Catherine is currently serving as the Davis County Bar President. She was nominated by her peers for recognition as receiving a Legal Elite designation for 2012 in the area of family law. She is a member of the Rex E. Lee Inns of the Court. She is also a wife and the mother of four boys.
My life has followed a pattern exactly like what happened to me before becoming a mother. Prior to the birth of my first child, I was convinced I was prepared for motherhood and perfectly in tune with body and my new child. I told my husband that I did not even need an epidural.
By the time the anesthesiologist left, I promised to name all of my children after him and to leave my husband and run away with him. (I think he was old enough to be my grandfather.)
Motherhood followed a similar pattern. Despite all the books I read, my child never slept through the night, and none of the books had the same advice anyway. Horrible people would tell me their child slept through the night starting at the hospital. My thoughts towards them were not Christ-like. I have now learned that when your child excels in some area you should keep it to yourself.
After being an attorney and a mom for 10 years, I realize that many things are just like preparing for motherhood. We all have expectations and our lives do not work out quite the way we planned them. The struggle, adventure, and journey comes in how we adapt. We can’t listen to all of the voices telling us all the things we should be doing, simply because we just can’t do them all.
Going back to my son’s sleeping habits, I tried everything to get my son to sleep through the night. We even went to a pediatric sleep doctor. In addition to prescribing a sleep aid, he also suggested I see a therapist. I remembered that when the Nazis wanted to break the Jews they would use sleep deprivation, and I was starting to understand why. I finally told myself that my child was just so brilliant that he didn’t need sleep and he would be a brain surgeon when he grew up, and all of those children that slept through the night were mentally stunted. Sometimes we have to tell ourselves things to get through the moment, even though we know they are not true.
For another example, I hate taking my children to the dentist. It is just one more thing that I am not doing very well. The dentist will look at me and say, “Are you making sure they floss, because they have a lot of plaque buildup.” Even though I am an adult I feel like I am at the principal’s office. I say, “We will try harder.” What I want to say is, “Are you freaking kidding me? I bring them for checkups every six months and I remind them to brush their teeth. They are boys--we are lucky they bathe once a week during the summer. BACK OFF!”
I love my kids and I love my job. Both are incredibly stressful and on any given day I want to quit. Both involve calming people down and putting out fires. It is hard to balance everything because my clients call me when their life is in chaos and they need me right then, just like my kids do. Sometimes I worry that when my children are older and telling stories, they are going to say that my favorite words were, “Just one minute! I am on the phone.” They already tell people that their dad goes to work and their mom is at court.
I have come to appreciate the parable of the talents when dealing with motherhood. God didn’t give us all the same talents. He just expects us to share and nourish the talents that we have and then he will give us more. You have to pick the things that you are good at doing and stop comparing yourself to others. When we compare ourselves we only compare someone else’s best qualities to our worst.
One of my neighbors has the most beautiful flower beds. The flowers bloom from March to October. I am lucky if I keep my perennials alive and remember to plant tomatoes. This neighbor helps other women design gardens and pick plants for their yards. She has a talent that she shares, and she is doing what she should be doing with her talents.
My advice to moms, both working for pay and staying home, is not to set unrealistic expectations, and to focus on your strengths. I pay a teenager to mow and weed my lawn because I would rather cook a big meal. Even though I realize that I am a much better cook than gardener, it is still hard not to feel a twinge of jealously as I pass my neighbor’s glorious yard.
The same advice is true for jobs, too. No job is perfect, and someone else’s job may not be better than the one you have. One of my good friends is an attorney as well. When she has a hard day and still needs to go home and do five pages of busy work with her first grader, she tells me she wishes she worked at Barnes and Noble. I then remind her of what one of my neighbors--who worked at Carl’s Jr.--said. After her first week, I asked how it was going. She said, “It is so difficult! There are so many different combinations and they get so mad when you mess them up.” I just laughed and thought of the old saying: “The reason it is called work is because if they didn’t pay you, you wouldn’t come.”
All jobs have their pluses and minuses, and all of us feel like we are falling short. I think our goal as moms is to support each other and tell ourselves we are doing well, even if sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. We’re all doing the best we can, especially when motherhood and life throw surprises at our careful plans.