Having It All… Just Not at the Same Time

This topic has consumed my thoughts for the past four and a half years since I first became a mother. After my undergraduate work at Scripps and U.C. Riverside, I studied at U.C. Berkeley and earned a master’s degree in education and a Ph.D. in educational psychology. I feel like I followed a very “traditional” path: i.e., I went to college, went to graduate school, began a career, got married, bought a house, and then started a family. I never worried about career versus family because I knew strong educated women could have it all. I still believe this, but I also believe that perhaps we cannot always have everything simultaneously.

I worked full time for the first two years of my older daughter’s life. As the executive director of an early childhood development center, my career was very demanding and required much more than 40-hour weeks. I struggled during these years to balance my career with motherhood. Personally, I felt I was not doing a good enough job as an executive director or as a mother. When I had my second daughter, I resigned and became a full-time mom. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about that decision. Why is someone with a Ph.D. staying at home with her kids? What is my identity? Should I have given up such a wonderful position? What will I do next? Part of the problem is society does not respect women who stay at home. After all, what is the first thing you are asked at a social gathering? “What do you do?” When you answer the conversation usually ends. In reality, many educated and talented women have left the work force to raise young children. In just one small group of my friends, there is a jornalist, a stock trader, a business owner, a pharmaceutical marketer, a woman with a Ph.D. in public health, a gerontologist, art historian, and a marine biology educator. We are fortunate enough to be able to have the choice to leave our jobs, although no one of us has done so without financial, emotional, and other sacrifices. Indeed, I am not sure how much longer I will have the choice of staying at home with my children, and so I cherish each moment as it comes.

For me, it has taken time to realize that we have phases of our lives. Of course, we can have both career and family, but maybe it’s just a matter of timing. It is obviously a personality choice and a lifestyle choice for each of us. I look at it this way: this is now my phase to raise children. As they get older, there will be another phase where I can rebuild a career. In the meantime, I stay in communication and connected with those in my profession and have begun the building blocks for my own consulting company, which can grow as my children grow. What I find is most important is that I enjoy each phase as it comes and not worry about what I do not have at the moment. It all makes sense to me when just last week, my two and half year old said, “Mommy, I’m having fun with you today.”