Sunday, November 6, 2011

Going It Alone

I must preface this post with saying to those that don’t know me, that I am a rebel. It surprises many because I am not loud or the in your face kind of rebellious. It’s a “steel magnolia” kind of determination. Others who have seen it describe me as “strong,” “driven,” or even “stubborn!” When I really want something to happen, it happens, no matter what. The tone of this post is not as easy, breezy as the others, because I’m sensing it’s time to get real.

The common theme among some of the most recent studies of successful women is the supportive spouse.  (Good Enough, Working Mother, FRB) Support of some kind is critical to success, and for marrieds, the spouse is the closest and most logical source. But, what if he/she isn’t on board?

As a rule, I won’t share my family’s dirty laundry publicly, but I will this time.  Why will become clear soon.

When I decided to enter law school I didn’t tell my husband because I knew he wouldn’t support it. I completed applications and registered for the LSAT before discussing it with him.  I’d been told, directly, that I shouldn’t do anything my husband was against. With all due respect to those who believe that, I don’t.

People will advise you to talk it out, explain how you feel and he’ll come around. Very often, too often, that doesn’t happen. I had to tell him when it came time to sit for the LSAT.  I talked, but it didn’t help. His concerns were I had a profession, why change now?,  the money it would take, (we had gotten out of debt), and the 80+ hour work weeks. I hated being a dietitian, always have and after almost 20 yrs, it was time for me to make a change. It was going to be expensive, I couldn’t help that, but I minimized the loans as much as I could, and I wasn’t interested in the typical lawyer track. He wasn’t convinced.

I get asked all the time how I did it. How did I work, take care of kids and do law school, and towards the end, take care of an ill parent. Lots of support is my answer. Since my husband wasn’t supportive in the beginning I looked elsewhere. Friends, family, colleagues.  I had two really close friends I could rely on for support and advice, and two female professors especially were supportive and helpful with strategies to get through that first year. It wasn’t easy. Honestly, it was “hell.” But, I made it because I’m “strong,” “driven” or “stubborn.” Whatever name you give it, I AM going to make it happen.

 So, if you are going to make it happen you have to look elsewhere for help. Recently, I had a conversation with another woman with an unsupportive husband. She couldn’t figure out how to do all she had to do to further her business goals because she had to care for children. I advised her to ask for help. She has a huge circle of friends and acquaintances and I wondered why she wouldn’t ask.  One reason was she knew how busy other moms were with their families and she didn’t want to impose. The other-- she was embarrassed to let others know how her husband behaved.

 I advised her that there are a lot of us out there, and they would understand because they are dealing with “stuff” too. She asked, and now she has reciprocal babysitting relationships with some of her friends. We all have "stuff, "and we should be there for each other.

Some husbands eventually come around. Mine did about halfway through, when he saw that I was going ahead anyway, and I really wasn’t taking the typical “non-family friendly” lawyer’s track. Now he's got my back and who better! Seeking support from those around you who know and love you is the best strategy. But, even if you can’t find friends and family someone will be your cheerleader. However, you must be careful on the internet, and with whom you choose to share family issues. Be absolutely sure they have your best interests at heart. Before now, outside of my professors only two friends knew my struggle.

There’s lots of advice if you’re trying to realize a dream without a support network, and not all good.

Take what’s useful and leave the rest. Not all will apply to you.  Good Luck!

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