It feels good to break the mold and do my own thing. To do what is right for our family in this season. Making the decision to quit my job as a lawyer and stay at home with my son wasn’t an easy one, though.
I always knew I would be a mom. I imagined I would be a stay-at-home mom at some point, too. My mom stayed at home with us, and I assumed I would do that too. But I also had other dreams; big dreams: go to college, then grad school, get an awesome job, be awesome at my job, earn lots of money . . . .
I got married at 25, right after I graduated law school. I already had a job lined up as a judicial law clerk at the Immigration Court in Phoenix. After one year in that position, I got a job as an attorney with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), also in the immigration field. After a few years, I got my dream position, while still working for DHS: as a federal criminal prosecutor at the U.S. Attorney’s Office (a temporary 15-month detail). A few months later, I became pregnant with our son. I did my first jury trial when I was 7 months pregnant. It was awesome!
The plan was to take 12 weeks off after the baby was born, and then go back to work full-time. So, that’s what I did. But, for me, going back to work was hard. Really hard.
And this is where I break the mold . . . . Many of the female attorneys I know have no interest in being a stay-at-home mom. Which is more glamorous: sweeping into the courtroom in 3 inch heels and a snazzy suit, schmoozing the jury, winning your case, and celebrating at happy hour… or cleaning up spit-up, changing diapers, and wearing your PJs all day because you have been too busy chasing a little crawler to spend some time on yourself?
Most of my female law school friends don’t have children (yet). We’ve been busy working on our careers; climbing the ladder of success! ALL of the female attorneys I know who do have children went back to work and are still working. They have wonderful networks of support: family, great daycare and schools, stay-at-home husbands, and more. I know many women who couldn’t wait to go back to work after their maternity leave, to get out of the house and get back to their exciting careers.
Being an attorney is fun. It is rewarding. It pays pretty well. But it’s also stressful. For me, major lack of sleep + stress + only seeing my baby a few hours each work-day = not a happy mama.
Quitting my job was not an easy decision, though. Doubts creep in: did I waste three years of my life and lots of $$$ on law school? Will my lawyer friends and colleagues look down on me now? What will I say when I meet someone new and they ask me what I do? And, the biggie: Can we survive with ONE-HALF of the family income gone?
For the five years after law school, my career was a huge part of my identity. I spent 9+ hours a day at work. I enjoyed talking about my work and telling funny stories from the courtroom. But now, my identity is motherhood. When I meet new people, I don’t talk about my former career, unless that discussion comes up. I enjoy talking about my son, his developmental milestones, and life in general. I take my son to baby storytime and music programs at the library. We have play-dates. We do crafts. We go for walks around the neighborhood and to the park. AND I LOVE IT!!!
When I made the decision to quit my job, I got a number of different responses from my colleagues. One Judge said, “But won’t you be bored?” Many people said, “Oh, good for you.” One attorney said, “Don’t worry, times have changed and you can probably get another job in the future when you are ready to come back.” Uh, thanks, I wasn’t worried about that until you mentioned it! Most people, however, said, “You will never regret this decision.” And so far, they’re right!
I am writing this post today because an interesting thing happened. I got a call from a supervisor at my dream job. A very competitive job that I applied for and almost got when I was 8 months pregnant. They have another opening coming up and wanted to know if I was interested in applying again. Hmmm, tempting thought! I pondered this… and then took my son to storytime at the railroad park. Experiencing the sheer joy on his face as we sang songs and acted out rhymes made my day. Then I knew, I am so blessed to have this time with him and I am not willing to give it up.
The moral of this story: it’s ok to break the mold. Do what is best for you and YOUR family. Working full-time as a mama? More power to you! That is hard work but rewarding in so many ways. Working part-time or working from home? Awesome! Stay-at-home mom? Good for you. Make your decision and OWN IT. Live life to the fullest, and don’t let others’ expectations hinder you.