Monday, October 17, 2011

Having it all?

I've been thinking more and more about careers lately - both mine and those of my friends. Mainly, I'm trying to figure out how to keep mine going on a forward trajectory, to learn more, become more experienced, have more of a say in the direction of my career (instead of only reacting to outside forces), while still maintaining my family life. And I'm not even to the point of having kids yet. But I figure thinking about this now and attempting to understand how others do it can only be beneficial for later, when there's less time and energy to devote to it.


But in thinking about it more, it truly does make me wonder how on earth women* manage to do it.


I mean, truly - I often feel like I don't have time to get to the things I want to do now, so how do you do it when you have a baby? Or once you have the second or third child? And how do you end up affording it all? (Clearly, it seems the first answer is that there is no "all." You do what you can with what you have. But I'm still trying to learn that.)


I'm certainly not the only one thinking about this. Just today, Amanda was talking about maternity leave and the impact that can have on your career. But you just had a baby! How on earth do you NOT take maternity leave of some sort? Forget about the fact that you just had a baby and need to physically heal, but what about the bonding time with your newborn? For a country that proclaims family to be first and professes its devotion to family values, I don't see a whole lot of those values helping out women who want to remain relevant and in control of their careers as well as be a parent.


I don't have any answers to this, but I do feel incredibly blessed to be a part of a community of women and mothers who speak out every day about what their lives are like and how they make it work. I know that I won't be able to have it all (or at least not all at the same time), but I do know I want to be fulfilled and feel like I've made a difference, both in my family life and my career. There has to be a way, right? Beyond just opting out and leaving the work force for years (or for good?). Especially because as the economy has sputtered and faltered over the last few years, it's painfully clear that whatever assumptions you make when you leave a career won't always be true.


If you haven't already seen this talk by Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, please watch it because it's a good one and makes some excellent points about staying in the workforce and keeping control over your career. I especially like her point about not leaving before you leave. I don't know yet how I'll be able to manage everything in the future, but I do know I want to try. And I hope that I have choices about how I'll make it work.






So how do you make it work? And this is a question for parents and non-parents alike, as I'm genuinely curious how other people organize their lives.


*Yes, I'm speaking to women because I am one, and I'm trying to figure out how to balance career and family now, and adding kids to the equation in the next few years.

8 comments:

  1. I don't have kids, but I'm reading the motherhood manifesto, which is all about this topic. It's really interesting, but pretty depressing.

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  2. I don't think it's possible to have "it all." I'm hoping I can figure out how to have "enough," but I always feel like time is against me. Ugh, I hate thinking about this stuff. Blah.

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  3. Yeah, I agree that I don't think you can have it all, but how much is enough? I guess that's where I struggle...

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  4. I guess you have to balance what having it all means to you-- I am just about to go on a 6 month maternity leave in 6ish weeks. To me- having it all means- being genuinely happy- not necessarily making a ton of money and leading the charge up the corporate ladder. I hope to have a life/work balance. My Husband was talking about this with another male friend on Sat- they both realize that they don't want to be VPs or CEOs, they'd rather have a job that is satisfying and at the same time allows them to be family men.

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  5. The cold hard fact that I'm coming face to face with, is that every moment I'm at the office is a moment I'm not with my children actively parenting them. Like every decision, it's a trade off. I read the NYT article about the Dragon Parents and it hit a nerve for me. If it were my child, would I work at all or spend every moment with him? Then I thought, you never know how much time you have, so how does that affect my decision even if my hypothetical child didn't have a terminal disease?

    I think another important part of the conversation that we can really change the paradigm on is the idea of "taking time off from a career." What is child raising if not a worth while and noble career? It's not paid, but it's one of the most challenging jobs with a huge ROI - shaping little people to be the next generation. That's not time off - that's a career change. While I think we would all agree that mothering is a valuable job, we don't often speak in terms of seeing it as equal to a paying job. I would love to see the overall discussion of this topic evolve to see them on equal footing.

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  6. Sugar - what I'm figuring out is similar to what you said - that "all" to me is being happy with whatever choice I've made. And I guess that's what it comes down to for me - I want the choice to keep working or not, or have a part time schedule or a longer maternity leave or whatever. And I really hope that when B and I are at that point, I will have choices available to me to figure out what makes me happiest.

    Melinda - I totally agree that parenting is often not valued as much as paid work is (even though there's a whole lot of lip service paid to the idea of family values). If I end up staying at home to raise kids and my husband has paid work outside of the house, I don't value his contributions more than my own - BUT at this point, our society values his contributions more. And if something were to happen (divorce, death, etc) B would be in a better position than I would be in. And I think that's scary and unfair.

    I think that as a society it would behoove everyone to figure out a way to value parenting on an equal footing with paid work, but I don't think we're there yet. However, talking about it and asking questions and learning about other people's choices is one way I know to help get us there.

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  7. It's a touchy situation for a lot of people I know but count me on the bandwagon of "you can't have it all". I think you have to decide what makes you happy & got with it. It reminds me of something I saw on pinterest (http://pinterest.com/pin/186236631/). Sounds about right to me. LOL

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  8. "And I think that's scary and unfair." Agreed! I think society largely sees money as a path to happiness and security - so if someone in the household isn't bringing money into it, then it's seen as a lesser contribution. What people don't often consider is the contribution of keeping money in the household (i.e. cash flow staying in rather than going out to child care) and the value of non-monetary contributions to overall happiness and well being. I think you're so right that we need to be having these conversations - it's such a great topic and I'm glad you blogged about it!

    I also realize that if I have the choice to be with my children and we can live off one income from J - that's a luxury. There may be sacrifices, but I'm aware enough to know that it's a luxury. I also think a lot about the responsibility of that luxury - will I use my time to help the needy, to teach my children that everyone has intrinsic value, to love my community, to build people up, etc. etc. There's an element of privileged guilt to be able to have the choice to stay home - and I ponder how I can give back if I choose to take advantage of that luxury.

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