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FAWL programs aim to give lawyer moms a hand up

Senior Editor News in Photos

Programs for Working MomsIt surfaces almost every time President Dori Foster-Morales convenes a Virtual Town Hall meeting, part of her 20-circuit listening tour to gauge the impact of COVID-19 on Florida Bar members.

At a 13th Circuit town hall, Mandi Clay of the Hillsborough Association for Women Lawyers put it this way.

“I think the child-care issues are a big deal, not just logistically, when people are attending hearings, but just overall stress wise,” Clay said.

Some lawyers are near the breaking point, trying to play teacher by day and attorney by night, Florida Bar board member Sia Baker-Barnes told fellow members of the COVID-19 Pandemic Recovery Task Force in July.

“We’re having the same discussion in our firm,” she said.

Now, the Florida Association for Women Lawyers is offering its members a solution.

Launched in July, two programs, “Grow Your Village,” and “Help a Sister Out,” are designed to harness the power of lawyers helping lawyers.

Grow Your Village is a networking program for FAWL members that links lawyer moms so they can arrange playdates, exchange child-care opportunities, “or to simply have someone to commiserate with when summer camp is canceled.”

Help a Sister Out is a way for lawyers — even non-FAWL lawyers — to donate an hour or so a month to help a lawyer mother “take a few things off her to-do list,” including, but not limited to, picking up the dry cleaning, shuttling a dog to the groomer, checking on an elderly parent, or providing hearing coverage or other work-related assistance.

Kimberly HosleyThe programs are the brainchild of newly installed FAWL President Kimberly Hosley, a single mother of an adopted, 2-year-old daughter.

“What really led me to it was looking at various lawyer mom Facebook groups, and seeing all the working mothers posting about how much they were struggling to make it all work,” she said.

Hosley jokes that she “knows their pain.” She is occasionally forced to drift from room to room to prevent her toddler from disrupting a remote hearing.

“She knows how to turn a doorknob, so I just keep closing doors behind me to give me a few seconds head start,” she said.

Hosley recalled an NPR report about a post-pandemic survey of five advanced economies, including the U.S., that showed working moms are devoting 15 more hours per week than working fathers to childcare and household chores.

“Home schooling and child-care responsibilities, even with both parents working from home, are still falling primarily on the mothers,” Hosley said.

Since she announced the programs in July, lawyer moms have formed groups throughout every region of the state, Hosley said.

“Most groups are about two to five people, depending on the geographic area,” she said. “We have matches all around the state.”

Help a Sister Out is proving popular, too, Hosley said. A volunteer recently came to the rescue of a woman lawyer who, despite having family support, couldn’t get a ride home from an outpatient medical procedure.

“The family that was available had to watch her children, and they won’t let you schedule the procedure without giving them the name of somebody that is going to pick you up,” she said. “There’s so much that so many women are struggling with right now.”

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