By Jeena Cho • June 02, 2014
Dear Readers, it’s hard to believe but I’m already half way through the year long journey as Resident Writer here at Ms. JD. This passing of time, which only seems to go by faster as I get older makes me pause and consider this question of entering motherhood. I remember all throughout my 20’s, the conversation was always around birth control. Not wanting to get pregnant before I was “ready.” Now that I’m in my mid 30’s, the conversation has shifted and there’s a sense of urgency. This question to have or not have children is becoming ever more complicated with advancements in fertility treatment. We now have more ways of preserving our fertility by freezing eggs or embryo, in addition to all the other fertility treatments.
I felt this was an important topic to write about because there’s not enough conversations being had around deciding to enter motherhood or the deciding to remain childless. There are certainly women who always knew they wanted to be a mom and go on to enter motherhood. I was never in that camp. I always felt very ambivalent about having kids and the older I got, the more complicated the decision became. So, if you’re in the “maybe baby camp,” how do you decide?
I sat down with Lee Burgess, co-founder of the Law School Toolbox, Bar Exam Toolbox and Trebuchet recently to chat about her thoughts on the topic as she is pregnant with her first child (yeah!). Like me, Burgess is in her 30’s and had her own journey to decide to start a family. Below, check out these tips and suggestions we compiled to help guide your thinking on this topic.
Like most major life decisions, deciding to start a family can take time. As most women who have struggled with this decision know, this isn’t one that you can make quickly. Burgess spent quite a long time thinking about whether and when to start a family -- reading books, talking to mentors, friends and, of course, her husband. If you are one of those folks who has always known you wanted to start a family (and when) that is great! But if you need more time, that is okay too.
As I mentioned above, for many women in their mid-30s the pressure to have kids can get pretty overwhelming. There may be times you are uncertain and fearful of the changes that may come to your life. To get a handle on these thoughts, you need to give yourself time and space to think through what you want in the future and not feel too much pressure from outside sources (easier said than done, we know).
If you decide you’re not sure about having kids for now, it’s okay to table the conversation -- but you might want to choose a time in the future to revisit it. Many professional women focus all of their attention on their job and are so busy that there’s no time to even reflect and think about having or not having children. It’s easy to delay and say, “Oh, I’ll get to that later.” Both Burgess and I know many women who regret not having visited this topic earlier. What’s important is that you pause and make space for these inquiries and conversation. I think this reflection may be in fact more valuable than the decision itself. To look inside and listen to your own answer on the decision to have or not have kids.
Try not to be driven by fear when making this decision. Everyone loves to talk about the “ticking clock,” but don’t let fear be the primary driver of your decision-making. Sure, there are biological realities that we all must deal with, but this is a major life choice! It isn’t often that we make our best decisions out of fear or panic. All the fertility specialist will tell you is that a woman’s ability to get pregnant starts to decline starting in her early 30’s. But that isn’t the entire story (turns out plenty of people still do get pregnant well into their 30’s and some into their early 40s). It is true, the fertility window will close at some point and it’s important to recognize this. I think there’s a sense that for many professional women, we’re used to working hard and achieving success. And therefore, they can also attack fertility in this manner. Of course, this isn’t the case. Pure will and determination can’t overcome Mother Nature.
It is okay to think about the professional ramifications of starting a family. As lawyers we have invested a great amount of time, energy, and often money, into our careers. When deciding to have a family, spend time visualizing what that is going to look like from a professional perspectives. Although there will be plenty of surprises with motherhood, can you imagine how you are going to try to balance your professional and personal life? Can you see it working? Are you willing to make trade-offs to make it work?
It is your life and you should do what feels right to you (and your partner). When it all comes down to it, it is your life and you need to do what feels right to you. Both Burgess and I know happy women who have decided to become mothers and happy women who decided not to. (Check out this great post by Kate McGuinness sharing her story of waiting to have a biological child and then adopting her now-adult son.)
Now I want to hear from you! What questions or thoughts do you have around entering motherhood?
Jeena Cho is a partner at JC Law Group PC, a bankruptcy law firm in San Francisco, CA. In addition to her legal practice, Jeena teaches mindfulness and meditation to lawyers. Her second book, The Anxious Lawyer (ABA) will be released in 2015. You can find her on Twitter @jeena_cho.