stressedbeyondbelief

Family vs. Law School

OK, I have to somehow vent this stress I've been carrying around for the last several weeks.  I work full time and go to law school at night.  The stress of law school is enough by itself, but with family pressure, I'm feeling a little crushed.

My husband is going to be away for a few hours this weekend. I reminded him that I have a Legal Writing assignment due next week, and I got a dirty look.  It's the same attitude I got when I came home last night, said hello to everyone, and started reading.  I figured I could get at least a little reading done before dinner.  My husband acted like a child.  So do I not spend time with my family, and go to class poorly prepared, or do I prepare for class, and have my family give me the guilt trip?

It doesn't stop with my husband, either.  I've been getting a flurry of emails from my mom over the last few weeks.  First, it was guilt because she felt like we were having a hard time finding a day for her birthday party, then it was guilt because my oldest son is struggling in school (again) and she wants me to take him to another counselor.  We did the whole counseling thing for about 8 months when my son was in sixth grade.  Now he's in ninth grade.  I don't think it did much the first time - nothing changed until he decided he was ready to do the work.  Yes, it's a shame that a gifted child is getting grades like these, but on the other hand, he's FIFTEEN years old.  At some point, he needs to get it together.  We've had him tested and/or screened for everything from learning disabilities to depression. 

My husband got laid off in January, so we're concerned about finances, and I'm trying to be as encouraging as I can in the limited amount of time that I have.  Sometimes it's hard to prop someone else up when you are feeling like you could use a little propping yourself.  Does it get easier?  Can I make it through the rest of law school if it doesn't??

6 Comments

lawmama

Wow, you quite nearly described my current situation.  Although you didn’t specify what year you are in, it sounds like you’re in your first year given that you’re taking a Legal Writing class.  I am in my fourth (and last) year of a part time evening program, and like you I’m married and have two older boys and a daughter who is about to turn 3 (yes, I had her my first year).  I’m hearing a lot of different issues in your post, and I can try to share my own experience, if it’s helpful.
There have definitely been times when my husband’s response to my studying needs has beeen upsettinig to me.  He has acted put off and inconvenienced in a way that made me feel not only like I wasn’t being supported by him, but that I was almost being punished for deciding to go to law school.  However, most of the time he’s been incredibly supportive and has just pitched in without a lot of complaining.  Considering he’s on point for all three kids, three or four nights a week, I’m impressed that he hasn’t fled to Mexico yet.  The only reason our marriage has survived is that we have lots of difficult conversations, all the time.  We talk constantly about what’s going on and what’s bugging us.  It’s been very difficult, but in the end it’s worked out.
It gets easier in that you start to get the hang of being able to thoughtfully discuss cases without writing out extensive briefs (which I did faithfully my first two years!), and therefore you spend a lot less time studying.  And I lucked out with landing a law clerk job with a great firm despite not having all A’s - it took a lot of the grading pressure off.  Your husband and kids will start to ease into a routine, and you will find what works best for your family’s schedule.  For instance, maybe there is some rescheduling you can do in terms of your study schedule so that you can be present with your family in that precious evening time after work.  Considering that you work full time, however, I know that must be a real struggle.
By my fourth year, everyone in my house (including me) just felt like we were OVER IT.  Everyone’s patience has worn pretty thin.  I’ve started telling my parents "I’ll talk to you after the bar."  Luckily, everyone has been very understanding.  If your mother is starting to lay on a guilt trip, I would not hestitate to remind her of the monumental task you have undertaken (especially since you are working full time; I reduced my time from 30 hours to 20 hours and took out more loans my third and fourth year).  I have found that the more clear I am with family and friends as to what my boundaries and my intentions are, the better I feel.  I may come across as bitchy, but no one would fault a guy for being clear about his convictions, so I refuse to feel guilty about it.  This is me, doing what I need to do to succeed in my life, and my family and friends will have to take me as I am.
Whew!  That was the longest comment I have EVER written.  But your post really struck me, and although this is the first time I’ve commented on this blog I have been a reader for a long time and have thought about these issues incessantly during my four years of school.  Bottom line is that I think women have to stick together and offer each other their support whenever possible, or else we will not succeed in this male-oriented world.  Be optimistic and keep working hard, but do NOT think for a second that you are alone. 

MsEsquire

I found that it gets much harder. I found law school and even taking the bar much easier than practing law. Practicing law is rigorous and for the most part you are really on your own. Practing law does not have the built-in support and structure that law school has.  If family is already making it hard just to study—imagine what it is like when you are dealing with real, paying clients and their very significant legal problems.  Imagine when your law license is on the line.  Law school was a supportive breeze compared to making it in the real world.  I encourage you to speak up for yourself. You cannot make everyone happy all of the time and be a successful lawyer.  Especially, if those people are not 100% supportive of the demands of your industry. 

Peg

It’s definately hard to balance 1L year with being a parent and working full time.  I had kids ages 1 and 3 when I started law school.  Also, I have a husband that just does not appreciate the challenges of law school, never did and never will.  For me, 1L year was hard, 2L and 3L years were a piece of cake and studying for the bar exam was the worst of all—my husband just didn’t get it at all and actually shut down on the little bit of teamwork that he was doing before I graduated (e.g. stopped cooking, stopped putting gas in the cars, stopped giving the kids baths etc)  so that I was totally on my own.
However don’t give up!  It sounds like you have waited a long time to get to law school and I assume this is a life-long goal of yours.  Well, stick to it and make the others in your life adjust their expectations so that you don’t have to worry about letting them down or feeling guilty. 
I wrote about something similar a while back here.
Finally, I would argue that work/life balance is much harder than school/life balance.  it likely doesn’t feel that way to you now because you have a three way balance of work/school/life going on and it is overwhelming.  But still, at least for the school piece of the balance, there is a lot of flexibility and you are really only responsible for yourself.

1000faces

Seriously, is it just me or does it sound like this husband is being a total, intolerable douchebag???  I met my now husband in my first year of law school & got married to him a couple months before I graduated.  He was in library school & lived w/his parents in Long Island while I was living in CT w/a fellow law school classmate.  He has been 100% supportive of me through law school, bar review, unemployment & waiting for me to finally get paid for the work I’m doing (my career path is exciting & non-traditional).  I have done the same for him.
I had another classmate who got engaged & married around the same time I did and she said her husband was also standing by her while she studied for the bar.  Surely our husbands can’t be the only supportive men on Earth!
For personal reasons & by agreement, my husband & I have refused to have children.  I couldn’t handle that now & can’t imagine doing what most of my night student classmates had to do (work full time, care for families & in some cases, young children).  Personally, if my husband weren’t supportive of me, I would leave him.  He knew what he was getting into when he met me & in my book, lack of support is lack of love & that’s not a marriage worth honoring.  A career was also important to me while marriage wasn’t since all the ones I saw growing up were mere exercises in taking BS from someone else.
Guess my anti-marriage bias is showing but what about what kids are learning from this, especially girls?  Isn’t it telling a daugther that she should expect a husband to turn her into Hazel while she pursues her career?  They’re also bound to see the strain and conflict over it.  Psychologists will tell you that living in an unhappy home is worse for children than going through a divorce.

momjustice

I just graduated last year and had both of our kids while I was in school.  I worked and went part time at night and my husband worked and was in engineering school.  It was really difficult and there were more than a few fights.  Things will get a little easier the longer you are in school b/c you will get more comfortable creating a balance for yourself and figuring out when you really need to read and when you can put it off or just skim.  I do agree with the other comment that it is more difficult on the other side.  I really thought it would be easier, but it is not.  Anything that you can do now to work some of the balance stuff out with your husband will pay off in the long run.  Do therapy if that helps or whatever works for you.  Somehow you will all get through it.  I wish you and your family the very best of luck.

NickieB

Yes, I’m afraid it is just you.  Your situation seems to be completely different.  Your husband knew you were on the path to becoming an attorney when he married you.  You both  made the decision to not have children.
In my case, I got married when I thought I was done with school.  We planned to have children, and he and I agreed to be an "old-fashioned" kind of family, with he as the bread-winner and me as the stay-at-home mom. 
I suspect the original poster’s situation is more similar to mine than  yours.  My DH may act like a douchebag once in a while when my study schedule conflicts with something he wants to do, but that doesn’t make him intolerable.  His status quo has been upset.  That doesn’t mean he doesn’t support me (or the original poster) - it just means that he may not have been expecting the big life-change of his wife going to law school, and he wasn’t expecting to have to do both his job and the job I originally agreed to do - before I decided to go back to school and start a career. 
It’s a big change.  Cut the guy some slack.  Certainly not worth leaving the guy over.  And FYI - occasional marital conflict does not equate with an unhappy home. 

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