I received an offer from the firm I interviewed at last week. The partner from my old firm, who moved to the new place, called and left me a voicemail with the details. When I listened to the voicemail, I felt like I was only catching the drift, not hearing the individual words. As the words washed over me -- "Making you an offer... Would love to have you on board... Conflicts paperwork... " -- it hit me. I was going back to work.
Remember those days I never got dressed? The week I finally put "take a shower" on my to-do list to make sure it happened? Remember the long mornings weeding my garden, filled with gratitude for all I had? The DIY projects I took on, some more successful than others? The books I read, the naps I took, the old hobbies revived? All of that was ending.
When my phone rang, I was doing yoga for the first time in months (years?), trying to alleviate the back pain that had been plaguing me for the last month or so. I heard the phone ring, but could not find it to answer in time, so I paused my video, waited for the voicemail to show up, listened to it, texted Kathy with the news, then got back to the yoga. As I stretched my sore muscles, I let my mind wander and let the news really sink in. I had decided to go back to work, and had decided, for a number of reasons, to go back to BigLaw. I knew, in my head, that this was the right decision. But I was also so afraid, and was trying hard not to allow the fear to take root and grow.
As I drove the kids down to the train station to drop off the babysitter and pick Kathy up from work, I told them that I had gotten a job. B asked me, "Are you going to be a lawyer?" When I told her I was, indeed, going to be a lawyer again, she inquired, "Well are you always going to be at work all night? And are you going to shut the door of the office all weekend again? Are you NEVER GOING TO SEE US?" I'm not kidding. It was as if I had danced around my fear, not quite wanting to name it, and B jabbed a needle into the center of it. Of course, that was it. I already feel, some days, like I never see Kathy. Since we got engaged, now over two weeks ago, we have had only one afternoon to ourselves. What if, that one afternoon, I had to work? And having B and C only half the time, when I was working, I saw them only a few nights a week and on some weekends. If I worked until 8, which is completely ordinary, I did not see them at all, because they were in bed when I got home. If it isn't our weekend, I could easily go an entire week not seeing two small things who live in my house.
I looked into the rear view mirror and into her big brown fearful eyes, and I told her what I hope is the truth. "Sometimes, Boo, I'm going to get stuck at work, and it might feel like I never get to see you. But I really want to try going back to work again. I'm going to miss you when I get stuck or have to work on the weekends, but it will be okay. I think it will be a lot better than my old job."
I find that one of the best things about explaining things to kids is that it helps to frame things. Because you can't let them down, you can't be too positive. Because you don't want to be harsh or crush their spirit, you can't be too negative. When you take away the bookends, the piece left in the middle is usually the most honest. It's not going to be terrible going back to work. I chose to go to this firm, with this partner, because I truly hope and believe it will be better than my last firm. But neither is it going to be easy. I am still going back to work at a firm that expects me to bill 2,000 hours a year, which is a lot of work. There will be nights I miss dinner and vacations I am shut in the office. But hopefully, my new firm will be an environment of respect, and we will treat each other with kindness, and it will, in the end, be okay.
Then, the babysitter asked B what she didn't like about me working my old job. "All she did all the time was work, be tired, and cry." Well yes. That's kind of true. So hopefully it's not like that.