Saturday, May 31, 2008

Long Weeks

I'm finally coming up for air since I've gotten back from vacation the first week of May. These last 2 weeks were particularly brutal work-wise - 70 hours billable last week and 80 this week. I have to credit some great junior associate help that prevented me from having a nervous breakdown. I was actually generally positive except for several crying bouts when no one was around wondering how I was going to get through the deal closing and bid submissions I had to get done this week. I would say my average night's sleep was less than 5 hours.

The worst was when I had to wait TWO and a HALF hours to see my doctor on Tuesday morning for approximately 5 mins to confirm - nothing was "cooking". Let's just say I didn't impress that waiting room with my tears. All I could think was - I'm not working and I'm not sleeping so I am just falling behind in both.

I'm definitely not working on another bid during this pregnancy but as usual this brings back Big Firm concerns. I really like my job - the work is so interesting and I'm senior enough that I get to be involved in counseling clients and making these big deal names happen. I just don't want to have to counsel them at 2 am - regardless of the amount my Firm bills me at.

I ran into a tax partner (who doesn't realize we've spoken several times but I don't hold it against her) who noticed the "babies' bump" and said that I should talk to people at the firm as to how they make it work. To be honest there is only one woman who I would consider having a good balance in my group - the other 2 with kids never see them. And I think the partner who sees her kids can do so because she does lending work for some nice clients and bankruptcy work which has an easier timetable (usually). Right now people are sympathetic about the pregnancy and want me to get rest (like it is an "illness") but when I really need support is after they are born.

I need to strategize how to approach the firm and my department about the kids and my need to spend time with them. It would be easier if I weren't a deal attorney but I thrive on the deals - I could never make myself like the investment management or any other regulatory work. Apparently they are rolling out some new study and initiative for women - but when! As an aside I also heard my Firm will be announcing 18 weeks paid maternity which is incredible (and matches us to the other Big Firms out there).

I'll be meeting with our "career counselor" this week so I'll let you know what she says. As a people-pleaser it is really hard for me to have these conversations. It's like how every review (mine is next week) I mention how we have zero training to be managers for associates. When I have trouble with a junior associate I just avoid working with him/her instead of confronting him/her about the problems. I figure with so many that won't last a year or two what is the point? Terrible attitude.

I'm looking for help on things to think about, questions to ask and ways to approach this juggle of working at a Big Firm and raising my kids. Any thoughts are greatly appreciated!


Liz Jimenez said...

I wish I had something more useful to say, other than "good luck." And 18 weeks paid leave is awesome! Even better than the 16 weeks (unpaid, of course) that MA law entitles you to with twins.

I was in the exact opposite situation, working not just in higher education, but in a SUPER laid-back office that all but encouraged summer laziness. :-) And had I wanted to go back, they would have bent over backwards to figure out a way to make it work part-time. The one thing they couldn't do, though, is make the money they paid me actually cover childcare for two infants. Alas, the trade-off for a low-stress job means getting paid in peanuts.

Anonymous said...

18 weeks is awesome. My firm just announced this week they were going to 18 weeks -- which saved me the effort of lobbying an army of summers to complain. :)
I'm sure your job is very fulfilling and has defined you up until this point. But when the kids are born, it will change your perspective. You can use your "people pleasing" tendencies to please the "people" that you brought into this world.
The limits that you set now will be the tools you use forever. If you are a push-over now, you will be a push over later.

You are highly skilled. They need you and want to keep you. (or they are squeezing the life out of you while you let them) There's gotta be a way to delegate or increase the team size to make it work. 80 hour weeks are bad for the client because people inevitable make mistakes in that state. Your firm should also recognize that this pace will burn you out and they will lose you.

It's just business. You do what's write for YOU. You know they will do what's best for them. You have to be your own advocate because no one else will do it for you.

(thus endeth the nonsensical rambling)

10 lbs of awesome in a 5 lb bag said...

Everything changes once you have a kid. You've heard it a million times, but I mean in the context of work at a firm. When you go back, after you've figured out what you're going to do for childcare, that will let you set boundaries. Maybe it's that it you go in late, to wait for the nanny or to get your children to daycare. Or maybe that it's you leave early, to do the reverse. You'll be surprised, once you've done it, that things still move forward, work still gets done, and everyone is ok. You'll learn to work from home more, so that you can make time to come in later or leave earlier to see your kids before they go to sleep.

Plus, if you are a senior associate, you have junior people working for you. Delegate more. And you'll also find that you can work more on your own schedule. There's a lot that you can do at your house that you can do at the office, especially if it's late at night.

Stacey said...

So you don't get a 20% raise next year and set a specific limit on billable hours you are willing to work. I'm sure you and Husband will be fine regardless of income level. Make sure you have it written in to your performance plan though or no one will "remember" about it. I agree with einat - you are in demand! Baby boomers are retiring and frankly our generation is not willing to put up with a lack of work/life balance. That was fine when women stayed at home but that isn't the case any more. You are fortunate enough to be employable anywhere. Use it to your advantage! I know it's hard (I hate those conversations myself) but if you don't ask for something you definitely won't get it.

Anonymous said...

18 paid weeks is amazing. I got "6 weeks of short-term disability pay" at 60% of my salary with Josh, which is a SCAM because there is the 2 week waiting period to qualifiy for the short-term disability, and then they count those 2 weeks as part of your 6 weeks' pay. So in reality, I got 4 weeks. Under FMLA I was entitled to a total of 12 weeks, but that ran concurrent with disability. (Oh, and I got nothing for Alex's maternity leave, since I was part time.)

Anyway, though my situation isn't much like yours at all, there are some parallels between your job transition, and my transition from FT to PT. Throughout my pregnancy with Josh, I repeatedly told my supervisors and my government clients that I wasn't returning FT, but wanted to work out a PT arrangement. I was categorically denied every time, no matter who I asked or how I presented it. As my maternity leave came to a close and there was still no resolution, I called their bluff. I turned in my resignation.

Immediately I had my supervisor and the government client calling me to reconsider. "If you can't come back full time, can we work something out part time?" AS IF IT WERE THEIR OWN BRAND NEW IDEA. [insert eye roll here]

So what I am saying here, similar to what Stacey and Einat said, is that you are valuable to them. Unless they want you to burn out, quit, or start doing s**tty-quality work, they are going to have to deal with you on your terms. Your job is to assert those terms and not take any crap. Think about what you want, get it in writing, and enjoy your babies. :-)