There’s a harsh reality that seems to have been following me over the last few years when it comes to trying to balance career with relationships. By relationships, I don’t just mean of the romantic variety, but all relationships, including friends and family.
I live on the other side of the world* from where I grew up. Sometimes that seems really far away, but, I love my current life. I’m finally on a path where I’m working towards things that I’m both proud of and feel rewarded by. Work is work, but it’s also a labour of love.
Lately I’ve been trying to confront a number of things in my life. Some of these are related to the reality of my not getting any younger, while others are just based on where my priorities currently are. But there’s also – frequently – an overwhelming sense of pressure and obligation that stems from my being female.
To tackle the latter first, I would like to start off by acknowledging that I don’t think I’d be able to be away from home for as long as I have been if The Muj** were still alive. Her passing kind of freed me emotionally, in some ways financially, but just generally to pack up and go, and basically just live. But, because she was pretty much the primary caregiver of my only living grandmother/parent, her passing transferred a lot of that responsibility to my brother and I. That being said, I’ve benefitted from this, because I have become closer to my grandmother as a result. But it’s also for this reason that it makes it difficult for me to leave again every time I come home. I’d also like to have it on record that neither my brother, nor my grandmother*** have ever made me feel guilty for wanting to go and see where this current trajectory is taking me. That’s another aspect of my life that I’m extremely grateful for, but it doesn’t really make things easier.
The thing is, and I never really recognized this until I hit 30, there’s a lot of pressure from my Western societal roots that insists I either should already have reached or at least be nearing the point in my life where I settle down in one place, find a husband, and make babies. I realize this isn’t strictly a Western thing, because it’s probably much worse on this side than it is back home. But, for me, the pressure didn’t start out of a need to do all of those things, but more so, the need to solidify where that place of settle will be. And it’s hard. On the one hand, I want to be closer to my family, but on the other, my work, goals, and preference is where I’m currently at, which makes things oh so complicated when it comes to the other aspects in my life…
Most people who know me, know I’ve never really had a desire to get married, and even less so to have children. Part of this is because I’ve always been career minded, and part is because my ideas about how a child should be brought up in this world seem to contrast drastically from how things are happening back home, which of course is all overcomplicated by the fact that I’m a child of divorced parents; meaning that Disney-ideal was shattered for me a long time ago!
Despite all this, the issue of baby making has been something that’s been playing on my mind quite heavily over the past year, and it’s a confrontation that has both taken me off guard, but also been a great source of difficulty. I’ve just turned 32, which makes me still quite young, but I’m realizing that if that expected milestone is going to be checked, it needs to happen sooner than later, and it really needs to take priority over other aspects of life (career, travel plans, not being responsible for the wellbeing of another human, let alone myself…).
Recently, I had to make a fairly big decision. It’s not a new decision, but one I’m tired of having to make. In every relationship I have ever been in, I’ve had to do a lot of compromising****. In most cases, however, it’s been me that has had to do the majority of that compromising, because as a woman, it’s kind of an accepted social practice that the woman has to give up on her dreams or goals, in order to accommodate her partner. I don’t know that this is necessarily a conscious thing that happens – by either party – but it’s what I’ve always observed.
To put this in to a bit more context, my goals have always been to hold a career in some form of social entrepreneurship, as well as wanting to work outside of Canada. At the start of my more recent relationships, I’ve made a point of putting these objectives on the table from the get go, so there’s no surprises down the road. And every time, there seems to be an enthusiastic acceptance, followed by a comment along the lines of your ambition/drive/desire to fulfil your dreams is a highly desirable/attractive quality. But, as soon as there’s any sort of seriousness brought into the mix, that ambition/drive/desire to fulfil my dreams becomes inconvenient to the sir in question. And thus, the ultimatum surfaces – again not necessarily consciously, or by the sir – do I see where the relationship takes me, or pursue my career goals?
More times than I’d like to admit, the former has taken priority over the latter. That is until recently.
There’s a saying, or perhaps a certain guy code, that is casually thrown around when it comes to balancing romantic relationships with friendships. You may have heard of the term bros before hoes before. And although my dilemma has nothing to do with friendships, that pressure that I feel, as a woman, to give up, go home and help care for my family and loved ones, to get married and start a family, all require some sort of equivalent, I think. Surely, there needs to be some modern understanding that alleviates this pressure and makes it acceptable to deviate from tradition. I mean, we’re no longer in a place where popping out babies is needed in order to grow or maintain our population in an effort to sustain human life. And I’d like to think most of us can now agree that we have more than enough folks on this tiny planet of ours! So, I’ve decided to adopt a new outlook***** – Jobs Before Bobs. Yeah, it’s terrible, but I needed it to rhyme! I need to somehow push past all of these ingrained social pressures in order to focus on my big picture, which likely won’t include having my own family. But, that’s okay.
I’m okay with getting older – in fact I find it a privilege, since so many are not afforded such milestones. I’m okay with not having a penis******/being a woman. I’m even okay with most of the uncertainty and possibility of failure that my future now faces. But what I need to be okay with are the consequences – the compromise – of all that*******. And in time, I think I’ll get there.
-the Orange Canadian
*Geographically and culturally – because there are a LOT of differences between where my home is now, and where I grew up!
**The odd nickname I gave my Mom at some point in my life…
***Same goes for Scott and pretty much everyone else back home.
***Same goes for Scott and pretty much everyone else back home.
****Which is fair…that’s part of any relationship.
*****Although it doesn’t really tackle the taking care of family bit
******Although I’m disappointed my mother’s assertion that I’d become a man if I added to my tattoo collection has not come true…
*******Not so much the tattoos = penis bit