Labor Day weekend is almost here, and as with all three-day weekends, it cannot come fast enough.
This year, as was true when the Fraggle Bug was in my belly, I feel so pregnant that my own "labor day" cannot come fast enough either. Nevertheless, I try (try!) to remind myself that what I really want - more than anything - even more than to not be pregnant anymore - is a healthy, happy baby (emphasis on the healthy).
This year, I also find my mind wandering frequently to questions about my job, my career, and that ever-elusive work/life balance.
Am I really a lawyer?
Should I continue to be one?
Is there a way to find a rewarding job in my profession and to have the leftover time and energy to be a [capable, loving, and fun] mom and wife?
Am I a woman who wants to stay home with my babies - at least until they are toddlers?
Am I a woman who enjoys going to a job outside the home - even before my babies can toddle?
Should I use a substantial portion of our savings to stay home with Special Agent Dos for as long as possible?
Should I stop feeling all knotted up about these questions and be thankful that, especially in this economy, these are questions [choices] that I have at all?
Those questions are not mine alone. Almost every woman I know who started a career before she got pregnant has grappled with her own variations on the themes in those questions (regardless of whether the choice to work outside the home or to be home with a baby was one she actually got to make).
Maybe it goes without writing, but I think it bears noting, that there is another set of questions that we mom-lawyers deal with as well.
Do my colleagues who do not have children (or whose wives have children for them) think of my maternity leave as a vacation?
Will I get less challenging work after my maternity leave?
Am I on the Mommy-track (whatever that means)?
Will I have a target on my back for layoffs (public or stealth) if I fail to bill 2000 hours the year I came back from maternity leave - even if that means not seeing my baby for more than an hour a day (or at all some days)?
Will I have any control over my schedule?
Will I be able to get as much work as I need to keep my job - let alone advance in my career?
Will I be able to carve out the time I need to be the kind of mom I want to be to my baby?
And, the ultimate question:
What if I dare to take two maternity leaves?
For better and for worse, I know the answer to many of the questions in that second category. At 35 weeks pregnant with Special Agent Dos, I am still trying to figure out the answer to that last question.
With that in mind, I surprised the living daylights out of myself when I was reading a recent New Yorker profile and wanted to defend a mom-lawyer whose opinions on many (all?) issues are anathema to me. To be clear, no part of the following commentary is meant to serve as an endorsement of, or even a potential respect for, the views or opinions of Michele Bachmann.
But here's what:
The profile of Bachmann includes about six paragraphs related to her four years spent working at the I.R.S. as a tax litigation attorney. First, the profile concludes that she did not actually do much litigating. Then, (in support of that conclusion?), the profile notes that she had two of her children while she worked at the I.R.S.. (gasp) The profile also includes a quote from two former colleagues of Bachmann's belittling her work while she was at the I.R.S. -- claiming that she was "never" around and that of her four years there she only really got "two, two and a half years of experience."
Apparently, I now know how Bachmann's former colleagues at the I.R.S. and at least one periodical would answer that last, ultimate question. If you (dare to) take two maternity leaves while you work for one employer, do not even think about running for office and trying to claim that you "worked" for that employer for the periods when you were on leave.
On the other hand, maybe I would be spared that critique given some fundamental ideological and political differences between me and Ms. B.