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Thread: Which do I sacrifice - having children, education, or financial responsibility?

  1. #1
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    Which do I sacrifice - having children, education, or financial responsibility?

    Hey all, so I've got some thoughts swimming around in my head and I'm not sure where they really leave me in the end. I'm 32 and will turn 33 in September this year.

    For a number of reasons I faced a lot of obstacles and challenging situations getting to where I am now. I'm studying my MPhil in Egyptology at the University of Cambridge and it's a very intensive 1 year degree. As I'm an international student studying at Masters level, the tuition fees were exceptionally high and, despite working solidly (as a university lecturer in Japan) for the last 3 years (before starting my degree in October last year) to earn tuition money, I still fell short $30,000 AUD for the program. I contributed to tuition about $40,000 AUD and my step-father lent me the remainder, which was the equity of his and my mother's house.

    My mother, sadly, passed away in May last year, so the beginning of my degree and moving from Japan was a bit rough on me, but I've managed to push through as I've wanted to study in my chosen field since I was 8 years old. Everything I have ever done in my life has been in order to bring me closer to this goal. However, due to the set-backs I've faced, I'm now in a situation I didn't ever want to be in; this all fell together at a much later stage in my life than I'd hoped. As I said above, I'm 32 years old. I desperately want a family. In Japan, I didn't really have the opportunity to meet a man and form a committed partnership. I also was not in an environment that made that very possible prior to moving to Japan. Now, I'm in England, but I'm not British and I'm only here for such a short time. I plan to do my PhD, but my supervisor and other academics in my department have very much insisted that I take a year off between my Masters and PhD, which means I have time that I find I will be in limbo with.

    I also made an agreement with my step-father to work after I complete my degree so that I can pay the loan off. Returning to Australia for that one year is not very feasible due to the fact that Australia is very, very expensive to live in, and has a very low dollar value when exchanging to the stronger pound and other currencies. And, I might not even find employment straight away (the last time I lived there it took me 3 months). Going back to Australia would not put me in a financial position to take up my studies in Europe when the time comes, which means I must seek employment either here in England (which I already have the visa for), or elsewhere. Unfortunately, getting a job in my field without a PhD is not to likely, which means I will have to take up a non-academic position without the chance to save much.

    I have considered applying for lecturing positions in South Korea etc, but again, I'm not sure how viable that is. All of this wouldn't be such an issue for me, if I wasn't going on 33 and wasn't only taking a year off. I want to have children, so much so that it's even making me re-evalutate my decision to do a PhD in the very near future. What I really want is to just take some time off working and studying and have a family. But, without a partner, without a significant amount of savings behind me, and without a country that I am settled in, this also isn't feasible. Not only that, I also have the obligation and commitment to reimburse my step-father as mentioned. I feel like the timing of everything happening in the way it has means that I now have to sacrifice one or more very important things to me. I either decide against further study (which I've spent my ENTIRE life working towards) for the foreseeable future in order to re-save money and pay my step-father back immediately (which means also not being in a position to take time off to have children should I meet someone), or I decide against being available to having children in order to complete my education or to work, or I sacrifice financial stability in order to pursue meeting someone and having a family - which I can't do without money anyways. I can't even say that I'll end up meeting anyone as I've already been single for 5.5 years and not through lack of being open and out there, it just hasn't happened for me. I am not in a position to fly back to Australia and pay the astronomical price it costs to freeze my eggs, nor pay for potentially countless rounds of IVF and sperm donation. I also can't go straight into a PhD, especially if I'm not awarded funding. I feel so stuck. I don't want to not have children but I feel like that's what I'm going to end up being forced to sacrifice because, more than the other two elements, having children involves other things outside my control - a partner, chances of falling pregnant, etc. Advice?

  2. #2
    Gold Member maew's Avatar
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    You are being far too black and white about all of this. Your sense of urgency to have children and your fear that you won't get your way is clouding your judgement.

    Everything you write about is totally doable... perhaps not in the time frame you originally anticipated, but you can indeed do all of the things you want to do if you adjust your thinking to a more balanced one. You might want to start by talking to your step-father about what's going on as that is the one thing you have the most control over at the moment and see how you can pay him back in a way that works for both of you without asking you to give up your entire life to do so.

    And why would you have to sacrifice financial stability to pursue a relationship and family? There are PLENTY of women out there that have amazing careers and children! Besides, if you give everything up to have kids you will only end up being unhappy and miserable which at the end of the day will impact the lives of your children. Perhaps you put it on hold for awhile and go back to it... the options are endless if you open your mind!

    Consider sitting down with a life coach or career counselor that can help you figure out how you can do all of these things you want to do by helping you develop a vision and some goals, and then breaking everything up into manageable chunks.

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    I get the conflict because I spent many years in grad school plus establishing the career I first dreamed of when I was a teenager. I also knew I wanted to get married and be a mom and knew that from early on. Freezing eggs was not a viable option when I asked my doctor about it 20 years ago when I was 32. (technologically not financially). So here is what I would do. I would either spend the money to freeze eggs (and no you might not need IVF should you need to use them, it depends) or see if there are research or clinical studies you can qualify for where you can have the procedure done for less $ or even for free. And for the next 5 years at least I would prioritize living in a place where you can meet and be proactive about meeting potentially good matches -so, yes, I would put that ahead of career as much as possible, for now. Don't give up everything but see if you can strike more of a balance so that you are in a position to meet and get to know people/date. I would not do the single mother by choice thing at this point so if you freeze your eggs that would be for the future, not now.

    As for me I didn't marry or become a mom till I was 42. I didn't need IVF or any intervention and got pregnant for the first time and only time at age 41 -but that is atypical and I was really lucky. What I will say is that I'm thrilled I worked so hard in grad school and at my career for all those years (and I met my husband originally at work) but no I didn't put off marriage or motherhood because of prioritizing a career -I simply didn't become the right person to find the right person until my late 30s and i made poor relationship choices/got in my own way. But I was always proactive about meeting people - online dating, singles events, volunteer work, getting set up on blind dates and setting others up (which also motivated them to return the favor).

    I would not seek out a life coach right now or anything that required more $ - save your pennies for egg freezing, etc. I would look into books by Martha Beck who I believe addresses these kinds of life choice issues. Also if there is free counseling where you are studying now that might help too. Good luck!!

  4. #4
    Platinum Member j.man's Avatar
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    I think you've gotta sit down with a counselor and really hash this out. Granted I attended community college and a land grant, but for $70,000 AUD, I certainly hope Cambridge provides some form of service. Planning this out is something very personalized with regard to both your personal life and your career options. For instance, how urgent this PhD is would depend on just how much it expands your career options to successfully navigate paying back your family, any other loans, other independent living costs, and preparing to support a new family of your own in the future. I have no idea what an MA in Egyptomology would get you over a PhD in whatever you're planning. There are practical considerations when it comes to what windows are opened vs. what further debt you could be bringing into a new family. Especially if your fertility backup is going to be to drop $10,000 on freezing, however much a year to store eggs, and then however much for an IVF or potentially several.

    I don't say it to sound gloomy. In fact, it's the opposite. Again, speak to someone who's more intimately familiar with your personal circumstances and your prospective fields, but having an MA is pretty well educated and I'm assuming would come with some opportunities. But from my more general perspective, it wouldn't seem like the end of the world if you took what you've got, worked to pay down on what you owe your step dad, do some dating, and if/when you start a family and pop a kid out, get him or her to school-age and hit the books again yourself. I work in academia, and at many prestigious schools in NYC. I see men and women in similar positions or those even more difficult still managing to thrive at 30, 40, 50, and even 60+.

    Again, without any in depth knowledge of your field and options, it sounds to me like you could get by chronologically prioritizing what's most important to you. Best of luck.

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    @maew Firstly, thank you for your response. I do disagree, though, about my making it black or white or my sense of urgency should I not get my way. I've had my goals, which have often had set-backs, but I've let things unfold in whichever way they're going to and accepted what reality eventuates as a result. I never wanted to move to Japan, but I was no in a position to ignore the opportunity. I knew moving there likely meant to accepting the fact that it would be difficult to meet someone and maintain a relationship. But, it's what I had to do to put food on the table, so I did it. If I'd had my way, I'd have had children 10 years ago. But things didn't turn out that way and I didn't try to force them to.

    About my step-father, they've stopped his pension as a result of him having that equity, which he gave to me. He's pinching the pennies and I made a commitment to him that I feel would only be right by honouring. When I was offered my place at Cambridge I was at the cross-roads of either putting a deposit on a house or investing in my education. I invested in my education, knowing I'd be going into debt and making a commitment to repay that debt as soon as possible. What I meant by sacrificing financial stability, would mean that I wouldn't be in a position to raise a family without already having a foundation to fall back on. A relationship can be pursued no issue, it's having children when I don't have anything behind me. But, on the child front, the concern that I have and the sense of urgency I have is because I have significant fertility issues. I was informed some time back that my falling pregnant naturally was already compromised for several reasons and that as I get older, my ability to have children significantly diminishes. As it is, I'm not sure how much luck I'd have at having children now were I in a position to.

    I've had my mind open and have done what I needed to do in order to make it through some really hard times, even if it meant putting what I wanted on the back burner and bide my time. But I've also tried to be open and receptive in these situations despite that. I've expressed my concerns to my step-father and my mother when she was alive over the past couple of years, but there isn't any easy answer to this. I'm not intending to shut down your advice, especially since I asked for it, but I think the nature of my position isn't as flexible as one might think.

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    Originally Posted by Batya33
    I get the conflict because I spent many years in grad school plus establishing the career I first dreamed of when I was a teenager. I also knew I wanted to get married and be a mom and knew that from early on. Freezing eggs was not a viable option when I asked my doctor about it 20 years ago when I was 32. (technologically not financially). So here is what I would do. I would either spend the money to freeze eggs (and no you might not need IVF should you need to use them, it depends) or see if there are research or clinical studies you can qualify for where you can have the procedure done for less $ or even for free. And for the next 5 years at least I would prioritize living in a place where you can meet and be proactive about meeting potentially good matches -so, yes, I would put that ahead of career as much as possible, for now. Don't give up everything but see if you can strike more of a balance so that you are in a position to meet and get to know people/date. I would not do the single mother by choice thing at this point so if you freeze your eggs that would be for the future, not now.

    As for me I didn't marry or become a mom till I was 42. I didn't need IVF or any intervention and got pregnant for the first time and only time at age 41 -but that is atypical and I was really lucky. What I will say is that I'm thrilled I worked so hard in grad school and at my career for all those years (and I met my husband originally at work) but no I didn't put off marriage or motherhood because of prioritizing a career -I simply didn't become the right person to find the right person until my late 30s and i made poor relationship choices/got in my own way. But I was always proactive about meeting people - online dating, singles events, volunteer work, getting set up on blind dates and setting others up (which also motivated them to return the favor).

    I would not seek out a life coach right now or anything that required more $ - save your pennies for egg freezing, etc. I would look into books by Martha Beck who I believe addresses these kinds of life choice issues. Also if there is free counseling where you are studying now that might help too. Good luck!!
    Thank's for your input, I appreciate it. When I came to Cambridge, I was hoping that I'd be quite lucky and that I'd meet my person here and things would naturally fall into place and I'd take it from there, depending on how things unfolded. I'm still hoping that may happen. I've left it up to the universe a bit on that front, whilst also still joining clubs and societies and joining language exchanges, etc. I don't know that that WON'T happen, I'm just feeling increasingly nervous about the fact that I'm being required to make decisions about what plans I intend to make at the end of August, when I complete my degree (assuming I manage to pass). It may seem like August is ages away, but when you're on a visa and you're required to either apply for further study, or apply for jobs a head of the game, etc. it forces you to perhaps try to plan out things vs seeing what things fall into place.

    As you suggested, I absolutely don't intend to give up on my education. It's something I am so passionate about that I can barely breathe for the love I have for my work. I can't NOT do it, otherwise I really suffer for holding that part of me back. I also want to prioritise living in a place that leaves me open to meeting someone potential, which is what I'm currently concerned about. I don't want to uproot myself from England after having just moved it, and wanting to pursue PhD at Cambridge down the road. But, on my visa, I'm concerned about the kind of job I can get. I only get a few months after finishing my degree to find employment and I'm not sure that it's open to any job - I think it's a condition of my student visa to find work in my discipline. This leaves me limited unless I have a PhD because it's an academic field. Hence, my dilemma. I want more time to hash out these issues, but time is not on my side visa wise, nor fertility wise. I just feel like all the things that I want to achieve are incompatible with each other if they have to be achieved at the same time, unless something unexpected happens that makes it all possible. I wanted to focus on each one separately, but these past years didn't allow for that, and now here I am, hoping that I'll just get lucky. I've spent the last 1-4 years trying to manage things in such a way, to spread things out so that trying to achieve each one doesn't conflict with the other, that I don't have to end up sacrificing anything that I dearly want, but sometimes things just don't come together how you intended. I haven't reached the point of becoming too stressed out about it, but I want to be proactive/preemptive so that I don't get to that bridge then don't know how to navigate it.
    Last edited by LotusBlack; 01-08-2019 at 08:07 PM.

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    Originally Posted by j.man
    I think you've gotta sit down with a counselor and really hash this out. Granted I attended community college and a land grant, but for $70,000 AUD, I certainly hope Cambridge provides some form of service. Planning this out is something very personalized with regard to both your personal life and your career options. For instance, how urgent this PhD is would depend on just how much it expands your career options to successfully navigate paying back your family, any other loans, other independent living costs, and preparing to support a new family of your own in the future. I have no idea what an MA in Egyptomology would get you over a PhD in whatever you're planning. There are practical considerations when it comes to what windows are opened vs. what further debt you could be bringing into a new family. Especially if your fertility backup is going to be to drop $10,000 on freezing, however much a year to store eggs, and then however much for an IVF or potentially several.

    I don't say it to sound gloomy. In fact, it's the opposite. Again, speak to someone who's more intimately familiar with your personal circumstances and your prospective fields, but having an MA is pretty well educated and I'm assuming would come with some opportunities. But from my more general perspective, it wouldn't seem like the end of the world if you took what you've got, worked to pay down on what you owe your step dad, do some dating, and if/when you start a family and pop a kid out, get him or her to school-age and hit the books again yourself. I work in academia, and at many prestigious schools in NYC. I see men and women in similar positions or those even more difficult still managing to thrive at 30, 40, 50, and even 60+.

    Again, without any in depth knowledge of your field and options, it sounds to me like you could get by chronologically prioritizing what's most important to you. Best of luck.
    Hi j.man, thanks for your advice. I had planned to make an appointment with the career counsellor to see what my options are once term resumes. Unfortunately, with my particular line of work a PhD is a necessity and I embarked upon this road when I was 8 with the knowledge that my career wouldn't really begin until I had that PhD. I was offered a place for study at many universities over the years but never received funding for studies, nor did my attempts at fundraising yield any results. So, as a consequence, I had to spend a lot of years working for tuition money. It just took a lot of time and also other obstacles arose that required me to take time off working, etc. A PhD isn't urgent and I am more than willing to push that back to have the chance to have a family, and it's what I want to do. I realised a few days ago that all I want to do is take time off after this degree and focus on having a family, but, unless I suddenly meet someone and that becomes an option, then that's not entirely in my power to make happen, for financial reasons and the fact it take two to tango unless I become a DIY mum. Plus, I really cannot go back on my financial commitment to my step-father who only allowed me access to the funds on the proviso that I begin paying it back upon completion of my degree. I've put off post-graduate education for so long that I agreed to this commitment over giving up my last chance at studying at Cambridge (they made it clear they weren't going to make a 3rd offer should I decline my second one, again).

    I will also talk to my college counsellor about the personal side of things, as you advised. See what advice she may be able to give. It's highly unlikely I can work in my field with my PhD, and I'm willing to take on a job in the interim that isn't related in order to save up again and to repay my debt, but I'm concerned because that would likely mean having to relocate to another country, again. I just want to stay put for a bit. It's not easy moving countries all the time. I'm not sure how to balance the only options available to me. Nothing is very ideal. I'm in the process of trying to create the best possible scenario out of the ingredients I have, but none of them seem to work together. I'll definitely give your suggestions a go.

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    Due to exchange rates, it makes more sense for you to stay in the UK and find employment. This is where you need to seek some career counseling and placement help from the University instead of making all the assumptions that you are currently making. It may not be the stellar dream job, but it will help you and your step-father financially if he is in dire straights due to your loan. You already have your visas, so at least you don't have to worry about that. Also, talk to your professors about needing a job. Professors can be quite connected and helpful if they believe in you, willing to assist and refer you.

    Don't assume - check and then check again.

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    Originally Posted by Batya33
    I get the conflict because I spent many years in grad school plus establishing the career I first dreamed of when I was a teenager. I also knew I wanted to get married and be a mom and knew that from early on. Freezing eggs was not a viable option when I asked my doctor about it 20 years ago when I was 32. (technologically not financially). So here is what I would do. I would either spend the money to freeze eggs (and no you might not need IVF should you need to use them, it depends) or see if there are research or clinical studies you can qualify for where you can have the procedure done for less $ or even for free. And for the next 5 years at least I would prioritize living in a place where you can meet and be proactive about meeting potentially good matches -so, yes, I would put that ahead of career as much as possible, for now. Don't give up everything but see if you can strike more of a balance so that you are in a position to meet and get to know people/date. I would not do the single mother by choice thing at this point so if you freeze your eggs that would be for the future, not now.

    As for me I didn't marry or become a mom till I was 42. I didn't need IVF or any intervention and got pregnant for the first time and only time at age 41 -but that is atypical and I was really lucky. What I will say is that I'm thrilled I worked so hard in grad school and at my career for all those years (and I met my husband originally at work) but no I didn't put off marriage or motherhood because of prioritizing a career -I simply didn't become the right person to find the right person until my late 30s and i made poor relationship choices/got in my own way. But I was always proactive about meeting people - online dating, singles events, volunteer work, getting set up on blind dates and setting others up (which also motivated them to return the favor).

    I would not seek out a life coach right now or anything that required more $ - save your pennies for egg freezing, etc. I would look into books by Martha Beck who I believe addresses these kinds of life choice issues. Also if there is free counseling where you are studying now that might help too. Good luck!!
    Stupid question but is this freezing eggs thing really viable? I've heard about this with celebrities but never understood how it works.

    As to the topic ahead I agree with what you're saying. It's all about planing ahead and let things take its course.

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    If he has no equity in the house because he gave the money to you - is there some form of paper trail or someone he can talk to in order to get his pension back - to prove he did not hide it or give it to you to move money around? If he can get his pension back, he won't be in dire straits. When you do pay him back - do you still have to support him, as he has no pension, now?

    Your field of employment is very narrow. is it something where you would work a side job to help pay your stepdad faster while you are working a entry level position in your field to get your foot in the door?

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