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Dating Maze #111 - Superwoman?
Dating Advice 111

Dating Maze #111 - Superwoman?

Is it possible to combine a demanding career with motherhood?


Dear Rosie & Sherry:

I just read the answer to the question that you wrote regarding women in their 30s delaying marriage and children for careers. I found it interesting because I, as a 25-year-old fourth-year dental student, got married during my most difficult year and survived. I agree with what you said about going through school with a loving, supporting husband as being possibly easier than doing it alone. Of course, not everyone is lucky enough to find someone understanding enough to go through life with a crazed dental student! I got a lot of slack from classmates for getting married in dental school, but I have survived... and even done well!

Now that I've been married for almost a year, my husband and I are thinking seriously about when to start a family, which is what we both really want. I am in the process of applying for a pediatric dental residency, and have concerns about having children during my residency. Almost everyone I speak with about this tells me to wait for a "less busy time."

As career women yourselves, I'm sure you understand that there may never be a time in life that is "not busy." How do I know when is the best time? Is it foolish to consider having a first baby during training? I would love to hear your advice because everyone else I encounter seems to be under the impression that women's lives should either be career-oriented or family-oriented... but not both!


Dear Vicki,

Your observation that "there may never be a time in life that is not busy" is right on the mark -- and even more so when it comes to a woman who is in a demanding profession. That's why it is so important for a woman who is heavily invested in a career, and who also wants to raise a family, to periodically examine her priorities, and (along with her husband), determine how she can adjust them at various stages in life.

We both had our first children at a time that the women's movement told us that we could "have it all" in terms of motherhood, career and family life. We quickly learned that yes, women can have it all, but not at the same time. Even the superwomen among us, who are super-organized and able to coordinate many responsibilities, can't simultaneously be at the top of their professions, very involved in raising young children, and devote a great deal of energy to their marriage. Something's got to give.

When we became mothers, we quickly learned that raising a family is a lot more challenging, time-consuming and self-sacrificing than we had ever imagined it would be. We also had no idea how rewarding and enriching parenting would be, and how much we enjoyed sharing responsibilities with our husbands. At the same time, neither of us felt that we would be happy as stay-at-home moms. We loved the professions we had chosen, and we wanted to work in our fields. Yet we chose to have our career take second-chair to our family life.

For us, at varying times in our careers this meant choosing a job that was less demanding (and less prestigious and less lucrative) than another, working part-time, searching a little harder for a position that allowed for flexibility if a child was ill (or had a play or class trip we wanted to attend), opting for jobs that were close to home or to our children's schools, taking a longer time to obtain a license, delaying involvement in professional organizations until the children were older, foregoing certain professional conferences or courses, etc. It also meant occasionally not getting enough sleep or feeling overwhelmed by all of our responsibilities.

Nevertheless, each of us is happy with the choices we made. We achieved competence in our fields and the respect of our clients and colleagues, and now that our children are older we have been able to travel as part of our work with singles and write books and articles. More importantly, we have been able to be the kind of hands-on parents we wanted to be, and our children have grown up happy and well adjusted. We have also been blessed with supportive husbands and have worked hard at keeping our marriages close and loving.

We've explained our own experiences to highlight the fact that for those women who want to combine motherhood and career, it can be done. We suggest that you speak with other women who have done what you'd like to do -- combine a dental or medical residency with motherhood. Because they share your desire to have a family and a career, their perspective will be much more helpful than the views of your fellow students, who at this point in their lives aren't even attuned to the idea of marriage, let alone children.

Some questions you can ask: How were these women able to balance the demands of their job with the demands of their family? How did they handle child care? Were their husbands willing to put in extra effort to help at home? What programs are the most flexible for interns who are also parents? What suggestions do they have to make this part of your life easier? You can adapt their positive experiences to your own life.

Finally, please appreciate that the issues of career versus motherhood involve issues of Jewish law as well, and it is important that a rabbi be part of your decision-making process .

We hope this answer helps you do the right thing.

Rosie & Sherry

January 19, 2003

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Visitor Comments: 3

(3) Anonymous, December 4, 2002 12:00 AM

Good advice

Rosie & Sherry and the first comment below give good advice. Will having a child have an impact on your career? Yes. Can you achieve your career goals anyway? Yes, but not without compromise.

I also agree with the comment that it's better to have a baby and leave him/her with a trusted nanny until your schedule can be more flexible, than to postpone having a child, and lowering your chances of becoming a mother ever. Look at it this way - you can be a dentist when you're 50 also, but your prime childbearing years are already past.

May Hashem give you the strength to express your potential for productivity both as a mother and as a professional.

- a working mom of 6 kids (flexible full-time schedule, no sleep :-) )

(2) Anonymous, October 21, 2002 12:00 AM


I enjoy your reading your Dating Maze! This is so basic a question but please help!
When first talking to a possible dating/marriage partner who you've met via an ISO service (JDATE, etc) what do you say? I described my interests, appearance, what I am looking for? But what do I ask them? One thing I ask, if they are divorced, etc. (I am 55) is if they over their ex-wife. I don't delve to much into their jobs, but I do feel at a loss. Please advise, or give me a book to read, etc.

(1) Anonymous, October 21, 2002 12:00 AM

Every choice is the "right" choice.

There is no "right" time to have kids, and no "right" decision about work once you have them. I gave up a great career to go part-time, and am generally very happy - I've found there is nothing more rewarding than being with my children - though sometimes I do miss the prestige and money of having a better career. Some of my good friends have kids and work full-time in demanding jobs, and their experiences vary: I know mothers who wish they could quit, and others who say their job keeps them sane.

Please go for it, and have children: they are more precious and wonderful than any job, and you should never put off motherhood because of career concerns. Once you have children, your priorities will shift (parenthood changes EVERYONE), and then you can decide what you want to do about your job and child-care. Please give yourself the option.

And please keep in mind: it's better to have wonderful children and employ a nanny while you work during the day, then to let the chance to become a parent pass you by because you think it would be inconvenient, and wonder later on what might have been!

Finally, having children will completely change your priorities and outlook on life. Perhaps you're afraid that you might WANT to give up work, and don't want to turn into that person! Don't be afraid. The Torah says "pru u'rvu": be fruitful and multiply. If we are lucky enought to have the opportunity, that is the path we are meant to take. The person you will become once you take that path will be an even better person than who you are today. You are meant to become that person - please don't be afraid of the choices you'll make once you do!

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