I didn't sleep well last night. This morning I slept right up to the alarm, and had to drag myself out of bed to get ready for work. It hit me that this used to be every day. Or at least a few times a week, after going part time. This was my normal, working until 2 a.m. and getting up at 6 with the kids.
With a few months' perspective on my biglaw experience, it seems perfectly understandable that it didn't work out for me. I had so much angst over leaving because part of me really did believe that it was possible to have a humane existence at a big law firm somehow, they kept telling me so, and it must be that I just couldn't figure it out. But looking back, and looking at the careers of senior associates and partners, it's obvious. If your practice area demands that you be available around the clock and at a moment's notice, if your clients and colleagues think of their normal working hours as ending around 8 p.m. or later when there is no important deal or emergency, being less available is just not going to work. Biglaw demands sacrifice, and that's okay. At this point in my life, it's tough for me to make that sacrifice, and that's okay too.
There are systemic problems that make the level of sacrifice Biglaw demands less okay. It always strikes me how female law firm partners consistently give the advice that having a supportive partner makes all the difference, while I rarely hear male partners say the same. Not that they don't believe it, it's just not at the top of the list of advice they would give up-and-comers. It's still fairly safe for men to assume that, if they want to throw themselves into their career, their partner will care for the home and children. Not so for women, which is why women partners will always include "choose the right life partner" in their how-to-succeed list.
Other things that are different about my new work setting: The Commonwealth tries hard to be a "model employer," especially with respect to people who have disabilities. Which means that every day, I interact with people who have walkers and canes, people who slur their speech, people who are deaf or blind. What's more, there are people who wear colors, and sneakers, and I wouldn't be surprised if they expose their toes in hot weather! I never realized how much conformity there was in biglaw until I stepped away into a world of people who are just normal, and who aren't always immaculately groomed and gym-toned and carrying an expensive bag. It's nice that it doesn't matter so much anymore.
The new job has a daycare on the bottom floor of the building. The old job did too, but it seemed sort of pointless. Have a good day, sweetie! I'll pick you up at 5, or 6:30, or maybe 9 or 11, I have no way of knowing! It wouldn't really work. When I leave the new job at the end of the day, I glance back at the daycare door and imagine hearing X laugh out loud when I walk through the door, but then I'm sandwiched between two people on the bus with giant backpacks and I feel relieved that I commute alone.
The only real drawback of the new job is that it came at a time when we had already committed to a kitchen renovation, closely followed by the news that we need a new roof immediately. The roofers are coming tomorrow. It scares me to look at our bank account, just a few months after leaving the firm. We just have to hope for no disasters in the next two years until X is out of daycare and we can start saving again.