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How do you have children and still work?
May 10, 2008 9:29 PM   Subscribe

For couples with kids, where both of you work: how do you do it?

This is a rather long question, but here's the short version: I don't want kids, and a large part of that is a reluctance to give up my career (or delay it). There has to be a way to work around that, right? So if you did it, how?

Long story part: My boyfriend and I broke up a few months ago after going out for almost 3 years, but a large contributing factor was the long-distance aspect of the relationship. Now he has moved much closer, and we're re-evaluating whether to get back together. We feel really right with each other, and the only thing that we're unsure about is that he definitely wants kids, and I've never wanted kids, and have strong reasons for not wanting them (at least to me). Background: he's 24, I'm 22. I'm in grad school, graduating within a year, and he's working. If this is a deal-breaker, we want to know now, instead of wasting time.

We are both in the technology sector, and we've both worked really hard to get to where we are. Neither of us wants to give that up (or delay it by very much) in order to have kids, although he's more willing to make sacrifices than I am, since he wants to have kids more. He's fairly willing to split the time with me (i.e. we both take x months away from work).

There will probably be some paid maternity leave + option for unpaid leave, wherever I end up working, but it has more to do with the fact that I'll be behind at work after being away for any long period of time.

I'm not convinced that having kids is right for me yet, but it would certainly alleviate some of that if I didn't have to give up my career. I've read the other AskMefi threads on having children, and most of the advice (plus my own feelings on having kids) seem to say that I shouldn't have kids. But it's hard to give up this relationship when everything else feels so right. So I at least have to know that my reasons for not wanting to have kids are good ones (or re-think them if they are not).

(The other reasons that I don't want kids: fear of pregnancy and giving birth, loss of freedom, increase in stress from worrying about their future, possibly resentment toward the child if I didn't want to have a baby much in the first place, risk of being disappointed by them. I think I would also have high expectations of my child, since my parents had really high expectations of me. I don't want to do that to a child, but at the same time, it might be hard for me to keep myself from doing that. I know the biological clock will kick in later, but for now, I can't imagine wanting kids. But all of these are reasons that I'll have to resolve separately.)

So, is it possible to have a baby, working in the software industry, and have each spouse only give up a few months of work? What's the usual timeline for kids going to daycare, preschool, etc? Any other advice regarding the decision is also welcome.
posted by jasminerain to Work & Money (60 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
Babysitter. I went to a sitter from the time I was 6 weeks old. I'm fine.
posted by IndigoRain at 10:03 PM on May 10, 2008

I oppose procreation, and encourage you to stick to your guns. Maybe you can have him do some research and figure out if he really wants kids, or is just feeling one of the many pressures that weigh on people to have them.

That said, have you considered adoption? That way you wouldn't be unequally burdened... he could take off time as well.

Don't take responsibility for a kid unless you really want it.
posted by phrontist at 10:03 PM on May 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

(That is, if you take time off at all... he could be the primary care giver in the early years)
posted by phrontist at 10:06 PM on May 10, 2008

I'm also afraid of being pregnant and giving birth... but thousands of women in this country do it every day. Have you been thoroughly educated on the topic? I definitely can't use ignorance as an excuse... I originally went to nursing school to be a labor-delivery nurse. I did take the nursing OB class but decided nursing wasn't the career for me.

As far as your other concerns, I think therapy might help.
posted by IndigoRain at 10:06 PM on May 10, 2008

It can definitely work to have kids and have a career but you both have to be committed to making that happen. Lots of women go back to work after 3 months of mat leave but you need to really weigh the pros and cons of dong that and you may feel differently about the advisability of doing it once you're in the midst of it. On the other hand you have some good reasons for not wanting kids BUT sheesh, you're 22! You've got gobs of time before you need to decide on this! I'm 40 and about to have my first kid. I plan on taking 3 months off and then working part time for a few months and then being back to full time after a mx of six months total.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 10:06 PM on May 10, 2008

Yes, the decision whether or not to have kids is a deal-breaker. However, it doesn't seem like you're dead set against the idea of having children, especially if you can work out the logistics.

Speaking as a woman of childbearing age, the software industry is actually a pretty good place to be. The hours are flexible, there is usually paid maternity leave, and there is the option to work from home. There might be problems if your future spouse is in the same industry and both of you hit major deadlines at the same time. You'll both need to be extra good planners in this instance and try to anticipate crunch time.

I went through the same issues with my (now) husband. He really wants kids and I'm ambivalent about the issue, though I am getting less so as time passes. I'm a little bit more career minded than he is, so we decided if one of us has to take a break it will be him. Though after spending the night at the office yet again this week I'm starting to think that taking it easy after having a baby might not be so bad.

Still, the important thing is that he wants to make sacrifices to make this happen and is open to compromise.
posted by Alison at 10:07 PM on May 10, 2008

Though after spending the night at the office yet again this week I'm starting to think that taking it easy after having a baby might not be so bad.

spend a night with a newborn and you may very well reevaluate this statement.
posted by pinky at 10:13 PM on May 10, 2008 [10 favorites]

taking it easy after having a baby might not be so bad.

I don't have kids, but I have a sister and several friends who do, and I can pretty much guarantee that "taking it easy" and "after having a baby" do not belong in the same sentence. The sentiment I have heard, to a person, is that no one -- utterly no one -- has a true sense of how hard and exhausting it is to take care of a newborn until you've actually gone through it.
posted by scody at 10:29 PM on May 10, 2008 [6 favorites]

I can't tell you whether you should have kids or not. I can tell you two important things. Firstly 22 is very early to worry about it. I know you and your boyfriend are evaluating your relationship based on this, but you could easily work for ten years to get into a good place in your career, and then decide whether to have children or not. You may find that in ten years time your feelings about yourself have changed.

Secondly, I will tell you that I am a 36 year old woman in the software industry, who never wanted children for many of the same reasons you state above. About 3 years ago, I started looking at my friends who had had children, and saw that they hadn't turned into mindless mommy-zombies after all. Most still worked and seemed happy. My boyfriend has always wanted kids. i thought about it a lot, and decided that if I was going to do it, time was running out, and I was up for a new and exciting challenge. We had a boy almost 1 year ago, and I am still working at my same great job, very happy, enjoying being a mom, but working harder than I have ever done before. I approach parenthood as an emotionally and intellectually stimulating project, that it turns out, comes with loads of love, fun and happiness. Oh, and tiredness.

While I still enjoy my job, I have found myself in a good position that is well-paid. I have no interest in climbing the ladder, because that involves more unpaid overtime, and frankly I am done with that. As I have got older my priorities have changed, and I enjoy "real life' much more now. That was a major part of my change of heart, I think.

I got over my fear of pregnancy and childbirth when I decided to get pregnant. I treated pregnancy as an interesting "science experiment" :) Its really not as a scary as I once thought, and contrary to my previous hard-nosed cynical ways, I found that I quite enjoyed some parts of it. Loss of freedom - yes definitely. That's why you should enjoy another 10 years of freedom before becoming a parent (IMHO). Increase in stress - sometimes, but I am too busy to sit and worry about his future that much, I live more in the now. Resentment - don't know, I haven't had a problem with it. Risk of disappointment, I think unlikely to happen until they reach teenage years or adulthood, so no point fretting over that yet. High expectations - that is totally in your control. You are intelligent and self-aware enough to see what your parents did and not do the same thing.

My parents were a bit of a disaster, so I decided that instead of following in their footsteps, I was going to do my research and be a well-informed parent, instead of the kind of clueless wonders you see out and about, screeching at their misbehaving monsters.

I gave up work for 5 months, by taking maternity (federal disability) then Paid Family Leave (CA state benefit) then some vacation on top of that. My boyfriend took 6 weeks off to help me out at the beginning. My son started daycare at just under 5 months old, and loves it there. A nanny was too expensive and personally I prefer daycare for my own philosophical child-rearing reasons. Preschool is optional.

Finally, it is my opinion that if you evaluate the concept of parenting in an entirely objective way, then it doesn't seem like a good idea. Giving up so much for all these subjective, emotional-level possibilities. Well for me it turns out it is a lot of fun, and I don't regret it at all. YMMV.
posted by Joh at 10:36 PM on May 10, 2008 [17 favorites]

How soon is your boyfriend going to want kids? Because you both are pretty young right now, so it's not quite as much of an "OMG MUST DECIDE NOW" the way it'll be in a decade or two. Giving yourself some time on this might be beneficial at the age of 22 if you're really a "fence sitter," and you can still meet people without being in a rush (or more, he can meet a future babymomma) if you decide to break up.

But keep in mind that the majority of the child work will be on YOU. Period. Even if he wants the kid more, biology, nursing, etc. will put it on you to deal with, and it will be easier to have the load mostly on you. And if all that work is going to fall to you, you're going to really want to WANT the kid in order to deal with it. If you're doing it to keep the guy...that's where resentment comes in.

Can you come up with any reasons why YOU would want a kid, if you don't have "Because he wants them" (or "my family wants them") on the list? Do you even like children? Does he insist on their being biologically his, or to adopt babies? You don't sound that adamantly childfree quite yet, but I haven't heard anything out of you wanting them other than to keep the boyfriend either. Maybe that's something to think about.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:05 PM on May 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Lots of research says that babies need their mommas. If you want a healthy kid in 18 years, be prepared to take several months off work when your child is young.

On a separate note, a therapist would be really helpful to help you work through some of your other fears.
posted by charlesv at 11:07 PM on May 10, 2008

Great question. First, I must say - kudos to Joh! What a great experience. Thank you for sharing that.

My wife and I just had our first - he's now 6 months old. I'm 27, she's 29. We both work full time in marketing/advertising for major companies here in our state of residence. My wife is further up the "corporate ladder" than I am with respect to her company - she's better at what she does than anyone else I know.

It's for that reason that she's been able, since coming off her 3 week maternity leave, work from home Tues-Thurs. We have a nanny come to our house (my sister, actually) on Mondays and Fridays. My wife was able to prove herself so worthy to the owner of the company as the company's marketing director that they were willing to accommodate her new role as a mother as much as possible. She continues to work smarter and more efficiently than anyone in the company.

We believe that the mixture of different people tending our son is making him a social adjusted and (more importantly) socially independent kid. He's happy and content with anyone watching him, although he loves his mom more than anyone.

Who knows, my wife's career might progress so much that she can support the family and I can become "Mr. Mom" while flexing my entrepreneurial muscles at home by starting my own business. Maybe I'll bring home the bacon in the future. But we both know that as long as we continue proving our worth to our companies, they will always be willing to accommodate our schedules as parents.

But first thing's first - do you truly want kids and want them enough to do what you need to in order to be a great parent?
posted by Detuned Radio at 11:20 PM on May 10, 2008

Get married. Work for 10 years. Have kids. (Seriously.)
posted by turducken at 11:21 PM on May 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

I did what turducken advised, pretty much. SO and me started dating in college, got married 5 years later. I built a career in the software industry on the R&D side while my husband built his in the hardware industry on the marketing side. About a dozen years after we married, we decided it was time to have a child. I worked up to a week before the baby was due and went back to my full-time position 5 months later (fed/state disability + comp days). I could have stayed out longer: at that point, I had nearly a year in vacation days accumulated that I hadn't even touched yet, days that I wanted to bank for future sick-baby days. I had planned to enroll the boy into childcare but a sister-in-law decided she really wanted to be his daytime care-giver so I paid her the money I would have paid some facility.

At that point in my career, some 15 years in, I felt little pressure to fight to keep my position. At the risk of sounding obnoxious, I had proven my worth many times over and my company was quite proactive about courting me to come back after my maternity leave. I worked full-time for another 5 years but decided to switch to consulting when my son entered kindergarden and it became clear that my son and his teachers would need my daytime support. He's in 4th grade now and I continue to consult and plan to until he enters college. I don't really care where that leaves me 8 years from now career-wise, my priority is his childhood. The rest can resolve itself.

Many of the things you are worrying about, I worried about too. I worried about them right into my mid-30s and then they solved themselves. The lessons I learned from that was a) it doesn't hurt to wait, and b) worrying about that stuff was largely unproductive.
posted by jamaro at 11:55 PM on May 10, 2008

The real question is not how you will handle the first three month, but rather the next 18 years. Most couples I know have one person who may work full time but only 40 hours or so a week, allowing the other partner to work longer hours and climb the corporate ladder. Usually it is the woman who cuts back, but I know a few couples where the husband took on the extra home responsibilities.

Second, you will need to think about day care options. Having a child in a group setting for 45+ hours a week is not ideal, although many will do OK. (Remember to include commute time as well as your actual work hours.) If you can off-set schedules, work part-time (either you or your husband) or have a nanny or family member for at least part of the caregiving, it will help, particuarly in the first 2 years.

Finally, if you decide that you want to stay in this relationship, I would suggest that you plan on being married at least five years before you have kids. From the career perspective, you might want to wait longer. The more established you are in your career, the easier is to get an employer to be flexible.
posted by metahawk at 12:19 AM on May 11, 2008

I am married and have a seven year-old daughter. Both my wife and I work (her 3/4 time and me full time). I'm in IT and she's in human services.

We had all the same fears you had but they were secondary to the complete terror of having a new life to take care of. Loss of "freedom" didn't mean much to us because by the time we had our daughter, we were both done with the nightlife-24/7 routine. We were ready for the most part but it was still pretty scary. The key is that we both wanted kids. To be honest, I didn't know I really wanted kids until I really had a kid.

I divorced my first wife primarily because she pressured me into wanting to have kids and I DID NOT want them. I was 28 and she was 27. So my advice, based only on my experience, is take your time with this decision. You're 22 and theres still fun and independence to be had. Our wanting children together was a process that evolved over time and I think parents are all the better for it if they wait.

As far as the brass tacks of how we function, here goes:

Wife and I wake up and feed our daughter and get her ready for school (comb hair, dressing, bathing, etc.,) I drive her to school which is right across the street from my office. My daughter gets out of school at 3:15 whereas I get off work at 5:15 so she rides in a carpool with three other kids. If I take the day off, I drop her off and pick her up at school because I want to be with her. My wife has enough flexibility in her job that she can be home to meet the carpool and retrieve our daughter. On those rare occasions when the system breaks down ie., my wife can't get back home in time or a parent can't do the the car pool, I leave work and try to take up the slack. My employer is very accommodating in this respect. Once my daughter get home and we are all there together, we eat, do homework and play on the computer and she's in bed by 8:30pm. We repeat the process five times per week. That really about it. Some days we both feel frazzled and just want to nap after work but its worth it for us.

If you decide that you want to go for it, prepare for your focus to be on your child most of the time. Its not a bad thing; just a natural evolution as you and your mate slowly come to realize or feel that you're both simply teachers for your little one. Some people see that as a burden while other see it as an opportunity. Best of luck to you.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 12:57 AM on May 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

I realize I'm not addressing your main question, but... I think it's a bad idea to have kids if you don't want them. I think it should be a dealbreaker even if you can work out the logistics, because it is a big deal. You shouldn't have kids because someone else wants you to, or because you feel like it's the normal thing to do, or anything like that. It's a little strange to me that the long distance aspect was a dealbreaker, but you think you can work around the not wanting kids part. Having kids when you don't want them is a much bigger problem, at least in my opinion, than having a long distance relationship.

I'm completely sympathetic because I went out with a guy for two and a half years who wanted kids, and I loved him and thought I wanted to marry him. I had a very similar thought process to yours. I thought ugh, I don't want kids, but I guess if he really does I could manage it. I tried to imagine how I could fit them into my life.

I'm really, really glad I didn't do that. For what it's worth, I'm with a guy who's even better now -- at the time, I never imagined anyone could be better than my ex -- and he does not want kids. You can find someone who feels the same way as you and have a great relationship. Since long distance was enough to break up the first time, it seems to speak to the idea that he isn't irreplaceable. I wish I could beg you not to have kids just to keep the relationship, but I can't. From your post, it sounds like you're taking it very seriously and will make the decision that's best for you.

I have a book suggestion: Families of Two by Laura Carroll. It's about couples that don't have children. None of them regret not having them. As someone who doesn't want children, I not only think you'd enjoy reading it, but I think it will give you some perspective on the things you would be giving up.

That book was suggested to me by a friend of mine whose mother also had kids in order to keep the relationship. He doesn't want kids, so he asked his mom one day if she wishes she didn't have kids. His mom loves him very much, but she answered honestly that she wishes she hadn't because it took away all her freedom and her life turned out much differently than she had hoped. My friend is a cool guy so he didn't take this the wrong way; he knows his mom values him and doesn't resent him personally, and he completely understood where she was coming from. Plenty of mothers genuinely enjoy having children, but keep in mind there is a lot of pressure on the mothers that don't enjoy it to pretend that they do. Most people are not as candid as my friend's mother. As a result, advice in this area tends to skew towards having children not being all that bad. (fwiw, I didn't read any of the above comments so I'm not accusing anyone of being insincere or anything.)

Also, the other thing that book made clear was that very many of these people never wanted children at any point in their life, and were annoyed by people who told them their minds would change later. It's not as if people don't change their minds about these things, but don't assume you will. People who have children or want children sometimes have the idea that it's something everyone wants eventually, and that is just not true. So please don't have kids telling yourself you'll eventually want them, just because other people try to tell you so. There is a perfectly good chance you would never want them, and there you would be, stuck with them anyway.

There is a lot to think about how it will effect your life, but I honestly think it's unfair to children for a parent to have them if they don't want them, especially for the purpose of maintaining a relationship. Children should ideally be raised by someone who wants them very much, so please don't unnecessarily add to the number of children who don't fall into that category. If you decide to have children, do it because you genuinely want children. This is precisely why I will not have children unless I have some huge change in personality, which I doubt will happen. I feel like having children to maintain a relationship is a selfish decision; it might feel selfless right now because it's something you'd be doing for your boyfriend, but to do so is basically to gain something for yourself, and I don't think the children would be better off for it. And I say that as someone who was going to do that anyway.

My most sincere advice is to just keep living life, and only have children if you want them one day. If that day never comes, don't sweat it.
posted by Nattie at 1:57 AM on May 11, 2008 [12 favorites]

My wife and I are both overeducated jerkwads, involved in technology, in the bay area, but a decade older than you. My son was born two weeks ago tomorrow. She's breastfeeding him as I type this.

Clearly, you've got other fish to fry. Go fry them. If this relationship is important enough to both of you, he'll compromise and wait for a while, and you'll compromise and speed up your timeline some. If neither of you can do that, then stop screwing around and execute on the choice you seem to have already made, as described in your question. You two could be perfect together, but the timing just isn't right. It happens. If you're comfortable with that (and it sounds like you are), then what are you waiting for?

I will say this much: on this side of 30, with loads of friends who fried all the fish you're thinking about, in tech, law, medicine, politics, etc. - almost all of them have wised up to the fact that wage slavery is still wage slavery, even if you're making bank.

The following will be heresy to anyone in the Silicon Valley echo chamber: at some point, your ego will be sated by your accomplishments - then what?
posted by NoRelationToLea at 2:12 AM on May 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Wanting children is definitely a deal-breaker. Even though you are young and don't *have* to have a baby within the next few years there is no guarantee you will change your mind and then you and your boyfriend will be having this same discussion except the stakes will be higher (divorce/splitting up finances/ending a longer relationship/resentment on both sides). You said your boyfriend was willing to split time off with you but that is something he should be willing to do if you were keen on the idea of children; he doesn't seem to be offering any sacrifices or offering to take on additional home duties as an incentive to having children. And children need a lot of care, not just as newborns, but also when they go to school, and then when they are tweens and of course adolescence is extremely time consuming. When your child gets sick (and they do, a lot, especially if they are in daycare or school) on a day when both you and the father have important meetings at work what will you do? Will one of you take the day off? Will you argue over who gets the "burden" in front of the child? Or do you try to take the child to the sitters and hope the vomiting/diarreah pauses long enough for you to drop the kid off to the unsuspecting caregiver and then ignore the phone all day at work? If you have a high-needs child which one of you will quit their career to look after your child? High-needs child-care is VERY hard to find and very expensive. You have valid reasons for not wanting children, and it is not fair to the (hypothetical) child for you to agree to pregnancy to save your relationship when you are have a whole lifetime ahead of you to meet other men that are more aligned with what you want. And maybe you will change your mind when you are in your thirties and burned out from your career and want to take a break, but maybe you won't and you can't promise your boyfriend that.

It is entirely possible to have children and have a career but it means prioritizing one of the two, sorry, there just isn't a way around it. Maybe I am just projecting because on Friday my son's kindergarten class gave a little play for Mother's Day and I felt so bad for the children that were sobbing because they felt they weren't important because their moms didn't come. I am sure their mothers love them very much but for children the time spent with them when the CHILD deems it important is how they evaluate how much they are loved.

Like you, I thought my career was very important and I put all my energy into it until I became a mother and then my priorities shifted. But I always knew I would be a mother and refused to take higher-responsibility positions even before I had children because I knew the impact they would have on my ability to do my job. Both my husband and I work (both part-time) in VERY family-oriented organisations where we do not feel bad about leaving half-way through a day to pick up one of our children and even we find juggling children and work difficult at times. My husband and I have made a lot of sacrifices to be parents, but we made them willingly, I can't see how the scale of sacrifices required would breed anything but resentment for an unwanted child.

@Alison: after spending the night with my newborn I am looking forward to going back to work and taking it easy!
posted by saucysault at 2:16 AM on May 11, 2008 [3 favorites]

Like a lot of people have said, 22 is a long way from 28 (think of 12 versus 18!). Something starts happening to many people (especially) women once you hit closer to 30 and work seems very secondary.

You're working late nights now, but hopefully in a few years this will lessen.

Plus you can CHOOSE to work at businesses that are more family-friendly due to maternity/paternity leaves, pre-tax childcare payments, in-house childcare, general flexibility about sick kids, etc.
posted by k8t at 2:44 AM on May 11, 2008

I had to laugh at the "taking it easy after having a baby" remark. Taking it easy? I barely remember any of my kids' early months because it's all a fog of utter exhaustion, not being able to shower or brush my teeth every day, carrying a colicky baby around for hours trying to comfort him...and did I mention exhaustion? It's hard. So hard.

But worth it if you want kids- and my husband and I both did. As for being afraid of childbirth...the fear is much worse than the actual event. I was terrified, but once I took some classes, read some books, and was actually giving birth and getting all the support and pain meds I wanted, it was fine. No picnic, but not the end of the world. We're all afraid- and we all get through it. An epidural is your best friend.

You're so young. I know I wasn't ready for a baby at 22. I worked for a few years and had my first kid at 26- and promptly stopped working to be a stay at home mom. I'm not saying you have to do that, but I think once you've got some work and a few more years under your belt, you just might be ready for a baby. And don't worry- once they put him/her in your arms, you'll fall in love. You'll wonder how you every thought of NOT having one.
posted by bluekrauss at 3:29 AM on May 11, 2008

I have to argue with saucysault - it ain't no dealbreaker. Lots of people change their minds about the big things over time - When I was 22 I wanted to be in a completely different field and certainly didn't want kids. Now I have one, who's 14 months old, I have a senior-level job in my field and I make more money than almost everyone else I know. We have a great life together and not one even tiny part of me regrets being pregnant, having her under a positive, not-very-scary-or-painful drug-free labor, or spending all of my free time with her or for her. It's fun! It would NOT have been fun at or near 22, or even 32 - I did all this at 39. You don't have to wait that long, but man, I sure don't regret all the years between 22 and 38, and I'm glad I had all the romances/life experiences I did without worrying about procreation or lack thereof.

Stop worrying so much about babies and career stuff - smarter, more experienced men and women have spent years trying to balance it all out, and it turns out that it goes how it goes, for each person it's a little different. Go be with your guy, see how it goes based on the dumb arguments and how he loads the dishwasher and whether or not you still have something to say to each other in two years, THEN decide whether or not to get married.
posted by pomegranate at 3:34 AM on May 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

I do not have children but from observing female managers/senior managers/directors in my office it appears possible to have both but there is a trade off. My employer is pretty flexible about hours and people are free to work from home as long as they can make that work for the teams they work with. Bottom line - as long as the job gets done efficiently they don't care. So in that environment then my observations are:

- There are two kind of mothers - those who work part time and those who work full time. Those who work full time/four days a week and continue to climb the ladder normally have husbands/mothers or somebody else in the family who is picking up the slack at home. Those who work significantly less have found a comfort zone and are prepared to stay there at least whilst their children are young.

- We all work more than our contracted hours and that is also true for working part time. Those who work 4 days a week still clock up 40 hrs+...The people who make it work so that the work doesn't suffer (i.e. the rest of the team doesn't have to work even harder to meet the deadline etc) are extremely organised about schedules, check their emails daily and their voicemail throughout the day and get back to people as required.

- Those who refuse to stay in touch on their days off tend to struggle and create resentment among the teams they work with - people do normally respect that it is somebody's day off and will only get in touch if they need guidance/a decision to be made and the mothers I talk about are all mangement/senior management and have teams working for them on their days off. So if they are not prepared to give that guidance or make that decision it causes problems for everybody.

- Those who work part time still have to struggle with logistics on occasion when the nanny gives notice or the child is ill and nursery won't take them etc. Again it is normally partners in less demanding roles stepping in to save the day.

- We have recently had two mothers come back from maternity leave and they have particularly struggled with how they present themselves with their new part time schedules. One was always working extremely long hours pre baby and she now makes a point of being in very early but leaving on time to pick up the baby from nursery - she creates an expectation that she will no longer be working until late at night. So a lot of making this work is about setting expectations of how you will be have - I will check my email but I will also leave at Xpm - it's a case of working out what is likely to work for you and behaving in a way that is going to facilitate that.

- Another woman came back from maternity leave a year ago but instead of rebuilding a full portfolio of clients she opted for a range of secondments - it appears the reason why was that she intended to have another child very soon and she is now pregnant again and due to be on maternity leave again in the summer. By taking on secondments of a few months duration she was able to gain very valuable experiences, she did not have to change perceptions in colleagues about hours because the people she worked with only knew her as part time worker and she minimised the adverse impact of frequent changes in manager on jobs by not going there in the first place. So crafting a different role after maternity leave is a good way to go, too.

- As somebody else said it is also about what kind of roles and projects you get involved in - so if you plan to have a sustainable workload that allows you some kind of work life balance don't put yourself forward whenever a role in the office needs to be filled or an exciting, new and extremely demanding project comes along. One of my colleagues only works two days a week, one of those days she works from home. The only way she is able to make that work is by not taking on additional roles in the office and only working with smaller clients.

So it can be done - but there is a trade off and it is not easy. As for your particular dilemma - would the BF be prepared to take a step back at work and look after these children he wants to have once they are born?
posted by koahiatamadl at 4:04 AM on May 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm not convinced that having kids is right for me yet,

It frankly does not sound like you are ready. It certainly is possible to have kids when both people work, even when they work in demanding jobs. However, you have to be emotionally ready to give to your kids. This post just screams "me, me, me." When the feeling starts becoming "how can I best provide for my kids while maintaining a career" then you will be ready.
posted by caddis at 5:37 AM on May 11, 2008

I'm going to refer you to my answer the last time a similar question was asked. In summary, if he's the one who really wants kids, and you're the one who really wants a career, he should be the one taking primary responsibility for child rearing. That's how you can have children and still work.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:45 AM on May 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Another thing to consider, most small companies have always been kinder to the working family. Larger companies are moving toward "family-work balance". Some allow compressed work weeks, telecommuting...etc. I work for a large (male dominated) company and work a lot of hours, but have never missed a pediatrician appointment for either of my kids (4 and 2 1/2).

My husband is a stay-at-home dad, so I don't have any suggestions for you as to how balance is achieved with two working parents.

I completely understand your concern with the pregnancy/ maternity leave thing. I was very worried with my first that I would be thought of as not keeping up for 10 months, followed by taking off for 10 weeks. I thought I would never catch up. I held my own for 10 months - no problem. Short of taking off once a month for doctors' appointments, I never missed work (lucky enough to have a healthy pregnancy). I worked up until 5 days before my due date. Other than not climbing ladders after my 5th month, I never missed a beat. There is little to be done about maternity leave. You aren't physically or emotionally ready to go back to work for at least 6 weeks, even if your SO can take time off to be with the baby. But, in the grand scheme of a career, 6-12 weeks is nothing.

And if it means anything, I worked for a few jack-sses who had older kids. I think they forgot what pregnancy was like for their wives. I got pregnant right after I was promoted (maybe 4 months later). I got promoted again when my second was 1. (I worked for different people with pregnancy #2 and it was a lot easier.)

It is possible to work your behind off at work, at home and acheive balance. I work my tail off from 5AM (when I wake up to work out) until 8:45PM (when I finally get the kids to bed). we do our best to split chores. Some have to wait a few days, but that's OK.

I wouldn't stress too much about not wanting kids at 22. I didn't want kids at 22. I didn't want kids at 29. I wanted them at 30. It just kind of clicked. If it doesn't click for you at 30, there is always 35, 37...or never. I am not discouting your feelings, but not wanting kids at 22 is little reflection on whether you will want them in the future.

I have to go play princesses now.
posted by beachhead2 at 5:47 AM on May 11, 2008

When I say "not climbing ladders", I mean literally not climbing ladders. That was not a metaphor for career things. I refused to climb ladders after my 5th month. I just made the poor kid who worked for me do all the inspecting up high, if needed.
posted by beachhead2 at 5:48 AM on May 11, 2008

I think you have time to make the decision. I have a somewhat different perspective on it because my kids are older - in 7th grade, 9th grade and 1st year of college. When our kids were really little my husband and I ran a software business from home so we had a lot of flexibility in schedule. The kids were in daycare part time until they started school and we juggled our working hours to make it work. It did mean that we worked until late at night but most of our clients were on the west coast and we're in the midwest so the time change played to our advantage.

Now with 2 teenagers still at home the issues are different and so is our work situation. I'm self employed, I'm a fine artist. My husband runs a biotech company. He has less flexibililty than I do and travels a fair amount. We juggle schedules - in some ways it's harder because older kids have a lot more going on - sports, music events and busy social lives. For us at this point a big help comes from having my father nearby and willing to step in when we can't get someone where they need to be. I recommend living near family if possible - it makes things much easier.

Having kids has made life infinitely more complex, richer, more emotionally full - and more stressful. We're fiscally far more stretched and far busier. I don't regret it at all. When I was 22 I had doubts about having kids anytime soon and in fact I was 28 when our oldest was born. Waiting and having years to play and travel was key. One can make it work but ideally working somewhere flexible is better because having time to attend your kids' events, let alone be there when they're sick or have dentist appointments or you'd like to volunteer in their classes is part of the deal. You have time though.
posted by leslies at 5:51 AM on May 11, 2008

If you don't want kids, don't have them. The world is overpopulated. Childbirth is quite do-able, but the danger is real. Women, even with great health care, can die or be damaged, although it's not at all common. The pain part is really manageable. It's aptly named labor.

I love kids, including and especially, of course, my own. You might have an easy baby, a studious child, an easy-going teenager. Or you might have a baby with colic, a child with autism, a teenager addicted to crack. If you have a child, you will love that child with every fiber of your being, and you will not regret it. Everything works out, you figure out the money and the child care. Giving unconditional love will transform you. But don't have kids unless you really want them, for both your sakes.
posted by Mom at 6:05 AM on May 11, 2008

This answer may not be well thought out, or politically correct, but I will say what comes to mind:

You are young. Don't think about kids now. Enjoy yourself and your career. If you current boyfriend would like to leave because you aren't considering kids, let him go. Don't let anything ever talk you into having kids: people, society, family, etc. I wouldn't worry about this for another five years. Actually, worry about it when you're 30. Seriously. Experience life a little before you bring a child into the world. You'll be a better parent because of it. Tell your 24-year old boyfriend that he is young as well, and to chill a bit. Put your foot down. Don't let him pressure you. He is entitled to his wants, but he's not allowed to pressure you. If he's willing to wait five years or so to find out how you'll feel then, stay together and enjoy. If he needs to leave that will find a person that wants kids, that is acceptable and understandable.

I have two kids. I never had a high-powered career. I work part-time and love my job. You can find something that works well for your family.

Time-lines are different for everybody. My kids never went to daycare. One of us was always home. My kids went to preschool at age 3. It might be different for you. Don't worry about timelines or what it's like to be pregnant, etc. That is for another phase of your life, if you so choose. Go party, travel, have fun, and make some money!
posted by LoriFLA at 6:11 AM on May 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

I would argue that you should *definitely* think about this young: fertility over 38 is really a gamble and IVF can be hell for many people. Dating becomes much more complicated too. That said, you are very young.

Also, I notice that everyone says "kids"-- there's interesting research suggesting that having *one* child doesn't harm a woman's career especially, but it's when you have more than that that it becomes a very difficult juggling act. I forget who did the study though-- but it matches with a lot of my anecdotal experience and logistically, it makes sense. There's no evidence that "onlies" are problematic and if you are concerned about the world's resources, etc., one is better than more.
posted by Maias at 6:33 AM on May 11, 2008

Your boyfriend is making a hypothetical baby more important than your relationship. Aren't you in the slightest insulted by this?

You do not have to have kids now. You do not have to have kids ever. Not wanting kids is not some sort of phase that you have to grow out of when you hit 30. The biological clock is bullshit. Enjoy a childfree life and find a boyfriend that doesn't think of you as an incubator.
posted by pieoverdone at 6:35 AM on May 11, 2008 [4 favorites]

I have several friends who went back to work after maternity leave and whose husbands stayed home for a few years (some who had had high enough incomes and enough sense to sock away enough cash that they suffered no decrease in standard of living on just the woman's salary alone) or simply became the stay-at-home parent. Some, clearly, were in a position of privilege that they were able to play it this way without having to give up much economically. At least one was not. All of them have extended family/close friends nearby who babysit at least 3-4 times a month, even if babysitting just means tending to the child while the parents do household tasks, or go shopping, or have dinner together at the kitchen table uninterrupted. That, too, I suppose, is a position of privilege. Sometimes the solution is taking an unusual or uncommon path. It has worked well for some lovely families I know.

But absolutely, everyone I know has made a radical change in how they live in order to have a family. Many people will say "Oh, you're 22, you have 20 more years of fertility. Worry about it when you're 32"--I would not look at it that way because the radical change in how you live your life will happen, whether it's five years from now or ten or fifteen. Would you rather be 40 when your kids go off to college and you can take long vacations alone again, have spur of the moment dates with your spouse or 60? When do you want to start putting your needs again first?
posted by crush-onastick at 6:39 AM on May 11, 2008

The best advice my wife and I were given when deciding whether to have children (I travel overseas alot for work and her career is demanding is this:

No matter how impossible it looks and how hard, once you have a child everything works itself out. We live in nation where 99 out of 100 households have kids eventually. Our society is has built in failsafes to aid families. Most older bosses have kids and will be able to sympathize and help.

The people who told us that were right. It looked impossible at first when we got pregnant but our jobs, lives, familes and schedules all adjust bit by bit till we were able to care for our child in a wonderful way and still have fullfillment professionally and personally. To quote Jeff Goldblum (bonus points, name the movie) "Life ... umm ... finds a way."

However, if the issues against kids are other than that, you need to reevaluate everything else first.
posted by damiano99 at 6:42 AM on May 11, 2008

i don't have kids yet, but here's the arc of my experience: i didn't want kids ever at 22, wanted a baby desperately at 28, and now at 31 am completely ambivalent. (my hesitation and fear is mostly because of a genetic disposition to mental illness in my family.) one friend of mine who is 40 just had her first baby two years ago, and was ambivalent about it up until the child was born. she seems pretty happy now that she's adjusted to the change. another friend who is 40 has made peace with the fact that she has not had children and probably won't, although she may adopt.

you are so fortunate to be the age you are, because companies are becoming more and more parent-friendly. if you have a baby in ten years, i think, you will probably not have much difficulty getting an employer on board with a work/family balance that you're comfortable with.

i wouldn't let this hold you back now. wait until you get into a good rhythm with your career to see how and if a child will fit in.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:58 AM on May 11, 2008

LoriFLA made a very strong point - this is about his timeline, not yours. You do have an abundant number of years to work on your career and take time with this decision. At 22, there's absolutely no pressure, biological or social, to know exactly what decisions you will make regarding children.

Pressuring you about the kids decision at the age of 24 makes me think your BF feels in a rush - very ready to move things along, get married, settle down, and start a family. That's certainly fine if he has decided that starting a family early is important to him. But if that's so, it's a bit of an accelerated timetable. The average age of women at first childbirth is now over 25, and one-third of women have their first child after 30.

So this isn't a decision you even have to make right now. It's perfectly fine to say "I don't know yet, and I'm not even ready to think about it, and might not be for four or five years." If he can't live with that, then his personal sense of when things ought to happen doesn't match yours, and he might prefer to go on and find someone who wants to start a family while on the young side. The important thing to know is that you don't have to respond to this pressure with a definite decision at the moment. You're allowed to not know this at this point.

I'll add one other thing: having children young often seems crazy, but I know a few couples who have done it, and things tend to come out all right career-wise on the other end anyway. My parents had children extremely young, and I often think they were damn smart to do it: by 45, my mom's years of intensive parenting were long behind her, her career was well developed, and she and my dad had both kids out of the house, done with education, and they are young enough to enjoy travel, eating out, and plenty of disposable income for entertainment and such. I'm not saying this makes it a wise choice for everyone, but there are advantages to having children young as well as disadvantages. Your boyfriend may be envisioning a long luxurious 'second childhood' for himself & spouse in his 40s and 50s. Again, you don't need to adjust to his timetable, but that may be what he's thinking.
posted by Miko at 7:02 AM on May 11, 2008

Oops, here's the link for age-at-first-birth stats I mentioned above.
posted by Miko at 7:04 AM on May 11, 2008

I don't have kids, and my partner and I are in the phase where we're both talking in hypotheticals about what our lives would look like if (when?) we decide to procreate in the next few years. From that perspective, I'm really really struck by what you said:

We are both in the technology sector, and we've both worked really hard to get to where we are. Neither of us wants to give that up (or delay it by very much) in order to have kids, although he's more willing to make sacrifices than I am, since he wants to have kids more. He's fairly willing to split the time with me (i.e. we both take x months away from work).

It's hard for to me to fathom how "more willing to make sacrifices" translates into splitting the time half-and-half with you, unless he's starting from the position that it's natural and desirable that the woman in the relationship scale back her career and drop down to part-time if things get too difficult with two working parents.* I'm of the opinion that when push comes to shove, there's got to be one parent who has consciously made the choice to structure their employment such that they can meet the bus at 3:15, and take off work at the last minute if the kiddie is sick, and so on. It's of course nice to talk about how both parents are willing to do so, but unless you plan on having a fight every time something comes up about who has to take the time off (ugh, please don't do this to the kid), realistically one person has to be the go-to primary caregiver.

I'd ask your boyfriend if he'd consider going part-time for a few years if you guys had kids. If his response is "no, no way, the most I'd be willing to do is split it with you, I don't want to give up my job," then that's worth knowing. Regardless of how the parenting loads actually shake out--and I recognize that almost anything can change between now and when I might have children, including what job I have and how much I feel like I want to stay home after I actually bear a child--I wouldn't even consider it unless my partner indicated at least a willingness to be the primary caregiver.

*Not saying this is a bad attitude in and of itself, but both people have to agree with it. Being in a relationship with someone who thought that it was my natural role to give up my career to be the primary caregiver would personally be a dealbreaker, though YMMV.
posted by iminurmefi at 8:03 AM on May 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Backing up Miko's point... I have a friend who is now 48 and had his first kid at 40. He says he wished it had been at 30. Now that he's 48, he manages people and has a lot more responsibilities at work. When he was 30 he could leave work early without as many people noticing and certainly didn't have people to manage. He also feels like he had more energy back then.
posted by k8t at 8:33 AM on May 11, 2008

First, I'll echo what everyone else said and advise you to wait a while. I can't imagine having had kids before 30. I needed my 20s to be selfish and have fun - otherwise, I probably would have felt the same resentment that you anticipate.

Second, motherhood may very well affect your work, even if you find a balance between home and office. I squeeze a full-time teaching load into a five hour day, chair two departments, resume work after the kids go to bed, and stay in almost constant email and phone contact. I also watch my sons in the afternoon and do most of the cooking and cleaning, although my husband does so much more household work than any other fathers I know that I can't really complain.

I worked myself to my limit this year, and when evaluations came out, I got a good review but not the "outstanding" rating that I was hoping for. I'm being compared to people with no kids who can serve on 40 committees. There's just no way I can compete with that - I just don't have the hours in my day. And I think since my work identity includes being a mother - I took maternity leave and can't schedule classes after public school lets out - people assume I work less than they do. I'm in a couple of hours earlier than most of my colleagues, I work at home late into the night, and it will never be enough. Not for work, not for family.

I've got a balance, but I've had to compromise in both areas of my life. And yet I would not give up my kids or my job.
posted by bibliowench at 8:56 AM on May 11, 2008

Not wanting kids can be a deal-breaker. Having kids because someone else wants you to when you don't want to is kind of a crappy thing to do. You don't want to end up regretting it and resenting your child who didn't do anything wrong.
It'd be one thing if you weren't sure about kids, but you're approaching kids as an extra thing that would interfere with your preferred lifestyle, not as people that you will have to love and take care of for 18 years. If you don't want them, don't have them. Kids aren't a compromise that you're willing to give in to because of the quality of the relationship. Maybe you'll change your mind and want kids when you get older; some people do. But if you really don't think that will happen, don't waste your time and his in a relationship that is doomed to end once the time comes where you would be wanting to get married, or he decides he really wants kids.
posted by fructose at 9:07 AM on May 11, 2008

Oh, another thought: what happens if your boyfriend dies or divorces you and YOU are stuck with full-time care of a child you didn't want? (Or if the child is sick and both of you have to give up your career to be caregivers?)

More to think about...
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:15 AM on May 11, 2008

You said twice in your question that you don't want kids, never have. That's pretty definitive.

Speaking as someone who grew up with a mother who should have never been a mother, I think you should listen to your instincts. Do not have a child as part of a compromise to save a romantic relationship. Marriages fall apart all the time. Kids don't go away when you get divorced. And if you think it would be hard to manage parenthood as part of a dual-career couple, just think how much harder it would be to manage single parenthood and your career.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 9:28 AM on May 11, 2008

Thanks everyone for the great advice! I just want to clear up one thing: we're not making a decision on having a kid now, or even soon. I would probably be closer to 28/29 by that time. He's not pressuring me to have kids, but we're at a point where we're _not_ together, and we've always known about this incompatibility between us. So this is probably the best time to evaluate whether getting together again is a good idea - if this path will just end in him really wanting kids, and me really not wanting kids, maybe it's a good idea to just move on now. Better to make the decision now, instead of waiting till the stakes are higher, as saucysault mentioned.

He's not pressuring me, he's not rushing to have kids now, he's not making a baby more important than our relationship. We're both trying to make a decision here that will be the best for both of us down the road, and he's not being unreasonable about it. It does irk me that he's not willing to give up more because he's the one that wants kids, but I think that just indicates that he might be better off with someone who wants to have kids just as much as he does.

Long-distance was a problem for us, but it pales in comparison to the issue of having children. We have other issues to work out, but unless this issue is something we can figure out, the other stuff is irrelevant.

Half of me says that we should both find people who want the same thing, and half of me wonders if the biological clock will kick in, and I'll actually want kids in a few years. And if it's the latter, throwing away this relationship will be a rather waste. So it's hard to say without knowing the future.

It comes down to this: for him, the negatives of having a kid are outweighed by the positives (the joy they bring, having a purpose in life, etc). For me, they are not. But that very well could change.

Those of you that say having a kid when you don't really want one is a bad idea: you're absolutely right. I'm certainly not ready to have kids now. One of the reasons I listed for not wanting children is possible resentment because I didn't want to have children in the first place.

One of the things brought up here that wasn't really on my mind: he works long hours at his job now (9 to 8, which isn't horrible for the hardware industry, but certainly not 40 hours a week), and I probably would too. That kind of schedule doesn't even work with day care, I work part-time for a software company now, and I see my co-workers having families... but it's the husband that is the co-worker, never the wife. I think the majority of them have stay-at-home wives.

Anyway, thanks to everyone who posted. Lots of great advice, and I really appreciate the posts that point out things that I didn't think enough about. I still need to think things through a little more, but I'm leaning towards the "give up now" route. It makes me sad, and I wish it were otherwise, but better now than in 6-7 years.
posted by jasminerain at 9:59 AM on May 11, 2008

Every child deserves at least one parent who actually enjoys many of the day-to-day tasks of parenting. I'm not talking about cleaning up poop. I'm talking about getting down on the floor and playing with blocks, reading stories in funny voices, giving baths, teaching them to cook cupcakes, and the other fun stuff of parenting. Does your boyfriend love that stuff? If so, he should be the primary caregiver of his children, none of this "I suppose I'm willing to do half" nonsense. If not, it sounds like he doesn't actually want kids, he wants the idea of kids. That's not unusual, especially because he's young. But you shouldn't be pressured into having his children unless he actually wants to care for them, unless you actually want to care for them, which it doesn't sound like you do. It's not that you both wouldn't love your kids: you would. But at least one of you should also love hanging out with them.

Additionally, consider this: when you have a child, you may get a healthy, easy-to-care-for baby who sleeps through the night immediately and goes 18 years without getting seriously ill or getting in trouble at school or needing you during working hours for anything more major than a few field trips. You also may get a pregnancy that puts you in the hospital for six months surrounding the birth, or triplets, or a special needs child who requires full-time, round-the-clock medical care his entire life, or a colickly baby who keeps you up all night for the first nine months of her life so that you're nearly useless at work the next day, or a baby who grows up into a child who bites the other kids at daycare and gets sent home every other day, or a baby who becomes a teenager who steals cars or does drugs or otherwise requires your constant attention no matter how wonderful your parenting was for the first dozen years of his life.

Those are all possibilities you need to be prepared for, and when your boyfriend says that he wants kids and is "more willing" to make career sacrifices than you are, that should mean that if there comes a time when your child needs one parent to be the breadwinner and the other to be the day to day caretaker, he should be the one to put his career on hold to take care of the child while you bring home the money. The fact that you are the mother and he is the father is irrelevant.

(on preview, iminurmefi has it: "It's hard for to me to fathom how 'more willing to make sacrifices' translates into splitting the time half-and-half with you, unless he's starting from the position that it's natural and desirable that the woman in the relationship scale back her career and drop down to part-time if things get too difficult with two working parents." You shouldn't be presumed to be the sacrifice-maker just because you are the uterus-haver.)
posted by decathecting at 10:01 AM on May 11, 2008 [5 favorites]

Responses to specific comments:

jenfullmoon - Good questions. He wants them to be biologically his. I'm not desperate to keep him, but there is the feeling (for both of us) that it would be a pity to walk away from this if it turns out to be something that we could have worked out. As for whether I want a kid... I like some children. I've seen my family friends with well-behaved children, but I've also seen really badly-behaved children. I can't come up with any reasons why I would want a kid now, but I may in the future - biological clock, want more meaning to life than my career, etc.

NoRelationToLea - The career is not about the money. I really like what I do, and I think I would feel like it would be a waste to have to give that up, money or no.

k8t - True, I can, and I think that the company I work part-time for right now would be accomodating. Flexibility is good, but it would still impact my career.

hydropsyche - I agree, but if he's not willing to make that sacrifice, then I can't force him. I can only make the decision on whether or not I'm willing to make that sacrifice. Good to know that how I feel about him making sacrifices is not unreasonable, though.

iminurmefi - He's more willing to make sacrifices than me in that I'd rather not take time away from work, outside of maternity leave. Sounds selfish of me, I know, but that's how I feel right now - it may change later. We had a serious talk yesterday (spawning this question), and I asked him that question. His answer was basically that he's pretty unwilling to take a few years off, but he'd be much more willing to take off an equal amount. I think that he probably does feel like it's my natural role (like you said, it's not that it's bad, just the way that he was raised), so I don't blame him for his response, but it does feel like that's not the attitude I need in someone for me.

decathecting - Yes, he loves that stuff. I'd say that's partly *why* he wants kids. I think I'd enjoy that too. But the cleaning up poop and late night feedings and the not-fun parts are the ones that we'd have to split up. I also think it would be more fair if he were willing to make more sacrifices since he wants kids so much, but that doesn't seem to be the case. So it may be best for both of us to just move on.

Thanks, to everyone that posted, for the great advice. This has been really enlightening. I love AskMefi =).
posted by jasminerain at 10:44 AM on May 11, 2008

OK, let me start off with you're a bit young to really let this weigh you down. 22 is WAY young (and I say this as a single (but dating) 29 year-old who is close to your position with similar views on having children, in a relationship with someone who eventually wants children, etc.) to think about this whole thing. Settle into a job, see where the relationship goes (since you are at least open to the idea of kids) and relax for a minute.

Fear of giving birth: Yeah, I'll run marathons, but I can't even begin to think about doing THAT. But then I checked out The Business of Being Born, and I feel better about the ability to withstand that kind of pain.

Fear of resenting your kid / putting high expectations on him/her: You won't resent the kid. The neat thing about having kids is that it's a pretty selfless thing to do - all of the sudden this little life completely depends on you for survival, and your love will do a whole heck of a lot, and you will love this kid. It might take some time to get that overwhelming mothery feeling, but you'll get there and you'll love the kid. High expectations were put on me to, but it worked out well in the long run. Your kid'll be ok.

Fear of increased stress: Kids suck every last bit of time, energy, and money out of you. That's true. Parenting is really stinking hard. Because of that "this kid will die without me" thing, you'll find that exhaustion will be par for the course, as will frustration and emotional turmoil. But you'll also find that despite all the agony, it's fun, you love your kid, and parenting is really rewarding.

The Balance: Balancing kids and career is super hard, but it sounds like both of you will be pretty financially stable in your (much more lucrative than mine) careers. I was sent to daycare from a very early age and there were regular babysitters, and I turned out OK. If I ever decide to have children, I will definitely be a working mom, hands down. My career is very important to me, and kids or no kids, I want to do well and enjoy myself.

I think I said a lot of the same stuff as everyone else here, but just my two cents. Good luck!
posted by cachondeo45 at 11:20 AM on May 11, 2008

Another thing to consider--accidental pregnancy happens. The repercussions can be devastating in a relationship where one person wants children and the other doesn't.

And, speaking as a child that was born because one parent didn't want kids but wanted the relationship to work out, don't have a compromise kid. Surprise, having a child only added to the strain in the relationship and my mother was left holding the bag (me) although she never wanted children. She did her best as a single parent, but it didn't really turn out well for either of us.

Even if your partner offers to do all the chores or get up in the middle of the night or whatever--this is a baby, a human life, who will love you and want to spend every moment of every day with you. Mother preference is real, and you will face the larger burden of pregnancy and birth, unfair as that might be.

It's not a puppy that won't be a hassle as long as your partner agrees to walk it twice a day and vacuum the fur off the couch. It's going to affect your life no matter what.

Thank you for being thoughtful about this, and good luck with whatever you decide.
posted by sondrialiac at 11:35 AM on May 11, 2008

I don't think this is a dealbreaker necessarily. When my husband and I got married, we felt so-so about kids. For a time, we both differed in our opinion (I was so-so, he was no). For several years, we decided we definitely didn't want them. Recently, we've both come to the realisation that our lives are changing that that we do want to think about the possibility of a child (just one!). I am almost 30, and he is nearly 38. I'm sure that age has a lot to do with it.

For us, it has been complex and a shifting feeling. I have been working on my career, I moved overseas without my husband this year to continue working on it, and I have two masters'. We've also done a ton of travel. Yet while I will always be passionate about my career I don't want it to define my life. If I was to have a kid I don't know how it would work out with juggling work and family (few family nearby), but there's no use fretting about it before anything happens.

All the reasons you have for not having kids, we had when we were both younger. And if that never changes for you, don't have kids. There's no rule that says you have to. But you never know what decisions you are going to make over the next few years and who knows what direction your life will go in. Be with the boyfriend for now and see what happens.
posted by wingless_angel at 12:34 PM on May 11, 2008

Your boyfriend is making a hypothetical baby more important than your relationship. Aren't you in the slightest insulted by this?

Why would she be insulted? Having kids is integral to many people's view of what life is all about. She should be grateful he's at least being honest before she hitches herself to him legally.
posted by jayder at 1:12 PM on May 11, 2008

NoRelationToLea - The career is not about the money. I really like what I do, and I think I would feel like it would be a waste to have to give that up, money or no.

Others have touched on this point, and I probably didn't articulate clearly enough in my first comment. You need to hedge your bets and build ALL aspects of your life. Your career, your family, your friends, your hobbies and interests - all those things will, at one point or another, disappoint you. They'll fail to be worthy of your dedication to them and the sacrifices you've chosen to pursue them. To the point where you'll wonder why you bothered making the choices you did. If you're lucky, you'll have stewarded those other aspects well enough to sustain you through those times. I KNOW my son, at two weeks old, is likely going to break my heart with recombinant DNA body mods like fish gills or something, or worse - he's still completely changed the game.

I see in your question the same monastic dedication and singular purpose you often see in smart kids right out of good schools - almost always to their careers, money or no. I'm saying that decision is the product of a scam. I really like what *I* do, but in truth even my most important career moments feel like insignificant middle school drama now compared to my life outside of work. That was true even before the kid, and massively so now.

You need to "waste" or "throw away" (your phrasing, not mine) something. So choose.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 1:55 PM on May 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

There's lots of good advice here about dealbreakers, waiting, being pretty young right now, etc, so I won't add to the debate about whether to have kids.

However, I will weigh in about my career and my kids. I was 31 when I had my first and I had my second not too long ago. I've run a marketing consulting business aimed at the tech sector for several years. I've always set myself apart via my knowledge of software and hardware. Once I had kids, I had to learn about juggling my time, since I felt very strongly that I wanted a parent with my children full-time AND that I wanted to breastfeed for 2 years with each child. My husband and I decided that I would be the one to be at home full-time, since this would accommodate breastfeeding (the way I wanted) and I already had a business I could run from home.

I've continued in my career. In fact, I've built my business up more, since I had to start making time crunch decisions, so that I could avoid using childcare. I now have a team working for me and I've also developed a publishing business that provides a somewhat more passive income stream. I'm running my business more like a business and less like self-employment.

As for my career, I regularly have recruiters and industry contacts approach me about very high-paying jobs. Someone emailed me about a $100k+ opportunity yesterday, but I wasn't interested. I have no doubts that I am working at the same level as my peers (who have not had children) -- or even above that. In fact, I'm making as much money as they are, without having to work as many hours!

You often hear about women in the 70s or 80s taking time off to raise children -- and then having trouble get back in. But those women were facing the emergence of computers. Suddenly, if you didn't know computers and keyboarding, you were in real trouble. Today, we're immersed in FaceBook, LinkedIn, MS Office and so on. You could probably even stop your career completely and just keep reading, studying and volunteering for certain projects. In that case, you might see your income drop a bit if you decided to take time out, but you could eventually get back up to speed.

BUT, having said all that, if you guys decide to have kids, there's no reason your partner couldn't be the one to stay home. I know many dads who are at home and many more who share parenting responsibilities by working irregular or part-time hours. Many others run businesses from home. If your partner really wants kids, he could start thinking about how to work from home or achieve work-life balance. Or maybe he'd be happy with having someone else raise your kids during the day -- such as through a nanny, daycare or family member. I know someone whose mother takes care of her kids while she is the CEO of a major engineering firm and making $200k-$300k a year.
posted by acoutu at 4:05 PM on May 11, 2008

Just nthing all of the working women who said that wanting kids didn't click until her 30s. My mom didn't have kids until she was 34 and 36 - before that she quite candidly said that she was quite indifferent, and happy traveling and working. It was only after the birth that she thought - wow!

As for myself, at 36 it is only now occurring to me that I am ready - ready in the sense that I see it as an adventure, rather than a burden. But a lot of that is also that I feel as if I got a change to experience a great deal beforehand, and found a partner doesn't just want kids, but has stepped up, in word and deed, in terms of thinking about how to care for that child (of course, he was a third grade school teacher, so he's a bit of a ringer).

That said - it's not perfect - Sir Anitanita is finishing out medical school and it seems that we will have to go where he gets residency. And one of the things about children is that there is a sense of vulnerability - physically, emotionally and financially - particularly if one needs to give up one's job for a period of time. But I really do think of it now with a sense of adventure and curiosity about the child that will show up (either by birth or adoption, depending on how it all works out).

But to your question - there are several women who have done the work/child thing: one colleague works from home two days a week, in fact, almost all of the women I know have partners who also work from home/stay at home part time to take care of their child. (I'm in California). There are a number of books about women, and babies and work, and how the manage the time before the take a break and how they re-intergrate (sp?) back into their institutions successfully. Perhaps those might help as well.

Good luck!
posted by anitanita at 6:29 PM on May 11, 2008

Just gonna chime in here, though it seems everybody beat me to it.

I'm not convinced that having kids is right for me yet,

Of course not. I was SO much younger at 22 - only 6 years ago - than I am now. I was a completely different person. Give yourself time to figure yourself out first!

Your boyfriend is wonderfully honest to be bringing up his views on children with you, UNLESS he's pressuring you to have them right now or soon. If so, I think that's way out of line. Asking you to have kids with him some day is a different story. You have no idea where you'll be in five years.

At the risk of sounding old-fashioned, I notice you made no mention of marriage. I do understand that you don't want to marry someone if you don't have the same views on procreation - that's far-sighted of you. But seriously, if you feel the marriage decision is too big or difficult for you to make, then you're DEFINITELY not ready to decide to make a baby. Marriages, after all, are not life sentences. Babies are.

The biological clock is bullshit.

Speak for yourself, pieoverdone! Sheesh, if you're so insulted at being generalized, please don't generalize those of us that do get hit with the old tick-tock. With me - and with 75% of all my girlfriends - it is very, very real. I NEVER wanted kids, though when I got married I was open to the possibility of it maybe happening "some day". Then I turned 28 and all of a sudden was like OMG NEEDS BABIEZ. Seriously, we're talking nights spent sobbing, trying to convince my husband that we were ready and could have one a couple years earlier than planned.

Get that? I couldn't wait even two more years. So it doesn't happen to everyone, but it might happen to you.

So while I applaud your trying to enter a long-term relationship with everything pre-decided and open on the table, that's just not always how it works. You could decide that because he wants babies this guy isn't it, break up with him and get together with someone who doesn't want kids, find out that you're one of us subject to the biological clock, and then be stuck despite all your planning. Life's just weird that way... enjoy your time with this guy first.
posted by GardenGal at 7:26 PM on May 11, 2008

GardenGal - Sorry for not being clearer, marriage is kind of assumed for us, if everything works out, and it would definitely come before babies. I appreciate the other point of view, from someone who did get hit by the biological clock. That's part of what makes this decision hard - I could always end up on the other side, regretting throwing the relationship away because I didn't think I would ever want babies, but wanting them anyway.

NoRelationToLea - You're probably right about how I feel about my career. To some degree, though, I wonder if I can't have a well-rounded life without having a child. I can still have a loving family, hobbies, friends, etc, and have none of that affect my career to the extent that a child would. But that's presuming that I'll still feel this way about kids in a few years, and that may not be the case.

In any case, great to have views from both sides. I know it's early to be thinking about this, but the older I get, the harder it will be to find someone (and the same for him). On the other hand, it may not be a dead end.

I'll give it some time. I really appreciate all the advice I've gotten here. Even if the decision isn't any easier, at least I feel better informed (and hearing about your experiences have helped a ton). Thanks, everyone!
posted by jasminerain at 10:07 PM on May 11, 2008

I know it's early to be thinking about this, but the older I get, the harder it will be to find someone

Don't underestimate the amazing curve balls life can throw your way. My boyfriend and I didn't meet till three years ago when I was 36 (and divorced) and he was 42; it's hands-down the most loving, satisfying relationship either of us have had in our entire lives. Which is of course not to say that you and your boyfriend don't love each other right now; rather, to encourage you to try to avoid making decisions that are predicated on thinking that you can predict the future (and that the future you're predicting will be worse than what you have presently). Honestly -- and I say this in the best possible way -- at 22, you can't imagine the opportunities and people that are going to be coming your way! There's a world of people out there for you to find, if that's what you choose.
posted by scody at 1:01 AM on May 12, 2008

The biological clock is bullshit.

Definitely not - it's completely real and worth keeping in mind for life-planning purposes. Since men don't have a deadline for conceiving their biological children and hormonal fluctuations leading to that deadline, this can be easy to minimize, but it's real.
posted by Miko at 6:14 AM on May 12, 2008

I don't know about that. How do you pick a man when you don't want children, at all, but MIGHT magically change your mind at any point past the big 3-0 or 4-0? How do you plan around THAT?! Uh, you can't really. And The Clock of Doom does not hit everyone with a uterus to boot.

You have to operate on, "I don't want them now and it seems unlikely that I will unless the biological clock slams me upside the head or I get brain damage that causes a drastic change in my personality," and take it from there, and if suddenly you hit X age and The Clock of Doom smacks you, then you end up making a drastic change in life plans and/or men and you're stuck dealing with that. That's all we've got until menopause hits when it comes to planning for something that "might" happen.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:42 PM on May 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

I think you're misreading me. The "biological clock" does not mean "someday you're going to start wanting children;" it just means "some day you will no longer be fertile and the choice will be moot." If you do start wanting children, it's not due to the end of your fertile years alone, but to a number of complicated factors that come about with maturity -- changes in your family such as deaths or the births of new relatives, changes in your outlook, some hormonal variances, threats to your own health, watching your friends go through parenting or not parenting, and so on.

The "biological clock," in the sense of a timer that winds down, is a fact that one needs to be aware of in long-range planning. I know women who minimized it and now regret not taking it into account more. If you know you don't want children beyond a shadow of a doubt, then it's not an important consideration. If your mind is open to the possibility that you might change your point of view, it's something to keep in mind.
posted by Miko at 5:01 PM on May 12, 2008

The "biological clock" does not mean "someday you're going to start wanting children;" it just means "some day you will no longer be fertile and the choice will be moot.".

Exactly. Like it or not, women have a limited time to bear children, even though that "limit" is decades. I'm in my late 30s and vacillated for years over having a baby -- by the time I met my boyfriend, I'd pretty much decided that I was cool either way with being a mom or not (hey, I love and adore kids, but also love and adore sleeping in on the weekend). But because my boyfriend really wants kids, we have to make some decisions quickly if we're going to do it the old-fashioned way -- not because I woke up one day with some inner alarm going BEEP BEEP BEEP MUST PROCREATE, but because of basic scientific facts: it will be harder for me to get pregnant at 40 than it would have been at 25 or 30 or even 35 (and the statistical likelihood of risks increases, especially as I have chronic health issues to begin with); at 45, it will be likely be very difficult, if not impossible, without fertility treatments; beyond that, almost certainly not possible at all. That's not ideology, it's biology. (Of course, surrogacy and adoption are other options, so of course whether or not a woman can get pregnant doesn't mean she can't be a mother.)

And even men have a certain biological clock, both emotionally and physiologically; while it's certainly true that men can father children decades past the point that women can conceive, I believe some studies are now suggesting that some of the risks associated with older mothers having children is related to older fathers -- that is, that sperm from older men tends not to be as healthy as that from younger men. So it may turn out that there are reasons for men to plan on fathering children by their 40s, too.
posted by scody at 5:43 PM on May 12, 2008

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