Sometimes I feel like a failure as a woman.
Many of the women in my family are caretakers. And they are damn good at it.
My Mom raised three kids and when my brother Rob, the youngest, was in high school, she started her second career at the Department of Children's Services. And despite her work, she still manages to take care of my Dad, both of my grandmothers and anyone else in need. She doesn't miss a single doctor's appointment, she shows up to sit with loved ones when they are in the hospital or when they are sick at home. She takes them food, she cleans their houses. She cares for them. I think maybe it's part of her calling.
My Mamaw does the same thing. She's 95 and she still wants to take care of her children and grandchildren. It's what she does. She has always been the first to volunteer to sit with sick people and old people. My Mamaw's house was always open to everyone. She took people in. She cared for them. And she is wildly popular, with a constant stream of phone calls from all of the people that she has loved on over the years.
My sister got the care-taking gene too. She has a kind and loving heart, and she can be with people in an easy and natural way that makes them feel comfortable.
But I'm starting to worry a little about my own care-taking abilities. I simply don't have time to do what my mom and grandmother and sister do. I don't have enough space in my mind or my life to do much of anything beyond work full-time, write on the side, and spend time with my husband. I feel guilty about this. Every time I hear that someone in my family is sick, I wish I could run home to LaFollette to be with them. But I can't. I wish that I was the first person that they called to help them. But I'm not. And with each of those missed opportunities, I feel like I'm allowing a job to rule my life, and I'm missing precious moments with my loved ones that I may never be able to get back. This doesn't feel right. I'm not at peace with this situation.
When I told Dan about all of this, he immediately said that he thinks it's a generational issue. He said that his mom and grandmother were the same way, extreme caretakers. But my Sis-in-Law Carrie is an independent career woman like me.
So here is my question: is there a way to combine these traditional roles that many of us grew up with - the roles that taught us how to be a woman - and the new career oriented lives that we have worked so hard to achieve? Is there a new model that allows time and space to care for the people that we love, while also allowing us to do meaningful and challenging work outside of the home? Because I love my job, and I WANT TO WORK. I just want to do it in a way that allows me a little more freedom.
I read an article recently discussing the fact that so many women leave the workforce right when they would typically assume more management level positions, because they are forced to do so by family and home life demands. This saddens me greatly. Why are we forced to make a decision between work and home life? Why can't we find a balance between both? I read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook) a while back and she pinpoints the very reasons that so many of us hold ourselves back in our careers. It's simple: we want a family and a career but we've been conditioned to believe that we can't have both. Or maybe we've tried to have both, and realized that it's impossible to do really well at both at the same time because we lack the resources or the support that we need. I've been planning and longing my whole life to have both: I want a successful career in which I do meaningful and interesting work, AND I want a happy family life.
In fact, that's my goal in life, my tagline, and my ultimate measure of success: when I ask myself what I really want in life, it boils down to this: I want a house full of love and meaningful work.
But realistically is it possible to have both? I've been struggling with this question for years. I've been trying to figure out what I'll do when I have children, wondering if I'll go part-time, or hire a nanny, or find a good daycare, or take a few years off. I wonder if these questions are influencing my decisions already, before I even have children. Sheryl Sandberg says this is a common thing that women do and she urges us not to "leave before we leave", meaning that we should pursue as much responsibility at work as we are comfortable with up until the very minute that we actually need to make a decision.
I don't know the answer to this dilemma. It seems that all we can do is be brave in our own lives and make the rules as we go. What worked for my mom is not going to work for me, so I'll have to take what I learned from her and apply those concepts to the specific circumstances of my life and adjust them to fit, just as she did with what her mother taught her, and just as my Mamaw did with the wisdom that was passed down from those who came before her.
How do you balance family and career? Have you figured out a way to have it all, or are you in a season of family or a season of career right now? Please let me know in the comments below, I'd love to hear from you!
Till next time,
© Haley McManigal 2015
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Haley McManigal and haleymcmanigal.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
Photo by author