I’m 33 and have a great job that I love. I’ve just been offered a fabulous promotion that will require a lot of travel and 18 hour work days. It’s the job of my dreams! But I also really want to have kids – which I just can’t see happening in the next 5 years if I take this job. What should I do?

This month’s Ask an Expert question has been answered by our site creator, Dr. Judith Daniluk, a leading researcher and counsellor in the field of women’s sexuality and reproductive health. Learn more about Dr. Daniluk here.   

First let me congratulate you on your job offer. It sounds as if you are in the fortunate position of being able to pursue work that you love, with this promotion being a testament to your competence, commitment, and passion for your work. To be offered the job of your dreams at 33 years of age is a major accomplishment, and certainly something to be celebrated, whether or not you decide to accept this promotion.

Unfortunately, as is the case for so many women these days, your biological clock and career clock are not in sync. In fact, they are running in opposite directions. Your biological clock is winding down, just as you are starting to make real traction in terms of moving forward in your career. This creates one heck of a dilemma. With 18 hour work days and a lot of travel, taking this promotion will likely mean having to sideline the possibility of starting your family, at least for the next few years. On the other hand, not taking the “job of your dreams” could mean temporarily sidelining your career. Who knows when this kind of career opportunity will come your way again?

Frankly, there are no easy answers to your question “what should I do”? It comes down to an honest assessment of your priorities, options and possible regrets. It may help to ask yourself some basic questions about motherhood and your career. First, in terms of motherhood:

  1. How important is it to you to become a mother? (priorities)
  2. How important is it to you to experience pregnancy and childbirth? (priorities)
  3. How important is it to you to have a child that is genetically related to you? (priorities)
  4. If you wait and are later unable to have your own genetic offspring, would you consider other roads to motherhood (donor eggs, adoption)? (options; possible regrets)
  5. If you wait and are unable to become a mother in the future, is this possibility something you feel you can live with? (possible regrets)

In answering these questions, if becoming a mother is high on your priority list and you are willing to consider the possibility of using donor eggs or turning to adoption, if you are unable to produce a child in the future when you are ready, then even if you take this promotion, you may still have the option of becoming a mother in the future. However, if you want the opportunity to experience pregnancy and childbirth, and if having a genetic connection is critical to you, and if you can’t imagine becoming a mother through the use of donor eggs or adoption, then you need to seriously explore your fertility options now. Firstly, you may want to have your current fertility tested. While these tests can’t guarantee the quality of your eggs, they can at least give you a sense of your current ovarian reserve. Once you have this information, you should speak with your physician or fertility specialist about your test results and options. Your doctor may recommend that you consider freezing your eggs, so that you have a better chance (albeit not a 100% chance) of being able to have a child, using your own eggs, when you’re ready to become a mother in the future. If you can afford to pursue fertility preservation, you may want to consider this option – which will hopefully buy you some time and allow you to accept the promotion and move forward in your career.

Or, based on your test results and family history, your physician may suggest that you get on with trying to have children as soon as possible. In this case, you will be faced with having to decide between childbearing and your career progress – in particular your potential promotion. You then will have to ask yourself, on balance, which of these two choices will likely result in the greatest regrets if you don’t pursue it at this time? Specific to your career, if you turn down this promotion:

  1. Will you be able to continue in your current position?
  2. Is there the flexibility in your current job to accommodate the demands of motherhood (e.g., maternity leave, flexible work hours, etc.)?
  3. Is it likely that other opportunities for promotion and career advancement will still be available to you in a few years time when your child or children are no longer in diapers?
  4. Will you regret temporarily sidelining your career progress for the chance to have a child and become a mother?

If your current position can continue to give you satisfaction doing work that you love, and will provide the flexibility and support you need to combine motherhood with your job, then perhaps saying no to the promotion and staying in your current job may be your best choice, if you decide to try and have a child now. Staying in this job may also be less stressful while you embark on motherhood, rather than moving to another position or employer.

As a mental health professional and a woman who faced similar life choices, I cannot tell you what you should do. The answers to these questions are unique for each woman, based on her values and beliefs and life goals. Only you can know what is right for you. After all, you are the one who will have to live with the consequences of your decisions. What I can tell you, is that although you can’t predict the future, if you are honest with yourself about what is most important to you in your life, and if you base your decisions on the best information you have available to you, that will go a long way towards reducing any future regrets and ensuring a fulfilled life.

Share your thoughts on Dr. Daniluk’s post in the comments section below, or submit your “Ask an Expert” question here

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