When you're trying to build a business or develop your career, the thought of getting married or having children can seem intimidating. There are only so many hours in the day, so you might not have enough time to accomplish both your career and family goals within those limits. Your resources might also be stretched thin, especially if you're in the early stages of career development.
So is it possible to get engaged, get married, and raise children while still devoting enough attention to your career to advance?
Ultimately, the two challenges of starting a family while trying to build a career are time and money. So let's look at some ways you can address the "money" problem:
The Time Factor
- Proposals. Engagements can sometimes be lavish affairs, but they don't have to be; in fact, you can have a romantic, memorable proposal in the comfort of your own home. If you and your partner are trying to save money to better support a family, you may want to skimp on the engagement ring, and focus on finding a good home.
- Marriage. While you might like the idea of a big wedding, they can be costly. If you're eager to build a family and support that family financially, it's probably better to save those tens of thousands of dollars and keep your guest list limited. You can always throw a more lavish celebration later when you're more comfortable with your salary
- Ongoing childcare. The biggest monetary concern you'll need to worry about is ongoing care for your child. You'll need to pay for basic needs, like food and medical expenses, and if you're working full-time, you'll also need to pay for childcare, which can get expensive fast. You can mitigate the costs here by enlisting the help of relatives, or by working complementary hours or days with your partner. You may even be able to work from home some days, allowing you to supervise your child while still getting some work done.
Now let's look at the time factor:
There's Never a Perfect Time
- Pregnancy. Maintaining career progression through your pregnancy may be difficult, depending on your current role. You'll need to make a contingency plan with your immediate supervisor or partners, noting what your short-term limitations might be and putting a plan in place to cover your responsibilities when your due date gets closer. The more proactive you are here, the better; it gives you more control over how your role changes in the coming months and proves your initiative.
- Childbirth and maternity leave. Maternity leave isn't a guarantee in the United States, but you'll want to take some time away from work when you give birth, regardless. That time can pull you away from your career goals temporarily, but you may be physically incapacitated, or you may want to spend additional time bonding with your newborn. However, you don't have to put your career entirely on hold during this time; even while incapacitated, you can catch up on emails, stay tuned to the latest updates within your company, attend webinars and listen to podcasts, and even develop some of your skills.
- Work-life balance. Moving forward, you'll have to set your own terms for the work-life balance you want to achieve. Raising a child demands significant attention and work, but so does developing a career. With only so many hours a day and so many days in a week, it's on you to schedule your time appropriately, in line with your goals. Make every hour count when you're at work, rely on your partner to volunteer equal time to your family, and give yourself enough time to enjoy your family as well.
The important thing to remember here is there's never going to be a "perfect" time to start a family. You might set a specific milestone for yourself, such as making a certain salary, but once you hit it, there will be some other milestone that seems more important. By the time you hit all those milestones, you might wish you'd started earlier
As long as you're prepared for the responsibilities of a family and you're sure it's what you want, you should feel confident in proceeding no matter where you are in your career. There will always be options for progression and development, both in your personal and professional life, as long as you're willing to work for them.
Anna is a freelance writer, researcher, and business consultant. She is also a columnist for Entrepreneur.com, Forbes.com, and more. Anna specializes in entrepreneurship, technology, and social media trends. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.