Can a woman have both family and career?

It seems we are expecting a baby girl, even if the early ultrasound-based prediction is wrong, my reflection herein can be useful for our future daugther-in-law and granddaughters.

The thought of having a baby girl drives me to think of potential role models. Growing up, I looked up to people, to my talented seniors in girls’ schools, to smart capable ladies in my alma mater. Being too tired to work long hours nowadays, I am indulging myself in learning more what the people whom I admired up to.

In early 2015, I read the story of EH with an admiration, it started with an accidental discovery of her through TED talk. Then, I tried to look for more information to understand her company’s technology, only to arrive at an acceptance [1] that it’s a trade secret. After all, she, blessed with an angelic face, has spent more than a decade of her life working hard ala a Stoic [2] as inspired by Marcus Aurelius, in an attempt of bringing goodness to many people through medical breakthroughs and was too busy for a boyfriend. Imagine a diagnosis experience that requires only a drop of blood, instead of vials of blood (Honestly, I have avoided multiple blood tests during my pregnancy, added by my concern of being anaemic). Then, the disappointing news come in 2016. The higher one climbs, the stronger the winds that one needs to endure with great, solid and stable fundamentals (these include integrity and honesty).

TP was the poster girl in my undergraduate alma mater, she won the prestigious scholarship, led the Cultural Club and Students’ Union. TP is successful in her career as of now. She has turned an almost a bridal in debt to a successful one.

An undergraduate newspaper ran a feature article of the hostel room of LC, her single room was designed with red lights akin to a romantic French restaurant, an early hint of her artistic talent. Then, I attended a ministerial forum that she chaired, where the invited speaker is a world leader. I was inspired by her that I worked hard to qualify for a single room (single rooms are less than 20% of the all available rooms, think of fighting for the best of Pareto’s Law). Upon graduation, LC worked as a private banker at a company that Honey Panda looked up to. Then, perhaps after making more than enough material and connection capitals, she established a bridal and a flower venture, that often organizes exotic destination weddings from Maldives to New York City.

PS is a medically-trained scientist who is also a rock singer. She attended Harvard and Oxford, travelled to Africa for her work. She has worked very long hours, been blessed with perpetual energy that will not leave, and survived a fatal accident in 2015. Such a strong will to live! I looked up to her when I was preparing my graduate school admission and pursuing my graduate study.

While TP, LC, PS seem to be happily married, I could not find any sharing regarding children from them, unless they choose to keep their children private. Baby penalty seems to be applicable in multiple careers, from entrepreneurship, business, finance/investment banking, management consulting to academia [4], though it seems to be less severe and punishing for women in law or medicine. In spite of the penalty, to me, family is incomplete without a child or children. In today’s society, people get divorce more often than ever. Honey Panda has attended a friend’s wedding twice, married to two different men. However, a child is biologically bonded to his/her parent forever, regardless of divorce, a child and a parent is still a family.

The economist John Maynard Keynes reminded us that “in the long run we are all dead“, but our children and grandchildren (and theirs) will still be alive. While science has shown that we pass parts of our physical attributes to our children through DNA, I hypothesize that these macromolecules also carry our emotional and spiritual aspirations: love and hope. A simple example is an illiterate grandmother whose grandchildren end up enjoying tertiary education, because the grandmother had loved learning and hoped her descendants to be the same.

Sometimes, I wonder if talented ladies like TP and LC are trading off their successful career with a family. In USA, 33%-42% successful career women at midlife (41-51 years old) are childless, as of April 2002. Can a woman have both children and career? I also heard some answer yes, but at different timings. Few ones are very lucky because they are highly efficient and productive, they can manage both. For example, Aileen Chen of Belly Armor.

There are a minority of successful women who seem to have both career and children. For example, JC who participated in a beauty pageant, graduated from two world’s top 10 universities in UK and  USA, have won multiple awards, collaborated with her husband [5], and plays a role of an entrepreneur, an editor/writer, a scientist and a mother [6]. Being inspiring, I hope to find a Godmother like her for our Littler Princess.

Another example is the Germany-born ST who co-authored a novel while a teenager with her mother, completed her undergraduate and PhD studies within 6 years [7], and is a mother of two daughters. Thanks to her intellectual mother, she seems to have an early start, but I find that her living in the same place (city and country) for over two decades, boring! Well, being successful in her career, she is frequently invited to deliver talks globally, yet visiting a place and living in a place are of different experience.

I may not always be offered work. But I will always have my family.” Audrey Hepburn. On the other end of the spectrum, I also learned about RT who completed a PhD in London and ended up as a stay-at-home mother. She is talented in baking, writing, and photography. She has a little online shop, while focusing on her two children. Personally, I appreciate the opportunities to work, learn and earn. It simply widens my horizons, and it seems that working mothers have raised more (socioeconomically-defined) successful children in accordance to a Harvard study [3]. Again, stay-at-home-parenting has its own benefits, they may give more comfort to the children (as I craved when I was younger), whereas children whose both parents have to work (like my siblings and I) grow up to be more independent and proactive.

As I grow older, I cannot find a single person that I aspire to be. That’s okay. I only found some good attributes of others whom I would like to emulate, e.g. being polite, kind, supportive, humble, proactive, confident, etc. I also discovered some ideas for adventures, in terms of career, travel destinations, hobbies that these admirable people have pursued and would like to explore myself, though not walking the 100% same path as them.

Everyone of us is unique and responsible for writing our own life story. I am still writing, imagining, planning and executing my plan of life. Do something we are passionate about, something that we strongly believe in.

It’s also important to be adaptable as we live in increasingly dynamic and inter-connected world. For example, when I grew up as a child, we did not have so many international food in my home town (it should be called home cosmopolitan for the exponential growth of population). In 2016, I realize that there have been a number of interesting eateries from British tea to Japanese cuisines offered there.

[1] Perhaps, it’s my gullibility to easily trust people. After all, I prefer the conviction of 人性本善 (people are inherently good) over 人性本惡 (people are inherently bad), but life experiences told me that sometimes good people can be bad, and vice versa. Circumstances matter.

[2] I love quotes and collected them as inspired by daily experiences, people whom I encounter, places where I have been to and lessons learned. Herein, I recall a quote by Marcus Aurelius, “If you work at that which is before you, following right reason seriously, vigorously, calmly, without allowing anything else to distract you, but keeping your divine part pure, as if you were bound to give it back immediately; if you hold to this, expecting nothing, but satisfied to live now according to nature, speaking heroic truth in every word that you utter, you will live happy. And there is no man able to prevent this.”

[3] Thank you Honey Panda for sending me this article on 20160508, after we had fun solving personality, numerical, verbal, and abstract questions. We celebrated by a late Vietnamese dinner.

[4] I remember a kind neighbour, who is currently an Assistant Professor (as of 2016),  was born in 1986 in Lebanon, received her PhD training in France, gave me a souvenir from Japan, told me in 2016 that her baby plan is still far in the future.

[5] The reverse of the saying “behind every great/successful man there stands a woman“,  that is “behind every great/successful woman there stands a man“, is applicable for many (socioeconomically defined) successful women. The man can be a father, a lover, a husband, and/or a son.

[6] grep “20160712 #pandalesson” ref2016/*.txt

[7] Considering that acquiring a PhD in USA can take around 6 years, her formal education journey could be considered accelerated. grep “20160713 #pandalesson: it is possible to acquire both BSc and PhD within 6 years” ref2016/*.txt

See also:
ref2016/woman_family_career_20160405.txt for the abbreviations
ref2016/theranos_elizabeth_holmes_20160429.txt
Asia2016/family_career_20160514.txt

20160405 ~ the day that I managed to obtain all 9 required approvals (since I submitted the request over two weeks ago) for just making a payment that helps my company’s profile, I think the energy spent in following up with them can be better used in other more productive tasks.
20160429 ~ the 1st quarter of 2016 has almost ended. I just told myself to be more productive in the 2nd quarter, before an impending demand from the arrival of our 2nd baby in the 3rd quarter, then I felt a stomach ache and hope that it’s just a round ligament pain (Braxton-Hicks contraction)
20160531 reflecting on what’s next?

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2 comments

  1. […] [2] and self-fulfillment), there are often times we have to prioritize. For me, it seems clear that I prioritize our children over my career. In late summer 2016, spending every day with Little Prince is precious, in an exchange of ~ USD […]

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  2. […] sleep deprivation as I need to both care for Little Princess and work. I seek inspirations from career women globally who can still give their best to their children in spite of continuous demands from their […]

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