I attended a baby shower last weekend and found myself immersed in conversation with a grandmother about the challenges of her daughter’s high powered medical career. Her daughter is a mother of two young children, ages 5 and 5 months. Her first child was born during an intense fellowship for pediatric surgery, a program that admits less than 10 physicians nationwide each year. That fellowship did not allow for maternity leave, and she returned to work and research five weeks after the birth. Today, when she is on call, it is for two weeks consecutively. Sick children in need of surgery can not wait until she drops her own children at daycare in the morning. Her husband is a young attorney who works long hours trying to stay on the partner track.
The solution for their childcare needs – grandmothers. The two grandmothers take turns staying with them, often for months at a time. What a blessing to have a mother and mother-in-law willing and able to uproot their lives for months at a time to live with you and help with childcare. That is very special and not unlike how families functioned prior to the 20th century.
But today’s reality is different. Young adults are mobile and willing to move to a different city or state for their careers. Very few families get by on the income of one spouse, so childcare is a necessity, not a luxury. Daycare is expensive, spots are limited, and the good places charge a premium. But what about parents who work non-traditional hours – physicians, attorneys working late, or investment bankers working all weekend on a deal?
My daycare opens at 7:30am and closes at 6:00pm. It follows the school calendar for holidays, so we have to make arrangements for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Mardi Gras (I live in New Orleans), and Easter break. This week happens to be Easter break. I decided months ago to be the primary caregiver during this week and scheduled client calls and meetings around it. It was remarkably easy to flex my schedule to accommodate. Nap time falls somewhere between 12:30pm – 2:30pm, so I have been able to jump on conference calls during that hour.
I mention this to point out how perfect a career in financial advice is not only for women, but for all parents of young children. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a male colleague leave early to pick up a child, work from home to care for a sick child, bring children to the office, or schedule vacations around the school calendar. It is a luxury that many high paying careers do not afford.
America has got to get over itself with paid parental leave. Every mother, every father should take at least 3 months off of work for the birth (or adoption) of a new child. It’s elemental, and it’s not just a for moms but for all parents.
If you know a young woman considering her future career options, please share this with her today. Only 1 out of 5 financial advisors are women, a number that has not moved in decades. Meanwhile, more than half of students entering medical school next year will be women for the first time in history. I applaud these women, and anyone who pursues a medical career. Caring for the sick is a vital societal function, but not always the easiest option for young parents. Financial advice, on the other hand, blends in much easier with the demands of raising a family, caring for parents, and many of the other curveballs of modern life.