Lately I’ve been thinking about my career, or lack thereof.  While I have a part-time marketing job that’s enjoyable and fairly low-key and low-stress, it’s also teetering at the bottom end of the pay scale.  It’s a job, not a career, with a small, family owned company and there aren’t any advancement opportunities. As with many women, I’ve been willing to trade my paycheck and career advancement for the flexibility that is necessary when you have young children.

While my current job has allowed me to keep my skills somewhat sharp, it’s not necessarily pushing me forward and, after 10 years, I’ve been feeling a little left out of the career loop and wondering where I would have been if I had decided to try to balance motherhood and a demanding full-time career.  Maybe in a corner office, maybe in the psych ward (half-joking!).

Lately, I’ve been perusing the job listings, but many of the jobs that appear vaguely appealing require skills that I simply don’t have (SEO, ISO, UFC, and a host of other acronyms).  The other rub is that the workplace is no longer the same place that I left 10 years ago when my son was born.  Today, employers demand longer hours, more productivity, and “networking” has gone from having lunch with clients and former co-workers, to managing a vast online social network – I can barely keep up with my personal Facebook and Twitter accounts – and I have no idea what my KLOUT score is!

But the reality is that, even if I brushed up on my skills, there’s no way I could jump back onto the high profile career path that I had pre-parenthood.   Leaving the house at 8am and returning at 8pm on a daily basis, being available 24/7 to an employer via cell phone/email, working weekends, travelling at least once a month, and still trying to balance the demands of motherhood and managing a home would be all but impossible for me.  I see this in the demands of my husband’s job – and a two career family running at this pace doesn’t leave much for the kids.  At some point, something’s got to give, and typically, it’s the woman’s career – or her sanity.

With fewer jobs and more competition for them, I wonder how our generation of women is going to fare in the next decade, as our kids go off to college and we are faced with the realities of a drastically altered workplace from the one that we left.  While I’ve at least kept a toe dipped in the wellspring of the working world, a lot of my friends are just starting to open the door to returning to work and their prospects are rather limited. Many are applying for substitute teaching positions within the school system so their in-synch with the school schedule, some have applied for retail jobs at local shops, others have signed up to represent home-party companies that sell jewelry, candles, or gourmet foods – not especially lucrative careers – and frequently the fees for after-school programs or babysitting eat up much of their earnings.

Just today, I was faced with a typical two career situation – I have a rare “must go” evening work event in September – there is absolutely no way that I could get out of this.  When I called my husband to tell him to put it on his schedule – so that he would be home with our son while I attended the event – he informed me that he also had a “must attend” event that very same evening in New York City – his company is hosting a reception and he was one of the hosts.  Of course, we have to throw a kid event in there too…it’s the Back to School Barbeque at school that night.  This should be an interesting sorting-out of priorities…

Having it all…is it really possible, or does something have to give? Does one partner in the relationship get to have “the career” while the other makes career concessions to raise the children? Does it really take a village – can you count on your parents or another caregiver to pitch in when you can’t be there?

Working moms – what do you do when you’re faced with these types of situations?  Any solutions?

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