I CONFESS: Choosing family life or career
I was talking with a senior colleague recently about life and relationships in general and he shocked me when he revealed that breaking up with his first wife was the worst thing he ever did.
He said to me rather matter-of-factly that she was a good woman and he had messed up.
His statement caught me by surprise because this guy is a player.
I honestly never thought he would have felt that way. What’s more, he left her more than ten years ago and since then has had his fill of women and never once showed me he was discontented with his playboy lifestyle.
But he was.
He was also tired of going home to an empty house each night. Tired of cooking for himself; washing clothes, ironing them and cleaning his house all by himself, for himself.
What he would like is a real companion, someone he can love, respect and trust. He told me what he is seeking now in a woman is not a sex partner, but a true friend and homebuilder.
As I said, this guy and I are just colleagues. We talk but we’re not intimate in any way; neither has he ever tried to come on to me. Because of that, I really believed him.
And by revealing this very personal thing to me, this 50-something-year-old was acknowledging that he had messed up and was hurting emotionally.
That conversation made me think of my own life and the things I have done which I really regret. And it prompted me to try to reach out to young women out there who are bent on a career to recognize that inherent in that decision are consequences that they also need to prepare for.
Here, I speak of the choices one often is confronted with between pursuing your career path and the time you need to devote to reach the top in it, as against seeking to have a solid family life along with a successful career. This is not an easy decision to make as most women want it all, but in many instances that is impossible.
I once worked with a woman who seemingly achieved both, but as we got closer she told me how much stress she was always under. If it wasn’t the children wanting her, it was her husband.
Yet she still had to give of herself fully to the business as she had a board of directors who were very demanding.
She told of not really being there for her two children, though she attended the Kodak moment events and was always able to give them impressive gifts for their success. However, she really regretted not being there enough as each child eventually admitted that they wanted her attention more than anything else.
As for her husband, she was sure he was unfaithful to her on more than one occasion. But at least he was always very discreet about who he was seeing and never did anything to embarrass her and bring their relationship into public disrepute. She told me that she remained with him all those years because he was a great father and friend, even if as a man he strayed.
Based on her experience, I decided that I would not get married.
I flirted with the idea of being a mother but my career really began to take off when that was most possible, so I had to bag that idea.
Now I’m the proverbial auntie – the one most of my friends’ children love as I give the best gifts; the one most of my friends are jealous of because I have material wealth and success and, to boot, still look great.
The truth is, though, I would have loved to experience motherhood and have someone to come home to. It may sound silly, but that, to me, is worth much more than I achieved.
As a society, we do not give enough credit to married mothers who work and have to juggle their home and family life with their careers. To me, these are the real female champions. I was able to singularly focus on achieving my goals, but these women have to be everything to everybody and then some; I don’t know how many of them do it and remain sane.
I would advise aspiring career women to choose their path carefully.
If you want a career solely, understand you cannot reasonably expect to have a partner there at your beck and call. And if there is such a person, he usually is married or is already connected to another.
If you choose the path of marriage and children, and your husband is an equally busy executive, your children may suffer from a lack of attention and could even become deviant. As for your relationship, that may not flourish as you would like and could become a hotbed of anger and indifference as each of you feels your marital expectations are not being met.
So choose your path wisely.