Sunday, January 24, 2010

Family Planning As A First Year Associate

Family planning might as well be called "career planning" around my house.

Jacob is 16 months now and everyone around me is getting pregnant or having babies. I definately have the itch to have another baby- ok, correction, I've had the itch for over a year now- I know, I'm crazy!

We talk about not wanting our babies too far apart in age. The children in my family were two years apart. My brother was born on my second birthday- lamest present ever, ha ha. But how far is too far? I think three years is as far apart as I want my children. I mean I don't want to be 40 when I'm popping out my fourth kid (yes, I totally want 4 even after my horrible 2 hours of pushing + emergency c-section experience during which I experienced every possible problem under the sun). But I love babies and I guess that love overcomes my faulty memory.

So, it should be easy right? Go light some candles, put on some mood music, club my husband and drag him to the bedroom, right? WRONG!

See, I start work in March. I will be a first year associate at a crazy, busy litigation firm. In Seattle. My commute will be 1 hour and 20 minutes and involves a long ferry ride and a 2 mile walk- one way. I will be busy and tired and stressed. I've waited practically 6 years for a real job in a real career! This is a long time in coming and I want to do well. I want to prove myself. Aren't your first couple years as an attorney critical in developing skills and proving yoursef to your employers?

So, where does another baby fit in? I was pregnant and working as a summer associate at this firm two summers ago. I still performed well, but I didn't have the BILLABLE HOUR hanging over my head. And I was distracted ike 35% of the time. I couldn't wait to get out of there at the end of the summer and meet my baby. Then there were the million bathroom breaks, the half million snack breaks and the EXHAUSTION.

Then what happens when I have a baby? I'll want to take time off but I won't want to take time off- you know? If I was a couple years into practice I feel like this issue of family planning wouldn't be so crucial. I'd have proven myself a little, got some skills in and would feel more comfortable taking a couple months off. But I can't just start a job then request maternity leave right?

Any thoughts or experience out there on having babies as a 1 or 2 year associte? In the meantime I'll try to talk some sense into my reproductive system. Thanks.

(P.S. Is it just me or do other moms get jealous of all the attention that their friends and family get when they have a newborn? It's so immature but I get ridiculously jealous and want to have another baby right there to steal back the spot light. Now excuse me while I put myself in time out for just admitting that.)


3Lmpls said...

I'm a 3L graduating in May, and am about to start trying to get pregnant (for the first time). The advice I've been given is to put family planning before career- there is always time to build that career, but the window for babies is small. There's never a good time to have a baby. You're actually in a great position because you've been with the firm for a while - they knew your work, hired you because they respect and like you. Plus even if you get pregnant today, you'll have worked there full-time for 6-9 months before taking time off for maternity. That's enough time to solidify your reputation. As for waiting, it's not going to get any easier to take time off-- in a few years you'll be running your own cases, not just second-chairing/behind-the-scenes. I'd take the time now, especially since it fits your family planning goals to do so.

Gillian said...

I'm having my second kid right now, as a 1L. I had my first while working full time, and it was a million times harder. People gave me shit, doing illegal things like threatening to fire me and lowering my pay. Besides that, the nausea and the pregnancy fuzzy brain could be difficult difficult to overcome. That said - it's going to be a bad time any time. And I made it through. Nobody fired me, despite their threats.

My advice is just do it. Things will never slow down, esp. as Jacob speeds up. They are probably expecting it anyway, if you already have one kid and are of childbearing age still.

Also? Yes, i felt the major jealousy, too! It feels so good to spit that out!

Anonymous said...

I actually disagree with the previous 2 posters. I work at a big firm and the advice I've always been given is to really prove yourself before getting pregnant and going on leave, preferably two years but at least one. You might not even want to work at a crazy firm after having two kids, so if you want to move to a less stressful (i.e., better hours) job after that, at least you will have 2 years of experience under your belt. It is hard to find a job with only one year of experience. If you had asked me a few years ago, I would have said it's not that big of a deal and to do what you want. But in this economy, it is really really hard to find a job and, even if they do it illegally, you don't want to get the boot because you wanted time off or maybe want to work a more flexible schedule.

je said...

i love your honesty!! it's great! i am forwarding this link to T because he and I have had some "discussions" about timing and whatnot. I'm really thinking that waiting til after law school will mean waiting 1-2 years post-Bar, and I'm no spring chicken as it is...

I really wish someone offered this as a class in college or something!

Anonymous said...

je, I think having a kid as a law student is easier than having one as a lawyer. I had my first as a 3L and it was doable. Now, I'm going through exactly what Cee is going through (I want 4 too!). So, I'll be reading to see how the comments/discussion play out.

Cee said...

I think having a kid in lawschool was the best choice I made- it was pretty easy- I could take a semester off easily and when I resumed, I could schedule my classes so they were convenient to me. Now realizing how difficult it is to plan having a kid in a career, I wish i had another kid while I was still in lawschool!

Katie said...

Not to be too practical, but one thing you should figure out before making a decision is how your employer deals with maternity leave- the FMLA only requires coverage if you've been working somewhere for more than a year (and only applies to some employers, though some state laws provide more coverage), and it can be really expensive to take time off. I would also want to know what the culture was - my friend worked at a firm where NO ONE took more than 6 weeks off, and she was really unhappy with going back so early.

I had my daughter four months before starting law school, and it seems really hard at the time, but now I'm thinking that that was nothing in comparison with how hard it would be to have a second with a real job.

Anonymous said...

I think about this ALL the time (at 28, "it's that time"). Husband and I were going to try soon - with an ETA for baby to come around Christmas next year (halfway through 3L year). BUT, I have an internship in DC lined up for summer and then will be doing a Semester-in-Practice the following fall. Probably not a great idea to get pregnant with all of that, right? But - then again - it won't be any easier when I graduate, apparently. Maybe get pregnant around Christmas time next year and then have the baby after I take the bar? Or will I be too cracked out with fuzzy brain to perform well?
Boo. Too complicated.

Cee said...

I do NOT recommend being pregnant while peparing for the bar. I haven't done it but bar prep is seriously killing me. It's the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I can't imagine being pregnant when the bar is making me depressed, maniac, sleep deprived and majorly stressed out!

Anonymous said...

Is moving closer to your work an option for you Cee? I can't see doing biglaw with a commute like that and a kid. Is a work from home day an option? I think one of the ways LL makes it work is having a wicked short commute. . . Mine is 30-45 minutes and i feel like *that* is too long.

Totally agree that having a kid in law school is WAY easier than as an associate. in a million ways.

I am pregnant with second and studying for the bar. I also took a semester off halway through 2L year. I think bar study sucks a big one, pregnant or not, so it's not that much worse. i guess it depends on what kind of pregnancy you have (I am blessed to have an easy time), which thankfully you typically know if this is your second.

Honestly, Cee, fighting the urge once you start having the fever is HARD. I held it off for about 9 months after I started having it, and that was about all I could stand! But be strong! Your time will come!

Liz said...

Long time reader, first time commenter here. I just couldn't resist replying to this post because I have been having a similar debate in my head, except that I'm a 2L so I don't even know where I'll end up working after law school. I taught for 4 years before law school, so I'm older that the typical 2L (27 - so not THAT much older) and DH and I really, really want to start TTC. After lots of debate, we decided we'll start trying in March, and I'd end up due (if all goes according to plan... hahaha, I know that's pretty unlikely) in December or January. I'd probably take the spring semester off and then finish either over the summer or during the fall of 2011. I also have an hour and a half commute to law school, so I might look in to finishing away at a school closer to where I live (and where DH's job is).

I just don't want to screw my job chances. I have a big(ish) firm job lined up for next summer, so on the one hand I don't want them to think I'm not motivated or anything, but on the other, if they don't want to give me an offer because I'm pregnant, it probably isn't the kind of place I want to end up anyway. The idea of graduating with nothing lined up is really scary though, since I'll probably have about $100k of law school debt. And my DH has a decent job but not one that pays well enough to support both of us (and especially not enough for both of us and a baby). There's a part of me that thinks I should just work for 2 years before I start trying, but then I'd be 31 before I start trying, and I'm really ready to be a mom, now! There's a reason why I read blogs like yours and live vicariously through you. : )

Sort of makes me wonder why I thought law school was a good idea... back when I was a teacher this would have been a whole lot easier!

Lyn said...

I am a first year associate right now at a mid-sized firm (about 300 attys) that isn't growing too rapidly right now - in our office they've brought in maybe 4-5 new associates each year for the last few years. I can't say what you should do in biglaw where they bring in classes of 100 associates at a time, but where I am, by the time you're a first-year associate, they're pretty invested in you and they want you to succeed. One piece of advice I was given was to have kids earlier rather than later. Yeah, you're still proving yourself in your first couple of years, but as long as you don't have the baby immediately after joining the firm, you should have some opportunity to demonstrate your commitment. Further, as you get closer to being up for partner, you have to put in crazy, crazy amounts of hours, and you have a ton of responsibility - I think it's much harder to take maternity leave then. That being said, I was told by another woman at our firm that you should not let the firm control your life... if you want to have kids now, have them now, and if you want to wait, then wait.

LEO said...

I have thought about this since I found out I was pregnant the first time. I was pregnant as a summer associate at a big firm and was so consumed with what they would think of me, whether they would give me an offer if they found out, etc... The thing is, I think some people will completely write you off the second they know you ever intend to have kids, no matter how well you time it. Other people won't ever care as long as you do good work.
I couldn't agree more that having a baby in law school is easier than while working. Well, I have no comparison, but during law school was almost perfect for me. I think being pregnant during the bar wouldn't be a huge deal as long as you have a decently easy pregnancy. My son will be 22 months when I start working. I always thought my kids would be 2 or 21/2 years apart, but I have decided that I need to work at least 1 year before taking leave. I wish I could make it through bonus season (15 months or so) before having to announce a pregnancy, but I don't think that will happen. I know it's going to be a tougher pregnancy while working than it was in law school, and I know that having two young kids while working 50-60 hour weeks will feel impossible most days. But you do what you gotta do.
Basically, you'll make it work whenever you decide to have #2. But you're pretty young, like me, and there will be time to have kids. This comment is so long, I may have to write a post now too. Good luck, Cee!

LEO said...

That was me, wrong email... woops