Life is full of choices.
As a working mama I face my own set of choices daily and none of them appear to be easy. Do I leave at 4:30 to get home 1/2 hour earlier today to spend extra time with my kids? Yes? Then that means I save 1/2 hour of work for after they go to bed or the next day to work 1/2 hour longer. OR, it means I don't do the work and risk some sort of career-related consequence. Do I go ahead and stay 1/2 hour later to get everything done? Yes? Then that means getting home 1/2 hour before bed time, rushing to produce dinner and eat together and skipping baths and getting the kids to bed on-time OR giving baths and getting to bed late OR eating out which requires an additional stop and getting home about the same time dinner would have been ready anyway AND nearly no time with the kids AND additional stress for everyone making the "no-time" with the kids less enjoyable. See what I mean? Choices. Constantly.
So what do you do? Just the best you can.
How do I do it? I don't. I just take it one step at a time. I do it the best I can. God first. Hubby second. Kids 3rd-8th, Work last. At least this is what I try to do.
For me at this time in my life it means making choices that probably don't help my career. I travel as minimally as possible (cuz leaving kids from traumatic backgrounds is hard on everyone and it's not easy to find suitable overnight-type care for 6 little kids). A couple friends of mine have been chosen to do an ex-pat assignment in a foreign country, something seen as extremely valuable career-wise around here. In response I told someone "I'm not going there any time soon". Really, taking a family of 8 to live overseas for a year in a tiny apartment (cuz that's all that's available around there) in a place they don't even remotely speak the language while mom works 12 hours a day is hardly my idea of "possible". I mean, if God brought it to us we'd figure it out I just don't see me volunteering for that role in the near future. (And I'm certainly not going by myself, leaving them home as my friends are...). Choices.
Truth-be-told, people know my situation and I'm sure I wouldn't be considered for such an opportunity because of my family life. I'm positive if/when my name comes up for things like that it is met with "she has 6 young kids" regardless of whether or not that is supposed to enter into the equation.
Would my career progress more rapidly if I didn't have my family or I didn't talk about them as much or I didn't put them first? Probably. I'd be free to move around the country. I could take whatever position came across our plate that made sense career-wise. I could work longer hours and not worry about it. I wouldn't need to take off work for so many doctor appointments.
Do I care that my career is hindered because of my family? Of course I do. I'd be lying if I said I never cared. I'm not a "career-woman" despite my successful career but that doesn't mean I'm not aware of the impact choosing to have a family (like mine) has on my opportunities and "levels of success". I do have career-related aspirations, not to have a certain position necessarily but to do certain things like hold board roles, write publicly more, engage more in public speaking, tell my story, and continue making a difference in the corporate world.
Doing that takes time, time away from my family that I just don't have to give right now, so it will have to wait.
Last week I took a trip to Las Vegas for work. It's an annual thing and pretty much my only big work trip I plan for each year. I greatly look forward to it not only because it's a fun event but because I get a chance to get away and just be a woman for a bit. I am forced to put me first simply because I'm not all that effective as being a wife and mom when I'm so far away from my kids. I stay out late with friends. I play Blackjack. I go to the spa (all day). I do the career-mingle thing. I love it, but there's a part of mie missing when I'm away from home. I can't do all of those other things without being abundantly cognizant of the things I'm missing with my hubby and kids. I miss bed time. I miss getting them ready for school. Last week I missed two dentist appointments and the PTA skate party. As much as I enjoyed my time away I would give it all up to not miss those important daily events in my kids lives.
As a side note, it was beneficial for my kids to know I can go away for a short time and then I'll come back. It helped build trust between us so I'm not saying every mom should stay with their kids 100% of the time, all the time.
I talked to a non-profit organization yesterday doing work I'm passionate about that is looking for a board member. As much as I wanted to snatch up that role, I indicated I can't over commit myself at this time. You know, any more than I already have. Maybe I'll do some work with them over the next few years and step into a board role as my kids get older. Maybe.
Here's the thing - this world is full of distractions trying to take us from what is important. Our mission in life, those things God has called us to do, is constantly at risk from video games and spa days and movies and Facebook. (and dirty floors and folding laundry and The Bachelor and blogs). These things are not inherently bad but we need to be careful that we don't get caught up in our (sometimes selfish, sometimes well-meaning) desires to please (ourselves or others) that we end up missing the really important things that go by so fast.