Paul L. Caron

Saturday, July 6, 2019

NY Times Op-Ed: Law Prof Picks Her Job Over Her Kids

New York Times op-ed:  I’ve Picked My Job Over My Kids, by Lara Bazelon (San Francisco) (personal website):

I am a lawyer, a law professor and a writer. I am also a divorced mother of two young children. I’m often asked some version of: “How do you excel at work and be the best mother you can be?”

Every working mother gets this question, which presupposes that a “work-life balance” is achievable. It’s not. The term traps women in an endless cycle of shame and self-recrimination.

Like many women, I often prioritize my job. I do this because, as the head of a single-parent household, I’m the sole breadwinner. My ex-husband, who has joint custody, is an amazing father and my life would be impossible without him. Neither of us pays the other support.

My choice is more than a financial imperative. I prioritize my work because I’m ambitious and because I believe it’s important. If I didn’t write and teach and litigate, a part of me would feel empty.

[T]here is always another client to defend, story to write or struggling student who just can’t wait. Here are things I have missed: my daughter’s seventh birthday, my son’s 10th birthday party, two family vacations, three Halloweens, every school camping trip. I have never chaperoned, coached or organized a school event.

Sometimes my choices make me sad. My daughter’s seventh birthday was the worst. She cried, and I did everything I could not to. I felt sick to my stomach. But I had a trial starting the next day, six hours away.

I had picked the date, not the judge, because I knew that the other side wasn’t ready. Delaying even a few days would have meant losing a crucial advantage. I wasn’t going to risk it knowing what was on the line for my client.

Of course, I sometimes feel doubt, shame and fear. I know I’m not a “normal” mom, because my kids tell me so. I remind myself that this does not make me a “bad mom.” I also remind myself that if I were a dad, I would be getting accolades for all the times I scheduled a doctor’s appointment or arranged a play date.

I am proud of what I have accomplished. I am prouder that I can support myself and my children. But sometimes I wonder if my choices will damage them. ...

I hope my kids get it. I think they do. I love them beyond all reason, and their existence gives my life profound meaning. And I have the same feelings about my job.

For another perspective, see Thoughts on Law Prof Work-Life Imbalance From Those Left Behind:

[W]hile this can apply to anyone, it's really addressed to law professors. ...

And as I sit here with the dogs on July 4th, I think was it really that important to add one more book review to his CV or to do one more tenure letter as a favor for someone he never met? I'm glad his peers all loved him for the reliable genius that he was, and I don't know how he feels wherever he is now, but I am very, very bitter. 

Yes, he was a great academic mentor and collaborator, but the price for all that frenzied output was me, and there's a part of me that will never forgive him for it, because he died right after he promised to slow down and enjoy life itself more.

So think about it, members of the "academy." All that talk about US News rankings and SSRN citations. Do you REALLY think stuff like that is life and death to your loved ones? I think most of them would sacrifice one more line on your resume for one more day of quality time with you. I know I would. But it's a bargain I can't make any more.

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It will be interesting to see how her kids turn out

Posted by: Mike Livingston | Jul 7, 2019 5:56:19 PM

There is nothing more important than being a parent. Being a lawyer or a law prof or whatever pales in comparison when we look at the big picture and what truly brings us happiness. It is sad to see people who have not learned this eternal principle. The sacrifice to your career is worth it. The happiness you find through your children makes it a sacrifice you don’t mind.

Posted by: Jack Crittenden | Jul 8, 2019 8:23:10 AM

She's free to make her own choices, I suppose. Doesn't mean that she's making the right ones, or that all will turn out well. I suspect she'll die alone in a nursing home, unvisited by family. Just hope she has the intellectual honesty not to whine about it then.

Posted by: ruralcounsel | Jul 9, 2019 4:51:26 AM