Being a lawyer is hard work, but being a lawyer and a parent sometimes feels impossible. While there is a lot of information out there for “working mothers,” I believe that the same advice is just as applicable for “working fathers.”
So what can we “lawyer parents” do to survive and (maybe, just maybe) thrive as both lawyers and parents? Here are some tips:
Surround yourself with those who understand
Find a group of other parents who get it. Reach out to them when you need support. Maybe you have a question about childrearing or what holiday gift to give to a teacher. Maybe you need a social outlet. Maybe you just need a place to vent. Regardless, find a group of other working (lawyer or non-lawyer) parents who you can connect with in-person or virtually.
Put up walls around your time
Even when it is hard, try to be disciplined about leaving work at work, if only for a little while. I know many working parents who leave work at the same time every day (if possible) so they can make it home for dinner and bedtime. Yes, they are back online by about 8:30 p.m. and working, but they had a precious, sacred block of time with their family. This helps them feel like they are doing right by both their clients and their loved ones.
Love your work
If at all possible, make sure you are in a career and doing work that you love. We love being parents, which is why we want to do it as well as possible. When we love our work, we can have that same dedication to our work and our work product.
When we feel like we are doing work that is professionally fulfilling, we don’t spend each and every day feeling like we are trading time with our kids for something that is as painful as having your two-year-old try to braid your hair.
Finally, when we love our work, we model for our children that we can be a loving parent and a person with a meaningful career. They see that those two roles are not mutually exclusive, and they learn that they don’t have to choose between them later in their lives.
Be a good partner
When you are raising children with a partner, your relationship can be an incredible source of strength and support, or it can be a real source of stress. Work with your partner to create a plan that supports you both. The emotional support of your partner is key to helping you feel good about the work that you do and the time that you spend doing it. If you don’t have this kind of support from your partner, consider having a heart-to-heart about it.
Also, ask your partner for the help you need in getting everything done for the household. Every family divides up household tasks differently, but try to be clear about who is doing what. If you feel like you can’t get everything done that is on your plate, ask for help. But remember: if you ask for help, you may need to step back and let your partner accomplish things their own way. Just be grateful that the task got done, even if it’s not exactly how you would have done it.
Ask for and receive help
Finally, most lawyer parents I know count on a variety of outside support to help make their lives manageable. Having dependable, quality childcare makes all of the difference in the world. This is a huge priority, and if you don’t feel great about your childcare choice, invest the time it takes to find a perfect fit. You will feel so much better about your time away from your child when you can trust the person caring for them. Make sure you have clear lines of communication with your provider.
Don’t be afraid to use other kinds of help as well. Many people have a housekeeper come to their homes, even if it is only once a month to help with a deep clean. Take advantage of grocery stores that deliver.
A wise woman I heard about said that paying for these kinds of help was like “buying time.” As lawyer parents, we never feel like we have enough time. Do what you need to do to have the time you need to feel good about yourself as a parent and as a professional.