Reflections on Work/Life Balance

Various MILPs have been posting about work/life balance this week and it has caused me to reflect on the past year and the choices I have made to restore some balance to my life.

CM posted about her daily schedule and I thought “Wow, that looks familiar,” except I was unable to spend much time doing kid dropoff and relied almost entirely on poor Mr. V to handle it.

September 2011

6:30-7:30 a.m.: Get kids up and fed; drag myself to shower/dress and hit the road
7:30 – 8:15 a.m: Commute time (checking BB at stoplights or taking conference calls with overseas during the drive)
8:15 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.: Work.  Eat at desk. Get up to pee maybe once or twice.
7:15 p.m.: Get home, spend a few minutes with kids while trying to cobble together a semi-healthy meal for the family.  Pray that Mr. V had actually reviewed homework with Pumpkinhead.
7:30 p.m. – Baby J bedtime (so, yeah, barely time to kiss him goodnight)
7:30 – 8 p.m. – Eat dinner/catch up with husband and Pumpkinhead.
8 p.m. – 11 p.m. – More work from couch, occasional conference call with Asia, make lunch for next day, hit the hay.

Weekends = more work at least for several hours one day or the other, plus constantly checking BB.

September 2012

6:30 – 7:30 a.m. – Shower/dress, help Pumpkinhead make his lunch, make my lunch, get Baby J up and chat with my Mom on Skype as we head out the door.
7:30 a.m. – 8:20 a.m. – Commute time with Baby J, singing Raffi and making cute faces at each other in the rearview mirror.  Drop him at in-house daycare downstairs.
8:30 a.m – 6 p.m. – Work, eat at desk most days, pee maybe three times on a good day, fly down to make 6p pickup time from daycare in lobby.
6:00 – 7:00 p.m. – Commute time home with Baby J.  Usually he listens to Raffi and Laurie Berkner and I pop headphones on and listen to PMBR or Law School Legends lectures.
7:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. – Make dinner, catch up with Pumpkinhead’s day.
7:30 p.m. – Baby J bedtime (still little time at home but the commute makes up for that
7:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. – Eat dinner, catch up with husband, review Pumpkinhead’s homework and papers from school.
8:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m. – Depending on the night, schoolwork or classes and catching up on a TV show with Mr. V.

Weekends = schoolwork and snuggling with Baby J, trying to make healthy meals for the week ahead, never-ending laundry, may check BB once but typically it’s off from Friday night until Monday morning.

In September 2011, I was in my third year of a very demanding and exciting job in the legal compliance department at a large corporation.  I was in a global role with lots of contacts and lots of responsibility/discretion and I loved it.  I was able to work on developing policy, training and marketing as well as data privacy initiaves that fascinated me.  However, in the 6-9 months prior to my departure, my position scope had narrowed and I felt less challenged.  I resented the time spent at home on the never-ending busywork and I was frustrated at being told they would eagerly support and partially fund my return to law school but then not being given the time to put in the required effort.  I reached out to internal contacts and ended up being offered a significant promotion to a role that does exactly the same work as the three in-house corporate counsel, just with a different title (and close to the same startig salary).  My company has a great history of hiring law clerks and mentoring them into in-house counsel roles.  The difference here is that they were part-time and I remain full-time.

In the past year, I have learned a lot about contract negotiation, risk allocation, etc. and have developed my skills working with internal clients and external legal and procurement contacts.  I have had more time for my family and don’t feel so overwhelmed.  But, as some of the commenters on my fellow MILPs’ posts pointed out, there is this weird self-defeating need to be in the thick of it in order to feel fully challenged.  The work I do is very rote.  Same thing day in and day out.  A lot of conflict at times when the customer doesn’t like or understand our language.  I miss the excitement and sense of purpose in my former role.

However, as I sit here, knowing I can devote several hours to my studies without concern about the work that awaits me Monday morning, I do appreciate the rarity of this type of position.  Both the GC and my direct boss chide me on taking on more than I can handle during the workday and get visibly frustrated if I try to do weekend or evening work.  They emphasize that school and my family are equally important priorities.  What more could I ask for?  As LL has pointed out, the grass is always greener on the other side.  I am hopeful that, at the end of this (long) law school journey, the promised in-house position materializes, particularly as I will owe them time when done unless I want to pay back the tuition borrowed.  But I am equally hopeful that I will be able to take on a manager- or director-level job in my former field and do the work that makes me happy without sacrificing my childrens’ teen years to the demands of my career, as much as I might love it.

I get the sense this never gets any easier and that there really are no perfect answers.  It’s hard to learn but it is next to impossible to give 100% to any one role you take on when you take on so many.  With that said, it’s back to studying and not worrying about the work awaiting me tomorrow morning.

One thought on “Reflections on Work/Life Balance

  1. It’s been interesting hearing everyone’s experiences managing work-life balance, especially yours and Lag Liv’s since you both admitted that you miss certain aspects of your old job, and it also seems like you’ve both successfully changed your professional lives to better accommodate your home lives.
    CM´s last blog post ..Work-life balance #5: Next steps

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