The Seesaw of Life
Did you ever take a job in a faraway city, knowing that it would jeopardize your relationship?
Did you fall head first into a new love, putting career aspirations in your rear view mirror, only to later think about what would’ve happened had you focused on those dreams?
Have you worked late, rather than going to see your significant other? Or did you rush home to your relationship, leaving your work undone without hesitation?
I recently had an intense discussion with a colleague of mine regarding what was more important to women: achieving professional success or finding love and starting a family?
Going into our debate, I had my talking points in place. This topic has been brought up in many different mediums for quite some time now. But for me, there really is no clear-cut answer to this debate.
Every woman in this world is at different stages in her life and has different priorities. There are women right now in various age groups who are achieving their dreams—whether big or small— and reaping the rewards. Yet, because of their focus and discipline that got them to where they are now, they have shunned away any real fragment of a steady and committed romantic relationship or the possibility of adding offspring. Their family reunions or parties become more about how they need to settle down and start a family rather than the actual party itself. On the opposite side of the spectrum, however, there are women who are dedicated to their committed significant other, and have established a beautiful family. In some cases, putting their own desires or dreams on hold. Yet their individual, self-serving achievements….in their eyes at least, seem fruitless. Everyone else seems to be speeding by, achieving their dreams, while they feel left behind. The thoughts of “What could have been”, “If only…”, and “Why did I…” constantly play on repeat in their mind.
Chick-flicks and novels sometimes portray the woman who has it all: She is able to get promotion after promotion at her job (Money!!!), gain the respect of her peers (Not as easy as it looks by the way...), climb up the treacherous ladder that is Corporate America (whatever she’s on, I want some!), but still able to make it home from work at a decent hour, give attention to her spouse and be SuperMom to her kids at the same time.
Is this depiction really accurate? Can women, regardless of ethnicity, age, religious beliefs or pedigree have it all? Or is it a choice that has to be made?
I understand the systematic destruction of the wall between the demands of the workplace or career and the commitments of family or love. But that wall seems to be disappearing. In the current world we live in, the workplace or career-life seems to reign supreme. There is lots of demand to perform well— to be the best and produce at a not only a fast, but efficient pace—that it shoves the notion of work-life balance out the window.
My colleague—now in her early 30’s— mentioned that love or starting a family was a non-factor to her; at least for now. Now was the time for her to focus solely on her career and development.
“Your 20’s and early 30’s should be the time to make an impact. To purse your dreams and desires, whatever that may be,” She said. “Build up your rapport, make money and find achievement first. Find love and start a family later.”
Her words seemed slightly harsh and self-centered to me, but nonetheless—her honest opinion. Our discussion stuck with me for several days. Did women really have to choose one or the other? Was the balancing act, all just a made-up notion just to give women like you and I hope that we could and WILL actually have it all?
This tug of war of being a “working woman”, but providing that same energy if not more into your personal life can be challenging.
After our discussion, I began to think about the idea of success--of achieving your dreams at all cost (Women with limitless devotion and ambition please apply!). For some, success does not necessarily mean fortune, but gaining respect and honor in your field of talent does. Some successful and influential professionals that I know have told me that they have sacrificed a lot—family, love, and friendships--to acquire the success they have now. But is that really necessary? What are you trying to gain besides accolades, wealth, or respect?
I also thought about love and relationships –of giving your time and energy to someone who makes you happy. Who respects you and your beliefs, and who makes you a better person.
How do we as women of God find the appropriate balance? We are all in the pursuit of happiness, but where does it begin? Does it start with love…family…achieving our dreams…or is it a matter of blending these ideas together.
Here are several themes I determined to begin the balance:
1. Acquire Happiness – Constantly strive for a life that is full of joy. “Delight yourself also in the Lord; and he shall give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalms 37:4)
2. Arrange your life— Stuff happens! Life sometimes forces us to put more weight on one thing than the other. That does not mean we need to sacrifice the other things to achieve what we desire. It just means we need to make adjustments.
3. Communication—Communicate your feelings, aspirations and desires to your significant other. When it is communicated that both the relationship/family and work/success are valuable, staying late at the office doesn’t mean you’d rather be at work, nor does taking a personal day mean you don’t care about your job.
4. Compartmentalize! – Keep your work life and personal life separate. When you are working or concentrating on achieving your vision, commit fully to it. Don’t let anything else be a distraction. Be productive and pro-active in your development. But when you with your partner or family, focus on just that.
Have you sacrificed family or love for your dreams or vice versa? Do you feel like it was the right move? Any regrets?