Compassion Fatigue in the Legal Industry

“I see families in their darkest hours. Some have made choices that put their children in danger–or worse, harmed them intentionally. Others are desperately trying to save a drug addicted child’s life. There are women desperate to get away from an abuser. Kids are acting out because they are in pain, getting into even worse situations. And they all expect me to make it better.” -Family law attorney

“As an attorney who has been in recovery for a while now, I wanted to pay it forward by helping to mentor and sponsor other attorneys in recovery. I wonder sometime, though, how much it hurts me to hold on to their pain and stress while still dealing with my own. It makes me feel guilty to say this, but maybe I should just focus on staying healthy myself. How can I help, but not let it hurt me?” -Volunteer mentor in a Lawyer Assistance Program.

“After a particularly hard criminal case involving a young victim the same age as my daughter, I kept having dreams that I put the child on the witness stand. When I would look up to ask a question, the child turned into my little girl. I would wake up sobbing every night. I felt like I was going crazy for a while.” -Prosecutor

“I know that by the time a client comes to see me, they are experiencing one of the lowest or hardest points in their lives. They are facing losing a job, or already have. They have experienced harassment or discrimination. I know they are struggling. Lately, however, I have had a hard time forcing myself to care. I want to, but I just don’t feel anything. It’s like I’m numb.” -Employment attorney

Compassion fatigue is a unique challenge within the larger spectrum of mental health and wellness in the legal industry. It is defined as a cumulative physical, emotional, and psychological effect of exposure to traumatic stories or events when working in a helping capacity. Combined with the impact of stress and strain of every day life, it can be debilitating. We often think of those in the “helping professions” as medical professionals, first responders, or therapists. As evidenced by the quotes above, attorneys are very much in the helping profession and are exposed to experiencing compassion fatigue in a multitude of ways. It impacts both their personal and professional lives. There are ways to avoid compassion fatigue and climb out of it if already experiencing signs of it.

Know The Signs

Physical Signs

  • Chronic physical exhaustion
  • Inability or difficulty going to or staying asleep
  • Chronic headaches
  • GI and other digestive problems
  • Weight change (loss/gain)
  • Self-medicating (drugs, alcohol, shopping, sex)

Emotional Signs

  • Apathy/ numbness
  • Quick to anger, cynical, pessimistic
  • Crying jags (inability/difficulty to stop crying)
  • Intrusive, disturbing images or dreams
  • Decreased self-esteem, worthiness

Relational Signs

  • Resentment toward clients and colleagues
  • Emotional detachment from people in personal and professional life
  • Withdrawing socially
  • Arguing with colleagues, friends, and family

What To Do

  • Recognize the signs. Awareness is the key to early intervention.
  • Talk it out. Whether it is a debrief with an understanding colleague or with a counselor or therapist, talking helps to maintain perspective and gain composure.
  • Set healthy boundaries. This is particularly important when dealing with trauma. Decide what is healthy for you and then make those boundaries known to others.
  • Cultivate resilience. Through practices of self-soothing, expanding optimism and gratitude, and increasing distress tolerance, resilience is the inoculation against compassion fatigue.

If you believe that you are experiencing compassion fatigue or want your law firm or professional services organization to learn more about compassion fatigue in your industry, contact us for presentations, workshops, and consulting.

R&R Resilience Round-up #3

Minds Over Matters

This is exciting news! “has embarked on a yearlong investigation into mental health across every sector of the legal profession. Over the course of 12 months, we will aim to shine a light on mental health, addiction, stress and well-being; destigmatize the issue; and identify methods to effectuate change.” I look forward to being a part of the discussion during the year and sharing their findings, resources, and stories here.

Are law schools doing enough to help with student stress?

The ABA Journal takes a look at new efforts to create a full culture of well-being in law schools that goes beyond the occasional offering of a meditation or yoga class.

The Source of Our Stress: Could It Be Culture?

In this article, Marcie Borgal Shunk, pulls back the lens and looks at the culture that contributes to stress and burnout in the legal profession.

Legal Industry Has Been Slow to Come to Terms With Destructive Tendencies on Mental Health

A look from the New York Law Journal at why the response to attorney mental health has been slow and why there needs to be a paradigm shift.

Balance is Bullsh*t!

I am going to cut to the chase. Balance is bullshit. It is a myth. It is a unicorn that is more likely to be a disinterested pony with a papier-maché horn than some magical beast ready to carry us to the rainbow world of perfect harmony. I hope that doesn’t sound too pessimistic because I have a whole other article on that, but that’s not what I’m writing about today. 

But you are right. It would be pretty pessimistic of me (not to mention make me a big jerk) to announce that finding balance is a whole bunch of horse-crappery and then sign off with a “Thank you very much!” So, because I am not a jerk, I promise that I will tell you what is better. But not yet. I want to kick some more dirt on balance first.

Let’s take a moment to consider what it means to balance something:

bal·ance/ˈbaləns/ noun 1. an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady.

That’s it. Equal distribution of weight. How much weight? Doesn’t matter. Stop asking smart questions. Just keep piling it on as long as we are keeping it even. Because we will do ALL THE THINGS. We will get a graduate degree (maybe two!), make partner in our law firms/ get the keys to the C-Suite, be philanthropic with our time, talent, AND treasure so the world will stop burning down around us! (Quick inhale!) And it will be fine as long as we also, in equal measure, make the perfect Pinterest cupcakes and attend Sally’s 2nd grade Father-Daughter/Mother-Son Dance and be on time to our Adult Basketball League Goat Yoga Class–Whew! Because this balance thing is an equal opportunity offender. We are ALL bringing home the bacon and frying it up in a pan*.

*Please Google joke if you are under 30.

But guess what? Scales break. Regardless of how we distribute the weight of our responsibilities, when we continue to pile it on, We. Will. Break.

It is not only the unbearable weight that we pile on to our scales of balance that is the problem, it is what we are told to strike a balance between: Work and Life. Well, if that’s not just a full throw-our-hands-up-in-the-air and proclaim that work is supposed to suck, then I don’t know what is. The thing we spend the bulk of our day doing is being defined as something at the opposite end of the spectrum of living. Well, that’s pretty bleak.

Work is part of the whole that makes up our lives. That’s why instead of banishing it to the realm of death, I say we make it better. We cultivate resilience in our work cultures and in our lives. So how do we do that without getting tangled in the balance myth? 

Instead, we talk about boundaries. Boundaries say, “Wait a minute. Why am holding all this weight with arms out to the side waiting to be broken?” Boundaries say, “I don’t need all of this. I don’t actually even want all of this.” Boundaries say, “I can set this down, pass it along, cross it off.” Boundaries are empowering because WE get to set them. They will be different for different people. It might mean one person will not take work calls after 6pm. For someone else, they might do their best, most creative work between 9:30pm and midnight. Boundaries are simply what you decide is ok and not ok. And because you are in charge, you can decide what boundaries are flexible and which are immovable. “Yes, I will choose to work late for this project I care a lot about,” but “No, that does not mean I want to have ‘dinner’ with the boss afterward.” 

If you are in the position of hiring and developing the people in your companies and firms, I challenge you to become comfortable with talking about and encouraging boundaries. Beginning with the interview, ask your candidates what their work boundaries are. Make a point of talking about your own boundaries. If you fear that asking that question and encouraging boundaries will devolve into a culture that lacks grit, teamwork, and tenacity then I am here to tell you that you are operating from a scarcity mentality. Boundaries do the opposite. Research has shown that the people who are most tenacious, generous, and innovative are those who are most boundaried. Why? Because when people are boundaried, they avoid being resentful and exhausted. No surprise, but resentment and exhaustion aren’t great ingredients for much of anything positive. When we nurture ourselves and the human beings we work with every day with healthy boundaries, that is when we receive the bounty of resilience in vibrant lives and vibrant businessness.

Resilience in the Social Media Maelstrom

Yesterday, I spoke out on Twitter about a panel discussion at a religious conference entitled “The Dangers of Social Justice.” I pointed out the problem of having five white men lead a discussion that labels justice as “dangerous” when women, people of color, LGBTQ+, and other marginalized groups are most likely to benefit from social justice work. Ironically, those voices had zero representation on the panel. What followed left me rattled enough to want to share a bit about it here. 

There was a swift, negative response from supporters of this particular doctrine and of the panel itself. Their rebukes quickly devolved into trolling, name-calling and barely-veiled threats. It was enough to bring me to block some of the worst offenders and then mute the conversation entirely. I closed the laptop last evening with more than a bit of a Twitter “hangover” from all the toxicity.

This morning I woke up to find that some of their threats were more than threats. My first email of the day was waiting for me before 5:30am. It was from a client informing me that overnight they received an anonymous email about me and my business. This email, with the subject line “Of Serious Concern,” encouraged my client to cease working with me because I was “abhorrent” and “racist” (as in racist against white people). It is very likely that this anonymous person has sent the same email to others who have not reached out to me. I am thankful that the person who reached out to me knows my reputation enough to take the email for what it is: retaliation for speaking out. 

I share this with you for two reasons. First and foremost, it gives me an opportunity to let you know a bit more about me if you don’t already. I will always stand up for the marginalized, for the ones not invited to the table, and for speaking truth to power. I engage in civil discourse, and will not suffer incivility. I will do that in my personal life and in my professional life. That way, whether you are my friend or colleague, neighbor or client you know me as authentically the same. I coach people and organizations that integrity means that our inside values can be seen and heard on the outside. If I cannot live by what I coach, then my own integrity would be lost. We all fall short of that at times, but it is my hope for us all (individually and as larger organizations and communities) that we choose courage over comfort

The second thing is this: there is a lesson about resilience here. Being resilient does not mean you have to weather abusive behavior. It does not make us tougher to “take it,” nor does it make us a coward to walk away from it. One of the best protective factors that builds our resilience are healthy boundaries. Healthy boundaries help us recognize when our emotional safety is being attacked. As Brene Brown explains, emotional safety doesn’t mean avoiding getting our feelings hurt. It does mean, however, recognizing and escaping from demeaning and dehumanizing language or behaviors. That is true in face-to-face conflict, and it is even more important online where things get uglier more quickly. Walk away, block, mute, disconnect. It is your right to establish the boundaries that are necessary for you. No one can tell you what is or is not important to your resilience. Sometimes it is going toe to toe with someone when you see injustice. Sometimes it is taking a nap on the deck on a warm spring late afternoon. The former was yesterday for me. Today? Today there is a perfect breeze on the deck and it is calling my name. 

Resilient Rituals

Each of us have our daily routines. I do the same thing every single morning when I wake up. I walk directly to the coffee pot, and stand trace-like in front of it until the it’s ready. Pavlov’s dogs had nothing on me. Those are key ingredients to me starting the day off on the right foot. This routine is not a ritual, however. It is a habit. What is the difference between habits and rituals? The difference is intentionality. When I wake up in the morning, I am driven by the primary need for caffeine. I make no conscious decision to partake in this habit (at least not anymore). I just do it.

A ritual on the other hand is the conscious and intentional decision to make a meaningful moment. Other things I do in the morning are rituals. Most mornings I either go for a run or do a guided meditation where I am able to focus on what I want to accomplish that day and allow my mind to drift into more creative spaces. I make a concerted effort to take that time in order to create meaning and purpose in my day. Many of my speeches and workshops have been designed running down a trail in the morning.

In Kursat Ozenc and Margaret Hagan‘s book Rituals for Work, they illustrate (literally) 50 ways to incorporate rituals for the workplace that build community, ignite creativity, and navigate change. Not only do they break these rituals down into audience (individual, team, and organization), they identify which rituals work best to ignite specific results. It is a useful, fun book and I highly recommend it.

In that spirit, here are a few rituals that help me focus on cultivating resilience. Two I have used for a long time, one is adapted from Rituals for Work:

Sensory Countdown:

When we experience anything that triggers immediate anxiety or panic, our nervous system steals blood from our rational, composed minds. We cannot problem-solve or gain perspective until we soothe our more frantic lizard brains. And because our brains are lizard-like, they tend to be easily distracted if we catch them early enough. When you feel yourself start to feel the rise of panic (rapidly beating heart, throbbing temples, sweaty palms, heavy breathing), stop what you are doing, take a step back and NAME the following out loud or in your head:

  • 5 things you can see
  • 4 things you can hear
  • 3 things can smell
  • 2 things you can touch
  • 1 thing you can taste

The Moment of Reverence

Photo by Oleg Magni on

A fundamental domain of resilience is Vision. Vision is what drives our motivation in any given task, challenge, or opportunity. We so often get focused on our many micro-tasks of the day, we fail to remember why it is we are doing the work we are doing. Our Vision connects to a greater purpose. Taking a moment of reverence connects us more deeply to our Vision. This can be helpful to do individually or with a team preparing for a significant event or challenging moment. As described in Rituals for Work, moments of reverence are taken with surgical teams prior to performing surgery.

This ritual can be adapted in any way you might want to pause to reflect on the greater purpose of what you do. For example, a person can pause before an important meeting and think about who they are about to spend time with and visualize them holistically. Yes, the person they are meeting might be a potential client with whom they are trying to do business. Who else are they? Father, wife, runner, community member, volunteer? We are all more than the role one might observe in us. Taking a moment to see and revere a person holistically allows us to build more authentic relationships with others.

As a team, gather before an important presentation, meeting, or event. After a going through the usual “run of show” or pre-meeting technical check list, have someone remind everyone what the greater purpose of the event is, who will be there and why they matter to the team and/ or company. Take a moment of silence to gather those thoughts. Continue with the event.

Well Done

This is an end of day gratitude ritual as well as one that allows us to complete the day with a sense of accomplishment and optimism. We all have a tendency at the end of the day to think about the remaining items left on our to-do list. Allowing that negative energy to linger after the work day creates an overwhelming sense that we will never be done. That can become a pretty hopeless feeling. Instead, end the day writing two new lists. On the first list, write the tasks that you didn’t finish today and set it aside. That list is now relegated to tomorrow. It no longer belongs to today. Then on a separate note, list between three and five things you felt good about accomplishing during the day. Maybe it was something on your original to-do list, maybe it was something you didn’t expect to focus on, but were pleased that you did. Leave that note on your desk to see first thing in the morning. When you get home at the end of the day and someone asks, “How was your day,” tell them about the things you listed on your accomplished list. Leave tomorrow’s things for tomorrow. For today, say “well done.”

Rituals are powerful and, yet, accessible to all of us. We can borrow others’ rituals, adjust them to our own needs, or create brand new ones out of our own creativity.

The Toxic Culture of Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession

Photo: Annalisa Grassano

It should come as no surprise that sexual harassment is another prong of the pitchfork that is the toxic culture in the legal profession. The pitchfork that leads to suicide, addictions, and burnout for lawyers and professionals. The pitchfork that leads to increased malpractice, absenteeism/attrition, and impact on profitability. In a new survey conducted by the International Bar Association found that one third of all women in the legal profession have experienced sexual harassment in her workplace. While there has yet to be a study that shows correlation between rates of low resilience/poor mental health and incidents of sexual harassment in the legal industry is a leap not hard to make.

For the legal profession, be in firms Big to small, in-house legal departments, or government legal departments, this is yet another corrosive issue that demands attention.

Read more about this latest survey in Above the Law’s article A Look at the Staggering Sexual Harassment Numbers in the Legal Profession.

Stop Trying to Make the Boss Look Good

Recently, someone shared with me a New York Time’s article, “The Best Advice You’ve Ever Received (and Are Willing To Pass On)“, by Ben Pogue. It is a crowdsourced article in the same vein as his book, “The World According To Twitter.” I am a big believer that we all have something to teach and we all have new things to learn. There are experts all around us if we are willing to just ask questions of those around us. I found some new favorite pieces of advice. “Touch it once,” for example, is good advice for not putting off what can be taken care of quickly the first time: putting the glass in the dishwasher instead of on the kitchen counter (a biggie in a household of all preteens and teens) or capturing that business expense receipt in the moment. I need little gems and life-hacks such as these.

There was another piece of “best advice,” that I read, however, that really stuck in my craw (that’s a bad thing for the non-Southerns out there). The advice was this: “Your job is to make your boss look good.” Yeah…no. I’ve heard this advice too often before. Nine times out of ten it has been when something in the workplace is dysfunctional, breaking down, or harmful. If all else fails, turn a soft focus lens and some warm halo lights on the boss! It will make him/her happy, at least.

If you are showing up to work every day with the belief that your primary function is to make your boss look good, you are being harmed. Why? Because your actual talent is most likely not being honed and showcased; your flattery skills are being honed and showcased. If you are a woman, add a layer of gender bias on to that. Women are more likely to be expected to let the boss and/or men take credit for their efforts, all in the vein of “making the boss look good.” This is damaging, obviously, to the long term trajectory of women’s careers. Regardless of gender, making it a primary focus to make the boss look good (which often requires “sucking up”) allows people to be uncivil to those who are not above them in hierarchy, have lower self-discipline, and experience a false sense of job security.

If YOU are the boss who is expecting the white-glove treatment by those who are under your direction, you might be The Boss, but you are missing the mark of being A Leader. Fundamental in any relationship, be it personal or professional, is trust. The key ingredient to a trusting relationship is integrity. I define integrity as this: what I say and do on the outside matches what I believe on the inside. Sometimes that level of honesty requires us to really hear when others are speaking truth to our power. It serves no one to have a team of cheering masses behind the boss as they charge over the cliff. A confident leader will seek out the voices who say, “I disagree and here is why” and “We have got a problem and you need to hear about it.” That includes everything from questioning a particular client strategy to speaking out about sexual harassment in the workplace. “Make the boss look good” is akin to “Nothing to see here, folks. Move along!”

None of this, of course, is about throwing the boss under the bus. Remember, the goal here is trust and integrity. Throwing someone under the bus is simply the flip side of the “make the boss look good” coin. It is manipulation in the hopes of creating leverage.

Here is the full circle moment. When leaders allow themselves to be open to plainspoken truth that comes from a place of integrity, they are able to make wiser, more well-informed decisions. THAT is what actually makes the boss look good. Making the boss look good is not the goal or the measure of success, it is the by-product of quality work and true leadership.

For Sally Yates, Suicide Prevention is Personal

On January 30, 2017, Acting United States Attorney General Sally Yates was infamously fired by Donald Trump after she instructed the Justice Department not to make legal arguments defending the order which temporarily banned the admission of refugees and barred travel from certain Muslim-majority countries (her decision was later upheld). Just two short weeks later, Yates made one of her first public appearances at a National Dialogue on Race in Atlanta at the Carter Presidential Library. While Yates was simply there as a guest of honor and not participant in the event, the surprised crowd burst into a standing ovation as she entered the auditorium and, with a small wave, took her seat.

Over the years, I have had a few opportunities to be around Sally Yates in various professional settings. As one of the conference organizers, I had the privilege of having dinner with her that evening. During the course of conversation, someone asked her what was coming next for her. With a smile, she said she would be taking some time to decide. We chatted about the need to step back and reset after the kind of intense pressure and public scrutiny she was under. We talked about career burnout, toxic stress, and self-care. At the time, I had no idea how close to home that actually was for her.

Sally Yates’ father, also an attorney, died by suicide at the age of 56 in 1986, shortly before her law school graduation. Yates, now a partner in King & Spalding’s Atlanta office, shared the story of his suicide at the 2019 Dorothy C. Fuqua Lecture last Wednesday aimed at raising awareness for suicide prevention. Last year, she also spoke with David Axelrod on his podcast, The Axe Files about her father. While causes, symptoms, and signs of suicidal ideation can look different person to person, decreasing the stigma around talking about mental health lowers the barriers to getting the support people need.

I am grateful for public figures and leaders like Sally Yates who use their platform and their experience for the greater good of making us all healthier and more resilient.

R&R: Resilience Round-up #2

Well Being Pledge

The ABA has created a seven point Well-Being Pledge for Legal Employers. Included in the pledge is a call to create “visible partnerships with outside resources committed to reducing substance use disorders and mental health distress in the profession: healthcare insurers, lawyer assistance programs, EAPs, and experts in the field.” 

Where’s the Zeal?

The word “zeal” has been stricken from the New York State Rules of Professional Responsibility. While no reason was given for the change, the author of this article believes it is because zeal had been used as an excuse for “chronic incivility,” and toxic work cultures.

Can Tracking Happiness Make Us Happier?

Founder of The Happiness Lab, Dave Bellamy talks about tracking happiness in his latest article. Have you ever noticed that when you get a new car, suddenly, the streets seemed filled with your car? By noticing the things we want more of in our life–happiness, gratitude, opportunity, connection–the more we feel surrounded by it. The same is true if we notice the bad luck or missed chances. What we water is what will grow.

Lawyers, Experts Fear Dire Consequences as the Pace of Legal Work Accelerates

The New York Law Journal discusses The New York State Bar Association release of its standards on civility this month. Highlighted in the standards is a push against the unrealistic deadlines and timelines imposed by clients and colleagues, alike.

Mental Health and Well-Being: How Law Students Can Get Help and Help Others

This episode of the ABA Law Student Podcast features Terry Harrell and John Berry talking about mental health and well-being in the legal profession and law schools.

Long Overdue Step Taken to Remove Mental Health Stigma in Law

From the Connecticut Law Tribune, “On Jan. 25, 2019, the Connecticut Bar Examining Committee voted to remove mental health questions from the Connecticut bar application, ending long-standing criticism from advocates about the overreaching and discriminatory practice.”

Forks & Foibles

Photo by Pixabay on

Author’s Note: I wrote Forks & Foibles over 10 years ago for a parenting blog. At the time, my oldest and middle sons were still in elementary school and my baby was still an actual baby. Now the littlest is about to head on to middle school next year. This is an article that pokes fun at our need to be perfect “Pinterest Parents,” when really just being mediocre is fine. Why am I posting this on my professional blog about resilience? Because it is all connected. And also because it is fun to laugh at myself while being a bit wistful about the passing of an era. I’m soon to be elementary school free for the first time in 15 years. I hope it give you a chuckle too.

I’ve cracked the code! The code by which elementary school Room Mothers and preschool teachers alike rate the responsibility of parents. Judgment is doled out in the seemingly innocent auspices of the school holiday party and what party item one is designated to bring. There are the top tier parents who are The Cupcake Moms. Without them and their lovingly crafted confectionary goodness, there would be no party. Their status only challenged by Craft Project Moms or Silly Game Dads. They are the ones who cause teachers to light up when they enter the classroom for that hectic Halloween or wild winter party. Those teachers know that they can breathe a sigh of relief for a brief, shining moment while other capable hands entertain the squealing masses.

But we can’t all be Cupcake Moms or Silly Game Dads. That’s right: I’m Fork Mom. Forks. Nothing that a room full of Halloween-costumed first graders can’t live without and, let’s be honest, probably would prefer not to use. Indeed, as I set my box of forty-eight forks down (they only requested twenty-four, but hey, I’m an overachiever), I noticed that the table was full of mini-muffins, cut veggies, cheese sticks, and cookies. The forks, it seemed, were simply an invention to keep me from feeling completely useless. Nice gesture.

As I sat in the corner eating grapes and tiny twist pretzels with a fork, I found myself wondering, “Why am I pouting? I am the luckiest woman in the world!” Yes … because I have three really amazing children … but also because I wasn’t up half the night assembling cupcake ghosts or pipe cleaner spiders! I found a box of forks from last summer’s camping supplies, threw them in my son’s backpack, and called it an evening.

I’ve just never been “that mom.” You know the one. The one who came to the park with a diaper bag filled with three changes of clothes and several choices in the cracker genre. Invariably, my child would spy his play-date’s four-course, pre-lunch snack and look at me with longing. Having been, just moments before, proud that I a) made it to the park that day and b) remembered his windbreaker, I now sheepishly reach into my coat pocket and offer my tyke a mint from the Mexican restaurant we ate at three nights earlier. Trying not to show concern for my child’s nutritional well-being, Playground Mom (who will graduate to full Cupcake Mom status as soon as her child crosses the Kindergarten threshold) says to me, “Harry can have some of Susie’s crackers. We have plenty. Would he like graham, gold fish, whole grain or gluten-free crackers?” Naturally I take up her kindly offer because if I don’t, I’ll then be on the skewer for letting my pride get in the way of snack time. “Hey, Susie,” I say flatly, “wanna Tic Tac?”

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t doubt my ability to be a good mother. Others might, but I don’t. I know that I’m solid in several key areas of parenting. I know that the boxed noodle soup can magically cure my kids of many ills, but the canned variety is “yuckers” and should be avoided at all cost. I am the queen of cuddling … even though they ask for it more rarely now that they are bigger and/or constantly moving at the speed of light. I laugh at their jokes, and perhaps more importantly, I laugh at myself. I am really good at being firm on discipline, yet only rarely do my kids refer to me as “the meanest, most totally unfair mom in the universe!” And even when they do, I also check off the “good disciplinarian” box.

So sometimes when Playground Mom gives in to the Susie’s tears for more goldfish crackers ten minutes before lunch or more time at the park when it is way past naptime, I get the opportunity to say “Wow, Playground Mom, little Susie is totally playing you!” But I don’t. Why? Because deep down all of us—Cupcake Mom, Silly Game Dad and me, Fork Mom, know that we are each doing the best job we can. We love our Susies and Joes, Harrys and Brittneys. Some of our kids have consistently snack-filled bellies; some of our kids have really fresh breath.

So, ok … this time it was forks, but I’m ok with that. Before I leave the party, I whisper to Cupcake Mom, “Great dessert! Great party! Put me down for napkins for the Spring Social.”