You are about to launch yourself in the career of your dreams knowing that a fierce commitment to long hours and a single focus is what it’s going to take. You also happen to be female and now thanks to Hewlett’s research you no longer have the illusion that you can begin “having it all” (career and children) shortly after 40. The experience of current corporate female trailblazers appears none too comforting. What is striking, on the one hand, is the “I forgot to have kids” syndrome echoed by forty-something corporate women who seem to have “planned” by default.
And on the other hand, there are women like Diane Larsen (“Career, Family Goals Still Clash” Boston Globe 4-21-02) who firmly believe they do “have it all”. But the factors that support “having it all”, in Diane’s case, an employer whose innovative program supports young women and men in managing both their professional and family responsibilities and a life partner who actively shares childcare and home life responsibilities, seem about as much a “given” in 2002 as Arafat and Sharon agreeing to break bread together.
We cannot assume that “having it all” will be delivered solely by virtue of our sincerity, talent, and/or professional muscle. When it comes to the constellation of our personal lives in terms of selecting life partners, having children, creating rich and multifaceted lives, we surrender much of our power to choose.
We either swim in the waters of ambiguity, afraid to feel the biological undertow, and/or allow cultural forces to chisel us in the image that best serves the business world but often violates our innermost selves. We are not yet a culture that widely honors and nurtures emotional intelligence (self-knowledge, etc.), the key to fulfilling lives. But we can and must develop just those skills, harnessing them for the work of life.
Emotionally Intelligent Advice for Twenty- and Thirtysomethings…
o Start/continue asking the “Big Questions”:
Who am I?
What’s my purpose in life?
What does “having it all” mean to me?
What do I want my life to look like at 30, 40, 50?
oFind professors, mentors, coaches, psychologists, religious leaders, whomever you trust, to support you in the “Big Questions” dialogue.
o Ask a mentor ten years older to share her wisdom. (What does it look like on the other side of the great divide between 20 and 30 or 30 and 40?)
o Craft a life plan to guide your decisions over the next several years.
Editor’s Note: Susan Wilner is a personal coach and cross-cultural corporate trainer in the metro-Boston area. She can be reached at email@example.com