When Career Takes a Backseat to Parenthood

January 12, 2018

Young KimTwo years ago, my wife Hannah and I made the decision to relocate from Capitol Hill, where we were comfortably rooted to Glover Park, a quiet neighborhood known for having good schools. It was a hard decision, but with our first child Savannah growing up, we wanted her to be enrolled in the best school possible. As new parents, we also wanted to be closely involved in her first school experience. We saw so many of our friends struggle to juggle their careers and parenthood. Many had no choice but to use hired hands – nannies or daycare – in raising their children during the hours they worked. Hannah and I did not want this for ourselves.

We asked: What kind of lives do we want to lead as parents? Should one of us make a big career sacrifice so that we can give the maximum attention our child needs? These were some of the hard questions we wrestled with. Each time we discussed it, the answer was always the same: Time is our most valuable asset. Let’s use as much of it with our child during her most formative years as we can.

And so, here we are. Hannah and I have been fortunate to be in careers that enable us to have work flexibility. That isn’t to say that making things work is easy, but we’ve certainly crafted our lives around Savannah’s life, instead of Savannah around ours. In doing so, we can regularly attend Savannah’s preschool events, speak to her teachers frequently, be involved in the PTA, take her to afterschool dance class, and most importantly, be present.

Getting Savannah into a great preschool helps, of course. At Breakthrough Montessori PCS, school administrators actively seek parental involvement and this leads to a strong sense of community. Parents are vested in the lives of their children at school, where strong parental commitment creates a virtuous circle that sustains itself. I hope this is true in other schools across the district, but I fear that it is not always. In DC, getting into a good traditional or public charter school is not a guarantee. Get a good number in the school lottery and you’re golden. If not, well, try again next year.

For Hannah and I, things could have been very different. We may not have been matched with any school in the lottery. What we would have done if that were the case, we do not know. Hannah and I could have been career driven at all costs. The temptation to do so is certainly strong in a city like DC. Yet, somehow, in some way, here we are with the choices we’ve made. We make it work. Yes, some of what we have is due to luck. Indeed, we a grateful to have Savannah in a preschool in which she thrives. However, some of it is due to our conscious decision to be involved in our child’s life. We wouldn’t have it any other way. Trying to figure out the balancing act of parenthood is never easy. At least for us, we’ve found a stride.

By Young Kim, Breakthrough Montessori PCS and Ward 3 Parent