Nope. Not the boss.
I’m 38-years-old. My 25-year-old self would be horrified.
She would see this as a failure. Both to myself personally, and collectively to the sisterhood.
All that time and effort invested in degrees and internships and long hours early on in my career and …?
My 25-year-old self thought it would be easy. By 26 I’d risen ahead of many others my age in my field.
That job ended and I went to grad school. But I figured it was just a matter of time before someone else recognized my professional brilliance and offered me the job of my dreams.
Family and kids? Sure! That would work itself in somehow. I had YEARS.
I finished grad school, eventually landing at a department where there was discussion about a Director position, and then …
… there was a re-org.
And that was that.
If I’m being honest, I really wouldn’t have been ready to be a good Director at that stage. Those years working and learning my career were beyond useful and productive.
But by the time I was ready? I was pregnant.
And by the time the option for management finally presented itself? I had two young kids. So if you want the honest – make Sheryl Sandberg cringe – truth?
I basically screened myself out.
Twice (I think).
The first time? I can honestly say the job and I were not the right match. Long hours notwithstanding, it was not a job I would have found satisfying long-term.
And before it even ended my husband and I were fighting about my absences and perceived inequality on the home front. It was indeed a change from the 50/50 split we’d been able to work to date.
So I learnt any similar job considerations in future would take a bit more planning.
So when the next possible offer came, I didn’t just grab it.
I interviewed the two previous people who held the position.
Despite the one woman with young kids explaining the long hours were the main reason she left – and that she use to get up at 4:30am to “get a few hours in” before getting the kids to school which allowed her to be home by 5:30-6:00pm to spend some time with the family before plugging in again once they were in bed – I think I would have loved the job.
I have no doubt I could have done it – if we’d gotten a nanny and a maid service or if my husband stayed home with the kids.
I floated both ideas and it was clear neither were options from his perspective.
And if I’m being really honest? I don’t want a job that will cause me to miss their childhood. Because that’s only going to happen once.
There are days where that just sounds … so weak to me.
Like, if I’d just been more organized – or “sucked it up” for a few years – it would be all good by now.
Or, this is about “setting boundaries” and if I did that effectively, any job should be possible.
But then I remember watching directors I admired burn out (they couldn’t all have “boundary issues”), or watching them deal with challenging employees and think “that’s not worth the pay increase”, or the conversation with one mentor I had where she – in a moment of frankness – told me if she could do it again she wouldn’t have gone into management because you think your kids don’t know that at a certain level it’s a choice – but they do, and they remember you choosing to be absent.
On the flipside, I have moments as an employee where I can’t help thinking “why don’t we just do x” or I see those women in management who really DO seem to make it all work and wonder if I could too.
I find myself thinking my girls should be proud if their mom is successful, right? And if I find the right job, they shouldn’t need my soul and that maybe an applied commitment between, say, 8:00-5:00 could possibly work?
And so I ponder my choices and consider applying for management jobs.
But then stop – because – maybe when they are older. And for now, if I can find a job that challenges me, where I can keep learning, and find my way to contribute while still building my skills, that will professionally satisfy me while letting me make daycare pickup.
I’m currently a mentor with my university and mentor upper year students.
I remember the moment they were recruiting me – as they were also signing up the Mayor, the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, partners in various firms, and (at least it seemed to me) Director after Director after Director of something or other.
I’m not even a Director, whispers the little voice of doubt in my head.
Why would you want me?
Upon reflection? Given how I got to where I am? I think my journey and what I learnt to get here, are EXACTLY why you’d want me.
Agree or disagree with my choices – either way, I could certainly have used someone along the way who could have honestly laid them out for me. Because no one did.
Instead, I feel I spent a lot of time trying to please everyone and do it all. Successful career; successful marriage; successful motherhood. Somewhere in there folks completely glossed over the scoping of what each of those parts of my whole would actually entail.
Looking back? I’m pretty sure that’s because everyone has really different opinions on it.
So the balance of expectations in the passing “advice” you receive as a woman varies widely on each depending on who you are speaking with.
While my sister-in-law once commented that “I was leaving it a little late to have kids”, when I finally did get pregnant at 30 – once married, with house and very stable career – I had one friend ask, in total seriousness, if it was an “accident.” Meanwhile another friend asked if I’d be giving up my job to stay home with the kids, while a fourth offered to mentor me for management jobs.
I could have used a neutral sounding board somewhere in all that to help figure it out.
But in the absence of that, I started blogging. And that’s worked out okay too.
Every month on the 20th, bloggers come together and post on topics related to compassion.
This month #1000Speak is talking about acceptance.
Given I’ve recently changed jobs, and have spent a lot of time in the past three years struggling with how work and home life can possibly fit together, writing about accepting where I’ve landed on both – at least for now – was where my mind was at.
What about you? I’d love to hear your thoughts on balancing work and home life and if/how you reached acceptance with your choices on that front.