Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Plan

When I was in college, one of my nicknames was "cruise director."  I like to think it was meant in an endearing way.  It reflected the fact that I am was the quintessential planner - planning nights out, planning vacations, planning study schedules, planning happy hour destinations.  Is it any surprise I always also had carefully set out plans for my life?

The plan back then was simple:  move to London after graduation (which I did).  Meet English man with an EU passport.  Marry said English man, preferably a professor or executive who gets summers off or can otherwise make his own schedule.  Get law degree.  Embark on high powered legal career.  Have a couple of kids, four years apart.  Make enough money to be comfortable; okay, very comfortable.  Send kids to college, retire abroad, and die peacefully in sleep before Alzheimer's sets in.

When I met my now husband, who donned a Long Island accent and American passport, plans altered a bit.  My plans became our plans, which consisted of getting our law degrees, getting the big firm names on our resumes, getting married, and buying a house somewhere affordable.  We would have two kids, three years apart, and get more flexible jobs where we could actually spend time with our offspring.

For a while, we stuck to our plans. Law degrees?  Check.  Big firms on resume?  Check.  Buy a house somewhere affordable?  Kind of - check on the buying a house, not on the affordable part. Two kids three years apart?  Check on the two kids, but two years apart (who knew it would happen so quickly?).

And now is the part where we are supposed to get flexible jobs where we spend time with our offspring.

My husband's father is in the banking industry, and was generally always home for dinner with his kids throughout my husband's childhood.  My husband always said that this meant a lot to him, and would be a priority for him when he eventually had kids.  The reality has turned out a bit different.  As I've discussed in this blog, it generally is a rare occasion that my husband makes it home for dinner.

And as for me?  My reality is also vastly different than planned.  What I do now is certainly flexible,  but I don't think you can call it a job.

On a day to day basis, this departure from plans doesn't bother me.  I am happy, truly.  I love spending all my time with my kids.  But I'd be lying if I said that I don't worry about taking a break from my career.  And though my husband is a great, hands on father who enjoys his job, he is also constrained by it -  by his hours, his clients, his industry.  For a number of reasons, we just weren't able to meet in the middle.   We didn't stick to the plan.

So here I am - a stay at home with a plethora of time.  I have used this time wisely, and maintained my cruise director tendencies by planning lots of summer trips.  And while these trips have been wonderful, the fact is my husband is only there for a fraction of them.  When we were in Cape Cod, we spent a week there without him.  Now, I have ten days to enjoy in North Carolina with my family, but someone important is missing.  This morning when Braden woke up, his first question was: "Where's Daddy?"

It makes me sad.  All this wonderful quality time with my kids, all these wonderful memories, all these great vacations, all without daddy.

Of course we don't have to travel without my husband.  We could just take fewer vacations.  But the fact is, even when we are home, there is a good chance my husband will only see the kids for half an hour each day.  So how much are we really losing out on by leaving town?

The tragedy in this is that this is not what we wanted.  It's not what we planned.  My husband wants to be with his kids.  He doesn't want to be left out from these memories.  But somehow, it's happening.  Because he loves his job.  Because we have to pay our mortgage.  Because I no longer provide an income.  Because we decided that this is what we would do to make our family work.

I can't help but worry that life is passing us by, and that in twenty years time we'll both look back with regret.  Regret that my husband didn't have more time.  Regret that I left my career.  Regret that we couldn't meet in the middle.  Regret that we didn't stick to our plan.

I hope not.


  1. I say this with genuine curiosity, and not judgment. How can your husband love his job, if the hours are so brutal and it keeps him away from his kids? I am also a biglaw associate, and I find it impossible to separate my feelings about the job itself from my feelings about the fact that it steals so much of my time. I'm in the process of transitioning to something more flexible myself. But I am somewhat intrigued by people who claim to love working at a big law firm (apart from loving the salary) when the hours are what they are.

  2. @1:53- My husband definitely doesn't love it all the time. He certainly experiences, and complains about, the biglaw misery. But he is one of those (weird) people who gets a sense of satisfaction out of it. For me, it didn't matter how high profile the case or how exciting the matter, if it took me away from my family, it made me miserable. My husband definitely wishes he had more time with us; at the same time, he loves the complex deals he does, loves his coworkers, and feels important in what he does (for better or worse). He is also the type of person that thrives on stress - if he wasn't stressed about work, it would be about something else. If he left his job, he would miss it. I think there are very few people who can happily survive biglaw, but he is one of them. We are very, very different people in that way. But I am proud of him and support him wholeheartedly. Just wish he was on vacation with us right now! :)

  3. Unfortunately I just dont think that there is any balance or flexibility to be had in the legal field. I feel that it is an all or nothing scenario. Shocking in these times, with all this technology why do employers still insist on employees physically present in the office in a traditional setting?

    As a former lawyer I would have been quite happy to work part time/consultant etc, these roles are practically non existant. Its a shame when we have to effectively leave our profession because there is no middle ground.


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