I came across [[Anne-Marie Slaughter]]’s article in The Atlantic, titled “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All”, and although I can’t say I read it in its entirety (tl/dr/lol), it seemed an honest and refreshing re-evaluation of the roles of a career woman.
Let me rephrase that. Apart from a strong feminist-oriented perspectives, it addressed being a parent with a career, a balance not unknown to the accusedly less-fair sex. And it was ultimately pertinent to my own life as an entrepreneur. There was honest talk about control over one’s schedule, something a business owner may have an extreme lack or abundance of, depending on the exact circumstance of one’s business.
But arguments of sacrifice always catch my attention. I’ve had the blessed flexibility to be more engaged in my daughter’s life than any father I know, but early in my parenting years I was heavily exposed to the [[AMWAY]] sales force dogma common to most [[MLM]]s that giving up time with your family now would ensure plenty of time later.
I still twinge a little to think I almost went that direction, and hope better for others, although I recognize it’s really their priorities and choice. And here I will tell you why it is (with no exception I am aware of) it is a bad one.
First, children need to know their parents cared enough to work hard and provide for them, which in turn sets a good example and work ethic. However, never being around has an emotional toll, giving at the same time the exact opposite message of not caring enough to be there in person. Traditional roles of fathers undermine this as it is.
Secondly, life is uncertain. You may argue that not working hard will make things later in life more difficult, but what if you die young, never having had those unforgettable budget vacations with your family? Is holding out for a lifestyle your family may not even want worth it? If you knew you’d die in ten years, would you work harder to potentially increase future provisions for your family in some unknown degree, or would you spend more time with them? What would they want? Maybe that’s a conversation you should have before selling your soul to the latest business scheme.
Most importantly, has there ever been anyone, ever, who neglected their family for x number of years and then spent the rest of their years in a Disneyland life?
Seriously think about this. The habits necessary to create a certain level of success are not a faucet you turn on and off. People who work hard for what they have don’t stop working hard when they get it — for it to work it has to be who they are. And people who do it to the point of neglecting their family can’t expect the latter to forgive and forget just because they end up with a housekeeper and two bathrooms apiece. Well, maybe some will, and maybe they can magically make up the time by getting to know the children they didn’t share their childhood with, or the spouse they didn’t know became a totally different person over the years. But I doubt that.
The article was geared toward women, but let’s talk about men for a moment. We are expected to be the breadwinner, and it’s so ingrained in our psyche that most marriages where a woman is the primary earner are very quickly doomed to divorce. This is not jealously as so many recklessly assume, but the ingrained, intense psychological equivocation between manhood — as spouse and father — with the quality of life they directly provide for their family.
And let me edge to the precipice of sexism for a moment: How many women realize the pressures men have always had in balancing a family and career — and why would women want that? Yes, there’s a double standard where society gives a man a carte blanche for neglecting his family for career, but not a woman. On the flip side, a nonworking father / husband (house-band?) is an embarrassing burden, while a full time housewife / mother is somehow oppressed. Ironically, a woman if often also considered oppressed for working while the “man of the house” is not. And in spite of this, many of us wish the roles were reversed, or have chosen to make it so.
In the end, the balance of career and family is a choice, and is not at all limited to any gender or profession. Business owners have it even harder. And we live in a culture that values productivity while being eager to judge both manhood and womanhood by conflicting standards so that we can’t win by popular opinion. My advice to anyone would be to accept and better your circumstance as you are able, but make a deliberate, personal choice of what you sacrifice and how much — because it’s you and your loved ones who will ultimately find out if it was worth it.