Thursday, August 23, 2012

Your Turn - Diane's Story

"Your Turn" is a series of posts where readers share their stories of parenthood, work, the struggle for a balance, or just life generally.  If you are interested in contributing a story, please email me at or click here.

All through high school I assumed, and told my family and friends, that I planned to attend the University of British Columbia to become a lawyer.  At the time, I assumed that I would be a full-fledged lawyer by the time I was about 25 years old.  My time frame was a bit off.  I actually was called to the bar when I was 46.

As planned, I finished first-year University at 18. As not planned, I married and was five months pregnant at the end of that year.  I then dropped out of school and had four more children in the next six years.  My children ranged in age from three to 11 when my marriage fell apart.

Sadly, but fortunately for me, my father’s elderly bookkeeper died and I inherited the job.  I worked for my father for the next 10 years until he retired.  I could have looked for another bookkeeping job, but I was so bored that I actually hoped that the books would not balance so I would have the challenge of looking for the error.

It was time for a change.  After discussing it with my children, I decided to make an enormous change and go back to school.  It was not an easy decision. When I was going over the pros and cons, I said to my oldest son, “I will be 45 when I graduate.”  His response, “You will be 45 whether or not you go back to school,” helped me make the decision to give it a go.

The “cons” column included my fear that I would not be able to keep up with the young students and the realization that I would graduate with a substantial student loan that, hopefully, I could pay off before I was eligible for Old Age Pension.

However, I was able to keep up with most of the younger students, many of whom accepted me as if we were all the same age.  The enormous workload and the fear of failing was a common bond, as was the fear that no one would hire us when we were ready to become real lawyers.  I was not able to socialize very much because, unlike the majority of students who had a mother at home washing their clothes and cooking their meals, I was the mom in my household.

I also worked at the local pool on the weekends and worked all summer for Continuing Legal education, the institution that prepares refresher courses for practicing lawyers.  To help cover our expenses, four of my children had part time jobs and one of my daughters was in effect my “wife.”  Rather than work outside the home, I paid her to do most of the cooking and cleaning.

My law degree was a family effort.  I graduated from law school the same year my youngest daughter graduated from high school.  I could not afford to buy her a dress, so I made her one on my old sewing machine which was on its last legs.  As a graduation present my children bought me a state of the art sewing machine, a gift that was most appreciated but also let me know that even though I was now a lawyer I still was responsible for the mending.  When I was called to the bar, it was a rather solemn occasion with polite clapping when each candidate walked across the stage. However, when it was my turn, five very loud voices yelled, “Way to go Mom!”  When the Chief Justice handed me my diploma he said, “You are very lucky to have such supportive children.”  He had no idea how supportive and helpful they had been.

For the next seven years, I worked at a law firm, which practiced family law.  The senior partner referred to me as the “baby lawyer,” even though I was a grandmother by the time I graduated. This partner’s method of teaching was similar to those who think the way to teach someone how to swim is to throw them in the water. He sent me to court the first day and told me that he had told Continuing Legal Education that I would be writing the chapter on ‘Spousal Support.’

Besides an impossible workload, I was put in charge of the Christmas party and our baseball team. The office was continuously being renovated and the partners fought over the renovations and practically everything else.  After seven years, I left to operate as a sole practitioner so I could have more time with my children and my growing number of grandchildren.

After practicing for 20 years, I was forced to make another life change when I fell and broke my arm and my knee and injured my back, which resulted in five operations.  I lived with non-stop pain, but once it became bearable I looked for something I could do that did not involve too much moving around.  I had always enjoyed writing so I wrote a book about the balancing act working parents deal with every day.

My book, Balancing Act, was published in May 2012, and I am working on a sequel.  I am 71 years old and am really enjoying this phase of my life.  My book can be found on Amazon, Chapters Indigo, and Barnes & Noble, as well as in brick and mortar stores.  


  1. Diane, your story is impressive and inspiring. I've always thought that I should be winding down my career in my 40s. It's good to know that I can start a new chapter at that age.

  2. So inspiring. What amazing children you have. They must be a reflection of you as a mother!

  3. Wow! I loved your story! I love how all of your children contributed in some way to you earning your degree :) Inspirational!

  4. This is the best Your Turn yet. Thank you for your story, Diane. You are an inspiration.


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