20 April 2013, by Actonel
It’s interesting how everyone says one shouldn’t be stressed when trying for a child, including The Boss. One would imagine that the Female Boss, a mother herself, would also be keen to head home on time to spend evenings with her husband and children. As it turns out, while I’ve been on the receiving end of advice dispensed to fertility-challenged employees about the need to maintain work-life balance, I’ve never seen Female Boss leaving the office before 8pm on a regular day, with meetings extending even after 9pm. So, trying normally for a child, according to the Boss, means working until 9pm, heading home for dinner, and being logged on the computer shortly after that until past midnight. And then having sex with tired, sleepy and annoyed husband, hoping for sperm to meet egg but having less and less expectation of them actually succeeding.
The Company I work for has very tight deadlines and extremely high standards. It was great when we were starting out as fresh graduates, learning how to work in a fast-paced and competitive environment. However, more than 10 years down the road, it has become somewhat a mystery how to continue working with the same intensity. And it is with this question in mind that I’m writing this entry on a Saturday afternoon in the office, after having logged on to find that the emails have still been flying on Friday evening and Saturday morning.
It’s been a crazy ride since coming back to the office from the two-week medical leave after IVF didn’t work for us. I’ve probably only had 2 weekends off since then, and even when we went away for a week on vacation, the laptop accompanied us faithfully wherever we went. Logging into the office email from the beach racked up an internet bill of more than $50 Singapore dollars, which was money well-spent for peace of mind (or so I thought at the time!).
It’s extremely difficult for a type-A personality like myself to admit mediocrity in anything – sports, career, family life- and yet I realise something may have to give, if this baby dream is ever going to be realised without having to resort to adoption, something which the husband is not quite open to. I haven’t met anyone personally who has quit or taken a year off work to try to conceive, although my social circle is full of people with stories about other women who’ve done just that. It is looking like an increasingly attractive but scary option. If it doesn’t work, I would have just sacrificed a year of career development, money and (although I hate to admit it) pride, in trying and failing. However, this current lifestyle of being logged on to the email system till past midnight and waking up before 630am the next morning, even on weekends, is not going to help us conceive, short of a miracle.
I read with great interest Anne’s Slaughter’s article Why Women Still Can’t Have It All (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/07/why-women-still-cant-have-it-all/309020/) and while I’ve been thinking about taking that year off, I feel it’s terribly difficult to resign or ask for the time out when there aren’t any children in existence to justify that. One would understand if a mother took unpaid leave to take care of the children, but how about a DINKie? It’s also extremely intriguing from an intellectual viewpoint how women feel the need to please everyone else but themselves – the husbands need attention, the parents need to feel cared for, the children need their mothers, their bosses also want to feel they treat their jobs as the top priority. Which doesn’t leave very much for themselves.
The Department is working towards a very major deadline in September, and after that, there’ll be more scope to ask for that time off. I’ll be writing more about work-life balance for fertility-challenged couples in a later post. In the meantime, this post is open for comments and suggestions on how to manage career and infertility issues.