Friday, April 1, 2011

My New Endeavor

I have been thinking about starting a blog for a long time.  My excuse was always that I just couldn't fit it into my life.  Between long hours at work at a law firm, taking care of my son, and trying to get at least 7 hours of sleep per night, there just wasn't any room for creative endeavors.  And then, when I had my second son and was on maternity leave, there was the obvious excuse of no time for anything other than nursing my infant, trying to quell the jealousy of my two year old, and trying to get at least 4 hours of sleep per night.  Now, both of my kids are sleeping through the night, I am managing to get at least 7 hours of sleep per night with the aid of sleeping pills (a topic for a longer post), and the long hours at a law firm are no more.  After leaving my job and becoming a stay a home mom, my excuses are officially over. 

A bit of background first.  I am your typical overachieving, risk averse law graduate that has followed the path nicely laid out for me by law school career services.  As a student at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, I spent my first summer interning for a federal district judge.  The second summer I spent being wined and dined at Skadden Arps in Manhattan, making far too much money and consuming way too much alcohol.  After graduation, I embarked on the consummate two month around the world "bar trip" with my fiance (also a Penn Law graduate), in which I spent a large portion of said money from the prior summer at Skadden.  The trip was immediately followed by a mad rush to find an apartment in Manhattan, and start work as a first year associate at Skadden a week later, the last possible start date.  And so began my life as a lawyer at "biglaw," where, back in 2005 at least, associates felt entitled to ridiculously high salaries and bonuses, and gamed the system as best they could to bill only the minimum amount of hours.  I went through the motions, and true to my nature, billed as much as I could and got great feedback from even the most discerning of partners.  My future at Skadden, a firm that was described in a Vault publication as a "honeymoon canceller," looked bright.  But passion for my job, and my life generally?  Completely lacking.

It wasn't always the case.  As a college student at Penn State University, I liked to seek out interesting opportunities and think outside the box.  After a semester in London where I interned for a member of the House of Commons, I took a keen interest in politics, and became a White House intern.  I started writing an opinion column for our school newspaper.  Instead of following the grain and going straight to law school, I got a masters degree in Social Policy from the London School of Economics.  After that, I decided to stay and live in London for another year, working at a public policy research consultancy.  I traveled extensively.  I met interesting people from all over the world.  I kept a journal.  And I applied to law school, fully planning on getting my degree and returning to Europe, where I would save the world.

But love changes things.  In law school, I met my now husband, who is from New York and had no intentions of moving to another country.  I followed his lead and participated in on campus recruiting, where firms from all over the United States came to recruit the best and brightest for a summer of extravagance, which inevitably turned into a life of servitude once the real career began.  It was a different era for the legal market, and offers were plentiful.   I received numerous offers and took the most "prestigious" one.  And in the process, my former passions: travel, writing, politics; fell to the wayside.

Skadden proved to be the pressure cooker that everyone promised it would be.  The days of long lunches and firm happy hours were over.  After a year, I had a quarter life crisis, so to speak.  I had just gotten married.  I wanted kids.  I wanted a bigger apartment.  I wanted freedom from crushing hours, intimidating partners, and work stress that had brought me dangerously close to becoming a chain smoker and an alcoholic.  I told my husband that I had to get out - that this just wasn't me.  It didn't take long for my husband, who had watched me spiraling downwards for months, to agree.  We both interviewed and accepted jobs in DC, where we knew hardly anyone, but had hope for a bit more normalcy.

And we did get more normalcy, at least I did (my husband's hours at his firm will surely be a topic for another post).  I took a job at Dickstein Shapiro - still a large firm by any standards, but with a reputation for family friendly policies and more of a work/life balance.  My hours, while probably still considered long to people with "normal" jobs, were much more reasonable than at Skadden.  And, perhaps the major shocker, people were nice!  The partners for the most part were friendly, understanding, and kept somewhat normal hours themselves.  The associates also did not seem miserable, and volunteered for assignments, which was in stark contrast to the work avoidance strategy that permeated junior associates at Skadden.  I am painting a pretty picture here, but of course, a law firm is still a law firm with billable hour expectations and office politics.  But as far as law firms went, I felt I had found a pretty nice one.  I was, overall, happy with my job, and life was good again.  We bought a house.  We got a dog.  And after being settled for a year, I got pregnant. 

Braden was born on September 5, 2008.  My days of billing gave way to a surprisingly enjoyable home life during my 18 week (paid!) maternity leave.   I started cooking for my husband.  I joined a mom's group and hosted playdates.  I took daily walks.  And I completely fell in love with my son.  I treasured each moment  and dreaded returning to work and leaving him at home with a nanny.

But, lucky for me, I would only have to leave him home for 3 days a week.  Dickstein offered returning mothers the opportunity to work at a reduced schedule.  I opted for a 60% schedule, meaning I worked 60% of the required billable hours (over 3 days), and got 60% of my pay.  If I worked above the requisite hours, I would be compensated for it.   Pretty good if you asked me.  A three day a week, six figure job.  We got a part time nanny and life went on.

But as the months went by, my stress level got higher and higher.  Notwithstanding that Dickstein was a "nice" firm, work did not stop just because I wasn't in the office.  I found myself juggling conference calls with diaper changes, and responding to emails on my blackberry during nursing sessions.  Checking out on my days off was not an option.  This was no one's fault per se, but I didn't help the situation.  Always wanting to please, I never complained or objected when I was given an assignment that I knew would require me to work on my days off, or on weekends.  And, by doing so, I in essence trained those I worked for to take advantage of me and give me the same assignments as my fellow, full time, associates.  I was my own worst enemy.  I couldn't turn it off.  It just wasn't my nature.  And ultimately, I became part time only in title and salary.

While work was impeding on my time with my son, I was getting more and more uncomfortable with our part time nanny.  While she wasn't the type to talk on her cell phone all day or step out for a cigarette, I did catch her a few times watching Oprah with my son sitting on the sidelines in the pack and play, entertaining himself.  Not the end of the world, but not something I expected her to do at $18 an hour.  She did not feel comfortable driving with him, so the park and playdates were out.  She was older (in her 60s), and wasn't an on the ground, tumble around with you type of caregiver.  I worried about Braden getting enough activity and socialization.  At the end of the day, she wasn't me.  And looking back, I am not sure there is anyone who would have made me fully comfortable, because no one would have taken care of him, or loved him, the way I did.  

After a particular horrific weekend, where my husband and I were literally fighting over who had to watch Braden, because we both had so much work to do, we decided that this could not go on any longer.  My workload and the childcare situation had caused me to get to my breaking point.  I would leave my job.

I went into work a few weeks later ready to give my rehearsed resignation speech.  To my surprise, I was offered an alternative - a six month leave of absence, at which point Braden would start a 2 year old preschool program (and the childcare problem would be solved).  I was to return to work in September of 2010, and in the meantime, I could work on an hourly, contract basis from home, whenever I wished.  I did, and at a little over $100 an hour, the extra money was great.

Ah, the best laid plans.  A mere two weeks after the start of my leave of absence....  the morning sickness began.  I hate saying that we were surprised by a pregnancy, because obviously, we weren't actively preventing it.  But my first pregnancy had taken a while to achieve, and caused a lot of anxiety in the process.  This time around, I wanted to give myself time to get pregnant, so I didn't feel stressed and rushed.  Of course, it happened the second month.

The baby was due October 19, 2010 - six weeks after I was due to return to work.  In May, I broke the news to my partner mentor at Dickstein, whom I did the majority of my work for.  He feigned happiness at the news of my pregnancy, but come on, I know what he was thinking.  I was thinking it myself.  Dickstein had generously granted me a leave of absence, I had promised to come back in September, and now we were looking at March for me to permanently return to work.  That would be almost a year out.  I did feel bad, almost embarrassed, but what was I going to do?  Inside I was thrilled at my pregnancy, and that excitement helped to soften my guilt.  I suggested not returning until March, and taking an unpaid maternity leave.  Dickstein countered back with what I considered to be an unexpected, and pretty phenomenal proposition - I could come back in September, on a part time basis, for six weeks, or until the baby was born.  Then they would pay my 18 weeks maternity leave, and I could return in March.  Unbelievable.  I couldn't turn it down.

On October 20, 2010, Casey was born.  He was perfect.  I never thought I could love anyone as much as Braden, but the first minute I laid eyes on Casey, I knew I was wrong.  I was overjoyed.  Until day 3 hit.  Then postpartum depression came in like a tsunami.  I never experienced any kind depression with Braden, and in fact, I had never experienced true depression before.  I know that now.  I couldn't sleep a wink for two days and almost went crazy.  In fact, I remember that first week like a dream, almost like an out of body experience.  I wasn't myself.  I couldn't feel anything - love, sadness, nothing.  Only anxiety.  I had panic attacks on and off throughout the day every day.  Thank God for my wonderful husband, who was so understanding and helpful, but must have been so scared that his wife was going crazy.  After a week and a visit to a psychiatrist, I got on meds.  Slowly but surely things got better, though I am still on zoloft and sleeping pills now, 5 months out.  Once I came back to life again, about 1 month postpartum, I was finally able to enjoy Casey and be the mommy I normally was to Braden.  It was an experience that I would not wish on anyone.

I'm not going to lie.  Even before Casey was born I considered not going back to work after maternity leave.  But I had no idea how I would feel.  I had gotten used to being home with Braden during my leave of absence, and though it was exhausting and boring at times, I really enjoyed it.  But with two, I figured that would be much, much harder.  Maybe I would welcome the opportunity to get out of the house 3 days a week.  I had a good gig at Dickstein, and was well liked. I had potential there. And the money, lets not underestimate the money.  Who makes six figures for a part time job?  It was insane.  Losing my salary would be a big deal for our family.  We could do it, but life would certainly change.  And lest I forget, I do have a law degree.  I really should use it. 

I don't know exactly why or when, but at some point during those 18 weeks, I came to a certainty that I would not return to the firm.  Part of it was the fact that my postpartum episode had made me realize how fragile I was.  Could I handle the stress of big firm life again, with two children at home?  And the childcare - could I trust a stranger again with both of my kids?  There is no clear answer to these questions, and ostensibly, the answer could be yes.  But, one night I stared at Casey's sleeping face and knew the answer was no.  The fact is, I am greedy.  Dickstein had been so wonderful to me - continually granting me flexibility and making me offers that I couldn't refuse.  And no doubt, they would have worked with me in terms of balancing childcare and work, had I returned.  But it wasn't enough.  I wanted these kids all to myself, all the time.  I didn't want someone else to hang out with them all day, albeit just 3 days a week. I didn't want conference calls and emails to interfere with my time with them when I was home.  I just felt such a pull to be with them.  And I listened to that, above all reason - despite the fact that doing so would mean giving up my career, at least temporarily, and a salary the likes of which I may never see again.

The partners I worked for took the news okay.  I half considered proposing that I continue to do hourly work on the side from home, but after all they had done for me, I felt I couldn't ask for more.  I went in and cleaned out the office I had barely been in for a year.  And I had lunch with my partner mentor, where he told me point blank, "You would have made partner here."  I'm not sure why he told me that, or if he was just blowing smoke...  But it didn't make me feel good.  The ambition in me was telling me to take it all back, to stay, to go for it.  But the mother in me shouted louder.

So here I am.  Eight years of higher education.  Hell, I am still paying off my loans, which are over $1000 a month.  But I am officially a stay at home mom.

I think the loss in status is what has hit me the hardest so far.  I never realized that I took such pride in being able to say that I was an attorney at a big firm.  I still dread the day when I go to a work event with my husband and someone asks me what I do. I guess I am just not completely comfortable with the whole concept yet.  But what really hit home was something that Braden said to me last week.  We were talking about daddy and what daddy does and how daddy goes to work everyday as a lawyer.  And then he literally said to me: "Mommy does laundry."  I sat there for a moment, shocked that this could very well be how my son viewed me.  "It's true, Mommy does do the laundry," I said holding back tears. "But I do have a law degree." 

Hence the title of my blog.  Despite my desire to be at home with my kids, I am not yet ready to let go of my ambition, and in a sense, my former identity.  And perhaps that is the purpose of this blog for me.  An assignment to complete each week.  A purpose, other than to be a mom.  A sense that I am still adding something.

In the meantime, check out these adorable boys below.  How could they not be worth it?


84 comments:

  1. Congratulations on making the best decision of your life and for your life. I look forward to reading your blog.

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  2. Just read this after seeing your post on DCUM. My story is very similar to yours and I'm interested in hearing how it goes. Keep writing and I'll put you in my blog feed!

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  3. I loved reading this :) Your law degree will always be there, your boys will only be little for a short amount of time. Savor it!

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  4. It's interesting that I came across your blog today. I was musing today about the number of times I was told I had "big potential" as a child, and wondering what all those people would say if they could see me now. I am a SAHM of four young children. Sometimes it is hard to be defined only by my children and my husband, but I have a secret in my back pocket. My saving grace, my comfort, is that I was free to choose. I could give the world my "potential", but for what? No, I'm going to invest it in something of my choosing. And I praise God that I had the ability and blessing to be whatever I wanted to be. Most people don't get that opportunity.

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  5. Thank you for this blog. I look forward to sharing it with my community and reading about your journey ahead. I am *really* excited for you. Some amazing opportunities are out there waiting for you, this is totally the beginning of something exceptional!

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  6. First, I own my own business, and think constantly about how to realistically scale back or quit and be with my kids FT. There is no right or wrong answer, all you can do is pay close attention to your heart, which it sounds like you've done. Way to go, mama. I am filled with pride for you. There's always plenty of time to "work". And in the meantime, you're doing life's most important work - which may sound cliche, but is 100% true. Keep it up. And keep writing. You're not alone -- our whole generation is wrestling with this in one way or another.

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  7. I enjoyed reading your blog! Any mom you talk to understands staying home with the kids is a big deal! As for the others who cares! I think it's cool you're doing a blog. I just started my blog too. I don't know what I'm doing lol. I'm just trying to meet other moms I guess. So anyway I saw you on mom bloggers club and thought I would check you out : ) We actually have the same background and my son was born 10-19-10! So the same background isn't that big of a deal, but I thought it was cool our boys were the same age! I have a blog too if you want to check it out: http://mommyinthescv.blogspot.com/ No pressure to follow. I think if we look past the people that just want to follow us so we follow them, we will actually find cool moms to connect with. Good luck!

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  8. I loved reading your story, it was written with such honesty and candor. Good luck in your new career!

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  9. Congrats! I would give anything to be able to stay home with my daughter, but it is financially impossible for us. Don't ever let anyone make you feel bad about that decision -- lots of people can be partners at big law firms, but no one else can be your boys' mom. They are adorable, and they will never be this age again. You can always work again later. Enjoy this time with them!

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  10. It's different for Moms. If a Dad had to raise a child on their own I don't think they would feel the same intense pull that a mother does for their children. Some women truly have to work, that is if they want a roof over their heads and food on the table and then some women work for 'the extras' and then some because they 'want' to work-they need to 'work'. Trouble is most women spend their children's early years trying to either figure out which one they are. Because of that guilt from the insane pull from responsiblity to motherhood, from necessity to want.

    It's true you can always work later - your children are young only for a short, short time but keep in mind - bigger kids, bigger problems - teens need someone there for them too so don't leave the nest too soon.

    Wish you all the luck - I think your on the right path.

    Bee Seeing You!

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  11. I left biglaw before I even had a kid, and surely would have left by now (I have a 6 month old). Yet I still feel the need to tell people I have law degree from a top school, because I'm embarassed about "wasting" it! You should check out www.dcvlp.org -- I think it was started by some SAHMs with law degrees as a way to put them to some use...

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  12. Beautifully written... so encouraging and inspiring. You are a great mom... don't ever look back!

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  13. Love you girl! and I know at least two people who won't think you made the wrong decision and will be eternally grateful: Braden and Casey! I am looking forward to reading your blog!
    Sabrina

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  14. Hi there!

    I saw a link to your blog on MDC. I have a professional degree as well and am staying home with my two kids. I have struggled with identity and "worth" since the birth of my first, 6 yrs ago.

    I wanted to recommend an amazing book (I know reading is totally a luxury that we SAHMs don't often have time for). This book has given me such food for thought and is just so thoughtful and well researched. I really love it and expect that when I'm finished, I'll start it all over again. It's like a supportive friend. :)

    It's "Maternal Desire" by Daphne de Marneffe

    Congrats on your new journey and your kids are adorable!

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  15. They ARE worth it!!! They are amazing and wonderful and you will never be able to get these infant/toddler/inspirational days back. Sooner than we know it, they will be older and grown and not wanting to talk with you or have you drop them off right in front of school but instead, a block away for fear of being embarrassed :) I LOVE your decision. And I LOVE your new goal. I'll look forward to reading your thoughts each week!

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  16. I am glad for your new endeavor – this is a journey and there is no right or wrong way to paint your life.

    I get a feeling from you post that your decision to SAH was more a solution to a problem. I hope that staying at home is not just a mirage.

    Staying at home is a great thing to do, so is being a lawyer and a mom - both journeys come with their rewards and challenges.

    Two roads diverge….

    While I have been there done that – living outside DC, with a 6 figure income, working 60% with a part-time nanny, I know it is not easy nor necessarily the “best” thing for you – it did work for me. Sometimes I would do conference calls with my son in a backpack on my back – cooing and laughing.

    Fighting over who will watch the kid because the other needs “time” whether it is to bill hours or run to COSTCO is not owned wholly by working parents.

    Interestingly enough, and probably the reason I am posting, is up to your decision to quit your job you clearly are parroting my life. Partying in my 20’s, student loans, a 6 figure income, 2 kids, living outside DC, I even had depression after my second child was born.

    The difference though is that I do not in any way have a stressful job like you do and my husband has a super cool, stressful job but it does not make 6 figures.

    Also, you are a transplant into snoburbia (not an easy place to live and not a term I coined but there is actually a blog about this and the blogger lives in the suburbs of DC). I have lived here my whole life.

    You had a mentor in your job you may think of a mentor out of your job too. I had my one – a law partner and mom of 3 – who was a few years ahead of me and a good person to share my thoughts and feeling on occasion. Her best advice – your house will never be as clean as you want it. (As if giving me permission)

    I don’t really understand why you think you are letting go of your ambition. There are many people in this area that are lawyers, doctors, accountants, etc – raising children as stay at home moms. You are just redirecting your energy. Many lawyers in this area do other things other than practice law, and my roommate in college also a lawyer did not practice law after having children.

    One thing I have found in my world is the inability for SAH moms and working moms to have and open and honest discussion about the positive and negatives of both worlds.

    I am older than you, I have been there, done that – my kids are older and much more manageable. My son has asked the question as has your son – what does Ms. S do all day long – laundry? How to teach your kids to respectful of other’s decisions is just a part of teaching your children about life. You son will respect you whether you are a practicing lawyer or not. They will love you if you are at every school field trip or just the ones you can make it to.

    The issue of not being there for every milestone does not go away because you SAH. I missed my son’s soccer game this weekend because my other son had a game at the same time. Kids are smarter and forgiving – they understand.

    My only advice is to keep the dialogue open with your husband – wants and needs change (as you have obviously figured out) .

    Good luck with your road not taken …

    Though as for that the passing there
    Had worn them really about the same,

    It will make all the difference.

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  17. Congrats on your decision. I wish that I had the opportunity to make the same one. I wish you all the best.

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  18. Congratulations and best wishes- it's the best "job" you'll ever have! I'm not yet a grandmother, but should be and I want to share with you a conversation of twenty-five years ago. I was talking to a friend who was a judge and, as a young mother will, asked her HOW she had been able to do it all, with three children. She smiled at me and said, "You CAN have it all- just not ALL AT THE SAME TIME." She told me she had given up biglaw when she had her first child and had gone back, lilttle by little, when her kids were all teenagers. It might not work the same way today, but when you want to add outside work to your life, you will find a way- and it may not be practicing law- you write naturally and elegantly, so it may be writing about the law is your forte.

    Much luck and God bless. I often wished my "kids" had come with instruction manuals, but we did okay and they are three productive, honorable, talented adults today. You'll be fine. So will they- and they're ADORABLE!

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  19. I'm crying at my desk as I read this. I wish I had the guts to quit.

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  20. I'll be interested to see if this comment gets to stay (since every single other comment is an unqualified gush). And, I'll even preface this with the fact that, I too, was a once-upon-a-time big firm lawyer. I started my own practice more than a decade ago because I wanted the flexibility for a family life. (Oh, by the way, if it matters to anyone reading this, I'm a guy.) I think your choice is just fine (assuming it's fine with you because, really, who the hell am I to pass on anyone else's choices), but the level of big-firm elitism never ceases to amaze me. You can't deal with the loss of status because you're no longer at Skadden? Wow. Who cares? Are you a good lawyer? A good parent? A good spouse? If so - very cool. But there's only so much I'm going to care about anyone's loss of "status" because they're no longer able to associate themselves with a bunch of big-firm lawyers. News flash, most big firm lawyers are socially-retarded and not any better at the jobs than mid-size or small-firm lawyers. Some are. Just not most. How about you define yourself based on who you are and not who gives you your business cards?

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  21. Wonderful post! I am looking forward to following your new life as a SAHM. I recently left O'Melveny, but don't have children with whom to spend my day -- only TMZ.com. Yes, it seems a waste of a great opportunity, but I was at the same point where you were at Skadden. I was simply nuts and making everyone around me miserable. But I don't regret my decision, despite my propensity to follow the whims of Lindsay Lohan with reckless abandon. Life is too short. Time with my husband is too precious. Time with your children is not only important to you as their mother, but too important to them during their early years. I think your decision to stay at home is a fabulous one. And when someone asks what you do for a living? Simply respond, "retired." This usually blows the socks off of anyone who asks me, and leaves them wondering if I'm some internet wonderkid!

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  22. As a fellow female lawyer and blogger (www.makehappyblog.com), I really look forward to reading your blog. Congrats to you for making a courageous decision. And, yes, those boys are adorable!

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  23. Your kids are beautiful and I wish you all the best. Be sure and take the opportunity to thank your husband for continuing to work. He may very well be pretty envious of the time you get to spend with the kids. Also, he's now paying not only for his loans, but for yours as well. You sound like a great Mom and he sounds like a great Husband.

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  24. Thanks for writing this.

    My story is similar, except that I'm not in law (I'm in senior management in university) and I'm the breadwinner of the family, so at this point in time, I can' afford not to work... We do have a nanny, and like you, I am not always happy... because she's not me!

    My two boys are awesome and I love spending time with them. Although... I must say, I don't know that I would be a great stay-at-home mom giving my temperament.

    Best of luck with your choices, I think you made the right one. If you have the luxury to do the right thing and raise your children exactly the way you want to, you should do it. And your career will come back. You would never let it not.

    Congrats!

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  25. You are a wonderful writer, and I encourage you to write more. I'm not sure that I connect with the story about wanting to be a mom being a male myself. However, I do want to applaud your effort to get your own personal priorities straight, whatever they may be. I wonder about your husband though and what's going on with him. Is he deferring or abandoning his own priorities or (unfortunately) are his priorities big law? Married to someone as smart and sensitive and thoughtful as you, I'd hope he'd be different and that he will also be pursing his dreams. After all, he's fragile too. When you get back to law, check out international work in developing countries and the like. I wish I knew your email so I could send more.

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  26. Congrats from a fellow Penn Law grad - I look forward to reading your blog!

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  27. Cool. There are several mommy bloggers with JDs. I'm sure you'll find them. Y'all can totally bond.

    There are even a few Daddy bloggers with JDs, too!

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  28. I am a UCLA JD, and I am a SAHM of 2. My story is a little different than yours, but the end result is the same. The hardest part for me when I decided to stay home was the loss of status. The guy who works from hime and was attaching you for coming from biglaw is wrong. I'm guessing that, like me, the loss of status you feel is that you aren't an attorney anymore, at least not right now. For a while, I was embarassed to tell anyone in my mommy circle I was an attorney. What would they think? Then, it became a matter of, "I have to tell them. I don't want them to think I'm uneducated." Now, I tell people because it's part of who I am. I am proud of my background and am actually working with a single mom at starting a law firm. We hope to work around our kids' athletic and school schedules and still get something from our educational background. I love your candor, and I can't wait to read more!

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  29. thank you for sharing this. i also appreciate your straightforward honesty and can identify with what you're experiencing. please keep sharing!

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  30. Good luck! I had to stay home with my kids. I just could not leave them as babies.

    So I did the reverse. I had 5 kids, but became really tired of being poor, unappreciated, disrespected, and did I say poor already? I'm a 3L now (with a job lined up). I'm 42 and feel ready to devote some time to adult pursuits while my husband takes the lead on the home front.

    Best of luck. It's a shame that women must agonize over these decisions. There surely must be a better way to order a marketplace with women in it.

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  31. Congrats on becoming a blogging lawyer... (or ex-lawyer?).

    You might not want to post pics of the kids though... sad but true, you may get a lot of traffic and not all will be positive.

    With that being said -- terrific post!

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  32. Your children are adorable! I hope they never have to run into those awful bullies growing up. I have nightmare that my kid end up like Casey Heynes and have to fight it out in school: http://lawblog.legalmatch.com/2011/03/29/how-to-fix-the-school-bullying-problem/

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  33. Real Attorney, Not a Flaky WomanApril 5, 2011 at 4:43 AM

    Way too long and boring, didn't read. Looks like typical female crap, which is why we don't hire women. Stay in the kitchen where you belong - remember, you are just your husband's starter wife.

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  34. What a wonderful opportunity for you! I am a lawyer at a large firm and my husband is staying at home because we couldn't let strangers take care of our kids. I'm often jealous of his time with our two boys but I'm comforted by the fact that I have someone who loves my kids with them each day. It may take time but you'll realize you made the right choice. I'm more proud of being a mom than being a partner in a big law firm.
    And to those jerks writing mean comments, grow up!

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  35. Great first post.

    Why not write? Start pitching columns? Then, you can say you're a writer :)

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  36. I just made the same decision yesterday and resigned from a wonderful estate planning firm. Today, a partner in the firm sent me your blog. She understood. And I told her that as soon as my daughter came walking out of her school yesterday, I realized that I too had made the right decision. Enjoy your life with your children!

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  37. Nice to meet you. I'm a former big firm associate, big law graduate, mother of three who is now a SAHM blogger (my daughters were 1.5 and 2.5 when I finally quit to stay home). It took me about a year to admit to being a SAHM, for a long time I just told people I was unemployed, which most people were MUST more accepting of then this choice. My husband is still a big firm lawyer, leading my daughter to proclaim, "daddy lawyers go to office, mommy lawyers go to yoga." Last month he billed 3050 hours, making me realize that I made the right choice. DC really has a great community of both smart, wonderful SAHMs and intelligent mom bloggers. If you have a chance, stop in and say hi - I'm at - http://bedtimemonsters.blogspot.com/ and would love to meet you!

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  38. one more thing - one of the best parts about the loss of prestige is that people now have to like and respect you for who you are as your pedigree is worthless. So when I'm at a cocktail party and someone says something that makes me feel intelligent or well read or interesting I know they're talking about me and not my University of Michigan law degree or where I used to work. There's something incredibly powerful about this. I'm now more than a degree, even if it was a degree I worked so hard to get.

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  39. I'm a 3L and I really enjoyed your post. It pretty much sums up all of my fears and aspirations in one! I've been dating my boyfriend since my first year in law school, he graduated last year and has been working at one of the biggest firms in our area. I don't have a job yet, so I keep joking that if I don't find a job I'm going to just marry him, stay home and have some kids! It scares the hell out of me because I do have aspirations to do so much more. I went to college on the East Coast, spent my junior year in Paris, moved back overseas to teach after college, then came back to the states for law school. I too thought I'd be returning to Europe after my JD, but unfortunately the plan has changed a little.

    I'm glad I found your blog and please keep posting! I don't know how encouraging it will be as I study for the bar exam, but at least it'll help me exercise the other side of my brain!

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  40. Interesting blog. Wish I had the funds to do the same. Alas, I am not married to a lawyer, so if I don't work, we wouldn't be able to pay our mortgage, not to mention student loans. As a lawyer and Mom of 3, keeping it together is way tougher than it looks!

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  41. Thank you for starting this blog! I'm pregnant wtih my second, and while I left biglaw before I had my first, I'm struggling with whether I should leave my full-time outside-the-home job (regular job full time hours, not law firm hours) to stay home with the kids. A friend sent me this post as a "sign" that I should stay home, and I look forward to reading more.

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  42. Thank you so much for starting this blog. I am in the exact same boat as you. Same job, same loss of identity, two boys, same ages and certainly the same internal conflicts! I look forward to reading your perspective on things.

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  43. Interesting post, and I will continue reading. That said, I have noticed a trend among my friends (I am a woman and a lawyer at a big firm as well): they all assume that they can "jump back in" to firm life or being a lawyer when they are ready. In reality, what I have seen over the last five or so years are women who suddenly want to get back into the legal world because their kids are in school, but who either are not able to land a position due to the amount of time they have been at home or who do get a position, but not at the level/firm/whatever they think they are qualified for. I have just skimmed the comments, but I don't see this addressed anywhere. It just doesn't seem to be as easy in practice as many people assume.

    I think your perspecitive is interesting as well and look forward to reading future posts.

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  44. I'm a 2L, pregnant, and very interested to read more of this blog. My mother stayed at home until I was about 4, when she rejoined the work force. I'm proud that she balanced raising me and having a career as a single mom, and I hope that this author eventually rejoins the work force. Law is a wonderful, important profession, and I'm sure her children will be so proud of their elite lawyer mom some day.

    That said, I could tell from the post that this author fell into a lot of the trappings that I see my peers falling into- excessive drinking, sleeping pills, and the seduction of the big $$$ law firms offer. It is pretty much a well-known fact that big firm jobs suck the life out of you. I have actually heard professors suggest dumping all the money you earn in a big firm into paying off your student loans and your house in order to earn "freedom," and the ability to leave when you want. But many students, including the author, opt not to do this soon enough. Right now I am interning in a government agency where many of the female lawyers work part time and have families, and they seem extremely satisfied and happy. Many big-firm lawyers that I have talked to over the years have describing leaving, or the possibility of leaving, as "escape." So it seems to me that motherhood does not imperil a legal career so much as it imperils a big-firm job.

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  45. Because it's all too easy to be a "Type A" mom/lawyer/housewife, etc. I'll post one of my favorite poems.

    "Cooking and cleaning can wait til tomorrow
    For children grow up, I've learned to my sorrow.
    So quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep,
    For I'm rocking my baby and babies don't "keep."

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  46. Darcy said " Last month he (her husband)billed 3050 hours, making me realize that I made the right choice."

    I work - that post makes me happy I work so my husband can see his children - the number is wrong because that comes out to 100 hours per day but the point is still the same.

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  47. Great first post! I look forward to the next one...

    -Male/Big law attorney/Married with 1 male toddler

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  48. I'm usually not into your type of blog (ex-fraternity, V10-bound 2L who devotes the majority of his time to acquiring models & bottles), but for some reason I couldn't stop reading. Great post. Really well-written too. Makes me regret not taking that CB from Dickstein Shapiro.

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  49. Thank you for this blog! I found myself tearing up. I wish I had a dollar for everytime I've said to my husband or myself "But I have a law degree". This will be on my daily blog check!

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  50. Good for you! You've made some tough decisions. You're also an excellent writer, btw.

    I don't have kids yet but am already taking steps to get out of my BigLaw job and so is my husband. We were warned but we still came to these firms anyway. You hear in law school that the firms suck the life out of you and that you can't have any personal life, but then you see examples of people who appear to have a work life balance and you think it can't possibly be that bad. And sometimes it's not. But the unpredictability of it is what really starts to wear you down. Each vacation, plans with friends, trips to visit family, is qualified by "unless I have to work." (I also was probably fairly arrogant in thinking that the firms suck the life out of OTHER people, but that it wouldn't happen to me.) Over the last few years it's been a slow realization that you cannot have a normal family life or try to raise kids in this job. Of the people I work for who are parents, there is not a single person whose life I envy. That's why we're getting out.

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  51. Came over from Jane Has a Job and just wanted to say I loved this post! Best wishes to you!

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  52. Sigh...your single blog entry has made me laugh out loud and tear up, has scared the b'jeezus outta me and made me wholly optimistic. I am a 06 Penn Law grad, and my husband was actually in your class at Penn. I'm due with our first in July, and am horrified at the thought of having to go back to work after maternity leave while trying to maintain some sense of sanity. I look forward to hearing more about your journey.

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  53. Fantastic post. I'm a recovering lawyer myself, although my career was in a regional firm that has nothing on the stress levels of BIg Law. I think the hardest part (other than the status change, which I commented on on Jane Has a Job) is getting out of the habit of being stressed, which for me continued long after the actual stress dissipated. It has taken me over a year to get there, but I'm finally there. I hope you're getting there or are there too. Looking forward to your future posts :)

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  54. I think you are writing the story of my life:) I too am now a stay at home mom who, by the way, does have a law degree from a top law school(and the student loans to come with it). I too walked away from a six figure salary and partners who shook their heads and said "you would have made partner here." My husband is also a big law associate. It's nice to know there are more of us out there. I will keep tuning into your adventures in motherhood. Thanks for writing.

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  55. Congratulations on making such an important choice for your family and kids.

    I am a former NY BigLaw lawyer and father of seven who quit BigLaw to join a start-up company in Princeton. I would like to recommend to you a blog by some Princetonian SAHMs (who collectively have 7 Princeton UG degrees and 4 advanced degrees): http://buildingcathedrals.blogspot.com/

    "As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we're doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women." --Nicole Johnson, The Invisible Woman

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  56. Sorry, should have visited the site before posting -- they just moved to:
    http://www.buildingcathedrals.com

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  57. I'm sorry to hear about your ppd. Have you read the book When Mothers Work? I recommend it and it details a rarely talked about reality that sahm suffer depression at strikingly and significantly higher rates than do working mothers. Also, while no one can love your son as you do, children who have multiple caregivers in their life, moms, dads, nannies, grandparents, exhibit lower anxiety than those who were cared for mainly by a single individual. Perhaps it is your intention to highlight this by the title of your blog, but unless you're doing something with your degree, no one cares. Other sahms don't care and certainly practicing attorneys do not.

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  58. Sitting at my desk at my "family friendly" firm, staring at pics of my adorable son who i don't get to spend nearly enough time with, and wishing that I had the resources and guts to get out of here. I'm lucky in that I still love what I do, but it doesn't come close to how much I love my kid and wish that things could be different...

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  59. It's not politically correct, but I suppose I do feel a bit "betrayed" by my "professional sisters" who throw in the towel on their careers in order to become full time stay at home moms. As a physician and mother of an 18 mont old, I'm proud that my daughter will grow up knowing that mommy makes sick people feel better, not just "does laundry" or "washes dishes" - even if it does take some time away from her, I know that she'll be more likely to pursue her goals in the future. More and more it seems that women are going to "finishing school" - getting expensive and time consuming professional degrees, only to trade it in for diapers, mommmy groups, and potty training. No situation is perfect, but you're not exactly being physically or emotionally available to your kids by your mind numbing ritual of calling your husband desperate for reprieve every night. Do yourself (and your kids) a favor - one or two days a week get a nanny and volunteer your J.D. to make your community a better place. Now that's out of the rat race, but not throwing in the towel, and maybe you'll need fewer glasses of wine by the end of your toddler filled days.

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  60. Thank you for the blog. I am in my office debating on whether to pay the $966 to take the Bar Eaxam, or save my money, quit my job with the feds, and go home to my twins. Never thought that I would long for the day to watch Yo Gabba Gabba with my beautiful babies, or take the afternoon to fingerpaint with them. Pray that I can...

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  61. I'm a male attorney with a very capable and intelligent wife at home who chose to raise our kids rather than pursue a career. I don't envy the decisions that you female attorneys face when it comes to career vs. family choices. But I think you did the right thing, and you will never regret it. Nobody ever looks back at the end of their life and says, "I wish I would have spent more time at work and less time with the kids." Relationships are what matter most in life, and the relationships you will develop with your children will be a source of joy your whole life. Work and money could never give you the type of joy and happiness that comes from loving relationships with your family.

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  62. I have been a SAHM for 15 years. During that time I have been raising my three children. I also have had identity issues and have even thought that my law degree was a waste. However, over time I have realized that I use the skills that I have learned as a lawyer all the time. For instance, when I negotiate with a contractor, help the landscaper with a simple legal issue, confidently ask questions or make demands at my children's schools, etc. I think my children are often amazed at how I handle certain situations. I think that the law degree is a part of who I am and it has enhanced me; my children are the true beneficiaries of the degree.

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  63. I don't have a law degree, but I really loved this post. I can really relate to it. I was an elementary teacher when we had our daughter. As the school year approached I felt more and more anxious about having to return to work. Long story short, my husband took a job across the country so I could stay home with her. It has been the best thing that ever happened to us and the most challenging all at the same time. I have no desire to go back to work at this point, but I feel I can't let go either. I'm glad I stumbled upon your blog! I look forward to reading more. PS: I'm still paying off my Master's Degree...not as bad as a law degree though.

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  64. Enjoyed this blog. I'm a new mother and young lawyer, wrestling with this very same choice. Unfortunately the firm I work with is not nearly as accomodating as your previous employer. My husband and I are wrestling now with how to make me SAH work for us financially. We have more money than we really need with both salaries, but things would be very tight on only his. I'd be interested to hear how you make it work.

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  65. I just now read your blog - I'm an attorney as well (and thinking - "is it all worth it with two kids?"). I'd love for you to check out my blog at www.hillpen.com. Good luck to you with two boys! We have a one-year old boy and he's a delightful handful of energy!

    Amanda Hill

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  66. Wow, I don't know what's more shocking, that your firm were so decent or that you were brave enough to make the jump.

    Good on you. As an ex-partner at a big UK form I can attest to how law firms aren't always the kindest of people, certainly not to pregnant staff.

    However, a look at the two cute faces will always be enough to get you through I think.

    Anyway, off to pick mine up from nursery!

    This is the first post of yours I've read. I look forward to catching up!

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  67. You have just set forth why so many women are not hired. After proving you could do it, if you really wanted to, you opted for children and staying home - honorable and admirable choices. But I wonder if the coveted law school spot would have been better spent on someone who needed the job and would more likely stick with it.

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  68. I think your mentor really tried to delay you from making a rash decision and wasting your talent. Young kids never understand the sacrifices parents make. And kids of working parents will learn to be independent. Staying at home has its own problems and ennui and boredom (especially for an overachiever like you). I assume that's why you started the blog to let some of it out. If you worked you would be able to build a sound financial security for your family and easily have both you and your husband retire in 10 years. Of course there is the question is it brave to make a decision and give up a position it took a life of hard work to get?

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  69. WOW! I am so impressed by you. Your struggle is one that i am currently dealing with. I have been in house counsel for six years and recently found out that I am pregnant with my first child. I want to quit my job and stay home with my child but have gotten so many negative comments from other attorneys about leaving my career to be a stay at home mom. What people do not realize is that we as attorneys can always go back into the rat race but we only have a few short precious years with our kiddos before they start school.

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  70. Interesting and honest post. And, like many commenters, I, too, am a new mom big law associate wrestling with this very issue. I've applied to government and non-profit jobs with the thought that, while the salary cut would be enormous and my husband and I both have massive law school loan debt, I could spend more time with my son while still satisfying my desire to work in some capacity. I loved maternity leave and the magical, special moments with my son but found myself very anxious for my husband to get home to give me a break each day so I could get some "me" time and I don't know if it would be good for my marriage if I stayed home and did that to him all the time. Though maybe I could somehow learn to not feel that way - but I don't know. Also, I started to become resentful and jealous that he had so many "adult" conversations/lunches/Starbucks trips and "interesting" projects he was working on. I want more time with my son but don't know if SAH is the best thing for me, my husband, our marriage or even my son, since I might end up a despressed, resentful mess. But I also have been heartbroken when I've walked in on my son crying hysterically and his care giver hasn't been able to soothe him like I can - and without a nanny cam, I don't know what goes on during the day. Like you said, no one can take care of them like we can - or even if others can do it as well, we don't know for sure that they are, since we're not there. So, it's tough.

    I've found the unpredictability of big firm work to be the toughest part - never able to commit to a weekend or nighttime plan or vacation because I may be asked to work at any moment. Though I can't exactly complain since firms pay associates to more or less be slaves to the clients. And the clients pay such high rates, that it's somewhat reasonable for them to expect that, I suppose. Not sure if switching jobs to either a different firm (and, man, do I wish Dickstein was hiring laterals! Wow! Though - I know you probably still had a blackberry and it was blinking at all hours . . . so even with a significantly reduced schedule, you were still "on call" at all times - which is stressful). Anyway - I'm rambling. But I'm excited to discover your blog and wish I had some more wisdom about the best choice. And, like another commenter said, how lucky we are to have a choice. Yes, it would be very hard on us financially if I SAH, but we could get by - and that's really nice b/c not every mom has that choice. My mom left a bad marriage when we were around 10 years old and had to work and I always respected her for that. However, she was home when we were little and out of the work force for so long, so her job options weren't great when she went back. That's another concern I have . . . . Tough choices.

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  71. Thanks to the commenter who recommended Maternal Desire - awesome book!

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  72. I have a nearly-identical background, except that I have a boy and a girl and I have stayed in BigLaw rather than quit. I have done so primarily for the financial stability and opportunities it affords my family.

    I wonder how your choice will impact your husband? You have now made a choice that let's you live a "saner" life, but arguably locks him into the insane one you left, assuming you want to stay at remotely the same income level.

    Would it have been better for you both to work at less demanding jobs so you can each spend some time with your kids and each shoulder some of the financial responsibility for your family?

    I don't know...but I'm interested in hearing others' thoughts.

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  73. I think you'll find a LOT of kindred spirits in the blogging community. Biglaw is a tough balance w/two kids and the family.

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  74. I'm sure you pretty screwed maternity leave for all women at the firm going forward.

    Congrats on your MRS. degree.

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  75. Wow! I just made the same decision to leave a corporate law job and happy to read about your candid and brave journey. A few thoughts to share: 1. No one can take your education away... it is not a waste. 2. No one can give back the tender years with your children... truly priceless. 3. For the critics, maybe it's time to rethink what money does and does not buy and define "security". 4. For the employers, retention may mean lower salaries with balance for BOTH MEN AND WOMEN who want to see their kids.

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  76. I really enjoyed reading your blog post! It really hit home. I am also an attorney struggling with the stay at home vs. return to work problem. I am currently at home with my 9 month old daughter and it has been amazing. It was always my intention to return to work after about six months of maternity leave, but my feelings have changed. I would love to be able to bring in some income while staying at home and am thinking about doing some contract work to maintain my skills. Is that an area that you have looked into and may be able to provide some advice?

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  77. Just found your blog and over the moon that I did! Long story but I was going to have a law degree too. But I am much happier staying at home with my three kiddos in NoVa. Looking forward to reading more...

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  78. Former Skadden Associate myself. Loved it at first, then got so miserable I lost all pleasure in life. Thanks for this blog. I got out and have a much happier life.

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  79. Just found your blog and loved reading your backstory. I could have written almost the same one (except the West Coast version). It's wonderful to know other people (even just in the blogosphere, if not in real life) understand your unique station in life as a big firm lawyer-turned-SAHM. My daughter said one day, "Mommy, your job is as a cooker and cleaner person, right?" Ugh. (That may be why I'm back to work part-time now...). In any event, your kids are truly adorable and I'm glad you're able to enjoy this time with them. Best of luck to you!

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  80. I just found your blog and look forward to reading more. I'm a professional (male) in the DC area and work a "pressure cooker" job. We just adopted a boy and I am beginning to rethink my priorities. You can find me at http://rohitandjenny.blogspot.com/

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  81. Just found your blog as I am sitting at work (lawyer too) and dreamining of my 3 month old. Your passage about wanting your children all to yourself is particularly touching to me, as I am struggling with the same decision you made. My husband supports me staying home, and in my heart, I feel that is what I want, but then the 'what ifs' kick in- what if I want to go back in few years, can I find anything, will I be employable....

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  82. Yay! I'm an LSE graduate too, and at one point in my life wanted to save the world just like you! As a high flying corporate lawyer working in one of the most biggest cities in Asia, i am being humbled by God to be realistic in my personal situation. At least here, culturally, it is expected of you to be a SHM. I've gone through all this law training, and reached heights not many women can achieve in this part of the world. Yet, after reading your truly inspiring 2011 posting, I think I'm following your decision. ;) After 15 years of working as a corporate lawyer, 8 months pregnant, I am choosing to be a SHM. My type A over achieving personality has given me a headache throughout these 8 months. I think today's baby stuff shopping and your lovely blog (including all of its critiques) has strengthened my decision.
    Thanks for being an inspiration.
    And yes, if you're an LSE grad, it's kinda difficult to delegate a job, the biggest case ever: your son, to an elementary school graduate nanny (as most nanny(s) in this part of the world have an elementary-junior high school education with a 2 week training on how to change diapers). I think you can delegate an agreement for review to a younger associate, but your son? Naaaah... better handle him yourself. :)
    Thank you for taking the time to write.... all the best for you...

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  83. Coming back to this post today after seeing a post on a crafty type blog where the blogger's young daughter made a similar "laundry" type comment. However, in their case, everyone seemed to just find it funny. As a happy SAHM with a law degree, things like this make me ponder how the SAHM choice affects how our daughters see themselves and their own career aspirations.

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