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Struggling with “high-powered” career after kids(29 Posts)
Looking for some fresh perspectives as am going round in circles...
I should start by saying this is possibly the most first world problem ever. I am very lucky! But somehow that doesn’t stop it keeping me awake at night...
I have a “high powered” job in central London. Earn a lot. Very interesting. Very stressful with lots of responsibility. Hours are long and it’s not unusual to be in the office at 1 or 2am or doing similar at home after kids go to sleep. Have been doing it for well over a decade and been very successful/ promoted to a senior role.
I also have three young children. Eldest boy is in school. Work have been great during my pregnancy/maternity leaves so that part worked well.
I am now struggling with what to do. Despite officially going part time I am still finding my job quite overwhelming (and despite all the chat about work-life balance the reality is most of my colleagues at my level are full-time men with a lot of support at home). My husband also works in a hard-core hours good-money job so we are struggling to find enough life capacity to keep things ok on the home front despite a lot of paid and family help.
The obvious answer is to leave and find something less intense. But - so much of who I am is caught up in my work, and I am good at it and (mostly) enjoy it. I am quite scared of stepping away into something more “normal” where expectations would be more manageable but I might be a fish out of water or get frustrated/bored. I am also so tired and (frankly) burned out that the thought of making a change is scary. I am a bit worried that I will quit and spend a couple of years watching Netflix and eating Kinder Bueno and pissing off my nanny (who I suppose I would also have to fire which would break my heart as she is wonderful and part of the family). Or equally scary is the thought of having to engage with the job market- which would probably be harder than it might seem as I have been in my job so long that I am not particularly transferable except into equally or nearly-equally tough situations. (I worry about leaving, taking a massive salary cut and then working nearly as hard... which is more or less what has happened by going part time). Part of me also knows I am my own worst enemy when it comes to working too hard...
Feel torn and confused. Want to spend more time with the kids but I am rubbish at home-making and being a SAHP is probably not for me (though I think it can be a great choice for men or women who want it). The mountain of him tasks I would have to confront if I didn’t have work as an excuse is a bit scary too. Don’t know how to get a part-time and/or lower stress role that will still feel like something that suits the “me” that historically was very career oriented and successful, and got a lot of satisfaction out of my job and my workplace and the people there.
Argh! First world problems, as I said...
Hoping there might be some mumsnetters who have navigated something similar and have ideas/tips/sympathetic noises!
Home tasks, not him tasks. Though most of them are him tasks at the moment as DH does well over his fair share...
Sounds like you enjoy ( prefer) working to being at home.
Maybe pay for more home help to improve your work / home/ leisure balance eg a PA and or cook and or gardener a few hours a week.
It sounds like there's a lot going on in your head with this, and maybe a career coach might be the best way to untangle all of the pressures/perfectionism/self-identity bits to clarify what you want. Beyond that - you don't mention your kids much, do you think your/your DH's hours affects them?
In my own exploration of balancing work and kids, I'd say that if you really enjoy your work, and want to still go full throttle, what you need more than anything else is flexibility and being in charge of your own workload. Which is why self employment / consultancy ends up being one way of sustaining both work and home.
The kids are mostly fine because we have amazing support - our nanny has been around forever and they see their grandparents everyday. My husband does breakfast and the school run. Of course they would like more of me, and I would really like more of them, but I don’t think they are actively suffering, IYSWIM.
Are you me?! In a similar situation albeit only one child. I’m struggling with the fact I know I can’t give as much at work as the majority of my colleagues. Can’t offer any advice but you are definitely not alone!
What hours do you currently work?
Room for negotiation? What hours do you want to work?
How long is your commute, ie how long are you actually at home for? What hours do you want to be home for? To do what with your kids?
Do you want to finish by .... 4.30pm one day? Or, Have a Wednesday off?
You actually barely mention your kids. Are you sure you want to spend time with them? Or more have a break yourself?
I partly don’t want to talk about the kids so I don’t give my identity away! I am pretty involved with them -honest! I took long mat leaves with each and enjoyed them enormously. I guess that part of life feels pretty OK so I am majoring more on the work part, which feels very tough. They are fab little people and I enjoy spending time with them, but it’s fair to say three under five definitely means kid time is far from “relaxing” and involves quite a lot of tidying up and refereeing!
Could you do what you do but in a consulting basis? Set up on your own?
What about your husband? Could he step back at work and manage the home front and you go back to full time?
I don't actually think you are any luckier than most of us, in fact it sounds really tough.
But equally I don't really think the perfect balance exists. I work FT in an easy job that is 'well paid' for what is expected of me but a lot less I imagine than yours. We can't afford a nanny obviously but we are really comfortably off. I can do my job standing on my head really (but this os mainly because I've worked for the same company for years rather than me being ultra-brilliant). On the downside it's really boring and frustrating, I can't really move upwards without making my life harder which is difficult sometimes. I'd never be able to find another job as easy on the same money but I also feel utterly knackered a lot of the time . Working PT is pretty pointless I've done it in the past but my workload didn't actually change .
How about taking a sabbatical and looking into the self employed route? Truth is, I don't think it is possible to have it all. I know a woman with an amazing career but her husband gave up his accountancy career to run the home front. Would you husband consider that? Male or female, someone has to keep the homefires burning, particularly when you have lots of young children. Paid help can only go so far.
Is some of this because this is it? When you have been back before you were never back for good as there was always another maternity leave to go which would give you some time with the kids?
I have a good job probably more akin to you h than you and fertility issues so was only ever going to have one child. Going back post mat leave was tough as this was my life now and I needed to work to provide etc etc it took about a year I would say to find my groove and the balance that worked for me. I don’t always get it right when I am busy and stressed but I am better at taking advantage of quieter times
Can you do a sideways move? If it's a law firm (or something where CPD is required), do they have a coaching scheme for grads, that kind of thing, that you could do for a year or so but also where you could keep your hand in on your actual job?
As someone else has already suggested, can you afford more help? A housekeeper or cleaner aswell as the nanny for instance? Would this help? Do you have a pa in work?
Could you work for yourself? I had a very high powered job before having DC, but then bailed because it was miserable and I wanted to see my children. I worked for my own business for 10 years. Now back at senior level in a big corporate as the DC are at university
You may regret it if you step back: it is not easy to get back on track and in a few years your family will be less demanding. I would think about more help at home and examining whether you are delegating enough at work
I think a sabbatical is a good idea too. It will give you some head space to decide how to go forward in life. Would your firm agree to say, 6 months unpaid leave? You could take the first week or so to go away and chill/sleep!
Ok - so I'm guessing you're an investment banker, or a corporate lawyer?
I think the problem with this is that it's an all or nothing situation. The "officially part time" bit leapt off the page at me. One of my friends (senior corporate lawyer) says he always advises anyone against part time, on the grounds that the nature of the job means that you actually end up working full time but just getting paid less.
You have to call it, I think. And then stick with that call and focus on the positives of it, while recognising and doing your best to mitigate the downside. I've done the opposite and become a SAHP, but I know others who've gone back to all hours jobs. You need - as you have done by the sound of it - to find an excellent nanny. You need to pay her very well and ensure (in as far as you can) that she stays with you. And you need to accept that the nature of the job means that you will see a lot less of your children than you'd wish to, as there's simply no way round that as you just can't be in two places at once!
I'm inclined to say the "not a natural homemaker" thing is a bit of a red herring, because you can, after all, do things in whichever way you choose. I'm not either; I'm not a "crafts and baking" type, but I've really enjoyed helping my children pursue their own interests and arranging interesting days out, for example. So I'm sure - if you wanted to - you could carve out a niche that works for you. But what you don't get is the high level conversation. Or the excitement of the deal/the cutting edge. And you certainly don't get the financial rewards or the status.
Maybe time for a long hard look at where you are and where you want to be. But then make peace with the decision you make. I know SAHPS who constantly toy with going back to work. I know working parents who are constantly trying to "be involved" by taking days off to run the second hand uniform stall and the like. I think that's the worst outcome. If you love your job and it's important to you to do it, then own that!
I work in a stressful job and I am lucky enough to work part time but this has in some ways made it more stressful as it has not done my career progression any good, and I am struggling to get everything done in my working days so frequently end up working on my days off. Also whilst in theory I could refuse to work on my days off the clients I work for would just go to another member of the team and I would eventually lose the client so I would lose out in the long run. But I enjoy what I do, despite frequent moments when I feel not good enough, sick of not being able to compete properly with full time males with kids who have nannies or stay at home wives. I don't want to give it up. I've worked hard to get to a senior level. I enjoy the status, the challenges etc but yes this comes with stress. When I find myself moaning about this I have to tell myself that I earn good money and work flexibly. I see my ds and am involved in his school life( I can volunteer to help on days out etc) It sounds as if you would not enjoy being a sahp but I agree more flexibility would be good. Not easy if you are a transactional lawyer as you have to work when the work comes in. Many of my friends have left law because of this...
I’d outsource more and negotiate for more annual leave.
Would your employer give you an extra 10 days of a/l pa in lieu of next pay rise?
I find more holidays better for having quality time with dcs than weekday evenings. That times just a slog anyway.
If there are any chores outstanding at the weekend hire more help so all your time off is leisure time.
Do you have a housekeeper as well as the nanny?
I’d want someone to take care of household admin/ shopping/ cleaning/ laundry.
The other option is parental leave to get more time off. That's what I do.
Three under five. Grit your teeth and get through it, it will get easier.
Is there any more help at all you can buy in for a couple of years?
Does your dh want to take a step back from his career.
Loads and loads of families are like this, but usually it's the man in the high flying and demanding career, and it's pretty much expected the woman will sacrifice all or part of her career to pick up the slack for the family
Someone else suggested a coach and that’s what I would recommend too. You and your husband/partner.
This was the only thing that helped me get the right balance in those years after I went back. You need someone to help you figure out what’s important to you and, probably, and how to do your job differently. There is also something here about you being a change maker/leader in your organisation. There aren’t any men or women doing it part-time like you are. This is good and bad - no role models, makes it hard, but also no real ground rules, so you can make them up. If your organisation wants to keep people with caring responsibilities in senior roles you will need to help them join the 21st century.
I have a high powered (but less hours than you) job and I had a coach for about a year when mine were small. Lots of things in my life were out of balance as it turned out! I was trying to do far too much and also had some bad management approaches that were not helping. You will need to work differently on some level to get through this.
I would also suggest your husband does similar - it’s important that you share whatever changes are coming, and it will probably be even harder for him to negotiate flexibilities and make changes.
And I totally get the not having space to even think about another job or career. That’s why I think you should focus on making your current one work, at least until you’ve got your life in balance enough to have capacity to think about a job.