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I’ve Been Waiting for this Day Since I was 18 Years Old

Although I’ve fallen off The Office bandwagon the last couple years, I finally caught up and watched the series finale today.  Stanley receives his retirement cake and proclaims “I’ve been waiting for this day since I was 18 years old!!”

That is my life.

I look at the partners, the seasoned lawyers, the gray hairs, and I wonder “how did you make it there?”  How do they make it through year after year of the 4am panicked wake-ups, and the sunny Saturday afternoons spent hunched over the computer, and emergency after confused emergency? How do they make it through without totally losing their minds?

Where does the inspiration come from? How do you stay eager and energized where the reward for all that hard work is an annual week out of town, where there’s no hope of entirely avoiding work, because your job involves deadlines and expectations that are outside of your control, and there’s always an enormous chance that your trip away will have to be called off anyway, for some unexpected work demand.

I’m finishing up year six. This is around the time where people make it or break it. They peel off from the practice or they get driven out or they take some other direction entirely.  Some days I feel proud.  I feel like I’m really starting to get the hang of things, from the legal skills to the business building and all those things in between.  Other days I drag through my exhaustion, unsure how to convince myself that the endless cycles of flight-or-flight are worth it.  The practice does get easier over time.  I sleep most nights now, which is something I could not say a couple years ago.  I am better at estimating the time for completing a particular task.  I can better manage my time and workload. I don’t know how to do every assignment that ends up on my desk, but I’ve more skilled at figuring out how to do the things I don’t know how to do. I tell myself that next year will feel better than this year, and the year after that will feel even better.  That self talk has little meaning, when I’m exhausted right now.

I’m tightly wound, always.  The past two weeks I’ve been wound even more tightly.  A spring, about to pop.  I haven’t run in months, but twice this weekend I went to the gym and ran for nearly a half-hour.  I ran this morning, and if the gym didn’t close early today, I would want to go back tonight and run again.  The stress winds tight in my chest and pulses through me in a low, unshakeable agitation.  The treadmill burns the agitation off.  The quiet is temporary. And by the time the red has receded from my cheeks, I’m wound tightly again, ready for another run.

There’s no dissatisfaction with what I’m doing.  I’m not a creative stifled in a corporate job. I don’t find my work meaningless or soul-sucking.  It’s fascinating most days– learning secrets, examining theories from different angles, piecing together concepts into larger themes, challenging myself to learn entirely new subject areas in short periods of time.  But all of that comes with the overwhelming pressure of the practice.  It’s hard to see that carrot dangling ahead, and sometimes I doubt it is there at all.

Where do you find your motivation?

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A Working Woman’s Paradox (this time with the comments issue fixed…)

So I posted this same entry below, but somehow disabled the comments and the only way I can figure to fix it is to re-post it. I think this is a topic that merits discussion, and I’m not a fan of comment disabled posts generally, so I welcome your feedback (yes, I even welcome disagreement)

I think and talk so much about being a “working mom” and “work/life balance” that I’m bored of it. Mr. Beez and I had the rare opportunity to grab a workday lunch together on Monday, and I asked him “you’re working all the time, and bouncing around with things at home, how are you not complaining about being burned out?” It turns out he is. Just as much as me. He just keeps his big mouth shut.

I admit it—sometimes I’m jealous of stay at home moms. You can chat my ear off all day about how hard it is to be a parent and keep a house, but it still demands minimal accountability. You don’t get fired for being a mediocre parent or having mountains of unwashed laundry. There’s a lot of stuff to do in keeping a house, but you can spend a day on the couch if you want to. Working involves external accountability. It involves risk. It involves prioritizing and balancing and playing politics. It is hard. Maybe not with all jobs, not every job is hard. But being a litigator is hard. It involves all those things at rapid pace and in an unpredictable environment.

I am thrilled that issues of work-life balance have come to the forefront, and employers and employees alike are focusing on how workers can thrive in the office while also being satisfied in their personal lives. We’re talking about this struggle, and it shows me that I’m not a special snowflake after all. I’m tired of my pity party about how hard it is to do the juggle. And every time I read a new response to something Ann-Marie Slaughter or Sheryl Sandberg or Marissa Mayer has said or done, I realize that the work-life struggle is not unique. Not in the least. And if everyone is having the same difficult time, well there really isn’t much to whine there about is there?

Today on Hello Ladies, I read through this infographic.

As I scrolled down, more and more things rang true. Yes, I agree that women often are less likely to take breaks during the workday (It took years for me to convince myself that, as the guys in the office have demonstrated, it really IS ok to go to the gym for a bit during the workday).

But then I hit the bottom portion:
47% of working moms say they would be happier if they didn’t work.
36% of working moms say they resent their partner for not making enough money for them to stay home with the baby/kids.

I’m sickened by the idea of an entitlement to stay home. If we are to achieve any real balance between the sexes, we need to stop this farcical argument that keeping a house is equally demanding (and beneficial to the family unit) as staying home. Not every person needs to work—income and family responsibilities can be divided in all kinds of different ways. But the idea that women resent their partner for not making enough money for them to stay home is abhorrent.

So I’m saying it: The idea that women have some birthright to not work and tend to the children and home is absurd and antiquated. And buying into the idea that women somehow deserve to not work undermines the value of those in the workplace who do.

Dear ladies: GET A JOB.
And quit complaining.

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4:50 am is a thing?

sleepylolcatI don’t know how these doctors and nurses and other people who wake up super early do it.  My alarm goes off at 6 am, and every morning I am full of hate.  Left to my own devices I’d probably wake up around 7:30 or 8, but 6 still feels brutal.  Twice this week I’ve suffered through that ungodly clang at 4:50 am.  Once for a poorly scheduled personal training appointment and once for a terribly scheduled deposition.

The getting up part really isn’t the worst of it.  I woke up fine, got ready and got where I needed to get in a timely fashion.  Then around 7:30 am it all came crashing down.  I spent the rest of the day moaning sleep, I need sleep!

I’m sure early risers go to bed earlier than I do.  Last night we had an event with our synagogue, and I didn’t get to bed until after 11pm.  That made the 4:50 wake up extra terrible.  Some people can function on 4 or 5 hours of sleep. I do much better on, say, 10 hours of sleep.  Not that I get it. But I’d love to.

Sleep has been a big focus of mine lately.  I had an old fashioned check up on Monday and chatted with the doctor about how I’ve been seemingly sick over and over and over since January.  Then I told her about how I’m out the door fairly early in the morning, then have work all day and then often have events in the evening and that doesn’t get me home until like 9 at night most nights.  Well duh, I’m exhausted and more susceptible to being sick and then getting sick.

I’ve officially been ordered by both my husband and my doctor to not stuff my calendar to the gills with this, that and the other thing.  This declaration comes at a good time.  I’ve got a trial I’ve been prepping for, and my work schedule doesn’t allow for me participating in many happy hours, get togethers and dinners anyway.  Til that jury verdict comes in, it’s all prep, practice, rest, repeat.

In other news, SMOKE TAQUERIA for dinner tonight, yesssss!

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Marissa Mayer and the Yahoo! Culture Change

I can’t stand Marissa Mayer’s smug little face, which fueled my immediate outrage at her unexpected kibosh on working remotely at Yahoo! (read more about my disdain for her in my earlier post about her squandered opportunity to set a good example for maternity leave policies for working women)

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After a few hours of, you know, working and minding my own business, my disgust at this news somewhat subsided.  I learned that there was a bit more to the situation than the earliest reactionary headlines suggested.  In particular, Yahoo!’s policy change is designed to target employees who have been working solely from home, as opposed to working most of the time in an office environment, but with the flexibility to work from home when needed for family or personal reasons.

As much as I love to hate on Marissa, I can get behind spending the bulk of work time in an office environment when your job duties involve creativity and collaboration.  So it appears that the policy change is not so much about eliminating flexibility options for working families, as to change the work culture of the company.  I only hope that Yahoo! doesn’t eliminate the potential for occasional telecommuting when the need arises.  Because that would be a true jerk move.

Andlthough I haven’t seen nearly as much confirmation on this, I did hear whispers that she has also eliminated flex schedules.  That, my friends, I see as an unnecessary thumb-of-the-nose to working parents.  If true, elimination of flex time is inexcusable.  That deserves true scorn.

Working parents and their supporters so frequently demand, and praise, “flexibility” in the workplace.  But “flexibility” is so ill defined as to practically be meaningless. Similarly with “support” for working families.  We want the work environment to change to “support” working families, but what does that mean?

To me, a “supportive” work environment for working families means:

-The flexibility to work remotely when the need arises.

-Paid parental leave for a reasonable duration at the birth/adoption of a child.

-A workplace culture that trusts you to be a professional and accomplish your work (whether it’s at 3pm or 2am), without hovering over you and tying you to outdated notions of face time.

-Most importantly, a culture of flexibility. That means coworkers and superiors accepting that maybe you’ll be out for an afternoon here or there or sometimes you have to unexpectedly deal with illness or whatever, but not penalizing you for that.

-In an ideal world, employers would offer stopgap “Get Well” childcare.  Heck, it doesn’t even have to be paid for by the employer. I’d be happy to pay for it out of pocket. Just if the employer could have a service in place to provide emergency childcare when your kid’s got the flu but you’ve got a deposition that took four reschedulings to find a date where eight attorneys could all show up.

-A change in perspective that these flexible measures are not just for parents/kids.  Everyone can benefit from this kind of supportive work environment.  Everyone needs a little flexibility, whether it’s to care for a child, a parent, your beloved Fido, or a mental health break for yourself.  Flexibility is not a women’s issue, it’s an everybody issue, and it can benefit everybody.

What do workplace “flexibility” and “support” mean for you?

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No Name Players, SWAN Day and Taking Flight with @WePropelle

I’ve known about the awesome Propelle women’s networking happy hours for ages, but haven’t managed to make my way to one until last night. When I saw that the “guests of honor” for the happy hour were the No Name Players (Tressa Glover and Don DiGiulio), who are the driving force behind Pittsburgh’s SWAN (Support Women Artists Now) Day Celebration, I told myself it’s darn time I made it to that happy hour.
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Sandy and I had the awesome opportunity to be interviewed for this year’s SWAN Day, so I’m totally looking forward to see what art came from those interviews of us and other Pittsburgh women ages 9 through 65.  I wish I had some sort of artistic talent, but I really don’t.  I was thrilled that this project gave me the opportunity to be part of the artistic process, even without talent.

The No Name Players are part of a $2,000 challenge grant right now.  If they can raise $2,000, Martha Richards, the co-founder of SWAN Day has promised to match the funds.  You can contribute at the No Name Players Webpage!

The Propelle happy hour was great.  Even though it was a pretty large crowd, there was an opportunity for everyone to introduce themselves to the group.  And boy was this a patient group! Everyone was attentive and interested.  Introductions like that seem like such a minor thing, but there’s no way I would have made my way around the room to learn about everyone otherwise. 

I also loved how the introductions facilitated their own conversations.  You may not realize this, but I am painfully shy.  If I’m in a group of people I already know and am comfortable with, I’m loud and outgoing.  But a room full of people I don’t know is my personal hell.  Going into a networking event takes a lot of preparation and thought for me, because I am so nervous about it.  I think about thigs like “what kinds of questions should I ask people?”  “what should I do to get into a conversation, if it feels like people are already occupied and chatting?” “what do I need to do to make sure that I move around the room and meet people, instead of meeting one person, getting comfortable chatting with them, and then making them crazy because I follow them around all night?”    The introductions made it so easy for me to identify people I had things in common with, and strike up conversations on those topics. 

Propelle is primarily focused on women entrepreneurs, but they welcome you just as graciously if you aren’t in charge of your own business. I think it’s fair to say that Propelle wants to see women succeed in all walks of business, and be independent and strong.  They are really stepping up their game this year with a lot more interactive workshops and events.  I can’t wait to see what they have in store!