I got a raise when I had my baby, which was a very nice gesture from the Breaking Media CEO. It was also the only way I could keep working here. You see, child care costs are such in this city that before my raise I would have saved money by quitting my job and taking care of the baby full time, instead of having to pay somebody to look after him while I’m at work. Now, I’m a little bit past the break-even point, so I take what they pay me, give it to my creditors and my child’s nanny (we can only afford to have her for 30 hours a week, but I’ve gotten much better at typing with one hand, as I’m doing right now), and have a little bit left over to buy liquor and ad-free porn (err… typing practice). My wife’s salary handles all the rest — trivial items such as “rent” and “food.”
So yeah, I pretty much write every day just because I love spending time with you guys [weeping softly].
It turns out, I’m not alone. An article in the New York Times details the child-care squeeze on middle-class families. We’re not talking about “working poor” families who have always struggled with child care costs while Republicans berate them for not pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. The article focuses on mothers with good jobs, professors and lawyers, who can’t really afford to pay someone to take care of their brood.
I suppose it’s not really a “Biglaw” problem. If you have one of those jobs, you can probably afford child care, or (more likely) afford for your spouse not to work. But if you don’t cash in with Biglaw, you’d probably settle for having your kids raised by wolves if the wolves came cheap….
The Opinionator article in the New York Times runs through various stories of middle-class mothers who are struggling with the high price of child care. The story from the lawyer is instructive here to anyone who is thinking that they want to do anything other than work in Biglaw:
Jane Dimyan-Ehrenfeld, 37, a lawyer in Washington, D.C., who works for the federal government and who is the mother of two, struggled since she was first pregnant to get her first child into quality day care near her home. “The competition is unbelievable,” she says. So she sent her older child to a local home day care. After nearly three years, she says, she discovered that the proprietor at the home day care who was supposed to be taking care of her infant daughter was instead selling herbal supplements all day upstairs, and on one occasion, on the road, leaving her daughter and seven other children to be cared for by one aide, in a home with two giant snakes and attack dogs supposedly kept in a very different part of the house.
Ms. Dimyan-Ehrenfeld says that she checked the center’s references before she enrolled her daughter and that the owner seemed very warm. She discovered the truth when the one aide who had been caring for the children was fired and told the parents what had been going on at the home day care center. Startled by both the undersupervision and the fact that the exotic animals weren’t kept away from the children, she immediately pulled her daughter from the center. Her younger child now has a nanny and her older child is in a private preschool. That has meant, however, that she earns 50 cents, after paying for all that, in each biweekly pay period. “And I am a lawyer!” she exclaims.
Welcome to the suck, Ms. Dimyan-Ehrenfeld.
The story exposes two universal truths that every working parent has to deal with:
- Nobody cares about your bawling demon-spawn as much as you do.
- The people who will at least keep your kid alive long enough to grow up to hate you for abandoning them are very expensive.
That’s true if you make a lot of money or if you make very little. If you want to or have to work, you kind of just have to accept it and move on.
But one thing about legal jobs — as opposed to (ahem) writing jobs, or some of the other academic jobs profiled in the Times story — is that they are not very flexible. Never forget, as a lawyer you are working in a service industry. Fundamentally, your clients set your schedule. If my nanny is late, I can post a story late. Whatever. Maybe one day you’ll see me on HuffPost Live with a baby in my lap and we’ll all have a laugh. But if your nanny is late, you end up showing up to a meeting or an appearance 30 minutes after it started, looking like you don’t have your act together.
Biglaw is maybe the most inflexible type of legal job, but at least you can throw money at the problem. I’m not saying that Biglaw firms are “family friendly.” I’m saying that Biglaw salaries might help you afford reliable child care.
If you are working for the government, it’s a constant battle between having enough money and having your kids eaten by snakes. It’s something to consider when you think of leaving Biglaw for family reasons. You might get better hours outside of Biglaw, but kids need eyes on them 24/7. And those eyes usually cost a lot of money, one way or another.
On the other hand, you can’t put a price on this:
Crushed by the Cost of Child Care [New York Times]