The Great Debate- Career or Family?
No matter what career path you take there is one question that everyone faces…
How do I balance my career and family?
Finding an answer to this question is tough because we are often pulled in many different directions and have a desire to be there for everybody and find a solution for anything that comes up in both worlds. Whenever I have met with or heard an executive speak about career development the question above invariably comes up. For the most part the answer is the same, something along the lines of, “well, it’s hard but it’s just something you have to do. You have to find a balance and make time for family amongst your busy work schedule.”
While I can understand the difficulty of “balancing,” I feel like the foundation of this kind of answer is BS.
Only once have I heard this question answered genuinely and in a direct way.
A couple years ago I was at a quarterly meeting for a leadership program I was a part of and an executive from my company was talking about her career experience, passing along advice to the audience. She was very much a “straight shooter” and I appreciated how direct her answers were, but her response to this question shocked me.
When asked how to balance career and family her answer was simple, yet profound, “you just choose which is more important and make that your top priority,” she said. She went on to explain that if you allow yourself to waffle back and forth between family and work you will not be able to be fully fulfilled in either, leaving you in a middle ground of discontent. She basically told the audience that she knew she wanted to raise a family but that she had decided long ago that she would put her career first and from then on when presented with a work responsibility and family obligation, she chose work.
First off, yes, this answer does sound bad (by society’s standards and because of the importance of family), but at the same time I respect her for taking a stand and I see a great deal of validity in what she is saying. Whether we want to admit it or not, making the decision of which is going to get priority would help take a lot of guilt out of things. And yes, the decision is hard to make. Some may see the tradeoffs between family and career in a simplistic way (ala this: http://xkcd.com/946/) but in reality it is a challenge (and a different an unique decision for each individual).
I will let you figure out all that goes into determining your priorities, but I will recommend this… although it is hard, choose what is more important and stick with it. Choosing family over career does not mean you cannot have a career filled with accomplishment and choosing career over family does not mean that you cannot have kids or will be a terrible mom or dad. Making this choice, however, will give you piece of mind and can lead to more contentment in each of these areas of life.