Nothing lasts forever – and that’s a good thing
Before I met my husband Craig, every time I went on a date there was a voice in my head asking “Is this the one? Is this the guy forever and ever? Is this the RIGHT guy?” It is amazingly difficult to be relaxed, act naturally and have a good time with that voice in your head. For one thing, it’s really hard to hear what your date is saying to you.
I wish I knew then what I know now. Quite recently, someone told me the solution to my old problem. This wise woman said to me “The question shouldn’t be "Is this the right guy?" The question should be "Is this the guy for right now? " "
Brilliant, isn’t it? And so true. I think it is also true of the agonized choices we make about whether to go back to work after our maternity leaves, when to go back, full-time, part-time, licensed day-care, neighbour’s house, nanny. We think each and every decision has to be the RIGHT decision. Sometimes it’s just the decision for right now.
I don’t mean to underestimate the importance of the choices we make about our children and our careers. Every choice is important, and every choice will have consequences. But you know what? We don’t have to live with it forever. Make a choice and live with it for a while. If it doesn’t work out, you can try something else later. Lots of these choices, of course, affect other people, so we need to honour our commitments to our colleagues, childcare providers and other family members. But very few of those people are asking us to make a binding promise lasting for the next eighteen years. Twelve months is a very reasonable period of time to try something out. Reasonable for us, reasonable to those around us.
And don’t forget that children and careers are not static, either of them. You can research childcare options until the cows come home, interview dozens of candidates, find a situation which is available and affordable (miracles do happen) and settle right in. But you know what? The perfect childcare arrangement for your two-year old may very well not be perfect by the time they are four and are enrolled in junior kindergarten half-days. Or in the new and bizarre every-other-full-day-option some school boards are now adopting.
Similarly, you can negotiate with your employer for the perfect arrangement of flexible hours combined with working from home combined with job sharing and the very next day your manager will be fired, or there will be a re-organization or a merger or a mass layoff or you will be promoted or given an amazing new assignment and all your carefully laid plans will evaporate, faster than the steam coming off your morning coffee. And you will have to make a new plan.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you should give up, not plan, not negotiate. All of those things are really important. Just try to maintain an attitude of flexibility and resilience while you are doing it. Careers evolve, children grow. Life changes all the time, and thank goodness for that. So by all means, have long term goals, and keep working towards them. But remember that the path from here to there is a winding one, and sometimes the detours are the best parts of the voyage!