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Working moms and the work-life juggle

It’s hard to find time to properly reflect on the things you are thankful for in advance of Thanksgiving. And on Thanksgiving, it can be hard to find time for much of anything aside from cooking and eating and football and cleaning up afterwards. So, I am reflecting on the things I am thankful for now.

This year, I am most thankful for the ability to make myself and my kids happy. The Thanksgiving break was great. But after an unprecedented four (almost five) consecutive days of hanging out with my kids and minimal time sitting in front of a computer, I had to tell my 3-year-old that I was going back to work in the morning.

Her response:“Yay! I get to go back to school tomorrow!”

Completely exuberant. She went on babbling happily about what she wanted to take with her for snack until we said goodnight.

Not quite the response I expected. But I’m happy that she is happy. And it made me think about all the drama that surrounds working mothers. To name only a few, people write about the animositywhether real or imagined — between working mothers and stay-at-home mothers.

And people debate whether flexible work-life arrangements are a benefit or detriment to women seeking to have both a career and a family.

My take on it? Categorically speaking, a mother who works full-time is neither better nor worse than a stay-at-home mother, or a mother who works part-time. They are just different. They may or may not have different priorities, but they absolutely operate within different frameworks.

Mothers just don’t fit neatly into a single box; nor should we. And a work-life balance arrangement will be detrimental to anyone if it is not flexible enough to take at least some of these differences into account.

I think one of the women I met at the ABA’s 2010 Women in Law Leadership Academy had it right: She said that she did not “balance” her career with her family; she said she juggled them. She didn’t try to fit into a predetermined box; she studied the predetermined box carefully, then spoke up for herself and did what worked for her.

And she adjusted as her needs — and the demands of her career and her family — changed. As another group of women pointed out, this is exactly what many of our mothers did, too. Some of us were homeschooled by stay-at-home moms, others grew up in day care and public school, and many were raised somewhere in between.

And you know what? We all turned out fine.

So, I’m thankful to be part of the legal profession at a time and place where there is open dialogue about how to make this juggle work and how to better recognize and utilize the talent that would go unnoticed in the traditional structure of the legal profession. And I’m thankful to have a husband who is willing to be the “more available parent” so I can feel a little less guilty about early mornings and/or late nights at the office.

But most of all, I’m thankful that all of this has combined to create an environment in which both I and my kids are happy.