Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Identity Crisis

Two weeks ago while I was on vacation with my family, my husband was going through the local paper.  He found an attorney position - in-house counsel - that required 2-3 years experience and paid one-and-one half times my current salary.  Now I know talking about income is not socially acceptable, but dammit, when you are raising two kids on basically one income, it MATTERS.  This entry is not about the woes of being a "poor" lawyer (I used to think that was an oxymoron), but about the quandry I am now in: weighing the pros and cons of my family's current situation. The ultimate JDMom conundrum - work v. family.

The small town general practice is not a lucrative occupation - I have done it for the last several years because I like what I do, I like the atmosphere at the county courthouses as opposed to Polk County, I love the people I work with.  I sincerely believe this is a great fit for me.  But lately, I've been pondering whether it is the best fit for my family.

Honestly, my family has struggled financially since we moved out here.  My husband is a website and graphic designer.  He lost his job when his company moved out of state and he's been home with the kids ever since.  He does work independently and contributes some to the family coffers but the majority of his income goes to provide health insurance for him and the kids.  Full time employment for him is not really an option out here, unless he is willing to drive a full hour every day to work, which, honestly with the cost of gas and day care would probably save us nothing but a little piece of his sanity.

We live in a very small town.  The nearest Hy-Vee is 35 minutes away; the nearest Target - an hour.  We came from Des Moines, and before that, St. Louis, so for Steve it's been a little culture shock.  Even more so when we saw the disparity in attorney incomes.   He wants to move to a larger city with more opportunities (and more restaurants!) for both of us. His vote - move.

B is 8. He has lived in this town almost his entire life.  He has tons of friends and doesn't want to move.  In fact, just talking about the possibility, hypothetically, brought him to tears.  On the other hand, my son is brilliant; I'm not just saying that because I'm his mom.  He is, literally, brilliant and I worry about whether he will be missing out on something - some big educational opportunity- if we stay out here.  The school is doing its absolute best to keep him engaged but it is not equipped with the staff or programming to keep up with him if he were challenged on a daily basis.  As a kid, he is well-rounded and socially he blends in with his class mates.  I think that he could just stay here, be the best in his class, and be completely happy.  However, he'd also likely be completely anonymous and could lose out on some great academic recognition and opportunities (can you say FREE COLLEGE) if he remains in the obscurity of small town Iowa.  His vote - stay here. He doesn't want to move - ever!

H is 6. She's a bright cookie. Happy, shiny - she'll fit in anywhere she goes.  Although she'd like to be closer to the beach or some fun places.  She absolutely loved Dubuque and was all about moving there two weeks ago.  I am less worried about her one way or the other. She is smart, too, but still challenged in her regular classroom. She'll be herself where ever she is and will be content with that.  I grew up in a small town, and didn't turn out so bad, so I know that it can be done.  Her vote - adventure!

Finally, there's me.  I'm not going to lie. I was not expecting to be living paycheck to paycheck seven years out of law school.  I was not expecting to be still fighting for some type of authority in my job five years after coming out here.  I am beginning to wonder if this is for me.  The work, I know and I love.  I am comfortable and live a primarily anxiety-free existence.  But is familiarity preventing me from reaching my full potential - professionally and financially? I really wonder.  My vote - undecided...

If anyone out there has any nuggets of wisdom, any advice or warnings - I would LOVE to hear it.



  1. Hey Christine! I am a friend of Jean Anne's & really enjoy reading the blog. :)

    I am an in-house counsel (for the same company Jean Anne works for) and if one has to work, it is a really, really good position.

    Is it crazy busy when I'm here? Yes. Do you have to put up with corporate politics? Yes.

    BUT: I generally like the work I do and I can count on one hand the number of weekends I've worked in 8 1/2 years. I do not miss billable hours AT ALL. Also, although I do work some after the kids go to bed at night it is limited to checking my blackberry for things that may have come in from the west coast after I've left for the day and sending a few e-mails. 20 - 40 minutes, tops.

    I've really enjoyed being an in-house counsel & found it a good way to balance being a mom and being a lawyer.

    As for your son...that would be hard. But, I think kids are resilient; and if you're not happy, eventually they won't be happy either.

    Good luck in your decision. If you'd like to talk more I'd be happy to do so. Jean Anne can hook us up. :)


  2. Here's my two cents: for me large, small, high paid or low paid the key to finding the perfect place to work as a Working Mom is flexibility. I work for an insanely busy firm, and most people come up to me and say they can't believe I work there with all the work load. BUT, no matter how busy it is, they are flexible. I work different hours than most attorneys here.

    Now with that said, a higher paid job also provides flexibility because it allows you more opportunity. But I would look for a job where you think you could be the happiest. And not just work happy.

    As for the kids, moving is never easy. I am not looking forward to moving a in a couple years cross town yet alone a new place. But kids are resilient and will bounce back no matter what.

    Good luck and keep us posted!