I was a practicing attorney for almost 13 years. Then COVID-19 happened, schools closed, and I resigned from my job three months ago.
“COVID-19 might not kill me, but the stress might.” That is what I told the managing partner at my law firm. I resigned a few weeks later.
The day I resigned, I did not feel joy or relief. Rather, I felt sad. I felt defeated. I felt worried. When I told people I was resigning, I heard shock. Someone asked, “Will it be hard to find a job again?” Yes, I thought to myself. I knew that leaving the workforce would make it harder to return. But after two months of childrearing and homeschooling by day and lawyering by night, I was miserable around the clock. Not to mention the billable hour pressure and the need to meet urgent client demands.
So COVID-19 took me out of the workforce like it has taken many other mothers out of the workforce (either fully or through reduced hours). The reality is that COVID-19 and school closures have impacted mothers far more than fathers.
COVID-19 spotlighted that women still take on the majority of household and childcare responsibility despite having established careers. It is women who go from “full-time to part-time to no-time” when childcare responsibilities increase.* It is often women who make the career sacrifices.
Even before COVID-19, I was already struggling and exhausted from juggling my law firm job and raising 3 kids. I worked part-time for many years in an effort to have it all (working 9 to 5 is part-time at a law firm). I tried to survive, save my career, keep my foot in the door.
Before I had kids, I was an award winning attorney. In 2010, I received an award for my pro bono work. In 2013, I received a nomination as a rising star, and in 2014, I received an award for my work as corporate counsel. But after my children were born, there were no more accolades or awards. I returned to work 12 weeks after my twin girls were born and was laid off 5 months later due to a corporate merger.
As much as I love my children, I was not intending to be a stay-at-home mom when I decided to go to law school 16 years ago.** I remember an undergraduate student interviewing me back in 2005 when I was a law student about women in the legal profession. I had a very positive, but naive view that women were really excelling in the legal field and shared how half my classmates were female. I had no idea what it was like to be a mom in the legal profession.
I think for my career to have advanced as I had intended, I needed to continue working as a man (not a mom). But for women to work like men in the workplace, fathers need to provide childcare like the mothers in the home. I worked part-time for many years because I needed to be able to do drop-off, pick-up, doctor appointments, take sick days, be involved in school activities. I avoided assignments or projects that would require traveling. I didn’t “lean in” because I was afraid to fall.
We often see men continue to rise in their careers, advancing to leadership positions and the C-suite, as moms continue to try to keep their foot in the door, juggling their job and the needs of the household (and feeling like they are failing at both).
So while I am currently out of the workforce, my hope is that this is just a pause in, not the demise of my career. I hope the next chapter of my career will be filled with more courage and leaning in. I hope to show my two daughters that years of accumulating degrees won’t result in diplomas in the closest and stifled dreams once they become mothers.
Until then, this blog has given me a wonderful, creative outlet. After I resigned from my law firm, I felt very defeated, but after self-reflection, I woke up one morning with the idea for Plant-Based Persian. I work on blog content in the evenings after 12-13 hours of mommy duty. But the blog is something that allows me to be more than mommy; it allows me to be me. And I am excited to grow it with my own mom (who, I should note, raised me alone as a single mother, working hard to put food on the table and a roof over our head without any help from my father).
We hope you enjoy this blog too. And for all the moms out there, this post is for you! The struggle is real.
* Coronavirus is Killing the Working Mother, July 3, 2020, https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-features/working-motherhood-covid-19-coronavirus-1023609/
** I would also encourage us to stop using the term “working mother” for moms who work outside the home. Being a stay-at-home mom is work. It is hard work. It is the hardest job I have ever had. And it is a thankless job.