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To take heed of my manager's comment?

(81 Posts)
OuttedSelf Wed 02-Dec-15 16:04:00

NC as this is quite outing if my manager is a MNetter.

On Friday drinks my manager (female) got slightly tipsy and told me that if I ever hoped to have a chance in hell at getting in her position I'd have to make some sacrifices. She didn't necessarily elaborate but from what I know of her she has 2 dcs which she claims to have had in quick succession to reduce the amount of time she spent outside of the boardroom. Her DH is a SAHD and she'd be the first to admit that were it not for him being in that position she couldn't have risen up the ranks like she did.

This conversation came about when she asked me about my partner whom I've recently broken up with. I did mention it is a sad state of affairs as he's the one I thought I'd go on to marry and have dcs with but of course that will now not happen.

She and I have a great working relationship and I have confided in her in the past but on Friday she put a new spin on things. I have the utmost respect for her and she's dealt with some grisly situations in our workplace but she just put it to me as in 'you can't have it all' something or someone has to give.

I'm not entirely sure what my AIBU is but listening to her made me re-think things entirely. I can see over the years that in my work place that women who were once flying the flag dropped behind once they'd come back from maternity leave or requested flexi time or whatever. She didn't do any of that bar the maternity leave - her DH has always been 'on call' for the dcs. She's often the first to arrive in the office and often the last to leave. She's well respected in our field but it seemed to me that she was saying this is basically because she's configured such an arrangement with her DH.

I know that not everyone is as fortunate as she is and indeed she can afford to be the sole bread-winner but it seemed like she was giving me a bit of a warning signal about my decisions to come.

DonkeyOaty Wed 02-Dec-15 16:08:33

The advice to not get off the motorway if you are building a career is sound.


Enjolrass Wed 02-Dec-15 16:24:49

I did well in my career and had 2 kids years apart.

However me and dh were able to work around each other.

In some jobs you can't have it all. It really depends on the culture and expectations.

What mainly will effect you is your partners career. Wether they can be flexible (police officers/ doctors often can't for example) and wether you are with someone who compromises and see your career as important too.

If your child is sick, will they do their share of calling to stay home? Will they do their fair of school holidays etc

DrDreReturns Wed 02-Dec-15 16:27:17

I agree with her - you obviously can't have a time intensive career and be around for the kids a lot. Children and some careers both need a lot of time, one person can't realistically do both. It does depend on the culture of your and your partner's workplace, and how much family support you can get etc.

StrawberryTeaLeaf Wed 02-Dec-15 16:39:11

So much depends on the industry. I always ask 'which industry' on these threads. Nobody ever tells me sad <hint> wink

TreadSoftlyOnMyDreams Wed 02-Dec-15 16:43:07

I'd agree with your manager assuming she is at a very senior level in a large FTSE company, or legal practice or similar. At some point you will in all likelihood [unless you are very very lucky] have to make a choice or have it made for you.

Anyone without a vast inherited fortune behind them who thinks they can have it all is kidding themselves imo. You can have an approximation of "it all" but will mostly feel like you are doing a bad job on all fronts.

OuttedSelf Wed 02-Dec-15 16:43:43

Strawberry International communications on a diplomatic level if that makes a difference. We're not saving lives, admittedly, but she's always on call iyswim.

randomsabreuse Wed 02-Dec-15 16:48:27

I'd say you can't both have unpredictable careers without live in childcare /very local support.

Mistigri Wed 02-Dec-15 16:51:32

You really can't have it all.

I have a partner who was a SAHD when the kids were small, and who now works from home. I couldn't do my job without him - how do single parents manage work travel? I literally have no idea (unless they have a couple of full-time nannies on call). When DH was hospitalised for long period, I had to cancel trips, or in one occasion take the kids out of school and take them with me. Couldn't do that all the time, and while I have friends who are happy to help out in emergencies, I can't dump the kids with them for a week at a time.

SiegeofEnnis Wed 02-Dec-15 16:53:48

The whole concept it 'having it all', which is never asked of men, is a profoundly sexist one. But - from what you've said, having children is not an immediate prospect for you now anyway, is it, so it's not that you need to make some drastic plan right now, is it?

Certain male-dominated fields still operate entirely on the assumption that these men never need to stay at home with a sick child, or leave an overrunning meeting because the nursery is about to close for the night. My husband works in this kind of field and is regarded as some kind of strange, hen-pecked radical because he has been known to do both. His CEO is a well-known and phenomenally successful woman, who doesn't have children, and only married recently in her 50s. And she says he's putting his career under threat by looking uncommitted.

My most successful female professional friends (academia, law, publishing, the arts, TV) either are childless, or have SAH partners, or are wealthy enough to have serious childcare/domestic help.

impatienceisnotavirtue Wed 02-Dec-15 16:54:36

I think this is a question that is very career-specific: what 'works' in one job/workplace culture won't work in another. Furthermore, different people have different tolerances with regard to work/life balance.

And I also think it's appalling that workplaces are STILL, in this day and age, set up in such a way that couples are basically forced into this decision. There are other ways, FFS!

However, I would listen to what she says. In fact, I'd go back and ask her to talk about it in more detail (and sober) so that you can get a fuller perspective on what she thinks you should do. She seems willing to act as a kind of mentor to you, so maybe take her up on that.

Notasinglefuckwasgiven Wed 02-Dec-15 17:00:17

I'm in a male dominated industry. My career has stalled since having dd. I earn less now than before and was passed over for a promotion ( despite being the favourite for it ) and given the reason that flexibility is more of an issue with me than with the man who got it. It's because I had a young child. I know that and they weren't shy about it. They even suggested full time work with them maybe wasn't for me any more. I had 8 years service when dd was born. So yes, your boss is right.
Just for the record, the guy who got promoted lasted less than 3 months. I haven't bothered applying this time sad

StrawberryTeaLeaf Wed 02-Dec-15 17:03:26

Oh so not just a presenteeism 'culture', really.

LoisWilkersonsLastNerve Wed 02-Dec-15 17:06:52

Having a child killed my career stone dead. I've made my peace with it but it happens. I underestimated how hard working full time with a young child is, something had to give and for me it was the job.

manana21 Wed 02-Dec-15 17:07:31

I also think the industry does matter but yes, since having 2 dc my career has regressed, I do think that as a couple, compromises have to be made. Even if you both work ft, if you both peddle to the max in long hours jobs and don't have a very extended family network the dc will suffer. Not to say there aren't plenty of acceptable compromises.

specialsubject Wed 02-Dec-15 17:08:42

of course you can't have it all. One parent needs to be on call for all those childhood emergencies, or you get paid help that is around all the time. At an obvious very large cost both financial and otherwise.

that's life, I'm afraid. There's no law about which parent it is. In your manager's case, it is the husband who has taken that role. It's not sexism, it is the reality of bringing up children.

presenteeism is endemic and unproductive, but goes with large salaries.


ILiveAtTheBeach Wed 02-Dec-15 17:09:08

I would have thought that it was pretty obvious, that you can't be in a very high powered job AND be Mum of the Year? If you are spending most of your time at the Office, then other people will have to raise your children. That could be your Partner or a Nanny. But it won't be you, if you're not at home.

Personally, I think that the ideal compromise, is to work Part Time after you have children. Once they are at school, a job that's say 930am-3pm weekdays.

My DS is at Uni with a lot of kids whose parents have both been high flyers. They were raised by Nannies and later went to boarding school. None of them are close to their parents. Yes, they've been lavished with the best things in life, but they don't know their parents. I mean, why bother having kids? I went Part Time after having kids and whilst I could never hope to have the money these people have, at least I was there for my kids throughout their childhood and we are extremely close.

You can't have it all. Not in the sense that you mean. But I think you'll find that work will become quite unimportant once children come along. Obviously, unless you are lucky enough to have a rich DH who can support you, you may have to go back to work, but it won't be the most important thing in your life - your kids will be.

My Mum says the Womens Lib has a lot to answer for (obviously she's of an older generation, when Mum's stayed at home and Dad went out to work). She thinks it's dreadful how women are now expected to run a home and raise kids and bring in a good wage. It's too much and women are crumbling under the pressure.

Stradbroke Wed 02-Dec-15 17:09:55

My DH couldn't do the job he does and have got to the level he has if I hadn't been at home and taken on the bulk of the childcare.

There are many careers where you cannot have both.

DH does not have it all and neither do I, but together we manage it all.

Thurlow Wed 02-Dec-15 17:12:36

I don't think you can both have it all. One partner, generally, has to take a bit of a step back. It might not kill their career, but it might put the brakes on it for the better part of a decade, I suppose.

Not unless you're willing to pay for a nanny and never see your kids at all.

BarbarianMum Wed 02-Dec-15 17:14:47

The whole concept it 'having it all', which is never asked of men, is a profoundly sexist one.

Not sure I agree. No-one - male or female- has it "all". It is true that women are often accused of "wanting it all" if they dare want a family and a career in a way men are not. But generally even a man who has a family and a career doesn't actually have it "all", if "all" includes equal time with the children, a good work-life balance etc

Want2bSupermum Wed 02-Dec-15 17:23:50

Your manager has done you a huge favour by speaking to you now about this. She is totally right that there is zero point in continuing to work hard if it is not going to pay off in the end.

You need to make a decision about how you want to raise your DC. If you want to have the career your manager has and raise your DC you need to get the right help in. My father was a single parent to 3 kids and worked internationally. We went to excellent boarding schools plus my grandmother stepped in when my Dad wasn't physically able to be there. He was always available to us and his business.

There is a single parent partner in my office and she is awesome. She lives with her parents and has managed to position herself as top dog in an industry group that is centered in this immediate area. In addition to her parents living with her she has a nanny and a housekeeper. Her DH left when she was pregnant with their 4th child. She told me that in the first year he left she struggled to pay for the help she needed to stay FT. She said it was worth the sacrifice and is one of the top paid partners (I would estimate she is paid well over $1 million a year).

If you want to go for it in your career you should go back to her and figure out a plan because you will need your salary to increase. Make this explicitly clear and if they believe in you they will put you on the path to earn those raises. I know my Dad gave single parents higher pay through promotions a few times. He knew from his experiences that the costs of being a working single parent are very high.

SiegeofEnnis Wed 02-Dec-15 17:31:20

But those losses - of time with children etc - aren't culturally perceived as important to men in general. It's apparently 'natural' for them to be the breadwinners, and they're not perceived as chilly careerists for missing parents' evening or sports day, the way a working mother is, as she's 'naturally' supposed to be the nurturer, and is presumed to be missing out on something crucial if she works long hours. 'Having it all' is presumed to mean different things to men and to women. No one takes it fir granted that fathers will 'naturally' stay at home when the children are small, and then get a school hiurs-friendly, ter time-only 'little job'.

My DH's male colleagues don't see their younger children awake at all during the week, and several also work Saturdays and travel a lot. If they were women, they would be regarded as unnatural and unmaternal. Not coincidentally, his CEO (very macho, male-dominated industry) is a childless woman and there are no women at his level at all, only PAs and support staff.

Badders123 Wed 02-Dec-15 17:32:32

You can't have it all.
And anyone who tells you different is lying.

SiegeofEnnis Wed 02-Dec-15 17:35:16

Sorry, that should read 'school-hours-friendly, termtime only 'little job'. My comment was in response to Barbarian.

madwomanbackintheattic Wed 02-Dec-15 17:47:04

I don't read it as so much of a warning signal as just explaining how it works. If you have DC, it's time and attention consuming, and there is less time and concentration available for work if you are the one raising them.
In her family, it's her dh that has taken on that role. Other families have live-in nannies, and other staff to take up some of the other domestic tasks - cleaning, laundry, cooking, collecting dry-cleaning, general household management.
It's not rocket science, is it? Perhaps this is the first time she has heard you being wistful about a family, and was sharing how she managed the family side in her relationship? And if you had genuinely not noticed how the women in your organization had managed their transition to parenthood (or had it managed for them in a work context) then maybe she was trying to say 'open your eyes and look around, honey - what do you think would have happened if this relationship worked out and you were pregnant?' Mixing children and careers takes thought and planning. It just sounds as though she was concerned that you hadn't really thought through the impact it would have on your career?

That said, if your wistful thoughts and her reaction have given you pause to question whether that is the sort of life you are looking for, then maybe it is time for some serious thinking about what you do want from life?

There is no right and wrong, obviously. We are all different.

I am laffing a leetle bit at ilive, though. I know plenty of folk who went to boarding schools and have excellent relationships with their parents. Suspect the ds is trying super-hard to validate his own experience with his mum, as that's what she wants to hear. We all need to hear we have made the best decisions for our families. grin your mum may blame women's lib, lol, but the real blame still lies with the men who won't take an equal role in raising their children, and insisting that they have the primary role in earning money. Wouldn't be nearly so much pressure on women if dads came in, cooked dinner, bathed the kids and did a run round with the Hoover. grin

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