Social Work Career

I knew she was probably right. The messaging in the media and the stories from older, more experienced professional women said leaving the workforce was career suicide. I wanted to keep my job, but there was no option for part-time work and telecommuting didn’t exist at the time. Plus, our advertising clients needed me when they needed me, not when I was available. What I needed was to pull back. Not forever, but for now.

And so, I did something I never imagined I would do: I paused.

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Fifteen years later I’m at the Journalism and Women Symposium’s annual conference. Female journalists from around the country are gathering to gain skills, network, and learn about the latest exciting, and sometimes concerning, changes in our industry. I’m pinching myself. Thrilled to be here amongst so many heroes in my new field.

After I left my big job at the advertising agency, I changed careers twice. First, I became a social entrepreneur and launched a nonprofit focused on meeting the needs of boys in the classroom. Now, I’m an independent journalist reporting on women in the workplace, life in Silicon Valley, and the ongoing challenges facing American families. For the Journalism and Women Symposium, I have been asked to co-develop a panel on women, caregiving, and careers in journalism. I have much to say on the topic of work and life and that elusive thing called balance. So do the panelists, each of whom is highly successful with careers to envy.

Our moderator, Lauren Whaley, a rising multimedia journalist and new bride at thirty-one years old, wants answers. She tells me she’s excited to moderate the panel if for no other reason than to learn from those who’ve gone before her.

In front of a standing-room-only crowd, Lauren asks the panelists, “How can women be both committed professionals and committed mothers?”

“They can’t,” one panelist, a divorced mother of two, answers.

“Very difficultly” answers another, also a mother of two. She’s doing research for a book on how our over-scheduled lives are impacting our health and well-being.

“I didn’t even try,” says a third. This panelist shared how she had chosen to not have children at all because she knew she couldn’t be the kind of mother she wanted to be and have a successful career.

“I am so depressed,” Lauren tells me later. “I want children and I want a career. I love my work, but hearing what we did today tells me you can’t do both. At least not well. I thought these issues were on their way to being solved, but it seems it’s not any better now than it was for the previous generation.”

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