Not everyone can choose to or wishes to be a full time at home mum (it is one of the hardest jobs after all). One thing we all share is the desire to be a good mother.
Sara Kennaugh of Berry & Lamberts Solicitors interviews Dhruva Patel, Private Client Solicitor and mother to a 14 month old girl, and Anila Naeem, Family Solicitor and mother to a two year old boy, on life as a mother and a professional.
What brought you to the world of law?
Dhruva: Most of my extended family are medics. I knew it wasn’t for me but I still wanted to help people and I enjoyed a good debate. I am a people person so I really enjoy working with clients and helping them to manage their affairs to ensure their wishes become a reality.
Anila: I loved debating and at 16 did an extensive work placement with an international corporate law firm. I found court work fascinating and shadowed family lawyers. I had found my passion. I think Ally McBeal was also on at the time!
How has being a parent changed the way you work?
Anila: For me it is more empathy and better time management. I do a lot of work that involves or affects children and I realise now that before I did not have the same empathy levels that I do now.
I work three days a week so good time management is essential. There has to be flexibility on both sides. On days off I do dip into emails to keep an eye on things or I have the occasional client conversations on the phone with my son watching ‘Peppa Pig’ in the background (with the client pre warned!). In return I have the support of a great team and can work from home or flex my days to meet clients and my needs.
Dhruva: I agree. It makes a lot of my work resonate even more. Like the importance of appointing a guardian, family dynamics and making your wishes clear. I work four days a week. Sometimes, when I am at work, four days doesn’t seem long enough but I love being with my daughter. Honestly, it can be a real internal conflict. I keep in touch with my team on Fridays and am happy to assist with client matters when necessary. It comes back to the point of flexibility both ways which, thankfully, we have.
Were you concerned that having a child would impact your career?
Dhruva: I delayed having a child for a few years in order to establish my career and place in the firm before I went on maternity leave. It was the right choice for me as it gave me the confidence to focus on me and my family without having to worry about what I was missing out on in terms of my career.
Anila: It was always my intention to start a family once I had established my career and at 36 I decided the time was right.
What are your non-negotiables – the things that keep you balanced?
Dhruva: We go swimming religiously on Saturdays and have a lot of fun together. Also having the flexibility of work hours so that, when possible, I spend one on one time with my daughter first thing in the morning. I am terrible at time for me. It is on my to-do list!
Anila: I do Yoga twice a week which really helps me personally. On one of my days off I go to Tumble Tots with my son which we both love. At the weekends we make sure we prioritise family time.
Have you ever faced prejudice at work as a parent?
Dhruva: No, but I know firms where it would have been very different. Flexibility is the key with staff and for clients. It is important to create a mutual trust between you and your employer and get the job done, but in a way that works for you and your family.
Anila: I agree with Dhruva. I know there are firms out there who are rigid in their approach and not entirely in favour of parents working from home if and when the time arises. I genuinely think our firm is forward thinking and great at supporting parents. It is a balance of give and take. Flexibility with professionalism.
Who is your support network?
Dhruva: I am very lucky as I have my parents and my in laws nearby. They do a lot of running around for us which allows me to focus 100% when I am working.
Anila: We have family and some help with a neighbour – emergencies etc. You have to build a trusted network. I know people who have no family nearby and they have built a network of friends that all help each other out.
Ultimately you need to have a plan and find a balance that works for you and your family. It may take a while to implement but finding family friendly professional firms and putting in place your non-negotiables is a good starting point. Building your network of like-minded parents, where family are not on the door step, is also a good idea.
To discuss any family law matters with Anila or any Private Client matters with Dhruva please call the Berry & Lamberts Solicitors Sevenoaks office on 01732 460 565 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.