The conversation about the challenge women face, choosing between career and family life, is decades old. Women tend to delay childbearing in favor of their careers. From the Pew Research Center, a study reports that childlessness has risen rapidly for Black women especially in the last decade. The percentage of childless women increases with higher education.
Millennial women are more likely than their male counterparts to view having children as an obstacle to job or career advancement. For women, career and family grow during the same decades of adulthood. The conventional life plan assumes if you choose one, the other suffers. Or that you will have to forgo the other entirely. So career-focused women put their jobs first and having children last.
Young women are encouraged to start thinking about their career path in their late teens and early 20s. Following that model, women do not begin their careers until their mid-20s at the earliest, after earning at least one or two degrees. From there, the push to focus on making their careers flourish above all else is understandable. But then family life suffers. For women who want both, how do we change this? What if career could come first, but a whole lot earlier?
Mikaila Ulmer runs the company BeeSweet Lemonade at 10 years old. She received a $60,000 investment from entrepreneur Daymond John, through her appearance on the ABC show Shark Tank. If parents help their daughters build their financial futures early, during the tween and teen years (or earlier), they might not feel as much pressure as adults to choose career over family at the loss of the latter. On that path, by their early 20s they’ll have a decade’s foundation to support them. They will not have to sacrifice family life in favor of a career since they already have a head start. They will not have to put off childbearing until middle age when female fertility wanes. They won’t miss out because they’ve already been building.
Home-schooling offers a unique solution as well. Students can start college classes early because they have more flexible schedules and one-on-one time to help them progress in their studies faster. Last year, Florida teen Grace Bush earned her bachelor’s degree and high school diploma in the same week. She was home-schooled, which likely allowed her to take advantage of her more flexible schedule to dually enroll in high school and college courses. She plans to continue her education and eventually pursue a law degree. A woman who aims for the same goals but starts four to six years later, per the traditional path, might also have to delay childbearing by four to six years.
Starting early doesn’t mean you’re pushing your child too hard. It doesn’t mean your daughter has to start a family young. The point is that it opens the door to choices. And even if she doesn’t want to have children, entrepreneurship, leadership, self-reliance and creativity are all skills you learn through business and education. You want to instill these in your child from the start anyway. These skills will benefit her regardless of what she chooses later in life.
Kalyka is a writer and filmmaker. She blogs about reading and self-optimization at kalykabreeze.wordpress.com.