Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Job vs. Career

This topic has been on my mind a lot lately. Obviously the economy has everyone concerned about their jobs, and working mothers have always struggled/juggled/questioned/dealt with the balancing act. I have always assumed that I would be a working mother, and I have pursued both a career and motherhood passionately. I am fortunate to have a job that I love, and I love coming home to a little munchkin who sometimes showers me with kisses, sometimes just keeps on playing with her toys.

This particular pregnancy has made me question a few things. I have been on disability leave from work for a little while, but recently my doctor released me to return to work. However, I am far along enough in my pregnancy where my doctor does not want me flying anymore. Flying is pretty necessary to my job in order to work at client sites, since we do not have much work that can be done locally. I managed to work locally after the first child was born and the practice was aggressively pursuing the Houston market in the quest for additional local work. Much to my surprise, HR rejected my request to return to work, citing my restriction against flying which prevents me from fulfilling my job responsibilities.

This has made me wonder how much longer I will be able to work at my current job. I still love it, and I would love to work there as long as possible, but perhaps this career path is not conducive to the family situation I am looking for?

And then the bigger question - do I want a job or a career? Does it matter at this point? Can I really reconcile all of my goals in life?

So I have been pondering that lately. Wondering what my next move should be, whether I should think in completely new directions or stay the course but find a more local company. This is a really huge deal for me since this is really the first time someone told me that I can't do something - I can't work because I can't fly? Are you kidding me? With a laptop and WiFi and a Blackberry, I can't work??

All I know is that I am still extremely lucky right now, and I know that my company is a family-friendly company and I hope to come to a mutually agreed upon conclusion to this question.


  1. Hi! So I really do not have time right now to do your job vs career discussion justice. But since it's been a while since we talked I thought I'd at least send a few quick thoughts:
    (1) Great news that you're cleared to go back to work. I take it that means they're not so worried about pre-term labor.
    (2) Really crappy of your company to decline your request to return just because you can't fly. That doesn't sound very family friendly to me. Don't you usually go onsite with a team? Can't you help the team out remotely even if they're onsite and you're in Houston? Who wants to pay for all that airfare and hotel in this economy anyway
    (3) Not sure how the "decline to return" thing works, but sounds like you should still qualify for disability leave. If you can't fly because of a medical condition and they say you can't work if you can't fly, then you can't work because of a medical condition and should keep getting disability benefits.

    And finally, the real meaty stuff: job vs career. Big picture, I'd say don't give up on that career just yet. I don't think it's entirely healthy to have your whole life focus be on kids--you need some identity that is not mommy-oriented, and a career is an important part of that. On the other hand, for the immediate present, with this economy and another child to support soon, I'd say take the job even if not a career, but start thinking ahead about new career directions that will be more compatible with your family life. When it comes time to come back from maternity leave (and/or when the economy is looking brighter), then you'll have a head start on the career debate/search. And of course, there's no better way to look for employment than as an employee. "Just a job" buys you the luxury of patience to wait for the right career opportunity.

    Let's talk soon!

  2. I'm in no position to weigh in on this because I have not had to confront these issues yet for myself. And yet, I can't really help myself (I'm sorry!).

    If you love what you do, then a career change is not for you, in my opinion. If you love your company, then hopefully something can be arranged. If it can't, then yes, it probably makes sense to look for something more local but within your field. However, check into non-compete clauses and such. What are you company's policies on that front? My father (who is not practicign clinical medicine at this time) works for a company that has put in his contract that if he leaves, he may not do the same king of work within a certain geographic distance for X amount of time.

    And if you can afford it, your child(ren) will appreciate that you were able to be home for the first few years of their lives. Putting a career on hold and giving it up completely are two entirely different things. I didn't realize it at the time, but my mom being home until I was 6 was a very special thing. And my cousin (who has 3yo twins and a 1yo girl) has gotten a lot out of being a stay-at-home mom while the kids are this young. I know she plans to go back to work, and even has worked part-time when she's needed (she's a physical therapist), but for now, she's really happy with how things are.

    The best person for you to be having this conversation with is your husband, because these are decisions that affect your family as a unit. What does Dave think about all of this? What does your gut say?

    I know I didn't really offer anything substantial in this response. I wrote it more as a way of acknowledging the difficult position you are in and wishing I could be there in person to act as real sounding board over time.