Saturday, July 11, 2009

Letter to Juliet

Dear Juliet:

This began as a letter of preemptive apology, and seemed to end as a kind of manifesto for our lives. It is more for me right now than for you, but someday I hope you can read it and that you will understand.

I'm sorry, Juliet, that I'm not out with you and Dad and your brothers on the lake today. I'm sitting in our totally unkempt home, trying to study for the hardest bar exam in the United States which is in less than three weeks. I'm trying to ignore your little brother, who at 26 weeks gestation appears hell-bent on getting out of my uterus any way possible. Fortunately, he hasn't convinced my body that it's time yet. He's just doing a lot of punching and kicking. I blame it on the caffeine, but that's a whole other apology letter I have to write.

I'm sorry for leaving you three, four, sometimes five nights a week for the past four years to go to night school. Those days were just awful. I would get home at 3:05 just in time for your big brothers to get home from school, and in the two hours I was home in the afternoons I would try desperately to do my reading for the evening so as to never be caught in the middle of class unprepared ever again. (That happened when I was pregnant with you my first year. The professor made me cry in the middle of class. Not my shining moment.)

Most afternoons I would be helping your brothers with their homework, cleaning the kitchen and trying to cobble together some semblance of dinner so your poor dad wouldn't have to do it with three kids running around the house. I would leave the house to go pick you up at 5, just so I could have half an hour to see you that day before I went off to class. Sometimes, I didn't even get that half hour.

When I stumbled back through the door at 10pm after class, I would try to hang out with Dad, make some coherent conversation, finish laundry, and then I'd come in and kiss you goodnight. Later in the wee hours of the morning you would wander into our room and crawl into bed with us. I confess that I stopped putting you back in your own bed after a while, just because it felt so good to cuddle with you, and I missed you. You're not your normal stubborn, ornery self when you're sleeping.

As difficult as these past four years, and these next three weeks have been/are going to be for us, I know the future is going to be difficult too. There are going to be nights when I will have to work late. There will be more weekend boating trips lost to the office. There will be the long days where you will may have to sit in some unfriendly day care center, surrounded by weird kids and impassive underpaid teachers who don't really give a crap about you, and maybe you still won't be bothered by it. Maybe you never will. Or maybe you'll feel lonely and frustrated because there's so much you wish you could be doing, and you can't do it because you weren't able to have the opportunity. I hope not.

I can't tell what the future will bring. Maybe we'll be rich enough to afford the best day care, babysitters and camps and extracurricular activities. Maybe my job will be flexible enough that I will be able to get off work early sometimes to see you. Maybe not. But I want you to know why I am spending so much time away from you, trying to pursue this goal of becoming a lawyer.

Why a lawyer, anyway? The answer: No real big reason. It could have been anything: restaurant owner, business executive, the Peace Corps, running a theatre company. What I found was that I wasn't happy sitting at a job with four walls. I needed to be doing something where the horizon went as far as the eye could see; where possibilities were limitless, and where with enough hard work I could do and be anything. I need to be somewhere where I can, eventually, develop and exhibit leadership skills. Where I can make some kind of difference in the lives of people, and the world in general. A legal office just happened to be my first real job (as a secretary) out of college. And I looked around and saw all the opportunities I just described, plus a real intellectual challenge. And I thought, I want to do this.

Now I have dreams of becoming a sharp, talented professional; someone regarded as the best in their field; a respected leader who can guide a group or an organization to do great things. I dream of putting all that power behind a cause that can help everyone regardless of income level or race or gender. I don't know what all the details are yet, but I feel like I've built a foundation that will let me get there.

I'm excited about my dream. But I know that it's incompatible with certain things. I can't do it and be a stay at home mom for you. I can't do it and not sacrifice the occasional weekend/evening with you. I can't do it and have a slow, quiet job where I simply show up and sit behind four walls five days a week, even if it means I get home at the same time every day for you. I must make certain sacrifices.

What I can promise you is that those sacrifices will never subsume the thing in the world that is the most important to me: my family. I will not miss the important events. I will do everything in my power to be home by dinnertime. And when I am home, I will be there 100%; no blackberries or laptops allowed.

I will tell you that I struggle inside every day with my decisions. I would not be truthful if I said that it was easy. We are not so long out of thousands of years of male-dominated society that the biological instincts I have do not rage inside of me. But I am doing my best to deal with them and trying to formulate a family and career that are compatible. I look at Michelle Obama, or Sandra Day O'Connor, or Hilary Clinton or other female business leaders as my inspiration, and I think, I can do this.

And what I hope, beyond hope, is that during those hours that I am there for you, that what you will see is inspiration. I hope you will see what you want for yourself. Even if what you want is totally different - even if you want to be a SAHM yourself someday. What I want is for you to see what it is like to devote all of your energy to something, to be committed 100%, and to be a successful woman, whatever your definition of success may be. Even if it meant I had to be away from you sometimes, I hope you can take from that struggle the lessons of independence and perserverence and rise above those feelings of loneliness and resentment that I know you will sometimes have.

And out of all of this, I want you to have the self-confidence to say: I can do that. And not to worry about what you look like, or whether you're smart or funny or talented enough. You are beautiful, and I can already tell that you are going to make me very proud. You are going to do great things, Juliet, and I hope that in the near future we will be doing them together.

That's all for now. Back to studying.

Love,

Mama

4 comments:

Dakota said...

This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing. You speak for so many of us.

Best of luck on the bar - and beyond!

Dani said...

Your letter made me smile and reflect upon the choices us women make for ourselves and for our children. It was a nice break from studying for the bar!


Best of luck to you,

Another law mama (of three girls) taking the bar in a week and a half!

law mama said...

Thank you Dani! Wow, another mom, my age, in California, with multiple children, about to take the bar. Can't say I knew anyone else like that until today. I read about your daughter Maggie and nearly cried! I am so happy that she's doing better. I'll keep my fingers crossed. I can't believe you have a 1-year old on top of everything else, and you managed to make it through law school while all that was going on. You are quite an inspiration. Please keep in touch.

Take care,

Reg

Dani said...

I had completely forgotten that I had posted a profile with info about myself! I was very confused for a moment! I posted that profile two years ago.... I am now 30 and my daughters are 9y, 4y and 15 months! :) I actually graduated two years before my Maggie's diagnosis. I stayed home with my two kids, figuring I would take the bar after Maggie started preschool. Her diagnosis changed our plans a bit...but here I am, four years later and ready to take the bar!

Are you on facebook? There is a group down here in San Diego called MAMAS - Mother Attorney Mentoring Association (they post info on facebook). They coordinate events that relate to balancing motherhood and legal careers as well as events that allow us moms to bring our children and network with others who have been there before us and succeeded. It is a great organization! Perhaps you have a similar group up in your area.

Oh, my email is danischerrer@gmail.com. Please add me on facebook (if you are on there) or send me an email some time. Either way, I will be following your blog!

Best of luck on the bar. As you know, it is definitely a challenge to prepare with kids running around! :)

Dani