Bridget Penick, an attorney with Dickinson, Mackaman, Tyler & Hagen, P.C., in Des Moines, Iowa, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
As a young lawyer and mother of three young daughters, I am often asked by other young lawyers who are contemplating starting a family about how I balance my work and family. The truth is that I have no secret formula. I am certainly not the first to do this juggling act and am admittedly not the best at it. But, I cannot imagine my life without both my family and my career. In fact, I believe each helps to balance me.
Below are a few suggestions for achieving a balance between work and family.
Love what you do. One reason I choose to continue the daily balancing act is that I truly love my job. Obviously, my family comes first. It is much easier, however, to leave my children each morning when I know I am going to an office where I am surrounded by intelligent, fun people and where I am able to help clients solve their legal problems.
If you doubt whether it is worth the sacrifices and effort to maintain this work/life balancing act, it is time to reevaluate your career choice. If you are not in love with your job, then find one you do love. The sacrifice imposed upon your family is not worth it if your job is just that—a job.
Make time for yourself. No matter how much you love your family and your job, every person needs to have personal interests and time away from work and family obligations. This is a very delicate balance to maintain.
Some days, the only “me” time I get is the 5 a.m. trip to the gym, which does not seem terribly enjoyable at the time! Sadly, I consider it an indulgence when I can watch something on TV that is not on the Disney channel. How can I find the time to focus on me? That leads to the next point.
Prioritize and organize. Each year, many people resolve to get organized. Some succeed, but many put it off. Those of us balancing demanding work schedules and hectic family lives have no choice but to get organized.
I admit there are days when I leave a document sitting at work that I meant to take home and edit that evening. I also have forgotten to send snow pants to school on a snowy day. Dinner consists of fast food and eating out far more often than I would like because I have not planned far enough in advance. I hereby resolve to become more organized, make more lists, and plan meals in advance.
Get over the guilt. As the product of a “traditional” working-dad/stay-at-home-mom family, I sometimes feel guilty for telling my daughters that I just cannot go to all of their school events and after-school events.
I rationalize my career choice by reminding myself that it is healthy for my daughters to see me as female professional role model. I hope that the times I do get to attend their school parties are that much more memorable and meaningful for each of us.
Ladies (and gentlemen who may be dealing with the same issue), we just have to let go of the guilt. The more it eats at us, the less successful we will be at either of our careers—parenthood or the law.
My secret weapon. I was not completely honest when I wrote that I do not have a secret to successfully balancing work and motherhood. My husband makes it much easier for me to juggle, as he is a stay-at-home dad who works part time as a baseball scout.
While he does not do everything a “traditional” stay-at-home mother may do, I know I could not maintain the balance without him. Even if you do not have the luxury of a stay-at-home spouse, I do encourage you to build a reliable support network, whether it is a daycare provider, family, coworkers, neighbors, or friends.
Writing this piece has cut into my “me time,” so I am off to watch David Letterman before I go to bed and start the crazy cycle again tomorrow. I would not have it any other way.
A version of this article appeared in the February 2008 issue of The Iowa Lawyer .
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