updated on 21 March 2023
Reading time: five minutes
Happy Mother’s Day
As Mother’s Day approaches, I thought it‘d be a good time to reflect on my own experiences of juggling motherhood and a career as a solicitor.
One of the biggest compliments I’m told by people I know and meet is they don’t how I do it. I’m a very proud mother of three. I have a four-year-old mini-me, and two-year-old twins and I work full-time. On my hardest days, even I think to myself “how on earth am I doing this?” In short, the answer is if I can do it, so can you. You can be a mother and a career woman, and you can find a way to balance both without having to compromise one or the other.
I became a member of the working parent club in 2018 when I gave birth to my beautiful daughter. I’d naively thought that I’d adapt to the role of motherhood like a fish to water but it was the complete opposite. Despite planning every minute of my life to the last detail, reading up on ‘parenting’ and attempting to plan for every possible scenario that could play out, I still entered motherhood as most parents do – confused in a land that felt so foreign. You belong here, yet you don’t at the same time.
Returning to work after short maternity leave
I’ve never regretted the decision to continue working despite the challenges I faced after giving birth to my twins at 28 weeks gestation.
During my pregnancies, I had countless conversations with my husband about whether I should become a stay-at-home mum or continue working on a part-time basis and return to full-time work in my own time. A couple of months after giving birth, I was honest with myself and decided that I didn’t have the patience to stay at home with my baby all day, every day. I missed working and I felt that I was losing myself. With both maternity leaves, I went back to work less than six months post-partum.
I had worked hard to get where I was If you add up the time I spent volunteering at countless firms to obtain work experience; the three years I spent studying for my undergraduate degree; one year for the Legal Practice Course; the two year training contract (just to qualify); and then the nine years' post qualification to secure a senior role in the firm - it adds up!
I enjoyed my job and didn’t want my identity to be defined by becoming a mother. I also wanted to demonstrate a good work ethic to my children.
A day in the life of a solicitor
I wake up between 6:45 and 7:00am to get my children ready for school. I drop them off and get back home to get ready for work. I admit, I do check my emails while I’m getting ready, and if necessary, I’ll speak with my assistant to discuss anything that may be urgent and can’t wait until I get into the office.
I have access to my e-mails and calendar on my phone. It allows me to keep an eye on things wherever I am and be able to look after my children if they’re sent home from school due to illness, for example. This has its pros and cons, as you’re never ‘away’ from work but, for a workaholic like me, it helps me to manage my caseload. I ideally like to end the day with a clear inbox!
The first thing I do after getting into work is make myself a coffee and read the news. I then check my e-mails, post, and telephone messages and either deal with them there and then or make a diary entry for more substantive work to be dealt with later.
After that, I work through my to-do list which is essentially kept up to date in my notepad and case management system. My to-do list could involve client meetings, meetings with our team, drafting letters or documents, speaking with potential new clients, or allocating them (as I try and manage some of the incoming new business). As nice as it is to follow the to-do list, things do always come up during the course of the day that I can’t plan for, and I’m constantly adjusting my to-do list for the day as well as the week.
Lunchtimes are reserved for the everyday tasks needed to run my personal and family life; food shopping, scheduling appointments and more. I leave the office in time to pick my children up from school. If need be, I can still work on my phone or at home through remote access. I then spend time with my children and prepare their night-time routine.
It’s tough, there’s no doubt about it, both working as a professional and being a mum. You can have a career and a family life if you work hard at both and it helps to have support from family, friends and work too. I’m lucky to be working for a very forward-thinking, supportive and flexible firm. Most of my colleagues are parents and so understand the predicament of juggling work and family life. I’ve never felt that being a woman, and later a mother, compromised my legal career or progression at my firm.
I’ve always been good at multi-tasking however, this doesn’t come naturally to everyone. It’s important to plan and prepare as much as possible, and understand that you can’t do it alone – you can and should ask for help and delegate when you can.
My advice is to try to not to feel guilty for working and having a career. Your children will be proud of you, and they’ll look up to you so much. To me, this is my identity and I’ve worked very hard to get to this stage of my life. There will be good days and days where you feel like giving it all up but remember what’s important to you. Stay focused, give yourself the love and respect you deserve. Everyone else is proud of you, why shouldn’t you feel the same about yourself?
For more on this topic, read this Oracle on managing a successful career in law with a family.
Monica Rafie is a solicitor who works in Manchester and runs a TikTok account @legalpractitioner.