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* In case you’re wondering if I’m blatantly mocking a certain bloviating jackass, yes, yes I am.

To working moms:

On many, many occasions, you will have come across simpering odes to that paragon of virtue, that personification of the sun upon this earth, that proud maverick courageously rejecting the false promise of feminism – the stay at home mom. And you may have wondered to yourself, why is this asshole writing about this topic, and why is he approaching it like that? Does he really think that the right way to raise these women up and defend them is to be condescending and repulsive? 

Well, you don’t need me to tell you that this is sweet, sweet fodder for the uninformed, the simple-minded, the people so enticed by a rigidly monolithic view of the world and gender roles that these types of posts and articles seem a refreshing and important validation for an increasingly rarefied way of living. Praise the stay at home mom! It takes such valour to reject the enticements of the Industrial age and modern-day consumerism and really know what’s important. Motherhood should be promoted, and the institution of the family should be defended! After all, who else knows what it’s like to sacrifice everything for another person? After all, what’s the point of this “having a job” business other than “personal advancement”, which really, why do women need to trouble themselves with at all? It’s unnatural! It’s certainly not in accord with their true talent, which is to use their abilities to serve others. 

Because it’s not like mothers generally, and parents generally, and people generally, use their abilities to serve others through their lifestyles and careers and choices. Certainly not in a way that could rival the efforts and sacrifices and impact of a full-time mother! Oncologists, astronauts, pioneers, public health workers risking their lives to administer vaccines to the world’s poorest people, police officers, entrepreneurs driving the growth of our economies, teachers – bitches, please. Know where you rank on the hierarchy, having chosen to see “the professional world,” that Babylon, as an end in and of itself.

But you know all of this. The people who don’t know probably won’t be convinced by anything I have to say.

Pay no attention to them. They don’t deserve to be taken seriously.

Besides, you’ve got better things to do with your time.

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Super weird couple of weeks. Christmas was lovely, the kids have been kicking around the house with the odd day at daycare, and I have been fighting what feels like three viruses simultaneously. I took the first couple of sick days I ever remember having taken in my entire professional life! All of which makes me feel like I haven’t been to work in weeks and weeks. So strange. As tough as it is being home with the kids so much – in case you haven’t clued in yet, I’m NOT the kind of mom who would like nothing better than to be home with my kids full time! – I’m feeling some of the rewards of at least A being more grown up. We’ve been skating three times (and she’s surprisingly good!) and today we’re going swimming with her friend. There’s like a whole world of stuff you can do when you’re on your own with a 5 year old! I feel bad, because C is now big enough to clue in to what we’re doing, proclaiming “I wanna go skating!” and “I wanna go swimming!” but he’s still way too much of a wild card, and not even close to being fully potty trained (YES, at 3.5!). He’s not nearly as hooliganish as he was, but he’s still not a picnic to deal with, and so, poor chicken gets to stay home and drive Daddy and H crazy. Sorry bud. Incentive to pull yourself together, okay?

When you ask a person with small kids if they have any fun plans for the weekend, just so you know, for a split second they want to punch you in the neck. Hopefully they refrain, and then just laugh hysterically.

As hectic as the weekdays can be, at least they have some rhythm to them. The name of the game is to run around like a maniac until everyone is in bed and their your real work can begin, obvi. But weekend…they can be a challenge. Saturday mornings I find kind of rough. Usually Josh gets up with them (thank heavens) and puts in the first hour solo, then I wander downstairs and foolishly request a bit of quiet to drink 10 oz of coffee, to no avail. The kids are just so freaking excited to be here, to be around us, and while it is quite wonderful to be greeted with outstretched arms and (literal) screams of delight when you come down the stairs, I just can’t operate at this level of excitement at 7 am. It’s now 8:30 am, Josh has the two big kids downstairs, and I’m finally making headway into that coffee. Luckily I have only Hil in hand, and she oscillates between being absurdly needly and then, out of the blue, goes off and does her own thing. Right now she seems to have forgotten I’m here. She’s trying to put on Cole’s underwear and…reading. Seriously she opens a book, babbles, and apparently thinks that all books have a “noise, noise, noise” line, just like How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Back to needy! Who actually needs a diaper change.

I’ve seen millions of my friends’ kids’ school portraits over the years, especially since I’ve been a Facebook user, but this year is totally terrifying because a) many of these kids are A’s age (so the 5/6 cohort) and b) they look so grown up! Seriously, are these portrait photographers contractually obligated to shatter parents’ hearts? It just drives home how quickly it’s going and lord, what an incredibly poor job I’m doing actually processing it in the moment. How can you, though? You can’t – or at least I can’t. You have to have that distance to fully appreciate that you’ve been having almost-kind of-sort of sophisticated conversations with your three year old for the last month or so. It takes a few days to clue in that your five year old hasn’t sassed you recently (don’t worry – we never get much further than a few consecutive days with this one). Today I realized that H is doing most of the hand movements to Itsy Bitsy Spider and If You’re Happy And You Know It. I also realized that J is out tomorrow night (potty training workshop…if I’m lying I’m dying) and I didn’t quite have that sinking “Ughhhh I have to put them all to bed MYSELF” feeling that’s plagued me for the last, oh, year and a half at least? It is obviously way too call it for “Hey, it’s gotten BETTER.” Because really, it’ll probably have to actually BE better for a year or two before I notice.

I am a little over two months into the new gig and I’m sure you are all so excited to hear how it’s going. 🙂

Allow me to give you a wee example of how today went. I showed up and the system allowing us to log into head office was down. This is so unremarkable as to not even be a subject of discussion among my co-workers. When I remarked out loud that the system was down, they were all, “Oh yeah. It’s not working for me either.” No harm no foul?

I ended up with a lot of spare time today, utterly adrift in my cubicle as I don’t even have a Blackberry to know if anyone is trying to reach me. After finishing the internet several times over, I marched over to the supply shelves, armed with disinfecting wipes and reorganized to my heart’s content. Guys? This is not the kind of work you can do when you’re billing someone $600 an hour for your time. It’s been a while since I futzed with hanging folders. And you know what? It was kind of a blast. It’s nice being able to care about your work environment and do a little something to spruce it up and make it work better for others, too, rather than constantly feeling like you need to justify your existence at every single minute of every day. I felt the same sense of accomplishment when I was the first person in the office to figure out how to get our copier to print envelopes. Yes, professionals can muddle along without an admin (as us lowly government workers do) but that doesn’t mean that we can’t turn out a nicely printed envelope, alright?

Beyond good times with office supplies, I feel like I’ve been given a new lease on life. Sure, there are parts of the job that are a snooze, the pay is the opposite of awesome and there are personalities to manage just like anywhere else but overall it’s such a nice environment. We did a little wine and cheese half hour on Friday. People care about my opinion (I know, what?) and nurture relationships. It’s quite amazing. And I can be so much more present at home than I have been in ages, and it’s paying off – I think, anyway! My oldest just turned 5 and I feel like she’s this super rational, interesting creature all of a sudden…she remembers all kinds of things I just say out of the blue, which is kind of amazing if only because it makes you realize that you need to be careful about the things you say! It’s just nice to see this super clear connection between your efforts and the kind of kid they turn out to be, you know?

And I’ve been exercising and reading and going to church and making my own lunches and cooking dinner every night…all kinds of wild and crazy stuff that I would never have dreamed of working into the old schedule before. This is really the happiest I can remember being in so long and it isn’t any kind of happiness that I remember from before, funnily. I don’t feel all that much anxiety about the future. I am not worried about omg, what next all the time. It just feels like things are finally unfolding into a rhythm. I don’t know if it’s the job, the exercise, the spiritual contemplation or just all my kids finally getting a tiny bit easier to handle but this is so lovely and peaceful.

Not at all? No?

Maybe just a parent of three small kids thing? Our days…seriously 12+ hour days, especially in the nicer months, on our feet the whole damned time, trying to wear them out! I honestly feel more wrung out after a day with them than I ever did after a six hour restaurant shift or an all nighter at my desk.

I hope we did a little bit of good today though, keeping them busy and happy. Sometimes it really never feels like enough! But it is easy to feel satisfied and even really at peace after a full day with them. Smelling the sunscreen and sweat off a little clinging body just before you’re about to get them washed up and off to bed…bliss!

I’m sure I’m not the only one who would be happy to see the back end of this week. Holy lord, what a fakakta mess this world is sometimes. I know that adversity and horror and sadness and the unexplained senselessness of it all has always been with us and most likely things aren’t “worse” than they have other been, but the 24/7 news cycle makes it worse…but still, it can really just take the goddamned wind out of you. I will be more philosophical soon, I hope, but right now I just want a time machine. And since that isn’t likely to present itself in my kitchen at this hour, I want to close this chapter forever. ONWARDS.

I had my first couple of “real work” days this week, as I’ve otherwise been totally doing nothing at the office. It’s kind of appalling. For those of you who don’t “get” law firms, and in particular law firms like the one I’m at, they are dreadfully managed, if they are managed at all. The partners bring in work from clients and push it down on associates, who they purportedly supervise and train. In reality, you’re often lucky to get five minutes of a parter’s time when you have a burning, serious, this-could-get-us-sued-if-we-fuck-it-up question. At the firm I was at in NYC, they had an assigning partner, and until I left that firm I never knew what a smart, sensible thing it was. The assigning partner was the guy or woman to whom all partners made their requests for associate assistance. A new file would come in, the partner who got the file would call the assigning partner, and the assigning partner would be the one to look at every associate’s file load and dockets and decide who was in a good position to take on new work. If the partner with the file tried to sneakily go off and staff his or her file by contacting an associate directly, and the assigning partner got wind of it, the staffing decision would be unwound. They took this seriously. It sounds a bit weird and unnecessarily formal, possibly, but at least this way you had a fair chance of getting new files as they came in and there wouldn’t be too many situations where some associates were billing 80 hours a week while others were billing 10. 

At my “new” firm, there is no such structure. Partners are free to contact whichever associate they like to assign work. Partners like it this way, I’m sure, and it would actually not be the worst thing ever if you actually articled at that firm and went on to work there as an associate. That way, you’d naturally be exposed to everyone at the firm from day #1 – everyone always wants articling students and they are always busy, because their hourly rate is relatively cheap and clients don’t want to pay for more senior, experienced associates if they don’t want to. That way you build up your pipeline of work and have your usual “go to people” when things aren’t busy.

This is a dreadful system if you are a lateral from another firm, especially if you came over mid-career (as I did) and from another jurisdiction (as I did). It is far, far more difficult to “sell” a mid-level associate to partners and clients. My hourly rate is almost $600…no lie. It is madness, and FWIW not all that much less than I was being billed out at in NYC! The partners, most of whom don’t know me, stick to the mid-level associates that they do know, and if they have to reach out to the unknown pool of people, they tend to pick more junior people than me for cost reasons.

This is bad for me for a number of reasons. Yes, I get paid a generous salary no matter how many hours I work, but I do have a target of 1600-1800 hours a year. That breaks down to 150 hours a month that I’m supposed to bill – not work, but bill (so if I’m sitting around at the office waiting for someone to give me something to do…that doesn’t count). I haven’t come close to that number, ever. And it isn’t my fault. I never turn down work. I’m always available if necessary. I want to do well and show everyone how awesome I am to work with, and the people who do work with me have lovely things to say. But it isn’t enough. If I don’t bill, they can’t afford me. End of story.

It’s a weird world, private practice – and it’s not going to get any better anytime soon. And I have no answers. Nothing positive to say to people joining the profession, that’s for sure – I can’t even give myself effective pep talks anymore! It’s discouraging but in a way I almost feel glad that the decision is almost being made for me, you know? Life can be infinitely more complicated when you have all kinds of decisions to make! But knowing as I do now that private practice doesn’t seem to be going anywhere for me, I find it easier to pull away and keep working on my Plan B.