Fertility over career? Why I agree with Kirstie Allsopp

When I graduated University at the grand old age of 20, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life. My unrealistic dream of becoming a West End Star had been squashed numerous times over my three years at uni, and as they sing in Avenue Q “What do you do with a BA in English?” 

Graduation Day

The recession was grumbling away in the background, just about to strike, and I knew I had to find myself a job before it truly hit, so I fell into a Customer Service role for a well-known publication. Hating it doesn’t quite describe how I felt in that job, but I did it for 18 months and learnt some valuable life lessons (mostly about how not to treat Customer Service Assistants when you call up to complain).

I then moved to the public sector – why? Well, I still had no idea what I wanted to do with my life career-wise, but I knew that I wanted to have children at some point in the future, and had heard that the maternity package was good. I worked my way up the ladder, moving from pay band to pay band fairly swiftly, enjoying it at the time, but always feeling a little held back and my creativity stifled.

Then I fell pregnant just before I turned 25. It was a surprise, but a very welcome one.

Whilst I had a baby baking away inside me I knew things would have to change once she arrived. My role was fairly stressful and I often took the stress home with me; this is something I didn’t want for our future family. I also knew that I wouldn’t want to work full time anymore.

Having always been a creative soul, and having never really been career-minded, I started to think about jobs I could possibly do with a baby around. I started this blog to help me get back into writing, something I hadn’t done much of since graduating, and found ways I could express myself creatively again.

Motherhood, and maternity leave, gave me that distance from the workplace to reassess my career choices. We come out of University and College so young, and a lot of us with no real idea about which career path to take, that having this time has been priceless for my career. I’m now working as a Freelance Blogger and Social Media Manager, as well as having just set up my own small business selling new and pre-loved children’s clothing. None of these things would have happened if I hadn’t had Busby, if I hadn’t had that time away from the normality of work to realise my full potential.

Giving birth, Motherhood, makes you realise how strong you truly are as a person.
Kirstie has been accused of an archaic way of thinking, of going against her feminist views, but I agree with her. Ok, she may be a little unrealistic thinking that everyone leaving college will get a job without any further qualifications – not everyone has the contacts that her family has. And not everyone wants to settle down before the age of 30. But her point about “career followed by children” makes perfect sense to me, as I’ve talked about above. Also your 20s are the optimal age to have a child, not just for fertility, but for energy levels; I can’t even begin to imagine how tired parents in their late 30s must feel with a newborn, because at the age of 25 I felt dead on my feet…

We need to remember that everyone is different; I have friends for whom their career is everything and children don’t even feature yet – we are all driven by different forces. All I know is that until having Busby a career was never really been a big feature in my life, but Motherhood has helped me realise my full potential, and has given me that well-needed time and perspective to assess and decide on a suitable, enjoyable career path.

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  1. 3rd June 2014 / 12:40 pm

    Your last paragraph is exactly the reason that I can’t just “agree” with Kirstie. Because there cannot possibly be a “one size fits all” solution. I agree with what she is saying in a way, but it’s also a mass oversimplification. It assumes that finding a partner is easy. It assumes that we all have families able to support us. It assumes that launching a career as a thirty-something is any easier than conceiving as a thirty-something. I agree with Kirstie that fertility is immovable, and in an ideal world would be a priority. But for that to happen we need a societal shift, to actually make the possibility of moving the other options around a reality. We need better support to allow women to enter careers later, or – gasp – for both men and women to have a family alongside a career with better child care and flexible working options. We need to eradicate the fear that women feel for their careers when they begin contemplating a family.

    This latter option would support everyone much better, both those who want to have family early, and those whose desire for children – like mine – didn’t kick in until later (and that was nothing to do with choosing a career over it. I simply didn’t feel that I wanted children until my late twenties) and so follow a career first.

    We need more help for everyone to live their life the way they want to, without having to make a choice about whether “family” or “career” dictates the way. I just can’t agree with prescribing a single “right” way to do things.

    • 6th June 2014 / 9:44 am

      Have you read what Kirstie said Caro? She is certainly not suggesting “One Size Fits All” ! She suggested taking the long view and activating choices, not removing them. #PoCoLo

  2. 3rd June 2014 / 4:13 pm

    I haven’t even read Kirstie’s views but was interested to read your post as most of Twitter seem to be hating KA right now! It’s great that you had the time off work to reassess and to get into a business that you ultimately want to do and can shine at. It must also make for a great work/life balance.
    For me, I wanted my children done and out the way before I was 30. I didn’t go to university but this was nothing to do with choice – I was kicked out of home at 17 and had to work full time. I, like you, worked my way up the ranks and ended up a Bank Manager at the age of 26, at the same time I found out I was pregnant with LP. Since then, 3.5 years ago, I have only actually ‘Managed’ for 12 months, the rest has been maternity leave! I’ll be going back to work part time next month but taking a down grade – I’m going to be working in a bank branch in a customer service role. It suits me – Less stress, family is the important thing to me now.

  3. 3rd June 2014 / 5:00 pm

    I agree with you, and Kirsty. I went to Uni, graduated at 21 and worked for a few years but now at 27 and just had my second child, I know my life has become completely different, in a good way, and so much has happened because I have had a family. I work freelance too and I enjoy it so much more. It would have never happened if I had stuck with my straight-out-of-Uni career.

  4. 3rd June 2014 / 8:14 pm

    I had my children late at 41 and 45 and recently wrote about how Channel 5 wouldn’t run a pre-interview I gave them because I didn’t endorse leaving motherhood until anywhere near that late. Lots of older mums like me wouldn’t recommend it – and it’s nowhere near always the choice that is presented by the media. It’s good to read this by a mum at 25 though – so glad having a baby helped you fulfil your potential and best wishes with (all) your businesses 🙂

  5. Anonymous
    3rd June 2014 / 8:17 pm

    I think the problem is more that she would actually tell her daughter not to go to uni rather than letting her daughter decide what she wants to do. Prioritising having children first is great for some people but it’s not for everyone. By saying that the right way to do things is to put having children before having a career is just as bad as expecting all women to put their careers before having children. Let us make our own decisions!

  6. 4th June 2014 / 1:10 am

    I think we need to make sure that women have realistic expectations when it comes to fertility so that they can make the best decisions for themselves. For years our media was filled with stories about older women having babies, seemingly easily. So many women are in the position of “I wish I hadn’t waited so long – I didn’t know it would be this hard”. It seems logical to me that things are starting to swing the other way. And given the realities of fertility I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing.

  7. 4th June 2014 / 8:56 am

    I think it’s Kirstie’s manner that sometimes gets her criticised rather than what actually comes out of her mouth. I do see the sense in what she’s saying though even if it’s completely contrary to my experience. I left university at 20 with a reasonably useless degree but more importantly, no debts whatsoever as at the time everything was free/heavily subsidised. I went straight to work for the company that I’ve recently resigned from after 15 years of working for them. They gave me amazing experiences – moved me up and around various departments, overseas assignments, seven years living in Switzerland (where they paid for my husband to go back to uni too), great healthcare which enabled me to have my boys despite complications (I would have been advised not to have them had we been in the UK). The money I earnt meant buying and selling a couple of houses when I was young which has contributed to the fact that I don’t have to work now and can stay at home with the two children that I had at 34 and 36. Life is good. But … I get that my circumstances have come about due to the economic climate that I grew up in … some ten plus years before you. I wouldn’t change things for myself but had I been your age, I may not have had it quite so easy.

  8. 6th June 2014 / 1:04 pm

    This is such a tough one and everyone IS different. I think that us women are very hard on each other. No way is the right way but it is essential that we debate about it, talk about it and not criticise too heavily the different choices we all make in our lives. I don’t think that I really found what I wanted to do until both my girls were here and now at 34, I think that I am probably the happiest I have ever been.

  9. 6th June 2014 / 5:41 pm

    It might be perfect age to be a mother but what if theres no GOOD father around? I always thought that I would marry young (most of my aunt got pregnant 14-16) but being exposed to what I am seeing ( I came from the slums) and seeing so many broken families I got scared and I need to find a right partner otherwise I might be healthy to give birth but what future can I give my child? I got married at 34 and got pregnant few days after that. Became a mother when I am 35 and I think that we are doing okay. My husband is not perfect but the best for me and I think the best Dad for my son now =) Nice post. #pocolo

  10. 6th June 2014 / 8:30 pm

    I agree with Kirstie, she isn’t saying it’s an either or situation. She doesn’t say “don’t go to university”,more decide for yourself if going to university later in life would be a better option. I was clueless at 18 and my degree choice is pretty much useless, it’s only now that I have an idea of what I would like to do.
    I also wonder about our childrens’ children. I had my youngest when I was 37, if she does the same I will be 74 when I have grandchildren and like it or not probably to old to help with childcare. We won’t have the same type of relationship that I had with my grandparents, which was a hugely positive part of my childhood. #pocolo

  11. 8th June 2014 / 10:32 am

    Personally I think several variables need to be in place before bringing babies into the world – a stable frame of mind, financial stability AND a good partner. If you have all these by the age of 25, well hats off. I only personally know one lady that fits these criteria and she really does ‘have it all’ as far as I’m concerned 🙂 Unfortunately most people don’t, and are therefore forced to wait to ensure everything comes together as well as it possibly could before kids.

    Great article Hannah, really well balanced #PoCoLo

  12. 8th June 2014 / 6:45 pm

    I have to agree too, I have never known what I wanted to do with my life except wanting to be a Mum. I wouldn’t have planned it to have happened so early on in my life, but I am happy for it now, I didn’t waste 3 years and a lot of money on the course I was intending to do, in a subject I didn’t really want to even take but thought it was something to do!! I love being a younger parent, yes we don’t have the financial side of things as together as we may have done had we had children later, but I love the fact that when they are grown up me and James will still be young and be able to do things we haven’t had the chance to then 🙂 x

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