Motherhood vs. Career: The Great Debate

From a young age, I have dreamed of being a mother. Call it biology, or call it gender conditioning, the fact remains that I have wanted to have children since I was about six years old. I absolutely loved baby dolls and the concept of motherhood. From the age of sixteen onwards, I had vivid dreams of being pregnant.

However, I've also been nurturing ambitions for a career. Since I was twelve years old, I have been able to win arguments with my parents. And as frustrating as that was for them, they also knew that my skill in arguing could not only lead to a lucrative career, but to a life-long opportunity for me to make real change and help people. Since that time, I have known that I want to go to law school.

Like all careers, law is very demanding. And when I picture my life in ten or fifteen years, I not only picture myself as a successful, but also with a family and children.

This is the scary thought, which seems wrong. Being married with kids and a career is part of the American dream. I should ideally be happier than ever at this point in my life. But, as gender roles have dictated our society, I have this innate fear that I should not be trying to have both a career and a family.

Logically, there is no reason one could not have a family in which both parents have careers and successfully co-parent children. As long as all responsibilities are shared, it should work, right?

I was raised by two hard-working parents; my father worked a full-time job and my mother worked part-time from home for the majority of my childhood. While my mother still worked, she was usually available for whatever my brother or I needed. She was there to make lunches, put band-aids on our scrapes, and wipe our tears when we had bad days. To me, it seems as though she struck the perfect balance of work and motherhood; of working on herself and her own life and raising us.

In my opinion, my brother and I turned out really great. Was that due to their excellent parenting? Was it due to nature or nurture? Did it have anything to do with the stability of having one parent at home most of the time?

This is where my true dilemma comes in: my brain says that I have every right to have both children and a career. Of course it can be done. But is it the right thing to do? My maternal instinct tells me that trying to have both will be hard on not only me, but my kids as well. And that’s not what I want for them.

That being said, my next thought is this: will I be expected to give up my career for my children? Will my husband make more money than me, and expect me to sacrifice? And if he does, is that the right thing to do? Is it fair?

Obviously, this is all just speculation. I am nowhere near the place in my life where I will have a career, get married, or have children. But the idea that I would have to choose between two of the most important things in my life – my family and my career – is harrowing to the point that I stay up late thinking about it at least ten years before it will come into fruition.

At the end of the day, as a proud feminist, my only comforting conclusion is that I have the right to choose. I have the right to choose to have children, or not. I have the right to choose to have a career, to put it on hold to have kids, or to eliminate it entirely to raise my kids. I can choose whichever of those options seems best for me at the time.

So, as scared as I am of losing myself and my goals to motherhood, I know that successful women raise wonderful children and have rewarding careers all the time. I remind myself that, as the gaps between men and women close and equality becomes nearer, I will not be required to sacrifice my goals for my husband and our children. And even now, I have the power to choose whatever I think is best.

Here’s to the many women who fearlessly choose – whether it be to work or not work, to have kids or to not have kids, or to do both. The right to choose is everything, and we must continue to embrace it.



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