Monday, September 12, 2011

A Bust

When I worked at law firms, it wasn't the long nights in the office, the ruined weekends, or the canceled vacations that really got me down.  In reality, those things didn't happen too often.  No, the scary thing - the thing that caused me the most stress - was the threat of all of those things.

All it took was one all-nighter in the office to put the fear of God in you that it would happen again - anytime, at no warning.  (For the record, it only happened to me once, which I wrote about here).   If you heard that some associate in some other department in some other office had to cancel their vacation, the seed was planted that this too could happen to you.  Having to cancel plans once in a blue moon meant that you never knew when you would have to cancel again, at a moment's notice, and so every dinner reservation, every concert, ever planned weekend away, came with an underlying caveat - "... unless things go crazy at work."  Since leaving my job, I obviously don't have to worry about this happening to me anymore.  But this weekend, I was reminded that I can't say the same for my husband.  And so that the fear continues to follow me.

Last Friday was my husband and my 5th anniversary.  To be honest, we have never been big anniversary people - we usually do a card and a dinner out.   But this year, my husband actually splurged and bought me a decent piece of jewelry.  I was so touched and surprised.  And though we aren't having our "official" anniversary dinner until next week in California (details to come), we still had a night out planned.  My husband's firm had a corporate department dinner, and spouses were invited.  I was so excited for a night out with my husband with free food and drinks, and also to be able to hang out with his co-workers that he talks about so much, but that I barely know.

We had known about this event forever, and my dad had agreed to come into town to be our resident babysitter for the evening.  He was going to arrive at our house around 4, and by 5, I would be decked out in non-pajama attire and on my way downtown.  I had chosen my outfit carefully, as I wanted to wear the new necklace my husband had gotten me, so I chose a shirt with the perfect neckline to show it off. 

My husband had mentioned that things were going crazy at work, so we might have to arrive at the event late.  I was annoyed, but whatever.  I got ready and wrote out instructions for my dad.  I ordered in food for him and the kids.  I was awaiting the call from my husband to go ahead and make my way downtown.  I waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Until 5:30 pm, when I got a rushed call from my husband saying:  "It's not going to happen tonight.  Things are just too crazy."

This isn't the first time my husband has canceled plans on me, and it certainly won't be the last.  But this one really stung.  First, the situation was just pathetic on its face.  It was our anniversary.  I was decked out in my new necklace and actually put on make up.  My dad had driven in from North Carolina just to babysit.   I had hardly eaten anything all day, anticipating that I'd be gorging myself on hor d'oevres and rich desserts, and had obviously left myself out of the impending food delivery for the rest of my family. 

But I think the core of my disappointment came from the fact that I was missing out on a rare glimpse into my husband's other life.  Despite the fact that he has been at his firm for over four years, I can count on one hand the amount of times I've met his co-workers.  I wanted the opportunity to know them and put more faces to names.  I wanted to show them I'm not just a nagging stay at home mom, always emailing my husband to come home early - I actually am kind of cool.  I wanted to be at his side when he was networking and shmoozing and laughing over deal terms I don't understand.  It is so rare I get to be in my husband's element.  That was why this night was a big deal.  And that was why I was devastated when it got taken away.   He ended up getting home at 11:30 pm, and I was already in bed. 

The next morning, Braden had a birthday party to go to.  My dad was here to watch Casey, so my husband and I planned to take Braden together.  I was really looking forward to an outing of three, which we so rarely do these days.  We were LITERALLY walking out the door, when I realized I'd forgotten the gift.  I ran back inside to get it, and by the time I got back outside, my husband had gotten an email.  There was an impromptu conference call, in five minutes.  We went without him.

The weekend was turning into a total bust.

After that, I dropped all expectations, and I became a happier person.  My dad was here, my kids were happy, and it was a beautiful day.  We enjoyed it.  And my husband got to join in every now and then.  

This lifestyle is at times crazy, and it is hard.  I remind myself it's not my husband's fault.  I remind myself that there will be other weekends, other dinners, other birthday parties.  And I remind myself to live in the moment, as unfounded fears of potential canceled plans do me no favors.

But weekends like this certainly don't help.


  1. Sucks. You are kinder than me. I totally would have pulled the anniversary card and said we ARE going out!

  2. reading your blog often makes me grateful for my biglaw job. i'm only in my first year, but the late nights have been rare and i don't work every weekend. this post reminds of the downside, though. that even though i've only worked past 10:00 pm a handful of times, i'm always afraid that it could happen again. always. and plans are always tentative until they're actually happening. that said, the partner i work for let me off the hook when i told him that a work trip conflicted with my first anniversary so maybe i really am lucky. sorry about your lost weekend and good luck with the not living in fear!

  3. I've been reading you for a while from a link on DCUM. Former DC big law litigator, currently on a small break trying to figure out what to do next. One 3-year-old, another baby on the way. And those first two paragraphs about the constant threat of the canceled vacation/dinner out/activity with kid are absolutely the worst part. It's not that it happens that often, it's that it always could happen and you just never know when.

  4. I'm an 8th year assoc at biglaw and here are some lessons I've learned about the threat of allnighters and cancelled vacations: (1) it is more stress-inducing to listen to someone else go through this than to actually go through it yourself. This is true for a varitey of reasons which are too complex to get into here; (2) it gets much much easier to anticipate when these horrid events are might happen or when it might be a possibility as you get more senior (albeit the pressures are different) for a variety of reasons too complex to get into here; (3) people love to embellish their war stories for a variety of reasons too complex to get into here; (4) as you said, it doesn't actually happen that often; and (5) when it does happen, you usually can make up for it by scheduling another amazing vacation or taking a few days off after the allnighter. (By the way, the former managing partner of a major lawfirm once told me that, as far as cancelled vacations go, the partner should be the one cancelling their vacation -- associates with legitimate scheduled vacations should go, especially in biglaw where someone can cover for them in almost all circumstances. If you are asked to cancel your vacation and it involves a great expense to you, either financial or personal, you should not be shy about letting the person requesting this know. Very few people and ESPECIALLY not junior associates are so critical to a case or a deal that they need to cancel a trip.)


Copyright ©2011 Small Bird Studios| All Rights Reserved |Free Blog Templates at Small Bird Studios