Mother's Day: Jan Murtha




She’s a lawyer, married to another lawyer, living in Dickinson, raising her three amazing children that include six-year old twins, a three-year old, and their older sister, her step-daughter who is 17. With a very busy career as the attorney for the City of Dickinson, Janilyn strives to find balance between long work hours, and three kids that need her just as much as her job does.  




Growing up in the beautiful small town of Traverse City, Michigan, Janilyn attended Catholic Schools from kindergarten through high school, spent her Saturday mornings at the library, and participated in athletics.  “It took 10 to 20 minutes to get anywhere we needed to be, arts were celebrated as much as athletics, Sunday Brunch after church was an institution, not an option.” So, when Janilyn and her husband talked about where they wanted to raise their family, she had a list: “small town, limited commute, catholic schools, local library, recreation and art programs, and coffee houses.  I took a look at what Dickinson had to offer…and thought this will work out just fine.”  




“Accepting that I need to make time for myself is difficult. Time can be a previous gift or cruel adversary.  As a working mom, I want more of it, am constantly losing it, and can only try to make the most of it.” Janilyn pauses. “Perfection is as undesirable as it is attainable, because it implies no growth or evolution.  Working through family dinner may be undesirable but necessary one night; but that important meeting at work doesn’t seem so important when you child wakes up at 3am with a fever and vomiting.  I can’t be everywhere and do everything that everyone wants me to, but I can be everywhere and do everything everyone needs me to.” 


As a lawyer, Janilyn realizes that she “can’t know everything about every law”, and notes that there are other lawyers that specialize in topics and are going to be more knowledgeable or better in those areas than she is.  Applying that same principal to motherhood, is hard.  “There’s a lot of stuff I can do well, some things at which I’m exceptional, and other things…not at all. I’m not a great cook, but I really appreciate people who are…my house is in a constant state of disarray, but I love going to friends homes that appear professional decorated…I get my kids signed up for activities, and sometimes I miss a registration deadline or my work schedule doesn’t make it feasible; but I applaud those parents that started building their kids athletic resumes from age 2.” 


“Some days, my only moment of peace is the few minutes I take to appreciate my cup of coffee.  There are times in our life when we feel like there is no time for ourselves, but that’s probably when we need to make the time”.   




Last November, Janilyn lost of her mother after a twenty-four year battle with breast cancer, and her mother-in-law passed away that same week unexpectedly.  “During that time, I was tested as a daughter, sister, wife, mother, and lawyer.  My husband and I worked together to meet the needs of our family and the demands of our careers, while we grieved the loss of these women from our lives.  There wasn’t much time to take, but we appreciated the few moments we found for some peace of mind.  


This Mother’s Day, Janilyn hopes to have “happy kids, a smiling spouse, and a moment to enjoy a good cup of coffee” but notes that “regardless how we use it (the time), I’ll appreciate having the time with them.” 


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