A few years ago, I did something pretty moronic. Something selfish. It was something that, as the title says, nearly wrecked my life, but it was something that a lot of people expect childless women to do.
I put my career first. Not just once, mind you – work does need to come first sometimes if one expects to stay employed – but repeatedly, habitually, over the course of about a year.
Mothers get castigated left and right for actual and alleged incidents of “putting their career first.” But if you’re not a parent, it’s a different story. The assumption from your colleagues, your superiors and (it sometimes seems) society at large is that if you don’t have kids, you have bugger all else going on in your life and so you’re free to be a workaholic. Or, people assume that you don’t have kids because you’re a workaholic, therefore you won’t mind living at the office.
I fell for that for awhile. And heck, I’d known for a long time that motherhood was not in God’s plan for my life, so why not devote all my energy to my career? (Yes, I am gullible. Why do you ask?) For about a year after I finished grad school, I made work my life. I had just started a new job with the brand-spanking new degree I worked so hard to get and I was on fire! I was going to change the world, man! I’d spend 10-12 hour days at work and then come home and dream of grandiose plans to advance my career and be like some of the mentors I admired. I stopped going to the gym (something I did regularly during grad school) and stopped cooking regular dinners for DH. I never went to Daily Mass (something I love) and this family-oriented girl even missed her cousin’s wedding because of work. I didn’t take a vacation; at first that was because I didn’t have vacation time, later because I thought the only “vacations” I needed were work-related conferences. I only took one sick day, and that was the day after I came to work with what turned out to be bronchitis. (Bronchitis! What was I thinking?!?)
My wake-up call came in the form of both personal and professional swift kicks in rear. I got fired because I was a stressed out witch who everyone hated. DH gently pointed out that I had brought this on myself, and that it wasn’t just ruining my career, it was ruining our marriage.
I was unemployed for a few months after that, during which time I ate crow, my words, and a slice of humble pie for dessert. I knew that my priorities were all screwed up and I needed a new game plan. By the grace of God, I got a new job, and I promised myself and DH that the old, angry Mary was never coming back. That was over a year ago, and she’s still gone; I see echoes of her now and then, but by and large I’ve sent her back into the vile contagion of the night.
As for how I did that, that will have to wait for Part 2…