5 Reasons Being a Parent Made Me a Better Divorce Lawyer
Ever want to punch a (non-parent) colleague in the face when they tell you they're tired having gone out the night before and had to be at work at 9 am (?!) the next morning? Right, me too. I mean figuratively, of course. I think. Yet all those late nights, frustrating sleep training activities, juggling client calls with sick babies and buying presents for (another) birthday party do have their perks. Maybe not in the moment but it's certainly (and surprisingly) helped me become a better attorney.
Why am I a better divorce lawyer because I'm a parent?
Become a pro at scheduling
Prior to parenthood, I'd schedule myself day and night. To be honest I flaked (a lot). No problem, right? I'd reschedule because all I had was time, time and more time. That led to frustrated clients and contacts, procrastination and chaos. With kids, I've learned (partly out of survival) that scheduling is what feeds 'em (at least my own children). Without a firm-ish schedule, there is no peace and there is no sleep. In laying down the (scheduling) law with my kids, I naturally got better at calendaring my professional life too and I've seen loads of benefits.
Gosh, it's easy to be judgmental of other people's choices and parenting styles before you have your own (imperfect) kids. I went from rolling my eyes at restaurants when I watched parents with unruly children to rolling my eyes at strangers who are irritated by my 2-year-old being a toddler in public. But seriously, nothing makes you more humble than acing a complicated hearing only to come home to a child who is fasting in protest.
Learn to expect the unexpected
The things you say as a parent that you never ever thought would come out of your mouth. "Why is there a sign on the front lawn that says Mommy's (used) toothbrushes are for sale?" "Who put the Roku in the potty?" "Stop licking your sister's eyeball." If you can handle parenthood, you can handle anything. Case in point (and these are true). Show up to defend a client who is accused of domestic violence and eggplant is introduced as the 'weapon'. No problem. Your child support hearing is derailed by a pen that is shooting laser beams and playing 'it's a small world'. I got this. The opposing party jumps over the witness stand and lunges at you when your line of questioning exposes his hidden income? What's the big deal?
Own the art of conflict resolution
I used to take a more evaluative approach to case planning. What is the law and how do we apply it to this set of facts. That doesn't work for parenting. I went from "go to sleep now so that you won't be grumpy at school tomorrow" (didn't work) to "let's rest a bit now so we can get up early and get a donut before anyone else in the neighborhood is awake." Parenting has been instrumental in thinking outside the box and honing my negotiation skills.
Engage in humor
Divorce is sad and scary. That's a fact. But cultivating a new (happier) version of yourself is exciting. Kids make us laugh all the time. My 5-year-old said several things this week that had us in stitches (warning: it's never as funny when it's not your kid).
- "Can we please go to the parfait (buffet) again so I can try the chocolate food group (fondue)?"
- "So that's how some companies abuse chickens? Can I have a turkey sandwich?"
I've never pretended not to laugh so much in my life. But in doing so, I've learned how much joy comedy can bring to just about everyone. Injecting (appropriate) humor in awkward moments has allowed me to genuinely connect with clients and put things in perspective for parties who have momentarily gone off the deep end.
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