Rebecca Diaz-Bonilla— lawyer, professor, consultant, and mother of nine—is now taking questions! Submit your questions to Rebecca at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read Verily’s June/July print feature ”From The Trenches” for more about how Rebecca manages to balance work and life—and embraces the adventure.
Q:I want to have a family, but am sometimes afraid it will compromise my career. How did you feel about starting a family before you had your first child, and how has your view changed since then?
A: This may shake your question, but advancing my career has never been something for which I believed justified foregoing children. I think careers are more likely to compromise families, than families are to compromise careers. What’s important is that you keep a clear priority of what matters most in your life.
Concerns about careers compromising families aren’t unique to women. Men struggle with this as well. Striking the proper balance between work and family is a universal battle.
Now, thinking more critically about what has “changed,” I would say that, back then, I understood only intellectually that I would have to make a lot of sacrifices; whereas, today, I have been living those sacrifices, which has proven to be much more challenging than I anticipated (which partly explains why so many women are so anxious to get back to full time). Nevertheless, while I’m humbled by the realization of my own weaknesses, the joy I get from my children is immeasurable. I’ve made many mistakes—and I guarantee there will be many more—but I count each and every one of my children among the blessings, not regrets.
Q:I’m currently finishing up my PhD in biomedical engineering, and I am getting married the month after my defense. I am interested in starting my own consulting company so I can work from home and be available to my future family.
What were some of the pitfalls you experienced when starting your consulting business and a family all at the same time? How did you sort it all out?
A: Your opening scene sounds much like my own: I married a week after taking the Virginia Bar. Here are a couple pitfalls I fell into, and my mechanism for escape.
Find a quiet space to work. Most moms know all too well the magic spell that descends on a quiet room when the phone rings. At once, kids need you. The dog needs to be fed. Little ones cry with a scuffed knee. While working from home sounds like a good middle ground, it can be an impossible place to be efficient and turn out a quality work product. Plan on spending a portion of your pay to manage things even when you work from home. Babysitters, “mommy’s helpers,” housekeeping support, faster/easier meal preps. All these will help.
Stay flexible. Kids need you at unpredictable times, and they are not as robotic as we sometimes need them to be. As kids grow and change, we moms must adapt our parenting and time allocation to meet their needs first, before work. To make the balance work, overestimate the time necessary to accomplish any task. This will free up your schedule when things click into place. You’ll be happily surprised and freed up to spend more quality time with family.
Submit your questions to Rebecca at email@example.com.