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I recently read a post preaching to women that they can be great career women and great moms. Women empowerment seminars encourage women not to be afraid to lean in and become leaders in their industries. Furthermore, those women should certainly never feel guilty about time sacrificed with their family because it’s all about creating balance. You can do this AND do that — you can do it all.
I happen to agree. In fact, I teach that you can “be there even when you’re not;” I give men and women permission to live a life that is true to them while still maintaining special relationships with the important people in their lives. I don’t believe you have to sacrifice your career for your children. You have a duty and responsibility to love them, nurture them, and be there for them — but that responsibility doesn’t have to rise to the standard of sacrificing your sanity, livelihood or happiness.
However, I have started to see a shift that I don’t think people are really talking about. As the world has moved toward encouraging women to reach the pinnacle of their success, to step up to the plate and claim a seat at the table — it has also created an unintended mindset shift: that they should be doing that.
The question I have is: when did it stop being about having a choice?
Every decision you make comes with a sacrifice. When you choose to be a career woman and a wife and mom — when you choose to be the woman who does this and that — that life comes with a price. Likewise, if you choose to give up your career to be home with your family, that also comes with a price.
Only you can decide which price tag gives you the most bang for your buck. Only you know when the cost of the life you’ve chosen is just too high.
Some women don’t want to pay the price of “having it all.” The struggle and the juggling that comes with it isn’t worth it to them. Their value system and priorities do not align with that lifestyle. Those women need to know there is nothing wrong with that; There is nothing wrong with them; Their roles are still incredibly valuable to society.
Before I gave birth to my first child, I assumed that when my 3–6 month maternity leave was over, I would just go back to work. After all, I’d become a lawyer for a reason: to practice law. But despite having a job I liked, a degree that took me a lot of time and effort to acquire, and student loans to pay, the moment I held my baby in my arms, going back to work became unfathomable. I wanted to be home with my son. The desire to be a professional, to have a career, or to do something other than be with my child washed away from me. I chose not go back to work. And by the way, we couldn’t really “afford” for me to stop working at the time. Losing an income came with consequences and sacrifice. But I did it. I remember people suggesting that it was a shame I’d worked so hard for a career that I was not going to pursue. It was then that I changed my mind about why I’d gone to law school.
Whenever I was confronted by a comment like that, I’d smile and say: “I didn’t go to law school to practice law … I went to law school to have the choice to practice law.”
Just like that yearning to stay home with my child creeped up on me, so did a longing to work again. And yet that longing for work looked different after having children. I wanted to work enough to feel engaged in some kind of adult community, enough to get out of the house once in a while, and enough to enjoy the extra income. However, I didn’t want my work to determine whether I could go to my son’s Easter egg hunts or stay home with him if he were sick. The truth is I wanted to be a mom more than a career woman.
Three kids and eleven years later, I can say that I’ve danced the line between stay-at-home mom and working mom. My choices have changed throughout the years depending on the stage of life I’ve been in. I’ve had professional successes and personal successes. Is there more I want to do with my life? Yes. Do I want to have it all? Yes. But I am trudging along at my own pace based on my priorities. That pace keeps me feeling fulfilled and guilt-free.
If you want to be a stay at home wife and mom- I support you.
If you want to be a career woman and never have children — I support you.
If you’re a single mom — I support you.
If you want to be entrepreneur of the year and a mom — I support you.
If you want to have a side hustle — I support you.
If you want to work just enough — I support you.
If you’re undecided — I support you.
Do not let social media, society, or anyone make you feel like you’re less than if you’re not pushing and hustling and trying to become a superstar. Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should. You get to decide what your life looks like and what you’re willing to do about it.
You will never get this time back, so make sure that you’re not trying to measure your success against someone else’s yardstick.