Let’s get straight to the point. I’m a 34 year old, career-driven female who has studied and worked hard to be successful in my job and, as much as my ovaries starting screaming for a baby, my head needed to put a career plan in place first.
I know that not everyone would relate to this approach, but I also know that many women will. A lot of people I have spoken to have related to same situation I found myself in. I wanted to start a family, but not at the expense of my career. So what’s a girl to do? Well I did what I always do when I’m in a difficult situation – I made a couple of lists.
The first list was all about the Why. Why was my career plan so important to me at this stage in my life, and why did I need to have it in place before I start my family. The reasons why will be different for everyone and I found that these were mine:
One of my primary motivators for career success was so that I could help provide for my family and give them the best opportunity I could. I was afraid that if I got pregnant and had a baby, I would have to take a step back and then not be able to provide financially as much as I wanted. (And yes I completely ignored the fact that I wasn’t doing this alone, and that many people before me managed just fine!)
My career is the part of my self-image which I have almost been most confident about. Even through times of self-doubt about my looks, relationships etc., I always felt strong in my career. Parenting, on the other hand, I knew nothing about!
I genuinely love what I do, working with so many different people and constantly learning. Frankly, I was concerned that I’d get bored if my career slowed down!
These reasons are personal to me, but that does not make them any less real or important. So it was time to make the second list, the What list. What could I do between now and getting pregnant that would help with the “Why’s”.
1. Work for the right company:
The first step was to ensure I was working for a company that I believed would have opportunities for me pre-pregnancy, during pregnancy and beyond. This step happened about 2 years ago and my decision was based on what I looked for in a company. It will be different for everyone but I do recommend taking an honest look at your current employer to see if they are still the right fit for you.
2. Create a 2 year, 5 year and 10 year plan (What!!):
Now that I am with the right company, I need a career plan. So the first 2 years was focused on being successful in the company and opening as many paths for progression as possible, both in terms of promotions and lateral moves. As part of that, I was able to imagine what success would look like over the first 5 years and start sharing my thoughts about it with my manager and other people I trust within the company. The 2 year and 5 year steps were important to address my concerns about having to take a “step-back” and to feed my need for constant learning.
The 10 year plan was to address my self-image and took some more time. I had to fast forward and imagine I had a child who was maybe 8 or 9, and perhaps they had a brother or sister. In 10 years my parents may also need support and I thought about whether that was something I’d like to help with directly. I spent imagining the type of person I wanted to be both in work and at home, and what the different milestones along the way would be. At the end, I decided I would ultimately switch to becoming a full time coach which would allow more flexibility to support all my family while still being a rewarding career. Imagining my future self has given me more confidence in the person I am at home, as well as at work.
I’m almost at the 2 year mark now and who knows how close to plan it will turn out, but taking the time to do this helped me overcome the “Why’s” that were blocking me.
3. Plan for my absence:
This part may be optional for some people, but I couldn’t ignore the fact the I knew well in advance of my company that I was planning to be out of the office from anywhere for 6 – 12 months. So I started to begin to remove myself as the single point of failure for my function. I looked at everything from team structure, the amount I delegate and how easy it would be for someone else to take on my responsibilities. Doing a little bit in this area every day had more benefits that I expected; as well as feeling more calm about my planned absence, I felt I was actually setting myself up for more success and started to get very excited about the reason I was doing it – to start a family!
4. Accept it’s not all about me!
Ok this may have been the hardest part (honestly). As much as I had my own career concerns, I wasn’t planning this baby on my own. So once I got my own head straight it was time to talk with my partner and decide together what we wanted to do next. This helped to address my fear about not being able to provide as much financially as I was gently but firmly reminded that a) there is more I can provide than my salary, b) with some planning our finances would be just fine and c) there was no reason I couldn’t continue my career advancement when I was ready.
5. Get in the right frame of body and mind:
Finally, and possibly most importantly, I had to relax and just start taking care of my body and my mind. Having a career plan in place and a baby plan in place with my partner meant the only thing in the way was Me. Mostly this meant being aware of when I starting overthinking about baby/no baby and just letting that go, trusting it will all work out as planned. Making sure I got enough exercise was also really important here because it helps keep my head clear.
And that’s it. A couple of months into step 5 I found out I was pregnant and we were delighted. But of course, the first trimester had it’s own challenges which I look forward to sharing with you soon! In the meantime if anyone can relate to what I went through, I hope this is someway helpful to you and know that you are definitely not the only woman working through that dilemma.