The inconvenient matter of anklebiters

*Warning the following post may offend those of a sexist persuasion or who read the Daily Mail – probably the same thing…*

This  is dedicated to my chum M whose frantic ferrying of teenagers and  fending off the calls at court  in the perpetual search for lost school items, is truly terrifying and inspirational all at the same time.

I am the generation of women who believed they could have “it all”. I was never too sure what the “it” was or why I should want all of it but logic and my mind are not the best of friends. One thing I thought was at least achievable was having a rewarding,fulfilling career and Motherhood. Silly naive me. Particularly as I supposed the Bar would offer me the flexibility (and ready for the gag…) to work around my children as I would be self employed. Ha ha! Then came the terrible realisation – to make ends meet, I would have to work pretty much every hour under the Sun. I used to joke with my clerks that “Yes, I will do that mention  (£46.50 gross) as it would pay for a pair of kids shoes”. Except it wasn’t really a joke.

I am that pariah of society, the bringer of the collapse of all known civilised society, a single Mother. I have read the other blogs about the financial woes of my colleagues and would only add this: Imagine, you had to fork out not less than £1000 per month of your taxed income on childcare costs. Every month.  As as a Mum therefore, I have to earn more than my peers  just to keep working. Now frequently the person I pay to look after my children, earns more than I do.

I know that I am not alone in this position and it doesn’t matter whether you have a ball and chain, sorry , a partner or not. The nature of the job demands that you employ “help”. Nurseries are no use at all due to the demands of the job as a) I do not start/finish work every day at the same place and exactly at the same time and b) cannot take holiday time mid trial for the 48 hour exclusion if my child has a sniffle. Add in that I cannot have a phone to hand for the emergencies that invariably befall small people and even if I did, unless it was very grave,  I could not just ask my boss for an hour off (“I’ll make up the hour tomorrow”) to go home and sort it out.

Courts are not parent friendly  and though some judges do try to  help, many are oblivious and the very worst are lay magistrates – to this day, I still fume gently at the memory of sitting till 7.30 pm to finish a mags court case just because one of the bench couldn’t rearrange their own work commitments to go part heard… Or judges’ who say at 4.30 pm ” Perhaps we can finish this witness off today…”  I hear court users (alright ,usually baby male  barristers fretting as to what their SO they’re normally desperate to impress will make of starting the holiday without them. Bliss, I would’ve imagined) moan about lost holidays due to cases overrunning or lists shifting  – try the added pressure of expectant, excited little faces. I knew as a working Mother that school nativity plays , sports days, prize giving and even just assemblies would be tricky ( whilst trying to make costumes, bake bloody cakes and find odd socks…) but I had not bargained for a working environment which would actually deter me. 

Here is the point though. If the Criminal bar is to survive it must reflect the Public it serves through diversity and that diversity  includes working parents of either sex but especially Mothers. The proposed cuts and/or legal aid reforms means that I will  almost certainly find it financially un-viable to continue. My worry is that the bar will revert to how it  was nearly 40 years ago –  a hobby job for the privileged and wealthy.  A mirror of the current Cabinet the more cynical might even say….

I became a better barrister after I had sprogs because once you’ve experienced childbirth and coming home to wipe bottoms, you really haven’t got time for the posturing and posing or quite frankly, the waste of time of  listening to your own voice – I have better, more important places to be in all honesty. It also means that I bring my experiences when dealing with child witnesses (rubbing eyes = time for a break) or the ability of  being able to speak the lingua franca of parenthood, the most exclusive yet inclusive of clubs, when I speak with their parents. I understand now about bath times, SENs, schools,computer games,dinosaurs,child psychology ( practical & theoretical), One Direction, sibling jealousy, co-parenting, Key stages, Health visitors, EYNCOs, phonetics, family law and Grandparents.  And the attraction of the music of Psy.

I now have transferable skills of multi-tasking, patience,nose wiping and being able to recite names of famous Engines (note correct usage as taught to me by no.1 child – “No, its not a train, Mummy, that’s an engine…) as well as occasionally finding a suit devoid of Petit Filous to do my job with added humanity.

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4 thoughts on “The inconvenient matter of anklebiters

  1. Thankyou. ! Your life sounds like a carbon copy of mine. Now single mum. Frantic about my future at the criminal bar and being able to support my family. Forget the organising and missed sports day. They and I am we’ll used to that. Selling our home is another matter

    1. Thank you.I think it’s important to at least know you’re not alone & therefore not your individual fault . We’re on same circuit and and things are quiet work wise. I have to make a crunch decision to stick or twist… Take care & keep in touch!

  2. Ditto, I left the bar and became a solicitor. I’m now a single Mum, not through choice. Apparently whilst I get paid less than a cleaner, I should be working overnight regularly. I have yet to find a childminder to accommodate my police station rota and my family have limited resources to help.

    I too am a much better lawyer for being a Mother. I find I have more sympathy, whilst simultaneously taking a lot less c..p than I used to.

    My only problem now is that I desperately want to put aggressive prosecutors and police officers on the naughty step.

    This week I lost my job, well almost. I got a massive pay cut and was told should be grateful I have a job at all. The country wants me, but would just rather not pay. Despite brains, education and commitment, I am now better off on benefits. I checked. I rather thought that I deserved enough money to buy a nice house, have a decent car and a pension. Why can’t we demand a good wage? We work for it. Enough to compensate us for our work, contribution and commitment. I know, we’re not supposed to say that, it should be all about access to justice, isn’t my family entitled to a reasonable income? Isn’t that justice?

    How, how has it come to this? I wish you all the best.

  3. It has been the death of a thousand cuts. And an education to me that whilst equal pay and discrimination matter if you have a union who will go to the ET, who represents our views? Why isn’t childcare tax deductible if you really want to promote women returning to work? Double standards…

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