Her name is Luisa. Late 20s, Brazilian, smiley, warm, beautiful. Last Fall, I hired her to take over for my long-term sitter, who had moved on to college. Luisa wanted a minimum of 25 hours per week and a hefty hourly rate. Although my budget was tight, I agreed. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.
I’m a lawyer. The hours are long. The stress is high. Perfection is expected. Yet, I have always tried to maintain some semblance of a balance with my family life. But let’s be honest. It’s impossible.
I have young kids. They need me around. But being a great lawyer and a great mom at the same time is virtually unattainable. At least for me.
Enter Luisa. She made it possible. If I had to name what she gave me back, it was time and the ability to focus. I didn’t have to worry about slogging through my hour and a half commute to get home by 5 to shuttle my daughter to dance class. Or making it to my son’s baseball game the second it started. Or decluttering my kids’ rooms. Or taking them clothes shopping. Or shopping for dinner. Or making dinner. Or, or, or.
With the extra time and brain space, I found it much easier to succeed at my job. I raised my hand for stretch assignments. I could now handle the associated stress, time, and travel, because Luisa had my back at home. When I nailed those assignments, I stretched further. I spent more time on business development meetings and trips. I took on a leadership role. People in my firm asked me to take on more responsibility. It was like a coming out party. Although a lot later than it probably should have been.
What Luisa allowed me to achieve in just a few short months got me thinking about whether certain male lawyers had the edge over someone like me simply because they had wives holding down the domestic front. Perhaps the extra time and brain space that I just discovered was something they had all along.
Having that freedom no doubt enabled them to become laser-focused at work. They could avoid getting sidetracked with kid driving, feeding, clothing, and other time-sapping chores. They could work longer hours. And as a result, maybe, just maybe, they could advance more quickly than their female counterparts with families. Sure, this doesn’t apply to all men. But I suspect it may be true for many of them.
Just when my upward trajectory seemed unstoppable, Luisa left us to go back to school. Without her, the familiar and crushing feeling of infeasibility crept back in. Of having it all. Of doing it all. My momentum slowed. I want my wife back.