What a debate! I had no idea that I would spend so much time as a parent thinking about, talking about, and considering who should take care of my children while I spent my time working on other people’s legal problems. Of course, why wouldn’t my husband and I spend so much time debating and worrying about the quality of care we would be providing for the most precious people in our lives—our children?
“Do you plan to keep working after the baby is born?”
The first time I was asked this question I was surprised by my short, honest answer—“I don’t know!”
I was raised by an amazing single mother who went to work every day and still raised four independent, determined, strong-willed children. My main example of a “mom” showed me that it was possible to have a career and a family, yet I still wasn’t sure I would continue by legal career after my bundle of joy arrived.
I am grateful to have had a decision to make because for many, like my own mother, the choice is made for them due to other circumstances. But, I have a wonderful, supportive husband, who said the decision was mine to make. Of course we would need to readjust some of our expenses to make it work but staying home was a possibility. So there I was still not sure of my decision.
What I did know was that I loved the practice of law. I felt as if I had just started to really get my feet under me, and I was sad to think that I would not continue practicing. But I was SCARED. My husband, also an attorney, and I would often work long, crazy hours. We even had to hire someone to walk our dogs because our schedule was so unpredictable. I just wasn’t sure I would be the type of mother I wanted to be if I continued to practice.
At about this time, I was approached by my alma mater to work at the law school. I thought this might be the perfect solution – still involved with the law but without the billable hours and stress. So, I did what every clear-thinking, hormonal woman should do (note the sarcasm), I accepted the job. My law firm was shocked to learn of my leaving, and told me “no”. I will forever be grateful to them for not allowing me to shut the door on my legal career.
The decision to be a working mom is incredibly personal. I will never forget February 13, 2008, the day I got to hold my baby for the first time. He looked up at me and all was right with the world. I will also never forget February 16, 2008 – the day I realized that being a parent was HARD and much more demanding than any client I had ever encountered. I felt guilty. How could I think my precious bundle was not one hundred percent full of joy?
Over my maternity leave I realized that I didn’t really have a decision to make. I was going to return to work. I missed it. I missed my practice and the people. But more importantly, I realized I personally am a better mom for returning to work.
The working mom juggle is hard. It comes with an extra side of guilt on certain days, but I know my children are happy and safe. And I know that I am happy too. At the end of the day, the decision for me was simple.
-Rebekah Steely Brooker
President, Texas Young Lawyers Association