Career or Family: What is Worth the Risk?

 Photo credit: Mary Dorn

Photo credit: Mary Dorn

When was the last time you found yourself at a crossroads?

Lately, I’ve been feeling the urge to go back to work more fully, but I’m not sure I’m ready to give up the flexibility and balance of my current life, for I enjoy spending quality time with my boys.

Parents - do any of you feel this way? And for those who have a already chosen a path - whether to stay at home fully, or to go back to work fully, or to balance work and family life, what advice can you give?

 Photo Credit: Yvette Jain

Photo Credit: Yvette Jain

I'm standing at a crossroad, and I feel I must choose a path. But it's risky. Even the root of the word “decide” means “to cut off”. In the past, whenever I chose one road, the universe has supported me in my decision by manifesting various opportunities and resources. However, it also forced me to forfeit everything else that I would have found on the other road.

I remember making the choice to leave my corporate marketing job so I can have more of a work/life balance, do work that I love to do/work that is meaningful and purposeful to me, and raise a family & spend time with the people I love most.  

Still, I asked myself: Am I comfortable giving up my financial independence? What if something happens to my husband? Could I go back to corporate life once my kids are in school? Would I want to go back? And - wait - am I even ready to be a mom?!?! (I can barely keep my plants alive.)

Financial security. Career progress. My sense of independence. ALL AT RISK. Not to mention I was afraid of motherhood. To be responsible for another life? To be the most influential force of another’s future? Me?!

 Photo credit: David Tufino

Photo credit: David Tufino

There is also the risk of being undervalued and under appreciated. Let’s be honest – how many times do moms get asked the dreaded question: What did you do all day?

If I were to report all of the roles that moms play during the day, I would have a long list for you, including: nurse, short order cook, janitor, coach, referee, logistics & operations manager, photographer, and many more. Salary.com estimates that the title “mom” would earn over $162,500 in 2018 for all the jobs she actually does. And you're worth way more than that, mom! Your love is priceless. (End rant.)

Being a mom is enough, in fact, more than enough. No one can ever place a value on who you are and what you do.

 Photo credit: David Tufino

Photo credit: David Tufino

 Photo Credit: David Tufino

Photo Credit: David Tufino

 Photo credit: David Tufino

Photo credit: David Tufino

There are risks for parents working full-time. 56% of working parents say that juggling careers and parenting is difficult, and 41% of the working mothers say that being a parent has made it difficult to advance professionally.

When I say “mothers", I mean those who have taken the motherly/caregiving role. (We are equal opportunity here!) My gay mommy/daddy friends negotiate amongst themselves who and when they share childcare responsibilities, or they agree who is to be the primary caregiver and the primary breadwinner of the family. 

There is the risk of being judged by others for choosing to prioritize a fulfilling career over family, the risk of leaving children in someone else’s care, there is the feeling of guilt from missing the milestones or precious moments of childhood, missing the bonding from the daily mom life made up of ordinary-yet-meaningful moments. There is risk of not being absent when a child needs physical or emotional support. There is risk of exhaustion and burnout, especially for those who want a full-time career and a full-time parenting life. One article reports that in the attempt "to do everything well", some feel "like they excelled at none of it”. There is risk of plateauing or turning down a high-powered career (that they worked so hard for) to be full-time moms. “How can I find a job that gives me growth but not be pushed over the edge by it?"

“It doesn’t matter if you stay at home or return to work after your children are born. Either way, there is risk involved, and that becoming a parent is risky, no matter what choices you make along the way. There are always financial risk, safety risk, and risk to the heart; they just look different for different people." – Jenny

A friend of mine has found happiness and balance working as a full-time mom and arranging her life so that she can spend limited but intense quality time with her children whenever she has time. She moved to an apartment 10 minutes away from her older child’s school so that she can drop him off and be fully engaged time with him during that 10 minute walk. She also works from an office nearby his school. She happens to be the boss, so If it’s a slow day and she can afford a break, she can take 30 minutes and grab a snack with her son, and then head back to work. She has two children and has full-time help, and she knows that working full-time is the right decision for herself and her family. “When I have the weekends and those precious 2 hours after work and before bedtime, my husband – who also works full-time – and I cherish every minute of quality time with our kids.” She appreciates these moments and knows she’s the best mom she can be because of it.

 Photo credit: Renee Choi

Photo credit: Renee Choi

There are also risk for those who decide to stay and work at home. There is judgment that it's not “real work” (if you're working for yourself). There is risk that you “fail” by your own expectations. There is the risk of constantly trying to balance your attention between work and family, never consistently giving 100% focus to either.

"Those who cannot commit, those who cannot say 'no', are doomed to everlasting conflict. They may sit for a lifetime at the crossroads, dithering. Krishna nails this principle: 'Those who follow this path, resolving deep within themselves to see Me alone, attain singleness of purpose. For those who lack resolution, the decisions of life are many-branched and endless.' " - Stephen Cope, The Great Work of Your Life

”Life’s full of tough choices, isn’t it!?” - Úrsula, The Little Mermaid

 Photo Credit: Mary Dorn

Photo Credit: Mary Dorn

When at a crossroad I ask myself: am I choosing from a place of fear, or am I choosing from a place of love? What is the best intention for myself and those around me? What is worth the risk? And what would make me happy? Then move forward with courage.

Have you taken a big risk? What have you learned from the risks you have taken?

This post is in collaboration with #TheRefinedCollective Series. Be sure and check out:
Kat, The Refined Woman // http://www.therefinedwoman.com/the-refined-collective-risk

 - my fortune cookie, 2010

- my fortune cookie, 2010