Contributed by: Ashley Davidson. Twitter: @missashuhlee
I’ve always wanted kids. But somehow, I accidentally chose my job over everything.
Let’s for a second forget that I am, in fact, in the middle of a divorce. When I was happily married, my husband and I would often look at each other and ask, “What would we do if we had kids?!” That was in regard to how much we worked and how it was even remotely feasible to have both successful careers and children.
He was (is… he’s still alive and kickin’) a busy sommelier, juggling a job that took him all over Washington, D.C., during the week, with late nights, weekend events, and a bit of international travel. Meanwhile, I work for a public relations agency, where I’m the day-to-day contact and manage the PR strategy for at least half a dozen brands, and a freelance writer on top of it all. It became our usual routine to start early, finish late, eat dinner, and then keep right on working.
Our careers grew quickly — I more than doubled my salary in less than five years — but we constantly used our careers as an excuse not to have kids. It seemed like every year we were pushing things off, waiting for that moment where we would be more financially stable, living in a bigger place, more mentally mature to handle everything that kids meant.
But we loved our DINK — Dual Income No Kids — life. We worked hard, reaped the rewards in the form of raises and promotions, and celebrated the milestones with champagne and decadent dinners.
Then I blinked and I was 30.
Don’t get me wrong… 30 is by no means old. It’s not too old to have children. But considering we had been talking about it throughout the five years we had been married, it suddenly dawned on me. His career was a priority. And I had inadvertently followed his lead and made my career a priority. I had gotten caught up in it all. I loved being asked to represent my company at industry and client conferences around the country. I loved flying to our Florida office (I’ve worked remotely since January 2013) to hang out with my coworkers. I loved accompanying my husband to his work functions on weekday evenings and over long weekends. All the while not having to think about our responsibilities at home except for my very independent cat (whom we honestly thought had a party every time we left for more than 24 hours).
It got me thinking about how it would have been possible for either of us to accomplish everything we had in such a short amount of time if we had had children. I wouldn’t be able to travel as much as I have the last few years. He wouldn’t have been able to work such late nights, more often than not coming home well after midnight. Our careers most certainly wouldn’t be where they are today. One of our careers — or both of our careers — would have had to take a backseat. I recall one of my execs at a former company telling me, “I may never be Mom of the Year, but my husband certainly will be.” She was a C-suite executive at a global corporation — and someone had to stay home to take care of their two young children.
That was eight years ago and it still resonates with me because I realized the immense sacrifices required of people who have kids. And the almost ridiculous expectations employers have of those of us who don't. We're expected to work more, travel more, commit more of ourselves to our professional lives. Fortunately, I don't work for a company like that, but so many do. Every time I board a flight at 5:40 a.m. (like I did this morning and like I will in three weeks) or I'm out well past what is an acceptable bedtime for a 30 year old, I wonder where I would be if I had had children two, three, four years go.
I'm grateful for the professional success that I've had, but still somewhat shocked that I somehow, completely by accident, chose my career over kids.
Life passes by quickly — too quickly — and sooner or later we realize we need to take things as they come and stop thinking so damn much.