“I love my job, but I want to have a baby.” Have you said this before? You worry that if you have a child, it will affect your career, professional growth and sanity. Despite the immediate “what ifs” that enter your mind, the aching desire to have a baby won’t go away.
These thoughts caused me many sleepless nights. I spent years in college and law school getting my degrees and becoming a professional. I got a great job, worked hard, and earned the respect of my peers. I had charted a very traditional professional course to put in the time, develop my skills, and advance. About the same time, I married a man, also a lawyer, and we soon began a family.
We had our first child and the needs of our
home life immediately changed. We had child care expenses, diapers, and music classes. I wanted to be home more with our son. Simultaneously, the demands of our careers grew. Projects at work became larger with higher stakes and more time requirements.
My husband and I decided that the best thing for our family was for me to scale back at work. Less days in the office, work more at home and, thus, have more time with our son.
A couple of years went by and we had a second child. We continued to balance family and work obligations. I scaled back a bit more from the office and increased my time telecommuting. I was worried because I was spending less hours in the office working with colleagues and my career path was changing. I feared it may never recover.
One day, I found myself standing at a crossroads where I wanted to have another child, but I wanted to keep working and advancing my career. I thought I couldn’t do both – stay professionally relevant and have a third child. How could I maintain a meaningful presence in the legal field and meet the needs of my family with three young kids?
I tried to ignore my desire to have another baby. I had two kids, both happy and healthy. The work life – family life tug and pull was challenging, but we were making it work with the help of a nanny, grandparents, and babysitters. Why add another child to our precariously balanced life?
At the time, our youngest was three years old. He would be off to Kindergarten in two years, be more independent and self-sufficient. With both kids in school all day, I planned to work more. If my husband and I decided to have another baby, that would put me back another three to four years. I was so close. Why would I do that?
But that nagging feeling maintained: I want another child. My family does not feel complete. Someone is missing at our dinner table. If I don’t have another child, or at least try, I know I will always regret it.
In the end, what did we do? We had another child. And, as I write this, I am pregnant with our fourth.
For me, my family is the constant and makes my work worthwhile, whether I am spending 40 hours a week or 10. But, growing our family has changed my career path. With young kids, I am not available to be in the office, on a conference call, or at meeting whenever or wherever.
Today, I own my own boutique law practice. It provides me flexibility and time with my kids, and it has allowed me to pursue and do types of work that would not have been previously possible. There are pros and cons to having my own practice, including the ebb and flow of available work and time, but for me and my family it works.
I have certainly made a substantial commitment to our family by having more children, but I refuse to let my professional skills stagnate, plateau, or disappear altogether. I am staying current in the legal field, and I am crafting ways to make my work and family balance. The dynamic relationship between the two will definitely change many more times over the coming years, and when it does, I will find a new balance.
These decisions are personal. I share my thoughts on this topic to recognize that this is a true and honest struggle that many working mothers and couples face. If a couple chooses to prioritize family needs over work desires, or vice versa, the other shouldn’t become a distant fantasy. Patience and creativity can open new doors and possibilities – in family and in work.