I was inclined to skip this one. But since I blogged about whether men really care about work/life balance, I have no choice but to weigh in about the female associate at Clifford Chance who abruptly quit her job.
It’s the classic “women can’t have it all” story—Big Law–style. The anonymous associate’s memo, which Above the Law got its hands on (Clifford’s communications director Michael Kachel verified the accuracy of the email but told us, “it was a good-bye letter intended with some humor”), recounts her typical work day:
4:00am: Hear baby screaming, hope I am dreaming, realize I’m not, sleepwalk to nursery, give her a pacifier, and put her back to sleep
4:45am: Finally get back to bed
5:30am: Alarm goes off, hit snooze
6:00am: See the shadow of a small person standing at my bedroom door, realize it is my son who has wet the bed (time to change the sheets)
6:15am: Hear baby screaming, make a bottle, turn on another excruciating episode of Backyardigans, feed baby . . .
The memo goes on with an every-15-to-30-minute account of her day, including her hectic time at the office, mad dash to day care to pick up the kids by 6 p.m., shower at 1 a.m., and finally her own bedtime at 1:30 in the morning. Finally, she tells everyone she can’t take it anymore:
Needless to say, I have not been able to simultaneously meet the demands of career and family, so have chosen to leave private practice, and the practice of law (at least for now). I truly admire all of you that have been able to juggle your career and family and do not envy what a challenge it is trying to do each well.
ATL‘s Elie Mystal calls the memo “heartbreaking.” He adds, “It shouldn’t be so damn hard—in the richest country on Earth—to have a big-time job and be a loving parent. The struggles highlighted by this woman make me sad as a new parent myself.”
More often than not, I’m on the same page with my buddies at ATL. But I do wonder if Mystal is getting a bit maudlin in this instance. While I generally share his cynicism about law firms, I think he goes overboard in making Big Law the culprit. I, for one, wonder what was going on with the associate on the home front.
Let me be blunt: Where the hell was her husband in all this? Why wasn’t he getting up to give the crying baby the pacifer, taking the kids to day care, picking them up, putting them to bed, etc.? One of the few references the associate makes to her spouse is this:
7:45pm: Negotiate with husband over who will do bathtime and bedtime routine; lose.
Not to be presumptuous, but I think we should all chip in for some negotiation courses for this poor woman. I realize we don’t have all the facts, but her husband seems to be getting away with murder.
Another question: If both of them have demanding careers, why don’t they get a nanny so that she doesn’t have to rush about like a madwoman? And please don’t tell me they can’t afford one. We are talking about people who make a decent living, not someone who’s stocking shelves at Kmart.
Look, I don’t want to fault anyone, and I don’t think we have the complete picture. Big Law is unrelentingly demanding and stressful—but it’s too easy a target. At some point, we have to take measures to make our own lives a bit easier. Like getting more help. Or telling your spouse to get off his ass.
Related post: Men on Paternity Leave Are Slackers.
Do you have topics you’d like to discuss or tips to share? Email chief blogger Vivia Chen at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow The Careerist on Twitter: twitter.com/lawcareerist