I am 60 years old and I have been employed since I was 14. In the 1970's, when I was coming of age, there was a lot of talk about women's rights (back then called "women's lib") about how women could have it all - a rewarding and lucrative career, a wonderful family, and an immaculate house. Women could have it ALL. I am very happy about how my life has turned out this far. That's not to say there were no problems or hard decisions, but I think some women expect too much from themselves and society. So do men. Here are the three myths about mixing careers and family:
1. Being a working parent is a women's issue - it takes two people to make a baby, not just a mother. Being a working parent is a human issue, not a women's issue. My husband and I have raised two children. We are both parents, and we have both made sacrifices in our lives for the sake of our children. When a child is sick, he or she needs a parent, not just a mother. In order for parents to successfully raise children in a two parent household, both parents need to chip in - with parenting, household chores, and day to day living. We still believe in this country that husbands and fathers need not take on the same responsibilities for home life as mothers and wives. That's balderdash. Of course, some mothers and fathers are single parents and don't have a partner to rely upon. We, as a society, need to support those parents who have total responsibility of child-rearing. People like me, whose own children are grown, should step in and help nurture and raise the children. I know it's corny, but, it does take a village.
2. You can have it all - No you can't! In life all of us must establish priorities. In our firm, among my partners, who all happen to be female, we have two priorities - family first, firm comes second. When my partner Marie and I were in law school she was single and I was married with a toddler. My husband worked evenings, so I was home evenings with our son. Marie went to law school gatherings, social occasions and parties. I did not. I awoke at 5:30 a.m. to study when the house was quiet. I also studied all day Sundays and my husband took care of our son. I didn't mind missing the parties at all. Having a family in law school grounded me. I knew that my family was more important than a Torts exam and I made choices. As a lawyer, when I get ready for trial, my husband took over my parenting and home responsibilities and I immersed my self in trial. I pay attention to nothing else but my client and the case while I trial, because I can't do a good job otherwise. That's when my husband has really stepped up to the plate. It worked for us. We all make choices. I know I am lucky to have a spouse who believes as I do about working parents. Single parents also need to prioritize and ask for help. There are no easy answers, no ways to avoid sacrifice.
3. To be successful, we all need to climb the corporate ladder - I have never desired to be a big wonkedy-wonk in a gigantic law firm, nor do I have any desire to be vice-president of Facebook, Apple or General Motors. In the thirty years I have practiced law, I have been self-employed for all but three of those years. Not having a boss is one of the greatest things about my job. Mind you, no one pays me overtime, sick leave or vacation pay. When we get money in the door, paying staff comes first, then other overhead, and the lawyers are paid dead last. And sometimes there can be a long stretch before money comes in the door. That is the nature of a contingent fee Plaintiffs' practice. But, I love representing my clients and I was always able to take my kids to work, not just in April, or take off work to spend time with My kids. Money and power are not as important to me as family and firm. Plus, as a self-professed misfit, I don't think I would fare well in a large corporate structure. There are simply too many people telling you what to do. And people in large organizations can be capricious, power hungry and overly ambitious. No thank you.
I am not saying my way is the right way for all working parents, but the balance my husband and I established worked well for us. You can't have it all. You need to decide what is really important to you, and go for it. And quit whining.
Sunday, May 19, 2013
I am an employment lawyer and, based on jobs my female clients have had, here are my best jobs ever, in reverse order:
10. FORK-LIFT OPERATOR - You get to operate a machine, manipulate rows of goods, where earphones, hopefully with music. You are in your own world, moving things with machinery. However, this job is not near as good if the predominantly male co-workers sexually harass you and draw nasty pictures in trucks with your name over the photo.
9. MICROBIOLOGIST - this is a great job, if you get to search for cures for breast cancer without your boss feeling you up.
8. SELLING TESTS TO DOCTORS TO FIND THE GENE THAT ANGELINA JOLIE HAS - this job helps humanity, as long as you are not fired because you are pregnant.
7. OFFICER IN THE AIR FORCE - great job for a woman as long as you are lucky enough to avoid harassment and rape.
6. POLITICAL ASSISTANT - great job, as long as the boss' wife doesn't come to work at the office.
5. DELIVERY TRUCK DRIVER AND UNION MEMBER - fun job to load truck and deliver presents at Christmastime, as long as your co-workers don't try to date you and then write lies about you when you complain to management.
4. WORKER AT SCHOOLS - Great job if you love kids of all races and genders, unless you work for the Kansas City School District. Enough said.
3. LAWYER - great job, unless your fate is decided by other lawyers, especially those who run or seek political office.
2. PHARMACEUTICAL SALESPERSON - Great job, on the edge of medical breakthroughs with good salaries, unless you don't like your employer violating the law buy marketing drugs that haven't been approved by the FDA.
1. NURSE - one of the most necessary and rewarding jobs that really makes a difference, unless the hospital doesn't care about patient safety or you don't like the doctor fondling your butt.
Sunday, May 12, 2013
Today is Mothers Day. I have two grown children whom I love dearly. I would not presume to tell other mothers how to parent their children, except (there are always exceptions) to teach your children to vote. Voting is so important in oh so many ways. The Missouri Legislature just overwhelming passed a bill commanding Missourians to ignore and violate federal gun laws. It seems they don't care that within the United States Constitution there is a part named the "Supremacy Clause" which commands that federal laws supersede state laws. This bill, if signed into law will only make money for the lawyers opposing and defending the bill in the courts of appeals before the law is soundly struck down as unconstitutional. What a great waste of taxpayer dollars.
And then there are the politicians who believe they need not follow anti-discrimination laws because, as one must presume they are either ignorant of the law or believe they are above the law. These politicians also waste taxpayer dollars in settlements and verdicts by victims of age or other discrimination. These people also need to be defeated in the polls.
Fellow Mothers, we have only had the vote in this country since 1920. The vote is powerful. We and our children can make a difference. We need informed voters. Teach your children to be an informed voter and society will benefit. Apathy paves the way to votes going for the highest bidders. Teach your children that if they vote intelligently, elections will not be bought by the wealthy individuals and corporations who want to have lawmakers in their pockets. Teach your children to vote!
Sunday, May 5, 2013
The times they are a'changin'. And it's about time. We are witnessing a monumental shift in this country's attitude toward gays and lesbians, and to same sex marriage. I did not think these advances would happen in my lifetime. When I was in high school "queer" was a dirty word. People were afraid to come out, and for good reason. Gays were relentlessly harassed. They were made to believe that there was something indecent about their makeup.
Not until the past few years, or maybe even months, as society become to accept LGBT lifestyles. I think I know one of the causes of this change - our wonderful youth in this country. They thought our provincial attitudes about gender were stupid, and they were right. Their friends and relatives came out, and rather than create a family crisis, young people understood and accepted. This gives me faith in the next generation.
Same sex marriage will probably become legal everywhere within a few years. Laws outlining discrimination for sexual orientation will not be far behind!
I remember the transsexual woman who was harassed because of her dress and makeup many years ago. I could not help her then. I hope she is doing well. I feared for her safety. I dearly hope I can help the next LGBT person who comes to see me because our legislatures have taken a stand to protect all employees' rights, not just the ones who feel as the lawmakers do. VIVA LA DIFFERENCE!