Post # 1
I am 36 and 5 months pregnant with our first child. A year prior to getting pregnant I made a huge career switch, leaving a very intense, tenure-track academic job for something with more work-life balance. I actually never wanted an academic career and had always planned on going into the ‘industry’ track in my field, but industry options are extremely niche. The academic job was 24/7, in a dysfunctional department, and in a very isolated location, and I knew combining that lifestyle with kids would never work for me personally. My husband and I moved, he found a great new job, and we bought a house in a desirable location closer to family, friends, and my professional network.
However, it took me nearly a year to find a position and it’s not in the industry I desire but instead is an academic admin. position which I’m not crazy about. It pays well and is flexible and I can finally leave work at work, which is what I wanted with a baby on the way, but I’m having a really hard time letting go of years of being ambitious, career-driven, and work-focused. I miss a lot of aspects of my field and feel a bit lost being outside of both the academic and industry sides of it. I am still networking like crazy and volunteering one day a week in the industry side of things to keep a foot in the door, but after a year of searching I’m not very optimistic about being able to find a position.
I feel very excited and lucky on the one hand regarding this pregnancy. I met my husband late in life and worried that all my career-climbing may have cost me the chance to have children. I also don’t miss the stress and anxiety of being on the tenure track and surrounded by workaholic personalities and competition. On the other hand, I admit I do miss the ‘status’ sometimes and I also worry that I’ll get stuck in my current job and never find something in the industry that I am passionate about and worked so hard for. I realize I probably just need to suck it up, but some days I feel so down about my entire professional future, which basically consumed my life for many years. I love that I finally have a wonderful life outside of that now, but I sometimes feel overwhelming guilt over ‘throwing away’ something that I invested so much in. I know I need to change my mindset, but sometimes it’s really hard to snap myself out of this way of thinking and I just needed to vent.
Post # 2
No advice, just wanted to say I’m right there with you. I have one young child, and shortly before I had her, I took a step back from my career, giving up a fairly prestigious position for a very low stress, non-glamorous job that gives me lots of flexibility (great for where I’m at in life now with a small child), but isn’t too fulfilling. I used to feel proud when people would ask me what I did for work, and now I feel embarrassed, like I have to make self-deprecating jokes about it. I hate that! But also…I have no desire to get back into the rat race, so I’m not sure where that leaves me….
My husband recently encouraged me to sign up for a creative writing class, so I did that. It starts soon…I’m hoping it will give me some of the fulfillment that’s been missing from my professional life. I dunno though. Anyway…you aren’t alone!
Post # 3
emilyofnewmoon : Thanks sharing your experience. This sums up how I feel x1000: “I used to feel proud when people would ask me what I did for work, and now I feel embarrassed…But also…I have no desire to get back into the rat race, so I’m not sure where that leaves me…” I remember how unhappy I was in the rat race, and yet I feel guilty/embarassed/ashamed for giving it up.
Post # 4
greensea : I would use these coming 4 months before baby arrives to really ramp up networking. Now is actually the prefect time to do it because you’re NOT looking to switch jobs imminently – you’re just looking to connect with individuals in industires/companies of interest for you. Set up coffee chats, attend events, meet with recruiters — start building that network aggressively NOW while you have the work life balance and no child demanding your time and attention.
I think if you can switch into an industry role that both gives you work life balance and lets you feel like you’re in a role you can be proud of, then that’s the win-win outcome. They are out there, but they are hard to find because people dont want to give them up!
I’m very close to the point of leaving my ‘prestigious’ job to get out of the rat race and have the work-life balance that is a priority for me if I’m going to be the type of parent (and spouse) I want to be.
Everything your describing is exactly my fear and concern. I’v always been too “status focused” – priding myself on going to well reputed schools, demanding programs, top firms. I’ve sacrificed sleep, hobbies, social life, etc to get where I am today. And now I’m walking away from it all.
It’s terrifying but I keep reminding myself that status hasn’t brought my joy, but my hobbies (when I can do them on the weekends), my husband, and now my child will — so they need to be prioritized in my life.
I’m also working hard to find roles that have more flexibility and work-life balance while still being interesting work. I’m biding my time until the right opportunity presents itself to jump ship.
Post # 5
it’s a hard balance. someone recommended the book “lean in” to me. but i haven’t had a chance to read it. i am the mother of a 3 and almost 3 year old. also met my husband at 30, got married at 32, then struggled to conceive for another 2 years, when through ivf to have both my children at 34 then 36.
while i have always worked full time, i was not in a position of power previous to children. regular work hours and left work at work. i wanted career advancement, but wanted a happier non-stressful work life balance with kids. that being said, i have been trying to get into this women’s leadership cohort for a few years but the timing never worked out with maternity leave for my children. this year everything fell into place. i applied, got accepted. i attended the first 3 of 8 days over a 6 month time period. i came to to hear there was a restructuring, applied for a supervisor position, and got it.
i’ve told my husband, this year is my year. i just finished nursing (my 22 month old). i working on myself professionally and personally.
so i’d say, dedicate those beginning years to your children, find a happy work life balance. then decide what track you want to be on.
Post # 6
greensea : Thanks for your insight and advice. I feel very much the same about prioritzing the people and things that bring me joy and are truly important in my life, and I hope that ultimately I can find a way to balance that with work that engages and fulfills me. Using the coming months to network, attend events, and volunteer/freelance in my desired field is precisely my plan. I really hope it will pay off and that I can find something else after my maternity leave.
Post # 7
ajillity81 : Thanks for the sound advice and congrats on your recent accomplishments!
Post # 8
I share this sentiment. The following comment really resonated with me: “I admit I do miss the ‘status’ sometimes… I feel so down about my entire professional future, which basically consumed my life for many years.”
In my case, I worked in the most competitive department at the top firm in my industry globally and left due to personal circumstances. I then returned to studies at a very good university, which however is not nearly as prestigious as where I completed previous studies (going back to a similar tier would mean living away from my husband, which I was not prepared to do).
Some things that help me are to try and stay in the moment and appreciate all of the joy I have in my life that I previously did not. I also now have the time to pursue hobbies, which were out of the question before. In my case, I write – and I’ve been able to publish a few pieces. Even though it’s not the same as accomplishing things professionally, it does bring satisfaction. I also volunteer on issues that I’m passionate about. I won’t lie – sometimes I feel pangs when I see my classmates’/colleagues’ updates – but I can see that I am happy now. People have commented on the difference.
Post # 9
On the flip side – I’m in one of those “status” jobs for my industry, and I am absolutely dreading coming back after maternity leave (13 weeks preggo now). While the company touts work-life balance, something always has to give, and I’m afraid that it will be my family.
Your plan of networking/volunteering/freelancing sounds awesome. As long as you are happy and fulfilled, that’s what matters, not the status.