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I felt like I was preparing for the world to end on Monday.  Sixteen inches of snow were forecasted to fall on Tuesday, and since I had been out of the office for most of the prior week with a sick Bear, I didn’t have time for snow.

I left the house that morning in such haste to run several errands before work that I forgot my breakfast and more importantly, my wallet.  I drove first to the bank so I could deposit a check that, for whatever reason, had been repeatedly spit back at me by our friendly, local ATM, but then I discovered that I had no wallet.  So, I drove back home to get it.  Once I got back to the bank, I discovered that they did not open for another ten minutes, or until 8:30, which was not convenient, since I had a client arriving at 9:00.  So, I drove across the street to mail a package at a UPS store.

Inside, an older man was listening to classical music.  He seemed to have been up for hours and clearly had no cares in the world.  I watched him tape a box.  Then, I watched him type something on the computer.  Then, he returned to taping the box.  When he finally looked up at me, I could feel the beginnings of frenzy boil inside of me.  He took my box from me and weighed it.  Then, he wanted to know if there was glass inside.  There was.  More typing.  Then, he wanted to know if the value was greater than $100.  I thought about it for a moment, and said that the value was probably around $130.  Wrong answer.  He began to explain that they would charge me an additional amount for something valued more than $100.  So, I told him that if I were to sell the contents of the box, that I would not get more than $100.  He pursed his lips, but he didn’t argue with me about it.  He then told me that the shipping charges came to $13.  I raised my eyebrows.  Unless, he said, I wanted to use Parcel Post.  I did, I told him.  He began to lecture me about how my valuable items would not be protected through Parcel Post and that UPS was really my best option and that anyone with items as valuable as mine should want to track their progress to ensure that they arrived at their destination.  At this point, I practically threw $13 at him and ran out of the store.

Back at the bank, they had unlocked the front doors, and a line had formed.  One teller was helping the customers in the line, and another, who apparently was assigned the drive-through window, was looking out the window waiting for customers there.  Three other bank employees sat at their desks facing us watching.   When I arrived “on deck,” I watched the woman in front of me as she was being assisted by the teller.  This woman was wearing stretchy Capri pants with tall, Ugg-like boots up to her knees.  She kept bending and stretching and bending and stretching, and her ambivalence was driving me a little crazy.  When I finally reached the teller, she took the check from my hands and began typing at her computer.  She ran it through a little machine.  She wrote something on it.  She typed some more and handed me a deposit slip.  Not once did she look at me or open her mouth to speak.

Once at work, I met with my client, and then called another who was scheduled to come in the middle of the world-ending blizzard the next day.  No, she couldn’t come any other day.  No, she couldn’t come in earlier.  No, she didn’t mind driving through the blizzard.  Fine, I said.  I’ll be here, and I’ll attempt to arrange for childcare, since undoubtedly, Bear’s daycare will be closed.

At this point, my nose had started running.  I began to feel that bone-tired feeling where you want to put on every pair of sweats you own and curl up in a corner to sleep.  I began sneezing every few minutes, just in time for the arrival of my next client.

During this meeting, I missed a call from Bear’s daycare.  When my client and I moved from the conference room to my office so I could access my computer, my husband called.  Bear’s eye was swelling and her legs were covered with hives, so he was on his way to pick her up and he’d arranged for an appointment with her allergist.  Once I’d finished with my client, I “remotely” attended Bear’s appointment.  The doctor explained that she was prescribing Prednisone and explained that Bear likely was having an allergic reaction but that she also seemed to have an infection, so the doctor would also prescribe an antibiotic. 

Poor kid.  I wanted to go home to be with her, and I did not feel well myself.  My eyes were watery, and I felt both hot and cold.  Later that night, after we had put an itchy Bear to bed, I could not get comfortable enough to sleep.  Fever moved in about the time the blizzard started.  It felt like our furnace was losing the battle to the bitter cold outside.  The next morning, I woke up wearing three shirts and a jacket with the hood pulled over my head.  I felt terrible.

At 7:00 that morning, I called my client again, thinking that maybe the reality of the blizzard had caused a change of heart.  No.  She stilled planned on coming.  About that time, I received notice that Bear’s daycare would be closed.  Of course.  My husband volunteered to take more time away from work so I could meet with my client.  I left a message imploring her to arrive as soon as she could, and I left for work three hours before her appointment.

Ten minutes after her appointment was to begin, she called to say that she was “right around the corner.”  Great, I said with my voice full of sickness, because our office was closing, but I would wait for her.

Oh, you’re sick, she responded.  Oh no.  I hope that I don’t get it.  I wouldn’t want my baby to get sick.

Too bad, lady.

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I have been thinking a lot about this post by Aisha Iqbal earlier this week.  We, as mothers, do a great job at beating up ourselves and others over parenting.  To work or stay home?  To breastfeed or formula feed?  To co-sleep or not?  Regardless of what side of the coin we find ourselves on, and regardless of whether it is by choice or circumstance, I think that neither realm is free from guilt.

I work part-time as an attorney.  I am fortunate that my employer has given me the option to spend part of the week with my daughter, and I am even more fortunate that this arrangement seems to work.  I have seen other part-time arrangements – particularly in the legal world – where this isn’t the case, and the mother essentially gets paid less to work full-time.

In the early days of my dissatisfaction with my first job out of law school, I remember standing in the elevator one morning with a senior associate, who was a new mother working part-time, and a partner.  The partner asked the associate how late she had been at the office the previous night, and she responded, “I was here until midnight.  When I got home, my son was already asleep, so I went to bed.  A few hours later, he woke up crying, and when I went to him, he said, ‘Mom, thanks for coming home.’”  At this point, we had arrived at my floor, and with a backward glance at her, I stepped off the elevator open-mouthed and headed thoughtfully for my office.  The associate announced that she was leaving the firm a few months later.  After she left, I mentioned what I had overheard in the elevator that morning to a partner, and he replied, “Part-time arrangements never work.  Women shouldn’t even try.”

While I will be the first to admit that my part-time arrangement is as ideal as they come, I am not free from guilt.  When I was on maternity leave after having Bear, my employer hired someone to take my place.  I work at a small firm, and admittedly, my absence created a need for another person.  This new colleague has been helpful and is partly why I can work part-time, however, my boss now refers all interesting and challenging work to her.  Not to mention, I make considerably less than I once did and now rely on my husband to provide most of the support for our family.  By having made the choice to work part-time, I have made myself less valuable to my firm and have limited my career.

I feel guilty that I send Bear to daycare.  Bear loves her class and teachers and, for the most part, we do too.  However, there are days when I pick her up late and the regular care providers have gone home and no one can tell me about Bear’s day.  Sometimes when I pick up Bear after work, she has wet rings around her legs because someone didn’t change her diaper quickly enough.  And, my heart breaks when at home, Bear cries because she does not get to go to school that day and has to stay with me instead.

I also feel guilty when work takes away from my time with Bear.  The fact that I must be available even when I am not in the office is an unavoidable hazard of being a lawyer, I suppose.  For example, Bear was sick on Wednesday.  I stayed home with her and did my best to work from home.  I propped Bear up on the couch, and she watched a lot of PBS that day.  I felt guilty.  When she was feeling well enough to play, she’d pull out her blocks or her books, and say to me, “Sit, Momma.  Sit.”  I felt really guilty.  When she was crying from hunger and nausea, I tried to make her lunch and talk to a client’s accountant on the phone at the same time, accomplishing nothing on either end.  I felt really, really guilty.

While I think that I have the best of both worlds in working part-time, I am afraid that I still find guilt in both of them.  Perhaps regardless of whether a mother is home with her child or whether she works away from her child, there is going to be the occasion for guilt.  Like Aisha, I’d like to shed my guilt, but I find myself asking, “How?”  Is there a way for mothers, who by nature want the best of their children, to mother as the imperfect beings they are and not feel guilt?  After all, we feel guilty because we care.  Maybe guilt just the by-product of motherly love.

I once corrected someone who introduced me by saying that I was a part-time mom and a part-time attorney.  No one need remind a mother that, above all else, she is a fulltime mom, no matter how she spends a portion of each day.  I am five years out of law school, two years into my second job, one year into motherhood, and still searching for that thing that makes my life whole.  My daughter certainly fits the bill.  She fills the void in my heart like nothing ever has before, and she gives my life immense meaning.  I long to step away from my career and to find satisfaction in just being “Mommy,” and to be quite honest, being both a lawyer and a mother does not make me happy.  However, being a mother has brought me to a happier place than I have been in years, as though I am suddenly reveling in the warmth of a 50-degree day after a long, hard winter.  I long to bare my arms and bask in the sunshine, but it is not spring yet.

Perhaps I am a dreamer – and I see no shame in this – but I want my career, whatever it might be, to fill me with satisfied purpose.  I want to believe wholeheartedly that the precious time I spend away from my family is spent doing something that engages my soul and in doing so, makes me a more compete being.

I’ve almost come to the place where I can jump off the barreling train that is the law.  I’ve done it once before, but unfortunately, I quickly discovered that the place where I landed was not going to fill me with the satisfied purpose that I sought, and I clamored back on the first train that came my way.  Now, I find myself on the edge again, not desperate to throw myself off like before, but with a good enough foothold in my career and perspective on motherhood to know that the place my heart desires exists.  I can just barely glimpse it, but I know that it exists.

I fear that others will misperceive my certainty as fickleness and see my desire as a mirage.   I am afraid that I might burden my husband with dreams that are only dreams and force him alone to carry the responsibility of creating all real stability in our lives.  It is this fear that causes me to grip more tightly to the train.

I am both a mother and a lawyer, and I am comfortable embodying these roles.  I am comfortable, but not fulfilled.  Becoming a mother has given me an additional, but all-encompassing, identity beyond that of my profession.  Let there be no doubt that I want to be a mother first and foremost.  But I also want to be something else, and I want that something else to fill my tank in the same way that the law depletes it.  Unfortunately, making good on this desire requires me to stretch, accept fear, and take risks before I can find proof that writing may lead me to this place.

It may be that this blog is all the writing that I ever do.  But, it is my brainchild; my inspired idea.  As I raise my daughter and take pleasure in her every moment, and as I spend time away from her helping others with problems that burden and haunt me, I intend to grow inspiration here and to allow it to fill me until I am confident enough to let go of the train and fall into that place of completeness.