Guest Writer: Putting Your Career on Pause

By Cecilia Rodriguez, Co-Founder of Level Up Latina

As the first in my family to attend a 4-year university and become the first lawyer, the pressure was on from every spectrum. Societal pressures to succeed in a male-dominated profession were constantly there. I often questioned my identity and at times felt imposter syndrome. This was definitely something I felt at the beginning of my law career when court reporters and opposing counsel often confused me for the interpreter at depositions. Therefore, I did anything and everything possible to get familiarized with the legal community in San Francisco. When the question arose “are you the interpreter?” I would proudly respond, “no, I represent Client X.” Slowly, but surely, I built great rapport with court reporters, judges and even opposing counsel. I was finally at a place in my small community where I was known as one of the lawyers in my firm, the only Latinx lawyer.  I connected very well with my clients who were mostly Spanish-speaking construction workers. I felt truly privileged and honored to have a position at a top tier personal injury law firm in San Francisco. I loved my work and the family I created at the firm.

However, there came a point where two little individuals came into mine and my husband’s life. These two little girls became the loves of our lives and we immediately learned that having twins was no joke! It was a lot of work and something we wouldn’t change for a second.

I took 6 months of maternity leave after having our twins. It was tough going back to work and as a nursing mom, I was taking 2 breaks a day to pump. I got to know a lot of nursing rooms at different court houses across the Bay Area and had to interrupt depositions and hearings to keep up with my pumping routine.All this in addition to a full case load. I would come home and would only get to enjoy my sweet girls for a short hour or so. Many times, one of them had already fallen asleep by the time I got home despite my husband’s attempts to keep them awake.  This broke me! I wasn’t enjoying my babies and instead had a nanny caring for them.

On top of this, I was exhausted, constantly behind at work with no opportunity to catch up. I had no time for dates with my husband and absolutely no time for myself.  This went on for about a year until one day I had a heart to heart with my managing partner. It was a tough conversation, but this was a person whom I’d known for 18 years. He was more than a mentor and a boss at that point, he was family. My managing partner suggested that I seek the advice of a career coach and that is exactly what I did.

I was able to work with a career coach who was also Latino and an attorney. He guided me to make a very important decision. I wanted to have more flexibility with my schedule and be present in my daughters’ lives. I longed for me time and time alone with my husband. I also began thinking about ways to help women reach their full potential, career wise and at home. I began to have conversations with two of my best friends about career, motherhood, our relationships and balancing it all.  Long story short, I left my firm in January 2019.  It was a tough decision because I left not only colleagues, but a family behind.  In the end it all worked out for the best. My daughters are 2 and a halfand well into their terrible twos. I love taking them to ballet, swim class, museums, or any adventure that pops up while my husband finishes up his Ph.D. Additionally, we make monthly date nights mandatory and I have time to exercise and incorporate selfcare.

In May of this year, I launched Level Up Latina, LLC along with my dear friends Irene Quevedo and Veronica Burgos. Level Up Latina partners with working women and mamas alike to guide them in achieving fulfilling career and life goals. Our mission is to work with women and allow them to reach their goals by maintaining a healthy balance in all aspects of their lives. Despite this being a new venture in my life, I am loving every minute of it.

I am currently an active attorney in California, but not practicing. My next goal is to launch an attorney referral website and perhaps go back to practicing law when my girls start school.  For now, I’m a full-time twin mom, full-time wife and full-time founder and leader at Level Up Latina.

Remember, there are choices one makes when certain priorities come first. As Latinas, we know the pressure is on to keep a tidy home, take care of our partners and children, and on top of that, a lot of us have work outside the home. We feel like we have to juggle it all because “que va a decir la gente?” (what are people going to say?)  WHO CARES! STOP THAT GUILT RIGHT NOW! Sometimes your life changes and you must put your career on hold, and THAT IS OKAY! I personally feel at easeabout putting my legal career on hold because I am spending time with my girls and that is very rewarding to me. If anyone reading this is feeling similarly to how I was feeling, don’t hesitate to put your career on hold when other priorities come about. I am not the first nor the last to put their legal career on hold while raising small children. The beauty of it is that you can always jump back in. Who knows, maybe other opportunities may manifest. That fortunately happened to me with Level Up Latina and I am very proud of the work we’ve done so far. It is truly a “labor of love.”

To learn more about Level Up Latina, visit our website at LevelUpLatina.com. Subscribe to our email list and stay up to date with our weekly podcast or find us on social media on Facebook and Instagram @LevelUpLatina.