Spent some time chatting today with a friend at work who is planning on starting a family soon. It was a nice chance for me to reflect on the last year or so and the time that Joe and I spent prior to that preparing ourselves for kids.
Women in the "waterfront" positions at my command are the overwhelming minority. There are certain areas where we make up a fair number of the total, but these aren't really the engineering or production positions. I'd say that in the engineering world, women make up 10-15% of the total workforce. When you start to look at management positions, the numbers are even smaller. My "home" organization has, maybe, three female GS-13s (maybe 4) and then a GS-15 in charge of the department. That's it for women in management positions. The other engineering organization is quite similar...a higher number of junior management (especially in test organization), but in the branches - quite limited in number.
This makes the decision to start a family a little touchy. I was a "hard charger" for a good chunk of my career. I spent my time at the shipyard traveling, taking challenging TDY assignments (ahem, george washington fire), going on a bunch of ship rides and working lots of overtime on lots and lots of troubledesks. I know one year when I was pretty junior, I worked something like 600-something hours of OT on a single project. So, deciding how to balance work life when it comes time to have a family and you want to keep working is a little stressful. Am I in the right position that will be understanding of my family commitments increasing and my desire to work crazy hours, go TDY at the drop of a hat, etc all diminish? Have I positioned myself well to pick up again when the time is right? Will I be passed over while I'm slowing down for a bit - and am I ok with that?
I had a fairly honest conversation with one of my bosses (actually, my bosses boss who helps out with career stuff) and told him that I was completely ok with just hanging out, doing what I'm doing now for the next few years. That I wanted to put my little one as a top priority and I didn't want to live at work. So many people, mostly men, have had to sacrifice their home lives to get promoted. And a lot of them tell me how much they regret it...years and years later. I want to be someone who can keep doing project stuff and balance my home life - leaving at 1600 every day, working no overtime - all while being in execution. I have a nice position that allows me to do that as a planning and engineering manager right now. If I managed production, that wouldn't fly.
It's such a tough call. Those of us who enjoy the waterfront work - really enjoy the pace, the excitement, etc. That's why we continue to do it. The days get crazy busy...like I've mentioned before - I put outlook appointments in my calendar to pump just so that I'd have that time blocked out as much as possible.
Right now - the best part about my work day is the moment I walk into that classroom at daycare and see Logan. His face lights up (usually!) when he sees Joe or I. It's such a wonderful feeling.
The choice to keep working...wasn't even a choice for me. I am determined to make it work. My house might not be as clean as it used to be (hello fur balls!), I might not bake as much as I used to and we might do quick and easy dinners more often. But, for my own sanity..I wouldn't trade it right now. Except now and then when work really sucks and Logan is really awesome.