The Question

A funny thing happened on the way to our honeymoon.

I changed my facebook status from “engaged” to “married,” refreshed the page, and saw that all the wedding product ads had magically switched themselves to baby product ads.

It’s not quite true that the first question out of everyone’s mouth is “When are you starting a family?” That’s the second question. The first is either “How was the wedding” or “How’s married life?”

But it is a question that nobody fails to ask. (Unless you’re my mom, and so hungry for grandchildren that you’re terrified that asking will jinx the situation and you may have to get another dog before baby humans make their way into your life.)

And it’s a question that I still don’t have a good answer for.

I mean, my biological clock is certainly ticking – or at least I assume that’s what’s happening because the sight of babies now makes me go “aw” instead of “ew.”

But the overwhelming emotion in the face of contemplating joining the breeders of the world is still utter and abject terror.

I’ve been looking for a way to put it into words, but I think a commenter on amalah.com said it best:

But also, this really scares me. I’m a lawyer, fiance is a lawyer, we both work long hours, and no way we can work these hours once we decide to have kids. It’s clear I’ll be the one to cut back the most (although he’ll frankly have to as well, because seriously, we were both up until 4am working last night). Anyway, your comments about staying home and its effect on your opinion of yourself scare me. Your comments about feeling like you’re always working to meet deadlines but yet you feel like a drain on the finances scare me. Comments about it not occurring to him to put the kid to bed or brush the babies teeth scare me. And the 345 comments agreeing with you scare me. I don’t want to resent myself. Or my husband. I don’t want to feel like I can’t go to as many happy hours as him b/c what I do isn’t as important. But I look at you and everyone else and it seems like it’s simply inevitable? Scary.

Even though I never really thought I’d be the type to want to be a stay at home parent, it’s still not all that simple. My biggest fear comes from what will happen by default when we do reproduce, thanks to the fact that I’m the one in this relationship with the uterus.

The Cranky Product Manager summed it up pretty well:

You’ve been understanding about the CPM’s requirement for a reduced travel schedule, her need to leave at 5pm on the dot when she once regularly stayed past 9pm, and her need to work at home when her nanny gets sick, doesn’t show up, or quits out of the blue and leaves the CPM without viable alternative childcare for 3 weeks at a time. You’ve put up with canceled and postponed meetings due to illnesses and doctors visits. You’ve gracefully dealt with conference calls with a wailing baby in the background. Kudos to you, DysfunctoSoft. The Cranky Product Manager thanks you.

So yes, DysfunctoSoft, you are enlightened. Somewhat. But she can’t help but notice you don’t give the DADS the same flexibility as you afford moms. You expect the dads to travel incessantly, work endlessly late hours, and be available on a moment’s notice. And DysfunctoSoft is hardly atypical. For example, the Darling Husband of the Cranky Product Manager works at nearby software company — let’s call it AHoleSoft — in a similar role. AHoleSoft gives Darling Husband no slack to contribute to the childcare situation. (AHoles. What do you expect?) As a result, it all falls 100% on the Cranky Product Manager’s shoulders. And that is crap, my friends. Unexpected crap, at that. Especially for someone ambitious who had dreams of taking over the world with her wealth of product management knowledge and derivative evil genius. Though she never thought it would happen to her, the Cranky Product Manager finds her career derailing, unable to accept a promotion because she can barely keep up as is.

So I guess the answer is: yes, ideally I will have children someday. I’m pretty sure I would like it (and them).

But I’m not ready to lose the birth control until I figure out how not to lose my job, and more importantly, MYSELF in the process.

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35 thoughts on “The Question

  1. Just wanted to share my experience regarding career and motherhood…

    Before and during my pregnancy, I was quite positive that my child would be in daycare following my maternity leave. I loved my job — the work I did, the people I worked with, and the salary. I did all the usual research into childcare options, planned accordingly, and put our names on the wait-lists.

    Now, here I am, 15 months after my daughter was born, and I cannot imagine putting the care of my child in someone else’s hands. I am blissfully happy as a full-time mom, and that is not to say that I am not, at times, exhausted and, at times, frustrated. (I was, at times, exhausted and frustrated with my old job too!)

    Indeed, this is probably the most challenging “job” I have ever had, but it’s also the most fun, stimulating, and rewarding. I truly feel that this is what I was cut out for, and that I’ve become a better person in embracing my role as mother.

    Of course, every woman’s experience is unique, but I felt compelled to write this because I never would have predicted that my life would unfold like this and that I would feel this way about my life right now.

    All this to say, be open to surprises! Sometimes, surrendering your plans (and fears) takes you to the wildest places.

  2. I’m definitely encouraged by positive stories like yours, and one constant I’ve heard is that motherhood is always “worth it” whatever “it” turns out to be.

    I’m also curious though, aside from being happy being a mom, how did the change affect your perceptions of your self-worth and the perceived power balance in your relationship?

    (And I’d love to hear from anyone else who can share their experience on those particular fronts.)

  3. I think my (forced) time off work has helped me so far as being terrified of babies is concerned. The thought of caring for an infant still scares the crap out of me, but I’ve grown used to being disconnected from seeing myself as a (insert job here). My job is no longer such an integral part of my identity. The loss of the work identity is really hard, but I’ve got a head start.

  4. See, that’s the thing. 99% of the breeders I know have dropped every identity except “mom.”

    At this point I see myself as Jen > Job – Wife > Hobbies. I’d like “Mom” to fit in there somewhere, definitely above hobbies, but certainly not before “Jen.”

    None of the men I know describe themselves as “Dad” in their initial self-identifiers, it’s usually 3rd or further down the line. And I get the distinct impression that’s not an okay hierarchy for women who are moms.

  5. Here’s the weird about parenthood. I’ve never actually heard anyone say that they regret becoming parents. Which strikes me as a little weird. I can’t think of another human experience where I’ve heard no dissenting opinions.

    I’m not sure where the science is on this, but I expect there are profound biological impulses which drive us to love, care about and enjoy our children.

    For me, this notion is both reassuring and worrying. I don’t like to think of myself as being at the mercy of my biochemistry (though I know I am).

  6. Darren: Sure, nobody regrets their children, but plenty of women resent the paths their lives have taken since becoming mothers. They resent their employers, their spouses, society for shunting them into a narrow wedge of a role and the world at large.

    It’s not loving and enjoying my future children I’m worried about.

    It’s resenting what my life will become as a side effect that bothers me.

  7. I am going to think a little more about your question regarding self-worth and perceived power balance before answering, but in the meantime, this excerpt from a not-so-recent salon.com article sums up some of my thoughts around identity…

    “In my own circle of peers, and certainly in my own life, I have noted a trend toward ‘sequencing’ — what author Arlene Rossen Cardozo defines as women focusing on one thing at a time, whether that’s caring for kids or concentrating on a career. Gen X parents seem less willing to be labeled ‘working mothers’ or ‘stay-at-home mothers.’ Instead, we are increasingly comfortable with the idea that we will play different roles at different points in our lives.”
    (http://dir.salon.com/story/mwt/feature/2003/10/21/genx_parents/index.html)

  8. I always thought I would get married and have kids. I love kids. I spent my youth babysitting and as a counsellor at summer camp. It never even occurred to me that I *wouldn’t* have some of my own.

    Until I thought of it as an option.

    When I grew up, it was never really an option, it was just what you do. But, for me, when I realized that it was optional I started to realize that while I like *other* people’s children, I also like giving them back. And, my many years taking care of various children ensured that I know exactly what I’d be getting into if I did choose to have kids.

    It’s funny…. on the topic of never hearing anyone say they regret it. Every parent I’ve known has – of course – deeply loved their children. To say out loud that they *regret* that choice would be I think in many ways unspeakable because it would be something that they couldn’t take back and would be potentially very awful if it ever got to their children. Once they’re here, of course you love them and would do anything for them. I couldn’t imagine anyone being vocal about regretting their choice to be a parent.

    And yet, behind closed doors, I’ve had 3 or 4 of my breeder friends – amazing parents who have nothing but love for their children – say that given the chance to do it over, they weren’t sure if they’d do it again. And in the case of these women, this was one of their deepest darkest secrets, something so taboo that they couldn’t share openly for fear of judgement. Once you make the choice to become a parent, you can’t go back, so the only reasonable response at that point is a positive one.

    On the flip side, my only sadness about the whole thing is that I *so* value the relationship that I have with my mom specifically now that I’m an adult. When I’m her age, I’d love to have children to encourage and support. The problem is, I just can’t justify giving up 15 years of the prime of my life to get to that point where they become their own person and start to be independent.

    SO – for *us* – the current solution is no kids. When we get to be 40 if we find we are missing something we will adopt an older child, but right now that’s just not in the cards.

  9. I’m glad you have the easy math on your website, since becoming a mother I can’t add anymore. *SNORT*

    OK you know you were gonna hear it from me… You’ve heard the bad and the ugly as I’ve travelled this bizarre journey of motherhood, but I think I can safely say without jinxing it that I am now enjoying the GOOD of parenthood. Ten months in and I no longer resent my child for ripping me away from everything that I held dear. I am starting to come to terms with the identity equation that includes “Mom” as one of the descriptors. The other descriptors (Professional, Athlete, Crafty Person, Friend, Lover, Daughter) haven’t fallen away, they just take up less time and space to make room for the new one. I still enjoy them just as much as I ever did.

    As far as power balance, it’s a total crock of shit that mothers always end up taking on more of the domestic work and having less of the professional life. That’s not the way it has to be. We assume that because moms get “maternity leave” that it means dads have to become some butch bacon-home-bringer. There are stereotypes for both roles, and you don’t have to fall into them. We haven’t in our family, and I think that’s because Artos took six months off work to be an equal (and many times greater) parent than me. In return for the financial sacrifices, he has an incredibly strong bond and knowledge of his son, and we have a relationship that has improved infinitely, because we have an equal appreciation for what the other person is putting in. We’re 100/100, not 50/50. EI gives up to 52 weeks of parental leave – there’s nothing stopping you from sharing it equally, except perhaps your lack of a financial strategy to prepare for that.

    Having a child is something that DOES require huge sacrifices. If I may be so bold, I’d recommend you and Neil wait a few years and get a whole lot of blissful childfree living in. You’ll know when it’s time. When it IS time it will still be a challenging transition (for both of you) but it doesn’t have to be the career-stopping, no-fun-having dredge that it’s made out to be, by others as well as me up until this point.

    Will you be somewhat less career-focused? Maybe. But there’ll be something incredibly worth-it added to your life. I said to my dad yesterday that I feel like parenting is the most important job I could ever do… and yet lookit me, I’ve got my kid in full-time daycare and I parked him there when he was only 6 months. I still think I’m a good parent, sometimes even a fantastic parent, and I’m also getting my groove back at work and on the water.

    So, all those people who say you can’t have your cake and eat it too? They can suck it.

  10. Clearly I have a lot to say on the subject…

    Might you resent your future children? I think that depends on whether (or how easily) you are able to adjust your definition of self and see all of the good things they bring to you as greater than the good things you put aside temporarily in order to have them. If you see it as a permanent loss without adequate compensation, you’ll certainly resent them. But you won’t feel that way always. And hell yes, you will enjoy them. As a recovering non-baby-person I can say without a doubt that MY kid is ten times better than anyone else’s, and I’m even starting to understand why/how other people’s kids are cute too. It’s a psychological shift that happens, and quite frankly I’m glad for it. I’m becoming less cynical and more playful and it’s awesome.

  11. Miranda: very interesting perspective! When I think of myself that way, I can’t imagine going through life not having children of my own, though there’s no desire to have them in my life at present. Perhaps knowing that much about myself and trusting that the rest will be okay is enough.

    Sue: it’s been amazing and eye-opening and inspiring to watch your family grow and change since you had Simon. And I have every confidence in my ability to wear as many hats at one time as I feel appropriate, and change them at will.

    What bothers me most is the knowledge that I will be required to put all other parts of my life on hold when we have a child, and Neil will have a choice in whether or not to do that. The gender disparity that still exists is staggering.

    For example, his company recently announced some upgraded benefits that include maternity top-up and an extra two weeks of paternity leave (so dads don’t have to take time off out of their holidays).

    I don’t know if the company intends to segregate their leave policy by gender (that’s just how he relayed it to me), since I’m pretty sure that’s a blatent Charter violation, but I kindof wonder what they’d do if Neil said he wanted to take EI and get the topup for 3 months…

  12. Challenge Neil to do it, then. That’ll tell you pretty quick whether you’re going into a possible baby situation with a person who’s really ready to put his own career on hold for a baby. It’s a choice. He can make it. My hubby did!

    The gender disparity happens because women and men let it happen. It doesn’t have to be that way.

  13. But why do either of us have to sacrifice our careers?

    Why can’t we both excel in our chosen fields while sharing parenting duties (with hired help)?

    I’m just choosing to tell my side of the story rather than speak for Neil, but dropping out of his career at this point would probably be far more detrimental to his professional life than for me to do the same with mine.

  14. Oh Jen, you & I are more alike than you know!!! I feel EXACTLY the same way as you!

    The clock is most definitely ticking, but I just don’t know if I can do it. I look at our friends/family members who have had children and how much their lives have changed, and well, I just don’t know …

    I think I want a bebe at some point, but how can I be sure?! *gulp*
    To be honest about it, I think I might very well be a little too selfish (hey, I said I was being honest!) …

    As I’m now in my mid-early-30’s (LOL), I guess Dan & I should probably decide sooner rather than later …

  15. I think there’s a distinction between “sacrificing” your career and what happens when you become a parent. You fall in love with your child in such a way that while you enjoy work and are still thrilled at the chance to flex your intellectual muscles… but deep down, at the back of your head, you know that the work you do at “work” is different than the work you do at “home” with your kid.

    OK look at it another way… think back to when you first fell in love with Neil, and he with you. Wasn’t there a time when you’d rather be with him than at work? ANY work? And now, you’re both going to work, but if one person’s staying home for some reason (assuming not sick as a dog), wouldn’t you truly like to stay home with them? Now imagine you have that same sort of love for a child… you become willing to tone down the work because there’s a little person waiting for you to come home. If your kid’s in daycare, or being looked after by a person you trust deeply, then you can go off happily to work and be the best work person you can be. But when they’re sick, or your daycare provider closes at 5 so you have to be there to pick him up… that’s the most important thing. No question at all. I think that only people who don’t have kids can judge you negatively for being there for your kids instead of for your co-workers.

    Helping a company identify their values and develop a strategic plan (ie what I consider the pinnacle of my work time) pales in comparison to the opportunity to see Simon learn to crawl, as he’s doing right now. If Simon truly needed me at home because he was a sickly child or because we couldn’t find daycare that I trusted, then I would stay home… while still searching for a way to get back to work. Is that sacrifice? Maybe, if you consider a career the end-all be all of your lifetime achievement. But nobody ever died wishing they’d spent more time at the office.

    I never ever would have understood this before I had a kid of my own, trust me. So I don’t expect you to get this now. But you will, I promise you. What seems like a sacrifice now (spending less time at work, perhaps not being on the fast track anymore) will seem like the most obvious choice in the world when there’s a little one learning to say your name.

    Someone please shoot me before I become more cliched.

  16. Not sure how helpful this will be to you but my honest opinion is that you don’t know how you are going to feel about childcare/staying at home/part time v’s fulltime work/whatever until you become a parent. Decisions made beforehand often go flying out of the window when baby arrives as I’m sure you know.
    I’m a Mum of three and I have to say that there are times when you do feel like you’ve lost yourself and I’m not sure that being a working mother can prevent this and you will find there are times when you are doing the lions share of everything but if you are in a strong relationship with a man who is singing from the same hymnsheet then you will figure it out. One of best pieces of advice I ever heard about parenthood was ‘this too shall pass’ and it always does, sleepless nights, colic, teething all end eventually and while their replacements are a whole other blog post, you’ll never regret being a mum I promise.

  17. props to at least thinking about it, talking about it and not just getting preggers and all oh well we’ll figure it out. it is such a huge decision. i don’t know what the answer is i just know that if you go in open minded and with all the bases covered that you can cover then whatever is meant to be will be… by the time you have baby you may not want a career for a few years or you’ll find away to do both people who care *ahead* make good parents.

    if that makes no sense i will explain in person some day :)

  18. I’ll throw my two cents in, if you don’t mind. I’m an electrical engineer and had grand plans of establishing my career and thinking about kids, oh, sometime around 30. Well, as a result of some bad decisions in college, I ended up pregnant at 21. I still graduated college with my degree, took three months off after the birth of my son (worked until 4 days before the due date), and then my deadbeat EX (who wasn’t working at the time) stayed home with my son while I continued to work full time. We eventually married (in our case getting married “for the sake of the kid” was an abysmal failure but live and learn I guess) and have since divorced. My son is now 7 1/2 and finishing up first grade; he sees his dad every few weeks when his dad bothers to make the effort. I’m getting remarried in August to a wonderful man who is actively involved in my son’s life, and who my son claims “will be the best stepdad ever” so overall life is good.

    In my experience, yes having a child changes your life, of course. But it doesn’t have to take over your life to the extent that you lose yourself. I still go out to eat, get coffee with friends, go to the gym, go hiking, go camping, sing in choir, have my crafty hobbies. I went skiing when he was two months old (took turns at the lodge with my family in the Tahoe area), took him camping at 6 months old (by myself with extended family; the ex didn’t camp), and have been able to leave him with my mom for a few days to still go backpacking in the Sierras. I still work on my needlework hobby for an hour or so in the evenings, and always bring a project with my to soccer practice, little league practice, whatever.

    It’s been surprising to me how many other parents say “I don’t have time for that” or “I used to go backpacking before we had kids.” Maybe part of it is because I was so young when I had him; I didn’t put the rest of my life on hold, but integrated being a parent into the rest of my life. I still attend classroom parties and field trips and soccer games, but I also attend important meetings at work and professional conferences. I know I’m lucky that I have a short commute (2.5 miles each way) and my employer is especially flexible. But I just wanted to say that having kids doesn’t mean you have to lose yourself. My life may not have turned out how I expected it to, but I wouldn’t trade being a parent for anything.

    Given a choice, I recommend you and Neil enjoy some time “just the two of you” before having kids, but I have a feeling you’ll manage just fine if/when the time comes. There’s no reason you have to give up your career, unless you want to. There are days where I would love to be able to stay home full time, and other days I’m glad to have the extra income to afford a housekeeper and fun vacations. At any rate, my son regularly tells me I am the “best mom ever” so I can’t be screwing up too badly by working full time, right?

  19. When you asked about my perceptions of self-worth and the perceived power balance in my relationship, my immediate thought was that neither of these things have seen any negative impact, but I wanted to think about the question further. I wanted to consider why that answer came to me so quickly, and if there were other facets to the issue I hadn’t realized at first.

    I asked my husband what he thought, and he literally laughed out loud. He fully agrees, there’s been no negative change to my self-worth (or his) or the balance of power in our relationship. I think it’s because the decision for me to leave my job was truly ours to make. There was no external pressure. Stigmas and stereotypes didn’t factor into our decision-making process. We discussed the pros and cons, and ultimately followed our hearts and did what we felt was best for our little family.

    There’s been a lot of talk here about the things we “give up” or “sacrifice” by becoming parents, but I’m not sure if that’s really a useful way of looking at the issue. Technically, it’s correct. You do give up things when you have a child; you also give up things when you first move out of your family home, and when you take marriage vows. For the most part, people are willing to give those things up because what they value in life has changed. You happily move on to another chapter in your life.

    Even the idea of putting a part of your life “on hold” is not really practical. For those women that re-join the paid workforce after a maternity leave, much can change during their absence. It’s not like putting a video on pause, and then returning to the exact same place. You’ve changed, your priorities have likely changed, perhaps the whole way you view the world has changed. Your field of work, the organization(s) you work for, the expectations of your employer or clients have probably seen some change too. Again, it’s like starting another life chapter, one
    where some things are familiar and other things you must navigate anew.

  20. Keep in mind that having children is different from having _babies_. Kids are only little and relatively helpless (the sort of resource-sucking, crying blobs our worst-case brains imagine) for a short time. Our girls are now 8 and 10, going to school most of the day, much more independent. And much, much sooner than that they became their own little people with personalities and interactions with us, their parents, that represent two of the most remarkable interpersonal relationships I’ve ever had in my life.

    When our first daughter was born, I was lucky enough to be at a company where my boss also had kids of various ages, and was not only open to the option of my switching to part-time, but actually suggested it. My wife has always had a more stable and better-paying job than me, so that was also a straightforward decision.

    But that’s our situation. We also had a lot of help from parents and in-laws, especially in the early days (though that wasn’t free of stress either).

    I actually was a little surprised at this question you asked:

    > But why do either of us have to sacrifice our careers?
    >
    > Why can’t we both excel in our chosen fields while sharing parenting duties (with hired help)?

    My answer to that is: what does it mean to sacrifice your career? Raising children is a huge, extremely important task. It’s difficult, especially physically early on, and more so mentally as they get older. It takes a lot of time and effort over a number of years. Unless you currently have vast swaths of time and mental resources that you’re currently dedicating to hobbies or some other activity you don’t really care much about, the time and effort for your children has to come from somewhere.

    For many of us that somewhere is our work — often taken from the rather too much time we put into work that we’re not really being paid for. Even at that same flexible company back in ’98, before I was a dad I spent many pre-release nights at crunch time at the office until after midnight, and occasionally even until past sunrise the next morning. I was not willing to do that once my daughter was born.

    And that worked okay for me, though I ended up working part-time and bringing home less money. When the dot-com bust layoffs came in 2001, I was early on the fired list, probably in part because I was part-time and not a core part of what the company was doing. So be it. I freelanced while the kids were young, and that gave me the right kind of flexibility. I returned to a salaried job with former university friends who also let me work flexible hours, and part-time when I needed to. I have furthered my career as a writer and editor, and expanded it to being a paid geek and web guy, BECAUSE I chose to dedicate less of my time to a particular company after our kids came along.

    Now I have a different sort of issue. I’m on medical leave for cancer treatment, and I’m home more than I want to be. I can take the kids to and from school most days. If I were home with cancer and had no kids, I think my life would feel much emptier, and I don’t think whatever different career path I might have taken would feel worth it.

  21. I’m like Sue here, realizing I can’t quite shut up about this yet.

    I should reinforce that my wife Air and I didn’t have a simple you-stay-home-I’ll-work setup. Thinking back on the past decade, it seems to me that the arrangements (for the kids, between us, with our work, in our hobbies) were always changing. Honestly, in many ways our daughters kept us from getting into a rut. They change so much so quickly that we’re always working to adapt.

    There have been times when each of us has worked more or less than the other, times when we had formal childcare arrangements with my parents or hers or others, times where we just juggled things as we could. Many times when we didn’t get enough sleep.

    But (assuming my treatments work and the cancer doesn’t kill me) sometime in the next short few years both of our girls will be teenagers wanting most of their time to themselves. My wife and I could both jump right back into hard-charging careers. But you know what? We’ll probably ramp up our work again, but not *that* much.

  22. When I got pregnant with my daughter, I was in retail management. I took my 12 weeks FMLA leave (US) to stay home with her. I was gonna be a working mama, though-no staying at home for me-I was liberated, baby!! But returning to work absolutely devastated me. I can’t count the times I cried en route to work or at work, knowing that I was missing out on my daughter’s life for 40 hours a week (45, counting an hour commute on a good day).

    Timeline here: my daughter was born in January 2006. In August, hubby and I began discussing a job opportunity he had-this job would allow him to make enough money for me to become a stay-at-home mom. He took the job, and in late September, I found out I was pregnant with my son. I planned to work through the pregnancy, but had very severe fatigue that made that impossible. I ended up quitting my job in December, after spending some time on medical leave to see if the fatigue would pass (it didn’t).

    Now, I’m a stay-at-home mom of a 28-month-old daughter and a 1-year-old son (well, he’ll be 1 on the 28th). And I’ve never been happier. I am still me, and the balance of power didn’t shift in our marriage. I don’t spend time with grownups as frequently, but I was never a huge social butterfly to begin with. My best friend and I didn’t spend much time together anyway-she’s got 1 daughter & 3 stepdaughters, and works AND goes to school. She barely has time to sleep!

    And as far as work…well, I did love my job, but there are definitely things I do NOT miss-being verbally abused by customers, for instance. But then again, there’s a difference between your career and mine, so I totally understand your hesitance to leave yours. You have more invested in your career (education-wise, especially) than I did.

    Just never say “never”. Everything can change in an instant the first time you hold your baby.

  23. It’s not so much that I expect to be able to carry on exactly as I have been this past year and that children won’t change our lives immensely. I’m okay with that.

    But what I’m afraid of is ending up being on of those parents Miranda mentions – the ones who carry the unspeakable burden of loving their children, but resenting the lives that parenthood has brought with it.

    There is no question for us that at least for the first number of months, I will be the one who ends up taking an extended leave from work. And I am okay with that. But the unknown and uncertainty around what I would return to – not speaking of the company or my job specifically, which are both subject to change long before we end up having kids – the way I return to work (or if I do) and how that balance plays out: that is going to be a big change for me, and one I’m not sure how I’m going to handle.

    How do you get past that fear and not let it make your decision for you? Or should you?

  24. I remember adjusting to motherhood after the birth of my first son 9 years ago. In my 8th month of pregnancy, I managed a Y2K software conversion, I was leading an accounting team of 13, and working 12-16 hour days. I had managed 4 consecutive years of successful financial audits and I was in line for a promotion. I was being mentored by a well-experienced CMA from England, whose business and leadership philosophies meshed beautifully with my own. Conversations with him were inspiring and I made valuable personal contributions. I felt important to that business’ success and I felt valued by the company.
    At that time, EI benefits for maternity leave lasted 6 months. So, I found a good home daycare for my son and returned to work when he was 6 months old. Within days of my return to the office, my mentor notified me that my colleague and hierarchical “equal” was being promoted to be my new boss. I was extremely discouraged, angry and disappointed, but used the opportunity to venture off on my own and work as a contractor, to experience other businesses (the majority of my post-university work experience had been in retail and manufacturing).
    I wouldn’t say that I lost that opportunity to advance in my career in that company only because I had a baby – that restructuring was probably going to happen, regardless.
    Over the years, and two more children later, I have experienced ups and downs in my career. I have continued to operate my own practice and now work from my home office. Last year, working an average of 25 hours per week, I generated more revenue than I earned in salary working at a thankless job, 50+ hours per week. In 2006, I remember my then 4-yr-old saying (as he went off to preschool), “Mom, I love you. I super-duper love you. I want you to work from home forever!”
    For me, being a 100% stay-at-home mom would not work. I need the professional part of my life to keep me whole, and my children need me to be fulfilled to be the best mother I can be to them. I am not fulfilled without my profession as part of my life.
    That said, I have been quite selective with my clientele. I have clients who support my choice to have family as my first priority. My 3 1/2 month-old comes to business meetings and I mute my phone during conference calls, while I breastfeed.
    What I’m trying to say is, our lives will play out from the decisions we make, and regretting those decisions is a pointless exercise because we can never truly know what our lives would be like if we had made different decisions.
    I was recalling a Jacqueline Onassis quote, but wasn’t able to find the exact one about her opinion of the importance of motherhood, but I did find this one: “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do well matters very much.” She has a few other good quotes too. http://womenshistory.about.com/od/quotes/a/jackie_kennedy.htm
    I agree with Derek. “What does it mean to sacrifice…?” How do you measure success?
    My 9-year-old recently said to me, “Mom, you’re the trunk of the tree and we are all the branches. If you fall, we fall. That’s why we can never let you fall. And most important right now is Aaron – he’s your roots. When he’s big enough, he’ll become a branch. And, maybe, if we’re lucky, he’ll be a branch that roots itself in the ground to support the trunk.”
    I receive little gems like that at least weekly, and they make my life so worthwhile!
    Another observation I have, is that my primary relationship (with Skye) has blossomed with each child. I feel closer to him now, than ever. Skye is very supportive emotionally and financially. He appreciates my efforts to provide the majority of childcare, maintain the household and manage my business. We are in a partnership, and if I wanted to work full-time, and it made good financial sense, he would stay home with the kids. But I like my life this way, and I want to be close to the kids while they’re young. So, this working arrangement works best for us now.
    This is an interesting topic, on which many people have strong opinions. I’ve enjoyed reading all the postings.
    Jen: To you and Neil: Enjoy your adventure, wherever/whenever it takes you.

  25. Thanks Carla. I’ve read yours and Jean’s comments over and over again quite a bit, and am realizing I wasn’t giving myself nearly enough credit.

    With everyone saying “you can’t plan for how your life will turn out after children” I was kindof thinking on the extremes of that, and figured that parenthood was something that happens to a person, and you spend the next number of years firefighting and struggling to keep your head above water (apologies for the mixed metaphors) without having much impact on things.

    Instead, I should have acknowledging that (as it has been so far) life is very much what I (we) choose to make of it, and we have a lot of choice and power in determining how and where we adjust to make room for kids.

    That said, I did leave out a crucial piece of information (especially judging from the common advice of “WAIT”): Neil and I *do* plan on waiting at least a few years (maybe a few more after that) before we expand our family to include more humans. It’s just been something on my mind lately, and I figured one can’t think too far ahead on these things.

  26. My wife and I had a baby boy 15 months ago, so I figured I could give our experience while it’s fresh in my mind.

    Early on, my wife and I made the decision to split the parental leave. We did this for two reasons – a: she is further along in her career and makes more than me, b: I really wanted to have the experience.

    Shortly after our son was born we started to think about what to do after the parental leave dried up. Both of us are happy in our careers and wanted to continue working, so we decided to look at sharing a nanny. As it turns out, we found an amazing nanny and are sharing her with a couple of very good friends of ours. From our perspective, everything has worked out perfectly.

    Outside of this, I think we do a very good job of sharing the parenting responsibilities and I have no problems taking care of our son while my wife is away. In fact, I’m happy to have time for just the two of us to bond. Also, my wife and I make a big effort to not put our lives on hold while we raise our child. We still participate in our various sports, we still go camping, we still travel… now, we just have someone else to share these experiences with.

    Also, in regards to Darren’s comment, there is definitely a biological component. One moment it’s just you and your partner and the next moment there is this little baby that you have never seen before and know nothing about – but there is an unconditional love that cannot be described. The whole experience still blows my mind…

    …and on that note, it’s time to go home and see my boy.

  27. I think waiting a few years is a good idea if that’s feasible for you. My wife and I love the memories of the years we had together before the kids were born. They were different, and sometimes we pine for the simplicity and spontaneity of that time.

    Then again, we were younger and simpler and more spontaneous then anyway. Lots of things have changed our lives in the past decade and a half, and the children are only part of those changes. Still, now that the girls are older, I can sit here commenting on your blog, while one daughter laughs watching YouTube videos with her friend on another computer in the living room, the other is playing in another room, and their mom is podcasting with her co-host in the basement studio. (Oh, we are nerds.) I went shopping for clothes (and to visit the Apple Store, ahem) by myself today. We’re going on a trip in a couple of weeks.

    Life is fun. And we can have fun, together or separately, as a family now.

  28. My worry about having kids (not that I’m having any, but hypothetically) would be more that they would be a huge financial burden. Screw the career, how can people even afford them? From what I’ve heard, daycare is ridiculously expensive nowadays ($1500/month or something? That’d be over 50% of the average take-home pay for someone working in Vancouver). I have a well paying job, but I don’t see how I could manage to bring up a child alone like Mom did (for my first few years), or afford to give the kid a house (I find something tragic in little kids living in apartments, but maybe that’s my suburban childhood talking).

    Maybe one of the career issues in all of this is that we don’t have it like our parents did, where they could work at one company for their entire careers (my dad’s had 1 job, ever). Nowadays we have to change jobs every few years in order to stay competitive and move up, and this is where taking a half year off, or not working full time for a while, would hinder our professional development.

    But all that said, I suppose somebody’s gotta keep the earth populated, and it ain’t gonna be me…

  29. If we had waited until we could afford kids, we never would have done it ;) Somehow, we’ve found a way.
    Like you say, though, Gillian and Miranda, it’s not for everyone.

  30. First: I vote for bringing in quadradic equations into this whole adding business. Might as well get some proper hard brained maths in and you’ll get rid of a lot of dolts. ;)

    Second: Kids: DO IT! Get on your bike and do it. or don’t. Follow your gut. But if you decide to do it.. just get on with it.
    You’re going to be happy, mad, sad pissed off, euphoric, and sometimes all at the same time. :)

    But it’s better than not doing anything at all then waking up at 38 wondering if holding off was such a good plan. If you don’t work for a company that will let you do flexible hours find one that does. Lots do. And if they don’t build in your own flexible hours. Most ppl who run companies have kids. They know that you have to be home for the sitter at EXACTLY 5pm otherwise the sitter will sack you and then they won’t have your pretty brain to work for them anymore. So don’t worry about the fine print. As long as you realize that you’re letting yourself in for a hell of a ride you’ll be alright. And from what I know you’ve been on a pretty good spin until now. That’s all I have to say about that but you know I’m a kook and I do NOT have many issues with bucking the trend.. so do what’s right for you.

    All the things you hear about having kids are true though.. don’t expect to get a single decents night sleep until he/she is 5yrs old.

    But then you get an awsome best friend in the world for life. Think of it as 5yrs in exchange for a best friend. (I know you shouldn’t think like that or.. even worse let them know that you think of them like that.. but I do – he’s the best person in the world since sliced bread.. oh hell since water) Do it. :)

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