Submitted by Kathy Haselmaier
The great thing about a long career is that you can look back, pull out a few nice stories that highlight your "shining moments", and share them with others as an example of your experience. Then you can conveniently forget all of the other "stuff" that happened. There is great value in sharing the good stories to be sure. We all learn from each other, and it's better to leverage the good stuff. With that said, when we only share our positive stories, we may leave others with unrealisitc ideas about what it takes to manage a career.
While talking with a young working parent who was questioning her ability to continue pursuing her career recently, I made a casual reference to "my meltdowns". She stopped the conversation. Then she said, "You had meltdowns?" I had to laugh, because all of my close friends know that I had meltdowns, and boy-oh-boy does my husband know that I had meltdowns. They were most frequent when our kids were little, but I have to admit that they started before we had kids, and they didn't end after the kids left home. It's possible I'd have had even more meltdowns if I didn't pursue a career.
By the time I reached my mid-20s, I learned that you don't do anyone any favors when you go on and on about your own shortcomings, so I mostly kept the meltdown stories to myself. But in case others find it at all comforting, let me just say that there were meltdowns. There was whining. There was complaining. And on occasion there was crying. My husband was there and endured it all. It's probably worth mentioning that he also became overwhelmed at times. He handled it differently, but there were times he wasn't sure he could handle it all either. But I had meltdowns more often and better than he did. I definitely "won" meltdowns. (In case you're wondering, we had a string of years when our kids were little when I bet I had a meltdown every quarter. As time went on, I think they may have gone down to a rate of one every five years. It did get better, especially as the kids started taking more and more responsibility for their own activities.)
There was problem solving too. And there were a lot of very long conversations and negotiations that occurred between my husband and me about how we could keep going while keeping it all together. It. Was. Not. Easy.
But we both wanted to make it work, so we did. It wasn't always pretty, but we crossed the finish line. And we're glad we stayed in the race.
P.S. My husband (aka "assistant editor") said that he was disappointed after reading this story. He thought I was going to share a dramatic story about one of my meltdowns, and he thinks other readers may be a bit disappointed with this ending. Sorry about that, but I'm not going there.
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