I was Type-A…until I had kids

If you had asked me when I was twenty what I would be doing at forty, the answer would have been definitive: killing it at work. When I was in my twenties I imagined my forty year-old self doing big, important things, ideally on a global scale.

Instead I work in a sun-filled office just off the living room and right above the basement playroom. My power calls are sometimes interrupted by shrieks, tears, and occasionally throw up. My computer has a tiny peanut butter thumbprint on the top right of the screen that I can’t bring myself to wipe off. And well, I’m not the boss of anyone…but myself.

Somewhere in a wrinkle in time my twenty year-old self just shuddered. The very one who would have sworn I’d never, ever get married (and if I did, I’d wear black). And children? Fughetaboudit.

How did I get here? This is not my beautiful life…

I used to think “success” was the only thing that mattered. In my mind, it was a pretty linear deal – work long, hard, smart and go up, up, up as time marches inevitably on.

And then came the moment Will arrived. Time stopped and bent around this new little man. Linear equations suddenly exploded into non-linear chaos.

Today success means stopping work at 5:15 to make dinner and sitting down to eat as a family. It means being there when my six-year old sprints into my office after school with his brand new library book on volcanoes wanting me to read it. Right NOW. And being able to drop everything to do just that. It means being there to celebrate with some wacky Cotton Eyed Joe song when my three year old goes pee pee on the potty for the first time.

It also means making less money and being on a slower track than many of my peers.

What I understand today that I didn’t when I was twenty is that success has nothing at all to do with what you do for a living and everything to do with how you choose to live. It’s complex. Chaotic. Changing. As my children grow, my definition does, and will continue to shift.

Ultimately having children has taught me that the real measure of success is choosing to live in a way that aligns with what matters most to you. In the moments I am able to do that, life is rich indeed.

Thank God we grow up.

Agree? Disagree? Think I just torpedoed my chances at any high-powered position in the future?

  • Jeni

    Thank you for this. This article really spoke to me :-) I am a late twenty-something… starting to realize that this idea of “success” is a very personal thing. I’ve been changing jobs over the past few years, searching for my CAREER WITH A CAPITAL C! And have been beating myself up for not finding it yet. Now, I’m starting to see that I need to chart my own course. Scary, but liberating. I feel confident that I can be happy, healthy, and somewhat balanced. I am a creative, free thinker, and need to define my own reality! I’m glad I’m figuring this out about myself now. This website and blog has helped give me tools to become more organized to plan for my goals. THANK YOU!!!!!

  • SarahButtonedUp

    @aa62810adbd6142e370127fdf8e2f8e1:disqus – so glad to hear! I think the other thing to take note of (and I wish I would have figured out in my 20s) is that you have MANY lives within one life. And I don’t mean that in a metaphysical sense, but in a very practical one.

    I watched my mom, a doctor, really hit her career stride in her 60s, and 70s. In fact, she made the leap from being in private practice to being in academic medicine when she was in her 50s (starting “low on the totem pole”) and then, because she could really focus w/o being torn between kids + career as much, she just took off like a shot.

    Obviously, it depends a lot on the area you are in work-wise and the stereotypes that exist within that industry. But, for sure, one thing I have gotten a lot more clear on is – it’s hardly a linear path “up” and there’s no set time to “make it.”


  • http://twitter.com/GlobalTable Sasha Martin

    To quote Gretchen Rubin, “The days are long but the years are short.” I totally agree :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/reneebrown24 Renee Brown

    this is so beautiful, Sarah! You put into words what so many of us are thinking! Thanks for sharing this gemstone.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jasi.lee.7 Jasi Lee

    Agree. Living a fulfilled life in alignment with the choices you make is key to happiness. Whatever those choices are.

  • SarahButtonedUp

    Thanks Renee. :) Glad it struck a cord!

  • SarahButtonedUp

    Amen! I especially agree with the line: whatever those choices are.

  • Mary

    I think most young people have a unrealistic expectations of what life is going to be like. I loved the message but I also agree with one of the comments. Most young people think that they are suppose to be someone of importance in society by a certain age generally they believe 30 or close to 40 to be successful. There are different measures of success depending on who you talk to. My aunt who just celebrated her 80th birthday said her greatest accomplishment in her life was her two children. She reached, in her career, a high level of success at a young age but she still says in her life her children are what made her the happiest. Most successful people don’t make it until they are 50. Society is showing all the young people who are successful and it is not the normal. They think college is going to get them there and they don’t understand everyone struggles and that very few people luck into something without putting in their dues and working their way up from the bottom. Some will never make it to their financial goals but spiritual and family goals are easy to achieve and much more rewarding. To be balanced we need to have goals in all areas and sometimes the spiritual and relationship goals help us reach our financial ones.

  • SarahButtonedUp

    Mary I could not agree with you more. One additional note to build on your thought – the other message we all get from a young age is that success is somehow measurable from dimensions outside of yourself (e.g. money, title). The real benchmarks for success are always internal and linked to your values and beliefs.

  • ginben1

    I am now a 56 year old grandmother of a ten month old little girl. I worked full time the whole time since my son was 10 weeks old. i worked while my son was growing up. He is an only child because I was too busy to have another. I worked my way up into a well paying (for my field) managers position. Work was my life. Then I lost my father to cancer. He was 73. My son left home and is now a Daddy. When I see how hard he works to provide the best for her, I see myself all over again. It took a major breakdown for me to see that my lifestyle was killing me. It robbed me of my son’s childhood. I got to thinking “was it really worth it?” I have a nice home, a nice car, etc. but do I have a nice life? No. My lifestyle was killing me. It took a year of chronic bad health to convince me that it wasn’t worth it. I am stepping down to a lower, part time position. I will have time to spend with my granddaughter. I will have less income, but I may have added some quality years to my life. I am learning to stop my Type A life to have a Type Q (Quality) life.