Thinking about quitting my job - need input - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 21 Old 05-21-2010, 06:43 AM - Thread Starter
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I work a full-time, extremely strenuous job for the government. Writing/reading briefs, writing/reading motions, going to court for motions, preparing for trial, etc., etc.. I spend more time than anyone would like traveling to and from the county lockup and area prisons. And then trial comes and I not only have to do all of the above, but also argue a (coherent) case in front of a jury.

I'm very young to have advanced this far, but I graduated high school at 14, college at 18, got my Ph.D. at 21, and my law degree at 24. (Yes, I have always been an over-achieving, pain-in-the-ass. ) It's just . . . I've worked my whole life to get here and I guess I'm doubting it now.

My DF (we're getting married in August) has a VERY good job, where he not only makes a ridiculous amount of money, but it's also his dream job. I think the fact that we both have achieved pretty amazing success at relatively young ages is one thing that bonded us together in the beginning.

I could quit my job tomorrow and while our finances would be affected some, it really wouldn't make that much of a difference. I also have my doctorate, so I could write free-lance, or some other kind of here-and-there job and probably make more money than I currently do on my government salary.

I LOVE my job. All the things I wrote about it above? The long hours, endless responsibilities - it's everything I dreamed it would be when I was a kid watching Law & Order with my Mom, thinking "That's what I want to do when I grow up."

I don't want my child to be raised by nannies. Hell, I've wanted to get a dog for quite some time but with the hours I work that would be impossible - I barely give my cat enough attention.

I feel bad posting this when I know so many of you are struggling and here I am complaining that I love my job but I don't have to keep it if I don't want to in order to live a pretty financially easy life.

I guess what I'm afraid of is quitting now and then one day wanting to go back one day in the future and being shut out. I don't want to regret giving up my dream job, but I know I'd most assuredly regret missing my child's life even more. I'm just not sure that I'm cut out for being a stay-at-home mom. I've been in near-constant motion since I was a child. I don't think I'd know what to do with free time.

So, what do you guys think? Should I lighten up on myself or I am just being a self-indulgent idiot?
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#2 of 21 Old 05-21-2010, 07:09 AM
 
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Every person is so completely different with what works best for them, so just follow your heart. As you mention, the worst regret would be not being around your child enough. I'm finishing up my MA degree, but I think I'm going to just keep nannying, where I can bring my daughter. I'm completely broke and living paycheck to paycheck, but I am loving every joyous day of these precious years that are going by way too fast.
There's always a middle ground too--if you feel like you aren't enjoying being a SAHM you could always find a part-time job if you don't want to devote yourself to the rigorous hours you have now.
Best of luck to you!
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#3 of 21 Old 05-21-2010, 08:03 AM
 
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It's a tough one.

I love my job too, which isn't as demanding as yours I don't think but also involves some travel and night time events, and a brain.

I would be lying if I didn't say that I feel I have compromised on both ends - I'm not as much of a star at work as I used to be (by quite a bit), and I'm sometimes more stressed out at home than I want to be. From reading your post, something you will have to consider (no matter what your decision) is how driven you are and how that will come into play no matter what you decide.

I did not enjoy being at home as a 'sideline' extra/freelance worker. I felt stiffled in the work, like I never had an adequate childcare solution (it sounds like this isn't an issue for you money-wise which is good) and like I was never off duty at work OR off duty as a parent.

Here's what I find makes it manageable for me and then you can see which pieces would fit in for you:

- I have made certain times absolutely family time. Unless I have a can't-miss event (2-3 times/mo) I leave work by 4:30 (I start early) and I do not touch work until my son is asleep. I pick him up and we make dinner together and we play and we do bedtime together. That regularity -- that's routine for both of us -- is really key. It doesn't have to be at night either.

- weekends are pretty much family time too, mostly because my husband works a lot of them. Sometimes I do have to find some time to work.

- I have taken a big step back on my social life, which I do miss and sometimes worry about, but out of everything that was the piece I felt okay leaving behind. I don't see my friends half as much as I would like to.

- my husband's job is demanding (it usually runs 70-80 hrs/week) but flexible so he does a lot of parenting too, especially in the morning. If we had a nanny I think that would work too (we use daycare) but I'm not sure I would feel the same about it.

- the concept of "being raised by nannies" is a tricky one to me. We don't assume men are "not raising" their kids when they are working full-time. But it is true that we do have to find ways to be physically and mentally present with our kids in order to parent them. This is why I gave up on some other areas of my life that would involve going out to dinner or brunch.

But I also did a time analysis on what time was really quality time when I was at home and what time wasn't and I found that being at home full-time, by about 4 or 5 pm I was burned out. I found that spending an hour together at the start of the day and 3 hours together at the end of the day, plus weekends and holidays and sick days and all that, is a really good chunk of time. I didn't find lunch and naps were such quality time, and we were at classes/playgroups together anyway, so it sort of evened out.

One thing that surprised me about my year home on mat leave/year working from home PT/going back FT experience is how much my marriage improved when I was back full time. It was partly that I wasn't that happy working PT, but also that I had started to resent my husband for not having to do more childcare. That was a shock.

I'm not suggesting I have the balance down in any globally great way but I do feel okay with it. Everyone's path is different but hopefully some of that is helpful.

~ Mum to Emily, March 12-16 2004, Noah, born Aug 2005, Liam, born January 2011, and wife to Carl since 1994. ~
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#4 of 21 Old 05-21-2010, 10:12 AM - Thread Starter
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Every person is so completely different with what works best for them, so just follow your heart. As you mention, the worst regret would be not being around your child enough. I'm finishing up my MA degree, but I think I'm going to just keep nannying, where I can bring my daughter. I'm completely broke and living paycheck to paycheck, but I am loving every joyous day of these precious years that are going by way too fast.
There's always a middle ground too--if you feel like you aren't enjoying being a SAHM you could always find a part-time job if you don't want to devote yourself to the rigorous hours you have now.
Best of luck to you!
Thank you. And good luck to you! My education is thing I'm proudest of (well, for now - get back to me in mid-January ).

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It's a tough one.

I love my job too, which isn't as demanding as yours I don't think but also involves some travel and night time events, and a brain.

I would be lying if I didn't say that I feel I have compromised on both ends - I'm not as much of a star at work as I used to be (by quite a bit), and I'm sometimes more stressed out at home than I want to be. From reading your post, something you will have to consider (no matter what your decision) is how driven you are and how that will come into play no matter what you decide.
I'm incredibly driven. I was dreaming about college in my kindergarten classroom. I've had my life planned out since I was five. I've always been the 'smart one.' It was how I identified myself, how others perceived me. I guess no matter how much I want to dedicate myself to raising my children there's still that part of my brain that goes right back to elementary school when other kids would be at recess and I'd be in the library.

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I did not enjoy being at home as a 'sideline' extra/freelance worker. I felt stiffled in the work, like I never had an adequate childcare solution (it sounds like this isn't an issue for you money-wise which is good) and like I was never off duty at work OR off duty as a parent.
That sounds horrible, if I'm honest. I push-and-pull. I don't think I'd be able to cope like that, either. Yet another thing to think about.

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Here's what I find makes it manageable for me and then you can see which pieces would fit in for you:

- I have made certain times absolutely family time. Unless I have a can't-miss event (2-3 times/mo) I leave work by 4:30 (I start early) and I do not touch work until my son is asleep. I pick him up and we make dinner together and we play and we do bedtime together. That regularity -- that's routine for both of us -- is really key. It doesn't have to be at night either.
This is a great point. Routine is incredibly important to children, something that I didn't have for the first eight years of my life and I'm able to recognize that some of my more . . . undesirable qualities come from that period of my life. I started a list a long time ago full of all the things I wanted to do and traditions I wanted to start when I had kids.

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If we had a nanny I think that would work too (we use daycare) but I'm not sure I would feel the same about it.
I actually prefer the idea of my child getting one-on-one attention from the same person on a continuous, stable basis in their own home rather than leaving to a strange place with all different people. Thankfully, I'm lucky enough to be able to afford it. (Also, I was a nanny while in grad school, so I'm a little biased to the bad rap nannies get sometimes. Although, I'm not really helping with that right now, am I?) Ideally, I'd be able to do everything myself - but that just seems unrealistic.

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- the concept of "being raised by nannies" is a tricky one to me. We don't assume men are "not raising" their kids when they are working full-time. But it is true that we do have to find ways to be physically and mentally present with our kids in order to parent them. This is why I gave up on some other areas of my life that would involve going out to dinner or brunch.
The reason I said "raised by nannies" was because of the extreme hours that both DF and I work. If I carried on as I am now then I'm certain I'd hardly ever see my child. And that's not okay with me.

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I'm not suggesting I have the balance down in any globally great way but I do feel okay with it. Everyone's path is different but hopefully some of that is helpful.
Thank you for all your thoughts. You've given me a lot to think about. DF and I need to have a talk - I've got an idea! I'll get back to you after I talk with him.

And may I just say, way to go, Mama! You may not have it all down to science (who does?) but I'm in awe of your . . . dedication - that's the word! - to making not just your son and DH happy but yourself fulfilled as well. I aspire towards figuring out a balance that works for me in the same way. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with me. I really appreciate it.
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#5 of 21 Old 05-21-2010, 10:57 AM
 
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Have you considered looking for more of a civil service-type government job, with shorter hours but still technically full-time?
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#6 of 21 Old 05-21-2010, 11:05 AM
 
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I actually prefer the idea of my child getting one-on-one attention from the same person on a continuous, stable basis in their own home rather than leaving to a strange place with all different people. Thankfully, I'm lucky enough to be able to afford it. (Also, I was a nanny while in grad school, so I'm a little biased to the bad rap nannies get sometimes. Although, I'm not really helping with that right now, am I?) Ideally, I'd be able to do everything myself - but that just seems unrealistic.
I think with the youngest ages and a good nanny that works. However there are stresses with being "the boss" (and not the client) and having someone in one's home too.

Just for info (not arguing) - for us though we found a small Montessori with low turnover and it's nothing like "strange place with all different people." I had that preconception too, but no - the bonding is tight, the environment is rich and as my son got older the social aspects have been win-win.



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The reason I said "raised by nannies" was because of the extreme hours that both DF and I work. If I carried on as I am now then I'm certain I'd hardly ever see my child. And that's not okay with me.
Yeah that's the piece I had to let go career-wise.

It was ironic 'cause I'd stayed in journalism in part because I always intended to go freelance when we had kids (long, long journey for us) but by the time I actually had mine, I'd gotten used to setting larger visions than piece-by-piece thinking. I may change my mind back.

That's really what I came back to say too - although I would be the first to point out that if you leave a career it can be really really hard to get back into it (in my case if I had not made the leap pre-recession, there is no way in heck I would have a job in my field right now, and this may happen anyway), the truth is that no decision is final career-wise really.

So you don't have to choose forever. I think the important thing is to be willing to change what isn't working. For me it just wasn't working being home and having to sell myself while we were still in naps/tantrums/diaper mode. For other people it works great!

~ Mum to Emily, March 12-16 2004, Noah, born Aug 2005, Liam, born January 2011, and wife to Carl since 1994. ~
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#7 of 21 Old 05-21-2010, 11:12 AM - Thread Starter
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Have you considered looking for more of a civil service-type government job, with shorter hours but still technically full-time?
Not really. If I was going to continue on with practicing law, even part-time, I'd probably want to move out of government and into the private-sector, with a civil-action group or something of that nature. I worked with Amnesty International right after I graduated law school and loved it, so maybe something like that (with shorter-hours) would work.
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#8 of 21 Old 05-21-2010, 11:19 AM - Thread Starter
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Yeah that's the piece I had to let go career-wise.

It was ironic 'cause I'd stayed in journalism in part because I always intended to go freelance when we had kids (long, long journey for us) but by the time I actually had mine, I'd gotten used to setting larger visions than piece-by-piece thinking. I may change my mind back.

That's really what I came back to say too - although I would be the first to point out that if you leave a career it can be really really hard to get back into it (in my case if I had not made the leap pre-recession, there is no way in heck I would have a job in my field right now, and this may happen anyway), the truth is that no decision is final career-wise really.

So you don't have to choose forever. I think the important thing is to be willing to change what isn't working. For me it just wasn't working being home and having to sell myself while we were still in naps/tantrums/diaper mode. For other people it works great!
America is quite sue-happy. We'll need lawyers for quite some time, so I'm certain I could find a position when/if I decided to go back, I'd probably just have to start out a little bit lower than where I am now. The more that I think about it, the more it seems worth it.

And you're right - I don't have to choose forever. My idea is going to back school, actually.

I double-majored in college (English and Economics) and got my doctorate in Economics, then went on to law school. I've always wanted to go back and advance my English degree. Maybe now is my chance.
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#9 of 21 Old 05-21-2010, 12:03 PM
 
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I wasn't gifted like you but I was always the smart one, it seemed like anything I tried to do, I could do well - whether astrophysics or journalism or math or art. So I always felt like I was destined for "greatness" though I didn't have a clear direction.

One of the things that I have figured out as I continue to revolve around the sun is that greatness is in the ordinary just as much as it is in the extraordinary. You are obviously extraordinary, and there must be pressure (internal and external) to continue on an extraordinary path. Yet in the ordinary - being a mother, being a wife - are the most extraordinary facets of our being.

Don't get me wrong. We need "great" people in our species to help others, to inspire us, to lead us. I don't devalue them at all. I only argue that we can also be "great" in ways that are not commonly recognized.

Maybe one thing might help answer your question for yourself - the "deathbed" scenario. When you are on your deathbed looking back at your life, what will you be most proud of? Do you see any possible regrets? Do you see certain things that you were proud of kind of fade in importance compared with other things?

Another thing that might help would be to realize that, whatever you do, you haven't committed yourself to it forever. If you decide to continue as a lawyer, it doesn't mean you will be doing the same job for the rest of your life. If you decide to be a stay at home mom, that doesn't mean you've just throwin your whole career away. I'm absolutely certain that you, as driven as you are, will be able to keep your contacts and resume and skills up - and you might not even fall behind. An opportunity may present itself at the right time, doing the thing that you really want to do. (In my experience, that does happen).

Anyway, it sounds like I'm rooting for you to quit, and maybe that's so, but I hope the things I suggested you think about actually help you come to your own decision no matter what that might be.

Homeschooling mama to 6 year old DD.

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#10 of 21 Old 05-21-2010, 04:04 PM
 
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Sure is a lot to think about! I too love my job. It is not in my family's best interest for me not to work (long story...DH has Lupus), so I feel that decision has been made for me. I was quite successful as a student, and my professors in Grad school commented that I was "destined for great things".
But to make the work-life balance doable for my family I have totally "mommy-tracked" my career, and I'm OK with that. If I was home full-time, I would have concerns about my own emotional health and disrupting the dynamics of my marriage. Because I work, pretty much all of my spare time is with my kiddos--my choice. So I have given up pretty much all private time, hobbies, exercise, social life, and even grooming! I consider it a "season" in my life, and I'll do all those things again some day when the kiddos are older. I say follow your gut, and as others have mentioned, nothing is carved in stone and you can change paths along your journey as you figure out what's best for you and your family. Good Luck!
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#11 of 21 Old 05-22-2010, 09:17 AM
 
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Congratulations, first of all! You have a couple of gigantic life transitions/milestones ahead of you. I hope they are joyful.

I'd stress a little more one thing that's already been said: you don't have to choose forever.

I think this is critical to keep in mind. Your experiences will inform your desires and values as much as your values inform your choices now. It's impossible to know what your child's needs and personality will be like, and how that will affect your choices. Or how your DF's career path might change and affect your family dynamic. You might find that you need a year of leave to focus on starting off as a parent, and then after that year you might feel a real need to work again. And you might find that a less high-powered, high-demand position fills the need better than you ever imagined. Will you have more than one child? This would obviously make an impact, too.

I'd wait and listen closely to my heart. Do this in the ways you normally do, whether it's long pro-con lists or meditation or talking to your unborn child. I'd ask the cat.

Keep in mind that you have achieved a great deal in a little time on the planet. You have demonstrated the abilities, aptitudes and attitudes that employers of all kinds value, so when you do get back out there (if you choose to take time off) you will likely not have a lot of difficulty finding meaningful work. Ask yourself whether there are parts of yourself that you may have neglected or dismissed, and whether they need attention now.

Whatever you choose, it will be right until it's wrong, and then you change it. Good luck!
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#12 of 21 Old 05-22-2010, 10:04 AM
 
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Life takes you in different directions...

I left a great corporate career three years ago when my DD was two. It was the job I had worked toward for the last ten years and I loved it...but after I had DD I didn't love it so much anymore. A lot of what's already been mentioned, but business traveling and social events stop being fun and start being stressful. I used to love hanging out late at my office, just being part of things...that became stressful because I just wanted to get home to baby.

So, I left and started my own consulting company and I quickly picked up a few clients. I have one "big" client that I work 30 hours per week for, from home. It's perfect for me...I'm still a presence in my industry, still in the loop, but I've definitely stepped off the "fast track" for a while.

I kind of love it. I'm still busy and stimulated, but I can also drop DD off at daycare at 9 and pick her up at 4, 4 days per week. We have one extra day where she is home with me, and I take her to ballet lessons that day. It's a much slower pace than my old, leave the house at 6:45AM and return at 7pm (if I could) routine.

I'm sure I can go back to what I used to do, or something similar. Or my next step might be something totally different...but there's definitely in-betweens to working full time high pressure jobs, and not working outside the home at all.

You will experience lots of changes once you have a baby...so just take it one day at a time and see what feels right to you. All babies are different and need different things...my little girl was so easy going, she was great at daycare, etc...for other kids, it's not so easy...you never know what you are going to be dealing with and what will turn out to be right for your family til you are in the thick of it!
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#13 of 21 Old 05-22-2010, 02:57 PM
 
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Hi! I just finished a book I think would be great for you to read while you consider your options. "Mothers on the Fast Track" by Mary Ann Mason and Eve Mason Eckman.

The book focuses on the unique challenges that high-achieving women face when they become mothers, and how they navigate the various choices. Also focuses on why these choices and their consequences are different for men in the same professions. Mothers usually choose between 3 options. Stay full-time, i.e. on the fast track? Opt-out for a while (SAHM)? Or move into what the author refers to as the second tier? This was a new idea for me, the second tier, but it gave me a lot to think about. Second tier is what many mothers choose for reduced hours/more flexibility. Many think they will get back on the fast track when their kids are older. But sometimes the doors have closed, and they can never regain the respect of their peers or the challenging work they once enjoyed so much.

There is much written in this book specifically about lawyers.

Sorry I can't write more, but I will come back to this thread another time. Good luck with your decisions, and congrats on becoming a mama!

Diane
(electrical engineer mama to A, my 8 yo DD)
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#14 of 21 Old 05-22-2010, 11:00 PM
 
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I was just reading over this thread and realizing that part of the reason I'm happy working part time now, is that having kids is a high-pressure, stressful job! I still get the same thrills....you know? Some of parenting is boring, but there are lots of high spots to be thrilled by.
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#15 of 21 Old 05-23-2010, 01:24 PM
 
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Sounds like you have a good option of dialing down for a while and then returning to work in a more intense way. I like the idea of school, but another thing you may consider - working part time for a non-profit with a vision you support, because I'm sure your skills and experience would be invaluable to them.
I was lucky to time the end of my PhD to DS's birth so I was able to have 5 months at home with him "writing my thesis", but it did become stressful at the end and we had to get a mother's helper so that I could get work done. I will be going to work full time after the defence (in 2 weeks), but it hopefully wouldn't take me away from DS too much (he'll be going to a very nice small montessori daycare, and possibly between DH and I having flexible schedules we can even make his days at daycare short). I don't think I want to be a SAHM and I love working and using my expertise too much, so I'm here with you.

Congratulations on all your achievements - you have lots of reasons to be proud! and good luck with the new adventure!

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#16 of 21 Old 05-23-2010, 06:34 PM - Thread Starter
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Thank you so much for all the wonderful advice! I can't tell you how much it has meant to me.

I don't have enough time right now to respond to all of you individually (DF and I are going to visit his parents - pray for me) but I wanted to fill you in on something rather exciting that happened to me earlier today.

I had lunch with an old friend of mine from law school who has also made the jump from England to New York. He works with a private-firm now, but used to work for one of my favorite non-profit law organizations. One of the directors joined us. We weren't intended on talking shop but with lawyers it always seems to come back around. We can turn a discussion on anything into a legal debate. We're horribly boring party guests. Do not invite us if you want anyone to have a good time.

It's early in the pregnancy still, so I've been keeping quiet outside of immediate friends and family. Unfortunately, DF has not. I can't blame him, either - I went into this knowing that he can't keep his mouth shut, especially over things he's particularly excited about. I think you get where I'm going with this - my friend had already heard through the grapevine that I'm . . . with child, shall we say.

The director asked what I was planning on doing when the baby is born, knowing what I do for a living. I told her I didn't know yet. I said I knew I couldn't stay where I am but I just didn't think I could do nothing. I worked too hard to get to where I am, but more than that - it means too much to me. My job isn't my identity, it's my passion and while I'm sure I'll be passionate about my child(ren) I just didn't feel that I could just shut this part of me off and be okay with that.

She offered me a position! One of their lead attorneys just quit to go into private practice (much like my friend, *coughlosercough*). I'd get to pick and choose my cases, the job is based mainly out of NYC, and although I would have to travel for indeterminate periods of time (trials are the ultimate unknown) it's basically just another version of my attorney dream I built in my head when I was a kid.

She told me to take my time and think about it and DF and I still need to discuss it (he knows the basics) but I'm just about jumping out of my skin here! I just can't believe this. I'm not one who goes in for much sap, religious intonations, or any kind of new-age garbage (no offense! ) but it's kind of like the universe sensed what I needed and dropped it in my lap. Right now the only thing I can think of is how I almost didn't go to this lunch because it meant I had to go back into Brooklyn before going to Connecticut. Thank goodness I did, huh?
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#17 of 21 Old 05-24-2010, 11:18 AM
 
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I read the earlier post and didn't respond at the time, but wanted to say that this looks like a great opportunity!

If you do take the new job (which sounds like an excellent possibility...), you might consider making the switch sooner rather than later so that you have some months to establish yourself in a new position before the baby comes, as it'll be tougher to do that collegial relationship-building work when you have competing demands on your time, attention, and emotional energy.
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#18 of 21 Old 05-24-2010, 02:43 PM
 
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Paintedfire - this is so exciting!!! Congratulations!!!!
I've had the same thing happen to me earlier this year with a post graduation dream job falling on top of me. It is so amazing when that happens and I'm still in denial.

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#19 of 21 Old 05-30-2010, 12:44 AM
 
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Congrats on the new gig!
I wanted to add to the discussion that reading the book "Getting to 50/50" was really helpful to me as a working mother. You might like it as it talks about working motherhood, with lots of research to back up how it is healthy for families in a lot of ways. There is a lot of discussion in there about how other 2 parent working families make it work.

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#20 of 21 Old 06-01-2010, 08:23 AM
 
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Just saw this thread and it's sort of what I came on to post, so I want to go back and read the whole thing. Same sort of issues here - great, high salary job, I have a Master's degree and 7 years of work experience. But I am really struggling with childcare options and just feel that I really want to stay at home and raise my children myself. I'll be back to comment after I get some time to read! Thanks!
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#21 of 21 Old 06-01-2010, 11:53 AM
 
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Paintedfire-- I read your last post, which is exciting. Would the hours be better than what you are currently working?

I, too, am 29 and a lawyer. My husband is a SAHD. That's one option. But it sounds like it may not be something that your DF wants to do.

I think GuildJenn has some great advice. I do know that many women lawyers are unsure about their ability to rejoin the field after staying at home for a while with their children. I don't know what the reality is, as to whether that actually happens. I think you might do better with a part-time or not-full-time option where you can still do what you enjoy, but are not pressured to work so many hours.

And, private practice lawyers are not losers! Some of us have lots and lots of bills to pay.....
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