Sitting in a conference room with a group of women had never made me so uncomfortable.
The meeting was due to start, but everyone was casually talking while waiting on a key person to arrive. It started as most conversations do: a little chatter about the weather, what everyone had on their agenda for the rest of the week and what was going to be happening in the coming week at the organization. I shared also … at first. Everyone was in the same boat – tired and a bit over-extended due to the demands of our prospective jobs.
Then, it took what I felt was a negative turn, but I seemed to be the only one who bowed out at that point. One of the ladies made a joke about how many days had passed since she’d seen her elementary-aged son due to her hectic work schedule. Quickly, someone else quipped that she’d be stopping by a local meal prep service on the way home to grab food for her family because she didn’t “have time to cook anymore.” More stories were traded back and forth with a startling theme. They all had in some way forsaken their spouses, homes, children and personal lives to meet the needs of their ever-demanding career.
Watching it all unfold in what felt like slow motion, had an effect on me. Motivational speaker, John O’Leary calls this “an inflection point.”
“Inflection points” can appear as insignificant or monumental; as positive or negative; they are the events, encounters and decisions that, once they’ve occurred: life afterwards is completely altered.*
I had a decision to make.
Two paths were being put before me, but only one of them was being normalized. I had been on a personal crusade for months at that point (unbeknownst to the other women). My husband and I were determined to develop a healthier work/life balance. We were spending more time together, dating more, protecting our personal time and we had promised not to bring work home every day. Compromise for the sake of our jobs had taken priority for years and our marriage started to suffer.
I am a firm believer in Matthew 6:24, which says that no one can serve two masters. Can you be a stellar wife, mom AND career woman? Of course! But along the way, compromise will be required and a time will come where you’ll have to rank what’s important to you.
What you spend time on, devote energy to and feed will ultimately grow. What you neglect shrivels up and eventually dies. That’s just the way it is. Men and women both fight these battles silently every day, but it’s usually us women who experience the brunt of the guilt.
Can we have it all? Truthfully, I don’t believe that anymore. I don’t believe we can be everything to everyone and serve in a demanding corporate culture and put our children and families first at the same time. I don’t believe we have enough in our being to be excellent in all and everywhere we need to be and still have sanity at the end of the day!
I’ve never met a balanced high-level executive, company president or business owner who hasn’t made some type of compromise or change in responsibilities to achieve a family focus. It’s simply something that a stable life and nurtured relationships require.
You will either conform to the culture that opposes your priorities and values or you will need to separate yourself from it in order to stay true to yourself.
*John O’Leary is the author of “On Fire: 7 Choices to Ignite a Radically Inspired Life”