I Left Law to Become a Mother

Many of you know me as an academic (and possibly not all that well). But before I earned a PhD, I was a lawyer.

Actually, I wanted to be a lawyer since I was twelve. I had a dream that I would live in Greenwich Village in NYC and practice BIG LAW and sing opera. At the same time.

This is your first opportunity to burst out in hardcore laughter. Go ahead. Get some of it out of your system.

As I finished college, I wanted to do Civil Rights work. Frankly, I wished I was born in the 50s so I could have been at the cutting edge of that work.

But at the time I went to law school, the U.S. was just coming to grips with what AIDS meant. And people were discriminating against people with HIV/AIDS, denying them housing, jobs, employment.

This was an offshoot of the Civil Rights movement, in my mind. And I was honored to serve people with HIV in Washington, D.C. for two years. While I worked at Whitman-Walker Clinic, we organized into a Union.

I proceeded to work for that union, an SEIU local, in both Baltimore, Maryland and Washington, D.C. for the next five years. I bargained collective bargaining agreements (against BIG LAW), I organized workers into Unions, I argued in administrative hearings.

I loved my work.

But it was hard to exercise. It was hard to find time to cook. I smoked and drank more than I needed to. There wasn’t much time to go on dates and find someone to partner with. I was working 50 – 70 hours per week. And I didn’t earn that much.


I really wanted to become a mother. And by the time I reached my early 30s, time felt like it was running out.

I did meet my partner who was offered a full professor position at NYU. I had a research problem that was bugging me (Jamaica’s Mooretown Maroons). 

I knew that going back to school would put me in charge of my health and my time. I could have a child.

And I did.

But I think I know tools about using my time that I didn’t fully understand then (although I was starting to develop them). I know more about leveraging a community of colleagues so that you don’t get worn out.

I know that the time I spend taking care of myself is not wasted time, and would make the work I was doing go better.

I wish I knew more about all of this then.

Do you know this?

But I don’t have any regrets about what I’ve done with my life.

With that said, lawyers, I can help you if you are delighted with your accomplishments, but feel tired and worn out after you’ve done them. I can help you think through if you need to do the work differently.

Of whether you should do this work at all.

Because you shouldn’t have to choose between a career you love and raising a child.

Finally, it turns out that academics are in the same jam . . . how do you raise a child and publish, publish, publish. Go ahead and laugh. Yep, another silly assumption on my part.

But I do sing opera occasionally!

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