I’ve been meaning to write on this event for years but wanted to give enough time between the conversation and now for anonymity. I share about this conversation often because it is something most women relate to and it has nothing to do with people who sat around the conference room table that day. 

Sitting in the conference room on a bright, sunny day were a group of law firm leaders, all men, save for myself and the woman partner to my left. We were discussing an upcoming firm event to be held at the home of one of the partners later that evening. When asked if he was good with the event scheduled to begin just hours from then, the partner responded, “My wife is handling all the details” and then went casually back to his conversation unconcerned about caterers, menus, table linens, what time was he going to sneak out of the office, decorations, were the toilets cleaned, music, and what would the neighbors say about all the cars.

The conversation around the table then turned to who picks up the dry cleaning (the wives). Who takes/took the kids to the doctor’s appointments (the wives). Who coordinates the after-school activities (the wives). Who handles the shopping, the cooking, the household (the wives). Vacations (the wives). His parents (the wives).

After much discussion around the table, I leaned to my left and whispered to the only other woman in the room, “I am the wife.” And she looked at me with exuberance, understanding, connectedness, and whispered, “Me too!” A secret bond between us born.

But back to the conversation around the table, and it was unanimously decided to make sure the firm sent the partner’s wife flowers to thank her for all her hard work.

Forget never letting them (whoever “them” or “they” are) see us sweat. We can never let them see us “wife.” But those days, I hope, are nearing their end.

(end scene)

When we discuss women in law, and why women leave the law, and why women do not achieve partnership in law firms (which is very nuanced, but THIS topic is PART of the issue, not the whole of it), we cannot do so without discussing the “hidden load,” as described in this BBC article: The hidden load: How ‘thinking of everything’ holds mums back.
Continue Reading “I am the wife,” I said.