In Memory of Lady Bird Johnson
Options for Life after Retirement

When Sacrificing for Career & Children Hurts

When reading the news, I can always count on seeing a story that revisits some enduring debate. What diet is truly healthy? How much television is okay for children? Should Mom or Dad quit their jobs and stay home to raise the kids? The latest instigator to the last question is Leslie Bennetts, author of "The Feminine Mistake."

Bennetts asserts that leaving your job (regardless of gender) may hurt your career in the long run...and thus your family. One of the increasingly common scenarios she points to is when a middle-aged stay-at-home woman (or man) finds herself (or himself) divorced and suffering from decreased income potential that tends to result from a career hiatus taken to raise the kids.

What's interesting (and less discussed) is the parallel situation when a man (or woman) has dedicated his/her career to a company (sacrificing time with family, taking on health risks from chronic stress, making necessary moves for the job, etc.) and then gets laid off. A similar shock-grief-identity crisis takes place that can also impact income potential.

The reality is that men and women in both scenarios are dealing with valid dependency and identity issues that are made worse by their sacrifices. The real solution is getting congruent with one's values, having a sense of self that's outside of marriage, career and parenthood, and then making an investment of time and energy in each aspect of one's life--self, family, career, community...and spirit. My personal view is that it's a human mistake when any of these areas in our lives are sacrificed. We are role models for our children and what are we ultimately teaching them when we perpetuate the work OR family myth? It's about both work AND family (with self in tact). Perhaps more workplaces would provide better flex time if we, as a culture, embraced a commitment to work AND family AND self and stopped expecting the old paradigm of one breadwinner and one caretaker.

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