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Dilemna: career interfering with family

(28 Posts)
expatkat Tue 01-Apr-03 21:54:20

I've been given an opportunity which puts me in the uncomfortable position of having to choose between what's best for my career and what's best for my family.

Said opportunity would take me to the States for 7 months (with kids). Dh would stay alone in U.K., and visit us occasionally.

Dh and I have had problems which lately have improved. So it seems likely to set things back if we're mostly apart for 7 mos. Also, it can't be great for eldest, 3.5, who is attached to his dad.

Any mums of older children out there who regret giving up a career opportunity? Or who don't?

I just know that if I take it, people will say what a saint dh is for letting me go ahead with it. But if I don't take it, no one will say what I saint I am for giving it up.

Opinions?

sobernow Tue 01-Apr-03 22:02:04

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

soyabean Tue 01-Apr-03 22:03:46

Expatkat I have no experience of anything like this; I am pathetically unambitious/careerminded! This sounds like a very difficult decision for you. Is it something that will never present itself again? As I said, I am not careerminded really, so probably have a very different way of looking at such things; without knowing the situation I am sure *I* wouldnt go to the States for so long with kids & without dh. Its hard for me to imagine being in that position. What does your dh feel about it? How would you manage childcare? I think that younger children will cope whever they are if they are with their family but it sounds like you are more concerned aout your marriage.
Personally, FWIW, I guess I would think it better to stay at home for now. You're right that noon will think you a saint, but on the other hand maybe yr dh will appreciate it, and you too if things continue to improve between you?

Tinker Tue 01-Apr-03 22:14:03

I agree with following your gut instinct. Firstly, 7 months is not so long, you can see an end to this. Secondly, you are with your children. Thirdly, flights to the US are cheap, even if your husband visited only 2 times, it would only be 2 months or so at a time without him.

You do use the word 'regret', so maybe this is revealing?

I don't know the details of your problems with your husband but a break may help?

If you do go, get a webcam.

Can this be put off for a few years when the kids are a little older and may appreciate it more? On teh other hand, it may be easier to go when they're younger.

Good luck, you're a working mother, of course you can't win

Lindy Tue 01-Apr-03 22:16:14

Goodness, what a dilema!

Like Sobernow, I was older than the 'norm' when I had my child (42) and have no regrts about giving up my career - but, I honestly believe I had reached the 'top' of my chosen field, I was very happy with what I had achieved, and quite honestly was delighted to give up work & all the associated pressures! I am sure I would not have felt like this if I was younger & still ambitious.

On a practical note - how are you going to arrange childcare for young children in another country (hard enough to do at home!) - sorry, I know this isn't the question you are asking. Is there no chance your DH could go with you? I have lived in the US and really like it over there, was hoping Dh would be posted there & we could go with him but hasn't happened yet. It would be a great opportunity for all of you if you could spend some time there.

I guess that by asking the question........ you really, really want to go, and you may live to bitterly regret it if you don't, whatever the difficulties.

Sorry - no real advice, but good luck.

Gilli Tue 01-Apr-03 22:28:04

Expatkat - I've been there, and worn the t-shirt - honestly! The real question is which one would you put first, job or family, because that IS the question you are having to face. Sure its not for ever, but it is important to you to get it right. If you have a talent as a career woman there will be other opportunities out there somewhere, sometime.

SueW Wed 02-Apr-03 09:14:57

I would go but then I am used to being without DH - his job has always taken him away from us, sometimes for a couple of months at a time.

My dilemma wouldn't be about leaving DH but about finding adequate support for the children and me whilst I was there - childcare, friends, etc.

Good luck whatever you decide.

bells2 Wed 02-Apr-03 09:23:47

If I could sort out child care and I thought it would be a positive experience for the children and it was a boost career-wise I would certainly think about it. Not the same I know, but I took up a job in Singapore when I was living with DH but before we were married. It was the most fantastic professional experience of my life and DH proposed virtually immediately upon my return!. I was there for around a year but we saw each other every 2 months and spoke daily.

Meanmum Wed 02-Apr-03 10:03:53

You need to look at it from a few angles. What are the pros and cons of you going or not within the company. Will it strengthen your position for future roles or limit you if you don't take it. What are your company's views on work life balance? Can you consider taking the role but working it flexibly in line with the new laws that have come in. Maybe doing longer hours for three days per week and and lessening the rest so that you can either spend more time with the kids or fly home more regularly.

I've flown with my ds and had no issues other than a couple of days upon return when he has to get over the jet lag. I'm sure your kids could manage it too if you wanted to take turns with your dh in who does the flying.

Ask yourself and then more importantly ask your dh what he would do in this situation. Don't prejudge. I do it all the time with my dh and boy do I get in trouble for it. He needs to be completely honest about his feelings in the whole situation and you need to make a decision as a family.

Ask the kids what they would want. They may be young but at the same time will have an opinion. I'm assuming you have a nanny who you would be taking with you. 7 mths for the kids would be extremely disruptive without some continuity in their lives. Remember they are resilient though.

All in all my thoughts were that you need to look much longer term as to the benefits this will bring. Obviously consider the long term benefits for you career wise but take a longer look at the benefits it will bring to your family and this may help you decide.

Will taking your kids to another culture broaden them and benefit them? Will they have more opportunities in another country (even if it is for a short time). Consider things like does this mean they will spend more time outdoors at the beach and if so is this a lifestyle you want for them.

Is it worthwhile you going away with your dh for the weekend to talk this through with no distractions. For me that never works and we have better conversations at home in bed in the evening than away but maybe you need this.

Maintaining a relationship is extremely hard at times and requires as much work as your career and raising a child. Remember you are currently managing three very stressful careers those being job, family, relationship. Sometimes things have to give and where ever that is there must be understanding from the other side.

I doubt I've helped at all but being opinionated wanted to share my view.

One last thing, having worked with expats remember that assignments can be extended. Be very sure about the decision you are making and that it is based on the actual time line the company have given you as opposed to one they think you want to hear. Is it a specific project that must end within 7 months or if you work well is there the opportunity for you to stay on out there in another capacity. If so would your dh give up his career. There is nothing to say he can't take a career break and be your stay at home nanny. Wonderful for him and the kids.

In this current economic climate Company's are very interested in any ideas staff have on how to reduce costs within the business. If your husband has a valued job within his company he should be able to take time out or offer alternatives to the company which will see them reducing their cost but not losing him completely. Are there no roles he could telecommute on within his own company thus meaning you are all in the US?

mum2toby Wed 02-Apr-03 10:11:42

I'm very career-minded and I'm also the main breadwinner.

I would take the opportunity while it's there... afterall, it's only a few months and I'm sure it'll benefit you and your family in the long run. IMO Kids are VERY adaptable and you'll probably be quite surprised with how you kids just take it in their stride.

At the end of the day... this is YOUR decision and try not to take any notice of those who will criticise you. I got terrible comments and looks from people when I said I went back to work fulltime when ds was 4mths old.

How often will dh be able to see your children?

Meanmum Wed 02-Apr-03 10:54:11

Mum2Toby - I went back when my ds was 4 months too. I realised I'm not a stay at home mum even though I would like to be and it is best for everyone for me to be at work. I'm also the main breadwinner which is why I wonder dh can't decide to give up his career and go off to the States.

It frustrates me that society still makes women feel guilty for choices they make when a man in the same position making the same choices is never criticised.

Definitely ignore all criticism as whatever happens you will make the right choice even if it doesn't feel like it at the time.

Remember that there are mumsnetters who will always support you even if it feels like the world is against you.

soyabean Wed 02-Apr-03 14:31:34

expatkat, I was thinking abit more about this, and wondering whether your dh could take the opportunity to take some unpaid leave and join you there?
Strangely, I said in my post lst night that I am not at all career minded but I have this morning been offered a job, which puts me in a dilemns too as I just accepted another one on Monday! The interviews were on Thu and Fri last week. Not meaning to hijack your thread, honestly, but I have spent the last 2 hours thinking about the effects 1.on the rest of the family and 2.on my short- and long-term career/time/happiness of the 2 jobs. Both are part time but one is down the road and the other involves a bit of a commuute. One is a temp contract, the other permanent and more what I'mm interested in but therefore more of a commitment. I have to get back to work asap for the money (have been at home for 4 yrs, part time self employed)And I have to decide by tomorrow...Anyway, it is much less of a big decision than yours, but it did make me think that most women are faced with these sort of 'juggling' decisions, and we certainly dont 'have it all', what we have is a lot of difficult choices and compromises. I hope that you are able to come to an arrangement that suits you.

expatkat Wed 02-Apr-03 15:12:35

You are all AMAZING. Thank you for such thoughtful, considered responses. (And apologies for the typo on the thread title--oops.) Interesting how the double-standard thing resonated with a lot of you.

Meanmum, I found your response particularly generous--but felt guilty that I'd led you (and everyone?) to believe it was a corporate type of opportunity. It's actually a fellowship for artists & writers, which means I'll be given free housing and a monthly 'salary' to do nothing but my own work. Occasionally the recipients of this fellowship have partners and children, but far more often they are single and unencumbered. The living accommodations are shoebox-like, so it would be a tight squeeze for me and the kids, and possibly an au pair.

Because we're talking about art, and not something more practical, taking this opportunity seems particularly self-indulgent.

On the other hand, that's what I do, and I was beginning to make a name for myself in the States when I suddenly had to leave the scene and join dh in London. This would be an opportunity to build up my reputation again, and my credibility (for the fellowship is a prestigious one) should I decide, say, to go into academia. And I'd get to be around peole who do what I do, which has not been the case for the 4 yrs I've lived here.

Each one of you has been so helpful. I have a month to decide. I'll let you know the outcome. Meanwhile, further comments are always welcome.

Good luck, soyabean. Sounds like a plenty big decision. What do you think you'll do?

Meanmum Wed 02-Apr-03 15:23:32

ExpatKat - I made the assumption it was corporate, however, I think your offer is even more important now. How lucky you are to do something you truly love when so many people in offices do something, if they are lucky, they like and more often than not loathe.

Don't worry about the shoe box accommodation as we live in the UK and compared to where I originate from everything here is shoe box. For those UK'ers don't be offended I love it here but in comparison to the States or other countries houses etc are so much smaller here.

Do what you love to do and what you are obviously good at. Get over the feelings of guilt and think about the vibes your children will get from you if you are happy doing what you love. Work with your dh on this issue and good luck with the decision making. Whatever you choose don't ever look back in regret. Life is full of choices and each can lead to positive outcomes.

Soyabean - take the temp job. I've temped a lot in my life and they always turn into permanent roles, or better yet remain temporary which means you get better overtime etc. Being close to home is a godsend.

sobernow Wed 02-Apr-03 18:43:21

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Marina Wed 02-Apr-03 18:48:35

Just caught up with this Expatkat and agree with Meanmum - now you've said what the opportunity is, I think if you can possibly make this work, you should go. Corporate type opportunities do come up again in due coursem=, but this, as you say, is something special. I work in a creative field (in an admin capacity!) and I know how rare, and how career-enhancing, these fellowships can be. Many congratulations on winning it, I bet there was some stiff competition.
Good luck with your decision - I can't really add much to the excellent advice others have given. But please don't ever describe exercising and nurturing your gift as self-indulgent

Marina Wed 02-Apr-03 18:51:19

Sobernow, our posts crossed - you've expressed the importance of art in society much better than I ever could!

Meanmum Wed 02-Apr-03 19:07:18

I want to say to everyone who has entered this thread that your support of expatkat has been outstanding. As silly as this sounds I have felt your support extends to even me and I don't have this issue. Obviously I have others as I'm sure we all have issues and choices to make in our own ways.

ExpatKat - thank you so much for your kind words about my note. They gave me a buzz all day which I needed.

Even though I don't work in the Arts and am not very artistic (trust me this is a fact) I have an appreciation and as someone who can not actually do it themselves I believe the world would be a worse place without you all. Where would I be without your art in galleries, cafes and on streets. Where would my son be without your art to grow up with. Not all art is appreciated by everyone but it is always appreciated by someone.

I too should have congratulated you on winning a fellowship. It's is an impresive fete.

prufrock Wed 02-Apr-03 21:38:53

expatkat
You said that you had to leave the scene and join dh in London - I am guessing that was because he worked here? So you've already given up something for him once - don't do it again, especially when it's something you want so much. If you decide not to because of him or your kids you will only resent them for holding you back. even if you don't mean to, you will feel this, especially if you and dh have been having problems already.
It sounds like a wonderful opportunity, and I'm sure the kids would enjoy a new culture.

soyabean Wed 02-Apr-03 22:11:22

expatkat
Like the others, now that I know its an artistic fellowship I feel more that you should really consider taking this opportunity! I guess I had assumed it was something corporate and maybe my prejudices surfaced there and I felt that it might be something you could leave till a later date. Now Ifeel that this is something really important for you as a person, and potentially very beneficial for your children; congratulations on getting it! Definitely NOT self indulgent. Also as others have said, there may be some people who think this is less valid than going for a well paid job, but the opposite is the case IMO. It sounds like a fantasic opportunity, if you can get childcare sorted out. Will you be nearer your old friends or family? That wd obviously be another huge benefit. Good luck.
(I think I'm going for thre more interesting but further away permanent job but still not 100% sure...)

Gilli Wed 02-Apr-03 22:14:06

ExpatKat - agree with others that this kind of opportunity isn't like the corporate openings I was talking about, but a rare and precious acknowledgement of talent; and it is presenting you with an opportunity to grow creatively. How good will childcare be? Will you be able to concentrate on your work with peace of mind? If you can solve practicalities then it sounds like it will help you grow as an artist and I'd say go, and make it work...

Philippat Wed 02-Apr-03 22:26:45

Expatkat, never understand why other people don't consider art a career - of course it is! and networking is hugely important (more so than in many careers). However, thank god, the art world is also pretty flexible about how people work.

Personally, I'd take it like a shot, and I'd also say it was you not dh who was the saint, for managing to bring up the kids without him and achieve some work at the same time.

Is your dh supportive of your work (it sounds a bit like he's not)? and is this part of the problem? The fact you applied for the fellowship suggests at your heart you really want it - did you discuss it with him then?

If it were me, I'd do it like this - get dh to take the 4 weeks unpaid parental leave he's entitled to each year and come out and squeeze into the shoebox with you at the beginning to help you with all the practical stuff (or at the end to do likewise while you finish your work). Then I'd try and structure my work so that some of it had to be done in London (obviously I've no idea what sort of work you do, but most medias would lend themselves to that somewhere) and incorporate one long trip back home in the middle of the time. These ways would mean you really wouldn't be apart for long.

The one thing that does strike me though, is that you are building up your network in the US not in the UK, and that might mean you don't want to come back at the end. How does your heart feel on that one?

expatkat Fri 25-Apr-03 17:51:46

Hi again, everyone.

I was given a month to think this fellowship thing over, and I've decided to go for it!!!

I know it won't be easy, but I'm still relatively 'portable' with ds and dd so young and not yet in primary school, so I think I'd better do it. Now or never.

Thanks again for all the encouragement.

layla Fri 25-Apr-03 19:19:16

Hi Expatkat,it sounds a fantastic opportunity.Go for it and enjoy it.I'm a bit greenKeep me posted I'll be dying to hear how you get on.When are you going?
Layla(formerly known as star)

Lindy Fri 25-Apr-03 20:38:20

Well done for coming to your decision - good luck, it sounds like a fantastic opportunity! Hope you have access to Mumsnet over there so you can let us know how you are getting on!

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