At 28, I feel that I have reached that age where I can hear my biological clock ticking a little more loudly as I keep trying to climb the corporate ladder.
And apparently, I’m not alone. In Midlife Crisis at 30: How the Stakes Have Changed for a New Generation–And What to Do About It, Lia Macko and Kelly Rubin detail the stories of real women of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds who have faced their midlife crises in their 30s.
Why 30 is a Woman’s Mid-life Crisis
Thirty, according to the authors and the women featured in the book, is that age where our desires for our career clash with biology. We rush to compete with men for the best and most rewarding career moves while ignoring our doctors’ advice that our egg production dramatically plummets at 35, so if you want a child, you better start trying now.
As a twenty-something, I feel like I only have a ten-year window to actually accomplish several life milestones, which include getting married, having children, and landing that dream job.
Figuring out how to balance my career with my much-desired growing family is something that I think about way more than I’d like to admit. Just a few months ago, I was choosing between three master’s programs, and one of the most important deciding factors was whether I would be able to complete the program before we started trying for a baby. Do I start having children while I’m in school? Do I wait until I graduate? Will my company be frustrated if I take maternity leave so soon after achieving my master’s degree?
Career vs. Family: Do Men Have It Easier?
With a recent promotion behind me, I am feeling pretty good about my job prospects at this company. I am also thinking long term, hence the master’s degree. However, I worry that my baby-making years will somehow hinder my future promotion prospects. As progressive as I feel my company is, I worry I will be overlooked for future promotions because my company will assume I’ll be too stressed with child-rearing–an inconvenience that won’t be projected onto my male counterparts.
There’s a part of me that thinks it’s incredibly unfair that my husband does not have to have the same kind of worries that I do. He doesn’t fear if his company will retaliate for taking the full parental leave, and his career won’t be as interrupted by long absences, doctor’s appointments, and breast-pumping.
How Women Achieve “Having It All”
Midlife Crisis at 30 doesn’t have a simple response to how I can manage to “have it all,” except to point out that it’s very, very hard and I’ll most likely be exhausted. But it is very much possible. One of the key themes throughout the book was whether women really need to have it all or if it’s okay to just have enough. (Do you really need the white picket fence if your job requires you to travel year-round?)
In the second half of the book, the authors highlighted the New Girls Club–stories of women who had successfully managed to achieve their version of “having it all.” Because having it all means something to everyone. No matter how successful these women were, the trend was apparent–they didn’t achieve this high level of success without at least sacrificing some aspect of their family and home life.
“Being a good wife or mother does not mean you have to cook every meal, wash every bit of laundry, do all the grocery shopping, or, for that matter, suffer guilt trips for all that you are not able to do. You have to plan ahead and do your best, but no one really does it all. It’s not realistic. The details you have to figure out for yourself, but getting help is crucial. There is no Superwoman.” *Dr. Bernadine Healy, Senior Writer, Us News and World Report
Perhaps that’s the best lesson we can hope to comprehend. That we stop comparing ourselves to each other, that we respect each others’ decisions when it comes to family and career, and that–most importantly–we reach comfort and acceptance with our own decisions on how we choose to balance career and family.
After freelancing for GoGirl for six months writing about marriage and money, Erika joined the GoGirl team as the Content Manager in 2012. Erika received her B.A. in English and Italian Studies from Wellesley College and is currently working in public relations and going to graduate school full-time for her M.P.A. She blogs at Newlyweds on a Budget, covering everything on marriage and finances. Her top favorite GoGirl posts are How We Paid Off $45,000 in Debt in 45 Months and Marriage and Money: I make more money than my husband.