Stop. Breathe. Are you still holding yourself to perfectionistic standards? We’re in the middle of a global pandemic. The world has changed, and we have to change too. Law students are no exception. Your priority right now must be adjusting, keeping your sanity, and surviving. This load is doubled if you are a law student with kids. You are trying to process massive changes while also maintaining some normalcy.
Give yourself grace
Law school is challenging for parents under ordinary circumstances. You are expected to retain and regurgitate information on demand, engage with classmates and professors, all while looking for job opportunities. When you add a global pandemic to that, things can start to feel insurmountable. Take time for yourself, even when it doesn’t feel like you have any to spare, especially then. This is true now and true when you start bar prep.
If your kids are older and can fend for themselves, put your casebooks down, lock the bathroom door for ten minutes, take some deep breaths, and remember that this is not forever. If your kids are younger, strap them into a stroller and set out for a walk. Do your best to let law school out of your mind. The rule of perpetuities will be there when you get back.
Law students with school-aged children are having to learn how to homeschool while also learning how to be successful using online platforms for their own classes. None of this is simple, but know that no one expects perfection. Do your best to show up for your classes, but don’t stress about making sure your room is spotless or your kids are silent (but DO put your computer microphone on mute when you’re not talking!).
Everyone understands that life is happening at a different pace right now. To the extent that you can, try to set your kids up with their classes at the same time as yours. That way when you’re both done, you can spend time sorting out the rest of the essentials of living – food, play, rest. I know this isn’t always practical and every day will be different, but striving for a synchronized schedule is a good goal.
Also, screen time is your friend. Load up a tablet with educational games, raid Netflix. Do what you need to do to get through these final weeks of school. I would not have made it through bar prep without Netflix’s babysitting services. If you need someone’s enthusiastic permission to do this, here it is.
If you have younger children, naptime is going to be key. If you have a baby who refuses naps, my heart goes out to you. You’re going to need that mute button more than most. Let your professors know that you’re juggling young kids, but that you plan to be as engaged as possible. Request an office hours slot at a time where you can pass child responsibilities off, or failing that, use email to check in and ask questions.
There will be times where you feel like you have everything under control and times where it feels like everything is falling apart. Maybe even in the same hour. This is normal. The stress of living during a pandemic cannot be understated. We’re living in a time where the news changes from minute to minute and official guidance fluctuates almost as quickly. It’s normal for law school to feel like less of a priority at the moment. Schools know this – many are adjusting their attendance and grade policies to accommodate everything.
Stay in touch with your professors and school administrators
Every generation has extraordinary moments to overcome. This is one of ours. How you handle it can shape your future. Remember, even though these are exceptional times, you’re still enrolled in a professional program. Maintain standards of professional competence. In this case, that won’t always mean getting all of the reading done or answering every question perfectly. No reasonable person will expect that of students right now, but it is critical that you let professors know what’s going on.
If you’re suddenly thrust into solo parenting because your partner is an essential employee or you’ve had to move across the country, tell your professors! Let the dean of students know! If you or a family member become ill, you should fill them in.
You will not be the only student going through these things, and it will be a lot easier for your law school to extend grace when they know what’s happening in your life. Ask for help adapting to virtual classes and preparing for new ways of taking exams. You will likely still need your professors for letters of recommendation and references for jobs and the bar exam. Being frank with them about how you are managing your family obligations along with schoolwork will give them a strong story to tell on your behalf.
Keep everything in perspective
Social distancing for weeks and months at a time is not natural. It feels like it might never end, and it probably feels that way for your kids too. Losing extended support systems is hard for everyone. Your priorities right now should be your health, your family, and then law school. This semester will be a weird blip for many students down the road, and employers are not likely to hold it against anyone. Keep in touch with your people. Check in with extended family – this is essential. Unplug when you can.
If you feel like you’re struggling more than you should, please reach out for help. Your dean can put you in touch with resources, and the American Bar Association has a good list too.
Looking for some help to do your best in law school? Find out about our law school tutoring options.