I've experienced a fair number of changes in title recently. No longer a lawyer. No longer employed. New stay at home mom. And I now have yet another designation: lawyer wife. I may have escaped "biglaw," but I can't say the same for my husband.
My husband and I were married in September of 2006. We met on the first day of law school, and eventually became study partners. He got better grades than me in almost every class, but I didn't mind too much. The rest is history. Ours is a quintessential law school love story.
Our careers followed similar paths for a long time, going from one big firm to another. He does corporate law, and I did litigation, but there was still a mutual understanding of what the other was doing, and the associated stresses involved - billable hour requirements, juggling multiple projects, and balancing work and family. Once we had kids, my work was scaled back as I went part time. And thanks to the economic downturn, my husband enjoyed pretty regular hours for the first year or so of our first son's life.
Slowly but surely my husband's regular schedule started to change. My friends, I don't care what the economists say, the downturn is over. At the same time, I am now home. All. Day. Long. My husband and I have both gone to opposite extremes - him working like crazy, and me not working at all. This will all eventually become part of my new normal. But right now, it is taking some getting used to.
Now I can't blame his firm entirely. After all, when work picks up and clients start calling again, that is a good thing. And the people he works with are very understanding and flexible. But my husband is a workaholic. Like me, he can't seem to turn it off (I have more than once thought of throwing his blackberry out a window). And even when he has to be at the office into the wee hours before a closing, he likes it. He may not admit it outright, but he does. He's weird like that.
Since I have left my job, his long hours have hit much closer to home, literally. If you are a parent, you know when the witching hour comes. Usually by around 4:00 pm. This is when you look at your kids, cranky and demanding, and think, "It's a good thing that you're cute." And by that point, if you have been flying solo all day, you are exhausted, hungry, and bored. All you want is a break - even if just for a few minutes. That study you read about kids watching too much tv goes out the window. At this point, you are just getting by... biding your time until freedom comes your way - bedtime.
It is at the beginning of this witching hour that I make the initial call to my husband's office. It is always the same, with me asking, "What's the deal?"
Now his response can go one of three ways:
1) It will be a late one - and he tells me this with certainty. My response is usually, "Are you serious?" (with look of disgust). In this case, I give up all hope of him making it home before the kids' bedtime and I resign myself for another solid 4 hours of kid duty. I consider making an exception to my rule that I can only have wine one weeknight a week.
2) He will be leaving early. This is rare, but very exciting. Granted, he still has a 45 minute commute, but in the best of circumstances, he can be home for dinner and put at least one kid to bed. My mood lightens and I even consider cooking.
3) This is probably the worst of the three. He says he doesn't know. He says he has a 4:30 call that should probably only be an hour, and perhaps he can leave shortly after that. So around 5:30, I await his call. By 5:45, I am emailing him with my standard line: "What's the deal?" Sometimes a response comes immediately, and it is rarely good. "Call going longer than planned." Other times, I don't get a response for a while, giving me time to stew, and stew, and stew. The result is generally the same as option 1, but much worse, since I had a glimmer of hope of evening childcare assistance, only to be sorely disappointed. I consider ordering Dominoes.
I try to be understanding, because I do understand. I understand far too well. To the point that my stress level correlates directly with my husband's workload. Every Sunday, I will ask questions like: Do you have a closing this week? When is your all hands call scheduled for? How many junior associates are staffed on your deal? Because I know how these answers will affect my family dinners for the week.
But we make it work. Last Wednesday was a night that fell into category #3- but with a good outcome. We pushed dinner back, and my husband was home by 6:30. He had his blackberry next to his plate at dinner, and the blue tooth remained in his ear all night, with him fielding a few phone calls. But he was there.
That night I was nursing my infant son to sleep, while my husband was with my toddler who was sitting on the potty. We are in the midst of potty training hell, but we are getting there. From the next room, it literally sounded like he was coaching someone giving birth. "Push! You can do it! You're almost there!" And then cheering... I laughed out loud from the dark nursery across the hall, so happy that despite his crazy work schedule, he was still here for these moments. We'll take him as much as we can get him.