My (Working) Life Has a Plan

Kate Sherwood is on an adventure. After focusing on being the mother of the most amazing daughter, she is now in her third and final year of law school. Having been a military child, Kate is excited to go anywhere her future career takes her. She blogs at http://bjj-law-living.blogspot.com/

The best thing that ever happened to me was not getting into medical school. I do not pretend the Lord stopped me. I know it was the result of some of my choices. But, if I had gone to medical school and had a family, I would have been destroyed by not being able to make the two worlds of surgery and motherhood mesh, each at 100% capacity. I am not saying other women cannot accomplish this marvelously. I just know, in hindsight, I would have been undone.

So, I worked full time before I got married. My new husband already had two children. I started my own medical transcription business so that I could work from home, which was perfect, I thought. It was not perfect when our baby was born. I worked at the computer with our baby nearby. When my husband came home from work, he took her away so I could keep working. I could hear him playing with her and having fun. He would take her in the backpack on his cool-down walks after his runs. When she got hungry, he would bring her back to me to nurse. Then, he would take her away again. He got to be Dad, but I did not get to be Mom. I was just the wet nurse. I took work on our vacations too, playing dictation tapes with power from the cigarette lighter in the car and running the laptop off of its battery, and I continued to work at our destination. Observing the Sabbath was truly a blessing. Meanwhile, other problems in my marriage escalated. Even this difficult work experience, though, was turned to something good when I needed it later.

After the divorce, I needed work benefits which I did not have in owning a small business, and my daughter and I went through several childcare arrangements and jobs over the next few years. I was trying to find something that I could live with as a mother. Nothing was right.

Eventually, I found and obtained a position as a medical transcriptionist that both allowed me to work from home and still have good health and dental benefits and vacation and sick time. It was no problem for my daughter to stay home from school if she was sick, as well as during the summers. The downside was that she often had to entertain herself, making her own paper projects and drawings. Too many times, I said, “I am sorry. I can’t talk to you right now. I am working.” But I was physically home all the time, and mentally and emotionally present more than I would have been with other jobs. I held that position for almost 10 years, the 10 years while my daughter was young. That is my first example of the Lord’s hand in helping me balance temporal needs and motherhood. Years prior, I had obtained the knowledge and the experience that would allow me to get this job when I needed it most.

Surprising to me, jury duty helped me find the next trailhead on my personal trek, that part of my journey, now, when motherhood is less demanding and there is more time for me to develop other talents. As I sat on that jury for two weeks, I was continually impressed by the attorneys. Over and over, I thought, “I could do that. I would like doing that.” Almost as soon as the trial was over, I began preparing for the law school admission test.

Now, my daughter will graduate from high school and I will graduate from law school in approximately one year. These past two years have been some of the happiest times of my life, and she has been glad to have me out of the house sometimes. My love of medicine is still a part of me, and I hope to incorporate that into my legal career. It is an incredible feeling to be starting a new phase of my life, my next adventure.

This is what I tell women like me, those who primarily worked in their homes for a season: when the nurturing season slows down, it is exciting and life-affirming to fulfill old and new goals or professional dreams. You can handle the academic work or the development of dormant talents. I plan to help create better work-life options for women who balance home and work, for all the women and men who work to find the best fit for each member of their families. What do I tell my daughter? There are no external answers. You have to find your path, but it will be easier with heavenly guidance. I am so grateful for the guidance I have had as I stumbled down an unclear and unmarked path—my path.

9 thoughts on “My (Working) Life Has a Plan

  1. What we don’t tell our youth, and what our parents didn’t tell us, is that there are seasons to life. I was a full time stay at home mom to 6 kids for 23 years. Then they left. First for school during the day and then for good. I was still a vibrant and capable woman with a lot of good years left to fill. Mothering will rarely take up your whole life full time (unless you die young).

  2. Personally, having a stay at home mother during my more formative teenage years was much more influential than maybe having one during some younger years. I’ve also witnessed many of my friends suffer from the lack of supervision they received during that time.

    But now as a mother, nothing scares me quite as much as imagining being in a desperate situation to get work to support my children, and I do believe that Heavenly Father watches over those women (and men) that have accepted the responsibility of rearing children alone.

  3. Sara: Regarding the teenage years, this is another area in which I have been bountifully blessed. I have a similar, though not exact, schedule as my daughter. I have spring break and Christmas break. This summer, my work schedule is very flexible–I determine when I work my hours. Much like college, especially after the first year of law school, I choose my classes and I am not in class for 8 hours straight Monday through Friday. I study at home when my daughter is home as much as I can (studying is the bulk of the law school madness).

    That being said, truly, when we were discussing the idea of me going back to school, she said, with excitement in her voice, “You mean you would leave the house sometimes!?” For me, the timing of it all has been a great blessing.

    This is not to disparage other paths. I absolutely believe we can develop better options for our families in balancing home, work, and emotional health, so the people have more choices available to match their circumstances and desires, and I do plan to help bring that about.

  4. Thank you for your story, showing how life is long and there are different phases. And especially for the reminder of how Heavenly Father helps us find paths along the way.

  5. I was really hoping to read that you were already working in law, since apparently it is extremely difficult to get a law job after law school. I really hope it works out for you.
    Thank you for sharing your story. I worked with a baby around and only stopped to nurse. It was extremely difficult and I worked 7 days a week 24 hours a day trying to get 35 hours in, sometimes in 15 minute increments.

  6. jks: Yes, I knew about the job market before I quit my job and went to law school on student loans. It was a long, arduous, concerned, and prayerful decision process. Perhaps I will come back and comment on this post when I have a job following graduation!

    My heart goes out to you in reading about your working experience.

  7. Thanks Kate, for your response. I admire your cause. What really stands out to me is, what you phrase as “better options”. That is to say we are not ignoring or sidestepping the reality of the needs of both parents and children, particularly teenage children, as I pointed out.

    What kind of ideas do you have in helping us meet that ideal?

  8. Sara: I have been thinking about this for years, and it would fill an independent study paper (possibly) or a book (I plan). So, what I have room for in a comment is necessarily just the briefest of summaries.

    First, though, I read blogs everyday of working women filled with anguish because they desperately want to be wonderful mothers while they also work successfully. Most feel like they cannot leave their jobs or reduce their hours, even if their spouse is fully employed with benefits. Whatever the reasons or the context of a dually employed family, I would like to help them.

    The briefest synopsis is this: Just as we recognize the family as the basic unit of society socially, we can treat it as the basic unit economically with regard to benefits that are typically attached to employment, such as insurance. I would like to treat student loan repayment a little differently too, within a family. I see a world where a spouse can more easily adjust work hours up or down (in agreement with the employer) depending on the stage of their family’s maturity and in a way that the two parents agree upon together. Different couples will want different arrangements at different stages. I want to give them options to choose from.

    Unfortunately, only my student loan repayment idea helps single parents. I don’t like that, being a single parent. So, I have not stopped thinking about single parents.

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