Should I ramp up my career or leave well enough alone?

I am a 31 year old female (ENFJ) and I currently work in an internal role at a major professional services firm. I am not on a partner track, but there are some good career options down the line.  There are a lot of things I like about my job:

– lots of hours and telecommuting flexibility (I work 40+, but can work from home most of the time and skipping out for appointments and such is never a problem)

– excellent benefits

– interesting projects

However, my job isn’t that hard and I feel that I excel over most of my peers.  I feel that I am not reaching for my full potential and that if I don’t challenge myself in the marketplace, I will never know my full potential. I also feel that if I change jobs, I will make more money. My husband makes good money, but has terrible medical benefits- we use mine. I went to a good school and worked hard most of my life- am I wasting that by not reaching for the stars?

I think having kids is something I will try to do in the next few years. My company has good maternity leave and I would have multiple part-time options to choose from if I wanted. They even pay for fertility treatments if I need them.

Do I have a good thing going on and I just can’t see it? Or am I being dragged down by fear of the unknown? I know juggling kids and a serious career is hard and I am afraid I will regret giving up my sweet deal if I choose a new career and kids. Staying feels like the antithesis of “leaning in”, but I need to be smart about this.

6 replies
  1. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    You probably need to decide between having kids or putting your career on the fast track. I don’t know very many women who step up the demands of their job just as they are getting ready to have kids. It just doesn’t work that way unless someone else will be responsible for your kids – round the clock. Women who have huge careers and young kids have round-the-clock nannies so that if there is a last-minute late-night or travel they are covered. (I’m assuming if your husband makes a good salary then he is in no position to take time off to take care of kids.)

    Here are some posts on this topic:

    So I don’t think this is so much about reaching your potential at work as it is reaching your potential as a human being.

    How do you want to raise your kids? How much time do you want to see your husband each week? How much money can you spend on child care?

    If you are not prepared to leave your kids in the hands of expensive, very competent childcare for most of their lives, then you probably shouldn’t bother ramping up your career. We all have to make choices.

    Here’s a post about me making the choices in my own life, which I think might help you to feel less alone in your situation:

    I think your idea that you should be a high achiever blah blah is left over from when someone told you that if you do well in school then you’ll make a lot of money.

    There is no correlation. In fact, you have to care a lot about making a lot of money in order to make a lot of money. People who make a lot of money choose that over their kids. You know this, intuitively just it’s hard for you to swallow.

    Cheryl Sandberg has three nannies for two kids. Marissa Mayer has round-the-clock nannies. When I had a startup and two young kids I had round-the-clock nannies. People don’t tell you that when they tell you that you are so smart and you will be so successful at work.

    So I think you need to make hard choices now, and then move forward with kids in the way that is best for you.


  2. Lauren
    Lauren says:

    When I read this I thought of this post:

    I’ve been in your position, and I stayed in the family-friendly job, and I haven’t regretted it. Even though I make much less money than my supposed “potential”, I have a great quality of life (40-hour weeks, 15-minute commute, 4 weeks/year of leave time and great health & retirement benefits). I was able to advance in my career within the company and also have kids. Trust me, they will suck up any cognitive capacity you have to spare! If you’re bored in the meantime, maybe you could start a small business on the side … although 31 is a GREAT age to start having kids.

  3. Dodobee
    Dodobee says:

    Stay and start having kids. If it does not work out and you need fertility treatments, it will be so helpful that your insurance covers them. My employer only covers 50% and it does get super expensive, let me tell you. Make kiddos the priority!

  4. YMKAS
    YMKAS says:

    My husband is in leadership positions and he works anywhere from 60-80 hours a week, not including travel where he can be gone for weeks at a time. If he was at a startup in SV it would be 100 hours. You see where I am going with this…?

    I think the “problem” here is that having children is all theoretical for you at this point. If you are indeed planning on starting a family, any career decisions should be delayed AFTER kids are in the picture, when it is more tangible and you have that emotional bond established.

    You’ve got a great situation, keep doing what you are doing. If the desire to grow into a leadership position still exists after kids then you can make changes at that time. If you are not planning to have children then make the change now.

    I stay at home and homeschool my kids and I can tell you that no amount of pre-planning or guesswork prepared me to make that decision… it occurred naturally after starting a family.

    Good luck to you! I’d love a follow up to this question a few years down the road, like a “where are they now” post.

  5. Becky Castle Miller
    Becky Castle Miller says:

    I love this response, Penelope. It’s one of my favorites on here. I like how you fleshed it out with links to more in-depth discussions on other posts.

    To the original poster, I would tell you that the happiest moms I know are the ones who work part time. Being able to do flexible work you love and also be with your kids is invaluable if you’re looking for an interesting and yet balanced life. My four kids are 7, 5, 2, and a baby; I’m INFJ; I’m 32. I haven’t worked full time since my oldest was born. I have loved my part time work at a non-profit and my freelance and consulting work. I enjoy being with my kids and I love my work, and I’m grateful I get to do both. (It helps that we moved to the Netherlands two years ago – it is possible to get professional work part time here in ways that are more difficult in the US. If you are American, you might want to consider moving to Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, or a Scandinavian country where there is more work/life flexibility for women. Plus the cross-cultural thing might be the extra challenge you’re looking for!)

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