Growing up, like many girls, I was taught that women are often behind in the workforce because we are forced to choose between having a family or having a career. Women have to give birth, but we don’t have to be a child’s primary care taker. We don’t have to sacrifice our careers to stay home and raise children. There are options: dads, day care, nannies, family.
During college, I took Kung Fu at the Carlisle Kung Fu Center and one of my classmates, John, had a child with special needs. John was a teacher and his wife was a nurse. During the course of our class, he left his job to stay home and take care of his son. The cost of day care was nearly as much as his salary. John and his wife decided it would be better for him become a stay at home dad than have two incomes and take their son to day care. Of course, this isn’t an option for everyone, although it worked for John and his wife.
Sometimes, finding the right outcome (some would say balance, although I think it will be more like an imbalance) takes some creativity.
Balancing family and work isn’t my biggest concern.
The part that I’m most apprehensive about, is being judged as a “pregnant woman (who can’t possibly have a family and build a company)”, as opposed to a “professional”.
I haven’t read anything about men being denied investment or other opportunities as a result of having a family, and maybe, even personal interests (gasp!). However, there are plenty of instances where women have been discriminated against based on their presumed likelihood to have a family. The decision to say “No” to an expecting mother may not always be voiced, although sometimes it is.
In 2011, Forbes published Jessica Jackley’s article, The Pregnant Entrepreneur And The VC Who Wouldn’t Fund Her, that describes her experience as a pregnant entrepreneur trying to raise funds for her venture. The investor who didn’t fund Jackley’s company was Paige Craig, and *spoiler alert* ultimately, he did decide to offer funding.
The article cites Paige Craig’s blog post, Putting Women First, that discusses his thoughts on whether or not to invest in a pregnant founder/CEO. Craig’s thought was in line with the stereotype alluded to above: “A pregnant founder/CEO is going to fail her company.” He continued, after hearing Jackley was pregnant “… [a] dirty little thought pops in my head. I’m thinking how in the hell is this founder going to lead a team, build a company and change the world for these businesses carrying a kid around for the next few months and then caring for the kids after. I can’t say I personally know anything about it but birthing & raising kids seems like
Jackley the toughest job around. And now I have a founder who has to be a CEO and a mother.”
Jackley directly states what many of us are probably thinking “I’ve never heard someone ask the same of a founder-CEO-dad, worrying about a slightly different dirty little thought: “An expectant father/CEO will fail his company.”
I said I’m in the best situation possible. I’m married to a wonderful man, who’s doing well in his career, and who dreams of being a stay-at-home dad. What’s more, both he and I can work from (nearly) anywhere, so being a stay-at-home dad is a reality. Our offices are near a park and have a quiet room for a baby, however if we need to temporarily relocate, that’s possible too. On the business-front, I have an awesome male business partner who is supportive of my situation and trusts that I will be more determined and tenacious than ever.
I should be thrilled, too. Right?
In some ways, I’m very excited. I never thought I would have children (I always planned to adopt, and still do); although with my husband, I’m confident about the decision to start a family.
Yet, the timing isn’t ideal.
Perhaps, I shouldn’t have been surprised that I now have a baby growing inside of me (isn’t that crazy!) since we started “trying” a few months ago. We weren’t seriously trying, but we weren’t not trying. So, as history has proven over and over, it happened.
I never thought about aborting the pregnancy due to timing. That’s not a consideration.
However, I have thought about hiding the pregnancy. Can’t I just buy bigger clothes, and stay home for a few months? I can take all of my meetings via Skype, seated, so no one can see my belly. And when my students ask (I teach a course at the University of Central Florida), I can simply say I’ve been enjoying a lot of pizza, mac n’ cheese and ice cream lately. Sure, I can get through this without anyone knowing. I thought.
But, I don’t want to just “get through it”.
I want to celebrate the baby and our family.
I want to practice what I preach in class and at work: transparency. I don’t want to hide the pregnancy from potential investors, my business partner, mentors, my students or my contacts. Part of living life to the fullest is being present to the moment, and if I hide my pregnancy, I can’t possibly be present to it, or to my outside relationships.