Thoughtful Thursday: Goals

September 30, 2010

Thoughtful ThursdayWelcome back to Thoughtful Thursday, after the first-ever hiatus.

Leaving aside the many difficult questions floating around my head for a little while longer, I’ve also been thinking a lot about how a family can balance the goals of each individual with the goals of the others and the goals of the group, particularly when they are not compatible.

For a decade and a half, DH and I have, as a couple, treated my career as more important than his. Even though he has brought in more income than I have throughout, my career required much more education and more deliberate planning as I progressed through step. When we got married, he moved to a new city to join me, and in switching jobs he cut his salary in half and his prestige ten-fold. He still progressed in his career, and in fact through the years he has become incredibly accomplished, but my career has always dictated our choices and our geography. More recently, I had to quit my main job to accommodate bedrest, childbirth, and newborns, and I now make a fraction of my former salary. Meanwhile, major things continued to happen in his career, and his work became dramatically more time-consuming. Much of the twins’ first year has involved a traditional division of labor, with DH as primary earner and me as primary parent (not that I haven’t been working, but I’ve had to squeeze it in and his work has taken priority over mine).

We recently started to equalize our division of child care (which has been wonderful, for both of us), and we were on the verge of making another major move for the sake of my career. Then some potential opportunities came up for DH. If offers had materialized for both of us, we might have had to decide, quite literally, between his success and mine, with the other one plodding along but not soaring.

This all became moot when we decided instead to move to a totally different city for the sake of my mother’s medical well-being. DH and I, two incredibly independent people, neither of whom has ever made a decision based on proximity to or the wishes of family, may be sacrificing some major professional opportunities. It may end up working out very well for one or both of us professionally, but at worst it will likely be neutral for our careers. A couple of weeks ago when I was composing this Thoughtful Thursday in my head, I thought it would be a question about dual-career couples. Instead, it’s a question of the choices of each individual versus other individuals and the collective.

How do you balance your own goals with those of other loved ones and the larger family? What have you done when the goals have been in conflict?

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8 Responses to “Thoughtful Thursday: Goals”

  1. Rebecca Says:

    I’m not sure I’m ambitious enough to count. And we’ve always stayed close to my family, regardless of career.


  2. I’ve basically sacrificed my career when I decided to follow my husband to the USA when he accepted a job there. His first year there I was still in Holland – having a great job that I didn’t want to quit right away. But after 6-7 months it became clear to us that if we would continue like that, our relationship wouldn’t last, and we didn’t want to pay that price.

    So I decided to quit my job (but not immediately, I stayed for another 6 months) and move to the US as well. It seemed like a great adventure. And it was, but it was very hard for my career (mainly due to the work permit issue – did find a job in the end that looks pretty good on my CV but that I didn’t like at all). Then after a few years we were disenchanted at our jobs and decided to look elsewhere. Couldn’t stay in the US because we were both on our second 3-year work permit and the Green card process would take at least another 2 years, and we didn’t want to wait that long.

    So we moved back to Europe. We were both not ready to go back to Holland, so were looking elsewhere. Hubby found a job in France, I thought ‘oh, EU, no work permit problems, it’s going to be easy for me too’ and off we went. Work permit was indeed not the problem, but not having a French degree + work experience not completely in line with my education meant the French don’t know in which box to put me, so they rather throw my CV in the bin than invite me for an interview. Quite demotivating. Had a few small contracts, and since a few months decided to start freelancing (now have to get my act together to find new clients).

    Since the birth of our son I’ve been having more feelings of wanting to return to Holland, to be closer to my parents. It was especially strong during the period where he was waking up every 2 hrs and I was so exhausted I didn’t know what to do anymore. Since a few months it’s become a lot easier and the feeling went away a bit, but not completely. I know hubby doesn’t want to move back. He has almost no family left and feels Holland is too small for him (and too narrow-minded in some ways) professionally.

    Now my mom is terminally ill – we don’t know how long it will take. I hate being so far away from her now, but strangely enough I don’t have an urge to move back to Holland immediately. We’ll probably have that conversation when things get worse – but I’m not sure what we would decide. We have to try to find a balance of being there for my parents without giving up our own lives completely.

    When we got married, the person at city hall read us a poem about ‘two suns’ – only one shining and the other one being in its shadow – and how to try to both shine. I think about that poem often, because I have the feeling my sun hasn’t been shining for a long time (at least not professionally). I somehow still haven’t given this a place. Sometimes I’m OK with it all, but very often I feel like I completely wasted all my chances. But hey, I’m not retired yet, maybe there’s still time to shine.

  3. WiseGuy Says:

    For me, I know that major decision making on that front will have to inevitably happen when Kaiser is born, and I am about to end my leave.

    Otherwise, in a blanket way, family has often taken a front seat for me.

  4. Ana Says:

    For me and now, us, my career has always taken priority to family proximity, and husband’s career. For him, his family always came first—he stayed nearby for college, grad school, and his first jobs, with no intention of leaving until I came in the picture. He wants to move back. His mother wants us to move back. I don’t. But I think its a sacrifice I’ll eventually have to make for the sake of our/his family. Its tough, and I feel for you. I have always thought of myself as independent from my family, but with aging parents on both sides, and a kid that should get to know his grandparents, who knows where life will lead us.

  5. a Says:

    Well, my husband and I work in the same field. Up until 3.5 years ago, we worked at the same place. He’s been commuting between the Midwest and the East Coast (and internationally, just for fun) ever since. He’s working government contract jobs. I work for the state, and I’m in a union. My job is secure, the pay is good, and we’re near his family. My husband is someone who needs to move around a lot. He has not stayed anywhere more than a few years since he moved out of his parents’ home. I don’t like to move. So, by sacrificing our family time, he gets to satisfy his wanderlust, and I get my independence/freedom and satisfy my need for security and stability (well, in location anyway). Our daughter doesn’t like it much, but has been pretty resilient, since it’s all she knows.

    The thing was, when he left our workplace, I could have gone with him. But it did not seem stable enough of a situation, considering we had a 7 month old. Also, I would have had to give up my extended time off work (pseudo maternity leave), and leave my doctors, which would have meant starting over if I wanted another child. So, I guess I sacrificed my career for my husband’s but it was really more for my daughter.

  6. strongblonde Says:

    haha. this is directly related to all of the CRAP that we are dealing with for the december holidays this year. we’ve decided that we are going to think of our nuclear family first. extended family is just that. extended. maybe that makes me a bitch. maybe it’s easier for me to think about b/c our values are so different. or maybe it’s because our goals are almost never congruent. perhaps the goals themselves are the same, but the means to getting there is different. for example: the goal of spending time with family can easily be accomplished for us by seeing the family for a meal and some games. for b’s parents and sister it necessitates being LOCKED in a house for four days together. no one can go on a walk. no one can take a field trip. taking the garbage out MAY be permitted.

    ultimately, i think that you have to do what you have to do to maintain your sanity when the goals are conflicted. 🙂

  7. emk808 Says:

    It’s difficult, but we manage. When I decided I wanted to go back to school for nursing, my hubby was very supportive and has helped to make it work. When those goals conflict, we work something out to review the goals and change them to no longer conflict. Everything is a group effort!

  8. Shelby Says:

    Wow, I just have to say that so many of your life circumstances have mirrored mine, especially with regard to the health of your mother. I am right now grappling with the decision to move my Mother in with us, which could likely undermine the peace of my house partially or drastically. She’s at the stage where living alone is too hard, but not willing or needing to go into a long-term care facility. So I am basically trying to balance my well-being, that of my family, and that of my Mother, as I am all she has. So, so hard. If I had the answer, I would share it with the world, but as it turns out, I don’t. In fact, I have no clue where to begin.


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