Q&A: How do you share child care responsibilities with a partner who also works full time?
California Lawyer

Q&A: How do you share child care responsibilities with a partner who also works full time?

April 2014

Stephanie Hamilton Borchers

As our kids get older, it's easier, and we take turns taking time off to take kids to the doctor. Their school doesn't start until 9 so I'm with them in the morning, and I'm usually able to get them after school. That's the beauty of appeals. I'm able to work at nights or on weekends, but we have to coordinate if I have a court date in the morning or if I'm just on a deadline. So it's a lot of emails and texts. It's really just a matter of communicating.

You have to be very disciplined about your time. I've learned to sit at my laptop and work with dishes in the sink. The attorneys that I work with joke that I'm not in the office, but I'm responding to things faster than people who are in the office. There are mornings where you're not entirely sure how you're going to handle it, and you work it out.

Stephanie H. Borchers is a partner with Dowling Aaron in Fresno and practices in the areas of appeals, writs, and complex civil litigation. She and her husband have a daughter who's twelve and a ten-year-old son.

Michelle Jacobson-Kwok

My husband works in the financial sector, on East Coast time, so he reports to his office no later than 6:30 in the morning. Since I'm self-employed, I can kind of roll in, and I drop off the kids between 8 and 8:30 at their two places. Then he picks them up between 4 and 4:30. He sort of has an afternoon ritual with them, and I have the morning ritual, getting them ready and kissing them good-bye.

Until my son was about 18 months old, I worked no more than 30 hours per week, and he would be at day care three fulltime days per week, and then one half day, and then home one full day on Fridays with me. The parttime work was great, it was wonderful, but it's not really fitting with my personality, and it's not really sustainable in the long term.

Michelle Jacobson-Kwok is a partner at List Jacobson-Kwok Thorndal in Oakland and practices family law and estate planning. She and her husband have a six-year-old daughter and a son, who is two years old.

Michelle Ferber

I generally tried to be home in the mornings to get our kids off to school, and my husband would try to be home in time for the late afternoon activities. The key was flexibility when one of our schedules (travel for him, trial or depositions for me) changed the routine. Summer was always tricky as it is not always easy to find fun and affordable full-day options. There were several summers where I stayed home a few full days each week and then worked weekends (while my husband took care of the kids).

My younger colleagues seem to have more options. Technology now allows for attendance at even depositions without any travel. Many firms allow (some even encourage) parents to work one or two days from home and provide the necessary equipment. There are also coffee shops where you can work if, for example, your school has a short day and you want to avoid the commute time.

Michelle Ferber is the managing partner at Frankel Goldware Ferber in San Ramon, where she specializes in employment litigation and advises and counsels employers of all sizes and types. She and her husband have a son who's 18 and a daughter who is 20.

Kristen Law Sagafi

Child care isn't something that you compromise on. I wanted the best care for my son that I could afford, and we're fortunate to be able to afford a private nanny. We wanted him to get that individual attention, and we thought it would also keep him healthier because kids in day care get a lot of colds and share a lot of germs, and it turned out to be true. He has never been sick.

But even having a nanny is really challenging. It used to be that when I was a childless lawyer - especially a single lawyer and it was just me and the dog - I would wake up at 6 in the morning and I would be on email even before I hit the shower. Now, I have to work a lot faster and smarter to get the same amount of work done. There is a lot less white space in my life.

Kristen Law Sagafi, a partner in Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein's San Francisco office, represents consumers in cases involving deceptive hospital bills and defective products, including building materials, home appliances, and personal electronics. She and her husband have a son who is two and a half.

Elizabeth Balfour

We have a fantastic nanny, my husband's parents are here, and we have siblings who are also married and in the area and have children, so there are cousins, aunts, uncles. I generally stick around until 8:30 to meet the nanny, and then I work later in the evening, and my husband is around to relieve her in the evening, unless he's in trial.

We have always been very engaged and involved in the community and we wanted to continue to do that after we had children. My husband still sails and competes locally. It's a big part of his life and he enjoys being outdoors and getting the exercise. He crews on friends' sailboats. I am active in the San Diego County Bar Association.

Typically on Saturdays, which the kids call "mommy days," I take them on a run. We jog to the grocery store or the bank or whatever, and they're willing to do some errands with me, and then we'll jog to the park and then we'll jog home. It's about a five-mile loop. Frankly during the week it's not a guarantee that all four of us will eat together. Sundays are usually "daddy days," and he takes them to Sunday school and church, and school days are school days.

Elizabeth Balfour, a partner in San Diego with Sheppard Mullin, assists business clients resolve disputes or achieve the best possible result in litigation. She and her husband have a daughter who turns four in April and a son who is two years old.

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