Thursday, October 20, 2011


I've been doing an unfortunate amount of thinking lately. Mostly this involves the same bullet points running around in my head, but because the bullets frequently contradict each other, none of them lead to any conclusions (except that it would be awesome to have a large trust fund) and they mostly just bump into each other and keep me from sleeping.

My thoughts, in no particular order:

I want a job that challenges me, in an area of law that interests me.

I want a smaller house in a different city.

I want to live in a different part of the country.

I want to live overseas.

I want more time with my family.

I want to pay off my student loans. I want that very, very much.

I want to want to feel done at 2 kids.

I want a family with 4 kids. More correctly, I see a grown family of four kids.

I do not want to spend $240,000 putting 4 kids through full time daycare.

I do not want to stay home full-time, ever.

I want JP to want to stay home in a few years. JP does not want this.

I want to travel with my family, a lot, everywhere, someday.

For reasons outside of my control (having to do with firm direction, etc. and the future of my section), I need to think about lateral job opportunities. This scares me. It opens up options which might be great, but there's too many of them and all have effects I can't see.

I am terrified of working somewhere people expect me to be physically present in the office after 6 p.m. I am terrified of working somewhere that does not provide me with the flexibility I currently have. I bill 2,000 hours a year, but the ability to move those hours around when necessary (for family dinner, for a daycare parade, etc.) makes my hours livable.

I need at least one more year at my current salary level to make a dent in my loans; JP not working for a year slowed down our accelerated repayment plan.

I want to be okay with paying off my student debt slowly and just carrying it for the next 25 years, but I am not. I want it gone.

I'm scared of taking a step back career-wise. I genuinely like what I do. I don't want to take a step back.

I want more time with my kids, now. In the day-to-day, it's fine, but I don't want to look back and wish I had more.

I want to re-learn how to take pictures with my DSLR in manual.

I want the next step to be clear. It isn't. It never is, I suppose, but that doesn't stop me from wanting it.


  1. Its like you are in my head. I am dealing with many of the same thoughts, about my job and what I want my career path and future to be like and how that fits with my family's plans for the future, and how to avoid the "out of the pan into the fire" problem with lateraling. I wish I had answers for you! It is scarily comforting knowing that I am not alone with all this swirling around in my head though. Oh, and manual mode on the DSLR? Please teach me when you figure it out.

  2. This is a good list.

  3. Go in-house, employ a nanny. Because of where I live I immediately think you should come to State Farm, but I suppose many F500 or F100 companies have great flexibility and pay for their in-house folks.

  4. Minus the fact that I am in a soft engineering, have less student debt and I did learn how to use my DSLR this past summer your list is very much like my own. I feel your pain ... and just wish I knew what to do about the 4 grown kids in my dreams but unwillingness to pay daycare for all of them...may be power ball lottery is the answer to all the questions =)

  5. I can't relate to everything on your list, but I do relate to a lot of it. I hope that you get some relief and that good things happen for you.

  6. I have my own list, but at least reading yours made me thankful that my husband is a stay-at-home dad. I forget to be thankful for that (as opposed to resentful)!

  7. Honey the fact that you have lasted as long as you have in biglaw as you have is a real testament to how truly excellent you must be as a lawyer. These thoughts are normal and the baseline for why most people don't stay in biglaw that long. at the end of the day, the higher up you get, the more your clients want of you, and the more hours you have to work. you can shift your schedule as you do, but ultimately that means staying up till 2 all the time and being tired and not giving your family your best. i dont think it's necessarily a function of having a husband that works or doesn't, i think the job basically just requires that it be the main thing in your life (the old adage re law is a jealous mistress), to the exclusion of a lot of things (more kids, the ability to watch the world series just because, the ability to randomly take off in the middle of the day without getting a panic attack at the blackberry, etc). as to smaller houses, come to the bay area. we have lots of expensive small houses. and as for loans, are they really that much as to require a biglaw salary? as opposed to a good regular commercial lawyer salary of e.g. 120k?

  8. I really like your blog but have never commented. I am a 2007 graduation with an 18 month old. Formerly I worked in a large city at a well known IP boutique. I had all of the same thoughts you have, except my husband is ok with staying at home a bit longer. My solution, I went in-house about 2 months ago. I love it! Better hours, not a huge pay-cut, cheaper city, the ability to cook dinner every night, make weekend plans, visit family, challenging work. The best part: the stress level is from 0-1 compared to the 9 I used to experience on a daily basis. I've lost 10 pounds, and my dark circles are going away. Seriously think about it. I could never go back.

  9. ...and I am back with a very useful link on using DSLR in manual mode:

  10. Sometimes, in the midst of worry, I like to read this quote:

    ‎"I have a nonreligious definition of faith. Faith is utter positivity. Currently, we operate on doubt and cynicism. We doubt we can find a fulfilling relationship, we doubt our finances will improve, we doubt our health will recover. What good is there to continue this negative mode based on doubt? Has it gotten us anywhere? Faith means holding a positive possibility and wishing good for oneself, others and for the entire world."

    Best of luck chica, I'm sure you will figure it all out=)

  11. I am feeling many of the same things at this very moment, but I am not always as positive as you have been about the big law experience. Things will work out for you...I know they will. But the planning and executing a transition is much harder than the new phase will be, so hang in there!

  12. So I can't help you with the upcoming choices, but I can give you a little dslr run-down (I'm an attorney myself, moving to Chicago soon for a new job and I am overwhelmed). The bigger the number (whether fstop or shutter speed) the small the aperture/shorter time the shutter will be open. e.g. shutter speed of 60 is actually 1/60 of a second, as opposed to a shutter speed of 2 which is 1/2 second. Aperture works the same way, but a smaller aperture (i.e. f-stop of 8 is f/8, which is much smaller than f-stop 2, which is f/2) will give you more depth of vision (so the entire picture will be detailed. Short version: bigger f-stop = blurry edges

  13. While this post is about moving forward, just wanted to point out that you made some great leaps of faith in the past. The example that comes to mind was the switch from corporate to litigation. I'm a corporate associate myself and, whenever you post about the parts of your job that you like, I get thinking that many of those parts wouldn't exist if you were still on the corporate side. Like Steve Jobs said, we can connect the dots looking backwards.... While the next move might not be clear you will create a great life for you and your family whichever path you take. You're just that kind of person :) Good luck!

  14. This is a pretty tall order and many of these I see as lifetime achievements mixed in with wants for the here and now. I don't mean to suggest that it's not doable, or that this list is not even worthwhile. Having reading your blog for a few years now (and having 12 years of perspective ahead of you), I think that overall, you sound discontented, a little trapped, and (quite reasonably) concerned about the unknown. I would focus on the job search and let this decision dictate the rest, for now. You need to be employed, and you are in a situation where you need to be well compensated. I doubt that you will find a similar quality home (not size, but quality) in another part of the country where both you and JP can find satisfying positions, and have good public school options. At least, not right now. You've mentioned Denver and the Bay Area in the past. Denver is much more expensive (public schools horrible. We're looking at $12k per year in private tuition), and the MBA market out here is awful. Public schools in CA are not great, and it's cost prohibitive, period (and particularly for someone with a young family who might want additional children). Since you are considering the lateral market, you might also want to consider in-house opportunities at the same time. Why not? Open yourself to every opportunity you would consider and see which way the winds take you.

    It's OK to feel overwhelmed and dissatisfied at times. We all feel it. My suggestion (and I mean this from the heart, and not at all as a scolding) is to focus on your job right now. Everything else will fall in place. You can make changes in the other areas when you have more financial freedom, and when JP is more settled in his career. Lots of hugs and best wishes.

  15. Woman, your thoughts are just like mine (except not exactly, as I have no kids and no mortgage). While I find the biglaw work challenging (and I will always want that intellectual challenge), I am so done with long hours and big egos. My mind races every day with big but contradictory thoughts. I have this money now, so what do I do? I want to buy a house on the ocean on the New England coast! I want a loft in the city! In New York! A bungalow in LA! A mini-cooper! I want round-the-world plane tickets and I want to take 6 months off! I want to have a baby now! Can I have all of these things and leave my high-paying job? These dreams are seem so irresponsible, especially given the state of the economy. Can I risk leaving the job to do what I want and find something that supports me and my future family? More to the point, I too, want the answer to be clear. And accepting that it isn't ever going to be is a tough pill to swallow for this risk-averse, control freak nervous nellie.

  16. I think it's normal to feel occasional discontent with your situation. For anyone. Both through choice and circumstance, I am on the slow, SLOW track career-wise, but I have a lot of time with my kids and in my home. I feel happy and fulfilled most of the time, just like you do at your job. Other times I feel like I am missing out by not having a more career-oriented job and wonder what will be available for me when I am ready to work full time (if that ever happens).

    We also talk endlessly about moving to another city, living in the city and ditching the cars, moving to a small town, and both getting jobs at some no-name liberal arts college. I don't think we'll ever go for it, but it's fun to dream.

    I'm sorry things are difficult right now. I hope some things become clear soon, or at least that you get a couple of Saturday nights to relax with a glass of wine and JP!

  17. Try to cross the student loans worry off your list . . . I stressed just like you. I put off having my 1st until they were paid off! (which took 5 years in BigLaw BTW - and they were public school-sized). Now, it's a financial decision I regret. It meant late entry intro the real estate market - bought our house in 2006 (not a good vintage for real estate purchase). I just wish that I hadn't worried so much about the student loans. Harder now that our house is really too small (yes, there is such a thing!) and we are underwater.

    BTW, on that note, Washington DC metro is an excellent choice for small, expensive houses :). Seriously, I think you would like fed practice. Challenging, yet more reasonable expectations (I have found it family-oriented - note that it is still not a 9-5 job - or at least, what you would enjoy/find challenging would almost certainly not be pure 9-5) BUT I enjoy this so much more that BigLaw. Hard to imagine a return , even for 3X the pay.

  18. When I was at your point--approx. 37 months in big firm--I got these same feelings. Pay off your debt and get out. I sent **every penny** to my loans (and my husband's loans) for the 10 months following my mini crisis, and now I'm free. And suddenly this job isn't as maddening--because I could leave it tomorrow.

  19. Agree with Anonymous @ 958 AM: google Dave Ramsey and pay off the student loans or make a huge dent in them; then, explore options. You will have more choices without huge debt.

    I personally would worry about putting four kids through college, not daycare. And I would choose my new state based on their public college offerings! :-)

    GOOD LUCK!!!!

  20. I was going to suggest the Dave Ramsey route as well but saw that anonymous beat me to it! To be debt free is absolutely so liberating and does give you many more choices and flexibility. Listen to him daily. He suggests not keeping student loans around like pets and I agree! On the daycare issue and four kids: don't worry about the money but ask yourself why have four kids if you are just going to have to put them in daycare?

  21. Really? Is it okay to have two "just to have to put them on daycare?"

  22. Anonymous @ 5:19 I think LL and her kids are a prime example of how, given the right child care situation, kids truly thrive. The stories about Landon and Claire's adventures at "day-cay" are some of my favorite.

  23. I love your list. I'm actually sort of on the other end. I made what I call a diagonal move. More responsibility, more pay, fewer hours, fewer last-minute crises, sounds great, right? But it took me out of the direct line to the top. Now, to get to VP level, I have to make a conscious effort to get "back into the game." I did it because I love my work, but I knew the area that I was in didn't offer any flexibility and the hours were awful. Now, I've got total flexibility, a baby-friendly work group, and I can't help wondering if I stepped away from the table too soon. Augh! I don't even know you IRL, and sometimes, I think to myself, "LL has a crazy schedule, 2 kids, and she's thriving. What was I thinking? Why did I take the easy road? Why am I such a slacker?"

    And to Anonymous @ 5:19 - Really? You can read this blog that clearly illustrates 2 successful parents who love their careers and their blissfully happy, much-loved children and still make a comment like that?

  24. LL: if you have 4 kids, daycare makes less sense. I have four kids too. An au pair is about $20 K per year, regardless of how many kids you have, and provides 45 hours of childcare per week. A nanny costs more, but can do all sorts of household tasks as well and can make your life much easier. Also, try not to think of childcare as a cost deducted from your income. Instead, think of your income after childcare as a perk. This helps me stay positive. For example, if a nanny costs (say) $30 K per year for 10 years, don't think "I don't want to spend $300,000 on childcare." Instead, think: "I want to spend 10 years *earning* [(your salary minus $30K)*10] and knowing that my kids are awesomely cared for and I am fulfilled and contributing to our family's security!"

  25. I was wondering when you were going to pick up the photography again. I really enjoyed your pictures and you seemed so passionate about it! Sucks that time is a issues. I feel the same way about painting... Good luck with it all!

  26. You know, I've struggled with a similar question. "Why did I go through IVF to have a full-time nanny while I work." And honestly, it is such a silly question. Being a mother is one of the most amazing roles I have ever had, but it's part of who I am and does not completely define me. I'm sure some people feel differently, but for me it's not balanced. I'm a public servant dedicated to creating good, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a yogi, a blossoming artists, an avid reader, a world traveler, etc. All of these other components help me to become a better mother.

    I don't like the endorsement that one way is the right way. We are all vastly different people with different goals and objectives. There is no one model.

    So LL -- do what you are doing. Follow your intuition. Lots of hugs.