Monday, April 21, 2014

MILP Roundup #344

The weekly Mothers In the Legal Profession Roundup is hosted on a rotating basis at the Butterflyfish, Grace, BJJ, Law, and Living, Mommy and the Sin City, Magic Cookie, The Reluctant Grownup, and Perspectives of a Hard Boiled Egg blogs.

This edition of the Roundup covers posts from April 14th to April 20th.

Alice learned to read at 25. Better late than never.
Butterflyfish learned her lesson the hard way, for the second time, about not throwing her hat in the ring.
Daisy, JD is feeling frazzled.
Frenchie categorizes Facebook moms.
Full of the Dickens catches us up with birthday #2, kid #3, and Easter fun.
Grace is back in the pool.
Hard Boiled Egg receives difficult pregnancy news.
Kate studies in the bathroom.
Lag Liv puts baby in a basket.
Queen of Hats is lonely and tired of being both parents at once.

And over here at Magic Cookie, we had a happy Easter at the grandparents' house, where K spent the entire time drawing comics and X informed me that when I was a tiny baby he grew me in his gruterus.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sorpresa bazombas cumpleaƱos

I took the day off from work for my birthday. I spent the morning at a nonprofit board meeting and running errands, but had the rest of the day to myself to do whatever I liked. Met up with JW for lunch, bought clothes at my favorite consignment store with the birthday money my in-laws sent, watched the "Veronica Mars" movie at home, and visited the comic book store in Harvard Square, all before picking up the kids and cooking dinner. All of this was in sharp contrast to last year, when I tried to take the day off and ended up not only going to work, but roped into a project that made me miss my own birthday dinner despite my clear and frequent protestations that I did not have time and it was my birthday and I needed to go home. Anyway, you've heard plenty of stories like that before.

My dear friend CT sent me a birthday package, containing a fancy fountain pen, homemade cookies, and other goodies including this:

This resulted in the following conversation with K, who opened the package with me: "What's that??" "It's... uh... do you know what boobs are?" "No, what?" "Breasts." [Look of extreme disgust] "Are you really going to WEAR those?" "No, it's a joke." "GOOD." "You can wear them if you want. Look how happy you'd be, like the guy on the box." "NOOOO!!!!!!"

(It's actually a very old joke between me and CT, going back to a similar pair in college whose ad copy read: "Impress your friends. Shock your boss. With giant boobs. HUGE BOOBS!")

(I am going to get the worst Google search hits from this post.)

I took a goofy selfie with the Japanese Instant Boobs box and texted it with a message saying, "Just what I always wanted!" Unfortunately, I forgot that in between texting CT to thank her for the package, I had gotten a text from one of K's friend's moms setting up a playdate, and had replied to her by accident. She texted back, "I don't know what that is?" Oops.

Between babies and too much work, it's been several years since I had a really good birthday. All I ever want is time to myself and some evidence that the people I care most about are thinking of me. This birthday was just about perfect.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Biglaw revisited

A few days ago an anonymous commenter told me to look back at my blog post from March 23, 2013.  This turned out to be one of many, many posts I wrote during that year about my precarious work-life balance. That particular post discussed how my reduced schedule was working, but not as well as I had hoped.

Recently I've talked to a few partners from my old firm who have asked probing questions about why I thought it didn't work out for me, even part-time. I told them the practice was still unpredictable, the culture was still that everything needed to be done ASAP and that responsiveness was paramount, and the norm was still that there were no boundaries on work hours, no matter what the official policy was on reduced schedules. I said that no matter how much I tried to push back, it was impossible in that environment to set the boundaries I needed. All of which is true, but it all leads back to a place where I could have tried harder, delegated more, been more transparent about what I needed. 

My post from last March makes a key observation that I had completely forgotten about: for nearly the entire time I was on a reduced schedule (about 9 months), snow days and sick-kid days mostly absorbed the "reduced" part of my reduced schedule. So I was essentially working my normal hours, but the difference was that I didn't have to make up for snow and sick time -- whereas before I went part-time, I'd be home with my sick kid all day, and then when JW came home around 5:30 I'd hightail it to the office and bill my 8-9 hours. There were many, many days when I was working full-time that I put in a full day, but starting at 6 p.m. And since I had my billable target to meet, I could never catch up and say that since I was up until 4 a.m. tonight, I'd take it easy tomorrow.

While taking this trip down memory lane, I went back and looked at my archives from around the time X was born. Hours before heading to the hospital, I was working on a merger agreement while sobbing because I was having terrible cramps.  (At home, on a Sunday night.) That was at 6 p.m. and at 11 p.m. I quit working for the night, but was stressed because I had hours of work left on assignments that were supposed to be done by the next day.

Two days before that, I recounted what my week had been like -- 38 weeks pregnant, K sick with strep, crazy busy at work.  I wrote this:
I have so much to catch up on, but I need sleep. I can tell I'm too sleep-deprived today because I keep bursting into tears at the slightest provocation. Work. Steal some leisure time. Sleep. More work. Figure out what to do with K tomorrow. Try to do some work. Make a plan for K's party. More work. Cake? Stuff goody bags. Then the weekend: hopefully have the party. Catch up on work. Pray for maternity leave. 

The leisure time didn't materialize; the next day I reported:
TV didn't happen last night. Neither did waking up at 4 a.m. to tackle the work project that should have been done by yesterday. I worked past midnight, staggered up to bed, and was woken up at exactly 6:06 a.m. by K who announced he's feeling "better, but not all the way better."

And in that same post,  I said I was GRATEFUL that my job was so flexible that I could take care of my kid and work from home and everything was so seamless. Grateful that I was hugely pregnant, exhausted, miserable, uncomfortable, and overworked, but they were permitting me to keep my job.

I cannot believe I did this for so long, and that it seemed normal for so long.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Saturday miscellany

1. X had his first playdate today. He was driving me crazy so I texted one of his friend's moms who I had met at a birthday party. She was over in ten minutes. I think she was having a similar morning.

2. This somewhat-randomly-generated and crowdsourced XKCD kept me entertained for a long time.

3. Recent X-ism: "That's 'MAZING. I ever seen that before!" Also, when you ask him a question, he answers, "Of course!"

4. Things I cooked: chocolate banana bread (I liked it, X gave it a standing ovation, K is not a chocolate or baked-good person, banana-hater JW would not let it pass his lips); squid and celery stir-fry (the kids kept wanting more squid! and stir-fried celery is surprisingly easy and good, though not very filling). Tonight friends are coming for dinner and I'm making a pasta bake with Italian sausage and (separately) snickerdoodles.

5. It's finally spring! Spring is at least partly responsible for my optimistic post the other day.

6. This retirement calculator terrifies me. I thought we were doing okay with retirement savings, but this makes it look like we're way off.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Magical childhood

My Facebook friends keep sharing this article on giving your kids a "magical" childhood, and my sister-in-law forwarded it to me. The author, who also writes the Honest Toddler blog, argues that she's done trying to keep up with all the Pinterest ideas she sees about giving her kids the perfect room, birthday party, holidays, etc.

Not sure what SIL was thinking... that's definitely not me. I am way too lazy to even consider doing of those Pinterest things. My kids don't even have any activities, unless you count reading comics or collecting sidewalk rocks. I don't really get it when people complain about all the images of elaborate parties or bento lunches they see on social media. I assume people who post those enjoy doing them. It's not like they're forcing other parents into anything. If you don't want to look at pictures of cake pops, don't look at them. Of course, it helps that I'm not friends with anyone who actually does things resembling the pictures I see. Nearly all of the kid parties we've been to have been low-key and themeless. Pizza, cake, running around, maybe some bowling.

I do consciously try hard to give my kids a happy childhood, though. I would love for them to look back and remember their childhood as a magical time. I was not a happy kid. I felt (with good reason, even looking back as an adult) that my parents disliked me and that my only value lay in my academic achievements and other "Asian kid" activities like playing violin.  I was always fearful that everything else I did was wrong or bad somehow, and my parents would often explode at me for things that I had no idea could be wrong. So I try to do the opposite with my kids. My highest priority as a parent is making sure they know, down to their core, that they are and will always be loved. And building a close relationship with them, where they feel heard and respected and able to assert themselves and be themselves without ever feeling judged or self-conscious. To me, that's a magical childhood.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Progress

Swimming: Figuring out how to breathe and kick at the same time. Next week, we venture into the deep end. I've been getting better and gaining stamina. But the real breakthrough is that when I went to the pool to practice over the weekend, at my own pace, with plenty of room, in water shallow enough to stand in, I... didn't hate it. I actually liked it. For today's lesson I was back to wishing I didn't have to go, but I can imagine a time when I voluntarily swim for exercise. I like how, unlike running, you feel fine while you're doing it and it's only after you're done that you realize you're shaking.

Health: I've lost about eight pounds since hitting my all-time high weight a few months ago, and I'm happy with that. The mostly-salad diet and vigorous daily exercise lasted about two weeks. Now I'm down to a sustainable schedule of exercising 4-5 days a week and not eating EVERYTHING. I'm approaching that elusive "lifestyle change." Still about eight pounds from my goal of fitting back into my old clothes. (Fifteen pounds for my old old clothes.) My weight loss is highly wardrobe-motivated. I'm hoping I can stick with this moderate pace and spend the next six months or so gradually getting my jeans to fit again.

Work: I think it's still going to feel like my "new" job until I've been there for a year, but I feel pretty settled in. The work I'm doing is interesting, challenging, and important. I'm learning a ton, working independently, and getting positive feedback. I have a great boss and the work-life balance is unbeatable. I'm happy. For a long time I was still feeling nostalgic for the firm and frustrated with the inefficiency of government work, but recently I had lunch with a partner I used to work closely with and realized I was looking back through rose-colored glasses. I never really liked the "corporate" part of being a corporate lawyer, and being a pure tech lawyer was something I would have had to fight my way into over a number of years because my firm didn't support it. I wanted to focus on my field and have a mentor who knew more about it than me, which didn't really exist at the firm. I never wanted to see another stock certificate or give advice about startup equity. I did not like working on transactions where the primary goal was to move money around, rather than making a project happen. And in this job, I got exactly what I wanted. I handle more tech transactions in a few months at my current job than I did in a year at the firm, and I have a lot more responsibility for making sure the project goes well. It's also interesting being in the general counsel's office -- we end up dealing with a variety of issues and having to make calls that I never would have seen at the firm. The recruiting emails have been ramping up recently, but I don't see myself going anywhere for a long time.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

More swimming

I know. All I post about anymore is swimming. If I were the right sort of person I could spin this into a memoir. Staying Afloat: One Woman's Story of Passion, Loss, and ... see, I can't think of a third thing, and that's one reason I'm not the right sort of person. But my memoir would totally have learning to swim as a metaphor for some other important life transition like... dammit.

Today was the first time I made it to the Y to practice in between lessons. I know how to do arms and kicking for a freestyle stroke, but I haven't learned how to take a breath. So I swam mini-laps, back and forth in the shallow end, as far as I could get on one breath.

When I get out of the pool I have to take a deep breath and sit there for a minute. Like I've just been through an ordeal. But I'm getting better about staying calm in the water, at least water I can stand up in. Baby steps. That's it! Baby Steps. No, that doesn't make sense. Baby Strokes? That's horrible. Forget it.

The boys each had a birthday party to go to this weekend. X's, his first, was at a bowling alley. As soon as a ball came out of the return, the nearest toddler would grab it, lift it over his head, and hurl it down the lane. X kept throwing the ball and then shouting with glee and doing a little dance, without bothering to stick around and see where the ball went. Occasionally the kids would aim the wrong way entirely and nearly bowl over one of their friends, but the only tears I observed were when one boy had a meltdown over not being allowed to eat the plastic Nemo cake topper. K's party was a handful of kids at the birthday boy's house. They did a craft -- he made Bob, of course -- and when I arrived they were all vying for possession of a large stuffed ham toy.