The Parent(hood) Trap

Two months ago, I turned 29. I feel pretty good about it. I never subscribed to the notion that your life ends when you’re 30, or you’re a failure if you haven’t accomplished every single life goal you have by that age. Unfortunately, I’m starting to notice that the sand in my biological clock is running out. I’m not in a rush to have a baby right now, or even next year. But I am aware that my uterus doesn’t give a damn about my professional or financial goals. If I am going to have the two kids I’d like (and not directly back to back) I’ve really only got two more years before I need to get a move on.

Which kinda sucks. I love being married, and kids are so much work. I like that my weekends aren’t packed with Little League games and dance recitals. If I want a night out with my husband, I don’t have to get a babysitter. If I come home from work and don’t feel like cooking, we can order takeout from anywhere. When I get up in the morning I don’t have to wake, dress, wash, and feed another human being. I just have to take a minute to mourn the unfairness of the fact that despite all the help moms may get from active fathers, the fact is that they can’t share the huge burden of actually making the baby. You might be able to go back to work in six weeks, and you may be able to have (s)e.x again in three months, but it really takes a year before your body and mind get back to normal (well, as normal as they can be when you’re sleep deprived and raising an infant). I look at my adorable goddaughter and can’t help but think about how drastically her parents’ lives have changed. Better I’m sure, but still COMPLETELY different than before.

sleep in meme

Unfortunately, biology just doesn’t seem to have caught up with society. Your body is more or less ready to have kids as soon as you finish puberty. I’ll say that was around 15 or so for me, because that’s when I hit my adult height. I didn’t finish law school until I was 25, and got married that same year. So when, exactly, was I supposed to have a kid? Some studies say I should have one now, because if I wait any longer I’ll destroy my earning potential. But you can’t make a living wage without at least a college degree anymore, and tuition costs are sky high. So being a student and a parent is nearly impossible–you’re losing time to study and money for tuition at the same damn time. I have so much respect for the people that do it though. Then when you’re finally financially and mentally ready to have a kid, your body is on the decline and you’ve got to take time away from work that will potentially haunt the rest of your career.

going to bed

Honestly? I wish I could back in time and shake some sense into Gloria Steinem and all those second wave feminists. I think they went a little too hard in the paint on all that working outside the home stuff. Now you gotta work AND be a mom and feel like you’re failing at both. And what do men have to do? Learn how to wash some dishes and do the laundry? Sheeeeiiiit. Doesn’t seem like a fair trade off to me. Lord. Somebody convince me that parenthood is worth it before I go and get my tubes tied. Just kidding…kinda sorta…

 

 

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How to Lose an Employee

Every other week there’s an article about how Millennial employees are all lazy, entitled brats. Well, the truth is that sometimes the problem is a little higher up the food chain. Below are the best practices for running off anyone in your organization who wants to see it succeed…

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  1. Be unclear about your expectations.  Whenever possible, give out work assignments with competing priorities and no additional guidance. Sink or swim!
  2. Emphasize form over function. Reward low performing employees who milk the clock by coming early, staying late, and getting little to nothing done. Chastise anyone who leaves less than an hour after closing time, even if they’re high performers.
  3. Delegate, but don’t train. Why should managers do any work as long as there is a lower ranked employee around? Pile on the to-dos, but don’t show them how to actually do their job. They’ll figure it out and if they don’t– fire them!
  4. Never admit that management could be improved. If anything goes wrong, it’s always the underling’s fault. Deny any knowledge of a crisis. Always throw your employees under the bus, that’s what they’re there for after all.
  5. Minimize feedback. Don’t take the time to meet with your employees unless something is wrong. Never give them a chance to correct the problem early. Much better to ambush them with a 10 page dossier of shortcomings so that it can really sink in.
  6. Overwork and underpay. Pay the minimum acceptable wage for every position and don’t pay benefits. Who needs full medical and dental with Obamacare? Employee bonuses should never be expected. A new car for the CEO gives peons something to strive toward–it’s practically motivational.

Breaking Point

2016 has been a year.

Culturally and politically, as a Black woman, it’s been rough. We have a presidential candidate endorsed by the K_K_K who has yet to disavow said endorsement. We lost Prince. It’s apparently open warfare between the police and the Black community.

Personally, it’s also been a trial. My third wedding anniversary is coming up next month and we’ve been together for 8 years now. In all that time, we had never had a real falling out. You know, the kind where one person can’t stand to look at the other and is afraid this might be the end? Yeah, we finally had one of those. We’re back to normal now but that kind of ruined a full month of my summer. Things at my job have been. . . challenging, to say the least. If you know me personally, you know what I’ve been dealing with and if you don’t–just use your imagination. All I will say here is that I’m considering my options. Just three days ago was the first anniversary of my friend’s death. I’ve thought about him every day since he passed and it still doesn’t seem real. Riding an emotional rollercoaster on two fronts has me feeling like a crazy person. I like to stay at equilibrium. People always comment on my restraint, but it’s self preservation for me. Emotional extremes are just exhausting and if I’m too far on either side of the spectrum, it’s hard for me to buckle down and be productive.

Today I almost had a full blown anxiety attack, which has only happened to me two or three other times in my entire life. It’s the red flag, flashing lights, blaring siren sound from my subconscious to me that SOMETHING IS NOT RIGHT HERE. I know exactly what needs to change and while the more prudent thing may be to wait, I’m at a point where my physical and emotional health are being compromised and that is simply not acceptable. I will find a way to do what I need to do.

I can tell from my social media newsfeeds that I’m not the only one struggling, either. The devil is busy and we all need to pray for each other.

It’s a cliche because it’s true

I’ve got a pretty good life, I must say. There are things I’d like to change, but none of my goals seems impossible. I have a husband I adore, great friends, and I’m starting to finally meet people in Houston.

Nevertheless, I’m feeling reflective. I’m 28, so my biological is starting to tick. I want a house and kids. I want work/life balance. I want to be a better person. I want to be able to take care of my mom when she is no longer able to take care of herself. I don’t want (o settle for a life that is just “good enough”; I want to CHOOSE my life rather than just reacting to it.

In order to do all these things, I have to let go of some things that do not serve my purposes. And in reevaluating my path I’ve come to realize that a lot of the advice and sayings my parents used all. the. time. when I was growing up are true as hell. For example:

  1. Birds of a feather, flock together. If you are the only person in your circle of friends who prioritizes fitness, education, religion, or whatever–it’s far more likely that they will influence you than the other way around. It doesn’t even have to be peer pressure, but the subconscious knowledge that you can do less of what you claim to be about, and not be judged will make you start slipping.
  2. Actions speak louder than words. This a one sentence sermon! Don’t believe what people tell you unless their actions match! To be nice or avoid conflict, folks will say a whole lot of things…and then not follow through.
  3. Knowledge is power. This can cut two ways, the first being that looks fade but education is forever. The second is that information is currency so- DON’T TELL EVERYONE YOUR BUSINESS. S–t.
  4. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. All the hard work and dedication in the world won’t help you if you don’t know the person who can get you that raise, promotion, new job, etc.
  5. Treat others the way you want to be treated/You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. It doesn’t hurt you to be nice to anyone and you never know when a favor will pay itself back threefold. Conversely, keep treating folks any old way and it will catch up to you. God don’t like ugly.
  6. It’s not what you’re called, it’s what you answer to.  You have to live with yourself forever. That’s a long time. Get comfortable with yourself. Because if you don’t? You will define yourself by the labels that other people assign to you. You can’t teach folks how to treat you if you don’t know who you are.

The list goes on… but suffice it to say, parents are always right.*

 

<small>*Don’t tell my dad that, lol. Happy Father’s Day!</small>

What they don’t teach you in law school

Every day when I wake up, I have to remind myself how blessed I am. Approximately 1/3 of the population has a college degree. There are about 1 million active, licensed attorneys and the US had a population of 316.1 million people as of 2013. I am part of an extremely elite profession that encompasses a mere 0.003% of the population. given that I am female and African-American, my status makes me somewhat exceptional.

So when I wake up and start applying for jobs on Craigslist in my bathrobe, thinking of those things reminds me that I’m not a failure.

I also make myself remember why I got into this line of work: to help people. I get a real sense of accomplishment when I can solve a problem for someone. But it’s not as easy all that. There’s rules of procedure, courtroom etiquette (aka trying not to piss off a nitpicky old judge), research, depositions, brief writing, motion pleading, etc, etc, etc. Most of which you only scratch the surface of in law school. Solo practice is hugely intimidating. Doubly so when you’re a minority and know that everything you do is scrutinized even more. Triply so when you’re new in town and don’t know the lay of the land. I went to a CLE today and everyone was saying you need to basically stalk the courthouse and pick up pro bono work (which ostensibly leads to paying case referrals if you do a good job), or just hand out business cards and pick up a random client. Sounds great in theory. But:

1. Malpractice suits are a real and present danger. Westlaw subscriptions are expensive. I have access to Fastcase through the bar association but it only lets me see Texas cases. Thus, I mostly stick to editing and drafting contracts because the law because the law tends to be easier to find and less variable across jurisdictions.

2. Who’s going to help me learn how to present a hearing, or conduct a trial? The procedural manuals tell you a lot, and so does courtroom observation. But it’s not the same as having someone to walk you through it and fill in the gaps. Clearly the judge isn’t going to do it, so…

3. Where I am supposed to meet my clients? I don’t have office space or money to rent it. I suppose we could conference at the courthouse but that raises issues with breaking privilege and confidentiality since it’s a public space. Same thing with a random coffeehouse.

I could go on….Let’s not even get into all the money I have to spend on gas and parking- I live 30 minutes away from the courthouse and there’s no such thing as free parking in Houston. Working for free costs more than just your time, contrary to what people believe.

I went to a seminar today for new lawyers and the privilege disgusted me at times. Then there was a very awkward session where a retired lawyer went on a rant about the lack of respect for authority- in my opinion, a dig at the national unrest stemming from Ferguson but I could be reading too far into it. When he started talking about professional attorney, he basically stared me (and my fluffy twist-out) down. It was pretty apparent because there were only four other attendees, all sitting to the left of me and more directly in his line of sight. It really rubbed me the wrong way. Why is it that natural hair is only professional when it’s braided or bunned and essentially, tamed? My hair grows out instead of down. What of it? And although you think I just rolled out of bed and achieved this afro, in point of fact I spend a few hours each week maintain it and several minutes every morning coaxing it into its current shape. The microaggressions are real out in these streets.

I don’t really have a point to this post. Except to say that there’s a lot they don’t teach you in law school. And life can be much more unfair than you thought. But there’s always hope. I’m going to make it, one way or another.

Spaceships

“I’ve been workin’ this grave shift/ and I ain’t made sh*t/ I wish I could, buy me a spaceship and fly. . .”- Kanye West

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pB8qGLFvic

I spent my New Year’s Day working. Although the store wasn’t that busy, I clocked out feeling drained. Retail/customer service work is light on pay and heavy on emotional labor. Smiling and being pleasant even though the person in front of you is all but calling you an idiot. Swallowing a snarky reply when the voice on the other end of the line is serving up attitude because they don’t like the answer you gave them. It’s hard. Bad enough that I’m working way too hard for the minimum wage I’m getting, and that I haven’t yet found a position that in any way utilizes my natural talents or the skills I developed through 7 years of postsecondary schooling. Nope, I’ve got to put up with being belittled and pretend that it’s okay. Not to mention that people treat the store ten times worse than they would treat their home. The kinds of trash that people leave and where they leave it is horrifying. (Pro tip: If you didn’t know already, make sure you wash your new lingerie before wearing it if it isn’t in a sealed package. You can thank me later.)

I’ve never been a nightmare customer. My parents taught me to acknowledge and respect everyone, even the guy mopping the floors. When I shop, I leave the things I don’t want at the fitting room or back on their proper rack. I throw away my trash and if I have a question, I ask politely because I know that whatever problems I’m dealing with have nothing to do with the person in front of me. So of course I was shocked at the complete and utter disregard that I experience daily. I used to feel a bit miffed when a salsesperson wasn’t appropriately cheerful, or got impatient with me when I asked for help but now I get it. 8 out 10 customers you encounter are helpless at best (asking you for the price without bothering to check the tag, walking through the department they’re looking for to ask you where it is), and a complete a-hole at worst. It’s discouraging. I really want to quit, but I’m holding out for what few post-holiday hours I’m getting because I’m not sure how many I will get doing taxes. I’m only on the schedule for 12 hours my first week, and I haven’t been scheduled past that but I think it’s incomplete. I have an office meeting on Saturday so I plan to find out then. If I can get at least 30 hours a week I’ll have some breathing room.

I hadn’t applied to any jobs since I started the retail gig. I honestly didn’t have time since I was so busy. But things are slowing down and I’ve put in several new applications this week, including a non-profit position much like the one I almost obtained in Atlanta back in the spring. Fingers crossed. It’s only about $30k/yr, but so much more advantageous to my career, in addition to being personally fulfilled. Big bro says things are going to turn around for me and Tex in 2014. I hope he’s right. It’s getting harder to be optimistic but I haven’t given up hope. I know that I’m meant for better things, if I can just hang on through the storm.

“So I’mma live hard, I’mma dream big/ Cause in the end, homie I’m just tryna live good” – Ryan Leslie