Moving around the world with my parents in high school had crushed my grades, but I got serious my final year of college after I got my partying out of the way. I somehow graduated and found myself starting out in the “business” world…at the bottom.
Without having the focus and completing internships like many of my young colleagues, I had to hustle. Hustling meant hard work, long hours, dedication, and planning. My original plan was to follow my mom’s career, which ended at age 25 when she married and started a family. So I was planning to marry by 25 and have my first child by 26 – just like she had.
That was ALWAYS my life plan growing up, but the apple ended up falling FAR away from the tree.
25 came and went. So did 26 and then the rest of my twenties without a shred of desire to become a mother. I had started my third professional role by this point, even with the word “senior” in my title! It felt so exciting to wear power suits and attend happy hours and travel on business trips across the country. Watching my reward miles and hotel points stack up felt like winning the lottery.
Why in the world would I want to be tied down with kids when I was having a blast and making money?!
By my early thirties, I suddenly felt an internal void which the cocktails and annual bonuses could not fill. Most of my friends (some younger) had married and started having kids. While my life plan no longer included children of any size or shape, I started feeling bitterness towards my friends’ familial lives versus my single one of carefree loneliness.
I began avoiding social outings with my married parent friends. I simply could not relate to the conversations of pregnancy woes and various children’s milestones. Nor did I care. Or did I? Or was I just in denial? I came to realize my bitterness and avoidance actually meant that family (and yes kids) needed to be incorporated back into my life plan.
The first step for me in starting a family was to find a suitable partner. While it did cross my mind to just have a child on my own (what a naive thought that proved to be!), I knew I needed to try for the “traditional” approach since I had already blew past my “traditional” plan of starting a family in my mid-twenties. Two weeks shy of turning 36, I married the love of my life, and the sound of ticking clocks began booming loudly in my ears. We started trying right away.
The irony of infertility just kills me – the one thing (pregnancy) I had been preventing most of my adult life, was now the one thing that I wanted, but couldn’t immediately have.
The first deterrent to getting pregnant was my job. Once again, that pesky career got in my way of motherhood. I started a new job shortly after marriage; a job which allowed me to partially work from home. I knew telecommuting would be the ideal balance for when we started a family. But I couldn’t get pregnant right after starting a new job! Right? That would be so wrong and definitively not ideal. Plus, I needed three months of employment under my belt in order to qualify for FMLA (wink wink). So although we had already been trying, we decided to take a break for the new job.
I didn’t realize it then, but this was the moment my life ambition drastically shifted from career to family.
When the time was right, we started actively trying to get pregnant. After almost a cumulative year of peeing on various fertility sticks, plotting my cycles, and checking my basal body temperatures – it happened. I became pregnant and gave birth to my beautiful son at the tail end of age 37. You bet I took the full 12 weeks off of work as allowed by FMLA! I apparently became “disabled” from the pregnancy and had to go on Short-Term Disability in order to get partially paid by my Fortune 500 company.
Those 12 weeks flew by in a blur of diapers and sore nipples. I dreaded the day I had to return to work. Frankly, I simply did not give a shit about work anymore. This was certainly a shocking twist of events in my life plan! In my arms laid the most important thing in my life now – my son. Not some stupid job where I sat in front of a computer all day crunching numbers and answering emails. Who cared about the success of the company I worked for or when my next promotion would be? My sweet little baby was much more important! My heart just wasn’t in my career anymore.
I never saw this coming after the intense professional dedication during my twenties and waiting to start a family so I could accomplish my career goals.
But I sucked it up. Money can be quite a motivating factor so I dragged myself back to work, telling myself every day that I am doing this for my son. “I’m working for money to provide my son the means to a bright future.” – this was my new daily mantra as I drove crying into work each day. I now saw other working mothers in a new light. I no longer wondered why some colleagues don’t climb the corporate ladder. I got it.
My focus was on family and not career. Yet I needed the career to have provide for my family and make things easier. But I decided that I didn’t need to work sixty hours a week or strive to become the vice president. For the first time in my life, I have found an inner peace with the professional status quo. Although not all working mothers lose their career or professional ambition like I did, I feel I GAINED a much stronger ambition for the success of my family instead.
For me, the career can wait.