Some of you likely know that by trade, I am a Chartered Accountant or CA for short. I was recently asked by another CA why I worked so hard to obtain my CA designation (16 hour exam over four days!) if I knew I was going to "give it all up" to have kids. This CA is a mother, but also a partner at a large accounting firm. She and I are not only not on the same page, we are not even in the same book. To clarify, both are legitimate books, neither one better or more valid than the other, simply different.
I stumbled over my response. It's complicated. It's not as simple as "giving up my career". For one, I haven't given up my profession. I still work as a CA, just not in the same capacity as she does. I was not offended by this question, though you might expect I would be. Because, when it comes down to it, in a sense, I have given up, temporarily and maybe permanently, a "career" as a CA.
I know of this career. I had begun this career before we had children. Barely, granted, since I got pregnant with Jack the week after the above mentioned 16 hour exam. We don't waste time. Such a career requires hard work and long hours. It requires climbing the corporate ladder. It requires assuming more and more responsibility. Not like any other career, I imagine.
In essence, it requires everything that I am not. I am not, by nature, a corporate ladder climber. That whole genre does not fulfill me even a little bit. I admire people who are fulfilled by this but I am not one of them. I think, and I am only speculating, that some are driven by the lure of making more and more money to buy more and more stuff. Maybe this is because I can't understand the alternative. That someone would be excited and energized to move up the corporate ladder. I don't know. What I do know is that neither of these things drive or motivate me.
When Jack was 18 months old, I went back to work. I had quit my job before he was a year old because I just couldn't fathom leaving him for 40 plus hours a week with someone else. Again, this is how I felt. I don't judge others who do leave their kids to work. It's a personal choice and ofter not a choice at all, but a necessity. For Jay and I, it didn't feel right. I also know that I am extremely lucky that Jay and I share these same beliefs and values and that we have this option.
However, after spending the next six months with little or no social contact (I had not yet discovered the internet, obviously), I needed to go back. It had nothing to do with wanting to further my career. It was simply a survival decision.
Jack loathed daycare. I loathed leaving him there. I didn't enjoy my work. I enjoyed the social aspect yes, but that was about it. I only worked three days a week. Frankly, in hindsight, it was three days too many. This arrangement lasted 18 months until my maternity leave began for Kamden. I never went back.
While on leave, the work I do now was mentioned as a possibility by another mom. I am indebted to her for the idea and for pushing me to try it. I have never looked back. I now teach online courses (among other things) to students who are working towards becoming CAs. I am still in the profession. In a way, I am giving back to the profession far more than I ever would have working in industry or public practice. But the biggest perk, the one that motivated me to try this in the first place, is that I am the one with our boys. I wake up with them every morning, feed them breakfast and send them off to school. Minus the "hurry up, Mommy is going to be late for work" rants. I am here when they come home for lunch. I am here when they come home from school. I was the one who dropped them off and picked them up from preschool.
I was here. I am still here.
And for that reason, I don't feel like I have given anything up at all.