As the time comes for many people to send in their acceptance letters for law school, I have been receiving more and more blog hits related to the decision to attend law school part-time. Many of these searches also include questions about parenting while in law school so I decided to address the issue of attending law school PART-TIME with young children.
I’d like to say that it’s easy, but it’s really not unless you have a lot of help and support. There are only three women (including me) in my class with young children who work full-time outside the home and are in the evening program. One of them has a husband who does the lion’s share of the child-rearing and she has only a part-time job, so she is able to devote an enormous amount of time to her studies and extra-curricular activities. She is doing very well in our program so far and is the exception to the rule.
The other woman and I are more the norm. I can’t speak to her schedule, but I know she has an 18-month-old and, like me, she races out after class, rarely able to stay for extracurriculars or special presentations. Many of the men in the class have kids, but their wives either stay home or at least handle the bulk of the childcare because I see them stay after class or hear them arranging to come up for study groups on the weekends or on Friday nights. There are three women who are stay-at-home mothers. They work it out with their husbands to spend several hours at school after class to study, which seems to work well for them.
Then there is me. Here’s an example of an average day:
4:30 a.m. Alarm goes off; up and into shower
4:45 a.m. Study for one hour
5:45 a.m. Get dressed, make breakfast and lunch, get bags packed for me and Pumpkinhead
6:30 a.m. Get Pumpkinhead up and dressed
6:45 a.m. Drive Pumpkinhead to Montessori and drop him off in the cafeteria
7:00 a.m. Depart Montessori for work; call mother during commute time for “Mom” time
8:00 a.m. Arrive at work
12:00 p.m. Eat lunch and study
1:00 p.m. Resume working
5:00 p.m. Leave work; call Chapin on way to school for “husband” time
5:40 p.m. Arrive at school
6:00 p.m. Classes begin
8:00 p.m. Classes end
8:30 p.m. Arrive home
8:40 p.m. Bathe Pumpkinhead
8:50 p.m. Books, pajamas, prayers, lights out for Pumpkinhead
9:15 p.m. Load dishwasher, put clothes in washer/dryer, clean up kitchen/living room
9:45 p.m. Get ready for bed, take meds, spend time with Chapin
10:30 p.m. Lights out
Chapin leaves for work at 3 a.m. so I’m on my own in the mornings to get Pumpkinhead ready for school. He also works six days a week so I’m on my own Saturdays and then he has Pumpkinhead Sundays while I study, but I typically do that at home because Chapin hates the idea of my being out of sight on his only day home. At least if I’m in the house, we can take breaks together. Ultimately, though, this hasn’t really worked all that well because Pumpkinhead is constantly interrupting me. Even when I bring this to Chapin’s attention, he says, “Oh, he’s just a baby.” Well that’s all fine and well but not a great excuse, especially when I have the “baby” all day Saturday and get nothing done.
So my point is that unless you have a system set up where you can block out significant time to get your studying done in peace, part-time law school with young children is a real challenge. I went to undergrad full-time at night while working full-time days, so I thought part-time law school would be no sweat in comparison. I just never considered how much more concentration would be required. Children take up so much of your time and attention, especially when they are little, that it’s hard to find that extra brainpower for schoolwork. Add in a demanding job and it’s extra challenging. Throw in illness and a few other stressors and you end up with the recipe for a complete nervous breakdown!
I’ve got a housecleaner, but what I really need is a nanny to help with some of the childcare duties. I know, I know, Chapin really should be picking up the slack in that area, but we all get the husband we picked and mine, as good as he is in most things, chooses to wait until I get home for bathtime. I have the feeling a nanny would have Pumpkinhead bathed and in pajamas ready for a goodnight kiss by the time I walk in the door at night and that would ease my burden considerably! So I think we may have to seriously look into it. Perhaps not until closer to August when Pumpkinhead starts elementary school and will need someone to walk him to/from the bus, but definitely by then.
I’d love to hear from other mothers out there who have attended law school part-time with young children as to any time management tips they have for getting it all done. I know Dakota has done it, but I think her wife stays home and, if I’m reading her blog correctly, I get the impression that Casey supports her a lot by allowing her to spend hours at the law library. I wish Chapin would be that supportive and I’m working on him, but so far no dice. No study groups; no extra time away from him and Pumpkinhead other than the time at class except during exam periods. The guilt trips he lays on me just are NOT worth it.
Anyway, these are my thoughts after three semesters of part-time law school. When I told people I was going to do the part-time program, all the lawyers I told expressed shock and told me how difficult it would be to balance a full-time job and the rigors of law school. They also said that law school is like the fifth rung of hell and that no one enjoys it. So now I just have to figure out how to make it manageable and get through. I also need to see how the new job goes, how flexible it is and whether I can work out my school schedule such that I can take a morning or mid-day class occasionally. Right now I only take two classes, but I will have to take three starting in the fall if I want to graduate in the four years that the part-time program usually requires. They start you off slow the first year to ease you in so if I think it’s challenging now, I guess I’m really in for a rude awakening… Honestly, though, school isn’t the challenging part. It’s the rest of my life. If I could just hit pause on parts of that for a while, school would be a snap.