The American Bar Association recently published an article aimed at criticizing lawyer mothers. The implication of the article was that lawyer mothers are more distracted, tired, spread thin, bad at managing and less strategic about their career development as compared to men or women without children.
The article advances a dangerous narrative that contains an implicit bias that all working lawyer parents have to fight against every single day. It’s that if we have children, our lawyering will suffer because of it. Apparently we have only X amount of interest and energy to go around, and our children suck up a good portion of it, leaving less for our clients and colleagues.
This article made me reflect on whether being a parent has impacted my lawyering. For me, I say yes and no. I think the answer is different for every parent and part of the danger of the article is painting huge categories of people with a broad brush. I’m only speaking about myself. Here are my conclusions:
- I am more efficient. I’m at the office a little less but when I’m there, I’m there. No more shopping online when I am between tasks and I need a moment. Those unwind moments are relegated to after 9 p.m. when my kids are (hopefully) asleep.
- Being a parent has made me ever so slightly more empathetic than before. That’s personal to me, I think, but I don’t think I was known for my empathy before per se. Moreover, many of my clients are experiencing difficult circumstances related directly or indirectly to being parents and my lived experiences give me an ability to relate.
- I know myself more. I have a stronger sense of my priorities. I no longer waste time on things that don’t matter to me, because I have less time to go around. This extends to my professional responsibilities. If it doesn’t do good in the world or spark joy I don’t have time for it. I’ve focused less on things I don’t like and focused more on things I do.
- I want to make my children proud. I want to show them a strong work ethic, leadership, and mentorship. If I’m leaving them daily I want it to be for a good reason, one that we can all be proud of.
- I want to be the type of leader that other lawyer parents need. I want to provide paid parental leave, excellent health insurance at a reasonable cost, flexible work arrangements, reasonable work hours, positive mentoring and model healthy work life boundaries.
Being a mother did not make my work product better. I did not improve my motion writing. It did not improve my trial skills or affect the hard skills that we use every day. That would be nice, but no such luck. This article did make me realize that we have not come as far as we thought, that internalized misogyny is real, and that each of us needs to be mindful of the implicit biases we have against working parents with whom we work every day.