Work-Life Balance

Why Ms. X Is Leaving BigLaw: Busy Mom Details Untenable Schedule in Departure Memo

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If you’ve ever wondered why it can be so difficult to juggle motherhood and BigLaw, a Clifford Chance associate dubbed Ms. X explains it in a departure memo with a blow-by-blow account of her untenable daily routine.

Above the Law blogger Elie Mystal, himself a new father, posted the memo and commented on the contents. “In a way, it’s heartbreaking,” Mystal writes. “I don’t know this woman, and I don’t know what her hopes and dreams are or might have been, but it shouldn’t be so damn hard—in the richest country on Earth—to have a big-time job and be a loving parent.”

The departure memo reveals Ms. X’s struggle to find time to take care of her kids, meet client demands, and attend to necessities like sleeping, eating and bathing. It begins with an early morning awakening:

4:00am: Hear baby screaming, hope I am dreaming, realize I’m not, sleep walk to nursery, give her a pacifier and put her back to sleep

4:45am: Finally get back to bed

5:30am: Alarm goes off, hit snooze

6:00am: See the shadow of a small person standing at my bedroom door, realize it is my son who has wet the bed (time to change the sheets)

6:15am: Hear baby screaming, make a bottle, turn on another excruciating episode of Backyardigans, feed baby

7:00am: Find some clean clothes for the kids, get them dressed

7:30am: Realize that I am still in my pajamas and haven’t showered, so pull hair back in a ponytail and throw on a suit

8:00am: Pile into the car, drive the kids to daycare

8:15am: TRAFFIC

9:00am: finally arrive at daycare, baby spits up on suit, get kids to their classrooms, realize I have a conference call in 15 minutes.

Later in the day, there is a team meeting where the harried associate gets a 50-item to-do list, a late lunch, and a frantic email from a client who needs an answer to an urgent question by the close of business. Ms. X drafts a memo, and then submits it to a senior associate and partner who have conflicting advice. Her work day ends this way:

5:30pm: wait for approval to send response to client; realize that I am going to be late picking up the kids from daycare ($5 for each minute late)

5:50pm: get approval; quickly send response to client

6:00pm: race to daycare to get the kids (they are the last two there)

At home, Ms. X cooks a microwaved chicken nuggets dinner, then ticks off her next tasks: baths, pajamas, books and bed. At 9 p.m. she discovers 25 unread messages on her BlackBerry, and then begins work on task No. 2 on the to-do list, briefly nodding off at her desk. After task No. 3 is completed, she takes a shower at 1 a.m. and gets to bed at 1:30 a.m. Next on the list? “REPEAT.”

The New York Times Motherlode blog notes the story.

Related article: “Give Us a Timeline of Your Daily Workday Routine. Is It Something You Can Handle Long-Term?”

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