mnienaber-foster

My Mommy Still Wants to Be a Lawyer

A little more than a year has passed since I posted my first story with Ms. JD. (see post here: http://ms-jd.org/my-mommy-wants-be-lawyer ) Despite the time lapse, I did not forget about Ms. JD and she was never very far from my thoughts.

But I felt that I had contributed all that was worthy at that time and I needed to wait to accomplish something more profound or at least survive my first year of law school before I decided to wax more poetic about law school.

So what happened? Well, a lot. Some things changed, but many things stayed the same. Everyone still thinks I'm nuts. I may even be starting to agree with them. People still ask me what my poor children and neglected husband are doing to occupy the time that I spend at school and work. I still think law school is tough and I think my job at Legal Aid is even tougher. But I love (almost) every minute of it, and above all, I still want to be a lawyer.

The most amazing changes I've seen this year have nothing to do with law school and everything to do with the amazing little creatures I call my children. They are not 3 and 1.5 anymore. They are 4 and almost 3, both going on sixteen. They speak in full sentences and pour their own milk. They sing their ABCs and love Scooby Doo. They negotiate everything from later bedtimes to extra snacks. And they ask me so. many. questions. (Mom, why do we have bones? Are there bones in my head? Can I see my brain? Why can't I see in my belly? How did I get into your belly when I was a baby? How did I get out? Is there a baby in your belly now? My belly's full. Can I have more yogurt?) I continue to be fascinated by their perspective on life and their literal take on everything. But I stand by my claim that they keep me sane, especially in the context of law school. I just don't see how anyone can tell me that passing the Bar is going to be anywhere as difficult as teaching a human child how to use the potty.

But I think the changes that Ms. JD readers would find most interesting are those that impacted my experience as a student. I found that members of the faculty and administration at my school were very supportive of my post. They complimented and commended me, and for better or worse, I became one of the poster children for moms in law school. I was not sure what to do with that, until another student walked in to our SBA meeting named Shantae.

Shantae was a part-time evening student working full-time, but she would shortly be quitting her job to start our full-time day program. But she was not entirely happy with what the school had to offer. She was the mother of two and she thought that student organizations were not providing programming to a large section of the student body: those that were parents. I was thrilled to see that I was not alone. Shantae seemed to want many of the things I wanted: family-friendly programs, an opportunity to bring children to the law school, and above all else, some kind of validation. We wanted to know that our fellow students recognized and appreciated our situation, and were open to catering to it.

Eventually, Shantae helped me give birth to what our fellow student (and single dad) Doug called our "Chocolate Bar Review". Our younger, hipper fellow students had their bar reviews at local hot spots, and we decided to have our Chocolate Bar Review on a Sunday afternoon in our student commons. I had very low expectations and envisioned five or six parents sitting around a table commiserating with each other while our children ran circles around the commons with juice boxes. In the end, we had all of those things, but on a much larger scale. There was pizza, cupcakes, kids crafts, my mother singing with her guitar, and the tables in the commons had to hold about 75 people. We were overwhelmed by the turnout and all of the sincere appreciation we received from the student parents. They were relieved to meet other parents at the school, they were excited to show their kids where they go to school, and they were happy to get that validation. They felt renewed that the school was acknowledging them.

Shantae and I did not stop there. She took the lead on organizing an Easter Egg hunt at the school. Once again, I would have been fine with some fruit punch and six dozen plastic eggs filled with candy. But Shantae had the kids playing "Pin the Tail on the Bunny" and making bunny crafts out of cotton balls. And I can only imagine what she had to do to convince her husband, Todd, to climb into a bunny suit to surprise the kids after their egg hunt. We had a great turnout which included new people who had heard about the success of the Chocolate Bar Review.

Shantae and I are excited about the next year for parents at our law school. There will be more family-friendly events, and we will continue to build our network of parents. And we hope to share those plans with other schools. I can only imagine how excited we would be if we found out that another school had adopted our "Chocolate Bar Review" idea. It's not trademarked—use it all you want!

I think that less people ask me "How do you do it?" these days. I hope that it is because I am showing them, with every chance I get, that I am doing it because I am a mom, not in spite of it. The kids continue to inspire and motivate me, and that has not changed, even though I am finishing my second year of law school. Granted, it has not gotten easier. I still try to study while Hot Wheels whiz past my head, and my husband communicates with me mainly through e-mail and text messaging since face-to-face contact is either non-existent, brief, or conducted in a semi-conscious state. (It's 2am—stop studying!) But I still think we're doing just fine.

Ms. JD provided the platform for me to bring my ideas about parent-students to my administration and I will forever be in the debt of those who created this website for me, and obviously, for all of us. And now, I am so excited to be a part of the new part of Ms. JD: the National Women's Law Student Organization. Granted, my daughter claims that she wants to be a doctor like her daddy, but just in case she changes her mind, I feel like I'll be a really cool mom some day if Maggie goes to law school and I can tell her that I helped blaze the path for NWLSO.

I hope that every law student will take a minute to think about what she is passionate about, what is important to her as a student, and how her school's administration or student organizations could help to make sure that those ideas are being properly implemented in their law school. Never in a million years did I think that there was a single other person in my law school that would want to hang out with me and my kids on a Sunday afternoon. Now I know that there are about 73. You never know what you will get if you just ask. So what do you need? What is important? What are your student organizations missing out on? How could your administration serve you better? It's up to you to get that ball rolling. Good luck!

Mary Nienaber-Foster

2L, Capital University Law School

Columbus, Ohio

mnienaber-foster@law.capital.edu

 

 

 

3 Comments

Anna

M—what you and Shantae did this school year, for yourselves and your fellow student-parents, was fantastic. I'm so glad you shared this; yesterday when you told me a bit about the "chocolate bar review" and the Easter egg hunt in an email, I thought, "We should ask her to share that with everybody online." And then you did! And with a sweet new picture of you and your little ones! Thanks so much for sharing.

VBatters

I'm not a mom myself but I want to say thanks for posting that!
There's a famous quote by Gloria Steinem to the effect of, "I have yet to hear a man ask how to balance work and family."  I think raising children tends to be something that effects women more than men.  I have to belive that is the case because, no matter what choice a woman makes, someone will second guess it. 
 Thanks for not apologizing for the choices you've made and making it easier for other law school parents at the same time!

CM

I run the Parents at the Law School group at my school and we've had pretty informal events all year—I love the ideas you've come up with! I find that it's hard to get people to drum up the energy to organize anything. In past years, our PALS group has been fairly inactive because parents are just too busy. Once I'm gone, I don't know whether the momentum will continue or whether we'll just go back to having dinner once a year. Maybe if we do some fun, creative events like you described and make them yearly traditions, it'll be easier to convince peolpe to continue them.

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