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My Little Devil

Vivia Chen

October 30, 2013


I detest Halloween. Loathe it. I wish someone would just abolish the whole thing—declare it as some kind of Satan-worship or a violation of the separation of church and state. I don't care what you do—just get rid of it.

You probably think I'm being a pill. You think it's adorable to see those kids all dressed up as firemen, angels, pooh-bears or whatnot, yelping "Trick-or-Treat" around the neighborhood.

For me, Halloween is not cute. It is stressful. That's because I see it an annual test of my worth as a mother. I feel I have to come up with a clever costume for my child, something that shows originality, creativity, verve. Something that says: I love my child enough to expend massive effort on the endeavor.

I know that's a ridiculous test of motherhood, but we women set up all kinds of arbitrary rules to define maternal worthiness. Super rainmaker Nina Gussack said at a recent New York City Bar panel that she always felt it was her duty to be present when her kids needed new shoes or a haircut. "Don't ask me why I pick those two things," she remarked.

Well, my thing happens to be Halloween costumes—ones that I make with my own hands. A few years ago, I wrote about my panic about fashioning a leaf costume out of a swath of felt, and how that reflects on the kind of pressure already-stressed mothers put on themselves:

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.

I went on in that post to say that women are doing it to themselves—making the juggling act even more impossible:

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?

I'd like to say that I know better by now. But that's not true. In fact, I've upped the ante. Worse than competing against other moms, I'm now competing against myself. Because I've made some pretty clever costumes in the last three years, I feel pressured to out-do myself each year.

This year, however, my effort was a complete fail. My daughter wanted to be a pineapple—but despite all the time I invested in researching, planning, and executing the thing, it doesn't look anything like a pineapple. It looks like a deformed yellow pillowcase.

But you know what? She's going to wear that pathetic creation no matter what.

So maybe I'm finally making some progress.

Photos above: My past (successful) creations--chess piece, sushi on a leaf, and watermelon wedge.

Related post: Monsters R Us

E-mail  Vivia Chen: vchen@alm.com     Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/lawcareerist


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You're not a bad mom; you're a lousy costume designer! Don't quit your day job!

My mother died a long time ago, but I still remember the absolutely wonderful witch costume she made for my twin sister, and that brings me so much pleasure. Trust me, your efforts will be remembered with love.

You're cracking me up! My thing is sewing on my daughters' Girl Scout badges. Other parents (moms, typically) pin, iron, or glue. Not me. My mom was a school teacher and homemaker, and beautifully stitched on my badges. This is one of may domestic things I wish I could do as well as she did.

Hey Vivia, you should stop stressing and enjoy the opportunity for creative output that having a young child gives you. Even when your work is not what you hope, you learned from it, and so will your daughter--she will see that you tried something challenging that's not in your normal work sphere. Before you know it, this whole phase of your life will be over and you will have a teenager who doesn't need Mom to make a costume!

I love the sushi!

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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: VChen@alm.com

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