There are few students that I admire more than those choosing to brave the trials and tribulations of 1L year while also taking care of a child (or children). Parenting is hard enough on its own without also throwing eccentric professors, unending homework, and 3 hour final exams into the mix. For those of you preparing to take on this challenge, I offer you the following suggestions (and recommend investing in a good coffee maker).
Have a backup plan for childcare. All parents know that children have impeccable timing – the one day you absolutely must be somewhere is also the day your child gets sick and can’t go to daycare. Anticipate that at some point there will be an issue with your childcare (whether it’s a sick kid, a nanny who no shows, or a daycare disaster) and have a backup plan in place so that you’re not scrambling to make arrangements at the last minute. It’s especially important to have a solid backup plan during finals week and other can’t miss events, like moot court competitions. Consider signing up with a reputable company that provides sick child care or having a reliable family member on call. Just be sure to research your options now so that you’re prepared when a crisis hits.
Be realistic about your childcare needs. Many incoming 1Ls underestimate the amount of time they will need to spend studying and preparing for class. You won’t be able to get all your reading done during naptime and you definitely won’t be able to study effectively if you’re also trying to keep an eye on your kids. Law school reading and studying requires concentration, and I know firsthand that it’s nearly impossible to focus while your toddler is climbing on your kitchen table or flushing legos down the toilet. Arrange for childcare that gives you adequate study time and your semester will go a lot smoother.
Befriend other law school parents. No one will be able to appreciate the demands of raising children while attending law school like other parents. Seek out other students who are in a similar situation and form your own support network. You can encourage each other during tough patches, provide help when needed, and offer empathy when someone needs to rant about the challenges of raising children. Other parents will also be understanding when you can’t make it to social events because of your family obligations. Having support (and a sympathetic ear) will be crucial to surviving this journey with your sanity and your grades intact.
Become an expert time manager. It probably goes without saying, but balancing your school obligations with the responsibilities you have at home will require expert time management skills. You’ll need to maximize every minute of your study sessions so that you’ll have time left over to devote to your family obligations. Most parents are pretty efficient at getting things done in a short amount of time (I can shower, make breakfast, prep food for dinner, and vacuum all during my son’s morning nap, which rarely exceeds 30 minutes) and this is skill you’ll definitely need to put to good use during law school. Identify the best times in your day for studying and then stick to it! In addition to being efficient with your time, you’ll need to be well-organized. Get a good scheduling app or planner (I’m obsessed with my Outlook Calendar but Google Calendar or the Cal app are also good options) and use it to keep track of every deadline, assignment, and activity, both school and family related.
Plan family time. Speaking of scheduling, make a point to schedule in time away from school that is strictly devoted to doing something fun or meaningful with your kids each week. Make this special time a priority and don’t skip it. Dedicating a day, or an afternoon, or whatever you can manage to your children will ensure that they get your undivided attention on a regular basis and give you a break from the stress of law school. It’s also a good idea to have a serious conversation with your significant other and children about the demands of law school so they understand how it will impact everyone’s schedule.
Have the right attitude. Raising children takes patience, fortitude, and a good sense of humor. Raising children as a 1L takes these qualities times ten! Be kind to yourself and don’t hold yourself to some standard of unachievable perfection. There will be weeks that go really well, and then there will be weeks where you don’t finish your reading, you get behind on your LRW brief, the house is a mess, and you feed your children Chick-Fil-A for dinner three nights in a row. I know it’s easier said than done, but don’t dwell on mistakes or feel guilty about having to make compromises in some areas. Instead, think about the positive example your setting for your children as someone who follows their dream, works hard, and finishes what they start.
Attending law school while juggling the demands of being a parent will no doubt be a challenge, but there are advantages too. Raising children often shows you that you’re capable of doing more than you think. Being a parent requires grit, and that’s a quality that will serve you well in law school.
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And check out these helpful posts:
- How to Stick to Your Goals in Law School
- How to Organize Your To-Do List in Law School
- Do You Need a Sponsor to Stay Productive in Law School
- Dealing With Law School Time Regret
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