You probably have not been following the dustup between male and female attorneys about who does what better, who works harder, and how each prefers to be insulted or ignored. It started with a blog post on Crime and Federalism, written by a guy, and it grew from there. Carolyn Elefant asked a series of questions about what it means to be a lawyer mom, which prompted a Huckleberry reply from a lawyer dad, which prompted more comments, which prompted a bunch of tweets. Prompted by this, I thought I’d lay out the challenges I face as a lawyer dad, contrasting the other lawyer dad’s experience for continued one-upmanship.
I’ve scheduled parent teacher conferences for the past 3 school years. Babysitter or a nanny? I must arrange for care any time neither of us are available. Nursery school? Nope, Mr. Eric is the nursery school provider here. Appointments? I scheduled (and attended) the last 2 years of school physicals and dental exams.
Me? Well, some background. I’m a single dad with four kids and six foster children, plus I care for my adult brother who has severe ulcerative colitis, no legs, and a brain injury from serving in the first Iraq war. I usually have to carry him on my back to most places, including depositions and court appearances. He has to be hand-fed, usually with fruit and organic grains that I hand-crush each night before I go to bed, if I choose to sleep that night.
I’ve taught my four-year-old child to make family-related appointments and I participate by web at teacher conferences, where I typically provide a PowerPoint overview with charts, showing my children’s developmental progress going back to birth. Because I also have a philosophy degree from the Sorbonne, I provide the medical care at home, directly, which I blog about.
Here is my M-Th schedule: 8AM, drop child #1 at school; 8:30AM, drop child #2 at different school; 11:30AM, pick-up child #2 from school; 3:30PM pick-up child #1; 5:30PM drop child #3 at practice; 6:30PM pick-up child #3 from practice. Fridays are easy b/c child #2 doesn’t have classes.
Just yesterday I finished an appellate argument on a controversial death penalty case. On the way out of the courthouse, the press got in the way and knocked off one of my shoes. I lost the shoe and ultimately missed my bus. My heart raced and I nearly panicked but, with my brother on my back, I ran the five miles to daycare (mostly uphill), where I was actually early to pick up my kids. Go figure. Oh, and we all ran home together, grabbing some awesome quality time together.
At least once a week, I schlep my ass through WalMart trying to estimate how many 55 gallon drums of milk are required for the week, filling my cart with various food goodies as I go. By the way, I also cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner on weekends. Just this morning, I helped my youngest do all of his Valentines, and I helped to make his cutesy, yet masculine, Valentine’s mailbox. Additionally, I must drop chips and dip off at their party next Monday. I also just finished gluing 100 things onto a t-shirt to help my middle kid be a part of the group at school for the 100th day of classes.
Luckily, we raise chickens and grow our own food. My ten-year-old, who is studying to be a chef, does all of the meal planning and cooking as part of an inner-city internship. She also makes handmade tortilla chips. Really good ones. When needed, I ride a refurbished antique bike to the coop for odds and ends. I also make my children’s clothing with organic cotton and a needle and thread. Some of my fashions are now being sold in New York, which brings in some needed additional income. Accordingly, a white t-shirt for school, while initially hard, is now pretty easy to throw together at the last minute, typically around 3:00 a.m., when everyone except my brother has finally gone to sleep.
I give baths and/or showers and make sure that Ms. Long Hair doesn’t have tangles. I am also the homework nazi. And, yes, after I put them to bed I return to the computer and work until I feel I’ve done all I can for the day. Sometimes that is 9PM. Other times, it is much, much later.
Fortunately, while running from the federal courthouse to daycare, I dictated three letters and a memorandum of law. All on an iPhone app I developed specifically for journalists. That helped, as I usually try to do my billing late at night when the kids are asleep and my brother is watching television. Because of the amount of legal work I do, my billing actually takes quite a bit of time. I also provide each client with a hand-written personalized note, particularly the dozen or so pro bono clients I represent, who do not get a bill. As for baths and showers, the kids luckily take care of each other that way, though I do read them bedtime stories, including some of the children’s books I’ve published in the last four years, two to international acclaim.
When I travel out of town, I set the house up in a way that there are enough groceries to sustain the family while I am gone, along with a list of meals . . . . I try to get ahead on the homework and lay-out the clothes for the week. I double check the schedule to make sure that every dropoff and pickup are covered. It takes a long time. While doing that, I’m also thinking about the next 5 things I must do for each client.
My last trip to the Hague in July was a logistical challenge, as I also had to stop briefly in Egypt to advise a group of human rights advocates interested in regime change. Luckily, my kids come with me on most of my trips, as does my brother and our chickens. That said, I always make sure our dog has enough food and water before we leave.
john richard says
Imagine my dismay when I read this entry. Because of your unique perspective on the practice of law I had been planning to write to you for advice. Until today I had always felt like a woman trapped inside a man’s body. After reading today’s column I am more confused than ever.
dj moonbat says
See, that’s just like a man: totally oblivious to the contributions he forces onto the other members of the family. Meal planning and cooking are obviously “children’s work,” right? Is making handmade tortilla chips somehow beneath you?
You men make me sick.
Thanks for the laugh. Very well done.