THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- Children or career? The loaded decision without an answer

Sacrifice children or career?

My friend Liz just got an offer to be director of a groundbreaking, high-profile psychology program.

It's a lucrative, five-year contract. Liz is 35 and single and has tons of time to devote to her career. But she's not sure if she wants to take this offer because what she really wants is children.

Like many women in this age group, Liz spent her 20s and early 30s building her career. She has lots of experience meeting men she can manage– and very little experience meeting a man she can date.

Her current job would be great if she had a guy lined up for kids because she could work part-time, which would allow her to stay on her career path and spend a lot of time at home. But, alas, there is no guy lined up.

Her current job is good for online dating, too, because she can work from almost anywhere so she can conduct a broad search across county lines (and because she can peruse from her office unnoticed).

But Liz is antsy to have a child, and even with the Internet, dating is not a fast process. So she is thinking of taking things into her own hands. She has contemplated telling a boyfriend that she is using birth control when she is not, and getting pregnant that way. But she can't get past the conversation she'd have with her teenage kid:

"Mom, why didn't my dad stick around?"

"Because I tricked him into having a child."

Liz has two, non-boyfriend options: buying sperm from a bank or adopting a baby from Asia. Both options cost about $30,000, which is a good argument for taking the new, high-paying job. The ongoing cost of child care, which for a single mom in her neighborhood would be about $400 a week, is another good reason to have a high-paying job. Her current job would not provide enough income to fund this baby venture.

But once she's the director of the program, she couldn't work part-time, she couldn't move, and she probably couldn't even find the time to date. So for Liz, this job decision is loaded. It's the decision between holding onto the dream of a spouse and kids and a part-time job, or giving up the dream for more practical measures and going the child route alone.

Liz calls me every day to discuss her life, which has become somewhat like a horse race. She tells me that this month's boyfriend might be in love. "He took me to his parent's house for dinner."

She thinks he might take allergy pills so he can sleep over in her cat-infested bed. "Then marriage is a real possibility."

Last week, she got herself another month to make the decision about the directorship. "By then, maybe I'll know."

But she sighs a deep sigh, and we both know that when it comes to giving up a career for a family or vice versa, really, you never know.


Penelope Trunk has started several companies and worked for many more. She penned this column in 2002, but she's busy with new things–- too busy to write new things.