I'm young, so I suffer from a certain type of delusion. I call it a delusional self narrative because I picked up the term self narrative when my younger sister was explaining her masters thesis. To be honest, I'm not sure what the thesis was about, but I did like the term "self narrative."
Self narratives are the stories that we tell ourselves, about ourselves. Delusional self narratives are stories that we tell ourselves, about ourselves, that might not be totally grounded in reality.
The delusion that I tell myself is that because I am a high achiever, I can achieve my goals. In reality, I cannot. Not because I'm not a high achiever (anyone who has met me would agree that I am), but because nobody can achieve difficult goals. They can only achieve a difficult goal. One at a time.
A small regret
I am thankful that I don't suffer from many regrets in this life. Of course, I regret the time that I nearly allowed my marriage to fall apart. And I have the run of the mill regrets like the time I ate low end Sushi, and the time I visited a Luby's in Texas, but other than that not a lot of major regrets. But I have a small regret. I regret that I spent so much of my life pursuing priorities instead of a priority.
I am not a particularly gifted athlete, but I have the mind of a competitor. For females, this characteristic alone can get you really far in sports, and by far I mean to Division I competition. I started playing tennis in high school, the same time I started running distance. It was clear from the beginning that I was a better runner than I was a tennis player, but I loved tennis. I spent about 80% of my daytime hours during the summer playing tennis. I got my parents to sign me up for expensive lessons, court time and tournaments during the winter months. 3 seasons of the year, I devoted to tennis. But there was a fourth season. Spring. Spring was devoted to track.
I didn't love running track, but I was good at it, and the coach had talked me into joining the team when she saw me running around the school one day (I'm not 100% sure why I was running, I have a feeling I had left something like my calculator inside, and I was trying to desperately get in after the doors had locked). During the track season, I devoted my time and energy to track, and I got better. Good enough to run in college which was great except that I never loved running; I loved tennis.
I regret that I didn't spend my time focusing on what I loved instead of my natural talent. I regret going to college immediately instead of trying to improve my tennis skills to play tennis in college instead of running.
Don't get me wrong, this doesn't keep me up at night. But every so often, I wonder, "What if?"
Onto my self delusion
My goal is to create the new American dream. I want to shift my focus from my career to my family while building opportunities for an encore career. I've mentioned part time work as an option (though more realistically, I am trying to build a freelance career because I see a future as an entrepreneur).
The reason that I talk so much about a shift in focus is that I can already tell that its happened. I used to care a lot about advancing in my career, and I don't think work will ever be unimportant to me, but I've lost my touch. When it comes between choosing between time at the job and time with my son, my son wins every time. But this shift isn't because I'm some super nurturing motherly type. Quite the opposite actually. I'm an ENTJ which for those unfamiliar with Myers-Briggs personality types means that I'm probably about the worst mom in the world, but a great member of the traditional marketplace.
This means that once again, I find myself trying to walk the line between something I love (my family), and something I'm good at (my job or careers in general). Over and over again, I find myself at this crossroads. I can talk about Thomas trains with my son, and I can breastfeed, and I can play towers all day, every day because I love him so much, but I know that this won't be very satisfying most days.
I know that if I pursue a freelance career that I am likely to want to invest more and more time into that. After all, when you do a good job, clients thank you even without you saying, "what do you say?" This is the type of thing that is satisfying to me on a daily basis.
The more obvious solution
It seems obvious to me, that I am naturally more inclined to the work world, and that I should probably be one of those Lean In women. Women with big careers are not the exception the way that they were thirty years ago. However women with big careers and small children are truly the mythical unicorn of the Fortune 500. Of course, you have Sheryl Sandberg (who will be a fascinating case study now that her husband has died), and Marissa Myers who have small kids and huge careers (and six figures worth of household help). You have Farnoosh Torabi, Shannon McClay, and Cat Alford who have carved out big careers while balancing work and family life which includes husbands who have maintained (or are starting) careers of their own.
So why am I so insistent upon the idea of part time work? Am I just a glutton for punishment?
In truth, I think that, for me, I recognize that something has to give. I cannot pursue both family and career simultaneously and be satisfied with the results, and I think if I'm looking back over my life at age 75 I will regret the time not spent on my family more than I will regret the time not spent on my career.
I can only frame my career during the next 10-15 years as a way that will help me to be a better mom and a better wife. I honestly think that the only way I can thrive as a mom is to not always be a mom. My most valuable creations and most meaningful contributions are unlikely to come from the field of motherhood, and having that little piece of my life that is immersed in a whole different world will be good for my sanity.
So, what do you think? Am I deluding myself, or is this a good goal?
I'm a wife, a mom, an employee, and a personal finance nerd who is devoted to spreadsheeting my way through life.