Friday, August 19, 2011

Mommy Tracked

My career had been on my mind quite a bit the last several months.   There is a pull between my personal ambition and my role and responsibilities as a mommy that creates a state of constant conflict for me about this subject.  While I was enormously pregnant with Isla, I received a random phone call from a head hunter asking me if I would be interested in applying for a position with a firm that is looking for an associate with experience in medical malpractice defense.  My general philosophy is to follow these types of things and see if they go anywhere.  If they don't - no sweat.  Its good practice to keep your interview skills sharp and resume updated.  So, I interviewed and they loved me, but there was an issue about my burgeoning belly and the fact that I wouldn't be able to actually start working until March (this was October). 

So, that didn't work out.  But, it planted seeds in my head.  For one, I found out first hand exactly how underpaid I was for the work I did.  Second, it made me realize that I had become kind of lackidaisical and passive about my career.  Which, suited me just fine in the moment, but would end up royally screwing me long term.  I figured I probably ought to get the whole giving birth thing out the way first before I really pursued something new career-wise.  So, I did.  I gave birth and enjoyed my "maternity leave" (if you can call working 20+ hrs a week the whole time "leave"), and I eased back into my regular working mommy routine. 

But, I was pretty miserable.  I felt micromanaged, bored, taken advantage of.  I just wasn't happy where I was anymore.  Then one day, my boss came to me and asked me how I'd like the opportunity to be the lead attorney for a new client managing their collection work.  There were a lot of positive things that could come from it, so I said sure!  About a month later, boss man comes back to me and discusses the situation with me some more.  At this time, he tells me that his "vision" is that as I increase the amount of work I'm doing for this new client, I will gradually transition away from my other work I had been doing for the past 6 years - medical malpractice defense and complex litigation. 

Wow.  That took me by surprise.  I politely told my boss "thank you for this opportunity, but I want to be a med mal defense lawyer."  That's what I love.  That's what gets my blood pumping.  That's what makes the whole above-described daily conflict between mommy-Elle and lawyer-Elle almost worth it!  (Add on my huge student loan debt, and it tips the balance).  His response was that he felt this was the best "lifestyle" choice for me and my family at this time.  That being a trial lawyer is tough work and hard to do when you have young kids.  As if I didn't know this already...  Then he said that in his experience, only those people who have "nothing else" (read: children), ever become "great" trial lawyers.  Hm.....

So, I drove home screaming to my mom on the phone.  Frankly, I was pissed.  I didn't want to be a collections attorney (no offense if you are).  I had different dreams and aspirations.  And yes, its hard right now with three young children.  But they won't be young forever.  Taking this "detour" would ruin my chances of ever becoming a well-respected attorney in the field I DID want to make my "speciality" (although, lawyers aren't supposed to use that word).  I made the decision that night to launch a full-on job hunt.

That was a Friday.  Monday, I came into work as usual.  While I was in a deposition, another lawyer who does med mal defense commented that her firm was so busy, and asked if any of us knew of an associate with med mal experience looking for a job?  I told her, "I'll walk you to your car."  And the rest is history.  Of course, they adored me and offered me the job, and I accepted, and all is well and happy again. 

God literally dropped this job in my lap at exactly the right time.  It could not BE more perfect for me.  My two bosses are working mommies who know the challenges appertaining thereto.  The case work is amazing.  I'm given lots of breathing room to really spread my wings.  I'm loving it!

The moral of the story is - Ladies, don't let anyone box you in.  Stop telling yourselves all the reasons why you can't do this or that.  Bull cocky.  Go for your dreams.  Life is too short to sell yourself short!  And dammit - don't anyone dare mommy track me!


  1. I found this a fascinating blog entry that raised multiple questions for the reader. First, what was your work ethic at your old firm? Was it less than admirable because you were bored and disenchanted with the work you were performing? Secondly, did you or any member of your family have any special health circumstances that required your old firm to accomodate you and cause significant periods of absences? If so, did you feel any sense of gratitude to your old firm that you were supported during such a challenging time in your life? Thirdly, with such a short tenure at your current firm what could you have possibly accomplished to cause instant adoration? Does your presence itself demand adoration?

  2. I find your questions somewhat interesting...

    1. I had a great work ethic overall. Was I perfect? No. But I worked my butt off and got the work done.

    2. My second son was born very premature and has chronic lung disease. Other than my maternity leaves, I have missed 3 weeks of work (all covered by my vacation time) due to that. The only "accomodation" involved was when he was born - I was working part time from the hospital/home during my hospital bedrest, his NICU stay, and for two months after his discharge b/c he was on 02 full time and a gazillion meds. This, however, was 3 years ago. Of course, I felt gratitude that they supported me. (Wondering where this question came from if you haven't read my background in this blog...).

    3. I said they "adored" me after interviewing me, causing them to give me an offer. I have made no representations that they STILL adore me now that I'm working here ;) But I have received a lot of positive feed back. Your wording seems a bit hostile...

  3. So, how did your previous employer take your leaving? How did you bring up the fact that you would be leaving?

    (BTW, reading the comment from KatD gave me the impression that it was someone associated with your old firm!)

  4. Sheena - I got the same impression. Kind of weird. Whatever.

    I went in and talked to him and told him I had accepted a position with another firm. Boss man was very upset. It took him by suprise - he thought I'd be there forever. It was really very hard :(