Don’t hope to ‘find the time’; make time for yourself

February 17, 2017
President’s Message By Melaine Shannon Rothey

As you might imagine if you have read my columns over the past six or so months, my mind and my thoughts tend to wander sometimes, which is advantageous as a litigator who can multitask with the best of them. I can draft a pre‐trial statement, prepare an emergency motion, take a phone call from a client and answer the same question that she asked last week and the week before, respond to emails and eat the lunch of leftovers packed by my wife – all while fending off opposing counsel who sent me a request for documents that I had already provided to former opposing counsel. So, as I thought about this column, I found my mind wandering to my high school and college years.

I am sure that my colleagues who are of a similar age will remember the Harry Chapin song entitled “Cats in The Cradle.” Maybe my young friends have heard it on the radio in the car on the way to school when their parents had the oldies station programmed. If not, Google the lyrics and read them before you continue. The lyrics and the theme of the song are wonderfully relevant to young lawyers, middle‐aged lawyers, older‐but‐not‐yet‐old lawyers and the “old guard.” In essence, the theme of the song tracks our busy lives. It starts with a child being born and the child learning to walk “while I was away,” but the child says “I’m gonna be like you, Dad.” It goes on to talk about the child growing up and Dad – today, this situation could just as easily apply to mothers – being gone for work and not able to play ball, and the child asking when he would be home and the child still wanting to “get together then.” Once the child goes to college, the scene starts to turn and Dad (again, could be Mom) says, “I’m so proud of you, can you sit for a while?” The son responds that he would like to, but he really wants the car keys. When Dad asks when he is coming home again, the son responds he isn’t sure, but they will “get together then.” The song ends with Dad retiring and the son living in another city. When Dad calls him to inquire as to when they can see each other, the son responds with, “I’d love to dad, if I could find the time. You see, my new job’s a hassle and the kid’s got the flu, but it’s sure nice talking to you, Dad.” Dad hangs up the phone and realizes that his son grew up just like he did.

Many of us are experiencing – or have experienced – being a part of the “sandwich generation.” We have kids at home who need our attention and aging parents who also need our attention. I have had this discussion over the past several years with many colleagues, including very recently with a close friend. How do we balance our time between our children and our parents? We love them both dearly, and they both have everyday needs. Kids have to get to soccer practice, and we have to monitor their homework and their social media. Parents have to get to doctor’s appointments and we have to monitor their nutrition and their medication. Both have legitimate and realistic demands on our time.

How much time do we have? Considering that we have to work to pay the bills and put food on the table – not to mention we have to take time for our own personal relationships – our time is constantly in demand. So, what is the solution? Do not try to be “Super Mom ⁄ Dad” or “Super Daughter ⁄ Son.” While we are naturally overachievers, who believe that we can solve every problem and cater to everyone’s wants, that will only result in burnout. None of us want to admit aloud that we are burned out, but it happens to all of us, and we have to be able to accept that as a fact. We have to be able to step back, prioritize, and organize our lives. Not to mention, we have to be able to ask for help – from family, from friends, from coworkers, even from strangers. Fortunately, we are not the sole members of the sandwich generation. Most, if not all, of our friends have been there, or they anticipate it coming. They understand. Ask for help. Take a mental health day. Go out to dinner. Take a walk through Phipps. Sit on the couch and watch reruns or a ball game. Play with your kids. Knit1crochet. Read a book. Do a crossword puzzle. Take a nap. Most importantly, do not let it fester because festering can only lead to burnout.

Again, when I am in charge of the world…