Other than mentioning how crazy life is (and missing my weekly post occasionally), I haven’t written much about being a mom in law school. This week, my law school hosted a small lunch for some of the students-who-are-parents. That event got me thinking about what I would want to discuss at a “parents in law school” event if I was in charge. Since there may be someone out there who is thinking about having a kiddo while in law school, I thought it might be beneficial to share some of those thoughts.
There are a few big caveats here. The first is “know your law school.” Culture varies drastically at every law school I’ve visited or heard about. When I visited the University of Washington, my student guide had just had a baby. The woman I sat next to in the seminar I visited breastfed her newborn during class. And there was a large room on the upper floor with toys and direct feeds from classrooms for moms and kiddos. I’d say the culture there was about as baby-welcoming as any place I’ve seen. The second is “my experience may be different than yours.” I only know what I know, and it’s been pretty colored by several key things, including the timing of my kiddo and the fact that I live almost an hour and a half away from my school. I also suspect that becoming a mom (or dad) while in any school is very different than being a parent and then going back to school.
Here are somethings that I wish I had thought about more before I had my baby during law school (even so, I definitely would have still decided to do it!).
1 – Energy Level: If you’ve never been pregnant before, you might be surprised at how exhausting it is to create a human being. Law school is already exhausting in many ways. So just be warned.
2 – Timing and Logistics: Think about the timing of your pregnancy and plan ahead accordingly. I got pregnant in March of my 1L year, took exams with morning sickness, had a couple of part time jobs over the summer, and then took an insane 18 credits the first semester of my 2L year. My school and professors were very accommodating and let me take all my exams early (or write papers) since Remy was due right in the middle of finals. He actually arrived December 23, so I had three weeks with him before going back to school. I took an easy 11 credits that first semester and brought Remy with me to school one day a week.
I have had friends who had their children during the summer and during the semester. I think the key with any timing is to plan ahead. If you are due in the middle of the semester, begin thinking about if you want to (or should) take that semester off. Find other new moms in your school or supportive staff to talk through your options. Many schools are happy to hold your spot for a semester if needed. One thing I wish I had thought more about was taking a semester off after Remy was born. I thought “no way – I’m not going to let a baby slow me down!” But truly, taking a semester off in the middle of school (which is already a pretty clean break from reality) has about as little effect on big-picture plans as anything I can imagine. So I wish I had thought about it more.
3 -Scheduling Post-Baby Classes: I live very far from campus, so this semester I crammed in an absurd number of classes in only two days. This was a bad idea because I did not think about needing time to pump, let alone needing time to go to office hours, have meetings, and otherwise get things done on campus. I suspect this might be different if you lived close to campus. But still. If you are going to breastfeed, remember to give yourself time to pump and/or feed your kiddo.
4 – Communicate with your Professors: Some professors are okay with you brining your baby to class, and this worked especially well for me the first few months when I could wear a very sleepy baby through class with no interruptions. However, when you can, probe deeper into how much your professor is comfortable with. It’s one thing to say “bring your baby to class” and another to say “but don’t let your baby cry/talk/wander around.” As an aside here, also consider your own comfort level – even if your baby is well behaved, he or she will still be distracting because babies are adorable and like to get attention.
5 – Accept Help: You might have family nearby or just a strong group of friends. Accept help wherever you can get it. Because babies are adorable and people like to experience them in small, class-sized doses.
Does anyone else have good “babies while in school” tips/things to think about?