Law School as a Parent

Today we have a guest blog post from Melissa Vachon, Class of 2022. Melissa has a beautiful daughter, and she shares her experience of being a parent in law school.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
The other day, I walked into my room to discover my three-year-old flipping through one of my textbooks. I asked what she was doing, and she responded with “shhh, I’m learning how to be a lawyer.”

It was very cute but also nerve-wracking because toddlers don’t have the gentlest of hands and law school books are very expensive. Thankfully, no pages were torn!

Getting through the first year of law school was a wild ride, but I learned a lot of lessons about balancing school and parenting. Here are the top five.

#1. Find your village.

Moving to South Bend for law school was the first time I ever moved out of my hometown. It was scary; we knew absolutely no one, we needed to find a daycare ASAP, my partner needed to find a job, etc. I was seriously doubting all of my life choices during the first week of school. But I’m very thankful that I quickly found other parenting students, understanding professors, clubs/organizations, and friends who love my daughter as much as me (maybe more?). Notre Dame offers tons of resources for parenting students; don’t be afraid to take advantage of them! I could not have done this alone.

#2. Get a planner.

Time management is crucial for any law student. This is especially true when you are in charge of managing someone else’s life in addition to your own. I use both Google calendar (with notifications turned on) and a physical planner to keep track of things I need to do. Whatever will help you remember all of your class times, pediatrician appointments, reading assignments, daycare drop off/pick up times, office hours, meetings, etc. Use it!

I also highly recommend planning out your study time and your family time. It’s not only helpful for you to be in a routine, but it’ll help your family know what to expect as well. Once you figure out what schedule works for you, do not let school stuff interfere with your family time. Outside of finals season, you will never see me opening a book on a Sunday.

#3. Have a backup plan. 

Kids get sick (a lot). Random events pop up. Childcare falls through. Sometimes a pandemic happens and you’re stuck at home watching class lectures with your toddler. You’re going to need a backup plan or two, and you’re going to need to be flexible. Figure out which things can wait and which can’t, and who you can call in an emergency.

#4. Do things ahead of time.

Anything you can do ahead of time, do it! While it may not seem like much, having everyone’s clothes set out, bags packed, and breakfast prepped before you wake up makes the morning rush so much easier. I also dedicate some time on Sunday evening to planning out meals for the whole week, and that way I’m not struggling to come up with ideas or trying to remember what ingredients we have when it’s 5pm and my kiddo is asking what’s for dinner.

This also applies to schoolwork. If you have a big assignment coming up, try to finish it well before it’s due. Don’t wait until the last week to start preparing for exams. Try not to fall behind on readings. “I’ll just do it the night before it needs to be done” will be the night your kiddo catches a stomach bug, trust me.

#5. Be kind to yourself.

There will always be more work you can do. You can always read more, outline more, highlight more. But you do not have to. Staying up until the sun rises will not make you a better student. You need to take care of yourself. Whether it’s a long bubble bath or an evening jog, find something that takes your mind off all of the stressors. Equally as important – forgive yourself. You aren’t perfect. There will be mistakes and that is 100% okay.

It’s not easy, but it is worth it. On top of being able to follow my dreams and better myself, my daughter gets to witness the importance of education and working hard every day. While being her mama is my most favorite thing in the world, it’s not my only title!