Raising children is tricky because it is generally rewarding to see the grow in wisdom and maturity, but it is generally boring to deal with raising them properly. You must cleverly architect their choices, so that you don't have to say no too often. You need to read many of the same books over and over again, in the same way (so as to not mess with their heads). You need to figure out how to instruct them and teach them and discipline them, but still not be overbearing.
Being a parent is a weighty job, but it is also mind-numbing. How many times can you praise a child for pooping before you worry about how low your standards have dropped? How many times can you read Thomas and the Blue Mountain Mystery before you start to muse on how their logic would never fly in your Philosophy 101 class?
Nonetheless, raising kids is a consuming task. Kids take up mental, physical and emotional energy, and they force you to make decisions more rapidly than you can build a system to insure that the same problem doesn't repeat itself twice.
Likewise, cultivating a big career is a monumental task. More than just holding down a job, a big career requires frequent engagement, a willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty. To network relentlessly, and to add value consistently. It requires consistently choosing work over any other commitment or obligation. It means that mulling over solutions to your work problems is your modus operandi.
Raising kids and cultivating a career are both life consuming tasks. It's possible to attempt to do both, but the long term energy required to do both well is not sustainable for most people.
I think that most people (myself included) will do better to consciously choose the thrust of our time and energy. Will you spend most of your energy raising your kids or growing your career?
You can't do it all, so make a choice
In an amazing blog post, Cat Alford talked about how successful "Mompreneurs" did it all. For eleven out of twelve, the secret was not doing it all. They largely outsourced childcare and the running of their household to either paid help or to their spouse.
Nobody should doubt how much these women love their children, but it should be clear that they make choices. To the extent that is reasonable for them, they've chosen to devote more time and energy to their career than to their kids. These moms are among the 16% of women who prefer working full time when they have children, and they have chosen to continue to pursue a big career.
Their choice is not an easy choice, but it is a choice.
Just because you can achieve a big career, doesn't mean you have to. Formerly big career women can choose to not have a big career, at least not while we have little kids.
60% of women with children would prefer part time work while they have children at home. Choosing part time work sounds like striking a balance between kids and career, but its not. Part time work NEVER means a big career. You are shorting your career to be with your kids, and that's a great choice.
In many cases, mothers need just enough marketplace work to maintain their sanity.
Why don't we discuss kids and career simultaneously?
I believe that we fail to discuss kids and careers together because we hate making choices. We delude ourselves into believing that we've got the best of both worlds when we hold down a full time job and leave as soon as possible to get our kids from daycare. In reality, we've really achieved nothing more than too much stress and not enough love.
You may be like me, a woman who thought that she should have a big career. After all, I've got all the right credentials, and the early career performance to make it seem like a career is the right choice. It's tempting to believe that raising kids won't be as valuable of a use of my time as cultivating a career.
However, I have come to believe that raising my kids can be just as valuable (if not as interesting) as cultivating a career. Tomorrow's post will be on what making this choice entails, and Thursday's post will cover the opposite.
I hope that in discussing kids and career as part of the same conversation, I can help myself (and other people) make clear-eyed decisions about the trade-offs they are facing.
I'm a wife, a mom, an employee, and a personal finance nerd who is devoted to spreadsheeting my way through life.