Monday, February 11, 2008

Lessons learned my first semester.....

Since I started this late (meaning in my second semester), I thought I would give a brief recap of the struggles I had of balancing everything my first semester.

1. Never procrastinate.
Seriously. Inevitably what will happan is that you put off a paper thinking you can do it at the last minute and your child gets sick. This is the pits. I have learned to work on projects at a steady clip and to be prepared to be done with it a couple of days early. Am I ever early? No. Why? Because put simply, something with my daughter always comes up. Always. So my tip here is plan well, plan often, and always work ahead.

2. You can take your child with you.
I did take my daughter with me to class one day when she had not school and my back up daycare failed. Admittedly, I okayed it with my professors. And I would not recommend it for younger children with no attention span. But bringing my daughter gave her an insight into what mommy does with her time. She was very entertained as well. Don't be shy about asking if you are in a tight spot. Most professors understand that things happan.

3. Treat this as a job.
This means clock in at 8:00 and don't leave early. Take advantage of the time your child is in daycare by studying or working on papers. This is your most valueable time. In other words, don't cut budget corners by not getting daycare--very unwise. Yes, in the long run it will cost you more money, but it will save you peace of mind.

4. Don't cut your childs extracurricular activities.
What do I mean? My daughter is a very gifted dancer. She attends classes at a studio three nights a week. At first I did not see how I would accomplish this. But soon I found this time was good for her, and great study time for me. You can form carpools with other moms, or you can find a good coffee shop near by in which to study at. OR I bought an Ipod that goes everywhere with me. I filled a playlist with music in Italian & classical so I don't sing along. I play this in the dance studio and study. It blocks out the sound and soothes me at the same time. Great thing about extracurricular activities is you study, child is entertained, and when it is over, you have time to play or talk with your child without snapping his/her head off because you are studying.

5. Be upfront at the beginning.
I either email or talk in person with each of my professors at the beginning of each semester. I tell them that my phone will be on vibrate and that there may be times I have to leave during class because I am the sole provider for my daughter. Each professor has been understanding.

6. 8 o'clock a.m. classes are a pain.
Yep, they are. You don't want to walk in late and have everyone starring at you. Every 8 am class for me is a day when my daughter wakes up cranky and with an attitude. Expect it.

7. Build a village.
What do I mean? Mrs. Clinton once said that it takes a village to raise a child. She had a point to an extent. It takes a village to help you with your child while you are in law school. I was fortunate in thinking about this prior to coming to school. I have built a strong network of people I trust, who love my child, and whom I can call anytime I need to study or when something unexpected comes up. A good source for me was church. But if you are not a church-goer, that's okay. There are places like the YWCA or the library that will put you in the path of some really nice people whom you can start building relationships with. Also, don't be ashamed to share with your childs classmates parents. Many will agree to trading "babysitting" duties and playdates that free-up time for you. Work whatever networking you can in this area. I guarantee you that at some point it will be critical to have in place.

8. Consider staying local.
I will be honest. I could have gone to an east coast school with a better tier rating than where I am going now. But, a legal education is what you make of it. And unless you want to work for a top 100 large firm, local law schools are fine. If you stay local, your family is close to help out. And in addition, you will not have to deal with uprooting your child and dealing with the fall-out of this during your first year of law school. The first year is brutal enough without having to deal with emotional problems and insecurity with your child. Remember that you will have less time to spend with him/her than you may want. And removing them from what they know and where they are comfortable could make for a very angry child.

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