Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Job Tips: Parental Leave

A reader wants your suggestions on how to deal with the following:  Fred and Wilma are both attorneys who work at different firms. Fred is at the local office of a national firm and a third-year associate. Wilma works at a small local firm and is also a third-year associate. They're expecting their first child later this year and want your advice on how to deal with paternity/maternity leave. They both want to take some time off when the baby arrives, but aren't sure of the best way to approach it. Fred is concerned about billable hour requirements and a certain overbearing partner who won't appreciate paternity leave. Any tips on how to deal with work and a new baby?

75 comments:

  1. The premise of the question (both want to take "some" time off) raises a more important issue. You need to accept that you can't "have it all." The "have it all" meme is BS. It denies basic physical facts. There are only so many hours in the day, and you can't be in two places at once. When both parents are at work, neither is with the child, and babies need to bond with parents. The best option is for the parents to have an honest discussion about who is in a better position to support the family for the next 5 years and have the other parent be stay-at-home until the kid is old enough for school or at least daycare. You will have to forego the second income for a while. These are tough choices, but they are the best choices for the child. If you both just want to take a couple months off and then put the kid in daycare to pursue your careers without being bothered by parenting (it's hard) while some minimum-wage stranger watches your child in an undifferentiated group of children, none of whom will get the special attention they deserve (let's be honest), you need to ask yourselves why you're creating this child. If your reaction to that is, "we need the second income," then maybe you need to rein in your expenses (house, cars, etc.) to make room for the baby's needs, and if that is not possible (be honest with yourselves), then maybe this is not the right time for a baby.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There's nothing about the care of or rearing of an infant that requires a special skill set or the constant involvement of the biological parent. For the first 18 months or so they need feeding, changing and supervision. Parenting is important, but it's unskilled labor. Leave work on time as frequently as possible and avoid the temptation to telecommute when the child is awake. Catch up when it's asleep...there's plenty of time.

      Delete
  2. Attorneys put clients first. To even ask the question about "leave" suggests this calling is not for these blushing parents.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We are third-year attorneys. We are 29 and 28. Our biological clock is ticking. We deserve 2.3 kids and our employers to pay us to parent our children.

      Delete
    2. I know families with 5 kids living on $60k a year. That is one attorney's bottom rack salary. Have lots of babies and shop at Costco. Done. Don't be a commie. Date night at Taco Bell has its charms.

      Delete
    3. Both Bernie and Hillary will bust their asses and our economy to give you that! And let's not forget free healthcare for everyone. Now I am off to go get my free 10 pound block of cheese!

      Delete
    4. Bernie bot, Bernie bot.

      Delete
  3. Off Topic - rumors are flying in the bankruptcy bar of a 341 meeting last week in which the Trustee grilled a debtor over some large loan and then confiscated his rolex and ring at the meeting. Anyone have any details?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love it! Someone tell us more.

      Delete
    2. I wanna know more.

      Delete
    3. I'm not a BK specialist but even I know that you'd better show up for a 341 meeting in a gunnysack and sneakers. I've heard of things like this happening.

      Delete
  4. One of the main reasons I am an attorney is because I want my spouse to be a full-time parent to our three young children. We don't live luxuriously, but all our basic needs are met and then a little. Fred & Wilma's real issue isn't short term leave, it's where they will choose to prioritize their child in life. You don't need two attorney incomes as a family. If Fred & Wilma both continue to practice law full time, they should be honest with themselves and admit their child comes third behind both jobs and that they are probably going to be really shitty parents.

    ReplyDelete
  5. 8:12 offers sound advice. As for me, I billed 0.7 in the labor and delivery room. My paternity leave lasted about 30 seconds.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Wow, just wow.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Wow! Based on the comments, I'd think we were in 1955!!
    One parent not staying home with the child means you are not making a child a priority??? Have you not read the dozens of studies that have found that children where both parents work are better adjusted, more successful, better thinkers? One factor of predicting success of a child is whether the mother works.
    Whether a parent stays at home with their child/children is a personal decision - whichever decision is made, whether a parent stays home or the child is in daycare - does not in anyway mean that you are not putting the baby's needs ahead of yours.
    Frankly, these comments are absolutely shocking and show an incredible amount of ignorance and close-mindedness of our Bar.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Amen. Work if you want to, your kids will be fine. Also they'll have the benefit of not growing up with bitchy judgemental parents who demand that everybody make the same life choices they did.

      Also, kudos to Fred for taking time off too. Good dad!

      Most importantly, as we can see from this board, there's still a lot of stigma (and a dash of sexism) for parents who take time off for their kids. So Fred and Wilma, when you're partners yourselves, remember all the shit you went through and be nice to the young associates who are going through the same thing.

      Delete
    2. You believe those lies? Let me guess, you are an atheist and think men in skirts should be able to use the girls room.

      Delete
    3. Labeling anything you disagree with as sexism is childish. Either clients come first or they do not. Don't pretend you can hold contradictory views at the same time and still be considered an adult.

      This legal profession is littered with shattered souls with broken homes. Better poor and happy than driving a nice car and miserable.

      Delete
    4. I see. So name calling instead of a reasoned explanation of why somebody is wrong is the "adult" way to handle things. Got it. Glad you stopped by.

      Delete
    5. @ 9:55. Can you post links to all of the studies you referred to? I have not read them. Thanks.

      Delete
    6. Actually, it has been shown that when parents spend 20+ hours per week away from a baby (during waking hours), the psychological effects are indistinguishable from total abandonment. Also, the studies are pretty clear (but ignored in the mainstream) that having a working mother (and single working mothers are way worse in terms of outcome)results in significantly higher rates of crime, delinquency, early sex, drug use, and just about everything that reasonably people don't want their kids involved in. So you are right that the mother working has an effect, just not the one you think. Sorry that doesn't jive with your social justice views. You cannot just say that whatever you want to do, it's not putting your needs ahead of the baby's. Saying that doesn't make it true, no matter how much you wish your personal desires or sociological views must be compatible with good childrearing. They may not be. Obviously, if you choose not to spend time with your child in favor of career and money, you are putting your needs first. What is better: spending 100% of time with your child, or 0%? Answer is obvious. We're just talking matters of degree. Some people have absolutely no choice - work, or both you and the baby starve (thanks, no fault divorce laws!). The family in our example doesn't appear to have to make that choice.

      Delete
    7. Here you go:
      http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/17/upshot/mounting-evidence-of-some-advantages-for-children-of-working-mothers.html?_r=0
      http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/kids-benefit-from-having-a-working-mom
      http://parenthood.library.wisc.edu/Hoffman/Hoffman.html

      Delete
    8. 1955 was a great year. Marxoids have always detested the happiness that Americans were able to enjoy for a while. Hence the relentless attack on the "1950's" home and family.

      To attack, they Ignore the fact that at the time, for the first time in generations, Americans had the means to effectuate their choices. What did they choose? Marriage. House. Car. Kids. Church.

      A lot of these 1950's moms spent the 1940s burying their husbands/brothers in between shifts at the ammunition factory, while counting ration coupons and navigating black markets in search of fresh eggs, stockings, booze. In the end, that's what Bernie and Hillary want to bring back. Endless war. Endless rationing. And, of course, the end of the bourgeoisie nuclear family.

      Bring back the 1950's!

      Delete
    9. Yes... I just want to wear those fifties dresses!

      Delete
    10. https://birthpsychology.com/journals/volume-15-issue-4/short-and-long-term-effects-infants-and-toddlers-full-time-daycare-center

      Delete
    11. Great link. Hard data like cortisol levels are hard to argue with. Liberals extol "science" but ignore it regularly. At family events I see with my own eyes the daycare kids versus the homecare kids. Daycare is especially brutal on boys. Don't do this, don't touch that, don't push Susie to the ground, etc., right up until pediatrician recommends "lightly" medicating little Tommy to make him more, well, girly and obedient.

      Delete
    12. I'm calling bullshit on 12:02 and the 20+ hours/abandonment correlation. "Ignored by the mainstream" is code for "believed by tin-foil hat wearing anti-vaxxers."

      Delete
  8. 8:12 -- lead the fight to make student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy and I will be glad to stay home with my kid!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Congratulations on the baby! I promise you that when you are on your death bed you will not think "I wish I had spent less time with my spouse and children and more time at the office." Let that guide your decision making process.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Is that because you have been on your deathbed and faced this question and dilemma? Otherwise do not promise me what I will be thinking when facing my mortality.

      Delete
    2. Exactly. My kids are insufferable narcissists. My clients are generally good people.

      Delete
  10. I've been through this twice. I was lucky to have a very understanding employer, but my husband did not. We both stayed home for 8 of my 12 week maternity leave with my first child. My husband's job was not supportive, which led to him changing jobs. He was able to find another more supportive environment, and was able to take time off between jobs. With my second, I stayed home for 8 weeks and my husband for 2. I worked from home with the baby the last 4 weeks. My recommendation if you do not have a supportive employer is to take the time off you need while being clear with your employer about when you will return. Take the time with your spouse and the baby. It is precious. Also, start looking for another job. You will need flexibility and understanding not just when the baby is a newborn, but during parenthood in general. There are legal employers out there who allow you to be a good parent. You just have to keep looking.

    Also, ignore the nutcases who say you can't be a good parent if you put your kids in daycare.

    ReplyDelete
  11. There are plenty of families with two parents who are attorneys. There are even more families with one or two parents who work minimum wage jobs and have no flexibility with their jobs. The vast majority of these people want the best for their kids and they find a way to make it work. Some find great daycare facilities and preschools, some hire a nanny, and some have grandparents and relatives available to help out. The idea that only people who can afford to have a stay at home parent should have children is bullshit. And I write this as someone who has two children and a stay at home husband. If you're looking for a way to maximize bonding time with a newborn, I suggest cutting out everything you can for a couple of years - take a break from committees, extra work assignments, non-profits, teaching church, etc. And then hire someone to do your yardwork, clean your house, and run your errands. Spend time finding the right caregiver for the time you work and find a trusted back-up to step in when necessary. If you can stagger your work shifts a bit, so that one parent goes in early and comes home early and the other goes in late and stays late, great. If the people you work with are dicks about taking time for family, consider finding a different group of people to work with/for.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sound advice.

      Delete
    2. Yes, very sound.

      Delete
  12. #StopAbandonTheKidsShaming

    ReplyDelete
  13. As a female attorney with 2 small children, I can say that some sacrifice is required on the career front in order to make it work. Most days, if you have a good plan in place for daycare/nanny/family helping out, it works out fine, even though you end up exhausted. But there are days when the kids are sick/have a school play/etc... and I am at a mediation/court/deposition, and it is a no win. The clients are not getting your full attention and the kids are upset you missed something. I desperately try never to use the "kid" card to get out of something because I know that some people will never understand. Bottom line, my career would be in a different place had I not had the kids. I accepted that when I made the decision to have the kids and I do not regret it any day of the week. The kids bring me much more joy that my career will ever bring.

    ReplyDelete
  14. My wife an I both have demanding jobs. We tried to do well at work and also do well as parents, and it almost led to a divorce. We basically both told our jobs to fucking deal with it while we raise our kid. We work 9-5, we're probably not on the Vice President/partner in 8 years track. But fuck it, we're happy. And we can just jump back on the track when our little guy is grown up.

    ReplyDelete
  15. You can call me sexist, but you can't argue with the science.

    https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/eric-bettinger-why-stay-home-parents-are-good-older-children

    The evidence is already quite strong that staying at home during a child’s first year of life can have long-term benefits. That’s why most industrial nations (though not the United States) guarantee at least some paid parental leave for working mothers and fathers.

    ...

    “The results suggest that even older students in middle or elementary school could use guidance from their parents,” Bettinger says. “For years, we have known that parental presence is extraordinarily important in the very early childhood years. What we’re finding is that parents continue to be important much further along in a child’s life than we had previously thought.”

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. NO you can't....
      http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/17/upshot/mounting-evidence-of-some-advantages-for-children-of-working-mothers.html?_r=0
      http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/kids-benefit-from-having-a-working-mom
      http://parenthood.library.wisc.edu/Hoffman/Hoffman.html

      Delete
  16. Now imagine doing that on something other than 2 attorney's salaries. The equation just got real.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I have seen attorneys make it work. The goal is to make enough money to afford the nanny and avoid childcare centers. (Petri dishes of disease and bullying.) There are plenty of options, including self-employment, etc. Choose wisely.

    Personally, I cannot stand imposing personal decisions on employers or clients. Whatever you choose, keep them in mind, too. It is not their job to make your life super fantastic; it is your job to make them money.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Years ago, my wife decided to return to work full time and leave our three young kids at home. It almost destroyed our marriage and the kids. They are still recovering from the trauma years later. Her excuse was that she wanted more money. We had a nice house, nice cars and enough money for private school tuition. She wanted more. Thankfully, she was eventually fired. Things are better now, but I would have left her long ago but for my faith in God.

    As for studies, I grew up barely seeing my mom or dad, and I absolutely, positively swore as a young man that I would never, ever make my kids go through that. I guess it's subjective, c'est la vie. If I could go back in time, I would follow the Jim Bob Duggar path. He's my hero.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL! This is sarcasm at its best! (And if it is not sarcasm, I feel bad for you.)

      Delete
  19. Nannies are an excellent alternative to daycare centers, except every nanny I've looked at wants half my salary. $20-25/hour to watch my kid, ugh! I don't want an idiot watching her, but it's ridiculous.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Decent daycare isn't cheap either. You don't want to get into a situation where the lower-earning partner keeps working for the sake of more money but the net gain considering child care costs is minimal (or even a loss), and all the while you're missing out on time with the kid, who is bonding (if with anyone) with caregivers that are temporary in his or her life and very likely having abandonment issues.

      Delete
    2. You also don't want to get into a situation where your husband is bonding more with the nanny than he is with you, amirite?!

      Delete
  20. I'm a solo attorney, so obviously my boss is a total dick who won't give me any paternity leave.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, my boss is a slave driver, too. I never get to call in sick.

      Delete
  21. Any idea why Nelson Cohen is no longer with Bremer, Whyte, Brown & O'Meara? He's been a long time partner at the firm and I hear his exit came unexpected to most. Was he fired or greener pastures?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interesting... perhaps someone can tell us more.

      Delete
  22. In the first five years of my life, my mom worked about half of the time and stayed home the other half of the time. I went to pre-school/day care when my mom started working again. Frankly, I don't really remember anything about my life in those first years except how excited I was when my dad would pick me up from pre-school (all the teachers though my dad was cute so I got special attention from the teachers).

    I believe this whole "bonding time" debate is about the parent's needs, not about raising a healthy child. If a child is in a caring environment whether that be at home with mom/dad, with grandparents, a nanny, or at a good day care, there shouldn't be a difference. Provide a child with adequate food, support, and care and barring some mental deficiency, the child should come out okay and well-adjusted.

    Do what you think is best. To Wilma, take at least 8 weeks off though, and then make a decision about your future. If your employer won't allow it, quit because you are a professional and deserve to be treated better. And Fred, you'll be running back to work in 2 weeks, mark my words. Work will seem like a vacation compared to hanging with a newborn 24/7. But remember, don't let anyone make you feel bad about the decisions you make about what is best for your family. Only you and your spouse know what is best for you both.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You seem to imply that as long as a kid has food, support, and care, it doesn't matter where it comes from. That is complete horse shit. There is a reason you said you were excited when your dad came to pick you up, and you didn't say how excited you were each day to see your pre-school handlers - caring, loving parents are entirely different (and IMHO better) than someone that is paid to try to care for a child.

      Delete
    2. 3:06 here, I wasn't excited that my dad was picking me up, I was excited because I got so much attention and one-on-one time from the teachers.

      Again, I don't remember much before age 5, so I can't tell you whether my mom or pre-school handlers made me the well-adjusted person I am today.

      Keep in mind, this discussion is about the beginning years of a child's life, not ages 8-18 where a lack of parental bonding can really mess up a child. I mean really, a 3 month old doesn't know if its mom, dad, or a monkey is feeding them. All a 3 month old knows is that she/he is getting fed!

      Delete
    3. "I mean really, a 3 month old doesn't know if its mom, dad, or a monkey is feeding them." This is probably the dumbest statement made in this whole thread, obviously made by someone who has never raised their own child.

      Delete
    4. Meh...I've been around babies in phases where they're fussy about whether it's mom or dad feeding them....not sure if any where as young as 3 months, and ours definitely did stretches where if it wasn't mom doing the holding there'd be screaming....but overall I think that mom, dad or monkey is probably an accurate observation.

      Delete
    5. My baby liked when I held her bottle with a Minnie Mouse puppet on my hand. She preferred to be fed by a mouse I guess.

      Delete
  23. If Wilma is at a larger firm, she should explore flexible and reduced-time alternatives to the traditional partnership track. If the firm values Wilma's work, management will bend over backwards to accommodate her and then pat themselves on the back for their sensitivity.

    Fred could try this too. But he'd have to be prepared for the stigma, old guard considering him a pansy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If Fred puts his kids before his clients he is a pansy.

      Delete
  24. Only 56 posts. Blog is dead.

    ReplyDelete
  25. My mother did not work and my parents were both terrible parents. I would have been better off had I been raised by wolves. Women, remember that the ones spewing the nonsense that working is the equivalent of abandoning your child and you are dooming your child to a drug-addicted life of crime are people you work for and with, opposing counsel, and judges. Comments like this remind me why employment non-discrimination laws are necessary lest I get lulled into complacency and think this type of ignorance is a thing of the past or that intelligent, educated people know better.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The only comment I see that assumes staying home is Wilma's job is yours.

      Delete
    2. Then you weren't reading very closely.

      Delete
    3. "Women, remember that the ones spewing the nonsense that working is the equivalent of abandoning your child and you are dooming your child to a drug-addicted life..." Nice try. Not a single person in this thread said that women had to be the spouse to stay home or that women shouldn't work. I understand that it is easier to assuage your guilt believing that, but it's just not true. Children need their parents, not some hired hand. End of story. That's not sexist, that's just life. There are a lot of people in this thread that seem to get their feelings hurt when they are told they cannot have their cake after they've eaten it. Humans have finite time. Children need substantial time FROM THEIR PARENTS. THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE. PERIOD.

      Delete
    4. @10:02 When did you become the one with all the answers? Did God come down and tell you this? You are free to believe whatever you want to believe - but that doesn't mean you are right or have the only correct answer. Children do need time with their parents - no question - but what they need is QUALITY time - what that means can only be defined by the parents. YOU don't get to define what is and isn't right.

      Delete
    5. "Quality time" is a bullshit excuse to spend less time with your kids. Kids need time period. It does not matter what you are doing.

      Delete
    6. Parents are just people 10:02....some more or less fucked up, but just people. There's no magic in being a parent...you can fuck it up just as easily as you can your 9-5. For some number of children at daycare, the hired hand is a thousand-fold better person for the child to be spending the day with than the parent, by whatever criteria you'd care to name.

      That overwhelming parent-love you've got is just evolution keeping you from throwing the little bastards on the fire when they get on your nerves.

      Delete
  26. If this thread demonstrates anything it's that there's about 7 billion opinions about parenting and that most of them are mostly opinions. The farther away you get from "Don't throw them in a dumpster" the less agreement and the less objective science you're going to get about "the best way".

    Oh, and that the blog is dead.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Oh, you got me - no one came out and actually SAID any of you think it must be the woman who stays home. Yes, I'm assuming that's what those of you saying someone must stay home or the child will be a drug addicted serial killer meant. Because it is what you meant, and you know it. Puh-leeeez spare me any protests on that one. And no, I'm not "assuaging" my "guilt." I'm being judgmental and announcing my opinion as though it's the only correct viewpoint, just like you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There was at least that one guy who said he was glad his wife got fired because he wanted her home with the kids. Can't imagine why she would've wanted to get out of the house.

      Delete
  28. Raising kids is a lot of work. Raising them right is an unbelievable amount of work. Ditto for being a great attorney. Hard to be a great attorney and a great parent. This might explain why the best attorneys are often twice/thrice/fource divorced. Reminds me of the Pacino character in Heat.

    I have known men and women who made the difficult choice to focus on one or the other. A lot of sound advice (and some hysterical goofiness) in this thread. My thanks to the Blog Host.

    ReplyDelete