Saturday, April 4, 2015

Balancing Acts: When The Choice Between Career vs Family Is In Conflict

Is getting to the top really worth the sacrifice?

I find it to be a weird consequence that the people I meet around my age all have this same conflict.  They’re all wildly successful people in their respective careers yet all struggle to maintain decent relationships.  We seem to all want and desire the same things out of life including having a nice family and good income but yet seem so challenged when it comes to the work it takes to balance both sides of life.  So I wanted to take some time to explore what may be going on here.

This trend seems to be with men and women my own age, usually around their mid to late 30’s and 40’s.  We’re all products of the “divorce” generation or the time when divorce became popular, late 60’s to 70’s, so we’re keenly aware that if a marriage doesn’t work out, it’s time to hit the road Jack!  Yet, we also have a yearning to make the relationship work despite its misfortunes.

Interestingly enough, we’re all hopeless romantics hoping to meet the one (or the next one) who will sweep us off our feet and take us away to some unknown destination of blissful happiness.  We all seem to dream of having the house with the “white picket fence” along with 2 kids, a dog and a great career.  We still have images of our parents, on their good days, working together to raise a family while having to put food on the table.  In fact, most of us have all but practically buried any bad images of our parent’s relationship that may have been more than what we could handle at the time when we were growing up.

Yet, in the back of our mind, we still do remember the day dad decided he couldn’t take any more of raising a family and either left the house or turned to drugs or alcohol to escape the mundane routine.  And how mom, who either stayed at home to care for us or was forced to work a low wage job, had to somehow try to keep the family together as best she could without the help of her partner.  Even she might have turned to chemical substances from time to time to keep her sanity.  We were all too young and immature to understand why our parent’s marriages may not have seemed very happy or why at certain points in our young lives, we had to move back into grandma’s house, who we loved dearly, but made us have to adjust to a totally different lifestyle.

It’s the reason we work so hard to achieve our dreams and obtain the success we want in life.  Those images growing up of seeing mom and dad fighting makes us question whether marriage and family is truly worth the risk.  And then having seen mom sacrifice her dreams of getting an education to be a stay at home mom only to be left with a broken marriage, and then consequently having to start all over again to feed her kids, drives us to the compulsion to keep working even when it means sacrificing our own family values.  We still have the painful memories of what can happen when there is not enough money in the household so we bury our heads in our career hoping people will acknowledge us for the efforts we’ve put into it.

On the positive side, we’re also very aware that we have more of an opportunity to shatter the “glass ceiling” in our careers than our parents could have ever dreamed.  We want to build a legacy in our family so that our kids will never go hungry and always have something to work for and dream of in their lives.  We know there’s something more for us out there and we want to go and get it!

Yet, our families suffer because of it.  Our kids don’t understand having to work to pay bills and keep food on the table.  They only know the love we show them.  Our husbands and wives only know that at the end of the day, we’re not there for them and that hurts!  They may understand our hard fought work ethic but also know the emotional void they have in their hearts for us.

I follow many of the top leaders in my industry and most of them have been refreshingly honest about what it takes to get to the top.  They’ve all alluded to the fact that they may have had to sacrifice spending quality time in their marriage and with their kids to achieve their success.  Some of them have been divorced and others had forgone marriage life altogether.  They understand the sacrifice and are actually fine with it.  It’s what they want and choose for their lives.  Interestingly enough, we stigmatize those people who choose their career over having a family yet as a society we seem to reap and enjoy the benefits they’ve created through the sacrifices they’ve made for us. 

That’s why this is such a balancing act.  My generation knows the struggle it takes to get to the top and even make the world a better place and yet is torn apart by the sacrifice that has to be made to get there.  We’ve questioned it at least a dozen times.  What are we to do to be the kids our parents knew would succeed but also be the role models our own family needs to see at home?

Well, as a dating coach and a product of this generation, I can only offer you a few tips I’ve learned along the way.

·         You CAN have it all, just in moderation – I’ve read so many articles of women not being able to have it all but in my opinion, this is simply not true.  First, you have to define what it means to “have it all”.  For instance, everyone’s definition of having it all varies by individual.  My definition of having it all may be to have a simple job and go home to my family.  Her definition may be to be the CEO and send her kids to boarding school.  Secondly, having a promotion to VP or CEO is not for everyone, especially if family comes first for you.  Maybe a better aspiration would be to become head of your department first to see if you can take that level of responsibility and go from there.  Having it all can take on a number of different paths.  You’ll need to find the right one for you which can dictate how you will be able to achieve balance in other areas of your life.

·         Do make family time a priority – listen, your business and career will be here long after you’re dead and gone.  The people at your job will replace you – your family can not.  Your boss and co-workers may be at your funeral out of respect but may find it frivolous to be at your burial.

·         Find more ways to be flexible in your career – in today’s world, there are a plethora of “work from home” opportunities, entrepreneurial pursuits, shift work at your job, etc.  Most work places these days are more accepting of employees who want more of a “work life balance”.  You’ll just need to be brave enough to ask for and pursue those opportunities.  This is your life we’re talking about here!

·         Make time for yourself – In other words, have a life!  You’re not going to be any good to your family, work, etc if you’re constantly burned out from working 80 hours a week.  You can’t pour into other people when you don’t have anything left of yourself to pour!  Find time between your work and your family life to relax and meditate so you can be refreshed and ready to tackle the next challenge.

To sum up, I don’t think there are any easy answers to the balance between having a career and having a family.  If there were any easy answers, we would have done that and moved on!  But as a relationship coach having observed how other people have managed to balance their lives and been successful at it, I will say that moderating the way we “have it all”, making family time a priority, finding flexibility in your career and making time for yourself seems to be the best approach to achieve such a balance. 

And to my fellow peers who constantly struggle to get this thing right, just know that this is our opportunity to make the world a better place for the next generation.  And while this balancing act may seem challenging at times, it’s certainly not impossible. 

Thanks for reading

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