On Friday, I journeyed into the financial district to meet with a contact at one of the Big 3. Back in July I had a phone conversation with this contact, learning about the company she worked for and how her job was structured, but it was time to meet in person in order to put a face with a name.
The conversation we had was a good one. She was incredibly truthful about her daily dealings (cliental, types of projects, etc) and expectations from the firm she worked with. It was then we transitioned to discussing the realities of this career path on one's daily life. The fact that 90 hr work weeks were very common and there was always an expectation that one would drop everything with a second's notice for the client. That the attrition rate was at least 50%, with many moving on to smaller firms, different aspects of business or leaving business altogether after the experience. That those who succeed tend to be the ones who sacrifice everything else for their career.
As we continued to talk about work/life balance, the term "backstop" came up. Specifically in that a successful consultant would need multiple layers of support in place for raising any children they have, with a dedicated backstop to manage. The backstop usually came in three forms: a spouse, extended family or a superb live-in nanny. As we talked, my contact had a controlled expression on her face. She is currently 39 weeks pregnant with her second and though she talked about this necessity, it was becoming clear she was also struggling with conflicting emotions about this arrangement. Hence her truthfulness in a manner that I wasn't likely to get from anyone else.
On the bus ride home, I reflected on our conversation. And the term "backstop" suck with me. A term attached to someone who drops everything for the children in the family. Telling Grey about this part of the conversation resulted in a look of disgust from him. Cursing under this breath, he responded by saying that it's this term that is driving this lack of respect given to those who are raising the next generation, be the daycare providers, teachers, stay at home moms and especially stay at home dads. "We assume these people are expendable. When in truth they are essential."
The reality is I don't want a career that's going to separate me from my family on this level. I have zero issue working long hours; I've already done so throughout my 20s. But I struggle with doing anything that will ultimately cause my family to break apart. Sure, there are necessary evils. But I don't think this is one of them for me. But the flip is that I want to be what others call the backstop. If the Beats are sick, I want to be able to drop work and be there for them. Granted, it is we need another level of support for those days they can't go to daycare (and if anyone has suggestions on finding temporary nannies or babysitters, I'd love to hear from you), but missing everything because my employer tells me I need to stay in the rat race isn't something I'm interested in.
I learned a lot on Friday. The gut feeling I've been having about consulting as a career fit has pretty much been solidified into a firm "no way" by this meeting. Though y contact is one that I'll continue to keep in touch with. But the other thing is I learned I need to start looking for options that allow me some flexibility. Part of it is coming from my current work, as my research is truly in a niche field. But the other thing is learning that once again I'm going to have to create the next step. And part of that means embracing the term "backstop."
And never apologize for doing so.
Listen Up and then BE HEARD!
3 hours ago