I think the hardest thing about having a career is not letting it define your life. I'm pretty young, but have had a good career so far. I like where my career is going. But. If I were to have a child, I think I would leave my career to "take care of the kids." I know that this sounds crazy to at least some people (judging from the looks of thinly-veiled horror on their faces), but for me it makes a lot of sense. I just know that I would rather raise my kids myself than hand them over to anyone else (no matter how awesome they are).
But this puts me at an odd crossroads as to my career. If I define myself by the work I do, then leaving my career is basically to put my entire life on hold for a child. I think I need to tweak that mentality, though. My life isn't on hold. It's still happening, whether it's being recognized in the workplace or not.
I don't like the idea that the only way to live a meaningful life is to have a career and become well-known in my field. I don't like the idea for men anymore than I do for women; I think both are wrongheaded. Why is someone like Ronald Reagan considered more successful than my grandfather, who ran his own farm for 50 years?
The problem, of course, is taking all that societal training and throwing it away. Finding a way to define myself without the need to have a "career" or something else that puts me on the map as a "successful" person. It's just a hard thing to do. But really, if I were to still be a busy person, who has a garden and takes care of children and is happy and productive and can still find time to learn and participate in society, isn't that enough for the world to recognize that I'm contributing to society?
These questions are tough to answer.