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City lawyer - when best to ttc?

(26 Posts)
harrietm87 Tue 09-Jun-15 19:57:22

Hi all. I'm a newbie here and hoping for some advice. I'm 28 and my biological clock has suddenly gone mad. I've been with my partner for 6 years and we've always planned to start a family in future. I'm one year qualified in the litigation department of a city law firm and I was wondering if anyone else in similar careers had thoughts about whether taking maternity leave in the near future would be career suicide? I've heard some people say that more junior is better as clients won't yet miss you when you're off, while others say you need a certain level of pqe (3 yrs? 4yrs?) to get established before you should think of it. Let me know your thoughts! And thank you in advance.

JessieMcJessie Wed 10-Jun-15 01:55:51

Do it now. I don't mean to be rude but clients won't miss a 1-2 year qualified and you are looking at another 7 years minimum until you are at that crucial "about to be made up" stage when time off really could make a huge difference. Whwn you are really pushing for promotion the chil(ren) will be at school, which should be a bit easier. I would say for someone in our type of job (I am a partner in a City firm) you either do it early or wait till you are either already a partner, or have ruled that out. My only caveat would be to make sure you are with the right person, as a divorce/split will mess up your career more than a baby. However you will have to be prepared to accept that you will need good childcare and are unlikely to see your child every evening. See if you can identify a female mentor in the firm and draw on her experience. But frankly if you do see your relationship as forever then just go for it, legal careers are not all they are cracked up to be and it's more and more common to move laterally (in house etc) and off the partnership track. Things will work themselves out in a way you may not have expected, but you'd be mad not to capitalise now on being the right age to conceive. Trying and failing when older is heartbreaking and no career compensates for that.

themummyonthebus Wed 10-Jun-15 04:49:42

I think personally Jessie's advice goes for practically any profession. I really regret having waited so long and having children after "getting established" because now I've just got the big promotion I have two small children at home and leaving my bf second for a week at a time due to travel isn't ideal. No one will miss you when you've only been a year or two in post. They will when you're head of department.

Good luck with whatever you decide.

redcaryellowcar Wed 10-Jun-15 05:11:25

I'm not a solicitor, but dh is. Common theme when his colleagues go on maternity leave is their desire to return p/t. Although not answering your question about best time (I agree with others sooner rather than later if your dp is a keeper is probably best in most careers) I do think you need to fully consider child care and read some threads on her about how it works in practice.

harrietm87 Wed 10-Jun-15 12:53:20

Thanks so much for the responses. I'm a little surprised as looking around at work most people who have children don't seem to do it until they make senior associate, although I guess that might be due to their age and relationship status rather than a conscious decision to wait. Most who have come back have done so full time, and that's probably what I would do (although fully appreciate I might not want/be able to if it actually happened). I really enjoy my career and haven't ruled out going for partnership (many years down the line!), though I would never sacrifice prospects of having a family in order to do that. Fortunately my partner is self-employed and would be very involved with childcare.

BlondeRoots Wed 10-Jun-15 13:03:00

I'm not in city law, but in my sector, I'll be honest....most of the highly successful woman didn't have children until their late thirties, when they'd already made Senior Management / Partner etc.

I'd say look around at the women who are where you want to be, and see what they did. Not so that you can copy them, but so that you can be prepared for the road ahead.

I had my first child at 28 and it was indeed career suicide. I could never again be free at any hour to fire off emails or take clients for after-work drinks. I just couldn't compete with the single and childless in terms of the hours I could put in. Or perhaps I could have...if I had had a live-in nanny working 12-14 hours a day and/or a DH with a flexible career.

That the other thing to consider. What role would your DH play in childcare responsibilities? And what sort of childcare would you imagine having? How much contact day to day with your child? And are you planning more children?

I had my second child at 31 and left the industry for a different career. there was absolutely no way, once I had two, I could have continued and I took a look at the other worn in my organisation who had had kids and knew...our cards were marked. Definitely poor promotion prospects.

Dont mean to sour bleak. Your industry may be different...

BlondeRoots Wed 10-Jun-15 13:03:47

*other women.

Excuse terrible typing skills

JessieMcJessie Wed 10-Jun-15 13:33:35

OP amongst young professional women you are pretty unusual to be in a settled LTR and in a position to have children at 28. You will probably find that for your colleagues who left it later it was because they were not in the right relationship till later. But why not ask them?

harrietm87 Thu 11-Jun-15 12:18:51

Thanks all for the further comments. Yes Jessie I think you're right in relation to my colleagues. I don't really feel comfortable discussing it at work though in case I appear not committed. Despite being in a very female-heavy department, most of the partners are men. The few women partners all had children after they were made up, but given my age I wouldn't want to/maybe couldn't wait that long.

It's difficult because at this stage I don't really know what I want from my career (other than not to rule anything out). The other thing is that we currently live in a one bed flat (which we own) so perhaps I should wait to save more and move somewhere bigger first. My head tells me I should wait a while, but my heart (/hormones...) is telling me to go for it now and things will work out.

kittyvet Fri 12-Jun-15 15:02:28

I am a veterinary surgeon and made partner 4 years ago. I had my LG last year after a year of trying to conceive at age 39. I never met the right man until now as I was focussed on my career, I really though I had missed the chance to have children. Do it now whilst your fertility will be good and save a lot of heartache!

kittyvet Fri 12-Jun-15 15:03:53

Or maybe consider getting a measure of your ovarian reserve so you know where you stand? Definitely move house first! Moved when I was 5 months pregnant and it was hell!

MyBlackCat Fri 12-Jun-15 15:05:35

I'm 33 and 18 months into ttc - for some it's not something you can have happen as soon as you start trying. If you really want children I'd start trying now - you don't know how long it will take. Good luck.

Stepawayfromthezebras Fri 12-Jun-15 15:08:32

I started trying at 35 and it's taken me 2 years to conceive. I'd recommend starting now - there's never an ideal time for children but you're at less risk of infertility and miscarriage the earlier you start.

Your career is something you'll have more control over than your fertility

TakeDeux Fri 12-Jun-15 16:51:05

A one bed flat is fine for a little baby anyway.

I would recommend marriage before children, for your own security, but I know many will say this is old fashioned.

Worried257 Sat 13-Jun-15 07:50:23

I'm not a lawyer, but do work in a competitive industry with a similar structure and hierarchy. I'm 29 and married and was asking myself the same questions as you a few months ago.

In the end we decided to go for it and got pregnant straight away. Then I had a miscarriage at six weeks. It's been an awful experience but one thing which (sort of) helps is knowing we started as soon as we were ready and are therefore making the most of the time we have in case we continue to face problems TTC. As others have said, you just never know how long it will take. I used to hear that everywhere but until my mc it didn't really sink in that it applied to me, too.

If you've already found the right man and you know you both want kids, I say go for it. Lots of women aren't that lucky and many women who look like they waited for career reasons may have actually been waiting for the right man.

fairgroundsnack Sat 13-Jun-15 08:09:04

I'm a city lawyer and had my son at 29 when I was 2.5 years qualified. It worked pretty well, went back 4 days and was back for a year before TTC again. Personally I think it's better not to come back and then be pregnant again very soon as you won't get back involved again properly before going off again. I am now starting to think about partnership (or TTC no.3!) and kids are at school/nursery.

FlatWhiteToGo Sat 13-Jun-15 08:53:46

Hi Harriet

I completely understand your concerns but my advice (like most of the others!) is just to go for it! Whether you get pregnant straight away, or you have trouble conceiving, you will not regret starting earlier.

I'm slightly more qualified than you and am in Corporate at a City firm. I've been married a few years and have really wanted kids since I was a trainee/NQ (I'm 30, so the biological clock started chiming loudly a few years ago, ha ha!). Although I felt 'ready', we put it off for a few years as I was worried about how it would look professionally and that I would not be considered to be committed enough. I think this fear was exacerbated by the fact that there just aren't female partners with kids where I work, and there are not that many senior associates with kids either.

Fast forward a few years (and the months and months of heartache every time my period comes) and it looks like I have fertility problems. I'm on a huge waiting list for all sorts of tests and operations so it's not even as though the end is in sight! We could never have predicted this as I am, usually, super healthy. We just assumed that we'd have sex and then 9 months later a baby would come! grin

If I had known all of this a few years ago I would have started earlier and, if I had been lucky enough to get pregnant, just been more ballsy with work! I think as junior lawyers we feel so grateful to have a job, that we put up with so much cr*p that people in most other jobs just wouldn't. At the end of the day, if a firm has someone who is committed but they chose to treat them badly because they dared to take a short amount of time off to have kids, then that firm really doesn't deserve your hard graft smile.

Good luck! Hopefully we'll see you on the TTC buses soon smile x

louwn Sat 13-Jun-15 09:35:55

Timing is so hard isn't it. I'm 30 and though not in law in a similar professional field. I am TTC at the moment, only a couple of months in, and will hear this week whether I have been promoted (to senior manager grade, I finished my professional exams almost 6 years ago). I personally struggled as my immediate boss waited a while until further up the ladder and is very well regarded, most people seem to have kids at the grade I hope to be soon but their careers may stall (depending on PT, what spouses do in terms of pulling their weight etc). Its a very hard one, and in the end we just decided we were ready and I knew I couldn't wait another 5 years to have a baby to be honest - really broody now!

zaza86 Sat 13-Jun-15 11:10:34

Hi! I'm in exactly the same position as you, so very interested to read the responses!
My current thinking is that, although my career would slow down temporarily, my family could grow steadily along side it. I feel like the associates I know who waited until 5 yrs+ or even partner seemed more likely to give up work as they had felt they had 'had' their careers already and that was some sort of pass to now focus on family - in a way I find that more of a waste.
I think if you can grow family and career simultaneously at the right pace, there may be more career longevity in the long run. I also know a partner who (admittedly, is a machine), had four children from 2 yrs pqe onwards, each around 18 months apart and made partner at around 9 yrs pqe. It shouldn't be about career suicide, but about finding a way to make it work for you.
I agree it's such a hard decision though, as you'll never know how the outcome will affect you!

gennibugs Sat 13-Jun-15 12:11:44

Hello. I'm a city lawyer - 1 year pqe. I'm currently 18 weeks pregnant with my first child. It actually took us 2 years to conceive with a miscarriage along the way so my advice to anyone is to start as soon as you are ready, career can fit around that. Most ladies in my firm tend to be much higher up the chain when they start families but I think that maybe more because they aren't settled etc when they are newly qualified. I only qualified at the grand old age of 32 so we aware it was likely I'd take mat leave early in my career. I actually think being fairly junior will work in my favour - I haven't built up a really strong client base as yet and don't have all the responsibility etc which would make going on mat leave and returning hard and I'm not too senior to worry what will happen in my absence. I guess what I'm saying is to do what feels right - your career can fit around it somehow. might take you a bit longer. but you just don't know how long it will take to conceive - could be 2 years like me or the first month of trying like my sister!

susurration Sat 13-Jun-15 18:07:09

Not a lawyer, nor even in a highly regarded professional field actually, but I think this is a situation lots of women face when balancing TTC and building a career so am reading this thread with interest.

I'm 26 and trying to forge the balance between growing my career and TTC at the moment. We have decided to start trying now because I have PCOS and know that it might take us a long time.

I have a bit of a fear that getting pregnant will stall any future career for me, but lots of my colleagues and family have been very reassuring. Its a bit different for me as I'm obviously not in a stringent profession like you, but many have pointed out that if a baby comes now at 26, by the time the child is 10 I will still only be 36 with many years of work ahead of me for a fulfilling career.

My MiL is a good example of that. My H was born when MiL was 25 and she has now recently completed a PhD and is highly regarded in her profession. MiL has made it very clear that for the first few years, yes it was hard when babies demand so much of you, but the older the children have got the easier it has been to find time for her career. She has a lot of time for herself now that husband and SiL have left home and she loves it.

Good Luck with whatever you decide.

PenguinsandtheTantrumofDoom Sat 13-Jun-15 18:18:18

I would say now too. As you qualified around 27 (not 24) and the age for partnership is steadily rising, the option of waiting until established is much harder.

This way you could have older kids by the partnership push. You will need cast iron childcare though. Make sure you can afford whatever you need to pay for that (obviously less expensive if your partner is flexible ).

midwinternights Sat 13-Jun-15 21:34:16

Thank you for asking this question. It is one I often ask myself. DH and I would really like a baby but like you I'm a very junior lawyer and do worry about the impact on my career. I'm comforted by the fact that if I had a baby now, he or she would be 18 by the time I hit my late 40s and that still gives me plenty of time to make a mark as a senior lawyer. We've decided to TTC in March.

Lauraqc Sun 14-Jun-15 00:43:04

Hi - I was a city lawyer until recently! I'd been there over 10 years and established - then a role came up outside the City closer to home and I had to decide whether to take it. I made the decision to make the leap and move and started there a couple of weeks ago. We've been TTC for 2 years now and I have no idea whether I've made the right decision or not because if the child thing doesn't happen I feel like I'm going to resent leaving a job I really enjoyed - but also I'm hoping that the move will relieve stress and help get me ready for this major life change. In short, get started now because you don't know how long it'll take you!

harrietm87 Mon 15-Jun-15 09:09:01

Thanks for all the responses! It's reassuring to hear that others are in a similar position. I had a chat with my partner at the weekend and we've decided to start ttc in the new year - exciting! I'm not too fussed about marriage but I suspect he might be considering proposing before then. Good luck to all of you who are ttc and those thinking about it!

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