I could talk about Justin Bieber saying that rape is sad, but everything happens for a reason (I’m vehemently pro-choice but annoyed that people are fixating on him being anti-choice rather than ambivalent about rape); but instead I’m going to talk about the conversation that a few awesome women I know had today at my law school. I helped organize a panel on family planning and the work-life balance and got some really great insights into how to plan my own career and family, which is something I’ve been obsessing over since I took the bar exam. Because once you’re married, you actually have to face the question of, “when do I want to have children?” rather than saying, “we’ll talk about kids after we’re married.”
I have been turning over two schools of thought when it comes to reproducing:
1. The economy sucks, and I won’t be able to afford childcare, so I should just have kids now.
2. I should get a job and work there for at least a year so I have an income and some benefits accrued.
Sidenote: I will also point out, that for me personally, infertility runs in my family so the option of waiting until after I’m in my thirties to have children is really not an option for me. My parents are also older and their health is starting to decline rapidly. They lean a lot on my sister and I, so I don’t want to risk being in a position where I have to both care for young children and aging parents. I also would like to be able to use my parents as babysitters, but this will require me to have children younger (again, before 30). I am currently 25. And a half. And unemployed.
So it was really nice to finally get some much-needed advice on how to manage career and a family. To which my career counselor says, “you can do it, but you can’t do everything the best all the time.” She also added, “You’re gonna have to let stuff go. Like the dishes. I want to exercise and hang out with my kids. So I don’t always do the dishes.” This isn’t surprising to me, because it’s pretty much how to combine law school & family.
The most helpful advice was things like:
- Work someplace for a few years so that they know you and will make maternity leave/flextime/parttime work happen for you
- Working part time (hourly) or 3 days a week is ideal
- You probably won’t make partner unless it’s something you want really badly and your spouse at home is supersupportive
- Public interest salaries don’t pay enough to make childcare for two kids worth it
- If you are going to take time off, consider spacing your kids closer together so that you speed up the timeline for getting back into work
- If you do take time off, make sure you have an on-ramp when you want to get back on – continue to have networking lunches with former co-workers and drop by the office to stay in touch.
- Consider getting an au pair. It sounds weird, but is supposedly great and helps a lot if you are going to have evening commitments. It also means you don’t have the hustle associated with packing kids up and getting everybody out the door in the morning. This works best when you have a walk-out basement or some other separate part of the house (something to think about when house hunting).
- Wait until after you have a job offer to start asking around about family-friendly work policies and figuring out whether the environment is supportive.
- Consider pursuing a non-litigation job – it is much harder to be a litigator and take time off if the nanny gets sick/daycare closes/schools close. A job where meetings, etc. can easily be rescheduled would be ideal – a problem with public interest jobs is often that your client doesn’t have a phone number and you can’t reschedule.
Anyone else struggling with trying to figure out when to reproduce and how to get a career off the ground?