The Right to Make Life Choices

Life Choices

“The Right to Make Life Choices” | myMindBodyBaby

Today is International Women’s Day and this means different things to different people.  To me this means taking time to acknowledge I have always felt I had the inherent right to make my own life choices.  I grew up in a family and societal environment where I did not feel my gender influenced my educational, career or life choices.  Today also means recognizing that women in many places around the world cannot say this.

The great equality debate.

My husband and I have debated to great lengths the proper approach to ensuring equality, particularly in the workplace.

This is such a complex topic and my life choices and thoughts on this subject have certainly evolved over the years, especially as I entered the motherhood. This is an important topic, however as the intent of myMindBodyBaby is supporting women to and through motherhood I want to bring the subject back to career choices as they pertain to creating a family.

Family and career life choices.

A past manager, whom I greatly respect, once told me you have to pursue your family and career goals independently. I was somewhat confused by this advice: it’s one life, how can you pursue these streams independently? However, my husband and I were trying to start a family and she had a successful career, three children and one on the way and so I internalized this nugget.

Evolution of life choices.

She and I have both come a long way in our careers since then, with many ups and downs along the way.  We have since had a number of conversations about managing family and career life and while I haven’t explicitly asked her, I believe both of our views on this topic have evolved.

Because you can plan for both your career and family, but in the end some elements are taken out of your hands.  To loosely quote Eisenhower,

“Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.”

To me, this was never truer than during our battle with infertility. I like plans, order and things to go according to schedule and once we began trying for a family I lost all control of these elements. But having a plan for both my career life and family was critical. For without a plan, when my life veered off path how else would I know where I wanted it to get back to?

A complete investment.

Before trying to start a family my career took a great portion of my life’s spotlight. My husband and I found a good portion of time for family, friends, fun and (amazing!!) vacations – but we were both passionate about our careers. And then all of a sudden a new element enters your life. This new goal – creating a family – that, for us, required a serious investment in time and energy.

I was the same person I was before, with the same finite amount of time and energy – but now I had made the life choice to direct them across two important goals. It was then I recognized the truth behind Oprah’s statement,

“You can have it all. Just not all at once.”

I could not give 100% to my career, 100% to managing my infertility, 100% to my husband, friends and family. That would leave me with 0% (well… less than that if we are being technical…).

Finding grace in our life choices.

It took me until our final round of IVF to learn this lesson. I had been trying to work like I wasn’t going through one of the worst stages of my life and manage our infertility like I didn’t have a full-time and demanding career. During that last round I decided to open up to a select few about our struggles.  And in opening up I received grace from others. No one who knew what we were going through saw me as less because I had to come in a little late some mornings after cycle monitoring.  In fact, the opposite.  They acknowledged the strength and resilience it takes to face your workplace after a morning of needles, internal ultrasounds and sometimes bad news.

Being present.

It took getting the gift of grace from others to realize that I had to give it to myself. I, admittedly, often put too many things on my plate. I multitask and frequently run around like a chicken with my head cut off. But when I remember to slow down, prioritize and give myself grace I am a better wife, mother, sister, daughter and friend. We hear this a lot – but you can’t be present for others if you aren’t even present for yourself. And you can’t be present and enjoy the moments of your life if you are a headless chicken.

What brings you fulfilment?

When Michelle, my business partner and co-founder of myMindBodyBaby, approached me with the idea of starting a business I was excited – and scared. I was at a new company, in a new role – and newly pregnant (which wasn’t “the plan” – but that’s another topic). Did planning to leave the corporate world look like “giving up”? Did I care what my career choices looked like to others? I wanted a career I could feel passionate about, but I wasn’t getting that where I was at the time. But success in the corporate world gave me a rush. Could I get that same fulfillment from what Michelle was proposing?

Torn between two worlds.

I also felt so torn. Before having our first child I assumed I would be ready to go back to work following maternity leave. I didn’t anticipate the tug to be back home – to be playing, cuddling and exploring the world with my son. But yet I knew that I could not play, cuddle and explore exclusively. I love the mental stimulation of work and business challenges.

Trying to learn.

And so here we are today. Michelle and I both have small children and a business that is also in its infancy. Do I feel like I have pursued both career and family wholeheartedly? Yes… although sometimes to the detriment of my mental health. Would I change any of my decisions? No.  Because they have shaped who I am and my life choices have provided countless learning opportunities.

Life choices & lessons learned.

I have learned that I need to have a plan for all aspects of my life.  I have also learned the benefit of being able to roll with the punches.  Although, while I recognize the benefit, I have to work hard on actually doing it!.

I have learned that giving your all doesn’t mean giving your all to everything, all of the time. It means giving your all to your life. That means understanding what balance looks like for you right now – and what life choices you need to make to be happy.  Because what is the point of all of this if you aren’t striving to enjoy it?

Happy International Women’s Day.

I have been able to make life choices and decisions about where I want my career to go.  When I wanted to have children (in theory).  How I want my life to shape up. It has taken a long time for women to be able to have these choices, and there are so many that still do not. My hope, on this International Women’s Day, is that each year more and more women can say they too can freely make the life choices that are right for them.

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