The venue was packed with women in their 20s and 30s, ambitious women who were trying to figure out how they'd manage to have a family while still growing their career. And while most of the conversation that evening was about increasingly cliche topics we've talked circles around since Slaughter's article came out, one new-to-me point came up that got me thinking – and has kept me thinking ever since.
During the Q&A session, a woman my age approached the microphone said something like, “Everything we've talked about tonight revolves around creating a flexible career before you have children. But what about those of us – likely the majority of women here tonight – who don't have flexible hours? Those of us who are in traditional roles, who have to be in the office from 9-to-5 – and likely a whole lot more than that. How are we supposed to have both a career AND a family?”
I don't remember Slaughter's answer, because my mind never left the question. That question made me realize something I hadn't realized before. It made me realize I HAD that flexibility, the kind the woman was asking about. It made me realize I had created a flexible career, one that would be conducive to raising a family – without meaning to. I created my own business for lots of other reasons, but now I saw just how much I'd set myself up to have a family, too.
A family has always been in my plans. I've always wanted kids, ever since I was a kid myself. And the truth is, I never expected to wait this long to have them.
But, of course, you can't have children without a partner to have them with. Well, you could, but that's not how I envision myself doing it. And while most of my friends were meeting that special person, getting married, settling down in a city or town and having kids, I was moving across the country for a job, leaving that job to travel in Africa, moving in with my parents so I could write a book, then moving to a different city for a job, working evenings and weekends to grow my business, and finally leaving that job to pursue my business full time. Perhaps not as conducive to finding my spouse. Or perhaps MORE conducive to finding the right person, since I do believe that living your life the way you want to will result in meeting that person along the way. Now that I have found the right person, he's as into globe-trotting and adventure-seeking as I am.
My point here though, is that I'm 32 and don't yet have kids – unlike almost all of my close friends. And I did not see that coming. I didn't see it coming until I graduated from journalism school and fell in love with my career – and continued to love it even as it morphed into a totally new creature (yet another diversion I didn't expect).
What I never did purposely was create a career that would allow me to focus on having my own family without giving up my work life. Yet now that's so clearly a benefit of having my own business that I wish I'd been smart enough to set it up with that goal in mind.
This topic – of being a woman in today's changing workplace, of figuring out how to fit in a personal life while building my career – isn't one I write about a lot on this blog. I avoid it because it's complicated, and because I'm not sure whether readers will care, and because sometimes I'm not even sure what I think or the best way to share those ideas.
But lately it comes to the surface more and more. Like when I met with a reader of this blog, and she pointed out that I'm one of the few women who writes about running an online business, one of the few female voices in this space. And when super-smart posts are popping up about how women should create their own rules in the workplace. And when members of this community share their own tips for being a mommy while kicking it in the freelance world. And when I feel my own family-work challenge approaching in a very real way, one that will eventually affect my business and this blog.
So now I'm at the point where I'd normally delete this post and save the topic for later, because this has no obvious message, no overarching point. And I think, why did I write it to begin with?
Here's the reason: to see if you, too, are figuring this out, are working through how to have it all.