Am I taking crazy pills?

In the last several months, I’ve interviewed approximately four people — three for a position at my firm, and one as a prospective student at my law school. None of them were total social misfits — for the most part, in fact, they were very personable.  All of them had achieved success in more than just academics — they had held clerkships or done interesting public service work, for instance.

And none of them — NONE — sent me a thank you note afterwards.

I can’t chalk this up to regional differences. Sure, I grew up in the South and we send thank you notes for everything. But the career services office at my Midwestern law school also encouraged us to send thank you notes after interviews.  We were told that email was OK (and possibly preferable, at least in law firm interviewing) but that the key was to get a thank you note to everyone you met with within the next business day. And I have always done this.

So it annoys me when I take time out of my day to meet with someone for their benefit and yet don’t get any kind of acknowledgment. It’s not like these people didn’t have my email address or other contact information — every single one grabbed one of my business cards. And it’s not like any of them were new to the interviewing thing — all of them had had jobs, good jobs, where interviewing (and presumably sending thank you notes) would have been the norm. No college students in the bunch. No, just a bunch of people who were either too lazy or just plain didn’t think a thank you note was necessary.

So some advice for all you job seekers — send thank you notes after interviews. They don’t have to be long or involved (though a personal note about whatever you talked about is a good thing, and they should be carefully proofread), but you really should send them. They really do make a difference.

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The lies we tell ourselves and others.

A few weeks ago, we traveled to Chicago for a wedding. The bride and groom were both friends from law school — in fact, I knew them independently of each other before they started dating, which I think made me sort of unique at this particular wedding, and also gave me a really nice perspective on it.  But I digress. This post isn’t about their beautiful, incredibly fun wedding, or about how ecstatically happy they obviously both were.  It’s about a conversation I had at the wedding.

Mr. D. and I were seated at a table with three other couples — one engaged, and two married with kids. As I am (obviously) pregnant, I spent some time talking with the women who are mothers about pregnancy, childbirth (not graphically, it just turns out of them used to live in DC and went to the same OB practice I go to, and delivered at the same hospital as I will), and motherhood with a career.

One of these two women is a lawyer in a small family law firm and the other is a stay-at-home mom, and both are married to lawyers. So of course we talked some about going back to work versus staying at home and the pros and cons of both.  So, for instance, the one who works noted that she works only three days a week and, while she is glad to have the extra time at home with her kids, she also feels like that schedule means she’s not really able to be her best either as a lawyer or as a mom.  I thought that was a really interesting observation, if a little sobering. But that’s fodder for another post.

They both asked if I was planning to go back to work and I said yes. And then I said something that I find myself saying a lot, but that I’m not sure is really true, and that’s what I wanted to write about. I said that I was definitely going back to work because I knew I wasn’t really cut out to be a stay-at-home mom.  I have actually been saying this for years. It’s certainly something I used to believe was true. But the fact is, that’s not really the reason I’m going back to work.

I am going back to work because we cannot afford for me not to.

I’m not saying that, given unlimited resources, I wouldn’t go back to work eventually — I think I definitely would. But I think I’d be likely to give staying at home a try, at least for a few years, while my kids are small. To be honest, I’ve always said I’m not cut out to stay at home because my mom never stayed at home, and she and I have similar temperaments. But the reality is that my mom did stay home with us when we were very little and even when she went back to work, she went back part-time.

Now that I’m actually on the precipice of becoming a mother, and a working mother at that, I am starting to sense that I probably would enjoy staying home for a few years. But in my head, admitting that feels like failure. I have an advanced degree from a good school! I have my dream job! I believe my work is valuable, even necessary, and I love the challenges it presents to me on a regular basis! Admitting, even to myself, that I also think I’d probably love to walk away from all of that for a few years to stay at home feels a lot like admitting that getting that degree and doing that work is unimportant or irrelevant.

I think the reality for me is going to fall somewhere in the middle. I really do think that I’d begin to resent being a stay-at-home mom if I did it forever.  I know I’d at least regret it — I’d miss my work and feeling like I was doing something important for the community. But if I could get past that regret and find interesting volunteer work, for instance, to occupy me, I also think I’d probably really enjoy it.

Of course, all of this is moot, because I have to go back to work, because we cannot afford for me to stay at home. We both have student loan debt. We have car payments to make. We have to have a place to live and food to eat, and we live in a pretty expensive metro area. And I make a good living. We could not live here if I did not work. Again, I really love my work, so that will make it easier for me to go back. But I’d have to go back even if I hated my job.

The question I asked myself after that dinner conversation at that wedding was why I was reluctant to admit that truth. Instead of saying, “Hey, I have to work to provide for my family, so yeah, I’ll be going back,” I said, “Oh, I’m going back because I just don’t think I’m cut out to be a stay-at-home mom.” Why was I unwilling to admit that I might want to stay home but can’t?

I don’t think this is something that I’m alone in experiencing. I think a lot of professional women are reluctant to admit that it’s not just love of their jobs that sends them back to work. (And I do mean “just” — I don’t think this is an all or nothing thing. One can enjoy one’s job even while regretting the necessity of working.) Frankly, I need to get over feeling like a failure for admitting that I’m not racing to get back to work. Finances are no less valid a reason to go back to work than is a burning desire to actually go back to work. Even if I enjoy my work — which I do — I’ll probably still miss my kids, and miss being at home with them, and wish I could do things differently. And that’s OK.

So. I will be going back to work. Partly because I want to, but also because I have to.

Moving foward.

So it’s been a while.

Things at work exploded over the last few weeks, with three separate matters all going into overdrive for me, so that’s been part of it. Also, we were doing a little bit of traveling — to Chicago for a wedding, and then on a quick weekend road trip for my birthday. And I’ve just been sort of mentally overwhelmed with getting ready for this baby to be here in approximately ten weeks.

Ten weeks! How can that even be possible? We haven’t picked up our crib (though thank God we went and ordered it a couple of weeks ago), we don’t have a crib mattress, we don’t have any receiving blankets, we have very little in the way of clothes for this kid, and while we finally decided to go ahead and do cloth diapers, I haven’t actually bought any.

So.

Meanwhile, I’m getting bigger and bigger and more and more uncomfortable. Sleeping is now a hit-or-miss prospect. I have a recurring pain in my upper back/ribs that makes me think the baby is posterior — or maybe it’s just that my body is just not happy with all the extra weight on my front.  Whatever the cause, it is so painful that I feel like I shouldn’t be able to breathe, even though I can. By the end of the day, most days, I have a definite and distinctive waddle and my feet are usually overflowing my shoes.

Despite all my complaining, I am getting more and more excited to meet this kid! We do have a pack ‘n play with a bassinet, so the kid has a place to sleep, and we have SOME onesies and sleepers, and receiving blankets are easy enough to get. And if we haven’t gotten our cloth diapers by the time the baby comes, we can start out with disposables and switch as we get acclimated.  It will all be OK.

So today, we’ll go pick up our crib and hopefully put it together. And we’ll try and get the nursery area set up. And I’ll do some work, because I’ve still got more than ten weeks to go till my due date and my clients have stuff that needs to be dealt with. Onward!