Being able to balance TTC and a successful career is one of the most difficult juggling acts, of cirque du soleil proportions! It is incredibly difficult to successfully compartmentalise, in such a way that neither of the two intersect. For those who are able to do it well, they leave their TTC worries at the door the minute they step into the office, and do not think about it, not even for a second, until they leave the office. They don’t talk about it, don’t worry about, don’t Google about it…nothing! There are no hospital-related time-outs from work, and their performance is still A+. However, for the rest of us, as best as try, at some point one of these will suffer.
I started my career quite young, as an idealistic 24 year old, and was full of passion, enthusiasm, and zeal. I excelled in all the positions I held, which made it easy for me to transition from one varied role to the other. I started as an Oil Trader with one of the popular downstream energy companies, before migrating to an EPC (Engineering, Procurement & Construction) company in a Cost Engineering & Project Management role, before ending up in Investment Banking. And with all these roles, I was the A+ girl, extra dependable and guaranteed to perfectly deliver on my deliverables, most times long before they were due. I was that girl. ButÂ then, I started trying to have a baby, and it all came crashing down!
I went from the girl who would immediately get cracking on work, even if I got to work at 7am, to the girl who would surf the internet till almost noon, searching for answers. I went from the girl who would sometimes not be able to use all her vacation days, to the girl who was out of work at least 4 times a month, from one hospital visit to the other, from recovering from one procedure to the other. And when I would eventually tune my brain to work mode, I had the enthusiasm of a snail…performing my tasks in the most perfunctory of manners. And it didn’t take much to send my already low enthusiasm into a downward spiral. A careless remark, the sight of a pregnant client, anything I deduced to be looks of pity, were enough to send me running to the toilet for a good cry. I was e-x-t-r-e-m-e-l-y lucky to have the kind of employers I had, who, for some reason, fully empathised with me, and moved things around to accommodate me. I was told it was because of my impressive history, but I think I was just lucky to have such fantastic bosses. But not everyone is that lucky.
One of my good friends, who started her banking career right about the same time I started my oil trading career, was one of the unlucky ones. She too had been a model employee before her TTC journey began, and had been one of the lucky people to get promoted every year, making her rise very quickly through the ranks. Shortly before she got married, she left the commercial bank she had worked at for years, and took up employment with a financial advisory company. Her reasoning was that she needed a more family-friendly job, one that would accord her enough time for her husband and family. Little did she know that it was like jumping from the frying pan right into the deepest fire. The hours were worse, the expectations were higher, and the tempers were shorter. She was still battling with all these, when infertility set in. And in fairness to her, she didn’t even take as much liberties as I did. I know for a fact that she tried her best to keep up with work, and she always kept a smile on her face, regardless of what emotional turmoil she was facing. A year into her stay with the company, some people in her team, who were initially her subordinates, were promoted to be on the same level as her. She shrugged this off, giving herself the excuse that she was still new in the organisation, so probably wasn’t due a promotion anyway. The next year when she was due this promotion, not only was she not given, her former subordinates who had become her peers, were promoted above her. As easy going as she was, she wasn’t able to take this lying down, and confronted her boss about it. “Ada, you couldn’t expect us to promote you! You were away for 4Â weeks this year, on medical leave!”. Yes, she had been. She had had fibroid removal surgery, and had even cut her recovery time by 2 weeks (her doctor had recommended she take 6 weeks off) just to return to work. But yet, she had been penalised for it. So the people whom she used to supervise, began supervising her. A few months later, she resigned. Her rationale was that she would rather focus on trying to get pregnant, than to keep shortchanging herself in an environment where she wasn’t appreciated. Thankfully, it paid off, and she got a son after her 1st IVF cycle. A year after his birth, she returned to the commercial bank where she had started her career and, ironically, has a lot more time for herself and her family.
On the other end of the spectrum are the people who allow their careers flourish, at the expense of their TTC endeavours. A friend of mine is a senior reporter with an international news magazine, and she sometimes does not know what country she will fall asleep in. She is always on the move. This has always been her passion, and she gets a rush from her high octane job. However, she has been trying to have a child for over 5 years, and has not been able to slow her life down enough to even have preliminary investigative procedures, and can’t seem to sit still long enough to honour any of her hospital appointments. On the one hand, her career is flourishing and she is the darling of her employers, but on the other hand, her husband’s patience has worn thin by her blase attitude to solving their fertility issues. As I type, they have not been able to reach any middle ground.
So, how then can this conundrum be solved? How can one effectively strike this balance. Even if we are able to completely drop all our emotional baggage before we get to the office, and throw ourselves fully into work…even if we are able to keep all our emotions at bay, and forge ahead with a smile on our face…even if we are able to do all that, it’s just half of the equation solved. Unfortunately, hospital appointments are a given for the TTC woman, and there is no guarantee that these will only be scheduled during off-work hours, or the weekends. Sometimes, these might not be possible, and can even add to the stress. The key is moderation. Even if you have to attend to TTC related matters, be sure that they do not keep you away from work too often. And make sure you stay as focused as you can, the quality of your output remains excellent, and you don’t make it so obvious that you are carrying the world on your shoulders. Learn from the mistakes of others, and do all you can to be able to eat your cake, and have it
Baby dust to all, my people!
Join the conversation with any of our TTC and Pregnancy Groups here