How to “Grow Your Career” — Someone Please Tell Me

Law-mom: I (mostly) liked this article, and mostly agreed with it (especially the paragraph “Role Models Aren’t Everything.”) But I found it lacking in actual advice about how to “grow your career” as a working mom. This all sounded more to me like: “How to just deal with the juggle.” What do you think, Econ-mom?

Econ-mom: Yeah exactly, that was an article on how to survive.  Which is fine, but doesn’t actually address the question of how to grow your career.  It’s funny you bring this up now, because I recently got a job offer – after being on the job hunt for six months! (Which, by the way, has sucked so much.)  This offer is for a pretty good job, but honestly, it doesn’t even require a PhD, and sometimes I just can’t believe that this was the best job I could get. (OK, perhaps I’m not in the best mood to be blogging about this right now.  This morning my 7 year-old asked me why his younger brother is still going to daycare, but he’s out of school, and I said, “The patriarchy.”)

Overall, this is the way I try to think about it: Maybe if you have a nanny for 12+ hours a day you can grow your career.  But I’ll just go ahead and impose my opinion on the world: No one (including men!!!) should want to be away from their young child for 12 hours a day. (Can you imagine a world in which men with young children refused to work 12 hour days?? Me neither.) Anyway, in my experience, working while my kids were young was really just about treading water. But when I’m feeling optimistic, I look at this new job as a foot in the door. It’s not my dream job, but now my kids are older and my husband is going to stay home and run the household. There is a lot of ageism in economics (and probably in a lot of fields), and the whole experience of going on the academic job market really feels like a one-shot game. But I have to hope that it’s not too late, and I can shine in this new role and eventually get closer to where I wanted to be career-wise. So, my answer to ‘how to grow your career as a working mother’ is wait until your kids are older. I think that is realistic in the sense that you can’t literally do everything all at once, but I’m not sure how realistic it is in terms of career outcomes. I am not sure that “leaning out” for a few years doesn’t permanently hurt your career, but let’s hope it doesn’t have to!

Law-mom: I agree with you on all of this, Econ-mom.