Work/life balance

I was told today, during the first day of classes at Big Law School That Will Not Be Named for Googleproofing Reasons (Seriously Don’t Mention Its Name in Comments), to start to figure out work/life balance now, before I’m a real lawyer.

This is actually something I’ve never really bothered with before, because I’ve had jobs that really didn’t demand much more than 40 hours a week very often. In fact, maybe my balance tended a bit too far toward the life side, at least by the standards of American work-ethic culture.

In my first halting attempt at finding this balance, I went for a run this evening after not having time to exercise for two weeks previously. In my second act of balancing, I’m ending this blog post here. The issue is open for discussion, if you want it.

11 responses to “Work/life balance”

  1. Blogwise, it’s always good to come up with a pseud for things and places and law schools that are likely to come up again. When my friend C did bookkeeping at some department at the very same one you’re at for a while, she just blogged about it as VPU, Very Prestigious University.

    This topic comes up under the rubric of “self-care” in social work school. Which sounds like a euphemism. And is.

  2. Rachel says:

    I don’t know why, but “self-care” is striking me as hilarious this morning. It’s so Foucauldian, but not.

    Anyhow, I am certainly no expert on this “life-work” balance thing, but as someone who recently bought a home, I can tell you that if you don’t make enough money to outsource things like housecleaning, yard work, and even dog-walking, it consumes EVERY MOMENT of your life that you’re not at work. And you never feel 100 % fully present for anything, because either work or life is pulling you the other way.

    I’m starting to understand why my parents were so boring.

    Also, I don’t know how parents in general do it. I really don’t. Can the parents on this list weigh in?

    On the other hand, building a life beyond one’s immediate cares and desires, even if it sometimes seems like a Sisyphean battle of fighting entropy, is deeply satisfying. My work is not as demanding as some, but any more stress and the whole balance would fall apart. One thing your prof is telling you is to decide how ruthlessly you want to fight for professional power, and what you’re not willing to sacrifice. What does “success” mean to you?

  3. LizardBreath says:

    Can the parents on this list weigh in?

    We’re really really boring. I work, eat, and interact with my kids. I fool around on the Internet at work, and exploit commuting time for things I want to do (biking, in the winter knitting on the subway). Every month or two I go out for an evening, but rarely more often than that.

  4. LizardBreath says:

    And I hear you have a new Contracts prof at VPU.

  5. swells says:

    I need to say that I have a little bit of a problem with your phrase, “Maybe my balance tended a bit too far toward the life side.” I know you qualified it, but I don’t see how there can be any such thing. VPU will demand a lot from you, as it should, and you should give it. Just make sure you save some of that glorious youness for life (and for FPS in particular).

  6. ben w says:

    It’s so Foucauldian, but not.

    Care of the self not Foucauldian?

  7. Rachel says:

    Exactly. “Care of the self” is, but “self-care” sounds euphemistically pop-psych-y in a way that Foucault would have detested.

    Dave, do you think your VPU prof was advising you to set clear life/work boundaries, or to reset those boundaries based on how demanding the training & career are likely to be?

  8. E&R'&O's Papa says:

    I agree with Rachel that the house has unexpectedly contributed to imbalance, and that I need to make just a little more money to pull it all off. Instead I “outsource” too much to a stay-at-home Daddy, which means that instead of being fabulously gay we’ve turned into Ozzie and Harriet. With all the Mad Men-era neuroses — his passive aggressive disappointment that I didn’t catch the earlier train, my weary sigh when I see the dishes aren’t done and the diapers aren’t changed…. But as LizardBreath suggested mostly we’re just boring. And tired.

  9. Sarah says:

    Use sites such as to see what an employer is like before you start there.

  10. Allytigator says:

    Having been a litigator for 15+ years, and a parent for almost 3, I can attest that you cannot have it all, but you can have a lot of what you want. It takes clear prioritizing and a willingness to sacrifice some good things for other better things.

    For me, a full-time litigation position takes far more than 40 hours a week, so I’ve put my career on the backburner and am doing contract work on a part-time basis in order to have more time with my daughter. Does it sting when I think about how much money I could be making or the opportunities I’m missing out on? Yes, but I can always make money later. My daughter will only be little for a few years. Even so, my house is far from spotless, and I can’t remember the last time I got any exercise, unless playing in the pool counts. I have learned to let some things go and let good enough be good enough.

    I commend your prof for pointing out the importance of figuring out the balance now, because the balance will continually shift. Sometimes you will lose your footing, but keep readjusting, and you’ll regain equilibrium again.

  11. E&R'&O's Papa says:

    I’ve been a litigator for 20 years, and if I had to do it over again I would probably figure out a way to be another kind of lawyer, in part because of the work/life balance issues. (It turns out I also hate conflict.) But law students and young lawyers usually don’t believe me when I suggest they explore alternatives.