Is it possible to "have it all," and still maintain balance in our lives?
There's no shortage of blogs, articles, and books on this topic but the reality of "having it all" seems different as a BCBA than it might in other professions. We're granted so much flexibility over our schedules as well as the promise of a high income potential, that "having it all" seems a little more attainable than it might to a Corporate CEO.
The question of whether "having it all" was a possibility came up for me recently, when I found out two pieces of wonderful news:
I was having a baby, due on August 9th
I was accepted to a PhD program, starting on August 27th
These two things tugged at me in either direction. My husband and I waited a long time to hear to exciting words, "You're pregnant!" In fact, I had put off applying for a PhD program because I anticipated getting pregnant much sooner. I finally reached a point where I decided to stop planning the rest of my life around getting pregnant, and applied to the PhD program. Which left me in this predicament.
My idea of "having it all" includes both a baby and a PhD, so my initial reaction was to try to balance the two. I could find a daycare next to the school, pop in on my lunch break to nurse the baby, get my schoolwork done in the evenings while she was sleeping, and spend as much time as possible bonding with my new baby on the weekends. If you're a mom of a newborn - you're probably laughing at this point. So did my doctor when I told her I was planning to go back to school 3 weeks after delivery. She informed me that babies don't come on time, and even when they do, well, they require sleepless nights, which lead to zombie parents that are in no condition to attend PhD programs (did I mention I was expected to teach as well?).
Ok - one vote for, "You can't have it all."
As I do with most problems, I decided to discuss the issue and my plan with my own mother. She always instilled a sense of "having it all". After all, she ran a successful business and raised two girls without batting an eye. I told her my plan and she shared a story with me about my birth. Her plan was to go back to work fairly soon after having her first baby, much like my plan was to start classes fairly soon after having my first baby. After seeing her baby girl, her immediate reaction was, "Fuck work." It's safe to say, she was another vote against "having it all".
My initial game plan fell apart before it began and I was frustrated. I want to have it all, but maybe that wasn't an option after all?
The articles and blogs I've read on the topic all seem to scoff at the idea of having it all. Articles entitled "Having it all and hating it" or "Having it all kind of sucks" seem to be commonplace. These articles project the notion that "having it all" isn't something that makes people, particularly women, happy. Which is where I differ. The idea of a wonderful fulfilling career, with no baby, doesn't make me happy. I also know that an enjoyable family life (baby included) won't be enough to keep me satisfied. Even when thinking about managing my career and a baby, without pursuing higher education, I'm not content.
So what do you do when everyone is telling you that you can't have it all, hell, telling you that you don't even want it all, but you know that you do!?
Ultimately, I decided to defer the PhD program for a year. This wasn't an easy process and I could fill an entire second blog on the right for women to have babies and not be treated like inconveniences in academia, but I'll save that for another time. Having it "all" is still the elusive dream for me, but I'm finding that there's a difference between "having it all" and "having it all right now." Advancing through a PhD program while also taking care of a newborn would require me to split my energy between these goals. From what I hear, neither a PhD program nor raising a newborn is something that can be done successfully with only 50% effort. Rather than balancing the two at the same time, it seems to make more sense to balance the two over time; Focusing all of my energy on raising a newborn can come first, followed by focusing my energy on a PhD program, later.
I don't know if deferring the program was the right decision but I do know that it gave me an immediate sense of relief. I don't want to just have a business, a family, and a PhD to check them off of my list - I want to enjoy having them all. I want to fully embrace the life of a new mom as well as be present in the growth of my new business. I want to commit to the classroom and research opportunities in the PhD program. So, for me, having it all will have to be a longer term goal, but one that I'll continue to strive for in spite of the risk that I'll "have it all and hate it."