I told one story recently that I couldn’t tell until after my parents were gone. Here is another:
I’ve described before how my mother was a stay-at-home mom. I, by contrast, worked as an attorney when my kids were little. It wasn’t too difficult with just one child, but the years right after my second child was born was one of the roughest of my life. I didn’t like the cases I was working on—they teemed with corporate politics and antagonistic opponents. It was far harder than I had anticipated to have two children instead of one. (Think about it—the ratio of one child to two parents is far better than the ratio of two children to two parents.)
There were many nights that year when I left work choking back sobs. Late one afternoon in the summer of 1986, I found myself escaping into a back corner of the law library to shed a few tears after my boss assigned me to another major lawsuit, when I already was handling one big case and a couple dozen smaller ones. I thought seriously about quitting my job. How could I manage any more than I had on my plate already?
In a conversation with my parents a week or two later, I bemoaned the fact that I had too much to do at work. I wanted a little sympathy from them, and I wanted some coaching from my father. He had always been a workaholic—at the office before dawn many mornings, traveling on business a lot through my school years, focused on his job while my mother focused on the house. Surely he would have some good advice on what to do.
“What you need,” my father said, “is a nice part-time job.”
This from the man who paid for my law school education!
I don’t know what I was expecting from him—maybe some ideas about how to prioritize assignments, or how to work more efficiently, or even how to push back on my unreasonable boss. I was not expecting my father to tell me to back away from work. He had drilled it into me throughout my college and law school years that after I graduated I would be responsible for myself. And now he wanted me to leave the career that would allow me to do that?
I knew darn well that no one where I worked—including myself— thought the job I had could be done on a part-time basis. There were part-time lawyer jobs, even in the mid-1980s, but I would have to find one elsewhere, and it wouldn’t offer the same intellectual satisfaction as the job I had.
And, damn it, no one was telling my husband he should find a nice part-time job. The kids were his as much as mine. It wasn’t fair that I should be the one to cede my career progress.
So I stuck to my guns, and my job, out of pique more than wisdom. I worked for another ten years in that job—continuing my 50-plus hours/week schedule—and then another ten years in other departments in the same company.
I never told my father his comment made me mad or that it provoked the stubbornness that kept me at my decidedly not part-time job. Somehow, my kids and marriage survived, as did I.
When has stubbornness kept you going?