Thursday, June 17, 2010

Choosing family over career?

"Its impossible to find examples of people who have chosen their families over a career that was taking off," one of my friends recently lamented, "but perhaps thats just a statement of how our parent's generation choices."

Father's Day is coming up and I try to reflect on what type of father I have been during this time. It just so happens I have had several conversations relating to the work versus family tension in life. The above conversation happened a couple weekends ago. Impossible is not the word I would have chosen but it is the word that was used. It certainly can be difficult to find people who have stopped mid take off in order to be with their families more often or be with their kids as they grew up. What it had me wondering was whether it was "impossible" to find or if these people were hidden because no one was making an example out of them. Magazines and web sites are dedicated to those with success as defined by our American society and are not dedicated to those who spend the most time with their families. However, in an age with high divorce rates, heavily medicated children, and record childhood obesity from inactivity - maybe we need to define success in a different way.

"When I leave IBM it will be because of my family," an IBM executive told me a week ago, "not because of money or the promise of a more powerful position."

What does it mean to pick your family over your career truly? I know a couple of IBM executives who have made potentially career limiting decisions to keep from moving their families or to move their families near their extended family. However, there are fewer examples of people who tossed their careers out the window. Few of these folks who have dropped travel next to nothing and protect their nights and weekends for their kids. Its this latter definition that my friend and I were looking for during our discussion. What does it look like to truly choose your family over your career?

"I'm retiring from software on June 18th to relax and spend more time with my family," wrote an IBM Distinguished Engineer last night in an email to myself and others.

I am not sure of the situation above, but based on that statement that individual could be a candidate for an example of this decision. I currently am not an example of this either. I try to minimize travel and I start my days at 5 AM in order to get to the gym and be done with work at a reasonable time in the evening. While those things are probably evidence that I care about my family, they are not evidence of me choosing my family over my career in my opinion. That's a tough thing to admit with father's day around the corner.

1 comment:

Cassie said...

This is a wonderful post and it really moved me. While there are many thoughts about this rolling around inside of me, I'll only say this much. I work only 2 days a week so that I can partially stay home with my 16 month old daughter. It makes $ a little tight now that I'm not full time but I will never get this time with her back.