This blog is not intended to provide legal advice, legal services or legal anything else. Don't sue me. All I have is debt anyway.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Follow-Up Question

This one will need to be answered by those of you who already had children when you entered law school. (You know who you are!)

A fellow mom/future MILP [with a school-age child] asks us:

How has spending so much of yourself on school affected your relationship with your child?

I'll start with my thoughts, even though my kid came during law school, so I have no real reference point for change.

Law school is entirely possible to get through without it consuming your life if you manage your time well, and as a parent, you probably already do that. As your child is school-age, I think it would be easier in some ways and more difficult in others. For me, my child is pretty high-maintenance at this point. She can't walk, feed herself, go to the bathroom herself. She constantly demands attention, and even when she doesn't, she's seriously loud as hell. But on the other hand, she doesn't really care that I'm not there all the time. She really likes her dad, she likes her Grandma, she likes her teachers, and she has several "uncles" and "aunties" she can spend quality time with. And she never whines about how I'm neglecting her needs, and hasn't started to keep a journal of my poor parenting skills to someday publish (yet). She doesn't require being transported to soccer practice or ballet or friends' houses, and I have yet to transport any of her little friends. (At this point, she's not really a big fan of any of her little friends, because that's someone else trying to chew on her toys.) So, of course there are big challenges for raising older children while in law school. But I've seen my classmates do it, with great success. One gal's daughter started kindergarten the year we started 1L. She brings her to the law library and they do homework together.

There are definitely going to be sacrifices. If you're coming from being a stay-at-home mom that goes to all the PTA meetings, makes cupcakes for the kids, goes on all the field trips and directs the school plays, then yeah, it's going to be a big adjustment for everyone. You can still do some of that stuff, but you won't have nearly as much time! But honestly, if you've been working 40 hours a week, it won't be that much of a lifestyle change. There will be times (finals, and the couples weeks before), where life will be hell, but the rest of the time if you stick to a schedule and make good use of your time, it won't be that drastic.

I also think there's a lot to be said for quality versus quantity of time. If you only have two hours with your kid in the evenings, instead of four, maybe you don't watch TV or check your email, or make any phone calls. Maybe you say, hey, this is family time, and we will spend it together.

I think if it's something you really want, then the sacrifices are worth it. Ultimately, while your child might have some trouble adjusting to you not being there as much, or eating TV dinners instead of a home-cooked meal, it won't be detrimental to your relationship. She will eventually look to you as a role model, as someone who showed her that she can be whatever she wants to be. And you'll still be there for the important stuff. You can still tuck her into bed, take her to and from school if you want. Help her with her homework, read her books at bedtime, and attend soccer games and ballet recitals. 1L year for us was only 4 classes a semester, 13 hours of class time a week. The rest of the time was studying. The further you get into law school, the more efficient you get at studying (and more apathetic, so then you stop studying). Some people study best on campus, but personally, I have to get the hell out of the law school to get anything done, the place drives me crazy. So I come home, make myself a cup of tea, plant myself on the couch and do my homework while watching the episode of General Hospital that I DVR'd. Most of which happens after a certain little bunny is tucked into bed.

So, I'll let the other MILPs chime in now, and actually answer the question! I'm going to try to finish my soup, I'm at Panera relaxing until it's time to pick up Cora from daycare. (Still no appetite, ugh.)


gudnuff said...

Another home-run post. Very, very helpful and informing. A lot of common sense stuff, too. Thank you for this! It really helps.

Cee said...

Great post! I'll have to remember this as I start school in Jan. Thanks!

PT-LawMom said...

Well, I'd have to say that all of us with kids are eventually going to be lawyers with busy careers. I think it's quality, not quantity. The most important things are having a supportive spouse or other support network because it really does take a village and making the time you do spend with your child memorable and all about them.

Slice of Pink said...

Great post!

Just sent you an email.

Kim said...

I think you might mean me. :)

When I started law school, my kids were 14, 12 and 7. Not only that, but I was exactly the mom you described…I had been a stay-at-home mom for 12 years, was a PTA mom, Brownie troop leader, room mom, and official costumer of school plays. The whole law school gig didn’t just come out of nowhere, however. I planned for it and knew that things would change drastically once I started and I prepared my family for those changes before they happened.

Because my kids were older, though, they absolutely understood what was going on and why it was happening. And in fact, they have been some of my biggest supporters. I often think that it has probably been much easier for me to do this than for someone whose kids are younger because of the fact that my kids get it. They understand the reasons that I’m doing what I’m doing, and they are on board with all of it.

I made many changes in my life after I started law school, including spending a LOT less time baking cupcakes and sewing. I have still managed to go on some field trips and to volunteer here and there, and, most importantly, I think I have still managed to be a good mom despite the time I have spent being a good law student. There are definitely times when we all wish that I had the time to just be Mom and not Mom Who Is Also A Student, but we’ve worked through it.

As Proto Attorney pointed out in her post and as PT-LawMom mentioned in her comment, being a mom who is a law student has not been that different from being a mom who works full time. I have always looked at law school as my job. While the kids are at school, I’m at “work.” Sometimes I have meetings that run late, but I still manage to be available to help with homework, to act as a chauffeur to and from activities, to have family game night, to attend football and soccer games and plays and choir concerts, and to sit down to dinner with my entire family almost every night of the week.

It’s not always easy, but we have managed to make it work. I think that where there’s a will there’s a way, and that if you really want to make it work out well for everyone you can do that.