Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Women Who Want It All... Don't Forget To Have Kids

Morning Joe's Mika Brzezinski wrote a HuffPo article yesterday about career women and kids. It really struck me, as a career driven women who wants to have it all. By "all," I mean the successful, long, happy marriage; healthy, well adjusted kids, and the exciting, never boring, meaningful and good paying career. Am I being naive in thinking I can have all this? I find many women of my age group wonder this as well. Many of my brilliant and driven female colleagues insist it can be done. Brzeziniski talks of women, such as my self, who are willing to work long hours, pay their dues and give it their all to have a career. These days, "most young women expect to have a career and plan to go the extra mile." Then she hits us with the truth, "Ladies, one more thing: and perhaps the most important thing I will say here today. If you plan to have a family, please .. PUH-leeease, do NOT forget to get married and have kids. And start now. Even in your 20's!"

"What? What kind of feminist is she?" some might admonish. But maybe she has a point. I spoke to a diplomat friend of mine who echoed this sentiment. She is a member of the Women in International Security organization, a successful diplomat and has traveled the world. But she hit 36 and realized she forgot to have kids. Her words of wisdom to me, "You have to be as intentional about your personal life as you are about your career." After all, what are you working those long hours and raking in those big paychecks for, if you have no one to share it with? Is it wrong to want a loving family to come home to? Is it a sin against your feminist beliefs? A crime against yourself as a confident, successful women? Brzeziniski says, "You should go for your dream career but never forget that you're a woman who deserves a balanced life that includes a loving family."

Read the article, I would love to get some feedback on this one.


Ryan said...

Very interesting. It makes me feel better that the point is not that you can't have it all, or that you definitely will have it all. Its all about working for it all. And since when have we, forward-thinking, ambitious women, been afraid to work?

pathos said...

I absolutely agree with her statement that there is no perfect time to have kids. There are always trade-offs to every decision we make. Have your kids young and you must postpone those thrilling promotions and big paychecks. Have your career first and possibly risk never having kids or being exhausted all the time. But - when you're older you also tend to be a more patient parent, more secure in your decisions. But also more set in your ways and less tolerant of the hassles of kids. See - there are good and bad to both decisions. And sometimes situations in life take your choices away from you. I think the worst mistake is thinking you have superhuman control over "when/where/how/who". You can spend too much time "planning" how your life will be and not enough time just enjoying your life. Live more in the moment - see where life takes you today, and be flexible enough and open enough so that when the road curves you can just go with the flow.

Queenie. . . said...

Oh yes, I have insight on this one. I'm a 37 year old professional woman, and currently 8 months pregnant with my first child. I've been happily married for 9 years. I definitely focused on my career for a long time. I wouldn't say that I intentionally put off having a family, though.

For me, I just wasn't ready to make the sacrifices necessary to be a parent until now (well, actually 2 years ago, but frankly, when you wait to have kids, you're dealing with declining fertility). I don't regret any of my choices, and I think everyone has to work out the cost-benefit analysis for themselves, in terms of when to have them. I was fortunate enough to meet a great guy in my 20's who was willing to hold off on having kids.

I think you can have it all, but balancing it all is a different question. I sort of took Mika's advice more to mean that you need to give serious attention to your personal life as well as your professional life, and not so much that you need to have kids. I think Mika is right in her assessment that you need to have a social life even as building your career, and you should be establishing significant and satisfying relationships--women who fail to do so risk depression, burnout, etc. I didn't really take her comments to mean that young professional women should be having kids as much as that they should be thinking about whether they want them, because short of a sperm donor, it's not something you can just DO. It takes time to find a partner you really want to be with. I think many young women are pushing hard professionally, but dating only casually (or not at all).

As for kids, though, I guess I don't see the harm in waiting (other than that pesky declining fertility issue). It's certainly been better for my career that I didn't have them early on, because it meant I had greater flexibility and ability to commit to work 24-7 in a way that parents do not. (Although, let's be realistic--the men in my office who have kids have a different deal than women with kids--it's almost a given that their wives taken on most of the child rearing, which I find sooo sexist). I haven't had to make the sacrifices I see some other people make. And, I'm finally in a good place career-wise to have kids, although it will certainly never be "easy". For me, this was the way to do it, and I have no regrets.

The best thing you can do, I think, is to find a professional woman that you admire who has a solid relationship and kids, and find out her secrets. For a long time, I didn't know anyone who made it work, and it seemed sort of impossible to me. It was such an eye-opening experience for me to finally meet someone in my own field who had three little kids.

(And I'm sorry this is rambling--I'm just finishing a huge project at work, and 3 hours of sleep a night really isn't enough for a pregnant woman!)

Katharine Keith said...

thanks Queenie... I really appreciate you insights!