It’s the fourth day of eight-hour depositions in a conference room out of town.
I have seen my babies for a collective total of three hours in the past week. During breaks, I pull out my phone and scroll through the 2000+ photos I have of my kids. In chronological order. Does anyone else do that?
“How old are your kids now?” An older male colleague sitting next to me asks politely.
“They are three, three, and 18 months.” I gush.
Then I proceed to show him pictures from the delivery room. Everyone wants to see pictures of my newborns with white goop still on their little bodies, right?
Oops. Too much.
We finish the day and discuss scheduling the next deposition. Someone suggests October 28th. Then someone objects and says he’s got another meeting that day. Someone then suggests October 31st–Halloween.
Any Day But Halloween
Halloween: a holiday on which no work should be done and all offices should be closed. The day of our daycare’s Halloween parade and when trick-or-treating starts before the sun goes down. Before I could pipe up an objection, a wave of “yes” and “that works for me” echoes throughout the room. All 15 other lawyers in the room are free on Halloween. All of those 15 male colleagues did not bat an eye about missing any Halloween festivities.
Everyone except me.
What do I do? Do I speak up, own my motherhood, and demand that everyone reschedule around me? Do I sit silently and change my schedule around other people? I didn’t know the answer that day. I still don’t know the right answer. Why is there no instruction manual for situations like this?
That day, I decided to bite my tongue. I proceeded to text my husband to make sure he could be at the parade and to send me pictures.
These pictures from the Halloween parade are now part of the photo stream that I scroll through during breaks at other meetings.
Most, if not all of us, have lived within sets of rules our whole lives. They are the invisible “boundaries” that sometimes get pushed or even crossed. We had rules to follow as kids when our parents set bedtimes or curfews. Just like we had rules in school, we have rules at work. We even have rules to follow every time we drive a car.
No Handbooks for Moms
There are no rules, however, for what we should do as moms. There is no handbook on whether you should work or stay home. Unfortunately, there are no guidelines on how to be a mom, feed the family, do the laundry, and leave enough time to make personalized gifts for teachers. There is no manual for what to prioritize when work life and family life conflict.
While that may sound a little scary, it also means there is no wrong answer.
Since that day, I have talked to other people about what they would have done. Some say they would have spoken up, and others say they would have stayed silent. At the end of the day, we are all just doing the best we can. And our best is more than good enough.
Should I have spoken up about my conflict? Probably.
Did I still feel guilty about missing my kids’ Halloween parade? Yes.
Do my kids remember that I wasn’t there? No.
Am I still a good mother? Heck yes.
Have you been in a similar situation? What did you choose to do?