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Illustration: Ashley Siebels
Work-Life Balance

Why it’s OK to focus on your career over starting a family

Even though I’m surrounded by entrepreneurs, including those in my family, there is still always talk about starting a family and having kids. My female colleagues are determined to run a business and have kids. At this age, it’s what starts happening. I’ve received numerous baby shower invitations and comments that if I have kids soon, then we can plan playdates together.

It’s easy to start feeling left out and panicked that your friendships may diverge because you are not rushing to get a bun in the oven. Whether it is friends or family, there’s no need to feel guilty about choosing your career over kids. Here’s why.

There’s no need to conform to social norms

While I’ve heard about a biological clock ticking away, the problem is that, for me, I don’t hear anything. Having children is not something I feel passionate about. In the past, it might have been taboo to say that out loud for fear you would be labeled as selfish or mean. The reality is that those people who do not feel strongly about having children should not have them.

Otherwise, they are just doing it because it is the social norm or they have too much pressure from family and friends. In reality, some people are not cut out to be parents and are actually doing the right thing in not taking on something that they will come to resent later. Every child deserves loving parents who love what they do.

Your company is your child

On the other hand, running my own business and the career I’m developing is what I feel passionate about and where I feel I can truly succeed. It’s where I want to put my energy and where I feel I can actually help people more than bringing a child into the world. I know that I am good when I focus on one large thing at a time. My personal experiences of trying to multitask have not gone well. And, when I see women trying to be Wonder Women, I also don’t see them succeeding at raising both types of children. Or, if they do appear successful, these women looked run down and burned out. Neither of those options is appealing.

It’s best to be on the same page

My partner and I agree that having a family isn’t something we want to do now, and quite possibly never. At this point in our lives, we don’t own a pet either. That’s because we both have careers in mind that involve traveling and long hours. If you have a partner, it’s important to make sure they are on the same page as you in terms of family and career goals.

If one is secretly pining for kids, then it’s not going to work and will end badly. Having someone who thinks like me and is focused on their career also means we understand the long hours or other career responsibilities that take us away from handling other tasks at home. If we were both to focus on our careers but also had pets and kids, there would be additional stress surrounding who would take on what responsibilities.

Money only goes so far

I believe it is hard enough to get by financially in certain areas of the country like Silicon Valley (where I live) with just a career on my plate. Add children, pets, and all their needs to the budget and it seems next to impossible. That again breeds more stress than necessary in my opinion. Also, in starting a business to fulfill certain dreams, there are costs and risks involved where it would make me more nervous and hesitant should I have kids who need that money that I’m now putting into a business. Choosing my career over children means that I’m going to absorb all the results of the risk rather than put some little person in a position where they don’t have all the things they need while growing up. In my mind, trying to do both on a shoestring budget is more selfish than just focusing on a startup.

It’s OK to change your mind, too

Maybe later on, my partner and I will change our minds and hear the tick-tock of the biological clock, letting us know that children are something we want to have in our lives. If that urge and passion rise to the surface, then it is just as OK to change your mind and start a family. You could also discover an interest in adopting and helping out those children in great need. Whatever you decide to do, think it through, consider the pros and cons, discuss it with your partner and reach an agreement together.

Most importantly, don’t let anyone make you feel guilty about the decisions you make in your own life. Only you and your partner know what’s best for your lives, including what you are capable of doing and what you want to achieve. You also don’t need to explain or prove yourself to others for making these large life decisions in a responsible way. No one else is going to understand except perhaps other female entrepreneurs who have reached the same conclusion.

I am a co-founder, Customer Care Ninja, and Director of Marketing at Due. Let’s change the way payments are made.

BusinessCollective, launched in partnership with Citi, is a virtual mentorship program powered by North America’s most ambitious young thought leaders, entrepreneurs, executives and small business owners.

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