Career or children? How I’m coping and striving to have both.

Let’s face it – being a parent is hard work. And it’s severely underappreciated.

I’m not even in the thick of it myself yet and I can already feel the struggles of motherhood weighing down on me. Work-life balance is the newest sought after thing as today’s parents desperately try to maintain a workload of a full-time career and the workload of raising children.

We underestimate how much this balancing act will cost us, and without taking adequate time for self-care and rest, we end up with burnout. In my experience, this is not pleasant at all and can take a period of time to recover fully from to feel somewhat back to normal.

EJ Dickson from Bustle wrote in her latest blog post “Young Women Are Convinced Motherhood Is Going To Suck — And They’re Right” that many young women today feel like they must choose between a career or having kids since it has become simply impossible to manage both. Multiple factors to take into account here are the high costs of childcare, previous student loan debt and high medical bills, the stigma working mothers face after returning to work (not being able to join happy hour or taking leave for a sick child), and maternity leave policies, or lack thereof, that provide little to no support during a big life change.

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Why is everything expensive?

It’s no wonder younger women are placing value on work over motherhood lately. Even in my case, I had placed value in my career in over prospects of marriage and having children because I had spent 5 years of my life (and plenty of hard-earned cash) investing in myself for the work that I had wanted to do.

So when the big news did come crashing through my bathroom door, I was overwhelmed with emotion. I was happy, but it felt like any future career opportunities had died that day. Once I saw that test come back positive, it felt like I was literally flushing away all of my hard work and my now worthless bachelor’s degree down the toilet.

I had to reinvent myself and start over. And it was hard. My work identity fiercely fought against my new mom identity and had started to fade into nothingness. Somewhere in there, I lost myself among the bills, the deadlines, and the dirty diapers. I was a complete disaster. Along with the postpartum depression crap that was happening to me at the time, it all really sucked.

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Candid family photo as we wait for business partners to arrive.

After a while, I had a sudden realization – Since when has anything in my life been perfectly linear? Sure, I face more obstacles if I choose to continue down the career path I had chosen at the beginning, but life has a tendency to throw wrenches in plans of any sort that I try to make. Big events like these force me to slow down, take note of how I’m feeling, and see if I need to adjust my course.

I’m thankful that PJ came into my life when she did. She helped me remember what I felt was the most important to me in life. Of course, I do have moments where I fondly remember the freedom I had before having her, but now whenever she stays for an extended visit with Grandma, I find myself missing her and covering her in smooches and hugs when she returns.

After I reviewed my options, I found that it would be best for me to take a brief pause in my career. However, I would not leave the workforce entirely though, that would completely ruin me. I’m the kind of person who needs to work or I would end up going nuts.

So currently, I’m working a few side jobs while I am continuing to network, study up on industry trends, and preparing myself to get my hands dirty when I am finally ready to hit the ground running back into the marketing world. Maybe if I have the time, I’ll conduct some field research. That may be wishful thinking at the moment with how full my plate has been lately!

I have to keep in mind, this season is only a detour. Not the end of my working days. Not the end of what I’ve worked so hard to attain.

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PJ with her first cupcake for her first birthday.

And the more that I work on my own, I find that I like being able to be my own boss and call the shots. What would stop me from starting my own business? (I’m already a part of the in-laws’ family business in real estate!) Of course, I could come up with a million reasons on why I shouldn’t even bother, but it’s an option I’ve been considering for a while now. If anything, life and motherhood have been trying to get it through my thick skull that I need to be fearless.

And after this past year, I think I’ve finally been enabled to be just that. I was so concerned with doing things a certain way, and I was trying to take a more traditional path towards success. That path caused me to have a lot of anxiety if things didn’t happen like I wanted, and it caused me to cling on to a job I wasn’t completely happy in. Baby PJ came into our lives and turned it upside-down, dumping out all of the junk and silly things that had collected over the years. Things in our lives that did not improve our well-being were completely eliminated. Children definitely make you re-evaluate your life and priorities, and they leave no room for things that serve no purpose.

My fear of failure in everything was finally defeated by failing over and over again. I eventually got used to it. I’m finally able to be at peace if things become unpredictable and blow up in my face. PJ has also forced me to be very efficient with my time management. (And that’s a good thing!) With these two critical things, I can face new challenges without withdrawing into my shell – free of the perfectionist chip that was on my shoulder.

While I’m here in this season, I must remember to be thankful, to keep learning and working (even if it’s outside my field), and remember to breathe and take care of myself so that I can be the best version of myself that I can be for me, my husband, and my dear daughter.

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