In about two hours, it will be three years since I gave birth to my son Joshua. Since I waited until the age of 38 to have kids, I had no idea what the experience would be like, or what impact it would have on my life and career. But I did hear things like:
- Your brain loses its ability to function at a high level when you have kids
- It is impossible to concentrate on anything due to sleep deprivation
- Your thoughts of work will disappear into a haze of diapers and constant loads of laundry
- Your career suffers as you turn your focus towards your family
Sure, people said there were upsides as well, but especially in the work department, the folklore was bleak.
I would like to report, three years and one more kid later, that the naysayers were wrong. I didn’t lose my mind when I had kids. The opposite happened: I gained clarity.
Looking into my beautiful boy’s eyes, I could not do work that was not deeply meaningful. My creativity soared, bounded, exploded. A couple of months after Josh was born I started this blog. Although he was still little and required lots of time and attention, having his pure, raw baby self in my home environment set my neurons on fire. I could hardly capture my ideas fast enough.
My sister-in-law recently came to visit. She is a brilliant post-doctorate scientist and university professor. While in graduate school, she was pregnant with her first child and actually deferred telling anyone about it until she could no longer disguise her belly. There was a pervasive belief in that (almost exclusively male) environment that as soon as a woman was growing a baby, her brains leaked out of her ears.
Like me, she found the opposite to be true. She grew and thrived in her career, finished graduate and post-graduate studies and got a faculty position at a good university. In the middle of applying for tenure, at the age of 46, she got pregnant again.
Did having kids complicate things? Sure! Was it hard to balance family and career? Absolutely.
But both of us found that the experience of having kids made us more grounded, focused, compassionate and committed to life in general, including our work.
For me, thanks to the growth of social media, my public exposure exploded at the exact time that I stopped flying all over the country and settled in a remote corner of Mesa, Arizona. My live social network went from hundreds of friends in the Bay Area to my immediate family, the 3 neighbors who would actually talk to me and the UPS guy (The UPS guy is still one of our favorite people). Through my blog, I have discovered joy in writing, connected with thousands of truly wonderful people and even piqued the interest of mainstream press like the New York Times.
So on your birthday, Josh, I wanted to say thank you so much for the way you have opened my heart. I am not afraid of things like I was before. I don’t care so much about what people say, I care about what I am doing and why I am doing it. I know that I want to make a difference in my life, in my world, so that you have a good path in your life, in your world. I laugh more, and enjoy simple things with you like pretending that a rock is a chocolate ice cream cone.
You do not have to have kids to experience life to the fullest. But if you choose to, don’t worry about “derailing” your career. The direction it takes may surprise you, but if you trust your instinct, it won’t lead you astray.
Happy Birthday Son!