Life needs to be flexible

Images Perhaps it is my age, perhaps I have always rolled with the punches but as a rule, I believe that life needs to be flexible.

Jessica and I had a conversation last week about goals that she is setting for herself.  She is incredibly driven and desires to achieve many things.  No surprises, she really tilts toward a more entrepreneurial life style.  One where you have more control over your life from decisions to vacations. 

We went on to talk about family and kids.  She asked me if I knew of any woman who is successful ( successful is a broad term but she said that meant running a large company, preferably their own ) who was able to have kids and a happy marriage.  She felt that something had to be compromised in order to achieve her own personal goals and have the happy marriage and kids.  Pretty smart for 18 years old. 

The more I thought about it, the more I think Jessica might be right.  I consider myself successful but for many years I didn't feel that way.  I had always envisioned myself running a big company or having my own business but in the end, life needed to be flexible.  I had a few of those opportunities over the years but I turned them down to be home and be a support system for our lives ( that would include sending my husband to medical school – just a term but you get the gist ). 

As I explained to Jessica, life needs to be flexible.  Goals you set out for yourself might be achieved and they might not.  Many times over the years, at certain forks in the road, we ( Fred and I ) made decisions that made sense for our life and our kids.  I probably was a little more flexible on the stay at home path for a time being because I was able to create something unique for myself so I didn't completely leave the work life.  I also didn't want to be a disconnected parent and my fear was that if I took that "big job" that I would become that.  Doesn't mean I would but I thought I might. 

I was talking this weekend about the concept of how life can't be set in stone.  My friend told me about his father who had started a computer company in 1966, way before its time, but his brother got cancer and everything changed.  His motivation changed and he went down a different path.  Women, who are on a path of taking over the world, all of a  sudden have a kid and they make a big U turn and want to be home.  A tragedy, a miracle, a shift in one's partners career can set your life down a new road.

Bravo to being 18 and having a path that you want to follow.  I am still thinking about that woman who has it all.  I am not sure it is possible.  Maybe if your husband stays home and deals with all the other stuff.  Obviously if you don't have a choice and you have to work, you can attempt to have it all but it is tough.  I look at many successful women who are divorced.  Their relationships with their children appear to be good but maybe the marriage is where they chose to not work as hard.  Relationships are hard work just as work is hard work. 

This is a topic I have written about before but maybe this is just a tad different.  I am happy with the choices that I have made and I made them for a reason.  Maybe the next generation, like my girls, will make other decisions based on the decisions that I made which did or didn't work for them.  I am sure I made many decisions because of the decisions my mother made.  Either the same or the complete opposite. I am not sure it is getting easier, it is just changing. 

Comments (Archived):

  1. Kelly

    Whether it was my parents or my all-girls school education, I was brought up to not limit any of my choices because I was a woman. It’s now, as I’m getting older, that I’m realizing part of the opportunity might be the ability to change course with my life and make healthy decisions to follow my personal and/or professional interests. Whether that’s raising a family or ringing the closing bell at the NYSE some day, having been brought up with flexible goals made all the difference in the world.Cheers to you for raising such a strong daughter that will be well-balanced and ready to follow life’s twisting path.

    1. Gotham Gal

      I hope that is what we have done for all our kids. You summed it upperfectly in this line. “I’m realizing part of the opportunity might be theability to change course with my life and make healthy decisions to followmy personal and/or professional interests.”

  2. chefbikram

    1. GG you clearly have set a good example for your daughter. I hope to do the same.2. “all” what does that mean really? for unsatisfied women, it may mean the career they missed out on, or the husband they never found or the adventure they passed up on. So really “all” then becomes entangled with regret. if you regret then you likely don’t feel you can or do have it all.3. thank god for the blessing of what you do have. of course wanting is good and life would be boring to not strive, chase and desire. But that is very different than feeling one has missed out.4. parenthood, and being in a strong relationship are harder (in my opinion) that succeeding at a job. the nuances, personal investment, giving up control. wow.5. i have it all. at least i have my definition of it all. that surely does NOT mean i walk around on cloud of happiness. hardly. there have been some major disappointments and struggles. luckily time has allowed me to see the purpose of those events. like the 7 year path to be a mom.6. using one’s brain is the key. i work and parent. and i’m thankful for the opportunity to have the work outlet. i’m a worker bee and i need that productivity high that comes from work.7. raising a good citizen is a huge accomplishment. kudos to you gg. so tell Jessica she certainly can have it all — her personal “all.” just trust it.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Thanks for this. Number 4 and 6 hit the high notes.

  3. Joanna Van Vleck

    This is such an interesting post. As a 25 yr old CEO of a rapidly expanding business, I find myself asking the same question of myself as your daughter. Yes, I have the flexibility of creating my own schedule as the “boss”, but I also have the responsibility of always having to have TC on the brain. I see friends who are married, talking about families, and I often wonder if I could handle kids. I, too, want the luxury of being “present” while raising kids and having time to focus on my relationship.For the moment, my decision is to work really hard in my 20’s, sell the business and re-think life in my 30’s. This is the greatness of being an entrepreneur and of starting early. My advice to your daughter–start as early as you can!

    1. Gotham Gal

      My advice to you is don’t wait too long to have kids, if you want them.Plans don’t always work out the way you think they will. When you havechildren, think about the exit strategy not the entry strategy. There issomething nice about being young enough to have another life after the kidsleave.You are in a place that I found myself at 29. It is not easy to make themany choices you can make.

  4. Yule Heibel

    This is definitely an entry that’s close to my heart, even though our situations are different in so many ways. I find the responses to your post really interesting and full of insights, too.One angle that’s not addressed and which lately I’ve wondered about is how location factors into flexibility. (I’m a fan of much of Richard Florida’s work – you know, the guy who writes about the Creative Class and Who’s Your City?)A while back you wrote a great blog post about your early involvement with Geocities, and how it factored into letting you to move back to the city after a sojourn in the suburbs. Not just any city, though! To use Richard Florida’s terminology, you settled in one of the “spikiest” cities in the world. I think flexibility and location (especially a location that offers more opportunities than other locations) go hand-in-glove, so I would advise any young woman to think hard about this one, too.I’m saying this because I’m second-guessing my own choice – at the time (in 2002) eminently logical – to move ‘back’ to Victoria BC, which is ON AN ISLAND, and which has in recent years begun to feel to me more and more like being “buried in a shallow grave” because it lacks many of the opportunities one finds in a more connected city. It is literally INSULAR.That phrase (“buried in a shallow grave”) haunts me lately. It comes from an old art history professor who, nearly 30 years ago, advised a friend of mine (who had chosen a very limited and limiting topic for his dissertation) that he was burying himself in a shallow grave with that topic. The topic was noble but small, it was limited, it wasn’t a spiky peak on which to stand and survey the (professional) terrain, it would pigeon-hole and slot him for ever after, it would restrict his ability to find work at desirable universities. Sure, it was a noble topic. The problem was that nobody (or not enough people, or not the “right” people) cared about it. As it happened, being noble turned out to have a hefty price tag in terms of advancement, with real financial and professional penalties.I didn’t understand the warning then, frankly, but I think I get it now… Your location is a platform. Your subject matter is a platform. Your career is a platform. Your immersion in parenthood is a platform. You’re an actor on all those stages, you should choose quality every time. And while all those platforms should be well-connected to the overall vision you have of yourself, you also have to figure out how much it’s going to cost if you stick to the high road. (Here’s where I also have to say that I loved your response to Joanna VL re. thinking not just about “entry” strategies (entering motherhood), but also “exit” strategies (what to do/ where you are when the kids leave home)! Yep.)Meanwhile, someone hand me a shovel so I can trench my way out of my shallow grave! 🙂

  5. grvaughan

    There are seasons in life where you need to slow down. Young children is the biggest, but there are other important ones, too – furthering one’s education, caring for a relative, etc.Sadly, our society as it’s currently structured does a poor job of accommodating these. Unless you’re already very well plugged into a good employer, part-time work opportunities can be pitifully poor and even just a few years completely at home can seriously threaten a promising career.I would agree that the only answer is flexibility. The 40 hour, 9-5 work week is an outdated concept. What’s really needed is a way to downshift without falling completely off the map.