As much as I love (love, love, love) hearing all of your different perspectives — from young stay-at-home moms to army wives — I have a soft spot for ambitious women who are determined to be professionally successful + a good earlier-than-expected mom. I was always searching for some indication that I could still be successful after having a baby straight out of college, so I feel a connection to other young moms looking for the same.
Today’s Q+A comes from Caitlin, a young mom working at a publishing house in Manhattan.
1. How old were you when you got pregnant? 21 years old.
2. And how old is your child now? My son is three years old as of March.
3. Was this planned or unexpected? Did you want to start your family early or were you more focused on your career? The pregnancy was completely unexpected. I always wanted to spend my twenties building my career, having fun, enjoying late nights in New York City and working hard. I planned on marrying at 29 or so, starting a family in my early thirties. Being both ambitious and competitive, I knew I had what it took to do well career-wise.
4. How did you handle job hunting while pregnant? Because I interned during the days and worked as a waitress and barista at nights and on the weekends (working until 2 or 3 a.m.), I didn’t have much time to search for jobs. My supervisor at my publishing internship, which was unpaid, said I wouldn’t get a job in the industry without going to Columbia or NYU’s publishing course, which was impossible for me. Not just because of finances, but because I was pregnant and needed a job that paid my rent with enough left for diapers. So I applied online to everything from nonprofits to PR firms to publishing houses (on the slim chance they would consider me without an Ivy League education), sending out 20 to 60 applications a weekend. I got no sleep. I got a call from a large publishing house in Manhattan for an assistant position, hid my three-month baby bump, and landed the job after an interview. It was my dream job, and I still don’t know how I got it.
5. Have your pre-baby career plans changed? My pre-baby career plans haven’t changed since Hayden’s debut. The difference is that I now realizes it might take longer to achieve the position I want. I can’t stay late like my coworkers and my priorities have shifted — like if Hayden is sick, I’m not going to work — and that’s going to affect how I stand out from my competition. But I don’t care as much as I thought I would, as being a mom is my number one job and priority.
6. When did you decide to walk down the aisle? Did you feel pressure to do so? I have known my husband since I was 10 years old and he was 16 – he’s my older brother’s best friend. I knew back then that I wanted to marry Sean. We had been dating for four years before we chose to get married. We had talked on and off about getting married even before we found out about Hayden. We debated having a wedding before Hayden arrived, but we ended up deciding that we deserved at
least one major event in our lives to be planned — and planned well. We got married in September 2009, when Hayden was one and a half years old. It was the most perfect day, and well worth the wait. We like the idea that Hayden got to be a part of it.
7. In your opinion, what’s the biggest advantage to having kids young? I work with women who, for the most part, have put starting a family on hold while they focus on their careers. And when they are ready to start trying for a baby, it isn’t easy. I’m lucky in that I started early, at the budding of my career, so I’ve learned how to balance everything at a very young age. I’ve learned how to make everything — the demands of work and family and my personal expectations — fit together like puzzle pieces, no matter how rough and misshapen those pieces may be. I have more energy to keep going at it than my older friends who have kids and careers. I see myself as extraordinarily lucky.
8. What’s been your biggest challenge? My biggest challenge has been finding time and energy to take care of myself. I tend to get lost in the working-mother role and the devoted-wife role, and then before I know it I haven’t been to the dentist in four years. (And that’s not an exaggeration.)
9. Is it difficult to decide when/if to expand your family? If it were up to my husband, we’d have had a child nine months after Hayden was born. I’ve always wanted to wait a few years in between kids. My brother and I are five years apart and it worked fine. I had a very difficult labor with Hayden, along with not being prepared for him, so I figure we might need to wait a while. And then you throw in finances and that’s another big reason to wait. But as my mom (who cannot wait for another grand baby) often tells me: there’s never a perfect time. We are planning on conceiving this August so Hayden will be four when he has a sibling, and we can’t wait.
10. Looking back, what’s one thing you wish you could have known while you were pregnant? This is a great question. I wish I would have known that I would love the baby I was carrying more than anything in the universe, because I was convinced I would resent him for keeping me from being who I wanted to be, and that negatively affected my pregnancy. But the minute I saw Hayden, after a 22-hour induced labor, I have been exactly who I never knew I wanted to be. Someone who has the best thing in the world — a child — and would do anything to keep my life the way it is, at this very moment.
Would you like to share your story? Email me at email@example.com.