One of my candidates was speaking to me this week about her disappointment in not being further in her “career.” She was lamenting the fact that her career had seemed to stall when she had made the decision to take a few years off to stay at home with her children. She was fortunate enough, economically to be able to do that. She is now in her mid-40s and, although in a good job, she would like to move faster. She expressed the idea that maybe if she hadn’t taken the 3 1/2 years off to stay home with the kids she might have been able to go further.
Now my expertise is helping companies find really good talent and helping great candidates find new jobs. I’m not a psychologist and the philosopher in me (as well as the “psychologist” in me) is simply a result of the experience I’ve had in helping people since 1973 and paying attention to what I’ve seen and experienced.
As I’ve mentioned before,raising kids is the hardest job in the whole world. From a father’s (male) perspective being a mom is the most difficult challenge a woman could probably have. I expressed to this lady my sincere belief that raising kids is a whole lot more important than any career. At the end of our lives and especially in the twilight of our lives the way our children have turned out will far surpass our position on the corporate ladder. Her career will be, at best, a footnote to the impact she had on the world by raising children. A successful career is third or fourth place compared to being a successful parent. One of the reasons our society is so messed up is that we have put a career on some pedestal confusing it with “success.”
Some women absolutely have to work to make economic ends meet in the family. I understand. And my heart goes out to them. Nobody said that life was easy…for any of us. We all have our burdens and our challenges. But it is how we meet those burdens and challenges that make the difference.
I advised my candidate that when she looks back on her career, it won’t be anywhere near as important as the raising of her children. We only get ONE shot at raising children. Careers, jobs etc. can come and go and, at least in America, we can start all over as many times as we wish. We can’t “start over” at raising our children.
I suggested to my candidate that the “career” aspect of things and how far along she might get or have gotten is maybe the wrong focus. Maybe the focus should be the quality of her work And how well she accomplished what she was doing. Did she do her work the very best she could? Was it just a j-o-b, or did she throw herself into her work and do the very best she could? Did she personally grow in the process of doing what she did? Was she, in the metaphor of Martin Luther King, the best street sweeper she could be? Did she do everything she could to perfect the gifts that God has given her?
Our perspective is usually defined by our own experience. The personal growth that I’ve experienced in my career would not have been possible had it not been for a wonderful spouse, Chris, who was a “career mom” doing the yeoman’s work of raising five wonderful children. And now she is having the joy of being a wonderful grandmother. We were blessed and I, particularly fortunate, to be so lucky.
But even the business that I nurtured, pales in comparison to the impact that raising children has. Again, for those women that have to do both our prayers are with you. However, our society’s emphasis on our being a “business career success” at the expense of being a fine parent, especially a mother, has our laddr on the wrong wall.
I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be concerned about their career… both men and women. I am saying that we need to stop and think about how what we do, professionally, meshes with our being a parent. I repeat, you only get a shot at that ONE time.
At the end of your life, it won’t be your customers, your CEO, your business associates who will be easing your death.