Now that’s a question I’ve asked myself a million times over the past year. And before you think this is some sad story about how hard it is being a working mother or how being black is such a burden…it’s not. Because it is hard and I don’t think I have to tell a single woman (African American or otherwise) how hard trying to “have it all” really is. This is more about looking at the choices us women have to make in order to be the bedrocks of our families and what that ultimately will mean for our careers.
You see when you become a mother, “having it all” doesn’t really mean what it used to. For example, my 20-something self would have described having it all as a well-paying job, a nice house, and two vacations a year. Now my definition of a successful life is making sure my kid hits all his developmental milestones and making time to shower and brush my hair. It’s no one’s fault that life has changed and to be honest my son is by far the greatest joy of my life (temper-tantrums and all). I made a conscious decision when Jack was born to put off achieving any other professional goals in an effort to make sure I could be there for him as much as he needed.
So what’s a girl to do? Women are only paid 79 cents for every dollar earned by men despite having the same job responsibilities. African Americans earn 65 cents for every dollar earned by our white counterparts. And being a young millennial in a workplace comes with its own challenges because despite being highly educated, your experience and education never seems to stop employers from underestimating us or tossing out low numbers in salary negotiations. Never mind the fact that they believe anyone born in the 80s needs a chaperone to do their job. So I guess I should rephrase my question. What’s an African American millennial woman to do?
There’s no other option than to choose. Despite what all those well-meaning magazine articles tell you about how having it all is as easy as clicking your stilettos together…it’s just not true. It’s not impossible, but it won’t be easy. And by not easy I mean hard as HELL! So for right now the extra time spent at work could be spent reading to my son. Who wants to work 70+ hours a week and miss important plays and events for a boss who can barely remember their name?
I know for a fact that putting my career on hold to raise a family may put me at a disadvantage when I’m ready to start climbing the ladder again. However, nothing is more important than my son and that’s more than enough for now.
Do you feel like you’ve put your career on hold? How has that affected your family and career?
Tell us about it!