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.
Because that brings me to today’s post, where I’m joining in again with the #1000Speak for Compassion blogging movement.
Find out more about them here. See my previous posts here. And link to this month’s hop through their swank button.
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.
Lovely post. I know exactly how you feel – I sure didn’t think at age 25 that this is where I’d be when getting ready to leap over the hill! I haven’t had a big problem managing working and family because aside from about six months, either my husband or myself were able to be a stay-at-home parent. I have no clue how I would balance it but I greatly admire those who do.
I love how either you or your husband have managed to stay home with the kids throughout that stage of life! I think a set up like that that works for both would be wonderful! As for getting ready to leap over the hill – not sure how old you are, but there are days when I look a little wistfully at my parents and think that I’d like to be retired “when I grow up”.
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Louise, this issue is so much tougher than I ever anticipated. For me, the whole thing has been blown out of the water by severe chronic illness which left me unable to be a wife, mother, worker for a few very hard years there. That definitely wasn’t part of the plan. I have worked 1-2 days for a few years until the illness situation flared up again and I had chemo and that’s had quite a toll. That last setback significantly changed my outlook on life and my question now about working yourself into an early grave is : why? What are you looking for?
I put a lot of energy into my blog which I could put into paid work and I am planning to use the post towards a motivational book but I have found the roses. I walk my dogs along the beach. I know my children and they know me. Many parents think they have this but for me it has nothing to do with quality time. It’s about being at least occasionally available. My kids are 11 and 9 and I don’t need to be with them all the time but I am taking a closer interest in who they’re hanging out with and a lot can happen in an empty house without parental supervision and it does.
The work/family split will never be easy but being creative with your hours and not being materialistic help.
A different perspective from the sidelines but food for thought xx Rowena
I know from past similar discussions on this with you (on other #1000Speak posts I think – I obviously reflect on certain themes!) that you have the added challenge of chronic illness on top of the rest. I would think that certainly throws other plans to the side because dealing with your health needs to come first given you can’t do anything else without that.
What are you (me) looking for really IS the question, isn’t it? You mentioned how you put a lot of energy into blogging that could go into paid work. I could say the same. But I like the hobby, and know that I need outlets at that are mine aside from work and family, so I’d need SOMETHING (if not this) regardless. For me the career question isn’t really a materialistic one – I need to work. I only need to work financially to a certain level – yes. But then I find myself of the opinion that if I’m putting in the hours I need to find a way to make them count as much as possible for myself. And so I start looking for those less quantifiable things like “a rewarding job” or “one where I make a difference” etc….
Also agree with your point about being available for kids, even as they get older – knowing who they are hanging out with etc… – so important.
Thanks again for your thoughts – always appreciated!
I was reminded of this, this very evening when a university friend posted a link to an article about how we had such dreams about where we’d be and what we would achieve. I replied that we were all rocking it whatever we were doing. This year marks 20 years since we finished uni with such high hopes. Since then we’ve paved our own successful careers, juggled family commitments and attempted to have it all. But there are always choices, and 9 years ago as a not-so-young single woman (mid 30s) I made the decision to meet “the one” a priority and took the foot off the career peddle. So now, 9 years later and turning 45 this week, I have a wonderful loving partner, am mum to two beautiful children aged 5 and 2 (almost 6 and almost 3), and balancing a successful career that allows me to be at the school drop off some days, and to pick up the kids most days, and to have Fridays off away from work to focus on my family. I might not be a director but I’m sure happy with who I am and where I’m at (even if it isn’t exactly what I imagined it would look like – though thinking about it what did I imagine? An interesting question but one I do ask from time to time, or if I’m honest often!).
Happy almost birthday! And I smiled because we have kids almost the exact same age, from your description.
A job that allows you to drop off some days and pick up most…. every now and then I toy with the idea of job splitting or finding a job that would allow for a bit of part-time. And then I wonder at the impacts of longer term progression with those choices as, despite discussion around them, I have never seen them in action in my work-place. So I cross it off the list. That said, I think that sort of flexibility – with a career that both pays the bills and that I find rewarding – would be fantastic.
Either way – you echoed my feelings exactly – the idea of what success “looked like” at 25 and what it does now? Two very different things for me. I remember it when I both listen to, and talk to, those who are younger professionals. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
I’m still trying to find it, though for different reasons now that kidlet is adult-like. I did decide after the Job From Hell a few years ago (not to be confused with the Job That is Stressful as Hell I am in currently) that I did not want to be a manager after all, Now I am working on finding something a step down, possibly, but still able to pay my bills at least if nothing else. Worth the cost of giving up cable, I think 🙂
Not sure how I feel knowing this decision may not resolve with time/kids growing up. Hope you find the job that’s the right match for what you need. I never thought it was that hard – but I think as I get older I get more specific about what it is I’m looking for – maybe that’s also part of it. But sorry to hear that you had some not so great experiences spurring your decisions.
This was one of the most real things I have ever read.
I can see, through your words, how you work for this acceptance and I am glad you have this blog to help you with that acceptance.
Thanks so much for the kind words!
I think it’s an ongoing struggle teasing through what I thought I wanted, what I think I want, and what I actually want – which is, of course, that never ending cycle of self-reflection in life.
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Choices about career are always hard when you are bringing up children. I constantly second guessed myself and it was not until my kids were well and truly grown up did I work full time. At times i thought it was a bad choice but now I think it was the best choice I could have made for me. But it would not be for everyone. So just be true to yourself, find out what is best for you and stick to it. It’s a journey!
Thanks for the perspective. I’ve had a lot of talks about this with my mom as well. She stayed home with us and pretty bluntly told me that that probably wouldn’t work for me and our family. That said, there are so many possibilities in between to leave lots of room to second guess myself. But I think finding what’s best and sticking to it is pretty solid advice. Thanks!
Children definitely shift our priorities. And my views on my career definite shifted after children (I was in my mid-thirties with my first & over 40 with my second) – so I can definitely relate.
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This is a really interesting post. These are big issues and the choices we make can only ever be for ourselves – I liked how you pointed out that the advice people gave had as much to do with their situation than with yours!
Like you, I had quite definite ideas of how life should be when I was 25 and didn’t even want kids then. In my early 30s, I met my husband and my sister had a baby. Those two things changed my outlook!
I’ve rarely followed the conventional career path. Apart from a short spell in teaching, I’ve mainly worked freelance, & have never earned much. I was job hunting when I became pregnant with my first daughter. I was in my late 30s, after struggles with infertility and a miscarriage, and threatened to miscarry again so the baby came first and job hunting stopped. Circumstances meant I made that same decision a few time since – our second daughter was born very prematurely, both girls had a lot of illness and my husband’s job involves erratic shift work (with frequent trips away) so the caring came down to me.
So I fitted writing a novel around family life and also tried to sell short fiction and articles. It might sound like the best of both worlds, and sometimes it does feel like that, but I have earned very little and that did feel hard for years. I also didn’t escape the feelings of guilt. But that was down to my attitude, rather than the situation and I’d have felt it whatever outcome. As my attitude has changed, the guilt has reduced, so I’d say it doesn’t really matter what you choose so much as how you choose it. I’m glad you’ve found acceptance of your situation!
So there’s a lot in here I want to respond to. Firstly – I often think I’d have no idea how to follow a “non-conventional” work path, so I find myself forever wondering about how it might work, and truly appreciate any glimpse into it – such as you’ve given here.
You also had added challenges I didn’t deal with: miscarriage, concern re: another possible miscarriage and premature birth, which change what needs to be the focus as far as “work-life balance” goes. There’s no contest – health of your child, and being there for them, wins.
Having talked to other writers and considered that as well, I’m also sad to read how that earned you little financially. I also spoke once to a relatively well published teen-fiction author who said, with full honesty, that she simply couldn’t give up her full-time job to write because writing novels, unless she was really lucky, would never pay the bills.
So that brings me to attitude and guilt. I think I’ve landed on parenting and family and ME being about balancing and priorities and accepting that they will fluctuate and I need to make that work and be okay with my best effort. At times, ME time (however I qualify that) is given up for parenting or family needs or work, or friends or whatever, other times the pendulum swings back. Also, it’s not – and it shouldn’t ever feel like – it’s all on me. There’s Dad. And Grandparents. And a circle of others who support us in raising our family and keep my husband and me sane. I think growing up is mostly about realizing – at least if the choice isn’t made for you – you do have to choose and can’t do everything.
I love that you posted on work-life balance because I can so well identify with all those self-doubts that you have! “If only…” had been my mantra for so many years! If only I didn’t marry and/or have kids, I would have still have been in academia doing lab work. Well, at least that’s one dream that I’m glad evaporated because now that I’m out of it, I realize that this would have been stifling, just as you now witness directors with long hours and unreasonable subordinates and are glad you don’t have to deal with it!
I’m now very happy that I didn’t pursue a sharp incline career track. I do think the time I spent and continue to spend with my kids made it all worthwhile and I also now get to pursue my many hobbies and indulgences that I could not have if I’m stuck in the office until the late hours!
I hope blogging gave you the neutral sounding board that you need!!
Blogging certainly has given me the safe space so far to think through some of this stuff for me – for which I’m very grateful.
I also agree with you as far as choosing a life that allows for hobbies and indulgences. I too could have chosen one that didn’t. I often wonder if I wasted something in not doing that, but then I equally wonder if those who work non-stop aren’t missing something much more important.
I’m prone to being slightly workaholic. It’s at times both a good quality (conscientious!) and a bad one (just let it go already! You aren’t the only unique snowflake who can fix this! And if you are, that’s a management problem and by title of this post we’ve covered that’s not me!)
There’s a quote I keep on my Facebook Profile as a bit of a touchstone: “No man ever said on his deathbed I wish I had spent more time in the office.” – I think it sums it up nicely. And I try to remember it as I make decisions that I know will impact my life – and the lives of those I love around me – as a whole.
Priorities definitely change once you have children. I quit my full time job and started working on my website, which gave me the flexibility to work at my own pace and follow what I really want to do. Love the quote in your previous comment 🙂
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I think finding a way to – at least in part – do what you want to do is key to happiness. So glad you found it!
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