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Ask The Girlfriends - All The Single Girlfriends

Ask The Girlfriends

"Career go-getter" or "Putting career over family"?

Apr 7, 2011 by

This post is the first in an All The Single Girlfriends series: Ask The Girlfriends.

We thought the collective life  experience/”wisdom” of the Gf authors might help younger women sort through a few of life’s challenges. As our way of giving back to women under 30, Gf authors will answer questions about life, career, relationships and well .. we’ll see where this takes us. Most of us realize by the time we reach our age that we left some great advice sitting unused on the table because it came from our mothers or some other purveyor of unsolicited advice designed it seemed only to burst our bubbles or cramp our style.

With this series we’re reaching out to women under 30 and asking them to provide a question to us that they want some help answering. Those of us who believe that we have some helpful insights on the topic will respond. We’ll post the questions and the answers. We cordially invite the A ll The Single Girlfriend community to add your perspectives and join in these important discussions.

Our first question in the series is from Mei-Li Thomas, a young woman that Toby met through blogging. Mei-Li interviewed Toby about Toby’s career journey .. now it’s our turn to help her.

Ask The Girlfriends

Question from Mei-Lei: At what point does a woman go from “career go-getter” to “putting career over family”. I’m noticing that the closer I get to 30 the less my contemporaries are seen as career go-getters and are being warned to not put too much emphasis on building a career. Though I believe in balance I just wonder when did/does that happen?

Girlfriend’s Answer: Gf Mary Schmidt

Wow. I’m amazed that this is STILL happening.  Here’s hoping you’re not also asked in job interviews about your plans to have a family. I’d have to ask in return, WHO is warning your contemporaries to not put too much emphasis on building a career?  Is it fellow women who have children?  Male supervisors?  Women bosses who themselves “sacrificed” family for career?   And, in what industries?

Any of these people could well have private agendas in giving such advice to a fellow employee or staffer.  They could be discouraging potential competition. They feel threatened by the young up and comer…or even jealous. Etc.

However, they could /also/ have been burned – more  than once – by parents expecting special treatment in the workplace.

Moms still get a bad rap – which is sometimes deserved in my experience.

It’s unrealistic and unfair to expect to have the same career when you don’t put in the same (real and/or perceived) effort, regardless of the reason.  And, if you’re working in a traditional office environment, simply being present and accounted for is critical.  Is it unfair?

Sure.  We all know much of the time at the office isn’t actually productive. But it’s reality. /”Where’s Sue?” “Oh, she had to take her daughter to the doctor.”  “Again? Geez, she’s never here.”  /Sue may actually have burned up the track that week, getting all her work done early, but that’s not the /perception/.

In my corporate career, I personally had to take up the slack – far more than once – for co-workers and staffers who put ANYTHING family-related above business. (It was also assumed, still is, by both men and women that – because I was single – it was no problem for me to work longer hours or even on weekends. After all, I had no responsibilities,

right?)  Certainly ballet recitals and soccer games are important and illnesses happen…but if you choose the kids over the business EVERY single time…well, you can’t be depended upon when really needed to close that big deal or deliver the product.

It all comes down to: Having a family is a personal decision and requires effort and sacrifice to /do it right,/ regardless of the parent’s sex or career. And that decision shouldn’t automatically /entitle/ anyone to special treatment in the workplace, to the /detriment /of others.

So now that I’ve gotten everyone all riled up, let me refocus the question to the ones that really need to be answered.  “What kind of career do /I /want to build?”  “What do /I/ enjoy doing?” (Life is too short to work at a job you hate, regardless of the career path or

money.) “What’s most important to me…and when?” (We all have different priorities at different times.)  Everyone’s point of balance is different and there’s no one, simple answer. If you want to have a family, that’s your decision and you’ll need to plan accordingly.

Girlfriend’s Answer: Gf Debra Pearlman

Well, first I have to ask, who is doing the warning?  Unless you are hearing this warning from deep inside yourself, I’d take it with a grain of salt.  Balance did or did not just happen, I had to work on keeping the balance I wanted in my life.

And that is the trick, figure out what YOU want for your life and not what is expected or what those around you are doing.  Make the choices that bring you happiness and fulfillment.  If what you want is to build your career…concentrate on that.  If you want to start a family, think about what that means in terms of your career and your long-term goals.

You don’t have to stop being a career gal just because you want a family.  It’s not wrong to want both, but it’s incredibility hard to do that alone.  Balance also comes when you have a partner helping to keep things steady. If you choose the single parent route, make sure you have a great support village.  Hilary was not wrong when she said, “It takes a village.” Having girlfriends that support your choices goes a long way toward keeping your balance.

And finally, remember to take time for yourself.  I have what I call “My Sacred Sundays.”  for years now I’ve kept Sunday just for me to do what ever I want.  If it’s a beautiful day and I want to stay inside and watch old TV shows, that’s what I do.  If it’s sleep all day, well that’s okay.  It’s my day. With a family, it may be harder to be so self indulgent, but you can find a few hours a week that are yours and yours alone.  That will also give your life balance.

Girlfriend’s Answer: Gf Dorothéa Bozicolona-Volpe


This is an interesting question as I watched the same thing happen to my contemporaries in my late 20’s – every girlfriend seemed laser focused on moving up the corporate ladder. Some of them already had very young children and were learning how to balance work, family, life.

I have noticed that in the European communities that I was socialized in the women rarely worked after having children. It is nice to note that more recently this has changed dramatically.

Also, in the straight communities, there is tremendous pressure for women to marry and have children at a certain age. So it would make sense that around the 30 year mark women are thinking about marriage and children.

I have a French girlfriend who waited until she was at the top of her game and approached her husband in their late 40’s to adopt a child from Africa. She told me one at a tea for a mutual friend in Paris that she was glad she waited and enjoys motherhood now, at a time when she can appreciate the experience. She is in her mid 50’s now and their son is 8 and the updates I get from her and her family are so much fun to read.

Alas, it is a matter of personal preference, do you go with the flow so you fit into societal archetypes or do you cut your own path and create your own life.


Girlfriends, what do you think ? Join our conversation!
















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Girl Friends Has Written 19 Articles For Us!

All The Single Girlfriends is a social content destination for single girlfriends over 40 who are meeting life with style and denial! Each of us, along with you, brings a unique idea of what it means to be single after the big 4-0 birthday. There is not one right way to do that. However, we double dare anyone to deny that women over 40 are not fun and fabulous!
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  1. balancing career ambitions with having children sometime in the future @IMOWomen frm http://bit.ly/kslPDC & Ask The Gf http://bit.ly/h6eNxI

  2. RT @atsGf: @FirstThreeInc thanx for your feedback on Ask The Gf post. So glad you found it helpful! http://bit.ly/h6eNxI #mentoring #geny

  3. Ladies, I cannot thank you enough for all of your wonderful words and Tani your honesty means so much to me, thank you. There was one basic question everyone had in common:
    Who is telling me this
    -Not just me, but all of my friends have heard the “be careful not too get caught up in your career or you’ll miss out” warning from both older executive females, and mother figures in our lives (grandmothers, aunts, and mothers hoping to soon become grandmothers).

    I was just watching an episode of Sex and the City where Miranda was chastised at her job for not being there 80hrs/wk like her firm was used to and she reminded them that when her mother died she was back in the office on Monday. It’s crazy how society puts that attempted guilt trip on women. I read a book “The Joys of Much Too Much” by Bonnie Fuller and I found it encouraging that she did balance it all (reminds me of Debra P. a bit)

    Thank you for all of you being proof that a woman does not have to be of a certain age just of a certain maturity and life contentment.I am currently in the process of moving into an apt that is a lot more family friendly in terms of space and neighborhood, so I will have updates in the following months!

    • Mei-Li – Thanks you for being our first in this series. They say that your “first” is always special .. and you are for sure!

      Best of luck in your new apartment and on your career journey. We’ll look forward to hearing about your adventures.

      And we’ll all continue to learn together .. as girlfriends of every age.

  4. Tani

    I don’t believe there is a single answer to your question, Mei Lee. About the time I was wondering about balance, my choices were drastically diminished. My husband left me to marry someone else (a stay-at-home wife) and I suddenly had to manage joint custody of a 7-year-old and an 18-month-old while paying a mortgage and private school tuition. I was fortunate, however, that my parents had recently retired and were able to move to town to take over some of the “schlepping” and babysitting chores. I worried often about how my absences…late nights, business travel…were affecting my children. My contemporaries were busy with playgroups and school plays, most of which I had to miss. My kids never had the benefit of the lessons and after school activities that required a chauffeur-mom. Nevertheless, as young as they were, they read past the physical “thereness”” and understood what emotional “thereness” was all about.

    Somehow, it all worked out. I adore both my daughters and, if they can be believed, the feeling is mutual. Even though I felt I wasn’t always “there” (they spent three days a week with their father and his blended family), they disagreed.

    Even today, when I’m feeling sorry for myself and talk about how I regret missing so much of their childhood, their response is “are you insane?” So, for me, balance wasn’t the issue. To the outsider my business hours were a mistake, but to those I loved the most, my only mistake was doubting their understanding and their belief in my love.

  5. I may have been lucky, but I don’t remember feeling particularly pushed to give up my career aspirations. That may have been because I never wanted children and figured unsolicited advisors didn’t have enough information to give good advice. As it happens, I got bored of the career all on my own and decided to seek … well, I wouldn’t call it balance. It was more like tipping the scales toward family and other things I was interested, but then again that’s why I quit the career.

    It seems to me that people are going to try and tell us what to do all our lives, but life isn’t an equation with right and wrong answers. We all like to think we know what other people ought to be doing and it’s human nature to try and influence others. Don’t take it too seriously. I recommend listening politely, smiling and then doing whatever you want.

  6. I don’t think there is a common point, but I knew I had take a more critical look at my work when I ended up calling my younger daughter from Bangkok for her fourth birthday. Fortunately, she has forgiven me.

  7. New post…new series: Ask The Girlfriends http://bit.ly/dFCUv0 #atsgf


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