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President's Message - September 2017
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Juggling, balancing or taming the lions of modern life?
Olga Álvarez, Lawyers Club President 2017-2018
As often as I answer the question, “how do I juggle and balance it all?,” one would think that I had left my law practice and joined the circus. I am certain that every other working woman in the U.S. faces these questions as well. For those women who stay at home taking care of their children, they have my unwavering respect; I stayed at home for almost a year with my infant twins and that is the hardest job I have ever had, hands down.
For the longest time I searched to find balance. I went to panel after panel in pursuit of the key until I realized that it was my own value system that gave me the answer: What continues to guide my definition of balance may not be the solution for the next person. Therefore, in my humble opinion, one may achieve balance on most days by practicing self-reflection, prioritizing values and defining one’s own vision of success. Time is something I will never get back, and many days I take a deep yoga breath, as I call it, and tell myself that I am doing the best I can with the circumstances before me. Even as I write this article, I am visiting my family in Texas, sprinkled in glitter from helping my sister prepare for my niece’s quinceañera.

This month’s luncheon topic is family leave. The reality is that 43 percent of highly qualified women will leave the workforce to care for their children. But women don’t only care for their kids. They are also the primary caregivers for their elderly parents or relatives. The average caregiver in America is a 49 year-old woman, caring for a 70 year-old elder who does not live with her. She is married and employed.1 Men, too, assist with parents. However, female caregivers may spend as much as 50 percent more time providing care than their male counterparts.2 The value of the informal care that women provide ranges from $148 billion to $188 billion annually.3  Women deliver the majority of informal care to spouses, parents, parents-in-law, friends and neighbors, and they play many roles while caregiving: hands-on health provider, care manager, friend, companion, surrogate decision-maker and advocate.4  Outside of our legal practices, these are the responsibilities that fill women’s plates. We became lawyers to ensure justice in our society. It would be outside of our character to abandon the family members who need us most. Therefore, family leave for our children and for our elderly relatives is critical for us to remain in the legal profession.

However, even with family leave, how do we strike a balance between our professional goals and our personal responsibilities? Is it a balancing act? Am I juggling? An article in the Harvard Business Review compared the career trajectories for CEO women and men, and concluded that the average male playbook to success doesn’t really work for women. If that’s the case, then reaching my goals in the legal profession may also require that I write my own playbook. To do so means I must define my own success and keep my eye on the prize while making the most of my time with family and friends. Instead of balancing or juggling, I believe I am taming the lions of modern life. The lion represents the societal expectations of everything I am supposed to be as a woman and as a lawyer. My taming methods include picking the expectations I will live by, modifying a few, and tossing the others aside.

What could it mean for others? It may mean working less or working more. It may mean a full-time nanny or no nanny at all. It could include daily meditation or training for a marathon. It may require giving up the luxury car for the coupe. To me, taming the lion means I am pursuing my own goals and living a life without regret. Women can support women by giving each other the freedom to write their own playbooks and live up to their own values without judgment. So, if the description of women's daily lives must be related to a circus performer then I prefer to be the lion tamer.

1 https://www.caregiver.org/caregiver-statistics-demographics

Ibid.

3 Arno, P. S. (2002, February). The economic value of informal caregiving, U.S., 2000. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry, Florida.

4 Navaie-Waliser, M., Feldman, P. H., Gould, D. A., Levine, C. L., Kuerbis A. N., & Donelan, K. (2002). When the caregiver needs care: The plight of vulnerable caregivers. American Journal of Public Health, 92(3),

 409–413.

Olga Álvarez is co-founder and shareholder of Heisner Álvarez, APC in La Jolla. She is a Certified Legal Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Law and is president of Lawyers Club.
more Calendar

12/4/2017
A Trauma Informed Approach: Working With Victims of Human Trafficking

12/7/2017
Lawyers Club Thirsty Thursday

12/14/2017
Annual Fund For Justice Holiday Luncheon

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