November 14, 2011 Articles

Toward Living a "Guilt-Free" Life

A common challenge for female lawyers is balancing the need to meet billable hours with the need to be present at home.

By Katherine Y. Fergus

Many of us are trying to balance the need to meet a billable hours target with the need to be present at home. That guilt is magnified when you compare yourself to the stay-at-home mothers who have enough time to be classroom parent liaison, attending every school and classroom event, and your colleagues who can literally work or be available to work 24 hours a day. While there is by no means an easy formula for meeting all of the demands so as to avoid the guilt of missing billable hours opportunities or of missing the class trip to the zoo, there are things to do that might ease those pangs of guilt that invariably plague every woman who is trying to have it all.

Make a Commitment and Stick to It There is virtually no way to be at every school event, but that is nothing to be ashamed of or to harbor guilt about as a parent. Think of how exciting and special it is for your child when you do attend one of the big-ticket events at school with them. Each year, pick an important school event that requires parent participation and mark it off on the calendar as early as possible. Maybe it is chaperoning the year-end trip to the beach, zoo, or science museum; participating in the class holiday party; reading to the class on your child’s birthday; or even just working in the classroom as an assistant for an hour one afternoon. Whatever it is, try not to let anything interfere with that critical date. Treat that date like a national holiday so that your children know that Mom is going to be there. If you have a draft or final brief due on that date, get it done way ahead of time to keep that date inviolate. If at all possible, and it usually is, schedule depositions, court appearances, and client meetings clear of that time slot so that you can keep your commitment to your child. Those of us who continue to work outside the home can still use our time wisely to make each moment with our child extra special.

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