18 April, 2007

Between my heart and my career

Every once in a while I am struck by the choices that I have made throughout my life. My daughter's father is currently in the process of advancing his career. I am happy for him, he keeps moving forward and deserves every step he takes as he is one of the most dedicated and hard working lawyers I know. That said, his continual advancement presents a challenge for me every now and again.

Unlike many of my peers, I took opportunities as they presented themselves in the years following high school. I went to college, obtains a dual masters in fields that required more than a post graduate degree for any worth while career, traveled cross country during the summers to work in summer camps, and then taught English in Prague (no, I don't speak Czech) and lived within the Czech community. Opportunity knocked... I listened.

My ultimate goal was to have a PHD by the time I was 40. That would give me plenty of time for real world experience before starting to teach. I started my graduate degree with an internship in Europe (in business of all things; my degrees were in Liberal Arts subjects) and found my "calling" once I started the course work of graduate school. I guess you could say that I found my ambition; my goal; I knew exactly what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go.

My coursework completed, my thesis defended, I found myself with a job offer in the heartland at the same time I discovered I was expecting. Shortly afterward, I had interview requests with entities in which my specialization would have been used. Thus, I faced a choice... move to the heartland, work a low key but interesting job, and have time to be a parent... or stay in DC and interview with the two entities knowing that my work schedule may not be conducive to being a single parent.

I chose and continue to choose to be a mother. Despite little issues that we have, my daughter is truly the greatest joy of my life. She is the best parts of her parents. I made the right decision. (Events in the two years following her birth demonstrated as much. I have friends who work in my area of study who have difficult work hours when combined with being a parent.)

I returned to DC in early 2001. Since then I have watched my daughters father successfully move forward in his field; colleagues moving out of our company to work in my area of specialization; and my own mastery of that area diminish with time and events. I celebrate the accomplishments of my daughter's father and my friends/coworkers. I am so happy for them; but, I can't help but notice the changes in my own career and dreams. I have branched out to more "business" related activities; taking on more of a management role - both of which I never thought I would do nor did I desire this change. Obtaining my PHD and teaching is definitely in the cards, but it won't be by the time I am forty.

Every once in a while I am struck with where I am verses where my life could have and would have been if only...

Parents are faced with a choice... parenting or profession. To have time to be a parent and involved in your child's life, it is difficult to pursue a career that requires you to compete with those younger and without children/or who have help with their children. In a sense it is an either or situation; though there are probably some amazing parents out there who make it work. I am not one of those amazing parents. I work a very flexible 40 hour week and do my best to participate in my daughter's life as much as possible. Regardless of how much I feel I made the best and the correct choice, I do sometimes grieve for what I lost. I wonder why I was the one who had to put my life on hold? Why didn't he?

Having lived this life for the past eight years, would I change anything? Change my decision? the answer is no. I would make the same decision again without a second thought. I love having the flexibility do be a part of my daughter's life. She is only young once; I might not have the chance again; and won't have the chance again with her. In a perfect world, I would have pursued my career with the cooperation of her dad; neither of us giving everything but both giving something to enable the success of the other professionally. That said, how many parent/partnerships work in such a fashion?

As women, our lives are about choices. We choose to marry, not to marry, have kids, not to have kids, stay at home, have a career, work part time... choices upon choices. At one time we thought we could have it all. In reality, I think we can have it all but not using the super mom definition. We can have it in the sense that we can make choices that allow us to fill complete; to maintain our identity and self confidence; and to share our lives with those we love. We need to allow ourselves the space to be the best we can be... and know that no one can do it all; and do it all perfectly.


kate said...

I can relate to so much of this post!!! Although not a single mom, I have had to put my career on hold to be able to raise my 3 kids. In truth its what I wanted to do at the time, and I dont think I would do it differently either.

I do feel that, as the kids are getting older now(14,12 and 12), its MY time. My spouse travels quite a bit (he is an attorney as well) and my (pt)career calls for me to travel some too. I take full advantage of that and dont feel guilt for leaving the kids with their Dad. I love my new found freedom. I love rediscovering ME! I am definitely on some sort of a journey... it should be interesting glad you happened by my blog today! =]

cheers! Kate

Carrie said...

Again you raise so many good questions that never would have crossed my mind regarding the future.

I often have feelings of bitterness towards my BF when he talks of children - because he doesn't have to put his life and career on hold as much as I would. It's like, as women, we are taught to think of everyone before ourselves... and as much as I would like to think that I can do it all - I know I can't. And that sucks.

But I really like how you don't regret your decision. That's strength.