Early in the morning on a Saturday, I kissed my partner goodbye, snuck out of the house with my bags and drove myself to the airport. I boarded a plane to Southeast Asia for two and half weeks, leaving my wonderful little family behind. While the trip itself is not that remarkable–thousands of people travel for business everyday–the fact that I was asked to take on this project, is.
Less than a year ago, I was promoted. During the transition to my new position, we got the call from our adoption agency about Lucas. My first few months on the new job, I was taking a lot of heat because I was out of the office so much with our new son. Yes, the double standard in reverse was at play–women taking off for maternity leave can be viewed through a very different lens than men taking off.
After I was back at work, I spent a lot of time and energy trying to get things back on track. This trip is a direct result of those efforts. It came as a surprise though not a particularly welcome one. Leaving Darrow to take care of the boys by himself for a few days was one thing, but going half way around the world for a few weeks was another. I hoped that it would be a one-time good will gesture on my part and that would be the end of it. Unfortunately the trip has been a success, so much so that while I have been down here, another trip to South America is already in the works. Now there is talk that these projects may become a frequent event for my office, maybe as often as once per quarter. I should be pleased by all that is happening, but it’s not so simple.
My career is suddenly flourishing. The level of responsibility, the visibility, the opportunities presenting themselves, are all things I have worked long and hard for. But I find myself both excited for and fearful of my professional life. I fear its impact on my beautiful personal life with my fantastic partner, our sweet toddler and baby boy, and our three happy puppies. Sometimes I wonder when I will be asked to choose between my personal and professional life. I know that being successful has a price–it is a cliché because it’s true. Should I take advantage of all these little opportunities, it will ultimately congeal into the next big step—it is inevitable. What do I say to all of this? It becomes harder to say yes to the thing that you know will take you away both physically and mentally from your family. At some point someone is going to ask me to sacrifice real time away from Darrow and the boys to give me what I’ve wanted for so long—position, authority, responsibility. Now, the exchange does not seem fair or equitable. Sometimes I wonder whether those things matter anymore.
I have often thought of us moving away and living in some small town somewhere. If I had to, would I be happy working as a cashier in the local Walgreen’s. Would I schlep housewares at Target, if in exchange I was able to be there to see the kinds of things I missed in the last two weeks—things like this:
These are the choices that we make in our lives.