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How to Have a Career and Raise Your Kids

How Do You Balance a Career and Kids?

I had a long chat with my girlfriend yesterday, and between talking about our love lives and the latest we ventured into the realm of her budding career. She's one smart cookie and has been working her way up at a law firm for a few years, and now she's facing the possibility of law school which comes with some obstacles. Her worries don't have to do with getting into a good school or dealing with tedious applications; instead she's wondering if becoming a lawyer would mesh with her vision of having a family in the next five or so years.

Most graduate programs like to see that you've had some work experience before going back to school, so if you follow their recommendations that means you don't go back until your mid to late twenties. Obviously, modern medicine has allowed women to have kids later and that's conducive to our desire to have it all. But, what if you want to start having kids in your early thirties?

The problem my girlfriend is facing isn't an uncommon one — graduate school isn't cheap, and she wants to know that she'll be able to use her degree. There are so many women out there that make it work with successful careers and full families, and I have serious admiration for them. What would you do if you were my girlfriend — go to school and try to make the best of a work-life balance, or try out another career path that might be more kid friendly?


Join The Conversation
andrennabird andrennabird 9 years
This is a serious issue for myself and a lot of my friends. I'm currently a law student, and I've seen different things that can happen when one has children out of law school. First, so many female attorneys have difficulty even getting pregnant when they do decide to have a child. Being a lawyer is high stress, and it can have a significant effect on getting pregnant. Then, how will your firm handle it? I've seen many firms allow women to move to part time during their pregnancy, and work only 4 days a week, then return to full time. It depends on whether you want to remain full time at a bigger firm or move to a lesser paying small firm or government job that is more compatible with being a mother. Before law school I nannied for a couple who were partners at a local firm. I was appalled at how they raised their children, and they honestly felt they were doing a great job at balancing work and home life. They rarely saw their children, and the children craved attention as a result. It was not a good situation. On the other hand, I've seen it work out really well, like the mother who worked only 4 days a week. In the end, I believe one can make a family and a career work but it takes planning and compromise. I'm certainly willing to make sacrifices to make it work!
julieulie julieulie 9 years
Wow, it is totally foreign to me to hear someone say that they left college because they started dating someone who made enough money. I'm not saying that to be offensive; just that I went to a top university where the women I knew were DRIVEN (sometimes borderline ferocious!) and we were all there to get degrees and use them, rather than to meet someone -- and a lot of them are the breadwinners in their relationships. I think it must be a product of how and where you were raised; I'm sure it's probably different in the south or midwest. My fiance is a radiologist and will easily be making $300K per year within the next 3-4 years and it will just increase from there... but I can't fathom not working as a result even though I don't have to earn an income. I'm getting my Ph.D. in oncology and even though I don't always love what I do, I'll certainly keep doing it, even once we have children, because a) I can't imagine putting 4 years of undergrad + 6-7 years for a Ph.D. to waste, and b) because we need new cures for cancer so I feel like it's my duty to society to keep working towards one.
MandyJoBo MandyJoBo 9 years
First of all, I think maybe 1/3 of the people having kids should actually have them. People put more thought into what they're going to wear than if they should have kids or not. Most everyone has the desire/instinct to breed, but not everyone should. There. Secondly, you aren't locked into a life unless you do decide to have children. Then you are stuck. If you stay in school, or go back, you can simply leave when your life changes. Then if you decide to go back to school later for whatever reason, you will have less to finish. I made the mistake of quitting when I met my boyfriend in college because he made enough money to make it where I never had to work. At the time, I didn't want to work. Now I think it would be nice to have gotten a degree in something, just for credential's sake.
karlorene karlorene 9 years
this is def a big thing women have to face. i'm finishing my undergrad, but luckily i'm doing it in 3 1/2 years- and i'm going straight to grad school to get my masters. i'll still be pretty young when i finish and plan on having my kids in my late twenties... hopefully it works out that way. the profession i'm going into though is def pretty kid friendly- speech therapy. but i won't lie- having to get a masters rather than a 4 year doctorate was a big push for me- i dind't want to spend another 4 years in school, plus possibly even longer if i wanted to specialize in something
chancleta chancleta 9 years
hum it's tough on one hand it's not good to live your life on what if's (i'm 31 and even though i'm married we still have been blessed with a child) but on the other hand if you want more time for a family perhaps a more family friend profession is in order then again if she went to law school and did the lawyer thing for a while couldn't she teach when she's ready to be a mom?
gabi29 gabi29 9 years
I don't think graduate school and having a family have to be mutually exclusive. Men typically don't have to decide between the two, and neither should women. One of my professors in undergraduate firmly believed that having children while she was in graduate school made her more driven. I think we can have it all if we're willing to put forth the effort. While I started my PhD in Genetics right before I turned 22, after a year of working in the "real world", I feel that I could have deferred my matriculation for another year. Grad school is a full-time job, especially in the sciences. I definitely wish I had more time to enjoy my youth.
CFO-Blog CFO-Blog 9 years
As a practicing lawyer, I would say that you just can't predict what your future is going to be like. I never would have guessed that my passion for my career would fade so drastically into the background and that my family would become my top priority. However, if your friend is pretty confident that she'll want to put her family first, the question is whether she'll be able to find a job after law school that's conducive to that lifestyle (yes, there are such jobs for attorneys but they don't pay as well (of course) and it's not the glamourous practice of law that you see on tv). Also, it may well turn out that the cost of attending law school wouldn't be worth it if she doesn't plan on practicing for many years; also, if she plans on pursuing a lower-paying job (i.e., not a job with one of the top law firms, which pay first-year associates $150K per year), she may want to find a less expensive law school (there aren't that many out there, but I wouldn't recommend graduating with $200K in loans in exchange for a $50K per year job). I, for one, find my job rewarding. I never have enough time for all the things I want to do, but I *like* being a working mom. That said, the biggest thing I do to balance work and family is to put family first. I don't have the highest paying job that I could have, I don't take cases that require a lot of travel, and I am willing to not be seen as a "star" in the office. At one time, the latter would have been unthinkable - but that was before I had kids.
darceyy darceyy 9 years
I'm currently in grad school for a MA in Art History, directly after graduating from undergrad. I'm glad that I'm going straight through, banking on the fact that I look better on paper when I'm 24 with a MA on my resume, rather than being 22 and just coming out of college looking for a job. Thankfully I got into a good program and I think the higher salary I'll earn with my degree will pay off the loans (eventually). As for settling down and starting a family? I'd like to--It's hard living apart from my boyfriend while I'm in school 2 states away--but staying in school right now gives me the time to focus on my studies and figure out exactly what I want to do. When I'm done school I can settle down/get married/negotiate careers and locations with my boyfriend. Plus, this way... I can be sure that I'm not rushing into the job-market OR a marriage!
KAWilliams1 KAWilliams1 9 years
I left my job when I had my first daughter and when she was 1 year old started my MBA program. During my program I had my second daughter while in my late 20s. Now I have the education I need and plan on re-entering the workforce when both of my girls are in elementary school. I feel like I have been able to achieve the best of both worlds.
lawyerjenn lawyerjenn 9 years
as an attorney (having been to law school and been in the practice 4 years) here's my advice.... HAVE THE BABY DURING LAW SCHOOL (presuming she's married now of course). Trust me when I tell you that you do NOT want to have to stress about what will happen to your job because you are pregnant. I did everything right and I'm currently 29. And guess what? I am scared to death to have a kid because I don't want to get 'fazed out' at my firm. Firms are much more forgiving to people who are already parents as opposed to people who want to do things like (gasp) take maternity leave. Law school (especially with summer time--built in maternity leave!!!) is a whole lot less time consuming than the actual practice of law. You have no idea how much less time you will have. Okay, done preaching (hope it didn't sound that way).
thewavingcat thewavingcat 9 years
i'm going straight to grad school after i get my b.a. but i do sympathize with women that have to think of things like that. i definitely struggled with this over the past few years. having a family is very important to me, but i also want to make sure that i have a stable career with a good income in case things don't go as planned. when my parents got divorced, my mom was left without a career and four kids. she never dreamed she would ever get divorced and always thought she would be a homemaker. she's worked so hard and i'm really proud of my mom because she's such a strong person, but i don't want to be in that situation because it was so hard for her. i've been with my boyfriend for more than four years now, and we're really happy and more in love than ever. even though we plan on getting married someday and he'll be a doctor and make a pretty good living, i want to be able to support myself and he's very supportive. i feel very lucky to be in such a supportive relationship and have such a great role model as a mom.
sittingonawall sittingonawall 9 years
I completely agree with julie, I realize I'm a bit young to comment on this but I'm not planning to take time off before grad school, honestly I didn't know it was considered a normal thing to do. Both my parents pulled it through in one go and so did my cousin.
julieulie julieulie 9 years
Personally, I don't understand why people take time off before graduate school if they know they are ultimately going to wind up there. It's one thing if you don't know (in science, a lot of people try to work for a year or two if they didn't get a lot of research experience undergrad to ensure it is where they really belong), but if you KNOW you want to go to graduate school/law school/whatever, why waste time first? The only valid reason I see is if you didn't do well in undergrad and you can't get in, but that's something you should think about in undergrad. I started my Ph.D. (in oncology/medicinal chemistry) straight out of undergrad. I'm one of the youngest in my program, and everyone is so jealous of me. They wasted time afterwards, won't have their Ph.D.'s until they are in their mid 30s, then have 5-6 more years of a post-doc, then probably 6 years as a junior faculty, and they'll be 45+ before they actually get a career. Meanwhile, I'll achieve everything 8-10 years before them, AND I don't have to worry about having kids while in graduate school since I'll have my Ph.D. before I'm 28. Why put off for tomorrow what you can tackle today?
katejlogan katejlogan 9 years
This is a real toss up. I have a pretty kid friendly career, but honestly it isn't what I really really want to do when I grow up. I work in education so there are lots of possibilities when my family/work balance changes, but being a lawyer doesn't seem to have as much wiggle room. Maybe I'm wrong. I also think this has a lot to do w/ her mate. Is he/she willing to be the primary parent while your friend is going to school and working? That makes a huge difference. If two people are very career orientated, then having kids means that one of the two has to give and usually give up a lot. This can breed a lot of hostility and resentment into a relationship. I'm speaking from personal experience here. There is no easy answer.
rlveronica rlveronica 9 years
Good question. I haven't gotten there yet but right now I'm working. I'll probably go back to graduate school in a year or so. But right now, I'm happy with paying off my school loans & other debt. I'm okay with having only 1 or 2 kids, so no rush for me! Haha.
ALSW ALSW 9 years
Personally, I went the kid-friendly route, but also for more reasons than just kids. Money was definitely a factor too - I didn't want all the mounting debts that come with graduate school when I already had college debt. So I went the straight out of college to work route - and I don't really regret that. But it's still a really difficult decision to make for some people and I feel sorry for your friend having to make it, Savvy!
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