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A Single Girl's Quest to Becoming a Mom, Finding Love, and Everything In Between…

Feminism: The Root of the Work-Family Dilemma???

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While browsing the internet today I came across an article about the former CFO of Lehman Brothers titled “Former CFO Erin Callan Regrets Not Having Children, Reignites Work-Life Balance Debate”.  Erin resigned from her CFO position in 2008 amid the mortgage investments scandal.  Prior to her resignation, she was one of the most senior female executives in an industry dominated by men.  She admittedly sacrificed her family to reach her career goals.  She is currently 47 years old, remarried (because one of the sacrifices of her career was her first marriage), and childless (although she has step-children).  She’s been trying in vitro fertilization for several years with her current husband without success.  She admits to placing so much focus on work that she didn’t have any work-life balance and missed her opportunity to have children of her own.

If you’ve been following my blog you know that this is what I am trying to avoid.  Ten years from now I don’t want to look back and have any regrets.  I admit, I am no where near as career driven as Erin was.  But I’ve always been in search of that “perfect” job.  And by perfect, I mean perfect for me.  I’ve never defined myself by my career/job or my degrees.  My job is a means to an end — it supplies me with the money to do the things I enjoy doing outside of work — but I’ve always wanted to be happy with my job.  I was always in search of my dream job, one that I was passionate about.  And to that end, I have made personal sacrifices to try to find that ever elusive passion.  At the age of 27 I decided to quit my job on Wall Street to go to law school.  For those three years of school I couldn’t think about anything else but studying, so although I wanted children, that couldn’t be at the forefront of my mind.  After law school I started practicing at a law firm doing work that I did not enjoy, but I looked at it as a stepping stone to doing something that I would eventually enjoy doing.  And surely I couldn’t even think about having children when I started working at the firm.  Even though the thought about becoming a partner there never crossed my mind, I knew that having a child would slow down any progression I could have made.  Also, since I wasn’t married, I was terrified about how I would be looked at as a single mother.  There was another attorney working there that was a single parent and it wasn’t viewed too kindly — partners actually avoided giving cases to her because of her parenting responsibilities.  So, the idea of baby making was put on hold for another 3 years.

At 30 years old, I was making a nice six figure salary.  I had a lovely bank account but I was miserable at work.  Sure, I was able to take fancy vacations, go on shopping sprees, and splurge on spa days, but I was unhappy.  One day I realized that all of that money could not buy me happiness so I quit my job “to figure out my life” and what I really wanted to do.  I was chasing after that passion…  What type of job could I do that would “bring me joy”?  This was at the beginning of the country’s financial meltdown and it took me nearly 2 years to find another full-time job.  Another 2 years that I couldn’t fathom having a child…  If you’re keeping track, that puts me at the ripe age of 35 — the beginning of the decline of fertility…

Two jobs later, at the age of 38, I’m now at a place in my career where I can mentally and financially afford to have a baby.  I work for a non-profit organization and have a nice fancy title.  I’ve gotten my bank account back to a decent level.  I’m climbing the career ladder.  But now I’m missing a partner…  I go out on dates here and there, but have not yet met “the one”.  And the clock is ticking away…

I often look at my mom’s generation, and generations before that, and say women didn’t have to deal with this problem.  Our mothers and grandmothers didn’t necessarily think about climbing the corporate ladder and having to find a way to balance work with family.  What changed this?  My personal opinion is feminism.  The fight for equal rights for women (which I am a firm supporter of) and the belief that women can have it all has created this work-family dilemma.  Little girls of my generation were taught that you can be whatever you want to be (which is true) but they weren’t told that it comes with a sacrifice.  Oftentimes to get the career you want, you have to dedicate most of your time and energy to your career, and your personal life gets what’s left over.  Do you put off having a family to further your career?  Or do you put off furthering your career to have a family?  Questions that came after the feminist movement…

I often wonder what my life would look like now had I not gone to law school.  Had I not thought that I could become a lawyer, I may have settled with the guy I was dating at the time, gotten married and had about 3 kids by now.  Side note: for several reasons I am glad I didn’t marry the boyfriend I had at the age of 27 — this blog would probably be about me being a divorced mother raising 3 kids on my own…

So here I am, working on trying not to have any regrets.  Trying not to be like Erin.  I’m no longer worried about what my boss or work colleagues will think about me being a single mom.  I’m no longer worried about trying to find that “perfect” job.  I’ve finally figured out what I want to do with my life (my passion), and the answer was with me all along.  Even though I’ve always wanted to be a mom, feminism made me think that I also needed to have a fancy career to be “happy”.  I was always in search of the perfect job, when all the while my dream job was to become a mom.

I’m no longer looking at trying to balance the work-life scale.  I am now tipping the scale in favor of my personal life and going after my dream job.  No more derailments.  No holding back.  No regrets.  My advice for all little girls, go for what you want and never get so busy trying to make a living, that you put off having a life.

How balanced is your scale?

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