Law school or family?
August 14, 2009 6:39 PM   Subscribe

My husband is a 1L at a top-ten school, and we have a 16-month-old daughter. I'm a former librarian staying at home for now, taking a couple of classes in the fall. Finals are next week, and he wants me to take care of our daughter full time or take her away altogether. Is this reasonable? Am I being selfish for asking him to help me out an hour a day?

We've had some conflicts over time management and spending time with our daughter this semester, and now that finals are in less than a week, those conflicts are becoming more glaring. He normally spends about two hours a day with our daughter,
Before school started, we had an equitable relationship, although sometimes I asked him to pitch in with housework when he didn't volunteer. Now, I feel like he doesn't think about what's going on in my life at all- it's all law school, all the time.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (120 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure how unreasonable it is. My brother just finished 2L, and I don't hear from him at all during finals weeks. He's THAT busy.

That being said, he might find spending time with your kid a nice break.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:42 PM on August 14, 2009

Your husband is at a pretty critical point in his law school journey and he needs to study. And you're... not working. I realize you were formerly a librarian, but that doesn't mean you have a job right now. If I were you I would have offered to take care of your daughter full-time during finals week. So yes, I think you're being a big unreasonable. Sorry.
posted by kate blank at 6:44 PM on August 14, 2009 [30 favorites]

it's all law school, all the time.

This is not just what he's thinking, it's what he has to be doing. Although you're not wrong for being unhappy about it, he is not to blame here. Take care of her completely during this week, and get him to agree to a father-daughter outing, the full day/weekend, when he's done finals.
posted by Lemurrhea at 6:48 PM on August 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

If he' the daddy, he needs to be involved in your child's life and yours.

Except during finals week.

However, you guys have an ongoing problem around this issue that needs to be worked out. You have a lot to hash out, just as soon as finals are over.
posted by SLC Mom at 6:48 PM on August 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Whether or not you find it reasonable is subjective but I'll say that it's fairly common to totally submerge into the books at a time like this. 1L year is the most crucial as it will be his first year grades that firms will look at when deciding on summer employment, which in turn often leads to permanent employment when he graduates. Personally, I think it's reasonable considering all the factors (it's just one week, he's at a top 10 school, it's his 1L exams, you are less busy now). He'll have more time once exams are over.

P.S. be prepared for the same experience (and probably more extreme) when he starts studying for the bar exam.
posted by That takes balls. at 6:52 PM on August 14, 2009 [3 favorites]

this is reasonable and you are being a little selfish. you seem heated over an ongoing fight. finals week isn't the time to find a resolution. after finals, after you've both decompressed, both of you communicate and compromise and find a solution for next semester. maybe the solution can involve you getting some extended you-time after finals (he take the baby for the whole weekend and you go stay with a friend or something).
posted by nadawi at 6:52 PM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

To norabarnacl3-no, he's not going into debt- has a partial scholarship and a generous parent. Aiming for a smaller market as well... not the NYC/LA/Chicago debacle.
I find it a little bit condescending to suggest that, just because I'm not "working", that my time and life should be sacrificed completely. I did choose to be with my daughter, but I certainly wouldn't expect my husband to take care of her full-time if the situation were reversed.
posted by mrstrotsky at 6:53 PM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

I assume that his ambition and drive is part of what attracted you to him; now you need to accept the consequences of those traits if you want the benefits.
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:54 PM on August 14, 2009 [11 favorites]

"P.S. be prepared for the same experience (and probably more extreme) when he starts studying for the bar exam."

This is just the beginning. Is he racking up huge law school debt? If so, he will likely be forced to work for a BigLaw law firm when he graduates. That means years of working 80-hr weeks, all day Saturday and/or Sunday, holidays, etc.

I'm not passing judgment on this situation, just pointing out that you guys need to be prepared for this. Too many couples aren't. There's a reason why so many marriages get ruined by the lawyering industry.
posted by mikeand1 at 6:56 PM on August 14, 2009 [7 favorites]

The Japanese have a saying about studying for exams:


4 hours of sleep = pass, 5 hours of sleep = fail
posted by @troy at 7:00 PM on August 14, 2009 [12 favorites]

Best answer: Your job is no less important than his. Write down everything you do and everything he does and divvy it out in a way that makes sense. For example, if he spends 10 hours a day studying and you are putting in 16 hours a day (plus some wake up in the night duty) doing housework and childcare, you need to offload 3 child care hours off to him and maybe every other night of wake up duty. It might be okay to trade off duties, such as during finals week and other temporary situations like that. But If he is all about him being in law school and that is so very important but you are "just a SAHM" is crap and don't let him pull it on you. He is a father, he cannot put off spending time with his child until it is convenient for him. She will be three or four when he is done with law school and those years count. And then he will be job hunting and looking for a new job and then putting in hours at a new company. Both of you are doing things of equal importance, both of you need breaks. He needs to shape up, it sounds like to me.
posted by Bueller at 7:01 PM on August 14, 2009 [10 favorites]

Best answer: 1L really is the most important year. Law firm summer job offers and law review/journal offers are all made based on those 1L grades, which are largely determined by the finals grades.

I know what it's like to take care of a child all day, though, and I really feel for you. Make sure he knows how tough this is for you -- I like the idea of getting him to agree to do a whole weekend of child care after exams. Good luck!
posted by onlyconnect at 7:01 PM on August 14, 2009

I find it a little bit condescending to suggest that, just because I'm not "working", that my time and life should be sacrificed completely.

no one is suggesting this. what is being said is that for finals week you should give your husband a break from all responsibilities that aren't directly related to his exams. and then after exams, you guys should work out your long standing issue of you not feeling supported and respected in your role in the family. if you try to have that fight while he's trying to prepare, you're not doing your relationship, his relationship with his child, or the long term financial safety of your family any good. if you pick this fight now, you're looking to win, not to resolve it.
posted by nadawi at 7:02 PM on August 14, 2009 [32 favorites]

Luckily, he's older and somewhat wiser than the typical law student, and he is especially concerned with achieving work-life balance after law school. He wants to work in a smaller market in a firm that encourage balance and doesn't require as many billable hours. The primary conflict is, I suppose, one of power balance in the relationship. I wanted to apply for law school before he did- then he adopted the idea and applied. I feel more obligated to put our daughter before career, but I'm still very conflicted about it, and jealous about him doing what I wanted to do.
posted by mrstrotsky at 7:02 PM on August 14, 2009

You want 1 hour, for free time for you. How much free time does he have -- free from parenting (the 2 hours he's already doing), and free from studies?

It would seem fair that you both have equal amounts of free time.

But, I don't think it is productive to bring this up now, the week before finals. Surely it can wait a week.
posted by Houstonian at 7:03 PM on August 14, 2009

Best answer: You're not being unreasonable to ask for help. It's definitely a discussion that needs to take place, but maybe just not right now. If he needs this time to do well on his exams, I would just give him what he needs right now. It's not like he's out boozing it up and playing video games day and night. You're both making sacrifices to invest in your family's future. If you're feeling stressed out as well, maybe go off and take some extended me-time while he's in study-land. Is there a family member or a friend who can look after the baby for a little while?
posted by amethysts at 7:04 PM on August 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

It's reasonable. The situation will be reversed at some point, hopefull for a happy occasion. You two seem to be bound up in some other ongoing argument which is influencing your judgment.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:04 PM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

>I'm not "working", that my time and life should be sacrificed completely

not forever, just for finals. Even if you were working 60hrs a week the partner involved in finals as heart-attack serious as law school gets total priority on how to arrange their schedule.
posted by @troy at 7:05 PM on August 14, 2009 [4 favorites]

It's really kind of sad that you have to ask this. It is one very, very important week during which he asking you to bear these burdens. Just a week.

Wouldn't he gladly assume all household/childcare responsibilities for you, during a week of momentous importance for your future?

So why won't you make that sacrifice?
posted by jayder at 7:05 PM on August 14, 2009 [9 favorites]

After reading your update, that's a whole other level of complication, and I feel for you. I would definitely get out of town for awhile.
posted by amethysts at 7:06 PM on August 14, 2009

I did choose to be with my daughter, but I certainly wouldn't expect my husband to take care of her full-time if the situation were reversed.

But it doesn't seem that you're coming to this conclusion as the result of really trying to take on his point of view.

Think about it this way: if you had to go out of town for some emergency in the family, would you feel as though it were alright to leave the baby with him for the week? I think most people would say yes to this -- it's one of the major advantages of raising a child as a couple rather than as a single parent. The same principle is at work right now for your husband. It might just be hard to see it from the outside because he probably just looks like he's sitting around reading.

This is a comparatively short period of time, and it would be perfectly reasonable of you to plan some time where he takes care of the baby and you have time to relax, but only after your husband's pressing obligations are settled.
posted by voltairemodern at 7:06 PM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

After your latest post, I see that the problem actually has nothing to do with dividing parenting responsibilities. I recommend you talk with him about this after his exams, rather than possibly sabotaging him.
posted by Houstonian at 7:07 PM on August 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

This is just the beginning.

Sorry, but this.

My best friend is married to an attorney who graduated with no debt and got a great job right out of school. (She's a SAHM.) He's about six years past the bar exam now, is a junior partner, and they have two year old twins. There are still weeks where she simply doesn't see him at all - he gets on the train at 645 am, comes home at 945 pm, eats dinner, works a couple more hours in his home office, then sleeps a couple hours and gets up and does it all again. She was resentful about it for a year or so, but is coming to accept that this is simply the reality of his job: In order to make a good living as an attorney he has to work this hard.

That being said, I think its unreasonable of him to expect you to uproot yourself and your daughter so he can study. Much less stress on everyone if he gets a hotel room or some such for the week. Think of it as practice for those weeks when he has to take depositions out of state and you'll be home with your daughter.
posted by anastasiav at 7:09 PM on August 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

I wanted to apply for law school before he did- then he adopted the idea and applied. I feel more obligated to put our daughter before career, but I'm still very conflicted about it, and jealous about him doing what I wanted to do.

In a perfect world, that would mean you should fully support him and be a working partner in his success, so you can pursue your dreams too.

And who is to say that if the roles were reversed, you wouldn't be the one asking for a week of peace to ace your exams?
posted by contessa at 7:14 PM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

I find it a little bit condescending to suggest that, just because I'm not "working", that my time and life should be sacrificed completely.

I don't think anyone has suggested this. What is being suggested is that everyone has times during which they are more busy or less busy to a certain degree. Exams during 1L at a top 10 law school are about as far towards the "more busy" side as you get. It strikes me as perfectly reasonable to ask you, given that you aren't currently working, to take care of your daughter full time for that week so long as he agrees to make up for it at a later date.

Taking care of a kid should be a partnership. But a partnership doesn't mean that both people do the same work all the time, it means that both sides pitch in according to their means and ability and right now the impact on his future prospects (which benefit both you and your daughter in terms of not devoting himself full time to studying for exams is far greater than the impact on your future prospects if you devote yourself full time for exam week.

It actually strikes me as unusual that this is a sticking point. Maybe there are other problems at work. Because if my SO or spouse had something so important coming up I would actually insist on taking over for a week to give them all the time they needed. It wouldn't even be an issue; they would have a week to do what they needed to do, period.
posted by Justinian at 7:14 PM on August 14, 2009 [20 favorites]

The primary conflict is, I suppose, one of power balance in the relationship.

Ok, this makes more sense.

He certainly has an obligation to respect your aspirations, and you are perfectly right to want him to recognize the sacrifices you've made for the family. Let him know that you feel jealous! You have nothing to gain by letting this simmer. And he will no doubt want to help you achieve your goals if he knows how you feel (and really cares about you, which I'm just assuming is the case).

But making the discussion about taking care of the baby will not be helpful. If anything, it seems like it could to be harmful to the baby, in the long run.
posted by voltairemodern at 7:15 PM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

(above said, asking you to uproot yourself is B.S. and I wouldn't put up with that)
posted by Justinian at 7:15 PM on August 14, 2009

1L year is hell. I don't remember having had time to eat or sleep and zero, zero time for family and friends during exam time.

Be supportive. Absolve him of household/daughter responsibilities. It is, in this market, entirely possible that his ability to do well on exams this week will DIRECTLY IMPACT his career AND ABILITY TO PROVIDE FOR HIS FAMILY for years to come, even in a smaller market. This set of exams is do-or-die, and the job market he will be facing as a 2L interviewee is beyond miserable and harsh and downright appalling.

Its a long-lasting impact, too. As a general rule, its easier to work your way down from a good first job post-law school to a more relaxed job for a bit less money. Really tough work your way from a crappy first law job to a better one.

These exams may determine his earnings for years to come in a fairly direct manner.
posted by slateyness at 7:15 PM on August 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You are not being unreasonable. He is busy and it's a critical time, but he shouldn't be insisting you take her completely. He isn't valuing your time nor needs. And it's his daughter too.

He would already be getting 50% more free time than he already does (since you said he spends about 2 hours a day with your daughter), and should be understanding that you need a little time to yourself as well. Especially if you're already doing everything around the house.

Taking care of your daughter most of the day and the household IS a job in itself. You're both busy.

As an alternative, would he be willing to pay for some kind of babysitting or similar arrangement?
posted by cmgonzalez at 7:19 PM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Thanks for all the advice so far. I'm taking over the weekend (although he is taking a break for our weekly date tomorrow night) and Monday. I like the idea of some down time after exams- both sets of parents are visiting during the break, so maybe some down time for both of us.
I think this is about more than just finals- it's an ongoing pattern of his to criticize and make demands of me when he's feeling stressed, only to apologize and pretend nothing happened later on. I might be more generous about finals if I felt appreciated the rest of the time. And no, he's never taken anything I've done as seriously as he takes his own career, so I don't really know if he would do the same for me.
And the issue is not of his being able to provide for his family. I plan to go back to work after our second child, so we're not always going to have this traditional stay-at-home mom, provider dad structure.
posted by mrstrotsky at 7:21 PM on August 14, 2009

Best answer: I'm not a law student, nor the spouse of a law I read some of the responses to this question my jaw sort of dropped.

When someone takes action that makes him/her a parent, they commit to BEING A PARENT. I don't care what his/her profession is, they've brought a life into this world, they take responsibility for parenting it.

Your husband has shown you what his philosophy is regarding parenting, is this what you want for the rest of your life?

I suggest some counseling about this, there are decisions to be made by both of you.
posted by HuronBob at 7:27 PM on August 14, 2009 [15 favorites]

Your time is worth as much as his. I think people here are answering in terms of . There are two major things that need to be done in the next two weeks: studying and writing finals, and caring for a child. Which one are you able to do? Did he seem to find it difficult to ask such a thing of you?

Also, having been the one who has been all about school at one time; what he is doing and what he says do not necessarily reflect what he is caring/feeling/thinking about and does not express- there may be more on his mind having to do with you than you know.

I'm glad he's so concerned with work/life balance though... perhaps this is why he needs to be so intense now, in order to get the long term payoff. Studying wise: it isn't just the time studying, it is also the 'I did absolutely everything I could think of' mindset that you will take into the exam. Having you back him up in this situation could be a bump up.

I interact frequently with someone in a program I dreamed about and was trying to design for myself- one she had never considered before we knew each other. I feel for you being in a similar position.
posted by variella at 7:28 PM on August 14, 2009

I think that "Honey, how are we going to cover the hours you usually spend with {daughter}? Shall we hire someone?" is a reasonable question to ask in this situation.

Or, conversely, "Honey, I'm going to put my {thing you do during those hours} on hold during your finals. After finals, though, I'm going to do {other additional thing}, so you can make it up to me."
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:28 PM on August 14, 2009 [4 favorites]

It must be tough wanting to be the one in law school, and it sounds as though part of the frustration is because you need adult time and a stronger support network of your own, especially during the time between now and when you return to work as a librarian +/or apply for law school. Do you have any good friends in the area? I like the idea of making a babysitter part of the routine every week, or every other week, so you could have a "grown-up" evening out. Depending on where you live, perhaps it'd be worth finding a social group for new mothers who are going through some (or all) of what you're experiencing.
posted by woodway at 7:29 PM on August 14, 2009

I wanted to apply for law school before he did- then he adopted the idea and applied.

Also, what? Why couldn't you apply to law school, too? Did you both decide it would make more sense for him to do it first, while you were still breastfeeding, or did he just decide that it was his turn first?
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:30 PM on August 14, 2009

Get a babysitter. Seriously. You need a break, he can't give it, to you. It's OK to let someone else take care of your kid even if you're not at work/the doctor's office/whatever.
posted by Sublimity at 7:33 PM on August 14, 2009 [4 favorites]

He suggested that the person with the better grades be the one to go first- LSAT scores being equal. He had slightly better grades in college, so he went. I didn't think it would be a good idea for both of us to go at the same time- then our daughter would be practically an orphan.
It's very helpful to read the comments suggesting a support network and additional child care during finals. Although we live in a great neighborhood with lots of families, we're new here and don't really feel we have a close network yet. We do have a babysitter once a week, but it might be helpful during finals to have someone a few times a week, just to have a break.
posted by mrstrotsky at 7:37 PM on August 14, 2009

Give me a break. Even 1L year isn't that ridiculously hard. It's not like you study 24 hours a day.
posted by yesno at 7:38 PM on August 14, 2009

For this one single week, with the understanding that he will be making up extra time during his break to give you time off (instead of doing his own relaxing)? With the understanding that when you have exams, even if they're not as do-or-die as 1L exams (and absolutely if they are that essential), he will take on extra childcare? If he's willing to do that, then, sure, that's sort of a normal balance. If he is not, then you have a deeper problem than one week of studying.
posted by jeather at 7:39 PM on August 14, 2009

I noticed that the majority of answers were in favor of postponing the discussion until after this one week, or even accepting that law will come first, but you've marked as best-answer the minority that agrees with your opinion coming into this question.
posted by d. z. wang at 7:52 PM on August 14, 2009 [55 favorites]

It's interesting that every one of the "best responses" that you've flagged have basically said that he's being unreasonable. That is certainly your prerogative (and I'm not sure that I agree with the ZOMG EVERY HOUR OF EVERY DAY) and it looks like there are some huge underlying issues, but let the number of responses talking about how stressed out law students are at that period give you an idea of just how much pressure he's under and how seriously to take his OH GOD I AM GOING TO DIE I AM GOING TO DIE panic.

And because you don't mention it, though you probably know it: these exams are the most important week or so of his entire law school career. They determine whether he gets on law review. They determine whether he gets to choose a firm that will respect your family. In this economy, they will, in fact, determine whether he gets a job. Yes, he goes to a T10 school and wants to go to a secondary market, but we had Harvard Law grads interviewing at my secondary market, not-in-the-AmLaw 200 firm and there being serious question marks as to whether they'd get offers. This September is going to be brutal, and as you know, whether he gets an offer this fall will determine whether he has a job waiting for him at graduation.

Again, it sounds like there are major issues that have been brewing for a while, but if you want to address them with his full participation, this is not the week to bring them up. If you try and he ends up doing not as well on as his exams as he'd like, he'll hold it against you for a long, long time.
posted by joyceanmachine at 7:53 PM on August 14, 2009 [20 favorites]

Best answer: I'm also a mom--we have a 13-month-old. We both work; I go to an office full time, he works from home full time. He also watches our daughter for three afternoons a week. On the weekends I try to take our daughter out for most of the day so that he can get his work done. But it's an organic give and take--there's no "per day" thing.

I do think you are being kind of a hard-ass here. He's going through something which is considered one of the most intense, rigorous experiences a person can go through. What exactly is bothering you about this?

Will your daughter miss him a lot? A lot of parents have to travel for work occasionally, like I do. I think the adult often suffers much more than the kid--kids tend to live in the now, and if they are having fun, they don't care who is around or not.

Do you not have anywhere fun to go? Honestly, I really enjoy getting away with my daughter and a friend (esp a friend with a kid). It sounds like he's going to be Mr. Boring/Unavailable, so why not find your own good time during these weeks? You're your own boss! Schedule a fun vacation with your daughter.

Do you really really need an hour break every day? Babysitter. It sounds like you guys can afford it.

Are you sad that he's not paying attention to you? It's super hard not to have a partner who is fully present. But law school is temporary. This is the "for worse" part of the marriage contract. You can carry more weight now; he will carry more in the future.

It sounds like you are standing on principle here; that you think he needs to spend an hour a day with your daughter -- no matter what the consequences. Imagine how much fun they'll be having while he's freaking out inside about how he needs to be studying or sleeping to rest for studying. Not good for either of them, I don't think.

It sounds like you are pretty mad at him and resentful of the whole situation. I have a feeling things will be much better once you start taking classes too.

Good luck!
posted by tk at 7:54 PM on August 14, 2009

First year of law school final exams are very stressful - your GPA that will likely determine what kind of job you get is pretty much set your first year. I was a wreck during my 1L exams.

That being said, I don't think it is entirely reasonable for him to request that you take your child and be out of sight for the whole time. Studying is important, but he has to continue to fulfill other obligations - maybe not at the level that he normally does, but still he needs to provide some assistance.

I would sit down with him and try to work out a schedule where he can take over some duties for an hour or so - and try to frame it to him as a study break rather than chores. After studying for a few hours, he'll want to get away and get refreshed.

I would also get this in place now - you've got two moer years of this ahead of you and don't even get me started on the bar exam. This is the time to work this out.

Best of luck!
posted by Leezie at 7:57 PM on August 14, 2009

Best answer: It sounds like this is the culmination of a lot of old issues and fights. Looking at what you chose as the best answers, it also kind of seems like you were seeking validation for your feelings. (I'm not trying to judge, let me make my point:)

In the end, maybe it doesn't matter if he is being reasonable or not. If you're feeling put-out about your relationship it doesn't necessarily matter if your feelings are "logical" or not, because feelings don't work that way.

Personally, anyway, I don't think he's being unreasonable about this one situation (finals = super important), but it sounds like he is being very unreasonable in some other areas of your marriage and he has been asking for more sacrifice from you than just this one week. Maybe it has just gotten to the point where you can voice your concerns - I'd encourage you to talk to him about how you feel. Even if you two agreed in the past about his going to law school instead of you, etc, it doesn't mean you can't be hurt about it or aren't allowed to have concerns about it.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 7:58 PM on August 14, 2009 [3 favorites]

What's reasonable depends on the context of your relationship. But his demand is ordinary -- many of his classmates are going to go into the same kind of isolation, and make the same kinds of impositions on their intimates, during finals period.

You really ought to think of this as a favor rather than as a matter of right. None of us can tell you whether he has the right to demand this of you. But that's irrelevant. Not having to take care of the kid is going to make a big difference to his peace of mind.

Sharing his burden here bothers you a lot for some reason. But you should try to overcome that.
posted by grobstein at 7:59 PM on August 14, 2009

Given the answers that you've marked as 'best', it seems you're looking for confirmation rather than information.

You two obviously have larger issues in your relationship to work out, and counseling is probably a must. But for the moment, anything you do to sabotage his 1L finals week by picking this fight now and doing anything less than letting him handle it how he wants to handle it, is losing a war by winning the wrong battle.

Give me a break. Even 1L year isn't that ridiculously hard. It's not like you study 24 hours a day.

You're simply wrong. Yes, 1L at a top 10 law school is this ridiculously hard, and finals are the culmination of all that difficulty. This is typical of law school, including sending your spouse and child away for the period (or more frequently, getting a hotel room or just living in the library). That may be fucked up, but that's how it is, and now is not the time to address it.

For your own sanity, get a babysitter and get out for some of the adult relaxation time you need. For the sake of saving your relationship, wait until after finals to address this.
posted by fatbird at 8:02 PM on August 14, 2009 [17 favorites]

1 - I find it odd that all of the answers marked as a "best answer" are people that agree with you.

2 - Like most of the people above me, I think that you need to lighten up a bit (maybe even a lot). He needs the time to study. Take advantage of it and spend time with your daughter.

She's the loser here. The father is studying for exams. A legitimate reason if you ask me for him to spend less time with her. Meanwhile you're whining about how he's not doing enough and putting yourself first. Grow up and take care of your kid. There will come a time when you will need to get something very important done and he's in a better position to watch your daughter. And I know if the roles were reversed (where you were busy and he was relatively free) you'd think it was crazy that he wouldn't want to make sure your daughter wasn't feeling neglected.

I mean, damn, if I knew you and knew the kind of crap she must be going through right now I'd offer to babysit her for free just to get her out of the house.

When one person in a relationship really needs to get something done, it's not unheard of for the other to make sacrifices. There were plenty of nights where I put my own coursework on hold so I could help my now wife with her work because I knew she was coming to my dorm room to get work done. Did I whine about having less time to work on my papers? Did I complain about staying up until 2:30 in the morning when my computer crashed and lost the presentation we'd just spent hours getting done? No, I sacrificed myself for what was good for my now wife.

So here's what I think you should. First, let this week go and just let the man study. Make sure he's not distracted. Second, take time to make sure your daughter doesn't come out of this feeling like a load of crap because she isn't good enough for anyone to spend time with her. Third, find the real cause of the problems and work on that. After exams. And fourth, take time to make sure your daughter knows that watching her is not a punishment for either of you.
posted by theichibun at 8:08 PM on August 14, 2009 [5 favorites]

I'm not just looking for validation or confirmation- I do appreciate many of the perspectives voiced here, even those that say I'm being unreasonable or that it's right for him to panic over the two finals. I just don't think they're the "best answers" for me. The ones I marked are helpful to me because they suggest practical, concrete solutions like child care and balancing responsibilities.
posted by mrstrotsky at 8:09 PM on August 14, 2009

I don't care what he's doing this week. An hour a day is not too much to ask of him. He's the father and your husband. He's not JUST a law student.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 8:10 PM on August 14, 2009 [4 favorites]

My impression on reading this question and the answers so far is that those who have experienced 1L exams are supporting your husband's position absolutely while those who have not had the 1L experience are agreeing with you.

I'm another person who had the whole 1L experience, and I agree with those who support your husband here. It may not be right, fair, reasonable or anything else, but 1L exam time is a special case in terms of its physical, mental and psychological demands and the lifetime consequences of a few hours of actions. It sounds as though you have legitimate serious issues to resolve with your husband - but please, for the sake of his health and well-being, let him focus on the exams first.

If your husband is a typical top-school 1L, then he is spending closer to 20 hours than 10 hours a day studying. And, whether or not you or anyone else thinks this is reasonable, this is basically what is expected and what many others will be doing, particularly in this economic climate. The answers that you have favorited (probably falsely) assume that he is spending about 10 hours a day on law school matters and then taking time off for the rest of the day.
posted by sueinnyc at 8:15 PM on August 14, 2009 [4 favorites]

He's not spending 20 hours a day studying for finals, because he prepared much more for finals than the typical student. He's not the typical law student- I tend to think he's more prepared. He also hasn't much let himself get caught up in the whole "typical 1L" stress as of yet, and I think that keeping a somewhat normal schedule and life help with that.
posted by mrstrotsky at 8:19 PM on August 14, 2009

Best answer: Wow, you guys are great, but this is neither where, when, nor how I want to be having this conversation.

Seriously baby, I'm sitting RIGHT BEHIND YOU.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:21 PM on August 14, 2009 [71 favorites]

Maybe it would help if you explained what he does with his time, then. He has lots of extra time?
posted by Houstonian at 8:21 PM on August 14, 2009

Well, he tends to play video games with his free time:-)
posted by mrstrotsky at 8:22 PM on August 14, 2009

Thanks to all posters. I think we'll take this offline now...
posted by mrstrotsky at 8:25 PM on August 14, 2009

Wow. The plot thickens.

For what it's worth, take total responsibility for the week. Jeez. it's one week. Out of a lifetime. You're taking a bigger issue and making this week the linchpin of it, and it shouldn't be. Work on the fact that you don't think he spends enough time with his daughter or whatever, but this is a very important, one-time week. Come on.
posted by srrh at 8:25 PM on August 14, 2009

Your kid is 16 months old. She's not really gonna miss his presence for a week if you step up and fill the time with fun things to do. This is a molehill, not a mountain - unless you choose to make it so, which is what you seem to be doing.
posted by torquemaniac at 8:26 PM on August 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

Yup, if he's "sitting RIGHT BEHIND YOU" and yet you are talking with us about this instead of him... well, there's one of the problems.
posted by Houstonian at 8:27 PM on August 14, 2009 [10 favorites]

...keeping a somewhat normal schedule and life help with that.

If he's been keeping a "somewhat normal" schedule, it might even be to his disadvantage compared to students who are single non-parents who can and have been spending 20 hours a day with their butts in a chair.

Your hubby might be the smartest guy in the class, but a decent portion of 1L is rote memorization and that just takes time.

I hope you go to law school someday so that you can look back and think to yourself, "Geez, I was being petty, now that I'm where he was, I understand that this is one of the most stressful experiences ever." And also "geez, I wish I had spent every minute of the day possible with my daughter back then, and loved every bit, and gave her terrific, terrific early memories to look back on, because now that I'm in law school, I sure don't have time."

I'm sure when you were pregnant, there were a thousand things he didn't understand about what you were going through because you were having vastly different life experiences, and a lot of concessions he granted you given that you were going through a stressful, crazy life experience.
posted by slateyness at 8:29 PM on August 14, 2009

If it's any comfort to you, by virtue of the economies of the legal market, you may wind up having a better legal career if you go to law school later than him. Law firms far and wide right now are cancelling their summer programs and laying off attorneys. Your husband may be a 1L in a very tough market, whereas you in 3 to 5 years may be a 1L in a highly improved market.

I also agree that you should bring up with him that whatever "comps" he gets now during exam week are comps that you should also get -- so that for example if he gets a full week now of no child care during exams, it should be his responsibility to take a full week off from work during your exams and do the same for you. He should agree to this now -- it's only fair -- and he'll know it's coming.

And I think it's a great idea for you all to get a baby sitter to relieve some of the stress of full time child care on you for a week. That is really hard work, especially for an 18 month old who is getting into everything.

In general, though, from your comments about how he is wrt child care at other times, it sounds like he is not being an equal partner to you and either is not cognizant of this or is just taking you for granted. Personally, I would suck it up for this single week since it's so important (and 1L finals really are ridiculously important -- they are possibly the single most import launching pad for a legal career), but let him know that while you are going to handle child care during this week (even if some of this is to arrange for the baby sitter, etc.), you are going to want to have a serious talk with him about division of responsibilities after the stress of this week is over for him.

Good luck!
posted by onlyconnect at 8:30 PM on August 14, 2009 [3 favorites]

OP, you really do seem to be looking only for answers that you want to hear. And yet, into the fray I go--

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of 1L finals. It is a phenomenally crushing weight, particularly in this economy. Some people compartmentalize the stress and others don't give a shit. But your husband clearly needs what he needs.

To wit (and I've said this before):
Your first semester 1L grades are the basis on which you get your first summer job (if any are to be had these days--it will be an exceedingly competitive market this year, and only the very best will get a job).

Your first and second semester 1L grades and the writing competition get you on a journal.

Your 1L grades and journal get you a 2L summer job (generally at the end of your 1L summer).

Your 2L job will typically be where you start your career as a lawyer, and will determine, in large part, future opportunities (i.e., if you start at a regional firm, you're not going to end up at Wachtell later--it's a diminishing return).

This is clearly a bigger issue than just his parenting, or lack thereof (i.e., you say you are jealous of him co-opting your idea to go to law school, etc.). He needs your support for this period. Afterward, make sure he understands that this was a sacrifice, and talk with him (and likely a marriage counselor) about what is going on in your relationship that is creating your resentment and the balance of power issue.

Good luck, leorotsky!
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:34 PM on August 14, 2009

Best answer: Well, since I went to the trouble of typing this, here it is: There are clearly larger issues here. It sounds like you agreed to a situation and now that you're in it, it's worse for you than you had expected and you're feeling resentful. Your husband needs to know this--after the finals. Since this is just the beginning of some demanding years and you're planning another kid, you need to find a way to deal with this--after the finals.

Until then, how about a nice trip? Can you afford a spa or other getaway that provides childcare so you can feel pampered and have some relaxed time with your daughter? Or some other away-from-home solution that turns your husband's intense week into a treat for you? The more he works, the more fun you have!

As soon as the finals are over, it's time to talk, at length and maybe with a counselor.

The statements here along the lines of "You made your bed, now lie in it" apparently come from people with perfect precognition who always see exactly what they're going to get when they make big life decisions.
posted by PatoPata at 8:40 PM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Good luck to both of you folks; I really think you can work this out reasonably. Hugs!
posted by onlyconnect at 8:45 PM on August 14, 2009

I have not been through 1L year (yet), and I have no kids (yet).
My opinion is that it is not unreasonable for him to ask for you to take on the childcare responsibilities this week, but it is unreasonable to ask you to take the kid and leave this week.
Of course, now that this is all out in the open, our responses probably don't matter as much.

Awkwarrd. Isn't this what anonymous is for? Unless you were totally wanting to have it read, which is kind of unproductive.
posted by ishotjr at 8:55 PM on August 14, 2009

Mod note: A couple comments removed, and, in general, look: I know this is an odd development as far as askme dynamics go, but please either focus on answering the question and leave the metacommentary aside.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:58 PM on August 14, 2009

Yes, when I said "Good luck leotrotsky!" I meant with the 1L exams, not with mrstrotsky.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:59 PM on August 14, 2009

I'm very concerned that you marked Bueller's answer as best. There are 15,000,000 Google results for law school widow for very good reason.

Your husband gets one shot to prepare for something that has a tremendous impact on all of your futures. It is in your best interests and in your daughter's best interests to make any sacrifices you need to make and do anything you need to do to help your husband achieve his best possible scores.

If your husband aces his exams and aces his bar, you guys will be in the very fortunate position of being able to make all kinds of choices about his practice of law and your lifestyle. If you want every possible option open to you then, you have to suck it up now. Otherwise, you're going to be stuck with the choice of a) BigLawI with a billion billables per month; b) BoutiqueFirmII at a million billables per month;or c) Throw away three years of law school education because none of the employment choices available work for your family.

This choice doesn't suck nearly as hard as any of those choices would.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:04 PM on August 14, 2009 [3 favorites]

I didn't read the whole thread, so my apologizes if it's been covered before.

It's a WEEK. Maybe two. You're arguing over what, 7-14 hours? Even if it's these hours around finals time for the next 4 years... really? For the sake of his career, his ability to support you and your daughter for the next how many decades? I hate to be a hard ass, but yes, you're being unreasonable. I get it. Law school is no fun. Neither is med school, either, for the loved ones. You're making as sacrifice comparable to his, most definitely. But it will be over, eventually. Suck it up, buttercup. He needs to be involved in his schooling, 150%. No less. You need to let him do this. It *is* temporary.

If you need a break (and justifiably so) hire a babysitter.
posted by cgg at 9:13 PM on August 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

For what it's worth, he's overstudying. 1L just isn't that hard or that much work - the type of people who go to law school are the type of people to take any amount of work and study incessantly for it. Seriously. It's nowhere near as hard as a full time job + raising a child. He'll hopefully figure this out soon and shift priorities accordingly. Even granting some importance to his grades, he'll figure out that there is almost no correlation between the amount of work he's putting in and his the grades he'll get, beyond a very minimal point. Nor is there a correlation between the amount of work and how much he learns. If nothing else, 1L is about figuring out priorities and it sounds like he's not doing so hot so far. This is something that only he can figure out - and he's under a lot of pressure, but hopefully it'll be sooner rather than later.
posted by allen.spaulding at 9:21 PM on August 14, 2009

For the record, my answer was in agreement that it is appropriate for her to give him a break during his finals. My answer was more about the overall tone of her OP. That (it seemed to me) there was an overall imbalance of the value that was put on her work as opposed to his.

Get him through his finals, then sit down and have a serious talk and make a manageable and fair plan for both of you that meets your goals as a family. Be flexible enough to let these types of situations come up (finals week) but don't sacrifice so much that you and your daughter never see him and for all practical purposes you are a single mom. Good luck.
posted by Bueller at 9:41 PM on August 14, 2009

Look, you're both right.

Finals is when priorities are crazy-focused and you buckle down -- and as spouse, you suck it up for a week, walk softly, and leave comforting food in convenient places.

Baby. Baby! Requires massive cooperation, period, no argument, and dude -- who did not grow the child nor push it out -- you find the time and take your turn, for the love of all that is good and holy.

I wanted to apply for law school before he did- then he adopted the idea and applied. I feel more obligated to put our daughter before career, but I'm still very conflicted about it, and jealous about him doing what I wanted to do.

Soooo, you're totally clear that this is the problem, right? You two need to take some time out to take care of the baby, get the exams done, AND clear up the low-level yet accumulating assumptions and resentment, on both sides, before it all festers.
posted by desuetude at 9:43 PM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Another parent and former 1L here.
Although the law degree and subsequent license to practice will bear the name of leotrotsky, it takes the entire teamtrotsky to get his name on those two pieces of paper. He needs an unlimited supply of quiet time for the week: you have the power to make it happen. Forcing him to choose between law school and family only adds another stressor that distracts him from the task at hand.
Quantifying the amount of studying required or not required for him to do well on the exams doesn't matter. He doesn't just need the quiet time now for studying, he needs the quiet to deal with the immense stress and to get his head straight. It's crucial he goes into his first set of exams feeling as confident as he can with the material.
It does get easier after the first year, though. After he gets the first set of exams under his belt, he'll have a better sense of the right amount of studying he needs for exams, but right now he needs help from you and littletrotsky in the form of some much needed solitude for the short term.
Best of luck to all of you!
posted by Dr. Zira at 9:45 PM on August 14, 2009 [5 favorites]

Maybe the problem is that instead of discussing you're both insisting. A real compromise would be offering to give him the week, as long as you get the next week off in the evenings or something. Parenting is a shared responsibility for a married couple, and I'm sorry, but if you can't take one hour out of your schedule to feed the kid some oatmeal and keep mom's head from exploding, there needs to be an equal trade off in the near future. Just as Dad will be relieved when his finals are over, mom needs to be relieved from the stress of caring for a child just over a year old nonstop. It seems from the question that no such promises were made, and no communication was done. Child-rearing problems cover years, not a week, so once this mess is over you need to sit down and discuss how you both feel about raising your child and parental responsibilities. While my personal opinion based on babysitting is that 24 hours straight in charge of a 1 year old is akin to Chinese water torture and unfair, but if he doesn't realize that you need to make it a point. Maybe compile how much you are saving on child care, commuting costs, work clothes and business lunches compared to your salary. Maybe going back to work part time and getting a sitter or day care would be better for your relationship and sanity in the long run.

And dude if you really are playing multiple hours of video games....go read the kid a bedtime story or smething huh?
posted by itsonreserve at 9:48 PM on August 14, 2009

Um. I think you are being a teensy bit unreasonable here. As others have said, these are the most important exams of his law school career. Of COURSE he should be a full-time Dad, I don't think anyone is really questioning that, but this exam week is a really hard and important one for him, and for just this one week, you should let him STUDY and FOCUS. In the long run, him doing well on his exams benefits you and your daughter. So, CALM DOWN ALREADY.

I'm sorry you didn't get to go to law school first because your grades were slightly worse. I mean, geez, I can feel the resentment radiating from all the way over here.

Counting down to the MetaTalk thread.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 9:49 PM on August 14, 2009

There is huge resentment here, and I urge you not to let your daughter feel it -- though I can't see how she could miss it, honestly, it's just oozing off my screen, and I'm all the way over here. She is not a chore; she is your baby. And his baby, too, yes, but this kind of tit-for-tat and counting up the minutes as burdens is so, so ugly. She didn't ask for this, any of it -- the competition, the resentment, the finals-week blowup. Heck, take her away for the week only so she doesn't have to hear her father asking you to take her away (from her father, from her own house). Jesus.
posted by palliser at 9:56 PM on August 14, 2009 [13 favorites]

I'm no lawyer. VFX has its share of sharp pains and weird situations-- romantic dinners at the Culver City Denny's at 6am were not uncommon at Casa Fairytale when Mr. F was finishing up I, Robot-- but having to pass a test to prove your right to continue working is not one of them.

That all being said, I find the useful question in these crazy, high-stress, demanding situations is "Is this really the hill I want my marriage to die on?"
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 10:05 PM on August 14, 2009 [4 favorites]

I'm on your husband's side of a similar situation. I am in my final year of a teaching degree and do two five-week stints of full-time teaching as part of my training. In that time, I am focused on planning, teaching, assessing, meetings, writing up notes, doing research and writing reports - it's huge. At the same time I have two kids, one at school and one in preschool. I still come home in the evening and spend as much time as I can with the kids before they go to bed before switching into paperwork mode. It's essential to my mental health and my husband's, as he picks up the slack. I think there needs to be a balance between family and study, and that even half an hour a day with his child will be good for both Dad and baby.
posted by tracicle at 10:26 PM on August 14, 2009

I was going to side with you here and acknowledge that a little time wouldn't hurt and could perhaps alleviate any stress/worries/concerns he may be feeling, but after noting your husband's posts after you so publicly replied -- it sounds like you let this happen to yourself.

It sounds like you're playing the victim card when I'm sure your husband would have listened and taken you seriously had you brought this up to him before it started tumbling down. If you're posting because that isn't something he would do, it still boggles my mind as to why you'd make an anonymous post only to follow it up with your real alias -- which happens to follow suite with your husband's alias.

Now I'm not sure if you were hoping to be sly about this or if you really hoped he'd stumble upon it on his own. Either way, after continuing to reference his "bad behavior" (how he plays video games in his spare time instead of looking after your child) even after he made his own comment leads me to believe this is some sort of terrible joke or you have some serious passive-aggressive issues you need to tend to and work out.

Regardless, both of you have been members here long enough to know better than to abuse the site this way.
posted by june made him a gemini at 10:30 PM on August 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'll zero in on

Am I being selfish for asking him to help me out an hour a day?

Under normal circumstances, no. Under this one, yes, quite, and a bit...strange, too. Taking care of one's child is supposed to be pleasant.

I have a toddler and five days out of seven I have nobody to help me. It is exhausting some days, but you are hardly going to perish here. I'm sort of dropping my jaw over this whole thing and some of the responses. You don't need a sitter; one toddler with one parent is just not that hard. Mom up; you can take care of your kid without help for a bit -- hardly the end of the world. And it is not "condescending" to suggest you do this.

In your shoes I would've said "Cool. Road trip! C'mon, kid, you and Mummy are hitting the beach for a week," and I can't figure out why you'd end up angry instead of making a nice week for yourself and your daughter.
posted by kmennie at 11:23 PM on August 14, 2009 [4 favorites]

Mostly this sounds like you're bitter about the choices you've made around law school and are doing your best to derail your husband's chances of succeeding. I'm not sure why you think this is a good idea, but I can assure you that enhancing your chances of ending up broke and/or divorced will not enhance your life or help you realise your own dreams.

At best you're building up a store of ill-will that is most likely going to manifest in a similar lack of interest in helping you achieve your goals when you need help.

Also? The non-anon question in a community your partner reads? Lame attempt to rally virtual lynch mob that is not, I hate to break it to you, going to improve your marriage any. The only worse way to handle this would be booking an appearance on Dr Phil.
posted by rodgerd at 11:54 PM on August 14, 2009 [7 favorites]

Here's the thing: people go a little crazy in law school, but honestly the hour a day won't make a difference to his grades but it will make a difference to your daughter. A friend told me once that when her father got his phd in theology her mother insisted that he read to her every night. He was working full-time but his wife wouldn't budge, so he ended up reading his theology texts out loud to my friend... I always thought that was a good story. Maybe he can read Marbury v. Madison out loud?

When I was in law school I would read novels DURING FINALS. My friends thought I was crazy, but in fact it help keep me sane and I still got good grades.
posted by bananafish at 12:33 AM on August 15, 2009

I would just point out that the title to your question is "Law school or family?"

Let me point that out again: you are positing a choice -- that evidently you want to force on your husband -- between law school or family. You are not positing the ability to balance both law school and family.

You are making the serious error of letting your anger and resentment and exhaustion frame the debate for you in terms that are fundamentally combative rather than collaborative. This may be an understandable error in light of the circumstances you've described, but it's an error with potentially grave consequences nonetheless.

This means you have to reframe the debate. You have to play for the team -- which, paradoxically, can sometimes mean getting out of your teammate's way, both literally and figuratively. (The NY Times' "Modern Love" column had a thought-provoking article about this a few weeks ago; the particular situation the writer found herself in with her husband is quite different from yours, but perhaps there may still be some food for thought for you.)

Detach from him, just for this week. He legitimately needs something else than his daily daddy routine right now, for a short but extremely significant period of time. In one way, it has nothing to do with you or your child, and you have to ask yourself to find a way not to take that personally. At the same time, it also has everything to do with you and your future stability as a family, and you have to ask yourself to find a way to support him, even if that means taking on some extra burdens for the time being.

It is not going to be like this forever; it is, however, how things are right now. That's just the fact of the matter. As someone else said upthread, is this the hill you want your marriage to die on? Or is this the hill you want to look back at, and be proud of yourself for having scaled it the best you could?

In short: you can help make this a good week (road trip with your child!) or a bad week (simmering resentment on a daily basis!). Which do you think will be healthier for all of you, as individuals and as a family?
posted by scody at 12:34 AM on August 15, 2009 [9 favorites]

It is a hideous feeling to suspect that your husband's job (or schooling in this case) is more important to him than you or your children. I know this because I've been there. My husband is a musican, who used to tour with a children's act for weeks at a time, and then come back and ignore us for the first day home while he made sure all his "kids" were settled. It was horrible. I would be stuck with a job AND the kids for weeks with no support, and then he'd come back and ignore and then go back to 50-50 childcare. No, not fair. I am in huge sympathy with your plight.


Neither of you is showing very well here, because you're supposedly older and more with-it than other law students, yet you didn't plan for this. You placed an anonymous AskMe (okay, although leotrotsky is fairly active here, did you think he wouldn't figure it out?) but then you responded anyway with your own screen name.

Okay, I'm well into wtf here, but then leo comes on with a statement of his own, putting you on the spot, publicly calling you out. I can only hope that the baby is already in bed.

Leo-- put the goddamned kid to beddy-bye once this week. While upthread is right, this should have been resolved before, YOU are also culpable for not anticipating this and now need to compromise a bit.
Mrs-- you're too late on this one and need to take most of the responsibility for care this week, but you need to figure out a solution before the next one. I vote for going away entirely. I think leo is not realizing that this means he also needs to feed and dress himself without your help, but whatever.

Both of you, get your shit together. If you think marital problems are bad with a toddler, wait until that kid is 13 and cops an attitude, as well as knowing every button to push.

This will not wendell.
posted by nax at 4:31 AM on August 15, 2009 [5 favorites]

Wow, I can't believe how many people think it is okay to choose prioritise ANYTHING voluntary over their own child. An hour a day is such a small amount compared to how much work a child is for the OP the other 23 hours a day. For all those that are saying OMG - 1L is the hardest thing ever!! You do realise that if he fails at school he can still choose a different career, but if she fails at being a parent the child would die? It is his child and he should accept his responsibility, if he can't do school AND children then maybe he should drop out to stay home and let the OP try to balance school and one hour a day with their child. As for playing for the team - exactly, he has to play for the team too and not expect to be coach AND star quarterback while leaving his wife on the bench the whole game. It kinda looks to me like he set the OP up for failure and he is now reaping what he sowed.
posted by saucysault at 4:52 AM on August 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

This is not clear to me: who is bringing any income into the household? Is anyone working a paid job?
And, MrsTrotsky, way upthread you mentioned a probable second child. Huh? Give yourself a chance to go to law school, why don't you.
posted by BostonTerrier at 5:14 AM on August 15, 2009

As a nanny: This kind of situation is exactly what my job was made for.

Don't get yourself caught into the idea that hiring someone to help with childcare is "caving." Sometimes, parents honestly DON'T have the time to equitably split up childcare. In those situations, some parents have the financial resources to create a magic third adult who can come in and resolve those issues so that both parents can retain their sanity and do a better job of being parents and functional human beings.

In other words: Hire a nanny. The kids will be fine, you'll have a break, and your husband will have time to study for his exams. Win/win/win.

And the economy sucks, so yeah, you'll be helping somebody else out by giving 'em some work.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:09 AM on August 15, 2009 [4 favorites]

Dynamics here are weird. Some of this looks a little petty.

But you'd better get used to this. If your husband has any ambitions for BigLaw, and if you support those ambitions at all, you need to be prepared for 70-80+ hour work weeks. That's more than ten hours a day, seven days a week. We're talking leaving the house at 7:30AM and getting home at 8:30PM, if you're lucky, every day of the week.* If he's preparing for trial, you can basically expect not to see him for two weeks straight, as he'll be pushing 100+ hours in the office. That's leaving at 6:30AM and getting home at 11:00PM, every day. I know lawyers who just sleep at the office during such periods. Unless you had conversations establishing a contrary assumption, this is, in fact, what you signed up for.

The legal profession in general and law school in particular can be incredibly tough on relationships in general and families in particular. It sounds to me like you didn't adequately establish how this was going to work before you got into it. It sounds to me like you need to get on that, like yesterday.

But no, your husband's request does not strike me as unreasonable. Finals are nuts.

*And if he's lucky enough to 1) have a BigLaw job, and 2) have a job period. Now is not a good time to be starting out in the job field. Something like 50% of my top-25 law school class of 2009 is currently unemployed, and many of the ones that have jobs aren't starting them until 2010.
posted by valkyryn at 6:26 AM on August 15, 2009

Would you rather he shared the rearing responsibilities, then tank his exams, ruin any chance of getting hired, saddling the family with hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt?

I don't think you understand what the word responsible means.

And I love how you "best answer" the Mommy responses from people who clearly don't understand what's at stake. Take a look at the responses that have received the most favorites. Notice a pattern?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:28 AM on August 15, 2009 [3 favorites]

Sorry to say it but this just reads to me like you're jealous of your husband and passively-aggressively retaliating by making things difficult during his exams. It's like you're on opposing teams in your marriage rather than playing on the same side, which is particularly sad as you have a young child watching from the sidelines. Also, the fact that you felt it was necessary to point out that you used to be a librarian and you will be taking classes in the fall kind of makes it sound like your self-esteem has taken a hit here, as those details are irrelevant to your current arrangements and make it sound like you feel you have to justify your existence in some way.

On the other hand, he sounds pretty bossy and controlling if he's the one who decided he was going to take your idea out from under you and go to law school, justifying it by bragging about having better grades (and that matters...why?). So no wonder you're not feeling great.

How about... you agree to take your child away for a week if he agrees to take an hour a week for therapy for the two of you after finals are over?

If you step back and think about it, you sound like you have a pretty great life - you're both successful with lots of options in front of you and great careers, eventually for both of you, plus a beautiful child and plans for another. Such a shame to ruin it all by squabbling over petty stuff due to resentment.
posted by hazyjane at 6:35 AM on August 15, 2009 [3 favorites]

I would add a note of caution here, directed I suppose at the OP based on the resentment seething in this question as well as the fact that she says she wants to go to law school. And it is--law school does an okay job of preparing you to be a lawyer, but not so much at being a good human being. By which I mean it teaches you to be proficient in the nursing and airing of grievances, but not necessarily at resolving them happily. That is not conducive to a happy marriage or a happy life, period, in many ways. So I just put that out there in case it helps.
posted by chinston at 6:36 AM on August 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

And I love how you "best answer" the Mommy responses from people who clearly don't understand what's at stake.

There are two groups here with relevant personal experience: those who have taken 1L exams at a T10 law school, and therefore know "what's at stake" there; and those who have taken care of a 16-month-old full-time, and therefore know what kind of a challenge that is.

Why is one group's perspective valuable, and the other's worthless? After all, the question here is whether she needs him to continue to provide her a break from childcare, or he needs complete freedom from childcare responsibilities for a week. Both groups have valuable personal perspective to bring to that question.
posted by palliser at 7:11 AM on August 15, 2009 [11 favorites]

This doesn't really answer the question, but I wanted to stress just how important communication is for the both of you as far as the health of your relationship goes. My 1L year saw something like 75% of my friends and acquaintances who entered law school in long-term relationships single after just that first year. And yes, some were married, and at least one had a child. I myself ended up breaking up with my non-law student boyfriend of almost 3 years.

I know it's anecdotal, but it sort of illustrates the extreme difficulties that can arise because the two are of you are effectively in two totally different worlds right now.
posted by mishamashes at 7:23 AM on August 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Why does your husband have final exams now? I think, and correct me if I'm totally wrong, it's August. Is it just one class he's taking over the summer?
posted by anniecat at 7:41 AM on August 15, 2009

Wow, I'm not sure how to respond to the posts here- some are incredibly mean-spirited and hurtful. As I've never posted a personal question before here, I didn't realize how much the anonymity of the forum would lead people to be so vicious. As I read those types of responses, I responded in kind, letting it get a bit out of hand. Again, not experienced with posting personal stuff here.

My husband is actually a really good father- he feeds our daughter dinner, bathes her and sings her to sleep almost every night. (and has, even for most of this week). This was just a simple question about a one-time request. Yes, there is a back-story, but there is also communication and a good future for us. I'm changing careers to do something I've wanted for years (that's what those classes in the fall are for). People can fight and have conflicts within relationship- I know because we've been together for ten years. We love our daughter very much, and love each other even more.

I knew he might read this (of course) and he suggested posting the question himself earlier in the week (he intended it to be anonymous, but I'm unfamiliar with posting here). We do have a sense of humor about all this, and it was helpful because we had a nice discussion about our expectations for next finals week.

Thanks to all who posted concrete and kind responses.
posted by mrstrotsky at 8:32 AM on August 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

in my mind, the fact hat he is normally such a good father reinforces the point that you should let him have finals time for finals. Because if he is as good of a father as you say and the communication is there, he should know that one day he'll be repaying the favor.
posted by theichibun at 10:18 AM on August 15, 2009

Where "in" should read "In" and "hat" should read "that." That's the last time I let the cat sit on my lap while I type an answer.
posted by theichibun at 10:20 AM on August 15, 2009

anniecat, her husband is almost certainly taking the summer session at the University of Michigan law school. It's an abbreviated term meant for nontraditional 1L law students. You start in June, take two of the traditional 1L classes, and have your finals for them in August.

And er, not that it matters because, as the OP got what she needed, but I wanted to correct myself. I forgot that he was a summer starter. It's next September when he'll be a 2L that'll be absolutely crucial for his post-graduation prospects.
posted by joyceanmachine at 10:32 AM on August 15, 2009

Wow, I can't believe how many people think it is okay to choose prioritise ANYTHING voluntary over their own child.

OTOH, it is perfectly acceptable to put the child's long-term interests ahead of giving it as much attention as usual for a short time.

You do realise that if he fails at school he can still choose a different career, but if she fails at being a parent the child would die?

That's a bit extreme, don't you think? The child is not going to die because one parent is unavailable for a week. You do realize that people, even parents, have to travel on business sometimes? What do you suppose they do? Do you really think children are irreparably harmed if one parent is away for a week?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:44 AM on August 15, 2009 [5 favorites]

You do realize that people, even parents, have to travel on business sometimes?

And also that one parent has to go overseas and fight a war because they are in the military? I don't recall many questions from military spouses complaining that their soldier husband or wife may be leaving then with exclusive child-care duties for a year or more. To complain about a week is, well, pretty petty when viewed in that context.

(But then again, this question is more about general relationship problems than the specific stated question, which is just a symptom. If I were the law student I would be fairly pissed at my spouse for causing a big public hubbub, posting pretty identifiable details about us, about our relationship problems when I was trying to concentrate on exams.)
posted by jayder at 10:51 AM on August 15, 2009 [4 favorites]

My husband is actually a really good father- he feeds our daughter dinner, bathes her and sings her to sleep almost every night. (and has, even for most of this week).

Honestly ... I'm married to a lawyer (who went to a T10 school and then chose to locate in a smaller legal market to have a more family-friendly life) and he is never home for the kids' (ages 1 and 2) dinner, and often not home to bathe them, and sometimes not home for their bedtime. Dinner would mean leaving work by 6, and lawyers don't leave work by 6. If he's home by 7, that's an early evening. Even when you're working, too, you will probably be doing evening duty on your own.

This is a good opportunity for you to practice creating your own support network and breaks from childcare. Find other at-home spouses of graduate students with young children (there might even be an organized group) and join or create a babysitting coop. Set up weekly playdates. If you're in a new neighborhood, go over to the neighbors' with half-a-dozen muffins and your daughter, and meet them.

Finally, when it's time to decide where you're going after law school, locate near grandparents. They're the best support network and breaks from childcare there are.
posted by palliser at 10:55 AM on August 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Huh? That was NOT my point DA. I was pointing out that she was reasonable in defining looking after her child as important as his schooling. Many people upthread were telling her to accept being a law widow because his school was so important and stressful wheras her looking after a child is NOT important or stressful including telling her she was "not working" (defining paid work as the only kind of important work out there). Sometimes you have to choose between piorities and although a single, childless student can focus on studying exclusively and neglect their social life it is not fair to have that expectation when a child is involved. It would have been great for him if she was able to happily do a road trip but he can't dictate major terms to the OP without relationship fallout. She offered a compromise in reducing his childcare burden (and increasing her own) and I think it was a reasonable compromise considering the large about of work and stress BOTH of them are under.
posted by saucysault at 11:06 AM on August 15, 2009

he is never home for the kids' (ages 1 and 2) dinner, and often not home to bathe them, and sometimes not home for their bedtime. Dinner would mean leaving work by 6, and lawyers don't leave work by 6.

Let's not turn this thread into a "my husband works longer hours than your husband" dick measuring contest (as these threads often seem to go). If your husband is never home for his children's dinners, it's either by his choice or because he is a lackey to an abusive partner. I know lots of attorneys with AmLaw200 type jobs who leave by six regularly.

This kind of misinformation is absurd. The demands of exam week have no relation to the demands of a lawyer's daily life.
posted by jayder at 11:24 AM on August 15, 2009

I'm not competing with anyone, jayder. I do think you're wrong that a lawyer can have a long-term future in a firm while generally leaving by 6, and others in the thread have expressed a similar prediction.
posted by palliser at 12:29 PM on August 15, 2009

he's the one who decided he was going to take your idea out from under you and go to law school, justifying it by bragging about having better grades (and that matters...why?)

As mentioned earlier by the OP, he had the higher GPA of the two of them, leading them to (correctly) surmise that he would have a greater chance of getting into a top school. If you don't think GPA matters when applying to law school, well... you would be wrong.

Why is one group's perspective valuable, and the other's worthless?

The OP asked if it was unreasonable for her to ask her husband to help out with the child-rearing responsibilities during his exam week. There a number of ways the OP could get some respite that don't involve her husband (grandparents, au-pairs, baby-sitters, etc.)

On the other hand, there is no way to enlist any help for the husband. No surrogate test-takers. No stand-ins. No fancy memory drugs. He has to study, and there's no way around that. She has to take care of the child, yet there are many ways for her to get help.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:22 PM on August 15, 2009 [7 favorites]

Many people upthread were telling her to accept being a law widow because his school was so important and stressful wheras her looking after a child is NOT important or stressful

NO ONE in this thread has said that looking after the child is unimportant, nor potentially stressful. (Many have said that one parent looking after a child for a week is manageable, but that's different than "not stressful.")

including telling her she was "not working" (defining paid work as the only kind of important work out there).

There is precisely one occurrence of "not working" prior to your quote in this thread, and it seems clear to me that that person meant it in the sense of "not having paid employment," not that that person was equating being a stay-at-home mother with sitting on the couch eating chocolate and watching soap operas all day.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:44 PM on August 15, 2009

As a parent, I think this question is about a treadmill, not the 1L exams. First year and exams are just the beginning. Then there will be summer jobs, 2nd and 3rd year, articling, bar, the new job, making partner or setting up private practice or whatever, making a name for yourself, prepping for trial, whatever.

To me, it would be heartbreaking if my partner only spent 2 hours a day with our child. And so I'd be very hurt to then have my partner ask to spend no time with our child for a week, with no arranging for his family to step in. I don't personally consider a nanny a replacement for a parent. It's an upset for your child to have a stranger come in. Sure, it gives you a break, but it isn't the same as your child spending time with her father. If it was just this one week and you had more support all the time, I might see the point. But it's part of a series of decisions. And it seems that the two of you need to decide how you want them to play out. For me, there is no amount of money or career opportunity that would ever make up for my partner *regularly* having just 2 hours of time with his child per day or getting on to a treadmill in which it was always going to be things like this. ]

However, I was upfront about these things back in the first few weeks of dating and I was fortunate to find someone who shared those same opinions. It sounds like perhaps there are some discussions you need to have about your FUTURE lifestyle and perhaps even what's gone on this past year. Perhaps you never had a discussion about how all this would play out. I suspect that if the 1L exams were occasional and you had more support the rest of the time, you might not be as concerned about one week. It's not quite the same as an occasional business's about a series of decisions.
posted by acoutu at 2:02 PM on August 15, 2009

I know lots of attorneys with AmLaw200 type jobs who leave by six regularly.

FWIW, it's fairly unusual for lawyers at my AmLaw 200 firm to leave by 6; the unspoken end of day for attys there is 7pm, and then folks fight traffic home. You can do it if you're part time or if you have some understanding with the folks you work with, but otherwise regularly leaving before 7 would raise some eyebrows.

But this is all besides the point, since the poster has said that her husband does not want to apply to BigLaw firms and wants a more reasonable life style, and also that BigLaw is not necessary for them because he had not incurred alot of debt.

On that issue, though, I will just note that I chose my BigLaw firm based on its reputation for being a kinder, gentler, family oriented firm, and by and large this has been alot of hooey. I'm not sure it's possible to have a kinder, gentler BigLaw firm, particularly if you are interested in litigation. I don't know what it's like at the smaller firms where your husband will be applying though. Just, you know, buyer beware.

Finally, I really resent the mean comments in here that are yelling at the poster for "creating drama" by posting this question when her husband is also a member of the site, and saying that this is not what AskMe is for. AskMe was open to all posters, even posters with member spouses, for all questions that meet the guidelines. Sometimes it is helpful to get a reality check on your point of view, even if your spouse is also a member of the site.
posted by onlyconnect at 2:12 PM on August 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've read statistics saying that the majority of lawyers in the U.S. work for small firms, and it sounds like your husband doesn't want to work for a big firm. So there is no reason to think that the sacrifices you are being asked to make during his exam periods will be ongoing. It sounds like you will be in an excellent position to start your own legal career after your husband graduates from law school.

FWIW, it's fairly unusual for lawyers at my AmLaw 200 firm to leave by 6; the unspoken end of day for attys there is 7pm,

Okay, I guess it's time for me to slap mine on the table to be measured. My day is short, but it is impressively thick.
posted by jayder at 2:58 PM on August 15, 2009 [6 favorites]

If you don't think GPA matters when applying to law school, well... you would be wrong.

That's not really what I said. He had "slightly" better grades. Who knows whether she would have gotten in or not? If this were about her chances of getting accepted, why would the plan then be for her to go after he did? And was she only interested in this one particular school? We don't have enough information here really on this topic, and I think it's a big leap to assume he went first for this reason. It also sounds from the asker's perspective that her husband set up the decision criteria on who would go first that he knew would put him ahead, and that she didn't really agree on these criteria.

But regardless of why it happened, from her posts the asker obviously does feel resentment about this issue of him going first. Whether or not her feelings are justifiable, I still think they bear close examination in therapy so that they can get past this issue.
posted by hazyjane at 8:40 PM on August 15, 2009

He is not running up debts - does that mean you could afford to PAY for some child care? Have you no friends to work our care swapping with?
posted by Cranberry at 1:17 AM on August 16, 2009

Much less stress on everyone if he gets a hotel room or some such for the week.

Someone mentioned this above. It's the greatest idea.

Or you yourself get out of the house with kid for a week. You are performing the unpaid and under-appreciated work of child care. However, you're free to take your work elsewhere for a week and fold it into a vacation or visit with loved ones.

Or dump kid with grandparents for a week and give yourself a break. Like grapefruitmoon said, both parents or one parent need not be with the child all the time for her to develop normally.

Obviously you are not hurting for money. From my perspective you are in an enviable position. There are many options for an easy week's holiday in August.

Time away will give you perspective on the simmering issues with your husband, which you can address after your holiday and his finals.
posted by vincele at 6:17 AM on August 16, 2009

Since it's easier to look back in time than to look forward, here are my observations. First, is your husband attending one of the country's first tier law schools? Is Big Law his goal? Or is he attending a second tier or worse, a TTT? If he is attending a top law school and wants to make law review so he has a chance of clerking at the Supreme Court or some day making partner at a firm like Sullivan and Cromwell, leave him alone, he needs the time. Of course, you need to understand that the person who goes through the law school process and who comes out the other end will not be the person you married. You have to take that into account, but there is no easy way to do so.

If he's not at a top school, Big Law is still a possibility if he is one of the top ten students in his class at a second tier school. This is especially true in smaller markets; I'm thinking Jacksonville, Memphis.

If neither of these two apply, he still has a chance at humanity. First: three years after law school, no one cares what grades you earned. Twenty years after law school, no one cares what law school you attended. Do just enough work to learn the law and pass the bar. Spend more time networking with your classmates and professors. This is what is truly important and what will make your husband a success in the law. It will also insure that he will remain a human being and is more likely, though nothing is assured, to remain the person that you married. The law is not a high intellectual endeavor. Original thought is not rewarded. Learn the basics, pass the bar, spend more time with your classmates and family and your husband will be much more of a success than if he slavishly seeks top grades. Law school exams simply don't matter that much.

Keep in mind that the bar exam is different, and that he will need as much time as is possible away from family and friends so that he can pass.
posted by tesseract420 at 11:03 AM on August 16, 2009

The law is not a high intellectual endeavor. Original thought is not rewarded.

You're not a lawyer, are you, tesseract420? Because that's about as wrong a statement as there could be about the law.
posted by jayder at 4:14 PM on August 16, 2009

Those suggesting she take the 16-month old on a vacation for the week may not have experienced a "vacation" with a toddler while being the sole caregiver. It's not a vacation and is way more work than being home. If anything, the husband should take off for a week.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 8:41 AM on August 17, 2009

Jayder: As wrong a statement as could be about the law? Hardly. It's not unusual to see a law review article with a citation for every sentence. The law is the only field in the humanities in which copying is not only permitted, it is recommended. It's not technically plagiarism because the precedent is identified. As an intellectual endeavor, law is plumbing--find a paragraph from a case to connect two arguments, in the same way that a plumber uses a connector to connect two pipes. A judge whose thought is original--someone like Richard Posner of the 7th Circuit--stands far above the rest, and is seen by the many as being somewhat eccentric. Maitland wrote that a lawyer must conform (intellectually) "lest he is no lawyer." The law is personal injury business, which is rote squabbling. The law is family law business, which is rote squabbling. Compare the advances in physics (whether you believe string theory correct or not) or engineering with legal research. Legal research is about finding something in the past to apply to the present. Human beings don't change that much and their interactions change less. The sheer volume of "law"--fifty states with at least two or three appellate courts each that publish (at least some of) their decisions; 12 federal circuits plus the Supreme Court--amounts to a 1000 page hardback book every single day. It is "intellectual" only in the sense that it is mind-work. I distinguish between simple mind work and what I would casually term "high intellectual endeavors." The law does not bring new insights to the field of human interactions. Innovations or successes are few, or forgotten. For example, worker's compensation. In the early part of the 20th century workers would be horribly injured on the job and because the way tort law was structured, they could not recover damages unless they could prove their employer was at fault. The workermen's compensation statutes took proving employer fault out of the equation and were a real innovation and solved the problem. Today, patients occasionally suffer horrible injuries in hospitals and the system spends extraordinary amounts of time and money to obtain recovery for them, because you must show that the physician or the hospital is at fault before compensation can be secured. Why not take fault out of the equation as in the worker/employer relationship? We have forgotten this relatively simple solution. I could cite many other examples, but even where the law should learn from itself, it does not. It is nothing more than the intellectual equivalent of plumbing, and in so saying, I do not mean to denigrate plumbers and their worthy, necessary work.

But now we are way off topic. I do find that people go into the law believing that it is a high intellectual endeavor and to their enduring disappointment, discover that it is not. Perhaps this is why it changes people. Intellectual endeavors should be mind-expanding; the law is mind-shrinking.

I'd like to think that my comments would stand or fall on their own merit, rather than achieving approval or rejection because of biographical details. However, to the extent that you think such details relevant, I am admitted to practice in three American states and several federal courts (D.C. doesn't count). I have appeared in matters on a pro hac vice basis in four or five additional states and have a fair amount of international experience.
posted by tesseract420 at 8:10 AM on August 18, 2009

I dunno, tesseract, it seems to me you could make the same argument about any intellectual pursuit. They all have parameters. Trollope sat down to work from dawn to 11 a.m. every morning and wrote constantly throughout; his novels never break with traditional structure; he joked that his theory on writing was to reward himself with a fox-hunting scene every so many pages in order to keep himself interested through all the boring character-development bits. I'd still consider him to have pursued a "high intellectual endeavor," by whatever "casual" definition you might use.
posted by palliser at 11:50 AM on August 18, 2009

Palliser: I hope you're not saying Trollope was a plagiarist. I do not know his work, but even a writer of formulaic genre fiction is more creative than a lawyer citing precedents. The precedents must be slavishly cited if they are to be effectively used in arguments. I should point out that my arguments in the main apply to the American legal system and American lawyers; but that was the context of the question. The young man who is studying will some day regret not spending more time with his young daughter. The week, or two weeks of studies will simply fade. Speaking as an older lawyer, except for the bar exam, my vote is for spending more time with family. And as to writers, according to Propp in his Morphology of the Folk Tale, there are only so many plots. So let's not be too hard on Trollope.
posted by tesseract420 at 2:56 PM on August 18, 2009

Wrap it up or take it elsewhere, guys, this is pretty much nothing-to-do-with-the-question stuff at this point.
posted by cortex at 3:02 PM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

The 4th and 5th sentences of my last sentence are exactly on point. The rest, and SOME of the penultimate post, are but replies in this august dialog.
posted by tesseract420 at 10:25 PM on August 18, 2009

during my 1L finals I had all my food delivered. i took my laptop into the bathroom.. it's just a week and it's his most important set of exams. this has to do with the way i deal with school - i do very little work during the year but do nothing but study during finals. if he is this way, i would treat him as if he were out of town on business.
posted by anthropomorphic at 10:12 PM on August 19, 2009

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