I recently had brunch with one of my closest friends from graduate school who has a two and a half-year old son. She was in town from New York for a family graduation. The night before brunch, I combed through online reviews trying to find a restaurant good for friends to catch up that was also kid friendly so we wouldn’t be the only party with one of its members throwing crayons.

After dining with the spirited crayon thrower, I was baffled and in awe by how my friend managed to get through three meals a day, much less a graduate program, with a child. Every parent I’ve ever spoken with says, in reference to raising children, “You figure it out along the way.”

I, myself, don’t have any children. At least not human ones. Have you heard me mention I have three cats? The only phase of my life where I wanted to have children was the one in which I was assuming my life would play out much like my parents’. I wasn’t thinking too much about what I wanted my life to look like. That phase of my life ended with a broken engagement and a plane ticket to San Francisco. Every now and then, I wonder if I will regret not having a child, assuming I never do; the possibility of regret, of course, not being a good reason to have one.

When it comes to maintaining a professional identity and family, it’s easy for a childless person to say it’s important to have a balance of both. Though I’ve heard many women that appear to have it all say, “You can’t have it all.” So where is the balance? I suppose it’s in which part of the “all” you are willing to give up.

It seems that having children is a combination of making proactive choices to known circumstances and on the spot choices to unanticipated circumstances. What are the ways in which parents have found balance and how do you decide what part of “all” to give up?