MetroCareers: You Can’t Have It All
By Kathy Zucker
Seven years ago, I was one year away from getting promoted to vice president. My boss and I were in agreement on the timing, and my career as a marketing director was steamrolling ahead.
I always thought I would be a typical Manhattan career woman, working full time with my kids in daycare or home with a nanny. I never in a million years expected to stay home. Yet here I am, home for almost seven years.
Pregnancy and motherhood turned out to be much harder than I ever expected. There is virtually no support structure for families in the United States. I found that local daycares had wait lists over a year long; how is it possible for the wait list to be longer than the gestation? And I was extremely uncomfortable with the process of hiring a nanny.
At a recent Metro Moms Consulting Network meeting, one of the attendees said that I was setting an example for “all of us”. Many of the Network members are parents of infants and toddlers, and I realized they are watching me build businesses to see how to juggle parenting and career.
The next Metro Moms Consulting Network meeting is on Friday, July 8. If you are trying to figure out career next steps, stop by to get inspired by all the moms who are stepping off and back on the career track.
The recent article by Ann-Marie Slaughter, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” highlights just how difficult it is to balance parenting and career. The one sentence that jumped out at me was “Having control over your schedule is the only way that women who want to have a career and a family can make it work.”
I know many women who take time off when their children are young. The problem with that approach is what about grade and high schools? It’s not like your children stop needing you once they start school. Who is helping them do homework? My au pair often has questions about my daughter’s kindergarten assignments; they are only going to get more difficult once she enters first grade. Also? School schedules do not match traditional work schedules.
As well, my husband’s career has become more intense over the last seven years. When my oldest child was a newborn, he took vacation days once a week to enable me to work. Two children later, his vacation time is a precious commodity husbanded for relaxation. He spent last week on a business trip to Taiwan, for which we had four days notice. While he was gone, a close family member passed away. If I had received my promotion to vice president, I would be working long days and sharing the executive suite on-call responsibilities. Dropping everything to accommodate my husband’s business travel would be extremely difficult if not impossible.
And if my job required travel? The only way that would work would be if my mother, who stayed home to raise three children, could step in to fill the gap in my household. That is, if she wasn’t already busy staying overnight with my sister’s children while their mother travels for business.
I enjoy working, and I also want to keep my career alive. To further those ends, I have launched three companies in the last six years. For years, I had child care one day a week so I could attend meetings and did the rest of my work during naptime and at night after the kids went to bed. I woke up at 4 a.m. to write this article while my newborn baby slumbers on a futon steps away from my laptop.
What has this schedule gotten me, aside from a lot of stress? I have made some money, albeit far less than I earned at my former corporate jobs. I have no career gap, which means I could return to healthcare marketing, most likely at the same level as when I left. But most importantly, I have acquired new skills and grown as a person. Based on my experience, I could get hired as a social media marketer, a position that did not exist when I was working full-time.
Most importantly, I am there for my kids. Literally. As my health improves after the birth of my third child, I have been picking up the traces of responsibility for my children. Today, for the first time, I was 100% responsible for all three kids all day. From grooming and feeding to naps and playtime, we fell back into the pattern I established when the older two were infants, seamlessly incorporating the new baby into our regular routine.
At the end of the day, I provide stability for my kids because I have always been there for them. Babysitters come and go, and my kids have great relationships with many of them, but they look to me for security and consistency. Knowing that, I would make the same career and economic sacrifices again if I had the choice.
Kathy Zucker, serial entrepreneur and mother of three, writes about juggling career and family in an urban setting. See what Kathy is up to at her blog and on Twitter @kathyzucker.
Tags: CHOICES, metrocareer