I know I’m not the only millenial that grew up hearing, “You can be anything you want to be when you grow up.” And everyone said it: parents, teachers, television. The first day of my high school psychology class, the teacher asked us what we wanted to be. In the entire class, there was one person who said, “I just want to be a mom.”
Living in Iowa City, one of the first questions I get from most people is “are you a student?” When I say, “no I work,” the next question is, “what do you do?” And I find that I don’t want to answer. It bugs me to be defined by my job.
Recent conversation between me and the Vice President:
VP: Where do you want to be in 5 years?
Me: I want to write fiction and raise kids.
VP: So you want to be at home, working on fiction?
Owen called my response risky. In reality I just can’t think on the spot, so the only thing that can come out of my mouth is pure, unedited honesty. She was nice, but it felt like I was supposed to give a different answer, something about climbing the ladder.
I have the luxury of working my tail off at work, then coming home and ignoring my email and phone until the next work day. Owen, on the other hand, has homework to do. He doesn’t even get work-life separation, let alone work-life balance.
Don’t let his being in a Ph.D. fool you—Owen’s aspirations and mine are actually very similar. Right now, he doesn’t always get to spend the time he wants to on “life” away from work. But Owen isn’t in his Ph.D. program to work toward a career goal. He’s in it to work toward a family goal.
For us, work-life balance is about why we’re working, not just how much we’re working. I “just” want to be a mom. Owen “just” wants to be a dad. We are working toward finding careers that will allow us to spend as much time with each other as possible and to be emotionally available to our kids and those around us.