10 questions with a Chicago stay-at-home mom who’s back to lawyering

In 2008 Julianne Walsh, a real estate attorney, decided to stay at home with her two young children.  Five years later, she was back at it, this time as the attorney-in-residence at a litigation management software and support company.

Ms. Walsh sat down with Jenny B. Davis at the ABA Journal to discuss her experience transitioning back into the workforce.  Read it here.

Ms. Walsh will be answering reader questions on Google Hangouts session with the ABA’s 10 Questions Live on Thursday, April 28, 2016 at 2 p.m. ET.

The U.S. Needs Paid Family Leave

According to Jessica Shortall in one of her very popular Ted Talks, the U.S. needs paid family leave now for the sake of all of our futures. We need women to work, and we need working women to have babies. So why is America one of the only countries in the world that offers no national paid leave to new working mothers? In this incisive talk, Jessica Shortall makes the impassioned case that the reality of new working motherhood in America is both hidden and horrible: millions of women, every year, are forced back to work within just weeks of giving birth. Her idea worth spreading: the time has come for us to recognize the economic, physical and psychological costs of our approach to working mothers and their babies, and to secure our economic future by providing paid leave to all working parents.

We agree. When you have time, please listen to her Ted Talk about why paid family leave is so important to all of us.

Celebrate International Women’s Day 2016 #PledgeforParity

iwd-pledgeforparity

The theme of International Women’s Day 2016 is PLEDGE FOR PARTIY. While we have much to celebrate today, progress towards gender parity has slowed in many places. The World Economic Forum predicted in 2014 that it would take until 2095 to achieve global gender parity. One year later in 2015, they estimated that a slowdown in the already glacial pace of progress meant the gender gap would not close entirely until 2133.

What can we do to celebrate International Women’s Day 2016? Everyone–men and women alike–can pledge to take a concrete step to help achieve gender parity more quickly–whether to help women and girls achieve their ambitions, call for gender-balanced leadership, respect and value differences, develop more inclusive and flexible cultures, or root out workplace bias. Each of us can be a leader within our own spheres of influence and commit to take pragmatic action to accelerate gender parity.

Gender parity is critical to working parents and ongoing efforts to ensure that both moms and dads have the opportunities they need to succeed professionally and personally.

Join others globally and MAKE A PLEDGE NOW!

Finding Your Working Parent Style

When it comes to parenting, there is no “one size fits all.”  When I became a parent, I wanted to do everything the “right way.”  I wanted to breastfeed up until my son was 2 years old just as the World Health Organization recommended.  I made our family eat dinner at 4:30 pm so that my son would be in bed by 6pm and sleep through the night.  I wanted to make my own organic baby food so my son has a healthy diet.  I did this because I thought this is what being a good parent meant.  Guess what?

I WAS MISERABLE!

This was the complete opposite of the lifestyle I had before I became a mom.  I loved traveling, volunteering for causes I cared about, and working as an attorney.  It did not make me happy being cooped up at home trying to do everything “right.”  Worst of all, my son was around an unhappy mom.

Bottom line: Being an unhappy parent was affecting my ability to be a good parent.

So I decided to start parenting on my own terms.  After months of stress and heartache breastfeeding because we are all told that “breast is best,” I fully embraced formula feeding and so did my son.  I felt human again.  It helped me feel that I was more than a food supply to my son.  I was also his mom.  It was also great to have the ability to go out and about without having to pump every two hours or worry that my son was starving himself because he wanted the boob.  It also allowed my husband to feed and bond with his son.  I felt a tremendous weight lifted off my shoulders when I stopped caring about being judged as a bad mom for not trying hard enough to breastfeed.  I was able to spend time away from my son without worrying and come home a happy and recharged mom.

Second, I stopped fighting my night owl ways.  My husband and I went back to eating dinner at our usual time.  We also brought our son out to dinner with us on many occasions.  This has been a fantastic experience because my son has been exposed to so many different kinds of food.  He also had to learn how to entertain himself and behave at a restaurant.  I do try to be considerate to other restaurant patrons and take my son to family-friendly restaurants or very loud restaurants.  I have learned that sometimes my son is fantastic in a restaurant and sometimes he’s a terror.  It is inevitable that your child will have a meltdown in public.  You will get death stares but at the end of the day just remember that you will probably never see those people again.

Finally, I found a way to incorporate my son into my personal and professional interests.  I decided to start my own law practice in order to give my husband and I the flexibility to spend time with our son.  I do a lot of work during the evening and weekends because that’s when my husband is available.  My son loves coming to the office because I keep toys and a bouncy house there for him.  When I have to file documents in court, we go together and he stamps them.  He is also great at mailing documents.  He has already been before a judge!

Also, my son has served as my date to many fundraisers and events for organizations I love supporting.  At 2 years old, he has met business owners, chefs, and politicians.  We both hit the pavement together to collect signatures when we were assisting with a friend’s campaign.  Lastly, I learned that like his mom, he is a great traveler.  We took advantage of the fact that he can fly for free as a lap child.  At 2 years old, he has been to Orlando, Miami, Las Vegas, Seattle, Hawaii, Jamaica, Cozumel, and the Cayman Islands.

What I learned through all this is that there is no “right” way to parent.  Being a parent does not mean you have to lose your sense of self or stop doing the things you once enjoyed.  I encourage parents struggling to find their new normal to define it for yourself.  It will not happen overnight and you will have bad days.  Having kids is a personal choice and raising them is a series of personal choices.  Parenting is one of the hardest jobs in the world and what we all need is support rather than criticism.

When I found my parenting style, I became a happy parent.  I enjoy the time I spend with my son, and I love showing him my passions.  In turn, I think I have a happy child who loves spending time with me.