If you do an internet search on Motherhood and Partnership you’ll find an array of websites varying from how to choose between your career and your kids, to sites that assume you must work part-time to raise your kids, to sites that show how to deal with being Mommy-tracked. Yes, in the legal profession it is a stereotype that if you are a Mother you can’t be a successful attorney.
Well today I broke that stereotype.
From when you first graduate law school, you learn about the mysterious world of “partnership”. It instantly becomes your goal, even before you truly even know what that term means. Partnership is the main goal in our profession…to work hard, put in your time as an associate and finally reach the finish line when you can be dubbed “a partner”.
But when you are a Mom, it seems like that dream, that goal of partnership, is out of reach. Why take a partner that can’t bill as much because she has to care for her children? And I think society engrains in us so much that we are going to get “Mommy tracked” that we automatically believe we will be treated differently.
Today I was made partner at my firm, after 5 ½ years of being an associate. Over the years I have imagined how I would feel when the senior partner came in to tell me I had been made a partner…I played it out in my head. And today I got to experience it.
I was sitting in my office working on a brief. The senior partner walked into my office and shut my door…”Congratulations are in order”, he said. My heart leaped, for I had known that the partnership had had their meeting the evening before. “We decided to make you a partner”. The words seemed to echo in my head for a minute.
I was made partner? Me? The attorney who has never missed a child’s program at school, the attorney who stays home to nurse my kids’ colds, the attorney who has to run out the door at 4:35 every day to pick up my kids from daycare, the attorney who’s answering emails at 12:15 a.m. because I finally got the kids to sleep??
I am the first to admit I don’t fit the normal mold of a typical attorney. But what I learned in a split second sitting in my office across from the senior partner was that that was okay. My fellow partners had made a decision that I was worth it, even though I carry a lot of baggage.
But most importantly, I made partner without having to “hide” that baggage. From the moment I started at my firm, I made it well known that I was a “Mom”. That was my life. Even before I had kids, I told the partners at my firm that I was planning a family. Did they know that I would manage to have 3 kids in a span of 4 years? Probably not, but I made it known that this lifestyle was going to happen. And after my kids came, I made it well known that I had to arrive late, leave early and deal with my husband’s work schedule. I filled my office with dozens of pictures, handmade art work, and brought my kids to my firm for frequent visits. My daughter even has set up her own desk at the firm! So in other words I fly my Mommy flag loud and proud!
But I was still made partner. I am happy that my passion for the law and my profession could shine through my “mommy-ness”. Even though I am first and foremost a Mom, I love being an attorney. I love my job, I just don’t “live” my job. I am glad I chose a firm that not only could accept that, but has supported me in that choice. I am glad my partners could appreciate the quality of my work, not simply the quantity.
I have had strong women attorney role models to mentor me through my career. I have seen others break stereotypes, and now it’s my turn. I am so proud to become an owner of a firm I truly love and become partners with attorneys I respect and believe to be the best litigators around.
So, I’m here to tell you that it is possible to fly your Mommy flag and still succeed in your career goals. You don’t have to “sell out” in order to succeed. You don’t have to miss out on your children lives. You can “have it all”. Stereotypes are just that…stereotypes. They are meant to be broken.
Tonight when I told my daughter that I was made partner, she smiled and said “Yay WE’RE partners”. I laughed and said “Yes, WE’RE partners”.