Career Planning from the Female Perspective

Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like the whole “biological clock” thing is a constant source of pressure for us ladies, regardless of whether you want kids or not. You constantly have to assess your current situation in the back of your mind. Even if you don’t want kids now, are kids something you might want in the future? If so, how much time do you have left to make that happen? What if you want a partner in your life first, and what do you do if you’re still searching for that person?

I definitely see the benefits of being able to hit the snooze button on that biological clock for a few years. Life is unpredictable and having things like egg and embryo freezing are just some of the amazing ways technology is helping women increase their options as they age. I’m so glad things like this are emerging and I’m hopeful such technologies become more reliable and accessible over time.

There’s just so much that goes into the decision to have a family and it takes time before one might even feel prepared to make that kind of decision. I like to think of myself as being fairly career motivated, but planning out my career as a woman is complicated.

There are throngs of people who are constantly saying “You’ll never really be ready for kids, just do it!” But as someone who likes to reason through decisions and lay out all the facts, I couldn’t just let myself dive into something that requires so much in terms of commitment and resources as parenthood.

As I approached 30, I started to feel like my time to start trying for a family was arriving. I felt like my career was in a decent spot, I had my husband at my side, and we had recently purchased a home and felt financially prepared to handle the loss of income that comes with maternity leave.

We were lucky enough not to have any trouble conceiving and soon the reality of impending parenthood was upon us. We were nervous, excited, and so much more. I had so many conflicting fears and feelings. The idea of taking time off for maternity leave daunting. I knew taking a year or so off for a baby was going to delay my timeline for achieving my next set of career milestones. There were endless nagging doubts in the back of my head.

How much time should I take off? Once I have a child, will my superiors see me differently? Will they be hesitant to give me more responsibilities knowing that I have a child and my priorities will likely change? Will they think twice before advancing or promoting me for fear that I might take time off again to have another child? Will taking time off limit my career prospects if I start seeking employment elsewhere? Will people see me differently once they know I’m a mother?

I know I’m far from the only one who’s struggled with this. Women have made a lot of progress in society but we still have a ways to go.

It was a tough spot; I knew that my priorities in life were about to change and it felt like no amount of planning and preparation would adequately equip me with the tools to handle it.

Life tends to be like that a lot. You can do all the planning in the world, but things happen and you need to be ready to adapt at a moment’s notice. Once I was pregnant, there wasn’t much I could do other than learning to let go and just roll with the punches.

A year and a half later, my baby has arrived and I’ve had some time to think about my future and revisit this post. When I first started writing it I had no answers, just questions, worries, and doubts. Now that I’m starting to get the hang of this motherhood thing, I’m realizing that having a child doesn’t necessarily mean sacrificing who I am, it just means making room for this new person in my life. I’m slowly finding ways to do the things I’ve always enjoyed doing, but with my little man in tow.

Career paths are extremely fluid things. They’re something you need to constantly look at and reconsider. In today’s world, things are changing so quickly that if you can’t adapt to the changes, you’ll be left behind. I’m looking back at all my initial fears and concerns and realizing that they seem a bit silly now. Of course I still want to do well for myself and my family.

We put so much pressure on ourselves these days that sometimes it feels like if you stop to take a breather, you’ll miss out on something important. But it’s so, so important to take time for yourself, to stop and look at what you’re doing and make sure it’s still what you want to do.

Tim Urban, blogger at Wait But Why, has an excellent post on careers if you’re in for a lengthy read on the subject. One of the heavy-hitting points he makes is that your career will take up anywhere from 20-60% of your adult life (minus sleeping, eating, exercise and a few other necessities).

Stop and think about that for a minute.

If potentially over half of your available time as an adult is going to be spent at a job, doesn’t it make sense to spend some time making sure that it’s something meaningful and worthwhile?

I’m so grateful for the time maternity leave gave me to step away from my career. Not just for the time it’s given me with my son, but also for the mental clarity it’s giving me to see that time is so, so precious and that my job takes up a lot of my time away from home. How I spend that time away from my family matters. And I need to make the most of it.

I still have a LOT to learn about motherhood, but I’m realizing that having a child isn’t necessarily the major career setback I thought it might be. Despite the overwhelming responsibilities and crazy life changes that are unfolding, I’m realizing that I still have strong motivations to get back to my career and try as hard as I can to provide for my family in the best way possible. I’m learning to be even more flexible and adaptable than I ever was before.

While there’s sacrifice involved in becoming a parent, I don’t have to set aside my goals and dreams, I just have to be a little more creative about achieving them. I’ve always been the type of person who loves thinking through challenges and I’ve realized that no matter what life has in store for me and my family, we’re going to be just fine.</p>

One comment

  1. Such an insightful article. This is something I’m struggling with myself. I’m approaching 32 and I always thought I didn’t want kids….until very recently. Now me and my husband are scrambling to figure out if this is something we really want to do. We’re leaning towards making the plunge. I’d probably give myself a few more years to think about it if it weren’t for my age. At 32, I don’t have much more time to wait :/ Being a female and trying to balance the often conflicting desires of professional success and motherhood can be very difficult.

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