them.

        In starting college and deciding my career path, I feel like I was misled to think I would be a failure if I weren’t “successful.” Now I see that “successful” means making money and we all know that money can’t buy happiness. I wish I could go back in time and make different decisions.

        • It’s because, although women have made huge gains, career choices associated with women (such as stay-at-home parenting) are often still less valued by society. It’s not so much feminism gone awry as feminism that hasn’t yet been fully successful.

        • “I always thought it would be a waste of my intellect not to have a professional career. Well, now that I’m there, I see that the same intellect could raise some very smart, healthy, and well-balanced kids.”

          – I respectfully disagree. It IS a waste of your intellect, specialized technical education and training because raising kids and being a professional in your field take a different set of skills and training. It takes LESS intellect to be a successful mom as to be a successful cardiologist, say.
          This is hard to say and I realize uncomfortable to hear, but is true IMO.

          • Lawyering Mom :

            I disagree. Growing up, I was always told not to “waste my intellect” and be “just” a teacher or not to “waste my intellect” and just be a Mom. I listened to that advice without questioning it and I regret it. At the end of the day, all I get from being a lawyer is $100K+ in student loan debt, a lot of stress, and minimal enjoyment. I would be much happier to have more time for my family and didn’t feel like a crappy lawyer and a crappy mother because I don’t have enough time to do both. I would also be JUST as smart with a less impressive career or as a stay at home mom. I don’t need the external validation that I’m intelligent.

          • I find it interesting to hear that it is a waste of intellect and legal training to raise kids b/c being a legal professional and a parent require different skills. The analytical skills picked-up in law school are useful in many areas of life — not just BigLaw. While I’m not writing briefs at home, having a legal education makes it a nonissue when i buy real estate, have to negotiate with the plumber, or the insurance agent, or a repairman, or whoever I need to provide services because I know how to spot issues and where to look for potential problems/pitfalls. Plus, lawyers have to learn how to pick battles strategically and manage sometimes difficult clients — lawyers are trained to understand that while it’s nice to be your client’s friend, sometimes you have to protect your client from himself albeit in a gentle/nonthreatening way. I this this translates well to parenthood. Moreover, in many ways, I find that the skills I’ve had to develop as a parent have helped me become a better lawyer. There are a lot of parallels between mediating arguments between 2 bickering children and some of my more difficult clients. Being a parent has taught me to be more compassionate, patient, how to relate to difficult clients, and how to pick my battles more effectively, and how to make hard decisions and stick with them.. these are skills that I think translate well into legal practice and the business of giving clients meaningful advice.
            If you’re not happy working and being a parent, if you don’t like practicing law, if you don’t want to work at all.. that’s one thing. It’s important to do what makes you happy, and law — and certainly practicing law while having kids — is not for everyone. But I don’t make the mistake of thinking that leaving law practice — or dialing-it-down — to raise children is a waste. While you need not be a lawyer to become a mother, both positions benefit from a good dose of wisdom, which is only gained by experience. Some of the best mothers I know are lawyers, and some of the best lawyers I know are mothers.

  21. In House Mouse :

    #1 – understanding, supportive and helpful family (partner and children)
    Work/life balance pertains to the entire family, not just the mom!
    My partner’s job is certainly affected by our 4-year-old son as much as mine is, in terms of reduced hours, taking him to appointments, etc. However, as much as I would like for us to have a 50/50 split, I’m still the one in charge of managing the household duties. I am also much more likely to assume responsibility for typical parenting stuff, like buying birthday gifts for son’s friends, RSVP-ing to parties, planning meals and grocery lists, packing lunches.

    #2 – childcare you trust
    We put our son in daycare starting at 9 months. He love s it there, and we feel a real sense of community with many of the other parents. The school has actual lesson plans (even for the 18-month olds) and has given him a lot of confidence in group settings. It’s also a good way to make parent-friends, as we didn’t really know any before having a child of our own.

    • Anon in NY :

      In addition to childcare you trust, how about childcare you can afford on a normal salary?
      Childcare in the northeast cities is outrageously expensive. It would cost nearly $50k a year for my husband and I to have someone to care for a baby during the hours we needed (roughly 6:30am, to 7pm). And that is simply working 50-hours a week – which btw is slacking according to my companies expected billable hours for managers. Sigh.
      This whole decision seems so much easier for women in the female-dominated fields like nursing and teaching for that reason alone – I’m not saying the work is easier, but the hours and the flexibility around shifts offers so many more options.

      • I agree. Reliable and affordable childcare is probably the #1 necessity to making it all work. If you don’t have complete confidence in your childcare provider, you’ll never be able to concentrate and get your work done. And if you can’t afford a reliable childcare provider, it’s over before you’ve even started.

        My suggestion for women who can’t find good childcare but can’t afford a nanny: Try to find a neighbor/friend/colleague who might be willing to split the cost of a nanny with you. Nanny-sharing can be a way to make great childcare really affordable.

  22. I work in-house as an attorney. This is my third week back from a 3 month maternity leave with my third child which was cobbled together using short term disability and accrued paid time off. The thing I value most about my job is the flexibility. I can come in the morning after I drop off at school. Leave early when I need to or even work from home on occasion. I check emails and do my reading/research work at home in the morning before the kids get up or while I’m breastfeeding the baby. I spend the time and attention needed to get the kids dressed, fed and ready for their day. I’m home in time for dinner ,to help it homework, drive to extra curricular activities and handle bedtime. My husband is able to stay at home to care for our children during the day. I do make less money, but it is enough for my family to create the life we enjoy.

    I stopped thinking about trying to achieve “balance” because that implies some kind of equality which never happens. I think in terms of reaching a state of harmony. There are times like right after having a baby that my family is singing a strong top note, other times they can hang with a little less prominence when a big work projects makes demands. It is an ongoing song that requires constant attention.

    A few other comments….I find it highly unlikely that anyone could return to work 2 weeks after giving birth. Why would you want to if you didn’t absolutely have to? Physically you are a mess (literally) and mentally you are exhausted. I love my job and am the sole source of income for my family, but that baby needs me more. If you don’t think you can spend more than 2 weeks caring exclusively for your family then you might want to reconsider having children. It is okay to not have children. It only gets harder with more children. Taking care of a single infant is intense enough, but add to that the parenting required of older siblings and you discover your family needs the time to adjust without worrying about work. If you don’t give them that time, you will pay for it in other ways. I think putting that kind of self-imposed pressure on yourself is a quick way to creating resentment for both your job and your family. That is a lot of unhappiness to fix.

    Finally, with all three of my pregnancies I was able to work up until the day before I gave birth. My work projects did begin to taper off prior to my departure date because everyone knew I would be out. With this last pregnancy, I was fortunate to be able to wait to tell everyone I was pregnant until 20 weeks. My boss started redirecting projects almost immediately, I knew that would happen which was why I waited to tell everyone. I tend to undershare personal/family stuff at work and that seems to work for me and my boss.

    I think everyone needs to find the balance that works best for them and their families and planning for that is not a bad thing, but don’t sell yourself short in either arena. Think creatively. I don’t want my boss to see me primarily as a mom and I don’t want my kids to see me primarily as an attorney.

  23. Anonymous :


    1. Plan ahead all you want, but be ready to have a completely different perspective after the kid is born. The post-baby you will still be you, but different, and you won’t know what will change in your own head until you get there.

    2. Nannies get sick, get engaged, and get bored. A good day care doesn’t ever do these things.

    3. Good day cares have waiting lists. Start looking well before you’re ready.

    4. Between about 7-8 months and 18-24 months is a very difficult time because your kid’s immune system is busy building itself up by catching every cold and ear infection that comes within five miles of the day care center. Just when you think you’ve emerged and are back up and running, you’re getting calls to come get your kid all the time. This is worth planning ahead for; you need either flexibility or good back-up care during this period. Once you get through it, that little immune system will be amazingly strong.

    • Anon in NY :

      Best thing hands down about my firms benefits is the unlimited sick day policy which can be used for yourself, immediate family, and extended family if necessary. So, so valuable. I used it to care for my mother during her hip replacement and those extra few days of knowing a family member was there when my father wasn’t allowed to (and couldn’t afford to) take time off certainly bought my loyalty at my firm for a good long time.

    • Nanny v. day care is a very personal issue. There are good and bad examples of both. Daycare generally has rigid end times (6:30) that may not work for all. Personally I couldn’t ever make it to work if I had to wake both my kids up early enough to be fully dressed by the time I leave. Having a nanny allows us to just hang out in the morning while I get ready, and have someone to do the kid’ s laundry, accept grocery deliveries, and be home for the plumber,e tc. . . For me, it also allowed my kids to stay in the same preschool and do the same day time activities they did when I stayed home full time (music class, tennis, etc.) I have friends for whom daycare worked great, so there is no right answer.

  24. I don’t have children and am not sure if I want to have children, but I got out of BigLaw because I wanted a life, period. Meaning, dinner with my boyfriend, making plans on weekends, running, playing with my dog, traveling for fun (not for depositions), and basically just all the joys that come with leaving the office at 6:30. I personally think the problem with a lot of these crazy jobs is the crazy jobs themselves, regardless of what you want to do with the rest of your time.

    My reaction to the original article was that it was a bit harsh on the non-boomer generations in general. There are plenty of reasons not to want the 3000 billable lifestyle that have nothing to do with pre-planning for babies, but rather with being reasonable human beings.

    • associate :

      My thoughts exactly.

    • Another Sarah :

      Co-signed. I also don’t know if I want kids at this point in my life, and I’m not married, nor do I have someone in mind that I would consider marrying currently (Prince Harry doesn’t count). My personal belief (and I know others don’t share, and that’s cool) is that your work is your work. You can enjoy your work, you can hate your work, but it’s your work. Work is necessary to be able to enjoy such things as food, a roof over your head, health insurance, etc. If you like your work, bonus! If you’re successful at your work, double bonus! Personally, I would rather get second-place at work and be commended for volunteer projects outside of work and lead an otherwise awesome life, etc, instead of putting 500% into work and only getting first-place at work. And yes, my boss may insist that I put 500% into work; it’s their job to insist on it. And I’m not saying that I won’t do my best and put in my all at work. But work becoming my life is unsustainable. Success at work =/= Success at life, and everyone’s definitions of “success” are different, and I think a lot of people forget that.

      Just my .02 :-)

  25. A 32-year old boss of mine at my Big Four firm has told me smugly, not once but twice, that a woman with children will never get anywhere here. He had his first child a year ago. His wife, also an accountant, he says is unlikely to return to work.

    The first time he mentioned that he ‘felt sorry’ for women I told him that I believed a solution would be parental leave which could be shared out between a couple as they deem fit, which would lead employers to do less pre-emptive discrimination against women. He laughed and said that it was a sweet idea but women wouldn’t be able to handle having only a short period of maternity leave.

    I hate him for this attitude but I can’t help wondering if he’s right.

    • Document that attitude. I would go far in a discrimination case.

    • I feel sorry for his wife.

    • This is already done in many first world countries. Check out the maternity leave policy available in Canada. I work for a Canadian company and our colleagues there get 12 months of ‘parental’ leave each child that can be split between the couple as they see fit. If that means they both take 6 months concurrently, they can, if they want to do 2 months concurrent, with the wife taking more after that, they can. It’s also against the law for your position to be eliminated or changed while you are out. This has created a role in the workforce for ‘temporaries’ at various levels–folks who fill positions on one year contracts while others are out on leave.

      Not meaning to start a social debate at all, but I do contemplate why is the US is so stingy on such policies, and does it actually add up to a more productive workforce in the end, or something else entirely?

      • Ireland is actually very generous with maternity leave – 26 weeks for which you receive a government stipend, the option of an extra 16 unpaid weeks, during the whole period of which your employer is not permitted to hire a replacement. Many employers, including my own, keep you on full pay (minus the government stipend, which they reclaim) for some of your maternity leave also.

        But unlike the Brits across the water, paternity leave is not recognised in law. My employer grants 2 weeks paternity leave, but it’s unpaid. I know the party governing in Britain wants to introduce the Canadian system. It sounds like a fantastic system!

        As for comparisons with America – perhaps something to do with the entrepeneurial spirit, small businesses, etc? Generous maternity leave policies are pretty tough on small businesses. But that’s just speculation.

      • In Norway the state regulated maternity leave is either 46 weeks off (including 3 weeks before birth) at 100% salary or 56 weeks off (including 3 weeks before birth) at 80% salary.

        Out of those weeks, 10 weeks are legally and mandetory designated for the father. (There is currently a motion in parliament to increase the father’s portion of the leave to 12 weeks.)

        There is also a set portion for mothers and the remainder can be used by either of the parties.

        • L from Oz :

          I have two friends in Germany out on maternity leave, and they’re both taking a year at 60% salary, which is legally binding. You can actually stay out for up to 3 years, but it’s unpaid after the first year.

          I probably can’t have kids, so it’s not that relevant for me, but I couldn’t do my current job in the same way with a baby. If I wanted to stay, I’d have to adjust how I actually work, or go part time. (Actually 3/4 would be perfect in any case, so I have more of a life!)

      • I wonder if the the big issue in the US is how to pay for it. The Family and Medical Leave Act does grant 12 weeks of (unpaid) leave for certain instances (including pregnancy), in which your employer can’t fire/replace you while you are gone.

        But in order to do PAID leave, someone is going to have to pay for it – and the US is already having issues paying for the entitlement programs it already has (Social Security, Medicare) that I can’t see paid time off for being a mom gaining traction.

        • What about anti-discrimination policies aimed at making employers pay? Could that be an angle?

        • Another Anon :

          I think you are right. The othervhard thing with FMLA is that it only applies to only certain employers, so my firm that employs only 25 is exempt.

  26. I too would like to have a baby, but have a different problem. Tho I love men, I cannot stand the thought of having sex with them on top of me because I am claustrophobic. It is also gross. Most men I have had sex all want to be on top, so the relationship doesn’t last.

    How can I have a baby without sex? I do not want to get artificial insemination because I want the father in my life, if not as a husband, at least for purposes of support of my child.

    I know this is a dilemna, and I have no I idea how to solve it.

    Does anyone else have this issue? If so, how can I resolve it?

    Thank you.

    • Have an open relationship with a gay man who wants to be a dad. Problem solved.

    • Wow, welcome back Ellen/Alan.

    • The “dilemna” was a dead giveaway. Hi Ellen/Alan/B/whoever you’re pretending to be this week!

    • Just have sex with as many guys as you can — on top — and when you can’t figure out who the father is, just pick the guy who grosses you out the least.

    • Could therapy possibly help? I have the opposite problem, I don’t like having missionary sex unless the man’s body is right on top of mine. It makes me really uncomfortable if he is holding himself back further and looking at me. I assume its some buried trauma somewhere in my life or something, if thats not true for you I apologize for the assumption. I also can’t really go through security because of the arms length yet intimate touching. I actually left my last job in part because I went through security every day and I can’t handle that w/o heavy prescription drugs which doesn’t really work when you are headed to a courtroom. I’m going back to therapy now.

  27. I think most of the commenters here are still working (why else would you read Corporette?), and therefore the responses are kind of skewed. If you are thinking about having kids, you need to consider the idea that all of the planning/perks/support in the world may still not make being away from your child worth it. I spent a year back at my Big Law job after my daughter was born (after a generous 6 month maternity leave, and at only 80%, working 9-5, M-F). I HATED EVERY MINUTE. I hated hated hated leaving my daughter every day, I hated that I didn’t have any time for myself, I hated feeling like I was doing everything in my life poorly. So I quit and started my own firm. I work part-time, my daughter goes to school two days a week, and I work during naptimes on the other days and sometimes get a babysitter if I can’t avoid scheduling appointments on off-days. Not everyone feels like I did–I know plenty of people that have been perfectly happy to go back on a “part-time” (still 30-40 hours a week) or full-time schedule, but when you are an associate at a firm, you usually are not exposed to the women that have completely dropped out or gone a totally different path. I think that women planning to have children think that if they can just find the perfect daycare, nanny, family help, etc., or have a spouse stay home, everything will be fine–but some women really are just hardwired to want to spend time with their children beyond bedtime and weekends.
    One of the things I’ve noticed is that mothers at firms outsource everything–childcare, meal preparation, cleaning, etc. That’s fine, but if at the end of the day, you’re spending all of your after-tax income to pay other people to do the things you could do yourself, it starts to not make any financial sense. Which, if you really love working all the time and not seeing your kids, is okay, I guess. It just wasn’t for me. And it’s hard to know where you really fall in all of this until they put that baby in your arms.

    • North Shore :

      Did you love your job before having children?

    • By the same token, you may NOT want to stay home. I didn’t. I was prepared to loathe going back to work and cry when I left baby at the daycare. But I didn’t. I couldn’t want to go back and take a break from being “mommy,” and I’m a saner person and a better parent for it. There’s nothing wrong with outsourcing so long as you’re outsourcing the tasks you value doing less than that tasks you’re keeping for yourself (i.e. outsource cooking = okay if you don’t like to cook, outsource loving your kid = not okay).

      Just saying either could happen.

      • And I think I made the point that you could end up either way, but I thought the commenters were just skewed towards the “I love my job and could never stay home full-time” kind of viewpoint. To answer the first question, I liked my job; I wouldn’t say it was love, but I found it satisfying and enjoyed my colleagues. And I like doing something other than parenting, which is why I decided to open my own practice instead of just quitting. But I don’t like my Big Law job so much I was willing to forgo extra time with my daughter for essentially half of my pre-kid salary, which is what I was down to after accounting for being 80% part-time, not being eligible for bonuses, paying childcare, drycleaning, meals out/ordered in, etc. And going in-house/smaller firm wasn’t the answer, because I live in an area where cost of childcare is rather high compared to salaries, and so I’d basically be working to pay for daycare. At least with my own firm I work for myself, don’t have to worry about sick days, and generally have more time to spend with my daughter and more control over my life.

        • Yep, you’re absolutely right. :-) Sorry, I just get defensive about it, I guess. I’m from a culture where *wanting* to work after having a kid is definitely judged, and I feel like I’m constantly having to defend my decision to keep my job even though financially I don’t have to. For I while I thought maybe I SHOULD be feeling guilty about it, like it makes me a bad mom not to want to be with my son all day every day. But then I realized that no one was judging my husband for not wanting to be a stay at home dad–why should I be different? Some people rock at full-time mom-hood. Others don’t. And either one is absolutely fine.

          • No judgments here; I totally support that. I know plenty of great moms that work, and who would be miserable being home full-time. Heck, I wouldn’t be happy being home with my daughter full-time (she goes to preschool two days a week). But leaving her forty hours a week broke my heart, and I felt wholly unprepared for that, since all of the attorney moms I knew seemed to be fine with that (duh, otherwise they wouldn’t still be working!). And I wish someone had pointed out to me that I might feel like that–so I tried to write a post that would at least put some women contemplating families on notice that all the part-time, flextime, great childcare, and supportive spouses *might* not be enough for them.

          • Anon today :

            I feel the same way Midori. We are all wired differently, and I long for a culture in which women can celebrate that we all have the choice to do what is best for our families rather than making judgments about which choice is the “best” choice. There is no “best” choice. There is just a best choice for each family.

  28. Divaliscious11 :

    This wil be disjointed as I am on my phone but wanted to respond.

    1. Yes, but principally because law was a second career for me and I wanted to establish expectations fairly upfront. Opted for the biglaw firm that at the time was considered the lifestyle firm, left some money on the table, but it was a good choice. Selected practice area that was demanding but that I really enjoyed so that going to work itself would not be tedious. Bit the bullet when number 2 was on the way and hired a nanny so I wasn’t worried about my children while at work

    Secure childcare that you are comfortable with before you go back to work. HUGE!

    2. Didn’t change because babies on brain but when the leadership in the practice group change to an outside partner whose demands made my juggle less manageable with no add’l value gain got me, I left and went in-house with no regrets.

    3. Need computer for this one….

  29. One of my college professors wrote an interesting book on this whole topic: Glass Ceilings and 100-Hour Couples — What the Opt-Out Phenomenon Can Teach Us about Work and Family by Karine Moe and Dianna Shandy. They discuss the various approaches women take to balancing careers and families and also offer suggestions for how women can improve their situation regardless of which track they choose.

    • AnonymousCF :

      I read this book and thought it was excellent. The best point, I think, was that treating the decision to have children like the decision to have pets (“you wanted ’em, you deal with ’em”) puts a lot of strain on parents, which is disproportionately carried by women for biological and sociological reasons. If our country actually valued children and childrearing (e.g., provided paid parental leave on the order of Canada, the UK, etc.), the balance wouldn’t be so difficult. I don’t even have children (or want them) and I think our approach is ludicrous.

  30. I didn’t shrink from really hard work, but I did stay in a job I hated to have a baby. Then I stayed because I had a baby, and then the economy has kept me there. I wish I had done things differently.

  31. associate :

    This is a timely thread as I’m due with my 1st in a few weeks; I’m a mid-level associate at midlaw. I’m thinking about working 80% when I return – M-Th and not working Fridays. I’ve heard from multiple people that working “part time” at a firm almost always shortchanges you economically because you end up working more hours than you get paid for. Nonetheless, any advice from people who have done this? I fully anticipate working regular, full-time + hours during certain periods but hope to balance it out with working a lot less during the non-busy times.

    • Whether it works completely depends on the people you work for. If you work for understanding partners (i.e. human beings) that won’t give you a rush assignment on Thursday at 5 p.m., you will be better situated. Make sure to touch base with partners that you like a few weeks before you come back from maternity leave, and if you are in litigation (not sure how things work with transactional), try to be put on larger cases; cases with large teams are a more forgiving work environment than a case with just you and a partner. Make sure you have flexible childcare lined up–someone who can cover you on Fridays and in the evenings if necessary. I know a lot of people that work M-Th and still pay for daycare for Friday, just in case. If you don’t have a spouse that has a more flexible schedule and can cover for you, look into getting an au pair or nanny–daycares don’t stay open late just because you have a filing. Line up any support services you can now–grocery delivery, a drycleaners that delivers, a family member that will babysit (although don’t count on that, family offers to babysit are notoriously unreliable). You are not going to want to run around doing errands all weekend, so look into ways to shop online for the things you need, if you don’t already. and Amazon are great places to get baby things. Also, ask other moms you know if (or if you don’t know any, chat up random moms in the park while on maternity leave) for a moms listserv or forum online in your city/neighborhood. The one in my city has was invaluable to me as a resource for things I probably would have asked my mom friends (if I wasn’t working so much and had time for mom friends)–what pediatrician to use, what to do when a baby wouldn’t nap, etc.

      Recognize you aren’t going to be top form when you get back. You won’t bill as much as you do now because you’ll be tired, or if you’re nursing, because you have to take time out to pump. It does get easier as the child gets older.

      Mostly, try to put work and other things aside during the time you do get to spend with your baby–they really do grow up so fast (it’s a cliche because it’s so true).

    • It really depends, on your practice area but mostly on the people with whom/for whom you work. My boss is awesome and I never have to work on my day off (Fridays), but when I was in biglaw my friend who tried to work PT still had to come in on her day off, about 3 weeks out of 4. It was not worth it for her at all.

    • There are two sisters at my office who are both “part time” – one works M-Th, the other attempts to leave every day at 2 or 3 in the afternoon. The sister who takes off Fridays says that while she often has to take a call or send an e-mail on her Friday, she has never come into the office on a day she was supposed to have off. The other sister says she routinely works past 5, but gets paid as though she was part time. I think your M-Th plan is a good one; put it on the firm’s shoulders to be the “bad guy” who has to bug you during your time off, rather than you being the one who has to put your foot down about leaving.

  32. This is something I’ve struggled with (my son will be three soon). However, I do think that part of the problem, is that I live in UT and the culture here seems, in my experience, has made working and mothering more difficult than my work enviornment. I have a flexible schedule, a great manager, and a good support team of collegues. What I find most challenging is the lack of support outside of the job. Many of our friends are stay-at-home mom’s, and I’ve heard my share of “oh how can you leave him?” “Do you have to work?” and “I feel so bad for you” and have promptly axed all of those “friends” from our lives. I have one stay at home mother who is a close friend and helps watch my child as needed (she is in school to be an elementary teacher) and she seems to be the one who “gets it” and has never once “felt bad” for me. I went to college, I’ve worked hard in my career and to establish myself and yes we need the money (who doesn’t?), and yes I feel guilty, but I don’t need anyone inside or outside of my office “feeling bad” for me.

    I think if my work circumstances changed and I no longer had the flexibility, I would have to look elsewhere for work. I also hope that after my next child in the next few years to cut back on my hours inside the office (possibly telecommute two days a week) after I have my next, pending what happens in my organization. But I do love my job, take pride in what I do, try my best to do it well and still work equally as hard at parenting.

    • My two best “SAHM” friends are women who had careers that they loved but didn’t make enough money to justify the childcare expense. They’ll be going right back as soon as everyone is in full day school. They both have kids in 1/2 day kindergarten now and they are very excited to be getting into working again.
      The other SAHM I have met are very judgmental and its hard to overcome that and forge a friendship.

  33. I am a biglaw litigation associate in my early 30s, and my husband is also a biglaw litigation associate. I decided before I met him that I didn’t want children and opted to focus on my career. (One of the many reasons we’re great together is that he also does not want children.)

    Being child-free is an option that it seems many younger women (I’m including myself in that :) ) don’t discuss.

    • What’s to discuss? It’s not like women are having kids as a career strategy and need to be told that not having kids will be better for their careers.

  34. 1) Did you plan your career with a family juggle in mind?
    Initially, not at all. After business school I was working in a crazy finance job with lots of hours and little time off. I had to be at my desk all day every day. While I at this job I met my now-husband. When I started looking for my next job I decided to find something with fewer hours and less stress. It wasn’t so much with a family in mind, but I wanted to be able to see more of my husband and felt like my previous job was only a good one if you were single and willing to not have a life. I’m actually really glad that I made the switch pre-baby (which I know goes against what Sheryl said in the video, I will say I did really love this video though). I had time to get in the swing of things in my new career before thinking about getting pregnant or going on maternity leave.
    2) Have you changed your career due to babies on your brain? How so?
    Now that I have a 14 month old baby, I would not say my career has changed much but my short term goals have definitely changed. I am not currently focused on my next career move, just on doing a good job at my current job.

    3) For those of you *with* kids — what’s your advice to those of us without kids? Plan ahead? Roll with the punches?
    My advice would be to not make any big changes during the first year. Someone else gave me this advice and I am so glad I listened. I had a really hard time getting through the first year of being a working mom. I was shocked at how much I missed my baby on a daily basis and the small amount of work travel I had to do was unbearable. I am so lucky that my husband is a true partner and also was very understanding to my ups and downs during this time. Now that my baby is older, things are slowly getting easier.
    My other piece of advice would be to stay in touch with other working moms. It is so helpful to hear of others going through similar things- this really helps me keep my career ambitions up. Although I will say, sometimes hearing about the days of my stay-at-home friends and how the dynamic has changed with their husband now that they are home, is a good reminder that there are no easy solutions.
    What job benefits have you found absolutely essential to you as a mother? Flex time? Ability to work from home?
    The best thing for me has been an office where people are understanding if I have to come in late because of a dr appointment or miss the one-off day because of a sick baby.

    Thanks for the great topic, Kat.

    Read more:

    • Can you (or others) shed light on how “dynamics” change between partners when one is staying home (or even drastically cutting back) and the other is providing the financial support? I don’t doubt that they do change, but I would love to have a more specific idea of how. Of course ever couple is different, just looking for some anecdotes and generalizations. This is an aspect I had not focused on before, and it seems very important.

      • Yes, I can.
        It is a change and something we didn’t really talk enough about when I downshifted and started working only part-time. I had always made a lot less money than my husband, but I always had enough money of my own to buy, say, new shoes, or something not necessary but nice for the house, just because I wanted it. He had always covered most of our required household expenses but I had pretty much bought all the groceries, paid my own cell phone/car insurance/student loan, bought my own clothes and paid for my own dry cleaning, and then if we needed cleaning supplies, or new towels for the bathroom or something, I bought them. Now I had barely a trickle of income (at first, because I was just starting up my business) and so if we needed something, he had to pay for it. The first time I had to tell him I was spending money to buy something for myself (which I did actually need) I nearly threw up. I have worked since I was 12 years old, babysitting to earn my own money. I never had to ask anyone for anything that I wanted; if I wanted something, I worked until I had the money to get it. Now I felt like I had to ask someone for money and it felt terrible. However, I had way more of a problem with it than my husband. He views it as “our money” and that there’s plenty of it and no problem.

        I will say that for me, working part-time has been difficult in a way because you’re neither fish nor fowl. You don’t have the excuse of “I work just as much as you do,” but nor do you have the ability to schedule your own time 100% because you’re a SAHM without work commitments. This has lead to conflict when it’s assumed that I will schedule that repair, I will wait for the repairman to come between 8 and noon, I will stay home with our kid when the daycare is closed, I will pick up the drycleaning – because I don’t work full-time and surely, I have time to do those things. But the thing with my job is that sometimes I work 4-hour days and sometimes I work 10-hour days and sometimes I don’t always know which it’s going to be until late in the game. There are days I work longer hours than my husband, followed by days when I do two hours of work and then spend the rest of the day running errands and going to the park. I do sense sometimes there’s an undercurrent of “well, it’s not like you have a full-time job, why can’t you make time for that?” but nothing has ever been overtly said. And for the most part, my husband is a great guy and still does a big share of the parenting and the household stuff that he did before I quit full-time work. More parenting than household stuff, honestly, but that’s OK. That’s more important anyway. He still does his own laundry, which I am thankful for because he’s incredibly picky about how he washes his clothes. :)

        I would strongly suggest anyone thinking of changing the income balance in their household have some long conversations with their partner about how it may change the overall household dynamic. I know some working moms who quit to stay home and more or less immediately, their husbands took the attitude of “well, I work and you stay home, so now everything not involving my work is your job.” While some people might view that as a fair division of labor, think carefully about that. Is going to work X number of hours a week really a fair exchange for handling every last one of the multiple and myriad duties that running a household entails, some of which involve hard physical labor? And also consider that when Dad decides he’s not going to parent very much because that should be Mom’s job, since she stays home (or vice-versa), the kids suffer greatly. The co-parent should not be a nonparticipatory roommate no matter what the income situation is. I honestly think people in that situation would be better off single than stuck with a lump of a spouse that does nothing but create more mess and more complications to deal with, but maybe that’s just me.

        Anyway – hope that answered your question.

      • I am staying home right now, drawing severance. I have never stayed home full time before except for maternity leave. We thought this would be a great time for our family but its not, not for the parents, at least. (My kids, 8 and 2, love it.)
        Before, when we both worked and I actually was the primary breadwinner, my spouse was a model of helpfulness– a true partner. Both of us just did what needed to be done without any “division of labor” except that I focused on the my/ kids laundry (he did his own and the towels, etc.) and in the yard I tended to the landscaping while he handled the hardscape things (pressure washing, etc.)
        We could afford someone to clean twice a month and someone to mow and do our leaves.
        We both cooked.
        Now, there is palpable tension when he comes home and there is no dinner, if the laundry gets behind, if I haven’t picked up the kids toys yet. Used to be, if I was stuck helping with homework or dealing with a cranky toddler and something didn’t get done, he’d just do it. Now, there are remarks. And I get really angry.
        I thought I would love this and be really good at it, before grad school I was actually a live in nanny and was a great one, so I thought I’d be an amazing stay-home mom. Not so much after 15 years working.
        As hard as it was to balance it all, as nice as it is to not sweat staying home with a sick child or for snow days, and as much as I love my kids, I can’t wait to get back to work! I want my old marriage back.

  35. I very deliberately switched jobs (same company) when we started to think about having kids. I wanted to be in a role that wasn’t as demanding and inflexible when I got pregnant / went on maternity leave. Post kids this was 100% the right call. I love working, but having kids and working the demanding and inflexible job would not have allowed me to love being a working mom. Sarah up above has it completely right. Just because you prepare for the marathon doesn’t make it the wrong choice.

  36. Seventh Sister :

    1) Did you plan your career with a family juggle in mind?

    Not really, but I realized pretty early on in law school that I didn’t want to work 80 hours a week in a big law firm. Then I got lucky landing a clerkship and then a government job. Frankly, I didn’t imagine that I would want to get married, ever, or have kids (I was imagining a living-in-a-garret-with-many-cats-type situation).

    2) Have you changed your career due to babies on your brain? How so?

    I’m in the very same job. I’m less inclined to volunteer for travel (my boss is very understanding about this), but I have always been able to travel when asked. Frankly, the actual travel is quite pleasant (very short haul, 1-2 days), but the logistics of daycare is the problem (my daycare is near my office, but far from my house and my husband’s job).

    3) For those of you *with* kids — what’s your advice to those of us without kids?

    If you are thinking of having kids, picking a husband/partner who wants kids and wants to help with domestic stuff is absolutely essential. Having a spouse who can’t/won’t take care of the baby/do dishes/cook some food/go grocery shopping is not workable.*

    As a single and childless person, I did have problems with having to constantly cover the desk of a coworker with kids. I’m more temperate about these things now, but I also have a great boss who is a great manager (and isn’t going to let the workload get really unbalanced). I think a lot of this strife in my prior jobs really had to do with bad managers, and I’ve had plenty of bad coworkers without kids, too. So if you’re having to stay every night until 8 when your coworker gets to leave at 5, it’s good to talk to your boss (like I did) about a workaround if you have the same job/responsibilities. Also, take vacations, go out to lunch, have doctor’s appointments, take days off. It’s good for you.

    What job benefits have you found absolutely essential to you as a mother?

    Having great health insurance, being able to come in /leave at reasonable hours as long as the work gets done, and having the ability to telecommute/work remotely.

    While I think that working at home can be nice (and I do it on a regular schedule – one day/week), you still need childcare and I need a dedicated room/space, with a door, to work effectively. It’s not the end-all and be-all, plus you do have to remind your friends/MIL that no, you can’t go to lunch for 3 hours that day, you do have to remind your coworkers that yes, they *should* call you about work issues that come up and tell your husband that no, I cannot do errands or supervise a whole bunch of contractors every week.

    I can’t really complain about my 12-week maternity leave (paid, some sick leave, some vacation leave). What I would like to complain about is how bad the daycare options are for most people in the US (I’m very lucky, my daycare is great) and I wish we had a better system.

    Another piece of unsolicited advice – try and make contact with other working mothers, whether they are college friends, other women in your office, women you know socially, etc. While I have stay-at-home mother friends and acquaintances, sometimes the chasm gets very wide and I feel dumb and isolated.

    *That said, it’s unreasonable to expect a grownup to do everything “your way.” Does my husband always come home with the groceries I would have purchased? No. Am I going to harangue him about buying Dora yogurt v. Yo .Kid yogurt? Heck no. Ditto on mismatched playclothes, tutus in the hardware store, or meat at every meal.

  37. As a surgeon with a two year old, I took a job in a large academic surgery group as the acute care surgeon. The down side is in someways, I deal with all the crap the other surgeons don’t want to deal with — drug abusers with infections, people needing an emergency operation, a whole bunch of little stuff. On the other hand, my hours are more regular than 99% of general surgeons in the world and because there are so many of us, my call responsibilities are very light. The job is great because if I decide to ramp up when my child gets older, I have lots of resources and avenues to explore. Currently, since my husband has been downsized, we are thinking about making a geographic move that would allow us more opportunity for outdoor recreation and a smaller town.

    In our tradeoff, we have decided to stay in our 1 bedroom 600 square foot house for this year (even though we’re both physicians) rather than moving. The reason? My husband’s commute is 5 minutes and mine is 8. We would much rather live in a small house than not live in our cars.

    Other trade offs? My husband and I both make less money than the average cardiologist or surgeon. We live a lovely life, but we are not rolling in money.

    We have sacrificed to have a nanny, which has been amazingly worthwhile. She has been with our son since he was eight months old and runs our household. She is a loving giving person and lets us hand off our son still in his PJs, eating toast in the living room, rather than getting him packed up for daycare. This is not a slam against daycare at all — it’s just the solution for us. Because we have no family in town, our emergency child care options are extremely limited, so having someone who can take care of him when he has diarrhea or a fever is critical. Neither my husband nor I are able to juggle schedules very easily on short notice (If you’ve been waiting 8 weeks for your operation, you don’t want your surgeon to cancel at the last minute cause her kid has the poops).

    I don’t feel as though I’m making a ton of career sacrifice as a mom right now, though it’s possible that I could be making more, or doing more complex work, or be more well known in my field if I didn’t have a kid. But I love my job, I adore my son, my husband and I have a strong marriage, and I eke out a little time for myself on a weekly basis. I really can’t complain.

    • I think medicine can be very amenable to having kids and a great job, much more so than law, if you are willing to wait to have kids to the end of your training . I know a lot of woman doctors who are p/t without any significant decline in the quality of their work, in specialties ranging from surgery to opthamology.

  38. Another Sarah :

    Above the Law linked to Kat’s post today, and I have some thoughts:

    1. ATL’s commenters are surprisingly thoughtful and not nearly as judgmental as they usually are!
    2. None of our comments got into a nasty post-fight, as they sometimes do.
    3. Ergo, this may be the common topic that binds us all together! Yay Unity! :-)

    Ok, NOW I’m going to bed.

  39. Thanks Kat for this topic, which is an area of personal interest for me: A subset of this discussion will become my doctoral dissertation at some point in the future. I’ve been an observer of this issue for 30+ years. And I love the spirit of community shown here.

    1) Did you plan your career with a family juggle in mind? As some Anon up thread said, “No one discussed these issues with me when I was making choices about my education and goals — the message was that women could and should “have it all.” I was totally unprepared for the enormous demands of children and for the intensity of my own feelings for my kids and strong desire to be with them.” I too was unprepared, back in the dark ages before the Internet. There was so much I didn’t understand, even though I had thought that I knew what I was doing. I think talking with other women/parents, researching and doing an honest personal skill inventory (and one for a spouse/partner if applicable) prior to starting a career or at least before getting pregnant is the way to go.

    Having a supportive partner and good inter-personal communication habits prior to getting pregnant are also prerequisites. Other areas to consider are: what type of childcare, back-up/crisis childcare, how much outside help you’ll need (e.g. housecleaners, cooks, prepared meals, laundry service), business travel by either partner, extended family support, and – worst case – how to deal with special needs children.
    2) Have you changed your career due to babies on your brain? How so? For some women, they can plan a career and not miss a beat when having children. Others will expect to work and then change 180 degrees. Or the reverse – someone who wants to stay home and then changes her mind due to dislike of the SAHM-lifestyle or due to some external constraint or event, such as death, disability or divorce from partner.

    I have seen many creative strategies for maintaining a career, such as a stay-at-home dad or a father who works part-time or consults from home. Another strategy is to work on alternate days: For example the wife works M-Th and the husband Th-Sat: This is a common strategy for those whose jobs (or the partner’s job) are shift-dependent, like nurses, firefighters and the like. Extended shifts (10-12 hour days or even 24 hour shifts like ER docs) are possible.

    Creative childcare options I’ve seen are using a relative with child(ren) of a similar age or a nanny who also brings her child with her: These are usually lower cost options but ones that give the additional flexibility of an in-house provider. Some get really lucky and have a grandma or grandpa who takes care of the kids for free – and even has a hot meal waiting for mom and dad when they pick up the kids.
    3) For those of you *with* kids — what’s your advice to those of us without kids? Some things are not predictable, some are. Pick a full partner and get issues worked out ahead of time as much as possible. Consider couples counseling if areas of concern linger. Try to do a lot of career building before having kids and increase your options by saving money and perhaps even practice living on a reduced salary. What job benefits have you found absolutely essential to you as a mother? Being in a supportive environment is the key: It is almost impossible to thrive as a parent if you are in a job where every absence is noted and tallied in the negative column. As others have pointed out, some companies will be flexible and not just allow but encourage parents to volunteer in their children’s school, stay home with a sick child, and have a reasonable life balance. You want a company that realizes that being supportive of a parent pays enormous dividends to the corporation/firm and to the larger society, not just to the parent. I think that the company benefits from having a dedicated employee who goes out of his/her way to produce and in return can structure his/her work hours to the best benefit of the company and employee.

    Having tele-commuted at one point, I can say that being able to telecommute at will would be my top perk, other than a supportive environment. Many parents I’ve observed appreciate blackberries and laptops that allow them to keep up even if they aren’t in the office 100% of the time. I know that answering emails on Saturday or when I’m in the doctor’s office benefits the client and my company and in turn it makes up for an early exit to attend a school event.

    • North Shore :

      Re: creative childcare, when I lived in Washington D.C., the nanny share was pretty common. It was a great arrangement for me, but I don’t see it here in the Midwest. Maybe it’s just a DC thing?

  40. I started a great job when I was already at the start of my second trimester. I barely showed, I wasn’t sick– but it did affect how my female supervisor onboarded me and the projects she gave me AND how she held me accountable. Without my even asking, she gave me a lot of space and went “easy” on me. I went out on maternity leave 5 and a half months into my tenure there. So, I went out as a “new person”… but when I came back, I was suddenly not a new person anymore– and yet I had not fully been prepared in those first few months for the job. Then I had a very very rough six months there, as I scrambled to catch up. Finally I confronted her about what had happened– she kept saying “you’ve been here 7 months, 8 months etc and you should be on top of this by now” yet she had not spent time on it prior to my leave or held me accountable for it. It was almost as though I just started when I cam back from leave. It was horrible! Once she did acknowledge that she had held back from fully onboarding me during my pregnancy we tackled the problem and things improved significantly. I tell this story just to illustrate that even a female HR exec (of all people we HR ladies should handle these issues better than anyone else!) will struggle with how to handle pregnancy in the workplace.
    In my HR career, I have consistently seen that there is an almost untenable stress between mothering and work, especially when children are small, getting frequently sick, etc. I am not sure the solution either. I found working from home to be a HUGE help and with that job I had my best work life balance ever. But I was just laid off from that job.

  41. I’m in law school with two kids that will be 15 and 4 when I finish next year. I’ve focused on finding work in government because my understanding is the hours are more regular. Not that the work isn’t more challenging. I know that I haven’t been in school extracurriculars because I want to spend as much time as possible with the kids.

    Regardless of all the “what about the children” rhetoric, we live in a very family unfriendly world. So many of the old Victorian ideals about children still resonate within society. I think opening up our daily world to our children is important both for mothers, non-mothers, and men as well. It’s good for the kids to see where mommy or daddy go every day. It’s good for the kids to see mommy or daddy participating fully in society. That’s just good role modeling.

    My kids are the most important thing to me. In undergrad, my son would be dropped off every day at my school so I could finish my work study day. He’d sit at the desk next to mine and play games. Then we’d go swimming for an hour and then head home. My immediate bosses were very okay with this; they thought that the campus should have more children visable. It was a women’s college, but older women always seemed surprised.

  42. AnonBigLaw :

    I’m a mid-level litigation associate at a V-50 law firm. I’m pregnant with our first child and I’m planning on leaving the firm, permanently, once I give birth. Luckily for my family, my husband is a BigLaw attorney as well, and we live far below our means (even on one salary), so having a full-time stay-at-home parent is doable.

    I wasn’t cut out to be a full time lawyer and mother. I know I’ll want to devote myself to my child. I don’t really take any joy or fulfillment from my job. I hate the idea of constantly running from one thing to another in the pursuit of “having it all.” I love the idea of being a home-maker. Of keeping house and holding down the home-frong and having a home cooked, healthy, hot meal ready for my husband and family every night. Of having a life that is not a constant struggle to “balance,” but rather to enjoy in peace and without (a high degree of) stress. Luckily my husband (even before we were married) was fully on board with this plan. We both think that having a peaceful (though, in material terms, modest) life is more important than maximizing our income.

  43. I left private practice for a federal career and I rarely regret it. Finances get a little tight sometimes, but I am able to spend the quality time with my son that I want to spend.

  44. Kat, thanks for kicking off this discussion – this is a very important topic for professional women, and everyone’s situation is so different, so it is always very interesting to hear about the choices others have made and how it has worked out for them.

    I was in private practice (regional big-law) when I had both my kids, and I definitely felt that I had choices and the decision on how to balance things was mine. I took the allowed 3 month leave each time and then returned to work full-time (with more reasonable hours than some of my colleagues, but there were still the crazy times around deal closings), with no disruption to my careeer path. My husband worked full-time, but in a non-legal job with more predictable hours and no travel. We did that for a few years with kids, and then I took an in-house legal job in a new city when my kids were 3 and 5, and my husband became a stay-at-home dad. I always felt that if my husband stayed at home while I was still at the law firm, my (internal or external) excuses for moderating my hours would disappear, and while I saw examples of women partners who attempted balance, I never saw great examples of success at balancing; it seemed like either family or career was was not getting the full attention it needed.

    Now, as the sole breadwinner, luckily my job demands are not excessive. I’ve found that as my kids age, the amount of time I need/want to spend with them is actually higher – I personally want to stay in engaged in their life and their learning and their emotional growth, and that would have been very hard to if I was still at the law firm, whether my husband worked or not.

    I’ll always work, and I’m very driven, so it was important to me to find a job where I can excel and still have sufficient time to stay connected to my family (and friends and hobbies). To me, that is better than a more challenging job where I have to constantly assess what needs to give in order to be connected to family and work.

  45. I am older than most of the commenters on here – I just turned 46. One reason for not giving up on your career is that you may actually need it some day. The statistics are true – 50% of marriages end in divorce. I’m not saying you need to go for head of office, necessarily (unless of course that’s what you want), but you may very well end up supporting yourself and your children one day. It’s not about fancy cars, purses and vacations at that point. It’s about food on the table and a roof over your heads. Don’t even get me started on “child support.”

    I’ve been divorced (and now remarried) and more than 50% of my friends are divorced, too. It’s not just my working friends, either. My children are in elementary school and MOST of their friends are from so-called “broken” homes, regardless of whether the mom was stay at home or working.

    15-20 years ago when I was going to all those beautiful, expensive, meaningful weddings, I never ever for one second thought the landscape would look this way at 46. I swear to god. If that’s you, all I’m saying is look at it with open eyes.

    I appreciate how respectful this discussion has been. I am so used to the whole mommy war thing I almost declined to read the comments on this post.

    • This is a great post and I completely agree.

    • Please don’t take the following the wrong way, and I am not saying at all that this is the case with you, but there is a flip side to this: my marriage would not have survived me continuing my career outside of the home. I was stressed, husband was stressed, unhappy home life for everyone. It was completely unsustainable. Fortunately, there was a clear solution that I was happy with (I quit my job to stay home and work for myself part-time). But when I was leaving my firm, a female partner who I liked a lot took me aside and warned me about this issue, and she spoke from the voice of experience–she was recently divorced with a 5 year old daughter, and her ex-husband had a demanding career as well. I couldn’t help but wonder if, maybe, she had worked a little less, she might have been able to keep her marriage afloat. Probably not, but who knows? All I knew was that, for me, continuing my career as it was would not happen without seriously damaging my relationship with my husband.

      • AA, of course there are individual circumstances in every case. When I think about my friends and acquaintances, as I said in my original post, the stats are pretty evenly split between working moms and SAHMs. Among my close friends I would say the SAHMs stayed in bad marriages longer because they had fewer options, but they didn’t stay forever. And none of them have been able to remain SAHMs either, without a head of household income.

        You can never know what goes on in someone else’s marrige, but among my friends and acquaintances, infidelity seems to have been the primary driver of divorce. Of course, that is probably a symptom of other problems, but it’s often the last straw.

    • Annabelle :

      That 50% of marriages end in divorce statistic is not true! People who got married in the 80’s, 90’s, and 00’s have significantly lower divorce rates than the 60’s and 70’s, same with people who get married after 25 and who have college educations. Fewer people are choosing to get married today then they were in the past so if you’re looking at how many people in x year get married v how many get divorced it looks like 50%, but that’s a terribly skewed statistic! NYT writer Tara Parker-Pope wrote “For Better” that examined this and other marriage studies in a really interesting and positive way. I’d encourage a library check out. Discussions about how one handles children and work/domestic life are also examined in great detail and how to prepare yourself and your marriage for the change to kids I found very helpful and interesting.

  46. Middle manager mom :

    I’ve seen some of the posters acknowledge that it may take a while to conceive. We started trying when I turned 32–DH and I were in great health and never dreamed we’d have a problem. It ended up taking two years of fertility treatment to get the job done (ironically, I then conceived #2 by accident at age 37–acupuncture and Chinese herbs are powerful stuff).

    The stress and time investment of infertility treatment was MUCH harder on my job/career than parenting has been. I did the math and found that for each month I was on a treatment cycle, I was spending an average of 3 hrs/day on infertility: driving to the almost-daily ultrasounds at o’dark hundred each morning; phone consults w/nurses; acupuncture; mental health therapy; guided imagery tapes; involvement with an infertility support group/organization (RESOLVE); and last but not least, 40 minutes of having to hold ice packs on myself before DH could inject me. I’m one of the lucky ones who had good insurance coverage, so my paperwork hassles were minimal.

    I’m not arguing that women shouldn’t attend to their career growth, and my own career was definitely helped by “paying my dues” early on. What I would offer is that if you’re even thinking about having a child, don’t make the mistake my DH and I made–we waited until our lives were perfectly in order and, looking back, we could have easily moved things up by a year–and one year can make a huge difference in your FSH levels and other hormonal factors. Infertility is heartbreaking, and it’s additionally stressful to try to keep it hidden from your co-workers. It was hard to not cry in meetings when a colleague would joyfully surprise others with her own good news.

    My employer is flexible with my schedule, which helps a great deal, and I have a spouse who is a true partner. I’m also confident that as my kids grow older, I’ll be able to ramp up to 110% again–I’ve seen a number of 50+ women do that in my industry who then enjoyed fantastic results from their career revitalizations.

    Another helpful workplace amenity has been my private office (for pumping milk). I let everybody know that when my door was closed, I was still completely accessible by IM and email–this made a big difference. I (tactfully and strategically) let a few people know that I had a hands-free device so that I could still type and do email while pumping, so they didn’t think of me as unproductive. Also, I had a car charger for my breast pump, so I could pump while driving (with a towel draped over me for modesty!). It helped, too, that I was assertive about finding a lactation consultant (and pediatric chiropractors) who really knew their stuff and could help my kids learn to breastfeed–my kids wouldn’t latch for eight weeks (#1) and three weeks (#2). Successful breastfeeding was very important to my career, since my children were sick less and also because I lost weight more quickly…and it helped my image and my confidence to fit back into my professional clothes as quickly as possible.

    Good luck to everyone who is struggling with these choices.

    • Ditto private office for pumping. There was a woman in another suite in my building who was in a bathroom stall with a pump 2-3 times a day. That would be a dealbreaker for me. I fixed up a tension rod and curtain for my window to the hallway, and have a hands-free device, and everyone knows to just shoot me an email if my door is closed. I honestly think this arrangement made the difference in whether I would come back when I did.

      Working from home is a nice thought, but for me it really doesn’t solve anything. I just can’t get work done at home, even if I take baby to daycare (and especially if I don’t!) I need the office environment to get away from my mommy hat mentally as much as physically. YMMV.

  47. My personal theory is that no household can reasonably handle more than 1.5 “Big Jobs” (i.e. full-time professional jobs) without it affecting the children negatively.

    I am super-fortunate to work a part-time transactional job, and mostly from home. My husband, a teacher, is home every day by 4PM and in the summers. Although I have undoubtedly stepped onto the Mommy Track, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    • Do you think that’s true for all ages of children? My personal experience, with one child, was that the first 3 years were the most important to develop strong parent-child bonds. Now my only child is 5, I believe that she needs social interaction with her peers and with other adults as much as she needs one-on-one time with me and family time.

      • My kids are 13 and 10. I worked much more when they were younger, and have actually found that they need me more now than they did then. I could outsource diaper-changes and toddler park outings, but when my 13yo comes home from school with social problems or school worries on his mind, he needs to talk to me *right that moment*. I’ve found that if I am not around, and the moment is gone, he tends to shut down. He won’t re-raise what’s going on later in the evening.

        Statistically speaking, teens tend to get into the most trouble between 3 and 6PM.

        They do need social time with their peers, but in my view parents are perhaps even more important during this stage.

        • Thanks – you’ve given me something to think about.

          • I agree with this completely. The preschool years are the golden years for mom working. I failed to anticipate how quickly this would change, but once we hit elementary school, we entered the world of homework (yes, in kindergarten these days), sports practices, evening school performances, obsevations days, etc. The physical dependence of the kid ends by age 2, but the emotional needs ratchet up thereafter.

        • I very much agree with this. I found it pretty easy to work full time before my kids started elementary school. They were enrolled in a fantastic childcare center where they spent the whole day. They were happy and the logistics were simple.

          Now that they are in first and fifth grade, I find myself managing a patchwork of afterschool childcare and other activities (music lessons, sports, school play rehearsals, playdates, etc.). And then there are the (tremendous number of) school vacations to deal with!

          We’ve made it work, largely because my husband and I both have the flexibility to work at home when we need to, or work in the evening instead of in the afternoon. But it’s certainly not getting any easier!

  48. As many have said: thanks for this topic and thread, which I have enjoyed reading. And as one other commentator has said, this is quite timely for me, as I am home right now literally waiting to give birth to my second child (and feeling SO done with pregnancy right now).

    My quick responses to Kat’s original questions:

    (1 & 2) Did you plan your career with a family juggle in mind? Have you changed your career due to babies on your brain?

    I worked as paralegal before heading to law school and observing how the lawyers there handled family life was very instructive. It was probably a best-of situation, as it was a federal office, but it gave me a glimpse of some things that I don’t think I would have considered on my own (commute from suburbs or tough it out in the city? Nanny v. daycare? Stay at home? How long to take for maternity leave?). In law school it dawned on me that because having kids earlier rather than later was a priority (my husband is a fair amount older), I needed to start thinking about these kinds of things when considering my options.

    Don’t get me wrong: I still went through OCI and landed a BigLaw gig, but I definitely chose a firm that was lower-ranked than my other options but seemed a kinder place in terms of work-life and had offices in cities we have considered relocating to in the future.

    Where I differed from most is in having baby No. 1 right after graduation. I realize that our timing was incredible, and a lot of that is luck, but some of it probably had to do with the fact that I was a healthy 27-year-old. (At my pre-law school job many of the attorneys had waited to have kids until their mid-/late-thirties and many of them had difficulty getting pregnant, ended up doing IVF after years of dealing with fertility issues, etc.) I was also lucky that my firm was okay with me taking the February bar and starting the first week in March (and I should mention this was pre-recession), but I thought that the five-months difference in start dates between me and my peers at the firm was, in the long run, not that big of a difference. And it wasn’t.

    I then luckily was able to obtain a one-year clerkship, which just ended last week, and we decided to try to have baby No. 2 after that. Again, we were incredibly lucky in timing, and my due date is about three weeks after my position ended. Because I’ve been off-cycle in my short career (i.e., not starting new positions in the fall), I also will be taking off about nine months to recuperate and hope to start working again in the fall.

    I’d also like to add a different opinion than has been expressed above, which is that it’s better to pay your dues at your job before ducking out on maternity leave. Part of my rationale about having kids now (at the start of my career), rather than later (once I’ve “established”), is that I am totally fungible right now. By that I mean that whatever I was doing as a junior associate could, if need be, be done by someone else if a client really needs it. I realize this also means I was replaceable, but after the recession and the layoffs we’ve been witness to, it’s clear to me that everyone (or at least most people) can be dismissed.

    Toward the end of my time with the firm, I went to a women’s group lunch where many female associates and partners chatted about these kinds of issues, and one of the things I learned there was from a woman who was a junior partner in a busy litigation practice. She had her daughter not long after making partner and said that this timing was absolutely, really, incredibly terrible. As a junior partner you’re still proving yourself, but you’re a big enough deal that clients are hiring YOU—and this means YOU are expected to be on call, do the work, etc. By contrast, clients are hiring me, junior associate X, only indirectly through the partners, and don’t particularly care if the person who does the work is me or my fellow second year, which is a different kind of pressure (internal/firm v. external/client). So this poor partner was sleeping four hours a night trying to juggle the incredible demands of her job and the ability to see her child a few hours a day.

    (3) Working with kids—Good grief, as evident from the numerous comments, there’s so much to say about this that it’s crazy. My main points would be first: I don’t think we could make it work for us (two FT working lawyers) if one of us didn’t have flexibility with their schedule. I’ve had less (see: I’m low on the totem pole, whereas my husband has more control over his life because he’s more senior in his career), so my husband has done more of the drop-offs/pick-ups from daycare, but both of us have taken the hit when we get a sick-kid call. My worst experience with this was that in my last two weeks at the firm I literally had to tell a partner I’d never worked with before (and therefore wanted to do a very good job for) that I wasn’t going to be able to hand in a memo to him because my son had an ear infection and my husband was on a business trip. That sucked, but the partner was actually good about it. (And when I pulled an all-nighter after taking my kid to the doctor, etc., and passive-aggressively sent the memo to the partner at 4:30 a.m., the partner chided me, saying that unless it’s a TRO, you’re on trial, other emergency, there’s no need to work past ten. Wish I had known that before, but it showed me that this was someone I’d love to work for again.)

    The hardest thing for me has been negotiating between DH and me who got to work, who had to be on kid duty, whose deadline was more important, and so forth. And I still don’t think we’ve found any sort of answer. I’ve felt at times that I’ve had to compromise more or take a professional hit (leave in the middle of the day), and I’m sure there were times where my husband felt the same. I don’t have any solutions for that one and expect this will be an on-going issue. To say that it causes guilt, resentment, and great frustration would be an understatement.

    As for other advice: being in New York makes everything different. The hours expectations are greater, the commute is hard, childcare is difficult to find and pay for, etc. I’m sure other people work just as hard in other places, but overall, the time expectations are different elsewhere (I’ve worked in other cities and would be the only one in the office at 6:30, which in New York BigLaw is like mid-afternoon.) If we weren’t here for a specific job reason, I’d get the heck out. Don’t stay if you don’t have to.

    • AMNY, I think you make a good point about timing. However, this may be profession-specific. For lawyers, doctors, (and accountants perhaps), having a baby while in school or studying for an exam may be a good choice. Doctors could have a baby immediately after finishing internship but before the fellowship or first position. Professors should consider delivering during PhD coursework or during the dissertation phase, or in the post-doc position before obtaining a tenure-track position. It may be too late if a lawyer waits to become a partner or if a professor waits to get tenure before starting a family. In these professions, men have it much easier when they plan baby timing than women do and they usually run out of fertility later.
      For those in finance, consulting, and other corporate jobs, it may not be possible to have much control over your job until you are established – say early 30s. If one is travelling 40 weeks a year as a junior consultant, moving into a boutique firm or into industry may be necessary before it is feasible. When established well in your career and firm, I think you potentially have more flexibility, such as flex-time, telecommuting and if you work reduced hours at certain crisis points, you won’t suffer as much backlash.

  49. Thanks for sharing the video link and for a thought-provoking post. I couldn’t capture everything in a comment-length response, so here’s the long version!

  50. Twenty-three :

    I graduated from college in 2009 and with a masters in management from b-school in 2010. I went to a top 10 university and have pushed myself in school for as long as I remember. However, I have known ever since I was a little girl that I wouldn’t feel completely fulfilled unless I had children one day (I come from a large, very close family). What I think is so interesting about this post is how early people start dividing themselves on the baby/non-baby “tracks.” As early as college, there were people who made decisions about majors/internships/careers based on the fact that they thought the career choice was more/less viable for being a mother. At graduate school, there was an even greater divide.

    As someone who knows that I want children but is unsure as to whether I will leave the workforce or change to a less time demanding job, I have felt more motivated to work hard while I am young. I work at a prestigious boutique M&A investment bank in NYC and am busting my butt to prove myself. The most senior woman at the firm is twenty-four and the there are only a five professional women at the firm. We have yet to have a banker go on maternity leave. I think that if you know you want children, it’s even more important to establish yourself younger. I know that if in five years that I decide to have kids, having proved myself in my early twenties will make the situation so much easier. Plus, if I have earned respect within the industry, leaving to do something else will be better received and I will leave knowing that if I wanted to continue working, I am capable of doing it.

    Obviously I am at the beginning of my career and not sure how I will feel once I have children, but my goal is to establish myself so that I have options when the day comes. Options with lots of support from the people close to me who have seen me achieve career success and from co-workers that respect the hours (oh there have been many) that I put in.

  51. I agree that it’s important to work hard while you’re young and don’t turn down the hard projects and promotions because you would like to have kids some day. Having kids and a successful career requires serious juggling, and when the time comes, you want your colleagues (and clients) to believe that you so experienced, reliable and valuable that if you need flex-time (or whatever work-life balance/accommodations you want), they’ll be happy to work with you. To get to that point, don’t short-change yourself on experience while you’re still young.

    That said, if you know you want to have kids, I do think it’s important to think seriously and realistically about what kind of parent you want to be..and where you want your career to fit in — what do you want your life to look like? While you may not want to be a stay-at-home-mom, maybe you also don’t want to be having to spends weeks away from your kids b/c you have a two week trial in Atlanta. While I am not advocating cutting your career short prematurely, I do think it’s important to be strategic in career planning. I knew I didn’t want to juggle litigation with kids, so I did it for a few years for the experience (which was invaluable), then developed a transactional practice went in-house where I also developed risk management experience, something my client/employer values highly.

    I know a lot of women out there will say that going in-house or leaving law firm practice was tantamount to putting on the breaks prematurely (I did it about 5 years before having my daughter), but I disagree. I work for a large healthcare provider that has a small legal department, but doesn’t farm out a lot of legal work, so I have been able to take on work that is challenging and interesting, develop expertise in areas that are of interest to me, and become a key player within the organization. While the pay and office settings in-house are not what they are at a law firm, I appreciate that I am also not expected to bill 2500 hrs per year anymore. I still get the occasional calls at night or on weekends, but I can pick my daughter up from daycare at 5:00 and take a couple hrs off w/o question if she needs to go to the doctor. I also get to enjoy my weekends w/ my family, something I couldn’t do when I was in litigation.

    Was it a waste to jump out of law firm life several years before I had kids? I don’t think so. I didn’t exactly spend the time slowing down. I spent the time getting to know all aspects of my (in-house) client’s business, taking on a variety of work with the goal of meeting and working w/ as many executives as I could, and never turning down challenging work. I mean let’s face it.. no organization likes having employees take maternity leave or scale-back their work to spend time with family. So, if you know you’re going to do it one day, you need to figure out exactly what skills/experience your client/employer values. Then you need to spend your time pre-baby developing those skills and your client/employer relationships so that when the time comes, you have those crucial skills in spades and a strong relationship with your client/employer so that they WANT you on their team, even if it’s on YOUR terms. When I got pregnant, I actually worked harder to be more accommodating to my clients to make sure that no one questioned whether my having a baby would interfere with my work commitments. By developing relationships and putting in the time/effort up front, when I had my daughter, I was actually encouraged to take the full 12 wks of maternity leave and assured that my work would be there when I was ready to come back. And even though I leave early a couple days a week to pick my daughter up from child care, I still get challenging work b/c I have a proven track record. I can honestly say that while I initially worried that having a baby would taking me off the short list for the really “sexy” projects, that has not turned out to be the case. My daughter will be 15 mos old next week, and I’ve just completed the biggest deal of my career and was just assigned to the project team for a new series of deals which may turn out to be even bigger. But I don’t think I would be where I am if without some realistic and strategic career planning.

    • Thanks for sharing this. In my observation and personal experience, those who plan ahead as you did end up the most satisfied after they have children. I’ve watched several friends who did not do this end up deciding to stay home full time because they were not able to combine parenting with their intensely demanding jobs, and then feel frustrated and regretful about that.

  52. midtown small law :

    Has anyone out there had to continue working just to make enough to continue paying their six figure law school loans? I’m due in august and would love to go down to part time (if the firm would even allow it) but would still need a certain salary just to continue paying off school loans. I don’t hate my job, but I do hate the idea of only seeing my kid on weekends b/c I get home so late. Just another way I feel trapped by law school loans.

    • TwinLawMom :

      Luckily, paying loans was not an issue for me, but I do have some thoughts. The truth is that small children go to bed really early (7:30 pm/8:00 pm). If it is possible for you, change your schedule so that you can get home earlier and work after bedtime. And, you never know until you ask about part time.

    • I still have 4 years left on what were 6-figure student loans and I’m the breadwinner in my household. So, I definitely have no choice but to keep working full-time even though I would love to cut-back a little to spend more time w/ my daughter. TwinLawMom’s ideas are good ones.. I generally go home between 5 and 6 so we can have dinner and some playtime as a family. My daughter goes to bed at 8, and generally I’ll do some more work after she’s asleep. My husband is also a lawyer and basically does the same thing, and it’s worked well for us so far. Sometimes, a few hrs on Saturday or Sunday morning while everyone’s asleep also helps make up for not staying late during the week. And if it gets to be too much, don’t be afraid to speak-up. You won’t get flex-time (or part-time) if you don’t ask for it.

  53. I completely dismissed the possibility that my career would be incompatible with having a family when I entered law school. Actually, I didn’t even think about it. Young women in their early twenties are encouraged to pursue a successful career above all else and not to let motherhood “get in the way” of that path. Having children seems so far off that it’s hard to think about it as anything more than an abstraction, and society offers so many shallow reassurances that you can be a professional and have a fulfilling family life. But a few years into my career I realized that continuing on the professional path I was following would provide me with a life in which I wouldn’t have the capacity to be the type of mother I wanted to be. The work was exhausting and I barely had it in me at the end of the day to cook a meal for myself, let alone the energy to provide care for another human being. I felt that I had been led into a trap, because I had bought into the fiction that women can have it all and be fulfilled. It’s not true, and if I had to do it all over again I would have never chosen to attend law school in the first place.

  54. I have a suggestion for those women out there who find themselves wondering if you can have a successful career and kids. You can have both, but you will save yourself a lot of heartache and disppointment if you try to think of career success — and success in the legal profession — more broadly than simply being partner or head of litigation in Big Law. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say it: some career paths do not lend themselves to having a life outside of work, and that includes children. I’m not sexist – this general rule applies to men and women — but I am a realist. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a successful career and a full family life.. but it’s a lot harder to do in some jobs than others. I find it sad to hear that women are leaving the legal profession or abandoning their careers because they are overwhelmed by the task of trying to balance a career with family life. There is a lot we can learn from those who have been able to make it work successfully.
    I think it would be helpful to hear from some of the women out there who have had successful careers balancing work and family life: What kind of legal work do you do? Do you think the line of work you are in lends itself to flex-time or better work-life balancing? How do you make it work? Do you need a nanny or housekeeper to keep everything running or are you and your partner sharing all the household/childrearing duties? And how do you define success for yourself? for your career?