Catch 22 – career or baby?

I’m sure there is some old adage about only wanting a change when change isn’t an option, but I’m not much of a scholar so I have no idea what it is. However, this is the situation that I find myself in. From a rational perspective, I appreciate that I am very lucky. Times are hard and unemployment is high so I’m fortunate to have a well paid job, working with some great people and doing something I enjoy. But recently I’ve stopped enjoying my job and instead have started to feel trapped. Each day as I walk to work (yes, I am even lucky enough to work within walking distance of my house) I find myself working through the options in my head for getting out and progressing my career somewhere else. I’m sure that if I thought leaving was a viable option, it wouldn’t have even crossed my mind to want to go somewhere else. But now that there are barriers to leaving (most of which are probably self imposed – I did say I wasn’t thinking rationally) I dream of getting a new job almost every day.

So why don’t I just leave?? Because I want to have a baby. I’ve worked for my current employer for years. I’ve been there whilst colleagues have gone on maternity leave, come back to work after the baby and gone on maternity leave again. I’ve covered projects, picked up work at the last minute for mothers who have to leave to pick up children or care for poorly babies, worked late when others have left to do the nursery run and I have been happy to do all of it. I feel as if I’ve been spending years making deposits into the office goodwill bank on the understanding that when I have a baby, I’ll be able to cash them in and colleagues will happily cover for me when I have midwife appointments or child care issues. To leave now would be like walking away from the table without cashing in my chips. I know if I got a new job my employer would still be required to let me go to antenatal appointments etc but at my current place I think people would be genuinely happy for me, not just complying with the law. After so long in one place, starting a new job would be hard regardless of the circumstances and I can’t help but feel that it would be even harder if I were to announce to a pregnancy to a new employer and colleagues within months of arriving.

In addition to the goodwill, there are also the financial considerations, my current employer pays enhanced maternity pay which I would be unlikely to be eligible for at a new firm without having completed a period of service before getting pregnant.

Finally, there is the question of what job I would do if I left. I’ve always believed that if you try to have it all in every part of your life, ultimately you are going to fail (or at least be constantly stressed). Instead, I identified what elements I felt would give me the biggest sense of fulfilment and decided that I would be prepared to have a good (but not world class) career if it meant that I could also be a mum that did the school run and didn’t miss a sports day. Oh yes, I had it all worked out and I have been actively pursuing my goal for years. A good but manageable, job – check. Great husband – check. House close to work, schools and nursery – check. Baby – ah, a problem, repeat miscarriages and time spent trying to conceive mean that the final ‘check’ on my perfect life list has not been very forthcoming. I guess it’s true that the universe hates a planner!

I not ready to give up on my dream of being a mum (not for a long time) but if it’s not going to happen then I don’t want just an ok job. If I don’t need to make the career/motherhood compromise then I’m damn well going to be a fantastic, first rate, top of my industry career woman. The problem is, I feel like by waiting to achieve plan A, I’m losing valuable opportunities to achieve great things with plan B. So this is my catch 22, do I quit my safe but unchallenging job and focus on climbing the career ladder as quickly as possible (realising that the risk of future miscarriages and fertility treatments may make shining in a new job particularly difficult, if not impossible) or do I have faith that a successful pregnancy is just around the corner and I will be able to achieve my plan A even if it took a little longer than hoped? And the big question is, would I even want to get a new job if my current difficulties with having a baby hadn’t made me feel like it wasn’t an option?

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11 thoughts on “Catch 22 – career or baby?

  1. My job was a great one but it was so far from my home and with long working hours, it was close to 14 hours. When I started having irresistible motherhood pangs, I decided that I would have to leave the job to be a mother. I was working my resignation period when I conceived. I was so overjoyed that I would now look after the pregnancy and the baby. My first day away from work I realized I had miscarried. Stop to all my carefully laid out plans. My work stress, long commute etc. might have affected my over all body metabolism.After a few months once I was strong enough, I conceived again with no plans of working. From time to time, I miss my old work but one look at my sweet cherub and I forget all those.
    Take a chance. Motherhood is too good to leave.

  2. I think motherhood should be an accepted fact of life, not farmed out to businesses to cope with, as it places an unacceptable stigma on women who wish to be mothers, and an unbearable burden of timing on the women themselves. Childcare benefits should be universal and equal, not appointed to people who have put their due in at the workplace, as it stigmatises those, who, for whatever reason, have not. Becoming a mother is not solely the right of people who have have planned their careers to a T, nor should it be, for women are evolved to have babies much younger than ‘career success’ is normally to be achieved. If all women were enabled to have babies when their babies were up for it, then women reaching their peak in the workplace would not suddenly have to give it up – albeit temporarily – or rush their babies out all at once – not good for mother, or child. I have achieved a hard won post-baby career, but I feel that a lot of stress and anxiety (and taxpayers money on IVF) would be saved if that was considered the norm, rather than assuming that young mothers waste their opportunities and become deadbeats, with deadbeat children. what mother wants that? There needs to be more support for all women, because, although government policies would have us believe otherwise, it or not, raising children is genuinely the most difficult, and most important job in the world.

  3. I do believe you can have a career AND still be a mother. Yes,there’ll be tough days but then you then need to ask yourself the question of what are you doing it for?

    Personally, I believe if you’re not happy at your current place you can and should aim higher whether or not you’re trying to conceive! I went on maternity with my first pregnancy and when I came back to my old job, I wasn’t happy, so within 3 months of returning from a 9 month maternity break, I went out and found a new job. Close to a year later and I’m loving my new job and I’ve progressed in my career! Makes me wonder what took me so long to leave before!

    Get out there and do You! x

  4. I love your post. Its a mirror image of my life, aside from the fact that I hv a 2 year old and am now wanting another. The career vs motherhood vs maternity benefits debate is a constant tempest in my mind. I hope you and I both find the path we seek! xxx

  5. I’m having exactly the same dilemma. I currently work somewhere with great a maternity package, flexible bosses etc., so when (that’s the one issue) i fall pregnant, it will be amazing. But it’s the when (I’m too optimistic for it to be if), and am I willing to hang around feeling resentful until that happens?
    I have in fact been offered a job elsewhere, but again where the Mat package only kicks in after a few years. The person hiring me is my old boss, I’ve explained the situation and why I don’t want to move, but they want me to come over anyway.

  6. I am in a very similar situation. I was ready to leave my job over 2 years ago but decided against it when we discussed having children and decided we would start trying. My organisation offers a fantastic maternity package. I’d been been a loyal employee for several years and feel I deserve it! Anyway, 2 years and 5 miscarriages later and still no closer to having a successful pregnancy. Everytime I start looking elsewhere I fall pregnant. Then I miscarry within the first trimester. Then I am in recovery. Then I think about leaving again. Then I fall pregnant. Then i miscarry and so on and so on. It really is hard. I’ve never posted before but I’ve been reading your posts for a while. We have a lot in common!! Abby

      • No… but maybe I should! I’ve been reading the infertility/RPL blogs more and more..i find my situation very isolating. It’s nice to know i’m not alone sometimes.

  7. I have exactly the same dilemma. my work place is the perfect place to be as a new mother/struggling IFer but….i’m bored! I’ve been there too long and if I wasn’t TTC I’d have left at least a year ago. Just another crappy thing to add to the crap pile of IF!

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