Name: Patricia Davison Crauwels
Job Title: Shareholder/Attorney; Matthews Eastmoore
City: Sarasota, Florida
Number of Children/Other Dependents: 4 (ages 30, 26, 17 and 15)
Do you think having “it all” is realistic or overrated? Why?
The answer to this question is somewhat determined by a person’s definition of having “it all.” If one considers the phrase to mean having a career that gives me professional and personal satisfaction and having a family, yes, I think it is realistic. I have been fortunate in my career as a trial attorney to have been initially employed by, and then a shareholder partner with, male attorneys that value family life. If I had worked for a law firm whose primary concern was billable hours, I may have a different view. That being said, there have been moments in my career when I have questioned my choices and wished for a simpler life. I am sure that there are moments, hopefully not many, in my children’s lives when they wished I was not a mother with a career.
The advantage to my job has been the ability to be present at times in my children’s lives where a 9-5 working parent may not be. For instance, if I was not in trial or in deposition, I would leave the office to be at the afternoon school soccer game knowing I could return to the office later that night to complete my preparation for the next day. That flexibility is a gift that many working parents do not have. On the other hand, I am also probably one of a handful of parents whose children (the two oldest) were so tired of fast food that they would say:, “Not again!”, as we went through the drive-through after taking Nanny home. I may take a guilt trip later if they have really bad cholesterol.
What is the best advice you have ever received on balancing your personal and professional lives?
When I initially looked at this question, my reaction was to say that I did not get any advice on this. Although there were other women attorneys in 1984 when I first started out, not many were litigators, who have the unique challenge of your calendar being driven by the court’s calendar, depositions scheduled, etc. However, on further reflection, I realize that the best advice I received was the example given to me by my mother. In her 40’s, my mother, with six children, went back to school to become a nurse. She balanced home life with school and then with a career. I always felt that her priority was to her family, working the night shift so that she would be there for us before we left for school and when we returned. As a child, I did not have the perspective to appreciate how difficult this had to be for her, exhausting I am sure. Her focus when she was home was on us, her children. By the way, we always had a home-cooked meal so I am not my mother. I have tried to compartmentalize and be in the moment so that work was not present when I was with my kids. I would give myself an 85% success rate on that. I also, for my clients, had to be able to put aside any concerns I had regarding my kids, for instance, if my son was sick and home from school with the nanny, and focus on the job at hand.
If you had an extra hour in your day, how would you spend it?
I would spend half of it with my children and the other half, I would spend doing something just for myself.
Looking back at when you started in the profession, and knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell myself to understand that I won’t get it right 100% of the time; that no-one does.
Do you deal with guilt in trying to balance your personal and professional lives?
Yes. There are times when they are not balanced. For instance, when I am in trial, it consumes my life from 6 am until midnight throughout the trial — and not always at the best time for one of my children. I have tried to take an afternoon off following a trial to spend extra time with the kids. I will also admit that there have been some trips to Disney World that were to appease my feelings of guilt.
What single change do you believe would have the biggest impact on work life balance or quality of life?
I wish I had the answer to this question. I do think with the ability to work remotely provides more opportunities to be present in the home and still get work accomplished.
What part of “balance” do you struggle with?
Making time for myself. I spend most of my time focusing on either my career and my family and struggle to make time for myself. I try to incorporate exercise, going to the beach and relaxing into my schedule as much as I can.
How important is civic and/or professional involvement to you and why?
Very important. However, it is easier now than when my children were young. I had no time to give when I was younger that I wanted to take away from the family. I do think it is important that the voices of women be heard as we offer a unique perspective. I am particularly interested in assisting in the lives of disabled children since I have a child that is a special needs child.
What’s the advice you would give a young lawyer seeking to strike a “balance” between family, self, and the practice of law or achieve better quality of life?
Choose the type of law carefully. An office practice is much more adjustable to what is happening in the home life. Note, disclaimer, I have never had an office practice so my comment should really be that a litigation practice is particularly challenging at combining the two.
Any other parting words of advice?
Do not let the expectations of others determine what is the best choice for you.
Pat Crauwels asked her adult daughter, Alison Prouty, an actor by night and legal assistant by day, to give her perspective of her mother’s ability to balance it all. This is how she responded: A lot of people throughout the years have made a comment to me like: “I don’t know how your mother does it!” Or something along those lines. And, to be honest, I don’t know half the time either. However, I can’t imagine my mom being a “stay-at-home” mom. Growing up, I was aware of how busy mom was at work, but I never felt like I wasn’t a priority. There was the occasional field trip that she wasn’t able to chaperone that gave some disappointment, but that made the ones she was able to attend more special. And, it mattered more that she was able to come to all of our sports games, music concerts, and theatre performances. (Even now, as an adult, she’ll say to me “Honey, I think I can only manage to go to two of your performances this time. Is that okay?”).
She always made sure that we had access to her, even at her busiest. At one point growing up, our house wasn’t very far from her office. So, in the summer, my older brother and I would bike over during the day to say hi, grab lunch together, and just, in general, to bug her. She didn’t seem to mind (or at least pretended not to). While the current distance from work to home doesn’t allow my younger siblings the same ability, they can text or call and reach her easily.
I think I can speak for all of my siblings when I say that we wouldn’t change anything about our mom, how we grew up, or how she raised us.