Need strategies for job search as a single mother
December 8, 2013 8:26 PM   Subscribe

I'm a single mom of an 8 month old and need to get back to work. I am an attorney, and most jobs I am qualified for require much more than 40 hours/week. I'm flummoxed on how to handle this during the job search process. How can I (delicately) make sure that a particular job will allow me to get home in time pick up my daughter from day care, etc.?

Most (if not all) of the jobs I qualify for require near constant availability and quite a bit more than 40 hours/week. Before I stopped working I was part-time at a large law firm, and that was somewhat helpful in reducing the number of hours I had to work. However, I was still expected to be available all day, evenings and weekends. I know a few people who have tried to juggle children and working part time as an attorney in a law firm, and frankly I don't think it works very well even for two-parent households. (So, I can't assume that a part-time attorney position will work.)

Any advice on how to handle this during the job search process? At some point I will need to make it clear that I need to be home at a particular time with little flexibility, right? I feel like any mention of this will torpedo my chances. My current plan is to talk to a bunch of recruiters and make the situation plain to them but I'm not sure this is a good idea.

More possibly pertinent details:

I would love to work in government for the stability and 40-hour week but am concerned about the salary. The State of California job classification that matches my experience is not enough to support us.

I stopped working last August due to chronic pain/disability. I'm not able to work more than 40 hours due to the chronic pain, so taking a job that requires 40+ hours and arranging for increased child care isn't really the answer for me.

My husband and I separated when my daughter was about 6 weeks old. He lives nearby and when we finally get the paperwork sorted he will have joint custody. Currently he is working, in school and volunteering but still takes care of our daughter part of each week. He's also paying a small amount of child support.

I'm located in the San Francisco Bay Area and have about 8 years experience as a transactional real estate lawyer.
posted by argyle dreams to Work & Money (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Give me a day or two and I'll might have a recommendation for you. I'm in the greater LA area and there's a company down here that specializes in providing temp work for attorneys in just your position. I.e. Female, looking for part time work, used to work full time. I've met the founder at a few bar events. Mostly they hire people out to write particular motions or the like, or at least that's my understanding.

I just can't remember the name at the moment, but I'll be able to find out in less than a week or so.

If the company hasn't expanded to the bay area, the owners may have an idea of a company up there in the same market niche.
posted by bswinburn at 9:01 PM on December 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

I don't have specific advice for your particular profession, but some thoughts that occur to me:
- You might find something appropriate at Rat Race Rebellion, in the legal category or elsewhere.,
- I don't know what the "work for themselves, on their own schedule" equivalent would be for your skills, but that might be something to consider,
- Given your additional note that mentions chronic pain, you may need to think out of the box at look at lateral career moves that might be more family- and health-friendly,
- It might also be helpful to take a hard look at your "not enough to support us" and the lifestyle you've become used to as a married childless adult; the reality may be that your standards will require adjustment, especially with the chronic pain as a limiting factor.
posted by stormyteal at 9:10 PM on December 8, 2013 [11 favorites]

Keep an eye on job listings. We just had an attorney leave and her job will be posted. Our attorneys make a good salary and keep very civilized hours.
posted by agatha_magatha at 10:03 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Have you compared daycare with you working less than full time with the alternative of leaving your daughter at home with a nanny with you working full time?
posted by Dansaman at 10:06 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Pick up an inhouse position if possible. Firm life is tough.
posted by slateyness at 5:03 AM on December 9, 2013

Not sure if this is the same place bswinburn is thinking of, but I have a professional acquaintance who does work through Montage Legal Group and seems quite happy with the arrangement. Freelance attorneys is how they bill themselves--seems to be entirely women for the time being and is apparently quite friendly/a good fit for moms with young children. Apparently a lot of drafting work than can be done at home, etc.
posted by HonoriaGlossop at 5:16 AM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Have you thought about working for the Federal Government? There are a few opportunities in your area.

The federal government has good salaries, excellent benefits and will not be the nightmare that working for a firm would be.

Here's a position with the Supreme Court in San Francisco, it may be worth looking into. The salary band for Level C is $6883 to $8748 per month.

A big salary comes with big responsibility. To have the lifestyle you want, you may have to downsize your home, or move out of the city, or make some other accomodation.

But those are a couple of places to start.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:25 AM on December 9, 2013

Yes. I was thinking of The Montage Legal Group.
posted by bswinburn at 7:59 AM on December 9, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks so much for the answers everyone. I definitely appreciate the leads for places to look for work (and I will definitely pursue them), but I'm more interested in strategies on how to determine if a particular job is truly 9-5. For example, not all in-house positions are 9-5. Some require the same amount of availability and commitment as a traditional law firm job.

And I had to laugh at the suggestions to downsize as I sit on my bed in the living room of our one-bedroom apartment (my daughter gets the bedroom). Please be assured that the salary I'm looking for is the minimum of what I need to cover my student loans, rent, child care and a fairly austere budget. In the future my husband will be able to provide a more significant amount of child support but that is several years away.

Dansaman - I'm not sure I understand the question. I believe that my budget requires I work full-time (just not "law firm full time") and I can't afford a nanny so my daughter will be in day care.
posted by argyle dreams at 9:04 AM on December 9, 2013

Best answer: I am a techie and there is a lot of pressure in my industry to work overtime. My interview strategy has been to talk to people I will actually work with and ask them what a typical day is like. (Not sure how it is in the legal world but in the tech world, you always get to talk to the actual team). If my "what is a typical day like" question did not yield a definitive answer, I ask about team culture, process and perks, my red flags being: lack of process/organization, frequent socializing outside work, unusually stocked company fridge or god forbid an actual evening meals policy, etc. Lastly, I mention that I am on daycare pickup duty and ask, is a daily "X" pick up time going to be a problem? What do other people do for daycare? If there are no other other parents, I personally don't want the job on the grounds that the childless will never understand, even if they have good intentions.

I hope my answer is applicable to the legal industry. And best of luck with your little one, you have a few months until things get considerably easier!
posted by rada at 10:41 AM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

Do you need to work specifically 9-5? Could you do 8-4? Not to nit-pick, just trying to figure out your parameters. I don't know about law but I've seen job ads that mention the hours. And I think that's a reasonable question to ask during a job interview. Do you need to be totally off the clock after you leave the office? Can you check email if you're expecting something important?

Before reading your update, I meant to suggest Google-ing "best companies for working moms" in the area, nationally, best companies to work for, etc. I imagine that there would be overlap between best places to work and places that don't want to work their employees to death. And such lists usually include short profiles of the organization that will give you more information generally. Can you talk to other women in law in your area? I am confident that you are not the first person to ask this and won't be the last.
posted by kat518 at 11:34 AM on December 9, 2013

Best answer: I would suggest looking at the Ask A Manager HR blog, and emailing her if you don't see anything helpful. That blog has lots of helpful tips for issues like this.
posted by emmatrotsky at 2:22 PM on December 9, 2013

Response by poster: kat518: I am mainly just trying to make sure the job is limited to 40 hours/week, normal working hours. So yeah, it could be 8-4. I'd be able to check email but I would want any substantial off-hour work to be rare.

rada: your suggestions are very helpful and definitely applicable to the legal field. thank you!
posted by argyle dreams at 4:00 PM on December 9, 2013

Ask about work-life balance in interviews and see how they react. If you have any connections at a particular workplace, ask them about work culture. Also, I think that even in a lot of the long-hour workplaces, people with kids are not expected to work as many hours as people without kids, at least in terms of time in the office (those people still at work at 9pm? they don't have small kids, at least in my experience). They may put in more hours from home on evenings and weekends, though.
posted by emd3737 at 1:29 AM on December 10, 2013

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