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Your lifestyle, your quirk
I thought that “having it all” meant different things to different people. Now it seems to mean the same things: a strong career and equally strong family life, but different people chose to sacrifice different aspects as they prioritize one part. When I lived in a bigger city, I felt that the emphasis was placed on building a career before starting a family. Now that I live in a small town, it seems that the community prizes family and believes that a career can be built around the needs of said family. I thought I had my priorities settled, but now that I find myself married in a new place, I have to rethink whether my priorities are right for me, or right for my community.
Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s new CEO, is pregnant. She will be taking the helm of a failing company just as she is preparing to give birth to a son, and she plans to continue working through her maternity leave. This is a balance between work and family, but it’s still a sacrifice. She won’t be giving her full-time attention to either her new child or her new job for the few weeks she’s on maternity leave, and after that, childcare will fall on either her husband, family, or hired help. Yahoo’s board seems to be very accommodating, so work doesn’t seem to be an issue. However, as CEO of a company in need of help, her attention will often be far from home. Her son will likely be happy and well-adjusted, but Mayer has still made a choice. She is in a privileged position to have these options. Men do it all the time; no one questions a CEO with a new baby on the way.
I used to live in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, which has a greater metropolitan area with a population of 5.6 million. I followed my career path while I lived there, as did my friends and relatives. My parents were in their thirties when I was born; they had both established careers before having children. My father left the house early and came back late to make a good impression at the office, and I often only saw him at breakfast when I was young. He prioritized work, missing elementary school graduations when he didn’t want to leave the office. I was raised believing that I should put 110 percent into each job I took on, like him.
While in Toronto, I earned a degree and a post-graduate certificate and was hired out of an internship by a good company. My publishing career was on a solid path, but then I decided to move to small-town Rhode Island to be with the man of my dreams. It was the first time I chose a relationship over a job, and it was shocking to those around me. Moving to a town of 20,000 in Rhode Island meant that I would be far from the publishing industry and in a place with higher unemployment than Toronto.
Leaving my promising career behind in Toronto, I wanted to rebuild it here before starting a family. My new husband agreed…but not everyone else did. Here, no one moves far from their families, which means that there are built-in babysitters when you return to work, and the goal is to get a job within a 30-minute commute so that you are never on the road too long or too far from home (to compare, my father worked on the other end of the city and had a commute of over an hour if he didn’t stay later than rush hour, which he usually did).
As a young married woman, I feel a lot of pressure from others to have a baby and worry about my career later. People push alcoholic beverages on me at parties as if my acceptance or decline is a result of a pregnancy test; people often ask when we will start having children. I’m still in the career-first mindset, as are my friends are family at home, who cautiously affirm that I’m not about to have a child. Even with my husband’s extended family to help with childcare, I just don’t think I can find a balance between a family and this crucial point of proving myself in a new area. Despite the local love of children, I’ve been asked if I have or will soon have children in every job interview I’ve been on since I moved here, perhaps signaling that employers are wary of upcoming maternity leaves and family care days.
I still want to rebuild my career so that I have a stable household to bring future children into, and that means working for a few more years before making any major life changes. My husband and I are on the same page about this, but that doesn’t mean that everyone around us is. I still face mixed pressures from those around me, pushing career or family agendas. I don’t think it’s possible for the average person to have it all in a complete balance, so I’m waiting until I attempt to find what balances for me and figure out which aspect takes slight priority over the other.