Planning Your Career for Babies

Planning Your Career for BabiesWe’ve talked about how to financially plan for babies recently-ish, but we haven’t discussed other broad aspects of planning for babies since 2010, when I was pregnant with my first but hadn’t yet announced it here. (Ah, although we did have a nice discussion about when to get pregnant, which I’d forgotten about.) So what does planning your career for babies look like? I just got this related question from Reader K:

I am a 33 yo associate attorney at a small firm. I was pregnant with my first and then had a miscarriage in October. It was going to be perfect timing work-wise — due at the end of April. So here I am, possibly ready to try again. I have a big trial in a case that’s solely my case in February 2017. I doubt it will settle. Is it irresponsible of me to just try for a baby again regardless of timing? Work is very important but I also feel timing babies around work may be a fool’s errand.

I’m curious to hear what other readers have to say, but of course I have some thoughts. As a mother of two kids under 5, my advice to those of you trying to plan your career around eventually having a baby: Don’t. Some notes:

  • Timing is a fool’s errand. Yes, to directly answer Reader K, timing is a fool’s errand. I’m so, so sorry to hear she suffered a miscarriage. I’ve seen more friends suffer miscarriages than I ever would have expected in my 20s. I’ve seen more friends struggle with infertility than I care to count, too — including secondary infertility. Some women have super-easy pregnancies where they fly through and don’t take any hits mentally or emotionally; others are sidelined during their pregnancies by serious health concerns like nausea/hyperemesis gravidarum or even just feeling exhausted from all the pregnancy hormones. It’s a total crapshoot… and each pregnancy is different. To Reader K — who is already 33, and will be at least 34 by next February, I would encourage her to start trying now, regardless of the trial. It may take her a few months (or more) to conceive — it may happen right away. The trial, if it doesn’t settle, may be postponed or moved… and I’d hate to see Reader K plan something as big as pregnancy around something as notoriously fickle as a trial date. If, come May (7 months before the trial date), she is still not pregnant, I might suggest taking a break from trying until July or August (by which I mean avoiding unprotected sex on her most fertile 3-4 days of the month). But I think anything other than that can be doable, depending on her mindset and her situation’s flexibility. Will she take a 3- to 6-month maternity leave right when the baby is born? Will she breastfeed exclusively for the first year? Will she chair the trial by herself? These all come down to flexibility and opportunity (see below). Note that she doesn’t have to do any of those things.

Some bigger thoughts on parenting and career, particularly for women at the beginning of their careers:

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  • No one can prepare you for the journey that is parenting. There is nothing I — or anyone — can say or do to help you better prepare yourself or your career. If I could time-travel and chose to go back and visit myself before kids, if only to give myself a snapshot of my life with kids, I wouldn’t have believed it anyway — the sacrifices we’ve made, the priorities we’ve shifted, the general way we live now. They’re changes you make willingly, happily even, when the time comes, but no amount of foresight will help here.
  • Any plan can go out the window once you’re in the weeds with your kid. I’ve known women who were on the partnership track decide to stay home with kids who had unexpected health issues… and I’ve known several people who wanted to be stay-at-home parents who were so, so happy to have a job to go back to once they were done with their maternity leave.
  • Flexibility is key. You will bend. Your job will bend. Your career will bend. Your kid will bend. Which will bend most is a matter of opportunity and priority, both of which will strongly be influenced by…
  • Partnership is huge. Sandberg is right, who you marry/partner/breed with is one of the biggest decisions you make for your career. Whether you keep your job, find another, quit entirely, or double down to make your career bigger is hugely dependent on your partner and the degree to which he or she supports you emotionally, financially, and more. Sharing parenting duties is far, far bigger than who changes the diapers — the sooner both you and your partner start to understand that, the better you can divide the work.

So how do you prepare your career for babies? My $.02: you don’t. Seek the best career that fits your skillset. Aim high. Do the best you can to find a career and job that you love, that challenges you, while also providing for you and your family. Seek challenges in that career constantly, without concern for when/if you might get pregnant. If and when the baby comes you’ll take a look at the information in front of you — your love for your career and your job, the working conditions, the flexibility or lack thereof, the opportunities for advancement or lack thereof (and all of that for your partner as well), as well as your child’s needs, and your emotions — and you’ll make a decision on what to continue, what to change, what to stop. There is no wrong decision. But it’s too important a decision to make without all of that information, which you will only have once you actually give birth and are holding your little squirt in your arms.

Ladies who have kids, what are your thoughts about planning your career for babies? Do you think you can plan a career for motherhood and babies? Is there anything you could have done to prepare yourself or your career for babies? What would your advice be to Reader K?

Pictured: H. All rights reserved. 

planning career for babies

Comments

  1. Wildkitten :

    My main concern when planning a career around children is that babies are expensive AF, so it’d be nice to be in the most solid financial situation possible.

    • Wild Kitten is right, again, and this is the story of MY life. I now have financeal security, but NO husband or even a boyfreind to impregnate me! Where can I find a DECENT guy to MARRY so that I can have 2 kid’s and a house in Chapaqua near Rosa, Ed and the Kid’s? FOOEY b/c I worked VERY hard to get where I am and there is NO DECENT guy to marry and impregnate me. Lots of guy’s want to have sex, but NONE are worth lookeing at, let alone sleepeing with and MARRYING! DOUBEL FOOEY!

    • Navy Attorney :

      As for getting your financial house in order – it will likely not be in order before one is 40. What does getting your financial house in order mean – having $100 grand in the bank or a half-paid off house? Possible, but takes a concerted effort which most don’t achieve. If it means getting out of debt, well then yes, by all means do it. But most people won’t be financially ready until after their fertile years. See the movie Idiocracy for a commentary about this idea.

      • I would say that your finances should be stable – that is, you can be reasonably sure to afford the basic necessities for the foreseeable future, with some kind of planning for emergencies. Definitely not that you should be debt-free or have a huge emergency fund.

      • Anonymous :

        Everyone has their own answer to this question (Idiocracy is on point in this respect). For us, we both had jobs. That was literally our only criteria — H was getting out of the military, and we put off TTC until he was employed (government hiring can take a really long time). I don’t think I fully appreciated how expensive childcare is — I’d wagged $1500 a month or something, but infant care is closer to $2k in my area, and that doesn’t even account for the sick/vacation days for sick kids.

  2. Anonattorney :

    I agree with most of this. Regarding timing and career – there are pros and cons to every timing situation. In some ways it’s much better to have a baby when you’re a junior associate (if in law) because your work is easily transferable when you’re on leave. On the other hand, waiting until you have more seniority protects you more from the impact of taking a chunk of time away from your career to have the kid. Ultimately, it’s better to just pick a time and go for it.

    There are some things you can plan for, however:
    (1) Your relationship with your partner. Get that s**t figured out. Talk A LOT about how you are planning on sharing parenting duties. Make sure your partner is fully on board with your plans. Strengthen your relationship with each other, knowing that once you have a baby you will have minimal couple time (and essentially no time to work out significant kinks.)
    (2) Your childcare plan. Research daycares, nannies, family available to help, etc. in your area. Know how much it will cost. Make sure you can afford it. And get on waitlists for good daycares as soon as you possibly can. Get on multiple so you can switch if you don’t like the one you end up in.
    (3) Figure out your employer’s policy re: leave. Get short-term disability insurance if you need it. Start saving money if you will need to take unpaid leave.
    (4) Understand your health insurance. Sometimes you may owe a few grand in medical bills to cover the pregnancy. Make sure you have that money set aside.

    • Agree re: relationship, but I’d add to be really clear with your spouse about how childcare will interplay with your careers – how much time he will likely take off, what you’ll do when the kid is sick, who’s responsible for things like doctor’s appointments, etc. Even the most egalitarian-minded men tend to just assume that this will not really affect them – it’s just not on their radar that much and they don’t realize it’s an issue. So it falls to the moms. Which is fine if you plan for it to go that way (say, if you have a less demanding and more flexible job and that’s OK), but be very careful and don’t just assume that it will work itself out.

    • I’ve heard about Aflak STD policies but I have searched online and haven’t found any that are not required to be offered through your employer. My employer does not offer STD. Can anyone point me to any of these magical private policies?

      Also, keep in mind that your work may totally surprise you by being whole heartedly supportive. I work for a very small law firm and have a very full case load. We just had an associate leave and he is not being replaced. I was devastated by his departure thinking now I’ll never be able to take a leave. My firm has no formal policies for attorney maternity and I would be the first female attorney to need it I think.

      Recently, my boss and I were discussing changes to some policies and long term planning. I was expressing my displeasure with our lack of STD and also mentioned we should probably firm up our maternity policies just in case me or a future employee ever need it. I was expecting him to say something like “oh gosh, don’t even say that. I can’t think about that right now.” Instead he got super excited, shut my door and said with a huge grin “do you have something to tell me.” Totally mortifying since I’m not pregnant but he knew I was a never ever person and now I’m actually trying (which he doesn’t know). So I just laughed and said no but it could happen. He ended up giving me this whole speech about how if I’m trying to decide what to do, not to let work play any part of it, we will make it work, he will be thrilled if that happens. Again, mortifying conversation but really happy with how it turned out. (Though, I still don’t know if I would actually be paid but it was one of those “we will work something out” things).

  3. Kat’s advice is spot on. It took me two and a half years and IVF to get pregnant (and I’m young – 30, and unexplained fertility – had no reason to expect trouble when we started trying). I am finally, joyously pregnant with a baby boy due in July. When we started trying, I thought I would plan having the baby around different major projects and events in my job – HA! I had no clue what the road would hold for us in terms of fertility and I can only hope that the unpredictability and lack of control I had over getting pregnant prepared me for parenthood in some fashion. So, my advice is to try away bc you never know what the road will hold. I wish you an easy, safe journey.

    • This this this! The infertility stats are staggering (one in six couples!). I have PCOS so anticipated some difficulty, but my OB/GYN had been certain all I needed was some clomid. Suffice it to say that didn’t do the trick. Happily pregnant now and due in June, but please don’t wait until you’re close to 35 on work’s behalf.

  4. Agree with Kat 100%, it’s basically not possible to plan everything in life, especially having a baby or raising a child, and certainly not possible to arrange them around a particular work thing. Trials come and go, and even if you do get pregnant, and your case doesn’t settle and the trial date remains the same (very unlikely, really), it will get worked out. I’m in a small firm and found out I was pregnant with a due date a couple of weeks after a trial where I was the only one who knew anything about the case. I told the partners sooner than I would have liked so someone else could start getting up to speed and it was fine. (Turned out the baby had to be induced early; I delivered on day 2 of the trial, the same day the parties settled it. My secretary relayed the terms of the settlement to H, to tell me in between contractions.) I was also scheduled to do another trial when I was about 7.5 months but it settled. Don’t worry about the work stuff! (Instead, worry about money, and child care and your marriage! :) )

  5. Anonymous :

    I think Kat’s advice that “you don’t” plan your career for kids (or your kids for your career) is spot on. I always knew I wanted kids, so I didn’t choose a career that I felt would be fundamentally incompatible with my desired parenting style. We waited until DH and I were secure in our jobs and had decent salaries. But beyond that, you kind of just have to go for it and hope for the best. Granted, my work is not seasonal nor does it have predictable big important isolated events… if I were a tax accountant, I’d try to avoid first trimester and 9th month exhaustion in April. But if it happened, I’d make it work. Women have babies all the time; the US is comparatively terrible about supporting them and many have to make unfortunate choices because of that, but you are in such a better position than 90% of those women because you are a professional, you probably have some career leverage, and you have intelligence, creativity, and earning power on your side. Hopefully also a supportive partner with similar attributes. People do so much with so much less! I have a lot of confidence that any woman reading this site and asking this question can make a baby “work” in her life and career at any time.

    FWIW, I found out I was pregnant with #3 later on the same day I accepted a new job/big promotion at a new company. I knew I was open to new career opportunities, I knew I was not preventing pregnancy; both of those were OK in isolation, but the result was terrible timing. I’ll have been on the job only about 6.5 months when I need to take maternity leave, but I’m 98% confident it will turn out fine.

    TL/DR: I echo Jules. When deciding when/if to have a baby, worry about money, childcare and your marriage, not work.

  6. I would not advise planning a potential baby around a future trial, even one you don’t think will settle. It might. Or it might be continued for any number of reasons. Baby might happen right away, or might not. When I was first deciding to try to have a baby, I also had a trial scheduled. Trial was continued, baby was also continued (ha) in that we first had infertility due to previously-unknown medical issues and then a miscarriage. In that unexpected three-year wait for the baby, a number of other trials came and went, none of them at the time they were originally set for (if they happened at all).

  7. Anon for this :

    Would the hive’s advice change if the big important event was predictable (definitively), expected to involve extensive travel over the course of a year, and was the thing you were hired to do (years in advance so as to be up to speed and prepared for it)? I could have a baby before (but would feel awful about the travel), but fear it would be unprofessional if I chose to have a child that year (would probably feel different if it was surprise). Is this fear misplaced? On the other side, I’m worried about waiting and then having it take years to happen.

    • I think the analysis might be different in that case — if you were, say, deeply involved in the Olympics and knew that the year of the games you would be working at warp speed and traveling constantly, then you probably should try to avoid pregnancy or anything else that would interfere with that one big event.

      • Anon for this :

        This is a perfect analogy. I’ve struggled to come up with how to explain it to friends, but the Olympics as an example works well. It’s like I was hired to oversee the planning of the Olympics – I get 3 years to deal with big picture details and planning, but one year on the ground in the location working out all the final details to pull it off.

        I hated writing the unprofessional line and understand Anonymous @ 2:13 ‘s comment below, but I couldn’t think of another word for it. I think I primarily feel that way because I was hired to do this specific thing and was made aware of the timing of it before I accepted.

        Then again, I keep reminding myself that the world laughs at you when you make plans, so I can’t imagine anything will work out exactly how I expect it to.

        • You are in politics, yes? I think that given there is a finite end date to your responsibilities it’s a bit different and find to plan to wait. Also – yes it can be hard to conceive but a lot of women concieve whilst actively trying not to, don’t get spooked out of an amazing experience at work because of the infertility scaremongering that is used in some parts to subtly chase women from the workforce too soon.

    • Anonymous :

      “but fear it would be unprofessional if I chose to have a child that year”

      Having children isn’t unprofessional. Although it can be difficult, I think you have to force having children back into being a personal decision rather than a work decision. If now is the right time in your personal life (your finances, your marriage, your body), then do it now.

      • Wildkitten :

        But there are some career opportunities (maybe this one) that if you miss out on because that is the year you have a baby, you can’t make it up.

    • Anonymous :

      I don’t have kids but I would say that postponing the pregnancy really comes down to how much you want kids. You can choose to wait and then feel bad if it then takes years to conceive for example. If it’s important to you to be present for this big important event then wait. Another example I would give is if you were an oceanographer and you had to spend weeks or months at sea. Cruises are usually planned way in advance so I would say if your event is something similar and being pregnant would make it difficult to do the duties, then wait. I will say however, in some cases if someone has something come up and they can’t go on a cruise, it can always be arranged for someone to take their place.

    • Spirograph :

      This is a tough one, and if I were making the decision, I think the number one factor would be my age. With absolutely no offense intended to older mothers, and realizing that many women have no fertility problems even in their late 30’s or early 40’s, if I were going to be, say, older than 37 during the year of the travel, I would just try for a baby ASAP. Your feelings aside, and assuming your partner is supportive, a baby is really not going to notice/care if you’re traveling a lot during the first year of its life. Would I rather be home with my infant? Of course, but if it is a choice between being sad about traveling and potentially being sad that I missed out on having a biological child, that is the choice I’d make.

      If you are young, though, I *personally* would wait until this event has passed. Irrespective of how it would be viewed professionally, I would not want to be pregnant during that year if you’re talking about international travel, out of an abundance of caution both for mandatory vaccines and the possibility of complications half a world away.

  8. Anonymous :

    Don’t discount your ability to request a new trial date if/when it is needed. If 100 percent your case, client will presumably want to stick with you and have you represent them in trial when you’re available if it were to fall during your leave. You can do a trial pregnant but you may need some additional accommodation in terms of timing.

    • Agreed. Trials get moved all the time. I was a litigator when pregnant with my first, and found people to always be perfectly accommodating regarding dates. (To be fair, though, I did only take a fairly short leave. It might make a bigger difference if you intend on taking something like 6 months to a year off – in that case, you should probably weigh how important that amount of leave time really is to you with how much it will impact your career.)

  9. Cdn lawyer :

    Here is some advice that I was given for the Canadian readers who are also lawyers: have babies as an associate if you can. Once you are a partner you will be technically “self employed” so you will not be eligible for the government funded maternity benefits (EI). I’m a fifth year associate and currently 8 months into my leave.

    As an outside observer of the US system, I agree wholeheartedly not to plan a baby around career events. And I hope that one day maternity leave policies change for you guys. I work at one of Canada’s largest law firms where taking a year leave is routine. The world keeps turning, women become partners and I would be very surprised if any of my colleagues ever considered planning a baby around a scheduled trial.

    • also self-employed :

      Do female partners take leave? Or do they do it like US people do (brief)?

      I hadn’t heard about this wrinkle, but I often wonder how it affects small business / freelance people.

      • Cdn lawyer :

        Yes they definitely take leave, but they don’t get the government benefits. How our maternity leave works if you are an employee is you get 52 weeks of government funded benefits, at a maximum of about $920 per week (assuming you earn about $55k a year or more). Then many employers “top you up” for a certain amount of time- my employer, like many professional firms, topped me up for 17 weeks. So I received full salary for 17 weeks and now receive the government benefits only for the rest of the year. As a partner I think most firms have a policy about how much leave you can take- I think it ranges from 6-9 months at big firms. But the difference is that they do not get the government benefits. I do think most firms still “top them up” for some period of time.

        Similarly most doctors are self employed, my doctor took a 9 month leave.

        In theory, you can buy into the government benefits if you are self employed. But I have been told that it doesn’t make sense to do so financially because you have to then keep contributing for the rest of your life.

        • Anonymous :

          Meanwhile in the US, my OB had to fight with her practice group to get an 8 week maternity leave. She said they only wanted to give her 4. An obstetrics practice! Standard short-term disability for a v birth is 6 weeks. Incredible.

          • Cdn lawyer :

            It will have to change eventually. And the world won’t end. Canada has only had a year leave since 2001. And our new prime minister has suggested that they will be making it an option to be 18 months- you would still receive the same amount of money, but over an extended period of time. And your job would be protected for 18 months. I don’t expect many professionals would choose to take that long a leave but there you have it.

    • TO Lawyer :

      As a Canadian lawyer, this is really helpful – thank you!

  10. Anon for this :

    You can’t necessarily plan this! We’ve been TTC for a year now (first fertility visit tomorrow). Question for others who have struggled with infertility: how do you handle it? I think I am super sensitive now, but every day it seems that I find out another friend/acquaintance is pregnant. The comments like “it happened so quickly, I had my IUD removed and we got pregnant right away!” just kill me. Is there a way to not be involved in baby talk with casual acquaintances without divulging our troubles (which make me tear up)? Help…

    • Sending empathy and hugs. I am currently pregnant with my first, after a long fertility journey that culminated in IVF. There is no way to not want to kill these people. My best advice is to find someone IRL who has gone through or is going through the same thing to lean on for support – or an online support group. Chatting with people/friends who actually “get it” is the only thing that kept me sane. Fertility issues are incredibly common, and I bet you have friends/acquaintances who have gone through this. Don’t be afraid to tell a couple people what is going on, and someone will undoubtedly know someone else for you to talk to. I guess that wasn’t really your question – I don’t know if there is a good answer re: casual acquaintances except for politely bowing out of the convo/changing the subject when you can. And reminding yourself that everyone’s life will have different battles. And for you, this is a tough one, but hey, hopefully it will make pregnancy seem like a cakewalk! Good luck tomorrow and stay positive – it might take awhile but it is very very likely you will have a happy ending with this. Also, IVF rocks and don’t be scared of it. /end unsolicited advice.

    • Anonymous :

      Sending hugs. This has been the last 8 months of my life and it sucks. Getting to see an RE was huge and really helpful. I really hope your appointment goes well.

      In terms of people saying stuff… Not a lot you can do. Stay off Facebook. I had an online group that was really helpful. Front run the conversation to talk about other things that don’t mesh with babies, like travel plans.

      Sorry :(

    • Anon Mom-to-be :

      We were TTC for a year. We weren’t even 100% sure we wanted kids when I accepted my associate job. After my grandfather passed away, it became clear to me that we (the grandkids) are his legacy and that one of the most important things I could do in my life, personally, is become a mother. I had either 3-4 early miscarriages at age 32. We tried Clomid. I was terrified that I’d be the next octo-mom, but luckily, we became pregnant with just one baby. Meanwhile, my younger sister experienced a miscarriage and a still birth at 20 weeks that almost ruined her mentally. It’s been very difficult for all of us.

      When we got to week 12, I was finally ready to tell my bosses. However, then cross motions for summary judgment were denied in a big case I’d been working on, and a trial date as impending. One partner yelled “Make sure trial isn’t set for February, 2016! I have a cruise booked!” I thought to myself, “Um, and I have a baby booked…” Later that day, I told them I needed to take 12 weeks for mat leave and that I wondered whether any of that would be compensated. They both congratulated me, and tried to be nice about it, but were noticeably upset. They said they needed to think about it, and took an entire 5 weeks to think about it–which was very stressful while I was trying to make decisions about childcare.

      Finally during the 5th week, I wrote an email and just asked if they’d made a decision. I was told that they aren’t legally required to give me any leave or welcome me back (which I am aware of–but I also know no one else will work for them), but that they’d decided to pay me for four weeks and the remaining 8 would be unpaid. After 3.5 years of service, this felt like a slap in the face. While I wasn’t in the office, the staff told me that the partners said really loud in front of them that I should have discussed this with them before I decided to become pregnant. Obviously, neither of them have kids and have no idea how that all works. I almost quit right then and there–and a few other times that they’ve said inappropriate things about the type of mother I’ll be. I’m taking it day by day now. Now, my husband’s job is going through restructuring, so I’m glad I didn’t quit. I have enough savings to pay bills during my unpaid leave, but I’m fairly unhappy at this firm and might try to use this time as an opportunity to find something else, or start my own firm. I’m so glad I didn’t wait for a good time for my bosses’ schedules to try to plan this pregnancy–it never would have happened.

      My baby is due in 23 days. Needless to say, that case with the big trial? Settled months ago. Do not plan important things like your family around a trial and good luck! Doing things like yoga and walking really helped me relax and stay focused when I was TTC.

    • I’m not a therapy/support group person, but after my first few unsuccessful cycles with my RE, Iwas staring to lose my sh*t. I’d been involved with a lot of online infertility message boards but started attending in person Resolve support group meeting. I found them very helpful! Both in terms of practical advice (and hyper local recommendations) and emotional support.

  11. lucy stone :

    Yeah, you really can’t plan. I miscarried a “well-timed” baby last year and am now pregnant and due in the middle of a crazy season at work, but I’ll be 33 when baby comes and I don’t want to put my life on hold forever.

  12. Anonymous :

    I always find it amusing/annoying when people on this site who aren’t mothers describe their best-laid plans about how it’s all going to work when they are pregnant/have a baby. Please know that you need to be flexible more than anything else. You may not be able to “work for a couple hours after the baby has gone to bed” – you may be too exhausted. Your belief that your baby “will sleep through the night by the time I return to work at 4 or 6 months” may not pan out. Mine has only recently started sleeping through the night (and not consistently) at 2.5 years old. Becoming a mother was so much harder than I thought it would be (and like everyone, I “knew” it would be hard.) Even if your relationship with your partner is strong, know that you will likely go through some really hard times, especially if you have different views on things like crying it out or how much time away you want from the baby (ie, one partner is comfortable leaving baby with grandparents for weekend and one partner isn’t). Know that there is no shame in needing couple’s counseling after baby. Our counselor calls having a baby a “traumatic relationship event.” This is not to undercut the absolute joy of having a baby and seeing my partner as a parent. But, I was completely shocked by all this because I feel like most people feel like the need to sugarcoat things.

  13. Anooooooooon :

    This is a question that has been plaguing me – I just lateraled to a new firm. I’m a third year associate now, so I have some practice under my belt, but I’m still new to my new firm, and, before I moved over, we had been trying to conceive for a few months. We’ve put a pause on it for now, but I’m still nervous about what happens when we resume, how long it will take, how to handle it if I’m 6/7 months into a new job and having to tell the firm I’m pregnant, etc. I don’t want to be Anooooooooon “the associate who got pregnant right away” but I’m also not willing to wait forever.

    • Female lawyer :

      I would not hesitate. Your bosses will either act normal/supportive, or they’ll be difficult, but they’ll be like that no matter when you do it, so you may as well know what you’re getting into with them sooner than later. I did get pregnant 9 months into being a first year associate, so that broke a lot of “rules.” I have zero regrets. That pregnancy revealed that the firm wasn’t the best fit for me. I am now a mom of three and an associate at a different firm. I’m not going to lie: partnership is probably not on the horizon for me, despite being nearly 10 years out of school, because of the constraints on my time, which is frustrating some days. That being said, I’ve see exceptionally bright, and hard working people (working far harder than myself) get passed over for partner. So, if that is my fate as well, I’ll at least have three (precious!) things to show for my time in BigLaw. And, part of my nonchalance is that I’m at a firm with a two-tier partnership. It would be a bigger loss/disappointment if becoming “partner” meant being an equity partner with a 7 figure income right off the bat. Income partner is basically tenured associate anyway.

  14. I did the much denigrated thing— I “left before I left.” I dialed my career way back because I knew that I personally could not handle biglaw (the way I was experiencing it) with a baby. I left before we were even TTC. That part was a mistake— I should have stayed and banked every check until we were ready. But at the time, even trying for a baby seemed like a bad idea when I was stressed out and so busy. And I wanted to have the next job, with maternity benefits kicked in, before having the baby. I would not have wanted to take maternity leave and not come back to the firm—even though it would have been totally within my rights—I just felt strongly about not having to look for a new job while pregnant or with a young baby. Other people have navigated that beautifully but I am glad I did not have to have my sh*t together during that time! I just knew my own mental limitations. Or maybe I just copped out. Anyway, turns out I didn’t give birth until more than 3 years after leaving biglaw, so I definitely could have timed that better. At the same time, I do not regret having had a baby how I did—taking a generous maternity leave from a job I was established in, and then coming back to what is a relatively low-stress and predictable job that makes being a working mom manageable enough for me. But that’s at the expense of ever being a high-powered rich lawyer! I might not be on the total “mommy track” but I doubt I could ever get back on the fast track if I wanted to.

  15. would a prerequisite of remaining a “full time employee” for purposes of a retention agreement still be met if an employee takes maternity leave?

  16. Good advice ahead, but because these comments are driven by anecdata, I’ll add mine: I totally planned my kids, and I was *so* *lucky* that it worked out. I was relatively young and had no fertility issues, so those are both total game-changers in this tricky calculus. If either of those are a factor, none of this applies.

    I’ve had three kids within pre-set windows–stretches of time when it would be less difficult professionally for me to have a kid, or, in the case of my last kid, when we would not need to go through the decision process of whether or not to redshirt the child come school time. And by planning, I mean that I knew that X time in the future would not work, so I figured out what period we’d try during, and if it didn’t happen, when we’d stop until another better window opened up. So for some people “planning” might work. What I’ve thought on this is that while there isn’t generally a great time to have a baby (especially as a career-oriented person), there are times that are less bad.

    Big OTOH: I totally think that babies are just part of life that everyone should just accept and work with. Yes: if you’re planning the Olympics, then maybe hold off (*if you don’t have age/fertility issues), but life (including trials, which are never when they are originally scheduled for, it seems) should continue. I want a world when it’s just a thing that happens, and we all pitch it to make it as smooth as possible.

  17. So grateful to live in the UK thanks to our maternity leave and additional laws! I get married in Autumn 2017 and I plan to come off birth control immediately after. Not necessarily planning to become immediately pregnant, but when the time does come I plan to take 9-12 months off with baby.

    • AnonLondon :

      As another UK resident, I was super excited about UK laws and then realized statutory pay is so low as to make it impossible for our household for me to take any more time than my US colleagues as my employer only tops up for the same length of time as the US leave (16 weeks, so not awful, I guess). My partner can take the statutory period, but as I’m the primary earner, we definitely can’t afford longer.

  18. Anonymous :

    I am predominately a trial lawyer, and I book sometimes one year or more out. Yes it sucks when you are trying to conceive especially if no one knows. However there is no option other than to do both- set trials as normal and try to conceive like a normal person. We announced my pregnancy at ten weeks so that we could adjust my schedule for the sake of my clients (I really cared that they found good alternative representation). Not perfect, but it is what it is.

  19. Anonymous :

    Any U.S. law firm income partners want to describe how leave works for them? (Benefits, duration, etc… ) At my large regional firm, we’re self employed and (surprise) our intranet doesn’t seem to have any policy that isn’t written in terms of “employees” based on federal and state laws.

    • Chi Squared :

      Young income partner at a BigLaw firm here. Our maternity leave policy is the same as for associates – 18 weeks at full pay, with an option to extend the leave unpaid up to 22 weeks.

  20. If you want kids, try to have them as soon as you and your spouse are emotionally ready. I thought I was being responsible by waiting to try after I had been at my job a couple of years, only to be told after years of trying–at the ripe old age of 32–that it wouldn’t be possible without an egg donor. I gave up for the time being, because under the weight of law school loans, I wasn’t financially ready to pursue IVF with a donated egg. A couple of years later, now at a new job, it happened unplanned (not sure how, but I don’t care) and I couldn’t be happier. Work will always be there in some shape or form, but the opportunity to get pregnant and have a baby is for many a much more elusive thing. Good luck!

  21. I am one year into this parenting thing and had my son in the second semester of my 3L year of law school. It’s worked out very well for me and my partner (also a lawyer, in a very flexible job). I was almost 30 when I started law school and didn’t want to wait much longer in case I wanted to have two kids and in case my parents’ health started declining. It was great in terms of timing – I already had my post-law school job lined up, my partner took 6 months of leave (like I said, super flexible amazing job). I could finish school and study for the bar and still have good time with the baby. If you can swing it financially, I would recommend law school as a good time to have a baby.

    Things that helped me make the decision/plan: 1) I knew I wanted to clerk and that got all settled early on (the process starts crazy early) and that sped things up a little. No maternity leave in clerkships generally – though I do know women who had kids during their clerkship. I didn’t want to wait until I was done and in the first year of a law firm job. 2) I got married young, and had been through some very difficult family situations with my partner, so I felt like I could trust him to not flail and play dumb once the kid came. And, to his credit, he’s been great and is the primary parent for a lot of things. 3) My law school let me take a reduced course load, and I’d banked enough credits/requirements to swing it. My professors were all amazing about it and I found a real community among other law student parents.

    Now, having a year under my belt, I’m pretty happy. Having the kid when I did set a baseline – I’ve never worked as a lawyer without a kid, and I think it’s actually been good for me to have some socially-enforced “life” in the work-life balance equation. I could see myself working way too much, and now I have to leave at a certain time if I want to see the kid before he goes to sleep. I work more efficiently than pre-kid and I am at the office early.

    Downsides? Not being close to family as we moved for law school, and it would be nice to farther along in my career to be earning a little bit more to have more padding – childcare is so expensive! But overall I am glad I didn’t wait, career-wise – if anything, I wish I’d had a kid sooner (or, more realistically, I wish I had decided I for sure wanted kids sooner!) If I was in already in a job, working for the next big thing or promotion, it could be very difficult to pull the trigger (or the goalie, in TTC speak). Because of our abysmal leave policies, there’s never a “good” time – but it can be done, and I’m really glad to be a working mom.

    • And to Reader K’s question – go for it. I think that would be a perfectly valid reason to ask to move a trial date – I’ve seen far, far, far more controllable conflicts be given deference.

      I have made a few real “lean-in” choices and they have all paid off so far. So, overall, that’s my newbie career-baby-planning advice.

      • Hi Quail,

        Did you feel like it was best to have your baby 3L? I see you mentioned considering trying sooner..

        I’m a 1L and am not currently trying to get pregnant but my husband and I have discussed the possibility of trying maybe next year or 3L. I’m 26, he’s 34. I posted more details down at the bottom in a separate comment before I saw yours.

        Do you have any input re: timing for my particular situation? I would hate to be disadvantaged during OCI because of an obvious pregnancy (as sad as it is that we need to worry about these things). Thanks for sharing your story! So helpful.

        • 2L was crazy busy for me, so I think 3L is a good year. That assumes you took as many units as you could 2L and don’t do something super time consuming like be the editor-in-chief of your law review.

  22. Good comments, everyone. Although many of my mid-thirties friends want to wait, since my husband has wrapped up school (changing careers), we are starting now in case it takes a couple of years. I’m 33, and an eighth-year associate on a partner track, although at least a few colleagues are next in line, so I’m not too worried about the timing. For what it’s worth, I “planned” by trying to exceed expectations in billables and quality of work last year, recognizing that this year I may need to take time off for appointments and potentially scale back if all goes well . . . and if not, we will hopefully have enough time ahead.

  23. Oof. This hits close to home right now. I put off having kids because of a trial, and I have major regret over that. So stupid. I think about this decision almost every day and it just makes me so sad. After the trial was continued (twice), I decided to go ahead and try anyway and now I’ve found out I have fertility issues.

    Needless to say, I wish I’d read and heeded this advice long ago. Don’t end up like me!

    • I agree. Timing will never be perfect and you can never be fully “ready” for something you haven’t actually done before. If I had tried earlier (when husband wanted) rather than waiting until everything was ideal, I would have discovered my fertility issues a couple years ago. Now I’m having to pursue fertility options on a much more aggressive timeline because I’m older. I really regret putting off TTC due to a few large work events and waiting for the office to be fully staffed to minimize the impact on coworkers, etc.

  24. Such a timely discussion. I have created this fantasy timetable in which I get pregnant in March, teach through the autumn, have the baby over the holidays and be set for fellowships in September. I’m pretty sure the universe is laughing at my plans but I guess you just do the best you can? We have 6 months savings, are just about at the point where we can live (simply) off of my husband’s salary and don’t have to worry about healthcare expenses (thanks, NHS!)

    We realised that due to some immigration restrictions, we won’t be able to move house anytime soon (my income can’t be taken into account in a mortgage application). Weirdly this has been helpful, taking away one of the big decisions and letting us focus on doing some repairs, paying down the mortgage etc.

  25. Great comments; it’s a shame that we still have to make choices like career or family in 2016. However, I struggle with this same debate. Luckily, my husband and I have flexible schedules when/if the time comes. Make today work, Rachel –CubicleCouture

    • Meg March :

      Hey Rachel, I’ve noticed a couple of your comments lately, and wanted to give you a heads up about the commenting culture around here. People pretty actively dislike when others push their blog the way you’re doing– it’s preferred to simply link your name (like you’ve done!) and get actively involved in the comments instead.

  26. I have a question that’s somewhat related to the discussion. I work for a boutique law firm that has zero paid maternity leave. Is that normal? I lateraled in a few years ago from a general practice firm that gave 8 weeks paid, but in my area(central VA), most of the firms are small to medium-sized, and folks tend to be very closemouthed about pay/benefits, so it’s hard to get a sense of what’s normal.

    I have to admit that I’ve been thinking that if I do get pregnant again anytime soon, I may just quit sometime in 3rd trimester since I wouldn’t be getting any paid leave. My only fear is losing my connections and not being able to re-enter the profession again.

  27. I just had my first baby last year and even though I conceived easily, I would second the idea that you just have to pull the trigger at some point. It will never be perfect timing and trying to plan around potential trials, etc., is not a good idea. The odds that you will regret missing a trial (if it even comes to that) are slim. There is a high probability that you might regret putting off trying.

    I would love to see an article about child spacing. That is the question I find myself struggling with now. 27 months? 36 months? 48 months? There are so many considerations – maternal health, baby health, maternity leave, financial, job credibility. I want three kids and as a big law associate, there are so many factors.

  28. I agree with so many of the comments here about not waiting or trying to plan.

    It took me almost three years, two surgeries and multiple IVF cycles to get pregnant. To those of you in the IF trenches, I suggest a support group, even online. Years later, some of the ladies that I met online are now some of my closest friends and we are now “real life” friends.

    I’m a banker. I had a loan go bad three months before the baby and another loan go bad about a month after I had the baby. Terrible timing, yes! But you can’t control for everything — these problems were unforeseen and sudden.

    I missed the signing of a restructuring because I had a frozen embryo transfer scheduled that day. Said embryo transfer had already be cancelled and delayed three months due to an urgent business trip on something else. Boss wasn’t happy that I took off on signing day but mellowed when I told him that I had minor surgery that had been rescheduled from three months previously due to the other trip. Life will go on.

  29. Love this information. Great post.

    But can anyone speak to a slightly different predicament – deciding if you should try to get pregnant while in graduate school?

    I’m 26, approaching 27 and my husband is 34. I’m in my first year of law school and if all goes well I will be working long hours at a large law firm upon graduation. We both want multiple kids (3 or 4, hopefully).

    Since I’ll be 29 when I graduate (and he’ll be 37), I’m trying to figure out what makes the most sense.

    Can anyone speak to conceiving/giving birth in graduate/professional school — or making the decision to wait until after?

  30. Wow “already 33”- that’s a gut punch. Plenty of women have extremely healthy babies well into their forties, and all of the recent research out there says that tge 35 year old drop date is a crock. This kind of thing irritates me to no end- while we as feminists have gotten super comfortable talking about having kids vs not, we still all get super judgy about what age to have them.

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