Working Moms: Why It’s Hard, and What We Can Do About It
If we normalize the demands of motherhood, we can change the way working moms are treated within the law industry—and beyond it!
Here in the United States, women represent a significant portion of the workforce. However, studies show that women aren’t as happy at work as their male colleagues. In the law field alone, 30% of all women attorneys end up leaving their profession—with another 1 in 4 considering the same move.
There are a number of reasons, including workplace discrimination, toxicity, and pay disparities. Add in a woman’s desire to raise a family and the reasons grow exponentially. Working mothers are often seen as being less committed to their careers, and are often “mommy tracked” away from leadership roles because of that perception. For example, can they really lead a company if they might have to leave the office at any moment to be with a sick child?
No doubt, it’s hard to be a working mom.
Especially if you’re a working lawyer mom. The field itself is a particularly demanding one. Claudia Goldin, a Harvard economics professor, calls it a “greedy profession” because of entrenched expectations and demands. Lawyers often work more than 40 hours in a given week, making it exceptionally hard to balance work and family responsibilities.
Statistically speaking, women take on a bulk of those responsibilities—and juggle or hide them so they don’t inconvenience their colleagues, or to avoid being perceived as less than. And that right there is the reason why we need to normalize the struggles that working moms face, especially within the law industry.
We need to make it okay for working moms to attend to their sick kids, or take time off to chaperone field trips. We need to make it okay for working moms to arrange their schedules in a way that accommodates the school day. And the more we do…the more we as working moms prioritize these things, the more leadership roles we assume, the more women-led law firms we establish…the more we can promote and institute both acceptance and change.
I promise you, it works. With three kids, I’ve certainly faced a few struggles of my own. Like snow days, kids getting sick at school, court times that overlap with school drop-off, last-minute field trips and early dismissals—you can relate, right?
I overcame all of those struggles by going out on my own. I started my own law firm, created a team with stacked schedules, and I’ve been very vocal about my availability to ensure that work and life demands remain in balance. In turn, I provide a family-friendly culture to my team members.
Trust me, this is within your reach, too. You CAN create a professional life that complements your personal life. And when you do, you can also help promote change within the profession by offering that same work/life balance to other women.
I realize it sounds impossible, but it’s truly the only way to be in the driver’s seat. And if law firm ownership is not in the cards right now, I offer you these tips:
Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself at work. With some planning, you can propose creative solutions that meet obligations at work and at home.
Expect (and demand) an equal partnership between you and your spouse. For example, one of you takes the kids to school while the other heads to the office, then switch when it’s time to pick the kids up so the other can continue working.
Talk to your family about the work you do. Explain why it’s important, then emphasize why THEY are important as well! My kids know that I am a lawyer, that I help people, and I do most of that while they’re at school. They also know that afternoons and weekends are reserved for us to spend time together as a family.
Could you imagine if every working mother everywhere did these things? Especially if they advocated loudly for themselves AND others? The resulting change would be phenomenal. It would be the normalization of all things working mom.
We’re seeing some of it within the law industry (and certainly beyond it), but the statistics are still imbalanced. So I leave you with one final thought—how will YOU sway the numbers?
I believe you can.