When I told my then-boss I was pregnant with my second child, he had one question for me. “How are you going to do trials with two kids?” The audacity of the question struck a nerve; I was certain that none of my male colleagues had ever been asked the same question.
Four years later, here’s a retrospective on how to do trials (or any other challenging professional thing) because -*gasp*- it is possible.
1. A supportive husband. Yeah, well, it’s a cliché because it is true.
I left the meeting with my boss knowing I had something to prove. So, in my first full calendar year back at work, I tried a dozen cases. My husband picked up the slack. And picked up the children. And dropped off the children. Because I was always in trial. Once, after sending a jury out to deliberate, I left the courtroom and discovered a message from daycare on my voicemail. It was the standard “sick baby, come get him” message. I was relieved my case had concluded so that I could pick up the baby for once. Thankfully, before court recessed, we had agreed to address any jury questions via conference calls. I retrieved the baby from daycare and we sat in my office and I answered jury questions over the phone. The court reporter loved the baby’s interjections!
2. Understood my own limitations. I didn’t reenter the trial world until Baby Zipp the Second was ten months old. By then, he was regularly emptying the dishwasher, in charge of cleaning the bathrooms, and generally contributing to the smooth operation of the household. His older brother was three, able to pour himself a bowl of cereal in the morning, and fold his own laundry. So life had become, in a word, seamless.
3. Gave in. I am a whole person, not a trial robot. Once, after winning a case, I picked up my child from day care, looked at him and realized he could care less. He did not care that I won. He would not care if I lost. It’s nice to have somebody in your life who does not give a fig about your professional successes or failures. My somebodies are my kids, and I can only compartmentalize them so much. Look, you can skip the Tuesday bath, and maybe the Wednesday bath, but by Thursday, you gotta do the bath. Having to attend to the minutiae of non-work areas of our lives can help in terms of gaining a little perspective, as well as a reprieve.
4. Worked sick. Generally speaking, working sick is more practical than trying to work when the child is sick. When the child is sick, someone has to stay at home. When mom is sick, mom can power through. (Except once I had pneumonia and couldn’t work. So I didn’t – see Item 2.)
My boss’ question was ridiculous. If only I had had the presence of mind of former Congresswoman Pat Schroeder (D-CO), I would have told him, “I have a brain and I have a uterus and fortunately, they both work.”
This blog post was authored by Rebecca Zipp