Detoxifying Our Work World

[M]any women who started out with all the ambition in the world find themselves in a place they never expected to be. They do not choose to leave their jobs; they are shut out by the refusal of their bosses to make it possible for them to fit their family life and their work life together.

Anne-Marie Slaughter, A Toxic Work World


Thank you to everyone out there in cyberspace for reading The Docket. I feel your love and support every day, and I am so grateful to be able to offer an outlet to the many working moms that have reached out to me in connection with the Mommy, Esq. maternity and life coaching program. All of you out there are in my heart and prayers every day, and I hope that you feel the love pouring back out to you from all of us over here.

I have known for a very long time that I have wanted to give back to working mothers. Being a working mother myself, I know the struggle, intimately. I recognize all the work that it took to get me to where I am in my career—the late nights with my study groups, the endless outlining, the writing competitions, the internships, the endless interviews, the 65-hour work weeks, the client dinners, etc.—and I know how quickly I was ready to walk away from it all when I had my babies.

My story is just one of millions. It takes a strength that many of us don’t realize that we have to continue to fight for forward motion in our careers and a healthy, happy family.

The Mommy, Esq. maternity and life coaching program was born out of my desire to find a way to make it easier for us. And, I’ve found that the coaching program is very successful in bringing more clarity and focus to working mothers during their work days. They are returning home more energetic and carefree after shedding the stresses of their time at the office. They are more giving to their employers, clients and families and, perhaps most importantly, they are more giving to themselves. I love when I can witness that moment when a client “gets it,” when I can see the peace in her eyes and know that she’s recognized that she has the strength, balance, clarity and control over own happiness and destiny to achieve her best work- and home- lives. It’s amazing and rewarding and touching and transformative, and I want every working mother to have that experience.

Notwithstanding these major lifestyle improvements, however, there is one complicating factor that I have not been able to address in the program—the demands of our existing “work world.”

I wish I could tell you that the Mommy, Esq. maternity and life coaching program will make every aspect of your current life easier. That, by virtue of joining the program, you’ll suddenly find joy and success in every aspect of your life as it is, but that would be a lie. The program forces you to look at your life from a different perspective, question your beliefs and goals for your family life and career, and determine whether your life—as it is—will provide you with the family life and career that you’ve always dreamed of. And, the reason for that is that many employers elevate “quantity of hours worked over quality of the work itself” and define “work” as something that “happens ‘in an office,’ and/or ‘between 8-6,’” to quote this week’s New York Times opinion by Ann-Marie Slaughter. Many employers simply are not willing to bend and provide working mothers with the ability to work more flexible hours or from their home offices or outside of the traditional “billable hours” model.

As a result there often comes a point in the program where my clients need to decide whether their current career path will achieve their highest and best life. They ask themselves whether it would be better for them to be a stay-at-home mother for a time. They explore career postings at law firms listed in the 50 best firms in the country for working mothers. They request to work part-time or balanced work schedule and contemplate their employers’ responses to such requests.

I’ve been working tirelessly to come up with an answer that allows my clients to stay where they are and find their bliss—their best life—without a major “life overhaul” and without needing to confront these very difficult and often unsettling questions. I’ve been searching for a simple answer, a practice or technique, if you will, to provide. And, I’ve been labeling myself as unsuccessful for not being able to find one. That is, I labeled myself as unsuccessful until I read Ann-Marie’s opinion.

The simple answer is this…We just need to keep doing what we’re doing.

As we question what’s right for ourselves, as we make decisions based upon what will bring us the most joy, balance and peace, as we re-define what “success” means for each of us as a working mother, we’re leaving no room for outdated employment practices. We’re forcing a change on a much bigger scale. We’re creating a “work world” for ourselves, for our children, and for their children that actively prioritizes self-care and the importance of family. Mommy, Esq. is more than a maternity and life coaching program; it’s a movement.

I don’t want for any of us to look back on our lives and realize that it was anything less than amazing. I want us to be successful, and I want for each of us to achieve our own version of “success.” I want for employers to retain the talented, intelligent and accomplished women that they’ve hired. I want for us all to thrive.

I understand that many of you out there will read this and think that I’m naïve. That this all sounds great but it will just never happen. It’s all too big and too far gone to change. Well, to you, I would offer this:  As Ann-Marie notes in her opinion, my parents grew up in a world where blacks and whites had to use different bathrooms and water fountains. Women weren’t encouraged to go to law school or admitted to practice. Heck, just look at how long it took for Sandra Day O’Connor to be appointed to the Supreme Court. This all might seem like a lifetime ago, but we’re only looking back on the past 50 years or so. Unimaginable, huge, positive change has occurred over the past 50 years. To quote Ann-Marie, “given the magnitude of that change, think about how much we can still do.”

I am so thankful for all of the opportunities that my large law firm has provided me with, and I applaud its allowing me to “telecommute,” and have an extended maternity leave. But, my firm is just one of many. Could you imagine a world in which mothers could thrive under alternative work schedules that wouldn’t ostracize them? Could you picture being able to choose when and where you work from in order to achieve the best results for your firm, clients and family? It would be a wonderful life for all of us, employers and employees, alike.

With much love and compassion and hope for change,

Mommy, Esq.

We can, all of us, stand up for care. Until we do, men and women will never be equal; not while both are responsible for providing cash but only women are responsible for providing care. And though individual Americans might win out in our current system, America as a whole will never be as competitive as it ought to be. If we do not act, over time our families and communities, the foundation of our flourishing, will wither.

The women’s movement has brought many of us the right to compete on equal terms; it’s time for all of us to claim an equal right to care.

Anne-Marie Slaughter, A Toxic Work World

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