Career or Kids... Two couples tell their story of choosing between a career, kids and a little of both. BY STEVE COOPER
Alyson Rosenberg absolutely loves her career. In fact, Alyson says she actually yearns for her job. But recently, this Hoboken, New Jersey resident voluntarily walked away. Why? So Alyson, 29, and her husband Aaron, 30, could welcome their first child. The Rosenbergís have been parents for just nine weeks, but the conversations and planning around this moment started much earlier.
Lisa and Adam Levy, who are also rooted in Hoboken with one child have had conversations about career and kids as well. In their case, however, Adam, 38, would like to have another baby, while Lisa, 40, says one is enough. "I knew if I had another child something was going to give, and it was going to be me," says Lisa.
So how do couples settle the issue of choosing between a career and kids? "First itís not a decision that you can always make," says Terri Orbuch, Ph.D., a psychologist and researcher on issues relating to marriage, families and relationships. "For some people it is necessary to survive as a family. Two person incomes are needed much more these days than they were 10- 20- 50-years ago. I think that you are able to balance both. Does it mean that you need to be number one at your career, perhaps not, but you can have work and family."
Alyson worked as a school counselor and planned her pregnancy around the summer break, giving her the season to mull a return. Lisa, on the other hand canít fathom not working. "I could never not have a career," says Lisa. "Itís just the way Iím programmed." Lisa and her husband Adam have clashing opinions, but Lisa admits that the two have attended counseling to get over their differences and now agree to disagree as they keep their lines of communication open.
Psychologist and relationship expert Debbie Magids, Ph.D. and author of All the Good Ones Arenít Taken: Change the Way You Date and Find Lasting Love, says she doesnít believe that choosing between a career or kids is any different than any other hard decision people have to make. "You really want your career and you really want children and you really want them both very badly. You have to recognize that there is going to be a loss somewhere," says Magids. "You have to embrace that loss because with every good thing that happens in your life or any change that happens, there are positive feelings and thereís loss and pain involved."
For Alyson, she walked away from the daily lives of 30 kids she counseled. For Adam, his loss is not being able to have a second child. The decisions they made were tough, but Orbuch has some recommended guidelines that a couple can follow to help with their own decisions in achieving personal balance, including:
Couples need to set realistic expectations of what they can accomplish. Like Magids, Orbuch believes something will most likely have to give and that you have to prioritize your life. To deal with added responsibilities, Orbuch says delegating is important.
Accepting that something will give is also not easy so itís important not to take disappointment personally.
Feel good about what you accomplish everyday rather than what youíre not doing.
Take care of yourself. This will improve your quality as a parent and a spouse. If you have kids, Orbuch recommends that the primary caretaker get a few hours to themselves, even if itís just to watch TV or take a long bath.
In approaching this subject experts say that the balance of loss and responsibility typically falls on the wifeís side. Other times, when the husband is the one who really wants a child (as is the Levyís case) the husband has to weight his losses. "Heís gonna have to make some concessions," says Magids. "Maybe not pursue as much of his career."
For both couples, open communication has been the key. The decision to choose between a career or kids is individual. For some, the choice is a balance of both. Lisa is walking that tightrope with the understanding that she isnít willing to give up her career and that a second child would require that sacrifice. For the time being, Alyson has given up her career and has even admitted to wanting more children in the future. Remember, these decisions are not easy, so whatever choice you make be sure you and your spouse embrace it.