I mentioned in the last post that my thoughts on work-life balance are all over the place. Here is what is going through my head right now, unedited. I am feeling drained after a few stressful weeks, and am putting off preparing for a 6-9 p.m. international conference call tonight.
Lately I feel like I exclusively do things that I have to do. This is a typical day:
6-8 a.m.: Hang out with the kids, feed them, change them, get them ready for the day.
8-8:45 a.m.: Drop-off. First K at kindergarten, then X at daycare.
8:45-9:30 a.m.: Get dressed, eat breakfast, shower if I have time, head to work.
7-8:30 p.m.: Get home, eat dinner, put K to bed.
8:30-9 p.m.: Pack kids' bags and get stuff ready for the next day.
9-11 p.m.: More work.
And that's a day when I DON'T have a major deadline or evening meeting. Those days look like this: 9:30 a.m.-1 a.m. Work. I feel like I have very little time to take care of myself, not to mention my marriage. The kids and the job get 95% of my waking time and energy.
I miss X's 7 p.m. bedtime at least 2-3 times a week. I miss K's 8:30 bedtime at least once a week. I never wanted to be this kind of mom. There are days, like today, when I only spend about half an hour with X (not counting time pushing him in the stroller) because he wakes up late in the morning and I miss his bedtime in the evening. K seems to need extra mommy time since starting kindergarten, even though he loves it, and he got upset yesterday (Sunday) when I spent half the day at work and X tackled me as soon as I got home, when K wanted to have one-on-one time with me.
I understand now why women with kids leave large law firms in droves. Even if I work part-time, the culture here is not going to change. I will still be invited to the evening meetings, and people will still stop by my office at 6:30 expecting me to be here. Officially maybe I won't have to be here, but I feel like it will be a constant struggle of setting boundaries and yet trying to keep getting work so I can maintain my billables. It would be so much easier to just work somewhere where everyone expects that they can get in touch with colleagues between about 9-5 (ideally more like 10-4, to leave room on either end of the day).
I talked to JW about going part-time anyway. I was thinking about still working five days a week, but leaving early twice a week so I can pick up the boys and we can have dinner as a family. He was not enthusiastic about me getting a 20% pay cut. Even if he were on board, I'm not sure if I'd be ready to pull the trigger immediately. But if something has to give, it seems like this should be the first thing to try. It feels a little scary.
Anne-Marie Slaughter's infamous Atlantic article resonated with me so much in part because I felt like she was giving me permission to do what I needed to do without feeling like I was failing or would never be able to get back to where I want to be in my career. But she also asked why we have to choose between having challenging work and a reasonable amount of time for our personal lives. The structural changes she proposed haven't happened yet, so I feel like I need to make that choice.
I've interviewed for a few in-house jobs, but they seem to offer large pay cuts for hours that aren't much better. Two colleagues who recently left said their in-house jobs will be 9-5, so maybe those jobs are out there. I like the responsibility I have in my job. I don't want a "smaller" job.
Sometimes I think I'm unbelievably lucky to have this job. Aside from the hours and stress, I actually love my job. I like the substantive work. I like the people. I like the firm as a whole. I love that clients call and ask me for my advice, and they pay me to tell them what I think. That is exactly what I wanted when I decided to go to law school. I don't know if I would be able to find the flexibility I have here in other jobs. If I can get all my hours in, nobody cares if I walk in at 10 a.m. or leave for an afternoon errand. And of course, the salary is great and helps justify the hours. But I don't want to make as much of a tradeoff as I'm making now.
I've quit jobs before. I know that once you walk out that door, everything that seemed so important just goes away. All those documents you drafted, the people you worked hard to impress, the hours you put in... it just becomes a line on your resume. It's hard to keep that in mind before you make the decision to leave, though.
It's been particularly bad for the past few weeks, and sometimes when I'm at a low ebb in work-life balance satisfaction, I think that if I just stick it out past this stressful time, it'll get better. But when I look back through my blog archives, I've been saying the same thing pretty much for the past three years. Things somehow feel different now that K is in kindergarten. I really want to be there to talk to him and hear about his day. I want to see my baby for more than an hour. Heck, I want to have time to shower on a regular basis.
I don't know. The end of a stressful project, leaving early one afternoon, a day off, a vacation. They make me feel better about my job and feel like life is manageable. But I'm starting to think all these are decoys.