Sometimes, being both a parent and a lawyer can feel entirely incompatible—like being simultaneously tall and short.
After all, caring for children isn’t easy when you’re working 60-hour weeks and have to be ready to take on an assignment from a partner, whether your son has a doctor’s appointment or your daughter has a recital.
But being a good lawyer and a good parent isn’t impossible. There are ways lawyers can care for both their children and their clients; it just requires knowledge, planning, and a little help. And while perfection might not be possible, striking a balance can be.
Read on for three tips to help you cope with wearing both hats—as well as what law firms are doing to help ease lawyer-parents’ struggles.
Find Others Who Can Relate
No matter how alone you might feel at 3 a.m. when you haven’t slept in a week, the baby’s crying again, and your caseload is piling up … you aren’t. Find a group of other lawyer-parents who understand what it’s like—either at your firm, through networking groups, or online. Sometimes, it can be a huge relief to vent to someone who knows exactly what you’re going through or get some actionable advice from someone who’s been there. Community is particularly important for new parents, though this is the case for those with growing families, too.
Don’t be Afraid to Get Help
First of all, childcare is a given. Invest time (and money, of course) into finding childcare options you feel good about. But what are other ways you can ask for assistance that will help you balance family with your career? Perhaps you can ask your spouse or partner to take on added responsibilities when you’re especially busy. Maybe hiring a housekeeper or using a food delivery service will save you much-needed time, which can help you get a leg up on work or spend more time with family. Whatever it is, don’t hesitate to ask for what you need to help improve your situation.
Become an Expert Scheduler
Chances are, you picked up some scheduling skills along the way as you attempted to balance your work life with your social life earlier on in your career. Put those skills to the test as you strive to be present as a parent. A great way to do this is to be disciplined about when you leave work; it’s easy to stay at the office late when you’re neck deep in doc review, but leaving work behind for even just a little to be with your kids can go a long way. Sure, you’ll likely be back at your laptop at home after they’re asleep, but at least this way you’ll have been home for dinner and spent some quality time together as a family.
What Can Firms Do to Help?
Work-life balance has never been more important to lawyers than it is these days, and law firms are finally beginning to pay attention. While not all firms offer the same perks to help parents, an increasing number have offerings like flex hours, which allow lawyers to choose the hours that they work (so long as they’re meeting their billable hour requirements) or other flexibilities. Some firms prioritize helping their employees with childcare specifically, either by subsidizing costs or having on-site childcare.
The best firms are willing to listen to lawyers who are parents and determine ways they can retain them while empowering them to juggle their careers and families. Of course, not all firms have such forward-thinking attitudes surrounding parenthood yet, so it’s also important for lawyers themselves to keep the conversations surrounding the balance between being a good lawyer and a good parent going, and when at all possible, push for more parent-friendly policies.