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Monsters-R-Us

Vivia Chen

October 28, 2010

Monster Halloween is coming, and I am in utter panic. My 9-year-old tells me that she wants to be a giant leaf this year. She also insists that the costume be homemade--not some store-bought thing. Much too common. "They're more interesting when you make them," she says.

Yes, I've always made her costumes. For the last two years, she was a chess piece (a rook, then a bishop); before that, she was an apple with the "Very Hungry Caterpillar" crawling on her shoulder.

Too bad for me that I've inculcated her with the silly idea that items made from scratch are superior. This extends to food (she also insists on homemade cupcakes). Truly, I have no one to blame for the pickle I'm in, except myself.

So I am standing here looking at a large swath of green felt and wondering how I'm going to fashion it into a leaf (with veins, no less!). Meanwhile, I've got a blog to do.

But I know I'm not the only mother feeling the heat. They might not be sweating about what costume to sew, but they feel the constant pressure of striving to be "above-average"--maybe even an "A"--in the motherhood category. All while working a full-time job. It's become the malady among the moms I know.

Some women have found the stress of meeting a high standard at home and work too much, and have opted to dump the job. And some of those former professionals, as I've blogged in the past, are channeling their professionalism into über-momdom.

But there's another version: über-moms who also hold high-powered jobs. I'm talking about women who have multiple kids (three or more), are partners in law firms or financial institutions, serve as class moms, and show up at every school function bearing armfuls of homemade delectables.

One woman who fits that description is a partner at a super-elite firm. I see her at school either cooking away in the cafeteria kitchen for some event, or backstage ironing and mending for a performance. She rushes in from the office, drops her briefcase, and gets right to work. An $800-an-hour-plus partner doing minimum wage work.

But she'd probably tell you that it's for her darlings, that she derives pleasure from slaving away at the school. Honestly, though, I think she looks a bit tired.

Sometimes, I think, women make this juggling act even harder than it has to be. Why do we overdo things? Are we trying to live up to some maternal ideal based on June Cleaver? Is it residual guilt about working? Or is there a subtle competition for superwomandom going on?

My resolution: I will try not to badmouth store-bought goods. Ding-Dongs can be quite yummy, I've heard.

But right now, I have to tackle this mass of green felt and create one fabulous leaf.

Related post: Les Femmes Fatiguees

Do you have topics you'd like to discuss or tips to share? E-mail The Careerist's chief blogger, Vivia Chen, at [email protected]

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http://www.amazon.com/Supergirls-Speak-Out-Inside-Overachieving/dp/141656263X

This book is poorly-written and rather repetitive, but I find the overall theory--that many girls who over-schedule their days aren't doing so out of healthy ambition but rather due to societal pressure to be smart AND pretty AND successful AND nice--to be very true and applicable to supermoms, as well.

Separate and apart from children, it is enormously difficult to be an $800.00 an hour partner at a law firm when you are a woman, and, the simple matter is we all want to be with our children at every moment their eyes are looking for us.

Timely blog ... I've been up late all week making a "genie" costume for my youngest who wouldn't have anything else this year. Time to teach them to sew. Partly due to guilt at missing the school field trips, etc., and partly because I want to make my kids happy.

I gave $100 to the moms who were putting together the Haunted House at school, because I was unable to give them physical help. You do what you can do, and for all of us, it is never enough.

Don't be so hard on yourself. Most of the women who appear to "do it all" have lots of help somewhere to get it all done.

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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: [email protected]

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