Childrearing

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Says Having a Toddler Helped Her Get Through Law School

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With all the chaos and political drama unfolding in the world right now, a lot of people are probably thinking about going to law school. Law school does seem to be a useful background for a person considering a career in politics, and it was downright inspiring to watch armies of volunteer lawyers camped out at airports to help people detained or stranded by Donald Trump’s executive order blocking access to the U.S. for refugees and people from seven specific countries. Those lawyers–most of whom were women–were on the ground helping people in the way a lot of people can only fantastize about, and a lot of people probably saw them and thought, “I should go to law school!” I sure did, but then a voice in my head said, “I can’t go to law school. I have a two-year-old.” But that voice was not the voice of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who says having a toddler actually helped her get through law school.

We already knew Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a superhero, but according to New York Magazine, in a new interview with The Atlantic, she says that she had a 14-month-old baby when she first started law school. A 14-month-old baby is a pretty time-consuming thing, but Ruth Bader Ginsburg says the baby didn’t keep her from finishing law school. Actually, she made it easier.

“I attributed my success in law school largely to Jane,” she said. “I went to class at 8:30 a.m., and I came home at 4:00 p.m., that was children’s hour. It was a total break in my day, and children’s hour lasted until Jane went to sleep. Then I was happy to go back to the books, so I felt each part of my life made me respite from the other.”

One would be tempted to call Ruth Bader Ginsburg a superhero for being able to go through law school while raising a 14-month-old baby, but she doesn’t actually have super powers. She’s just an extremely intelligent, extremely motivated person, and having a baby was not enough to stop her from finishing law school. Having small children takes a lot of time and energy, but Bader Ginsburg says it helped her compartmentalize her life so that she had work time, and baby time, and no time was wasted.

Of course, one essential element is a spouse who will pick up their half of the homekeeping and child care. Babies don’t hold people back nearly as much as selfish or unsupportive partners do, but Ginsburg is a smart, progressive woman who married a smart, progressive man. That was his baby and his house as much as they were hers, so he worked and took care of the baby and the house, just like she did. That was radical at the time, but now it just seems logical.

 

Between the two of them, they both raised two children and had enormously successful careers. (Martin Ginsburg was a renowned tax lawyer and Georgetown law professor.) When various professional endeavors would take up one parent’s time, the other would adjust to accommodate it. For example, when Ginsburg was co-founding the Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU in 1972, so in those years her husband just took over all the cooking and kitchen responsibilities. Ginsburg says her children were pretty happy about that.

Check out the whole interview in Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s own voice here: