Family or a career, always a tough choice, isn’t it? Believe me, with some balance, it doesn’t have to be!
If you’re in your mid 30s or younger you’ll probably be scratching your head as you’re reading this, thinking “I can’t relate… sorry” but if you’re in your 40s, 50s or 60s, it will ring painfully true…
I’ve already told you about my decision to leave Japan at the peak of my career because I wanted to start a family, and if you’re thinking “You didn’t have to give up your career to start a family, that’s ridiculous!” you’d be right, I didn’t have to. And with the risk of sounding incredibly naive… I didn’t know that back then. In my mind it was either career or family, balancing the two was not an option, there was no in-betweens.
Growing up in a country as conservative as Japan, I was taught to believe that I had to go to school, (hopefully) university, get a job, find someone to marry, quit my job, give up everything to have kids and take care of the household. That’s it, my life’s path decided for me before I was old enough to walk.
You see, unmarried women in their late twenties and early thirties in Japan were called parasite singles (パラサイトシングル) Now imagine that I was in my early forties, single and quite visibly out there in the media teaching women about self-confidence and raising their self-esteem through face exercises. I wasn’t exactly a “pariah,” but back then my situation was far from being the norm. So when I found myself rapidly getting older (with no sign of things changing anytime soon) I felt as if my career was pushing me against a wall with no way out; it’s a terrible place to be in.
When Henry and I got married all I wanted to do was be a housewife: stay at home, raise my daughter, clean and cook, I just wanted to finally be the one making the decisions. It took me a couple of years of challenging and dismantling my own preconceptions, but slowly I found the courage to take another leap and start working again and this time, it was going to be on my terms.
Knowing what I know now, I sometimes wish I could go back in time to give myself a hug and a stern talking-to. You don’t have to choose between having a career and having a family (no matter what they say) you just have to make it work for you.