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Ever since I started thinking about becoming a lawyer, I have been trying to figure out if it is possible to be a full-time working attorney and a full-time mom. I had been discussing this topic with the other women that I met in the profession who were having babies and I had read all of the articles that I found on the topic. I watched as my friends and colleagues made different career decisions based on their new position as mom. I wondered which decisions I would make when the time came. People used to call it “having it all.” Well, now that I am a mom, I think that I have been able to have most of it, but I am not so sure that it is possible to have it all. The first decision was how long to take off for maternity leave. My firm is really wonderful when it comes to maternity leave, and there is little, if any, pressure put on an associate when it comes to how much time to take. It is a very personal decision, and some people use accrued vacation time and unpaid leave to extend their maternity leave. I wanted to be home for as long as possible after the baby was born, so I decided to wait until the last minute to start my leave. My husband and I talked about it and decided that it was important to us both that I stay home with the baby for six months. I also knew that one of my main clients had an annual project that was to be finished right around the time that I would be returning if I took my intended leave. We came up with the idea of my taking three months off and then working from home on the client’s project for the next three months. That would give me enough time to get the project done by the due date and allow me to spend the desired amount of time at home. The day that I announced to the firm that I was pregnant, I floated my idea. I approached the head of my department and then I approached the relationship partner and once they agreed that it was a feasible plan, the partner and I each spoke to the general counsel at the client. I was told that the discussion would resume and the decision would be made after the first three months of my leave to ensure that I still wanted to do it. The only advice that I can give to anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation is to prepare, prepare, prepare. I was very fortunate to be in a position where I knew that the client’s general counsel would be very supportive of the idea. She and I have been working together for years, and she has two children of her own. I knew that I was proposing something a little unorthodox, but I knew enough about the people involved and the decision-makers to know that I had a chance of making it work. I was also ready to be told “no.” After the first three months of maternity were over, I started the juggling act that continues to this day. I would work when the baby was napping during the day and at night when my husband came home and could relieve me. There were some days when the amount of work that I had to do was minimal, and I was able to catch up on sleep when she napped. There were other days when I would call my husband and tell him to come home early because I had a lot of work to do and needed help. I wouldn’t have been able to do this if my daughter was not such a good sleeper at night. I can’t imaging having to juggle all that I did and still have to get up a number of times during the night. I also would not have been able to do my work without the support of my husband. We all managed to work together, and the client was very happy with the final project. The next decision was whether or not I should come back to work as a full-time associate. I remembered talking to one of my friends about this decision when she was pregnant with her first child. We both came to the conclusion that no one can tell how they would feel about the decision whether to stay home, work part-time or work full-time until the decision was no longer a hypothetical one. My friend was pretty sure that she would be coming back full-time after her baby was born. I was pretty sure that I would want the part-time option. We were both wrong. She decided that she could not be a mother and a full-time lawyer. She needed to put all of her energies into one endeavor at a time to feel that she was doing the best job that she could. Her obvious choice was to stay home and raise her family. I decided that working full-time was the only thing that made sense for my emotional and intellectual needs. I love being home with my daughter, but I also love what I do. That said, I would not have been able to work full-time if my daughter wasn’t being taken care of so beautifully by her nanny. She is learning and growing and is a happy little girl. If there was any question that my time away from home was hindering or hurting my daughter in any way, I would quit on the spot. OK, maybe not on the spot, but I would make all necessary changes, no matter how drastic, to make sure that her needs were being met first. Coming back to work was also made easier by the fact that there are so many working moms around me. I have plenty of role models and, although I know that my decisions are working for me and my family, I can also see all of the various options open to women who want to balance work and family. I will let you know more about life in these particular trenches in later articles. Alison McKinnell King is an associate at New York-based Kaye Scholer. She can be reached at [email protected]

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