Should I Have Kids?
Amy Cao Smith

I have one piece of advice to offer, based on my own mistakes and experiences, in a nutshell: if you think you want to have kids, use this time to think about what you want to do, and find a way to do it that makes room for family, so that you’re not giving up too much of yourself and your future. Because that continuity will make the parenthood much richer, both in the short and the long run.

As a 52-year-old who had my children at 35 and 38, I’d like to say if I’d had my children any earlier, I wouldn’t have been nearly as good a mom. Being responsible, I mean REALLY responsible, for other people was something I just hadn’t done before, and it was a big shock. It’s a lot of work. Very, very rewarding work, full of amazing things I couldn’t possibly have imagined before — but a lot of work.

I didn’t really understand the kind of disruption my kids would make in my life. I had a good job, and had my first child, took the maternity leave, and went back to work… but it didn’t work for me. As a result, now I’m doing work I never expected to do — wonderful work that I enjoy, but it wasn’t what I’d envisioned for myself, and at 52, now that my kids are older, I’m finding it hard to change tracks. No one wants to hire a 52-year old that is inexperienced, even if you’ve gone back to school to learn that new path.

What I’m doing now is starting a part-time business around the edges of my job, and it’s very exciting, because hopefully I can parlay this into my full-time work. I‘m not sure I’d have had the chutzpah to do this before I had kids — one of the things parenthood has taught me is how to stand up for myself. But if I’d really thought about it beforehand, I would have started this graphic design business then, and kept doing it around the edges of parenthood, so that as my kids became more autonomous I could just pick up the pace and build on what I already had. I might have been building a new kind of career (one that makes room for my kids) all during that time. Now I’m starting out at this age, it’s harder. Not impossible, and still worth doing, but harder.

You have a moment here to stop and consider what you want to do. Use it! Find a direction you want to go, and then think how you can accommodate it if you do have kids. Then, when/if you are in that situation, you’ll know what to do.

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