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Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
-Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken
The goal of attending law school and becoming a criminal
prosecutor was firmly implanted in my mind by the sixth grade. I never wavered
from this path. I secured a scholarship at the end of high school which enabled
me to attend a prestigious womens’ college in Massachusetts. Moving onto a very
enjoyable law school career in the great city of Chicago, I developed an
affinity for legal research, writing, and editing; criminal law; and Moot
Court. The highlight of my life at that point came when I was sworn in as an
attorney. I then immersed myself in criminal appellate work, during which time
I was introduced to a tall, handsome, attorney at an engagement party for a law
school classmate. Nearly one year later, he and I were married. Ten days after
we celebrated our first wedding anniversary, we welcomed our first born son. I
had worked up until my due date at my position in a litigation division of the
criminal prosecutor’s office. Suddenly, the young, aspiring attorney found
herself on maternity leave.
My uncomplicated pregnancy that extended 5 days past my due
date led to a labor and delivery time that spanned about 28 hours. The doctor
eventually resorted to forceps to avoid a c-section and encourage the
impressive head of my son to make its debut in the world. The pure joy of our
baby’s presence was overshadowed within twenty-four hours. He became fussy,
refused to nurse, and began to run a fever.
The hospital conducted repeated lab tests and even performed a spinal
tap. Sepsis was suspected. In the middle of the night, a new resident physician
even told us that our baby had meningitis. Thankfully, that was not the case;
however, for the next several days in the neo-natal intensive care unit, he
received around the clock administrations of antibiotics to combat the
It was nearly impossible for me to leave him late each night when the nursing shift changed. The seriousness of the situation forever changed me. I experienced a defining moment in the NICU one day where, had it been audible, would have sounded like a gear switching. An unmistakable “click.” I knew, beyond a shadow of doubt, with the greatest conviction a person could have, that nothing in the world was more important than taking care of this precious life. Nothing. No case. No brief. No oral argument in federal court. Anything related to practicing law could be quite competently performed by another lawyer. No one else, however, could mother my son and love him as much as I could.
Despite these life changing events, however, the temptation later arose to take a part-time position in another litigation division. The weekend arrived when I would agonize over whether to take the position and embark on a path to try to balance work and family life or remain home with our son. My husband quietly slipped into the background, praying all the while, but pledging his support for whatever decision I made. We had one car (I stubbornly learned to drive as it was a stick shift), lived in a rented 2-bedroom apartment, and owed a fairly impressive amount of combined school debt. We had agreed, however, from the onset of our marriage, to make financial decisions that would allow us to live solely on my husband’s income so that I would always have the option to stay home should this exact situation arise.
While I did not realize it at the time, my husband was fairly convinced that I would not be able to leave our son. Nevertheless, he expressed great relief when I communicated that I would turn down the part-time offer. He confessed that it would have caused him stress to think that someone other than me was caring for our son. He also absolved me from the guilt I felt at the fact that he was now paying back my loans. We both knew that little financial incentive to work existed, for child care expenses would consume my modest government salary. I felt exceedingly grateful to know that I had his unconditional support. Truly, though, the best evidence I offered for my decision was love. Love and a new found belief that although law was my chosen profession, being a wife and mother represented my true and God-given vocation.
My first three children are separated by 16 months so that by the time my oldest was not yet 3, he had a younger sister and brother. I always felt that this close succession of babies was God’s way of assuring me that I had made the right decision and that there was no looking back. That is not to say that other, well-intentioned persons along the way have not expressed surprise or even disappointment that I do not currently practice law. The education I have received can never be taken away from me. I am an attorney whether or not I choose to practice law. I would even argue that many more persons, once learning of my status, have treated me with greater respect than they otherwise may have. The lady with half-a-dozen children has a brain! Yes, indeed, though we all know that it certainly does not take having such an advanced degree to be considered smart or to be a great mother.
When I talk to my oldest daughter and other young women, I encourage them to finish their education and pursue a career with flexibility and work-from-home options. Marrying the right person is also key. It is never too soon to pray for a future spouse. At some point, marriage is a great leap of faith, but finding a man who will be a wonderful husband and father is critical. I would also recommend, once married, living on one income as well as within your means so that the option to stay at home always exists. Remember always that no one will ever care for your child and love her as you will. Also, joyfully welcome each child that God sends. He makes no mistakes.
I turn 45 in May. We now have 2 cars (both have automatic transmissions) and a minivan, a home in which we more than comfortably fit, and no debt other than our mortgage. I have repeatedly witnessed how God always provides. Most importantly, we have 3 high schoolers, a 3rd and 2nd grader, and a 3-year-old. This year my first born will begin college. Next year, his sister will leave us and begin to chart her own course. I can tell young mothers with the greatest conviction that I have no regrets about staying home to raise my children. It is the most important “work” which comes with a weighty responsibility. The entrustment of forming 6 souls is not a light undertaking. Children have needs at every turn of the corner, and I am profoundly grateful to be present for it all. The sacrifices we have made to live on one income and send them all to reasonably priced private schools have not gone unappreciated by the children either. Our school-aged children are conscientious, thoughtful, high achieving students with good moral formation. They value their education and express how grateful they are to attend their particular schools.
Alone I can do nothing, but with God, everything is possible. His plans for my family far surpassed any I could have imagined. And the road we have taken has made all the difference in our lives.
(A special acknowledgement to my first born son who partially contributed to this entry, and to my husband and children, who are my treasures, my “jules,” as my license plate reads!)