March is Women’s History Month and to celebrate, we had a conversation with Elizabeth M. Khean. Liz practices business and real estate law at KZEL and is one of four hardworking female partners at the firm. We asked her what it means to be a partner, lawyer, mother and spouse and what she does to help integrate those roles into her life.
“As a professional, you want to be the best that you can be, whether it be the best lawyer, the best mom, the best spouse, the best mentor or the best partner,” says Liz.
While she says she lives her life by to-do lists, Liz has learned that balance is not necessarily balancing all roles equally at any given time, but re-prioritizing each role as necessary, while being kind to herself in the process. Burnout is a distinct possibility if you don’t show yourself the amount of compassion and kindness that you would ordinarily show others, which Liz admits she still struggles with.
When asked how Liz manages some of her struggles, she said she is fortunate to be surrounded by competent and capable people that she can depend on when she asks for help. Historically, asking for help has equalled a sign of weakness, however, there is a trend towards seeing it reframed as a strength. Women are increasingly seeing it as something they should NOT feel guilty for, especially when there are so many responsibilities to take care of.
“I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without having a strong, supportive team around me, in every aspect of my life. My spouse is a busy professional as well, but when work takes priority, I know I am able to rely on him to take over the parenting responsibilities. Conversely, being able to depend on my law partners when my personal obligations prevail, on the understanding that they can depend on me when other priorities in their life take precedence, is a privilege that I do not take for granted. It’s challenging and a lot of pressure for someone to think that they need to do it all themselves.”
Guilt is a normal feeling for women when faced with so many responsibilities. If they’re prioritizing one aspect of their life over another, they may feel guilty about other things they should be focusing on as well.
Feeling guilty is an aspect of her life that Liz acknowledges she has grown to accept. Balancing multiple roles is something that takes a lot of effort, physically and mentally, for people in all situations and professions.
To allow herself compassion, Liz says she reminds herself why she’s doing the things she does. She works because she finds her career to be deeply satisfying and although she understands this might mean her work-life intersects with her home life, she hopes that she is able to show her son the importance of being fulfilled on a personal and professional level.
Women with families are often told they should work less to be more present for their families. To this end, Liz believes that, “Deciding whether you want to be a stay-at-home parent or a working parent is a deeply personal decision that depends on several factors. From a financial perspective, I need to work in order to provide certain comforts and opportunities for my family and, from a personal perspective, I want to work because it is a part of my identity that I find rewarding. I’ve made the decision to be a mom, spouse, lawyer and partner and part of committing to those decisions is accepting all the challenges that come with it while trusting that I can figure it out along the way.”