I'm in my early 20s, I haven't developed my career yet. I'm currently in my final year of pre-med. I was going to apply to medschool next year, but I'm four months pregnant now. I've decided to delay medschool until 2017, but my husband wants me to be a stay at home mother. Also, my husband and I are citizens of different countries, we're living and working in his country now, but I'll be studying in my country which is on the other side of the world.

The baby will be cared for by me with the help of my parents, but my husband won't get to see her/him much because he'll be working in his country and doesn't have plans to relocate.. So we'll be a long distance family and he'll miss many of the baby's milestones.

But I honestly dread the thought of being a stay at home mother, my own mother is a highly educated professional woman. No offence to anyone, but I believe I have a lot of potential (including the potential to be more successful than my husband). Being a doctor is also more prestigious than being a stay at home mother and I'll have financial independence - doctors are very well paid.

However, I feel that

  1. I won't have enough time to devote to my child to raise her the way I want. I don't want to hire a nanny or put her in daycare. I also wanted to homeschool my kids. Being a doctor, or studying to be a doctor involves many many many hours. It's not 9 to 5 like other jobs.
  2. I also feel that it will affect my relationship with my husband. No physical contact for 4+ years etc.
  3. I hadn't planned to have kids until 30, so this has completely derailed my plans and no abortion isn't an option.

Also I'm not set on becoming a doctor. I'm also interested in entrepreneurship so I guess I could start and run a home based or online business but I'm not sure if I'll be successful , entrepreneurship is not as straightforward as a medical career. In any case, I know I want to be successful, financially and socially, I want to be respected and held in high esteem by everyone around me.

What should I consider to help me make this decision?

  • 2
    Anon - I have made a couple of tiny edits to make this more about how to make the decision, rather than asking the community for opinions on what you should do.
    – Rory Alsop
    Mar 4, 2015 at 8:10
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    I really don't understand why people worry about illusions like prestigious. The greatest prestigious is a hug from your child. I don't hold Doctors in any higher regard than a garden or a rubbish man. Matters who you are, how you treat people.
    – elliotrock
    Mar 4, 2015 at 11:11
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    @elliotrock - You and the OP are different people. There's no need to denigrate her value system, nor for anyone to denigrate yours. (Would you say that being a father is better than being a rubbish man? If yes, then you have different value-attachments as well. One can be both. That doesn't make them less worthwhile.) Mar 4, 2015 at 11:16
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    Reminds me a bit of my mom, she took a few years off to take care of us for the first crucial years. After that, when we were at school, she also went to school and got a good job afterward. Sometime it can be hard to find a job if you take a few years off after getting your diploma. Also, think a lot about homeschooling, it might be a lot more difficult than what you think. Look also at private school around your area.
    – the_lotus
    Mar 4, 2015 at 13:42
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    Related anecdotal report: This last year, I have witness 4 divorces. In each one, the wife was a SAHM. Each one had to go back to school, get a degree and try to find work. Each one told me that they should have stayed working, at least to some degree. If you think that you want to maintain your independence, which makes for a very healthy marriage, stay working.
    – crthompson
    Mar 4, 2015 at 18:42

8 Answers 8


What an interesting post. Ignoring the ideal, and dealing only with what is, then

I know I want to be successful, financially and socially, I want to be respected and held in high esteem by everyone around me.

You're right, this probably won't happen as a stay at home mom (SAHM). While mothering is the most important job I ever had, it certainly isn't financially rewarding, nor does it garner lots of respect. Being a professional does that better in many Western cultures.

You're young yet to know what to do with the rest of your life. All this might change a lot once you have your baby in your arms. Babies have a way of derailing life's ambitions and rearranging our priorities.

Finances are not a trivial matter to those who've been without money. My personal belief is that it's important for a woman to have the skills to be financially independent if needed. That was one of the reasons I chose to become a professional (intellectual challenge was important as well, but not respect or admiration.)

Many women doctors work part-time. Some part-time doctors partner up with another part-timer to fill a full time position. Some women wait until their kids are teenagers before going to medical school (the oldest medical student in my class was 45.) All this is doable.

But what is not doable (my opinion) is being a single-parent and going to medical school/residency, and (and?) homeschooling. I don't want to take a limited view of your abilities, but homeschooling well is a full-time job that changes every year. The lowest grades are easy comparatively, but when you start getting into middle school, there is a lot of material (for you) to learn and to cover, and it's new every year, that is, your goals and objectives, your study plans, the books, the materials, they change for every grade you homeschool your kids (which is great if you're homeschooling several kids). And this isn't even discussing parenting, which trumps everything (in my book). Parenting well is hard work.

A person can work a full-time and a part-time job. But you're talking about two-and-a-half jobs (I'll count med school and residency as one-and-a-half jobs), and without a partner and/or a nanny?

I think you need to prioritize. Contrary to what your youthful and energetic optimism would have you believe, you can't do it all without paying a significant price.

It’s time to stop fooling ourselves, says a woman who left a position of power: the women who have managed to be both mothers and top professionals are superhuman, rich, or self-employed. - Why Women Still Can’t Have It All

Opting Out?: Why Women Really Quit Careers and Head Home - Pamela Stone

  • 1
    Note, that link is absolutely amazing, really interesting ideas and really well written. Definitely worth a look.
    – deworde
    Mar 6, 2015 at 9:13

I'm not trying to present a radical view, but I strongly believe we live a society where studies matter. Maybe it's not obvious at the moment, but I have met many women in their 40's who have been stay-home-moms in their 20s and 30s and although that allowed them to stay closer to their children's education, they still have some permanent regrets that resurface every now and then.

Don't give up on your studies for anything. People have had jobs and raised children properly. It can be done.

EDIT: As pointed out in the answers, I gave too few arguments, making my answer look rather like a personal opinion. What I should actually do is detail my first argument: I strongly believe we live in a society where **studies matter**:

  • Self-fulfilling - Your profession is what defines you as an individual in a society. It's what drives your every day life, pushes you to improve not only in your area of expertise, but also in your personal skills.
  • Socializing - Going to work every day means knowing and interacting with many more people than you would by staying home. Some of your co-workers may become your friends, thus you would enlarge your social circle and find new activities for your spare time.
  • Money - Yes, let's not forget this one, especially as the next argument is:
  • Bad things can happen - By being a stay-home mom, you become financially dependent of your partner. Why is that a bad thing? Because as I said, the modern-day society is much different than it was many years ago. Couples divorce a lot more often today and for much less significant reasons. I'm not saying you should keep thinking "what if I one day divorce", I'm just stating the fact that one should always strive to maintain a certain independence.

So that's how I end up to my main point: financial independence is GOOD, regardless of whether you are single, in a relationship, married etc. Keep personal and professional life separated (that's another completely different debate of course).

And to finally arrive to my initial argument: since we live in a world driven by technology, the best way to achieve financial stability is through study. It's very hard to get a good, well-paid, long-term stable job without advanced studies.

Also two more points I want to make:

  • The fact that you are very aware of yourself and you feel you have a passion for medicine and you also want to pursue entrepreneurial ideas, these two make probably even stronger arguments than mine. Not many people have a clear idea of what they want to do with their life, and they struggle to figure out what the best career path would be for them. The fact that you already have that figured out is already a big plus. Not pursuing your dreams most likely will haunt you back in the future.
  • I personally think your partner asks too much of you. He is not willing to relocate to stay closer to you, or to help you raising your child, or to even stay close to his own child. Instead, he asks you to give up completely on your career, stay home and raise the child on your own, be both mom and dad. I'm not trying to rant here, maybe the circumstances are difficult for him too and he has his reasons, and probably it's not at all his fault for having to stay away. Regardless, this is a strong hint that you should follow your own career too, especially since your parents can help you raising the child.
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    My answer is based on similar observations, and personally I agree with you. But somehow this answer seems to be more of a statement of what your opinion is, than some help on how to decide or how to proceed. As such I don't think it is a proper answer to the question yet.
    – Dennis
    Mar 4, 2015 at 14:36

It sounds like you need to decide 3 things:

First: Where do you want to live?

Different countries/cultures have different values, in some cultures women are not expected to pursue a career at all and your husband can be wary of marrying a woman earning more than he does. This is not bad or good per se, just different, but you will perceive it as something good or bad in your life. Consider it with caution because you already are a grown woman and a different culture can conflict with your expectations.

Second: Do you want to marry? Really?

To marry is to live together, full stop. If you are living miles away from your baby's father there's no family. If he loves you, he will consider living with you in your country and adopting your culture (and don't take this challenge lightly), if you love him you will do the same. Both will work hard to make the other happy, that's the most important thing in a relationship: solidarity. If you want to go single, no problem, but yes, keeping a career and raising a kid are both time consuming and hard to consolidate.

Third: Career or parenting?

You must choose your focus. Kids needs a lot of attention. Not only for caring for the day-to-day things like diapers and the occasional fever. Your baby needs love, quality time, etc. At first, you will need a lot of help and it keeps going that way for years. A career will not only take your time but take a toll on your patience and make you tired, both physically and mentally. Also, parenting will drain you in the same way. So you need to choose your focus. You can finish your studies and get a job, but chances are you will not got the time and energy to both become a good mother and a great doctor, you will need to choose between becoming good in one and not that good in the another (at a best scenario).


What decision will make you more happy and let you feel more rewarded? No one can tell, and neither can you yet. To make it more complicated, it's not only your life. It's a decision for this new human growing in your womb.

Just be prepared to make a decision and follow it through without regrets.

I wish you the best for your and your baby.

Edit: The only thing I can say that can, maybe, help you is: Focus on the important thing: the persons you love. Maybe you don't love your baby yet but it will be hard to resist after some months caring for him/her. Take your decision as if you and your baby are the only two people on the planet, hope it helps.

  • beautiful post @jean
    – elliotrock
    Mar 4, 2015 at 14:21
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    If I read the question correctly, they are already beyond the second question. Perhaps this point could be rephrased to match the situation.
    – Dennis
    Mar 4, 2015 at 14:42
  • In fact I agree. Writed that more to clarify a point to start a new discussion (maybe a new question in afew months/years) about how father and baby can develope a long distance relationship
    – jean
    Mar 5, 2015 at 11:14

I know several people who faced this dilemma recently, some choose one way some the other.

First of all, realize this:

If you pause your study for more than a year, the chance that you will ever finish it becomes minimal.


Someone will have a full time job taking care of the baby. If not the father, and not the daycare, then who? In practice I have only seen two alternatives here: Either you do it yourself (which means you cannot do a fulltime activity besides it) or you let someone else do it for a few years, for example the grandparents.


You may need to rewrite your plans. Being a doctor 50 hours per week, and homeschooling your child will simply never go together.

So far my experience, I think these are the things you need to consider now. Of course there would be more possibilities if the husband could be pursuaded to move, or if you could use the daycare, but otherwise there is no way to get everything done exactly the way you planned it once.

  • 1
    I agree with almost everything you've said. +1 from me. However, a part-time doctor can homeschool her child(ren). It's not easy by any means, but it's doable. Mar 4, 2015 at 14:51

The key thing for me here is the contrast between these two lines.

my husband wants me to be a stay at home mother

But I honestly dread the thought of being a stay at home mother

This would be the primary thing you need to sort out before anything else. It sounds like you're on very different pages as to what you need, and that's a problem that's probably worse than 4 years of separation.

Becoming a parent takes more work than becoming a grown-up, which is in itself the hardest transition you'll ever make. You will need support, and if your partner isn't doing that, you need to deal with that, either by finding other support sources, or failure is inevitable. If your partner is actually pushing for you to do something you dread, they need to cut that out right now. Managing work and parenting is hard enough without someone telling you you should give up.

The good news is that you seem to have identified the key pros and cons with what you want, and from the way you're describing it sounds like you know what your decision already is; you're making plans around going to med-school, which is a very good first step, and the words you're using to describe your career are very positive (especially compared to "dread").

The first thing to remember is that nothing is permanent. Suppose you go to med-school and find you're missing your child, you can leave, using those skills elsewhere. If your husband finds that he can't being so far from you and your daughter, he can relocate, or you can work towards something fairer. Stubbornness is a tool to help you keep going towards what you want, it shouldn't be a handicap if you decide to change your mind.

You basically have two choices:

  1. Adjust your ambitions to match the achievable
  2. Attempt to achieve everything but accept that sometimes you'll need to make sacrifices and be comfortable with failure

goodnurse covered 1 exceptionally well, and I don't have much more to add there. For number 2, you will undoubtedly achieve more, but you run the risk of doing a bad job of three things rather than a great job of two.

So the key thing is prioritising. You need to construct systems that allow you to succeed, and given your situation, they need to be better than average. As an example, make sure you have the necessary dependable structures in place so that if your studies mean you're home late, there's no problems.

I especially agree with anongoodnurse that you need to be merciful on yourself. It is tremendously hard to be in your twenties these days, especially for the ambitious, because you're aware that the pressure is on you to develop the skills you'll be trading on for the rest of your career, while at the same time building up the family you'll be relying on for the rest of your life. Couple that with international separation, medical training and incipient parenthood, and it's not unfair to adjust your expectations; for example, to ensure that you're making enough money to support sending your child to a good nursery/school, or that you're making sure that you're engaged with their learning while not actually going the full homeschool route.

Beyond that, good luck, and know that we're here as a resource if you're struggling.


I haven't read through the other answers, so my answer may well add nothing new, but your question is very close to my own situation, so maybe something here will add some useful feedback for you.

I'm male. Does that matter when it comes to parenting or jobs? No. I want to spend time with my child, and I want to actively take part in raising him. My wish to do so is completely independent of traditional roles or the demands of feminism. I do not care what other people think a man (or woman) must or must not do. I myself want to be a "mother/father" to my child (in addition to the other adults of our family, including the biological mother, the grandparents and friends). I also want to have an occupation that helps me earn a living and fulfills me. I would get depressed and kill myself if I had to stay at home. I need to work and meet people and do things if I want to remain emotionally healtch. So there is no question (and I want to emphasize every word of this):

I. Want. Both.

To work and to be a parent.

So no matter the circumstances, that is what I will do.

You seem to be the same. So there is no question what you must do: what you want. You want to be a parent and you want to work, so you must be a parent and work. That answer is as clear as a 100% vacuum.

The only question is how can you do that? And the answer to that question is easy also: By just doing it and not worrying.

For one, you have your grandparents to help you with parenting. For another, your child will only need your undivided 24-hour attention for a very short time. He or she will need that you spend time with him and care for them, but the actual time they will need you to be physically and emotionally present will diminish with each year of their lives. So, making full use of the support of your family and whatever institutions and services you have available (crib, kindergarten, school, babysitters), the time you have available for your studies and, later, work, look something like this (always assuming you are a single parent with grandparents):

Time available for work in relation to child age

  • 1st year: 0

    With breastfeeding [read why you need to do that!] and stuff you will be too tired to do anything but care for your child and sleep

  • 2nd year: a few hours on some days

    You will have a few hours to yourself each day, but after a full year of being a 24/7-mother you will find yourself wanting to just relax, do sports or have quality time with your friends, so actual working time is still slim

  • 2 years old to five years old: 4 to 8 hours each week day actual working time

    This is the time when you can seriously start to study again

  • 6 years and older: your child can now go several days each week without seeing you

    This is the time when you can start to work

I'm the 47 year old single father of a seven year old boy, currently studying in my fifth year. From my own experiences and what I have seen of other families, with both working and studying parents, this is what I can recommend:

  • Take two to three years off for the first years of your child's life.

  • Study, while your child is in kindergarten and the first one or two years of elementary school.

  • When your child is around 7 or 8, start to work in earnest.

And if you want to be a phyisican, you will be able to make it work. There are many options available to single parents, talk to an equal opportunities representative of the university, hospital or whatever when you get to that point.

Finally: A happy mother that a child sometimes misses is always better than an unhappy mother who is permanently available.

  • Great post, I understand completely after raising 2 children one 7 the other 3, its is only now that I can focus and have more time to work on my business. Thanks for the positive post and the breastfeeding part, hard as a male to push that but it is vital.
    – elliotrock
    Mar 11, 2015 at 12:58

The most important role full stop is parenting.

Use your intelligence to do the best job possible. If you have started in the field of science research early childhood development, especially the emotional development and how it links to brain development.

The biggest concern I would have is not having your husband around, child raising is not a factory process, it requires a deep emotion connection from both parents. Babies and children need both the female and male influence*, on the surface emotional level and the deeper hormonal, bio-electrical and informational field level. I would beg for your husband to be there, he needs to be there for you two. Careers at a young age can be picked up but missing a child's life is worst.

I know it seems scary but joy is defined by a child's smile. You are young and prime for Child rearing. I raised 2 children as the stay at home Dad, never doubted that life decision.

In my case it wasn't a positive situation that looped me back into taking the role of fulltime carer, I got clinically exhausted through my career and a health condition I found out I had. SO the situation was hard as I was the better earner and the prime earner, so I understand the sacrifice more so.

But the joy of my children, and in some ways my personality compared to the kids mother, I am better at dealing with children. Emotional state as well. But the family situation wasn't easy by far.

What I am trying to say is since it is going to happen, focus on the love and the high importance of the role of a Mother. Use your skill set to learn and empower yourself to do the best job possible. Believe me good parenting is just as intensive as a high science/thought driven job.

BTW my first down vote, apologize if I sound a tad passionate - I haven't seen my babies for 2 days.

*Sorry if I offended those in same sex relationships that are raising children.

  • 1
    I think this answer could be improved by what influenced you to be a stay-at-home dad. Clearly, Anon's having doubts that you didn't, how did you cope with the issues that she's facing?
    – deworde
    Mar 4, 2015 at 12:45
  • good point. I edited my post
    – elliotrock
    Mar 4, 2015 at 14:16
  • For those who downvote: Please comment as to why you downvote, otherwise it may seem like the votes are just there because people don't agree with the answer. (Which in itself is not a reason to downvote on stackexchange)
    – Dennis
    Mar 4, 2015 at 14:51
  • @Dennis - I know all users would like their down votes explained, but actually the policy pretty much site wide is that voting (up or down) is anonymous and should be based on how useful the answer is. Voting is meant to be anonymous. SE encourages users to leave a comment but do not force it upon anyone. Mar 4, 2015 at 15:01

There is something you really need to do: PRIORITIZE. I'm not saying you don't have your priorities in order, but they aren't clear from your post. You should sit down with your husband and decide these priorities as a family. Here is an example I'd suggest, but obviously yours may vary depending on your values:

  1. Staying together, not in separate countries.
  2. Ensuring we have a sufficient bonding/relationship with our first child during the first five years of his/her life.
  3. Mom's career happiness in general.
  4. Dad's career happiness in general.
  5. Long-term financial well-being.
  6. Increasing the level of bond with the child by having a full-time at-home parent.
  7. Mom's preference for medical career vs. entrepreneurial route (including prestige, etc.)
  8. Short-term financial ability to handle immediate plans.
  9. Interest/likelihood of having more children in next 8 or so years (or however long med school will take).
  10. Mom's urgency to start medical school NOW vs. in 3 or 5 years.

Anyway, there are more things to prioritize than just these, but just trying to list possibilities. Having these items prioritized will make deciding between options much easier. You really need to be able to work your way down the list saying "If I only get one more thing, it would be this next one."

The next step is to brainstorm new ideas that might better meet these priorities. Think outside the box. Maybe dad wants to stay at home with the kids. Maybe we move grandma here. I don't know what's possible and what's not, and neither do you until you've considered it. List out ideas before criticizing them.

Then take each idea and run it through the priorities. You could give it points or something if you really want to try to be analytically, but really you just need to identify the idea that works best based on your priorities, which should be much easier now.

Hope this helps.

  • 2
    :-O !!! -1 for "pregnancy brain"! How can women be trusted with significant decision making when this condition is so commonplace? Can you back this up with any evidence (other than your beliefs)? :-) Mar 5, 2015 at 6:18
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    When I was pregnant (twice) I was very alive and vital, and quite capable of making decisions, thank you. Between vomits, anyway. -1 for unsubstantiated statement.
    – RedSonja
    Mar 5, 2015 at 7:51
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    Hormones may be real, but they're not so overwhelming that significant decisions are impossible to evaluate. Take that sentence out and you've got reasonable advice to share.
    – Acire
    Mar 5, 2015 at 12:16
  • Ok. Not sure why the belief that hormones cause strong emotions that can make decision making more difficult (not for everyone, but for some) is so controversial, but removed that comment anyway since it's apparently distracting from my message.
    – Jared
    Mar 5, 2015 at 13:03
  • They do cause strong emotions, but it's exceedingly rare for it to so radically affect one's decisions.
    – Acire
    Mar 5, 2015 at 15:33

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