I previously mentioned that the topic of whether I should continue my demanding career after the baby is born was a topic for another post. Well, I guess that other post is this one. With the likes of Marissa Meyer and Sheryl Sandberg making news by implementing family-unfriendly workplace policies and asking women to push harder at their careers, I find myself very glad not to have an alliterative name, and wondering more than usual how I will cope with work/life balance once the baby is here.
My job requires, by some calculations, 7.5 hours of work every day of the year. You know, including Christmas and Thanksgiving and the 4th of July. Yes, I am a lawyer. I am actually a pretty good one. I find the work interesting. But. Not a day goes by where I don’t regret my decision to go to law school, mostly because of this.
That, dear reader, is the anticipated payoff date of my remaining student loan debt. Which I am currently devoting my entire salary to, other than taxes and certain fixed expenses, which aren’t going anywhere. That’s two years away.
Last night, something happened that is all too common when you’re a junior lawyer. My boss emailed me at 8:15 and asked me to send out a document. This wouldn’t be a big deal if I was already working anyway, but I wasn’t. I was out for appetizers and drinks with my wife and a friend. I did not want to work. I was not expecting to work. But the expectation of ME was that I leave, go home, log on to the remote system, and send out the document. Immediately. I think this is totally unreasonable, and most people, I think, would agree with me, unless they are also lawyers, in which case they will tell you this kind of thing happens all the time. It has happened to me on New Year’s day, it has happened to me when I was on vacation, it has happened to me when I had said a few hours earlier that I had a “procedure” done at my doctor’s office and my doctor asked me not to work for the rest of the day. It happens ALL. the. time. I am never, literally never, mentally unplugged from my job.
How I could manage this at this current job is one thing, but in terms of long-term plans, this particular aspect of this particular job is not likely to change. So, the question is, do I keep my current, gruelling, high-paying job in the hopes that I can get the loans paid before the end of my maternity leave and hope that it will mean that I can then stay home with the baby and our kids? Or do I try to change jobs now, and find something with a bearable lifestyle, but which will undoubtedly be lower-paying and with a shorter paid maternity leave (if it offers any paid maternity leave at all), and accept that I will have to go back to work, possibly full time, for the first year or two of our child’s life?
My wife said to me this morning that when they are babies is not when they need you most — it’s when they are teenagers. As our oldest approaches her teenage years, I can see that there is some truth to this. But also. Staying home for the baby is not entirely for the baby. It is also for me. I want to do it. I can’t think of anything better than spending my days with our little baby, and being there for the bigger kids to help with homework and make a snack, go the the class party at the elementary school, etc., while they still actually want me to do it. And also to keep the teenagers out of trouble.
I don’t know what to do in this moment. I don’t know whether I can let go of the hope of staying home with the baby. I don’t know whether I can endure another year + of being completely beholden to a job I dislike.