Category Archives: Studying

Five years of parenting (& living!)…

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Five years ago, I was over-pregnant (almost 2 weeks past my due date) & our labor was just beginning. I went to an acupuncturist for the first time, desperate to get things started after trying just about everything I thought might help or at least wouldn’t hurt.

I was afraid.

Afraid of labor. Afraid of the unknown. Afraid of the changes to come.

I was also probably afraid that I’d never sleep again (thankfully I was wrong on that front, though I didn’t sleep for a long while & sleep still isn’t the same…).

Labor was amazing (afterward, hormones coursing through my veins like a wonder drug, I told my mother it didn’t hurt a bit) & amazingly difficult (it lasted days, not hours, & did involve a fair amount of pain).

But all that seems like a long time ago now.

My now four-year-old, soon-to-be five-year-old, has changed me in so many ways. Really, he’s thrown my life into a tailspin.

And yet, not.

I’ve managed to maintain my identity in the ways that matter most to me. I still pursue my work with passion & integrity.

But, despite the technical difficulties involved in achieving “work-life balance,” I feel more… well… balanced. As I’ve been working on my next post on self care (coming soon… promise!) I realize that balance is about more than leaving work at a particular time or having scheduled family time on the weekends. It’s also a mental game.

There are work stressors & home stressors. In the past 5 years, life with T has taught me that managing those stressors is really a key in finding life balance. If I can leave home stressors at home, I can be more productive at work. If I can leave work stressors at work, I can be a better parent & partner & person.

I wasn’t always able to separate out these two stressors (& I still fail a lot). I’m a focused person, so it’s always been easy to fall down a rabbit hole of activity & stress. I didn’t exactly feel like I was living at those times & I was less than healthful & a poor partner.

Law school (especially 1L) will make just about anyone crazy & I jumped down that rabbit hole (more like a worm hole) quicker than my partner could say “why did I move across the country to be abandoned by my law school wife?” (Sorry sweetie!) Then T came along & suddenly I was wondering why I was trudging down a path I didn’t create (journal, advocacy group, research assistant, moot court, clinic, etc.). Did I really need to do all this stuff? I decided I didn’t. I chose two activities & threw myself into them to the extent one can with a newborn. I gave myself (most) weekends off for the first time in my life. I had a home life! (Note: This is not career advice for current law students! I have trouble contemplating the tough market you are facing right now!)

T (or life with T) has helped me to prioritize & compartmentalize in a way that has been liberating. Even though I have more responsibility & the stakes are higher, I am more relaxed. I feel like I am living in a way that is abundantly more fulfilling.

Thank you, T. And happy almost birthday.

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Filed under Lawyering, Living, Mothering, Parenting, Studying, Working

Studying for the bar (x 2)

A reader recently asked for some help with passing the bar while caring for twin toddlers. I have many thoughts, but I’ve only passed one bar & I have only one child—so I’m hoping others will contribute their thoughts as well in the comments!

Her situation: She attempted the bar once. She has 2 days a week to study & has significant family obligations. Directly after graduation she was on bed rest so she didn’t take the exam that summer. She waited a year but admits that studying was difficult with the new babies (umm, understandable!)—she didn’t get through all the lectures & did only about 15-20% of the practice exams.

First of all: Wow! How lucky your children are that you prioritized caring for them over acing the bar when they were itty bitty & really needed you intensely! Seriously, there is no shame in not passing on the first go.

But now you’re ready—so how to pass this go?

I know it stinks to have to take the bar again (an understatement, I know), but you know what you’re in for & you probably have a good idea of where you went wrong the first time.

Of course, I don’t have a crystal ball & can’t tell you with certainty that, yes, you will pass. But I think it bodes well that you are prioritizing your studying enough to find childcare two days a week & you are starting early! Plus, the kiddos are a bit older & you have experience on your side.

As for nitty-gritty studying techniques, can you isolate what works well for you? If outlines seem too intimidating, try making your own flash cards. Or visa versa. Obviously, you’ll want to watch more of the lectures or study the prepared outlines or both. Do practice exams until you drop (or fall asleep, which I imagine will literally happen more than once).

There is no way around it: This period of time will be challenging. Carve out short periods of time when you can concentrate on just being with your children (if possible, outside of the time you spend going to appointments). Focus on them. Have fun. You need it & they need it.

The good news is that your toddlers are likely entering a more active & distractible stage. Of course there are challenges, but generally they are living in the moment & are very forgiving of our preoccupations & being away from them when necessary. If you give them consistent time-ins (periods of attention & play) you will all feel better & happier.

Then make a date with your local coffee house. Get out of the house if you really want to study. I also had a limited amount of time to spend alone with my books (as, I imagine, do a lot of parents studying for the bar)—You can still pass the bar with childcare only 2 days a week as long as you make the most of that time. Sometimes working at home is feasible, but my experience was that getting out of the house was necessary if I was going to be able to concentrate while I was studying for the bar.

There’s room for silliness, too! Sing your babies a torts or negotiated instruments lullaby (I’m guessing they’re still young enough that they won’t mind the strange words!). Tell them the tale of corporate veil piercing as you nurse or feed them. Go for a walk with them in the stroller & review some flash cards (minding where you’re walking, of course). You’d be surprised how you can fit a little studying into the nooks & crannies of your day.

In the last month or so of studying, I remember going over problems in my head while putting my son back to bed in he middle of the night. … Which reminds me, prioritize sleep! Get to bed early if your toddlers are still waking throughout the night.

If you have a spouse or partner, talk to him or her about expectations. And don’t be afraid to ask (directly & clearly) for the support you need. Take a weekend afternoon to get out & study. Swap evenings. Whatever you need to carve out more dedicated study time. This is important!

Someone gave me this advice: It’s a marathon, not a race. You have to train, but you also need to ration your efforts so that you don’t burn out before you pass the finish line.

Try to have a bit of fun. A lot of the material really is interesting. And some of it may just be useful!

Lovely readers, what other ideas do you have?

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Filed under Attachment Parenting, Bar, Partnership, Studying

This blog is about to get real… again!

So far on this blog I’ve enjoyed exploring the issues working & student moms face, especial relating to the practice of law & to attachment parenting… but the truth of the matter is that since taking the bar exam back in February I’ve been only working very part time & enjoying more time with my son, T. Which means that while I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how working fits with attachment parenting, I’ve been doing less working outside of the house & more parenting in the house these days. This balance has been a great thing for me & for the blog — It’s given me the time to really think about the issues that I write about & time to dedicate to shaping this blog.

Well… this is all about to change as the Mom, JD family heads to the middle of the country where yours truly will begin working life as a real, honest-to-goodness lawyer. Yikes!

I really hope to pick up where I left off a month or so ago — blogging at least once a week. I also hope that I’ll be able to blog more about the day-to-day challenges I know that I’ll be facing. Law school was just too crazy for blogging as much as I had wanted to when I first started this blog (though the challenges were many!). Staying at home afforded me the luxury of writing leisurely, analytical posts (though the challenges were fewer & different from those I expected I’d be facing). Now… who knows! But I’m sure there’ll be a lot to write about.

Topics coming up: Moving house with a toddler, commuting in the real world, reflections on working vs. staying at home, and (oh, dear!…) pre-school in a big city…

So please stay tuned (if for no other reason than to witness the train wreck!).

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Principles of Attachment Parenting (Working Mom’s Take!): Feeding Infants with Love

Unnecessarily, the decision whether to breastfeed or bottlefeed is a hot-button topic. Culturally, we haven’t handled the topic of breastfeeding very well… Women who can’t breastfeed or who choose not to are made to feel bad or inadequate. Do it for too long or in public, and you’re likely to feel judged, too. … A mom can’t win!

And for working moms, this can be an especially sensitive & downright political topic (tied as it is with issues of adequate maternity leave, the reality of pumping, the reality of working, & the reality that many jobs simply aren’t accommodating to breastfeeding moms). If you work outside the home, there are demands on your time & energy that are unique & that influence decisions on this front.

Up front, I’ll just say that I’m an advocate of breastfeeding & I strongly believe that with the right information more women would be empowered to breastfeed & to breastfeed for longer. That said, it’s also not really my business to pass judgment on whether or for how long you breastfeed your babe. (So if you want to read more about why you should breastfeed, visit La Leche League or Best for Babes… Aside from a few working-student-mom related points based on my own experience, I’m not going to hit you over the head with the reasons why “breast is best.”)

Given the thorny nature of this issue, I really appreciate how API approaches the topic … They frame the topic as “feeding with love,” which encompasses breastfeeding, bottlefeeding & family nutrition generally. Contrary to misguided belief (& I hope a minority belief), it is possible to foster healthy attachment & to not breastfeed or to not exclusively breastfeed. The API’s idea is that “feeding a child … is an act of love” & so long as you feed your child according to his or her needs (& not according to an arbitrary schedule… especially in the early days when “feeding” is as much about emotional & sucking needs as it is about nutritional needs) you are creating a healthy connection with your child.

For my family, this has meant a combination of nursing, bottlefeeding, & now finding nutritious foods to satisfy T’s selective palate (more on that last one in another post). And our experience has so far matched what API suggests — no matter how you do it, when you’re in tune with your child’s needs & feed her accordingly, things will turn out alright. T is attached & we have a great relationship despite the fact that he’s been fed a number of different ways, by different people.

For me breastfeeding was important. I admit I was lucky that I was a student during T’s early nursing days, before the weaning process started (& for me “weaning” means the long process that begins with the introduction of solids… a process that is definitely not over even at almost 27 months). We had a cushy 8 weeks to establish a nursing relationship & after that I was more or less available to nurse on demand. … I had to hole-up at points during the summer job I had after T was born & I had to be in class, but other than that I could take the time to nurse T if he needed it or if there was a shortage of frozen breastmilk. During the early days MFA Dad would bring him to me to nurse or I’d run home to nurse if T was having a challenging day. I was able to more or less fit my work around nursing, and that was truly a luxury.

Of course there were challenges. Despite reading about nursing I had no clue what I was doing. I freaked out before even leaving the hospital because it didn’t seem like my milk had come in & ended up fending off a well-meaning nurse who came at us with an artificial nipple & can of formula — while I knew next to nothing, I did remember reading about nipple confusion in the early days (& thankfully another nurse stepped in to show us how to use a tiny tube to feed T some formula while we waited for the milk to come in). Later, figuring out comfortable positions, dealing with biting, wanting my body back to myself… all the normal challenges presented themselves at various times.

But in the beginning, the biggest challenge was figuring out how to read T’s cues & trusting that he’d communicate his needs to me. I spent about the two weeks documenting every feeding (in true type-A personality fashion). I worried he wasn’t nursing enough or he was nursing too much. Only when I finally gave into the idea that there really was no schedule did I gain the frame of mind that allowed me to figure out how to respond to T’s cues & cries (though if I’m totally honest, I have to admit that I never could tell the difference between types of cries & I continued to second guess myself for a long while). And really, responding to those cues is really what it’s about; whether you breastfeed or bottlefeed that’s our job as moms & it’s in all those countless feedings that we help create a trusting & attached relationship.

And I certainly wasn’t the only one to connect with T through “feeding with love.” MFA Dad used the nursing pillow in the beginning & “bottle nursed” T, snuggled together. Later, the nanny sat with T & his playmate while they had their bottles, holding one of them when she could. … He has developed totally loving & attached relationships with MFA Dad (duh!) & his nanny, in part because they responded to his nutritional & emotional needs through feeding when he was an infant.

Which brings me to another challenge… I was not so lucky in that pumping was usually a painful & frustrating ordeal. Providing milk for those bottles was an onerous task. I massaged, I drank gatorade & tons of water, I took herbs, I ate steel-cut oats, I cried (sometimes over spilled milk & sometimes over the fact that there was no milk to spill). I would not have made it as long as I did without the support of MFA Dad, the other pumping moms I ran into around the pumping room, and a Yahoo! group dedicated to pumping moms (seriously, if you are even thinking about pumping sign up for this group now!). If I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t be so afraid to try some formula to make up the difference.

(Warning: Here’s my plug for breastfeeding, for those on the fence…) Honestly, even though breastfeeding is intense & challenging (often, both mentally & physically), it was also the easiest (& shall we say, most frugal) choice I could make as a student & sometimes-working mom. When I was utterly exhausted from a long day of classes, breastfeeding was hands-down the easiest way to reconnect with my son. And when else during law school would I have an excuse for sitting in a rocking chair & doing nothing but relaxing with my baby? When we moved half-way across the country for an internship, I really think nursing helped T adjust to the move & to my new full-time schedule. We often still reconnect & unwind by nursing when I return from work. Oh, and lazy mom’s secret: nothing diffuses a toddler’s intense emotions quite like nursing.

So the take-away: Figure out those cues & respond to them. The rest will work itself out. And please, please (!) don’t let anyone make you feel guilty about your feeding choices.

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Filed under Attachment Parenting, Parenting, Studying, Working

Choosing to Attachment Parent in Law School… No I’m not crazy! (Intro. to a new series of posts)

I’ve been wanting to write a series of posts about attachment parenting & working/studying for a while now (umm… so long ago it seems like a failed New Year’s resolution…).

Why write about attachment parenting & working outside of the home? Mostly because early on I got frustrated looking for resources & support… & instead finding mostly criticism of attachment parenting, working or both. It’s also become clear more recently (from some of the search terms that bring readers to this blog) that I’m not the only one looking for support. Consider this a beginning & an experiment.

But, first, a caveat…

I’m no purist & I’ve never been orthodox about … well, anything really. I’m too much of a skeptic (ahem, lawyer…) to drink anyone’s cool-aid. Which isn’t to say that I can’t throw myself into something I believe in since I also tend to be focused (uh, lawyer…). So this is just one woman’s story. It’s not about perfection or right vs. wrong (though it’s hard to go through this whole parenting thing without thinking we’re right, isn’t it?). I’ve met many attachment parenting families & every one of them does things a little differently, has different priorities for childrearing. It turns out, attachment parenting isn’t some rigid set of rules but rather a loose set of guiding principles (with a couple of “rules” that we all pretty much agree on & that logically follow from the principles).

With that caveat, I will admit: I like attachment parenting. I like the idea of it. I enjoy practicing it. I like the philosophy behind it. I believe it’s made my life as a new mom easier in most ways. It’s certainly changed my perspective on children (generally), my son (specifically), parenting, and my role in this world, my priorities.

Getting here has been a natural yet unexpected progression for me.

Neither MFA Dad nor I are into labels. We embarked on this whole parenting adventure pretty much determined to not pick a parenting philosophy, to not read too many books, to not approach parenting as if it were a hobby that required a manual.

What we did know about how we wanted to parent: 1) We weren’t going to be comfortable letting our baby cry himself to sleep, ever; 2) We didn’t want to approach discipline as dictators seeking to quell an uprising; 3) We wanted to integrate our baby into our lives as much as possible while respecting his needs; 4) We knew before meeting him that we would treat him with respect & as a person, not as a pet or a project or a pet project.

I had no idea what attachment parenting (“AP”) was until MFA Dad discovered Dr. Sears’s “The Baby Book” at (of all places) a Babies R Us. I devoured much of the book, reading about babywearing, healthy sleep, gentle discipline, & fostering baby-parent attachment. The whole idea of AP seemed to mesh with we already knew about how we wanted to parent. Plus, we really liked the idea that from a solid attachment parenting would become more intuitive.

We were pretty much sold on AP generally as an approach to parenting. And I did what I said I wouldn’t… I read a lot about parenting, especially anything related to AP. I soaked most of it up, but I kept my skeptic’s attitude. And, boy, would I need it! So much of the AP literature is focused on the mother-baby relationship at the expense of the father-baby relationship. There may be biological reasons for this (birth-bonding, breastfeeding), but this really didn’t (& doesn’t) sit well with my feminist orientation. As an extension of this problem, much of the AP literature advocates for mothers staying at home for long periods of time with their infants (at least one AP advocate argues for mom to spend a full 3 years at home!). This definitely doesn’t mesh with my feminist proclivities & it certainly doesn’t work for many with legal careers or in the midst of law school.

My solution has been to search out sensible solutions for working moms interested in attachment parenting, read critically & toss out the nonsense. Living out someone else’s ideal gendered family scenario isn’t something I’ve been willing to entertain… Not only do I refuse on principle, but it’s simply impossible given that I was already half-way through law school when I had the boy (& therefore already deep in law school debt). To accept the AP schtick about mother-baby bonding being the end-all-be-all (with no room for other caregivers) would also lead to the “prison” that Erica Jong has warned us about… I’m all for reevaluating priorities as a new mother, taking on my responsibilities with all my body, mind & heart, but I won’t go down that road.

With that in mind, I hope that sharing some of my own solutions & thoughts on attachment parenting will inspire other working moms & show them that it is possible (even if not always easy… though what about parenting is?!). I also hope that many of you will share your own thoughts on the different principles of attachment parenting.

And on that note, a question for readers: What made you choose AP in spite of (or because of!) being a working parent?

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Filed under Attachment Parenting, Feminism, Gentle Discipline, Parenting, Studying

3 promises going into the week before the bar exam

1. Go to sleep early each night between now & the bar exam.

I’m “underslept” right now & will quickly run out of steam in the “excitement” of the exam.

2. Be present with my son when I’m home.

Poor little guy can definitely sense my stress & I’ve been a little distracted when I’ve been with him lately. If I’m “home”, then I’m going to be playing with him or interacting together.

3. Be a less demanding partner.

I realize I could up the ante this week & make life miserable for my husband  if I let my stress get out of hand. He’s under the weather & that should be my priority — protecting his health, not running him into the ground because of his good nature.

OK, I missed one…

4. Study.

‘Nuff said. If I’m not doing 1 – 3 above, I’ll be doing this. In fact, if I’m just rocking T to sleep, I’ll probably be doing this in my head, as I was at 4 this morning (… piercing the corporate veil when the corporation is an alter ego of the shareholder who… man it made me shudder a little to realize I woke up thinking about corporate law this morning… no offense to corporate lawyers, it’s just not something I typically think about… same with torts, etc.)

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Countdown to the bar – 2 weeks

I am certainly reaching my saturation point. And I have about three areas left to study (corporations, agency & partnership, and equity … yay…).

So where does that put me?

Well, I am getting serious, if it’s at all possible to be more serious about this than I was before. I’m not scared (yet), but the whole process, the whole test is more in focus. I am still technically “behind” where I’d like to be, but all in all, I’ve done a lot of practice questions & essays, and I’ve come a long way in catching up on my review of the topics (And in reviewing I was recently reminded of how much I don’t understand real property … I really paid attention to that lecture, yet somehow it’s all still a foreign language to me!).

On the flip side, I’m starting to daydream more… About having a life! I am generally a content, easy-going person (that is, I try to just accept where I am & enjoy it as best as I can), but here I am (in my early 30s, no less) thinking that I am so excited that my life will finally begin on February 24th. That is… Unless I fail the exam… Back to studying!!

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