Sunday, June 7, 2009


Regarding the subject of balancing family and career: I would never, ever presume to tell you what to do. You must find your own path. All I can do is give you some ideas to think about, and say "this is what worked for us."

Anna Quindlen once wrote something to the order of "Yes, you probably can have it all - just not all at the same time." She went on to explain that kids grow up in the blink of an eye, and most of us live very long lives these days. Even if you were to set your career aside for fifteen or so years, you could still have thirty or more years ahead of you in which to pick it back up, rebuild it, or try your hand at something completely different. Since I am lousy at multi-tasking, but knew I would live to regret going down only one path or the other, I have chosen to look at my life in terms of seasons.

My original plan, mapped out in some long ago diary, was to work as a fashion merchandiser or buyer as soon as I got out of college, have two kids by the time I was thirty, and return to work a short time later. Of course, we all know what happens to the best laid plans! Mine went awry within two weeks of arriving at UT, when I met and fell in love with a senior whose career as an engineer would take him from Bahrain to Borneo. Not much call for fashion merchandisers there! Nevertheless, I hitched my caboose to his engine as soon as I graduated, following wherever he lead me. This became our season of exploration - our chance to discover the world and what it meant to be a couple. It was truly a magical season.

By the time we had returned to the States, we were ready to explore the world of parenthood, so I took a "short-term" job managing a clothing store. Four years, three miscarriages, and a couple of surgeries later, we finally had our first child, and not too long after, our second. After all that we went through in order to get them, there was just no way I was going to let someone else have all the fun of watching them grow up, so I put career plans aside, and entered the season of enjoying my babies to the fullest, not worrying too much if the house was a wreck, and having the time of my life.

When the kids entered school I still wasn't ready to return to work full-time. Instead I found interesting part-time work that stretched my brain a bit and fed my creative urges, while allowing me plenty of time to become involved in their school and extracurricular activites, though still not enough to keep the house as clean as I would have liked, and we continued to have the time of our lives.

Next thing I knew, they were already in high school and junior high! By then I had discovered a passion for gardening, so I went back to school to study horticulture, got a part-time job with a landscaper, continued to be involved in the kid's various activities, finally got smart and hired a cleaning service, and enjoyed every minute of watching my babies turn into adults. My daughter and I graduated the same week. She went off to college, and the rest of us moved to Houston, where I finally landed the job of my dreams, complete with buying trips to Dallas and Atlanta - only this time, I was merchandising plants and garden gifts, not fashion!

Now, a new season has begun, and in all liklihood, I still have another twenty-five or thirty years in which to have another career, travel, enjoy grandkids and learn new skills. I plan to savor every minute of it. It's true that I have ended up a jack-of-all-trades, master of none, but at least I don't have to fret over what I have missed, and I was able to concentrate fully on each season, as it unfolded. I've had it all - more, in fact, than my youthful self ever dreamed possible.


Linda said...

Wonderful post, and your life has been rich with life experiences. What a great life. What a great education.

I retired one day in Texas and headed for Oregon (with my husband) the next morning. I knew I would stagnate in the neighborhood where I'd lived for 30 years. It was 'out and on to new life experiences for me' and I've loved every minute of it.

Hill Country Hippie said...

We felt the same way. We lived in the burbs most our life because of the schools, but the minute our last one graduated, there was a for sale sign up in our front yard!