By Ina Schwob, LCSW-C
Opportunity and Challenge:
Women transition through multiple and diverse stages throughout life. We experience many chapters of our lives, each with its own set of challenges. As females in a changing society, we are constantly in the process of evolving and exploring new creative fields of interests and passions. Traditionally accepted roles are being challenged, and new vistas are opening up for women. These opportunities bring with them new challenges as we work to discern which path in life will ultimately be most beneficial and fulfilling for us as women.
Career-Building vs. Family Building:
As young girls, many of us engage in child play and dress-up, modeling ourselves after our mothers and/or female role models. As we grow older and discover our unique talents and interests, we embark on a path suited to that specific skill set.
More recently, women have been able to enter into the male-dominated corporate world. Opportunities have arisen for women that have never been available before, and more and more women are leaning in. These career-oriented women are often ambitious, driven, and focused on their careers. The career is looked at as a means to achieve personal fulfillment and maximize one’s potential.
At the same time, many women maintain a more traditional approach- there are those who are more focused on searching for their soul mate and building a family than building a career. These women are equally talented and industrious, but make a conscious decision to invest themselves in work more suitable to the rigors, demands and obligations of family life in order to do what gives them the most meaning. Women have this so called “maternal instinct” which is a constant sense that exists inside of us.
For the average woman, there is a natural tension that exists when being presented with the choice of the self-fulfilling career track and the self-sacrificing motherhood track because there are vast differences in lifestyle, and a seeming impossibility of merging the two lifestyles.
On the one hand, we can pursue and are so capable of the intellectual and corporate opportunities. We can choose to take advantage of the world’s vast opportunities. On the other hand, we feel compelled to nurture and develop our female maternal side. Women pursuing careers may have to forgo motherhood, for lack of time. As women, we were naturally created to play a significant role as caregivers and nurturers, and we don’t want to give up the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to raise a family.
Finding a Resolution – and Inner Peace in the Process:
I have personally grappled with this inner conflict over the years- opportunity vs. responsibility. I have found the best way to resolve this conflict and reach a state of inner peace is to concentrate and focus on prioritizing. I ask myself:
- With all of my innate in-born qualities and all of my interests – what is important to me at this point in my life?
- How can I achieve it in a most productive, realistic way?
- Am I short-changing myself in any possible way?
Based on these questions I can identify what will create fulfillment for me, and put my energy into that. Yes, sometimes this means that I have to compromise on other dreams, but ultimately I am pursuing that which will give me the most satisfaction and meaning.
When we evaluate what is most valuable at each stage of our lives we will practice appreciating where we’re at and embrace our personal blessings and unique circumstances. A level of serenity can be achieved by noticing and focusing in on the good in our lives. I find it helpful to take pause and experience life’s various stages with gratitude, patience, and by focusing on the positives.
Dealing with Changing Circumstances
Sometimes however, our circumstances change in a way that is out of our control. We need to adjust accordingly, as we reinvent ourselves. What is important is not to feel stuck and unaccomplished based on our circumstances, but to look at the situation as an opportunity for creativity and growth. Use the questions above to evaluate what would be most meaningful for you at this new stage and take the necessary actions to achieve it. When we stay open-minded, patient and remind ourselves to enjoy the dynamic stages, we are privileged to experience, and perhaps we will feel inner calm and peace.
As women, we bravely face these unique challenges in our lives and are in a unique position to balance and/or choose between the stimulation and rigors of a career and/or the opportunity and privilege of raising a family. Knowing ourselves and acknowledging our priorities will help us foster self-actualization – which will ultimately lead to inner serenity and true happiness. If we can appreciate all of life’s blessings and opportunities, we will reach happiness and peace throughout our stages of life. Women are fortunate to be given this challenging opportunity to achieve fulfillment and self-actualization as we use all of our creative resources and talents in order to contribute to society in a meaningful way.
About the author
Ina Schwob MSW, LCSW-C is a licensed clinical social worker.