Career versus Family: Do We Have to Choose?

As I get closer and closer to the ripe (haha) old age of 30, I am feeling my biological clock starting to tick.  So  many big life decisions come into play at this point (not that I am in a relationship right now but I see all my friends getting married and having little mini-“thems” so I can't help but think about this).

For my female readers who are the same age (or maybe older than me), please stop reading because the following neurotic information will probably make you worried.  If you continue reading, please release all liability to me for ruining your day and making your biological clock tick even more. Women around the world (well predominantly North America) are delaying childbirth longer and longer.  For many reasons, including financial reasons, wanting to establish their career (I am one of them) before they have children, and because many don't feel ready (hello? responsibility? Yuck!).
Biologically, there are many reasons why a woman would want to start having children before the age of 35 according to Baby Center.

  • Fertility rates decline after the age of 30
  • They decline even more after the age of 35
  • Rates of miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy are higher
  • Increased risk of having a child with chromosomal abnormalities
  • Its much more difficult to give birth as an older mom
  • Women delaying first childbirth to between ages of 35 to 40 have a higher risk of breast cancer

parenting or career

Now that I've scared you silly, lets talk about women having a career versus family.

Nowadays gender roles are completely different than they were even just 30 years ago.  Women are a strong factor in the work force, out learning, out educating, and out achieving our male counterparts (sorry guys!).  Notice how I didn't really say out earning 😉 More university graduates are female compared to male.

Despite these improvements to our advancement in the work force, it is still very difficult for women to do both, a career and a family, successfully.  Many may disagree, however, a recent article in the Atlantic titled Why Women Still Can't Have it All really makes you think.

I've seen many full time moms (even full time single moms) do it while raising a family of three.  Their partner also worked full time.  It can be done but I think that you have to be very organized, and more importantly, you have to be comfortable with the feeling of guilt.  Guilt that you're not focusing enough on  your career, guilt that you're not a good enough mom, and guilt that you're not a good enough partner to your spouse.  This is probably why so many children are spoiled these days, they are given toys, iPads, iPhones and other instant gratification gifts because their parents feel guilty for not being able to spend time with them.  I know that if I have kids this might be the case, though I'll try my best not to fall into this trap.

Either you feel comfortable with guilt or better, you learn how to compartmentalize things.  For example, set yourself a certain period of time for family time and catch up stuff for work.  The Atlantic article suggested that the career ladder doesn't necessarily exist for women with children, it is more of a jungle gym.  Stepping in and stepping out of the workforce throughout a career may be necessary.

Also, you probably have to survive on less than 7 hours of sleep every night.  This idea of work-life balance is probably bunk. 😉

Personally, I don't think that a woman has to choose between career and family.  I think it is possible to do both very successfully, but that it will take flexibility and a “go with the flow” type of attitude and patience, lots of patience.  My personal plan (yes, I have a timeline which is ridiculous) is to hopefully have children in a few years and I would like to work part-time instead of full time if possible.  I wouldn't want to give up my career entirely to be a stay at home mom (I admire stay at home moms!) but I have a friend who plans to do that if and when she has children.

Readers, do you think women have to choose between career and family?  Can it be done?

24 Comments

  1. Jane Savers @ The Money Puzzle on March 11, 2013 at 8:09 am

    I guess waiting until you are more financially settled to have children but children are exhausting and waiting means you will be older when the sleepovers start and they learn to drive.

    People talk about babies keeping them up at night but teenagers are the really exhausting part of raising children. I know because I had 2 of them and they were good children who didn’t give me much grief but they still wore me out.

    The longer you wait the older you will be when the teenage years start.



  2. Erin on March 11, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    You don’t have to choose between children and career but often women end up in much less comfortable circumstances with children than without.
    www.guardian.co.uk/lifea…tt-society
    Often it is necessary to make choices for children that do not support making good career decisions. That does not mean children are not worth it just that it takes a lot of planning and informed decisions. Personally if I could go back in time I would have more children and less money.



  3. lpc on March 11, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    But the whole point of Anne Marie Slaughter’s article is that the women who manage to succeed well, like herself, in having both a successful career and family, is that they are in complete control of their schedule, and that’s only possible if your position allows it. It wasn’t until she changed jobs that she finally faced what the majority of women workers have to deal with.



  4. Teacher Man on March 11, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    Now that is an interesting comment Jane. I’m a high school teacher and I always wondered if this was the case.



  5. krantcents on March 11, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    As a woman, you have different issues. In my many careers, my family always came first. I never came late or avoided something because of family, but I had to plan better. If I knew I would leave early for an event, I came in earlier. I made changes where I could so I could support an event, game, or something else.



  6. Well Heeled Blog on March 12, 2013 at 12:04 am

    This might sound glib, but it’s not intended to be – why do you have to feel guilty? Or why should women expect to feel guilty because they have kids and work? Most people have to work to support themselves and their families. Most kids are turn out just fine as long as they have parents who love them. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good, and don’t let good be the enemy of done.



  7. Koala on March 12, 2013 at 9:22 am

    Why do we hear so much about guilt from the moms and not from the dads?

    I don’t think anyone can have it all. No one can have the extremely time consuming career, make it to all of the kids’ activities, volunteer for the school trips, be on the PTA, help with the homework, etc.

    Work life balance is attainable.



  8. Cassie on March 12, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    The fact that this is even a question is part of the problem. When a man has children, no one questions whether or not he’ll choose between his career or his family. There is a different expectation of women, and as long as that expectation is there we will be forced to choose, and defend our choices, in many ways. I think within individual relationships there is the possibility for women to have both, just like men do, but it’s definitely a case by case basis we’re working with there. Overall, for the majority of women, I don’t think it’s possible to have a the same degree of success in a career as the equivalent man would while having a family. Perception is a huge issue. When it stops being a question and we just make the necessary changes to allow for it, sure, but right now for the majority of women I’d say we have to choose or let something fall through the cracks.

    This whole approaching 30 bit isn’t fun 🙁



  9. Teacher Man on March 12, 2013 at 6:34 pm

    Good point Koala.



  10. Young on March 13, 2013 at 1:07 am

    @Cassie- haha no, approaching 30 isn’t fun 🙁 thanks for sharing your thoughts cassie- you took the words right out of my mouth!



  11. Young on March 13, 2013 at 1:08 am

    @Koala- How is work life balance attainable? Or do you mean unattainable? 🙂



  12. Young on March 13, 2013 at 1:08 am

    @WHB- lol maybe it’s just me then.



  13. Young on March 13, 2013 at 1:09 am

    @krantcents- you’re a good man Krantcents!



  14. Young on March 13, 2013 at 1:10 am

    @lpc- thanks lpc 🙂



  15. Young on March 13, 2013 at 1:10 am

    @Erin- Thanks for your perspective! I guess hindsight is always 20/20. That’s why its great to discuss these things on this blog! I am trying to absorb all of your wisdom, you see! 🙂



  16. Young on March 13, 2013 at 1:11 am

    @Jane- UGHHHHHH



  17. Koala on March 13, 2013 at 10:28 pm

    Attainable! There’s nothing wrong with not volunteering for every thing that comes up with a kid, while also aiming for the top position in their field. I know people who have great happy family lives, a successful career, but at their stage they wouldn’t want a promotion. Nothing wrong with that 🙂



  18. Renee on March 15, 2013 at 9:09 pm

    I’m having this struggle right now. I’m 26 and thinking about having kids next year. However I’m not where I want to be in my career so do I wait or do I do it now and work on the career after? Is it fair for me to get a promotion and then announce 4 months later that I’m pregnant? Do I work part-time because I have no family here to help us out? Can I get my next promotion if I’m only working part-time?



  19. KK @ Student Debt Survivor on March 16, 2013 at 4:38 pm

    I can’t comment on career vs family because I don’t have kids. But I can say those stats are pretty scary. I just turned 30 and I know the bf wants kids, but we haven’t really discussed timing or anything. I guess maybe we should eek.



  20. What Other Bloggers Are Saying #34 on August 18, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    […] asks when someone (the ladies) should



  21. Jacqueline on August 17, 2015 at 4:59 pm

    I am 35 and have two children. I also hold a high position with my company. After I had my daughter last year I was told by two supervisors they hoped I was “done” having kids because they couldn’t do without me. I took short (6 weeks) leaves with both kids because I was worried about work. It’s hard and the guilt is real. We have decided to have a third child, but I will be taking a part time position and resigning my title to devote the time I feel I need to be a better wife and mother. It’s a shame that’s the way it has to be, but I don’t see another way.



  22. Kyle on August 17, 2015 at 9:59 pm

    That is a rough compromise Jacqueline. I don’t envy parents and the touch choices they have to make.



  23. Swati on December 29, 2015 at 8:17 am

    That’s a nice article but my point of view is a bit different. I feel what a mother can do for her child no body else can .And the best we can give to our kids is our time.doing work with flexible timings can be a gud option atleast for the first 3 years of the birth of a child.



  24. Mlc on June 28, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    This is all very good. However, I asked for some remote working i.e work from home or reduced hours since I now have a one year old. I was told because I am a manager I cannot get this. Kind of implied choose between career level or family i.e be a junior employee. Really annoyed me.



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