The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent


The Notorious-RBG-Stay-At-Home-Dads Club


Ryan Park, one of last Term's clerks for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, has a nice piece in the Atlantic on how RBG helped to prepare him for his current position as a stay-at-home dad. That sure caught my eye! Just for the record—and because it's kind of cool, and because I'm kind of proud of it—I think I was RBG's original stay-at-home-dad law clerk.

During law school, I stayed at home with my daughter Sarah (born about 2 weeks into my first semester—bad planning, that!) during the day before heading off to Georgetown at night, and I had an asterisk on my CV indicating as much (as a way of explaining why there was no other employment entry for 1983-85). When I went to interview with then-Judge Ginsburg for a clerkship with her at the DC Circuit, she immediately asked me about that; stay-at-home dads weren't unheard of in the early eighties, but they weren't real common, either. To this day I'm convinced that, while it didn't exactly get me the job, it sure helped getting me to the top of her pile of applicants … which in turn means that a decision I made for reasons having nothing to do with "career advancement" may have ended up advancing my career quite profoundly.

When I returned to clerk for her eight years later during her first term at the Supreme Court, I had two kids by then, and while I wasn't exactly a stay-at-home dad anymore, RBG (and my co-clerks, to whom I'm very grateful) made all sorts of allowances for the rather stringent time constraints I was under—I begged off the overnight death penalty appeal shifts and my co-clerks covered for me, and RBG was always understanding about my need to be home for dinner (as long as I got my work done!). In her first interview as Justice (with Linda Greenhouse at the Times, if memory serves me correctly), she made a point to note all that—all part of her long campaign to get more men to do "women's work"; RBG often said that to her, the point of the "women's liberation" movement was not (just) to get to where women could do things (being a Supreme Court Justice, corporate CEO, etc. formerly reserved for men, but where men could do things (cook, take care of kids, etc.) formerly reserved for women.

In any event, Park's piece is quite nicely done, and well worth the read.