Aspirations. Future plans. Dreams… We all have them. If we did not, we would most likely be empty shells, aimlessly drifting from one place to the next throughout the course of our otherwise ‘meaningless’ lives, with no clear-cut desires, hopes or distant future in mind…
However, even as we chase down our dreams with arms outstretched and hearts full of passion and determination, too often it seems that the other equally, if not more, important things – and people – in our lives suffer because of this so-called ‘pursuit of personal happiness’.
Nowadays, people spend more time at work with their colleagues than they do at home with their loved ones. They are more closely ‘married’ to their jobs than they are to their spouses, playing more definite parental roles to their proteges than to their own children…
With this thought in mind, it is not hard to see why divorce is so prevalent in our ‘all work and no play’ modern society. I don’t wish to imply that the high divorce rate seen across the globe is purely the fault of careerism, but it is certainly a contributing factor.
As Vijal P. Sharma, a PhD. with over thirty years of experience in personal, marriage and family counselling writes on his Mind Publications site, “High job demands and lack of control over such demands, coupled with job insecurity and poor social support, bring increased risk of physical and mental disorders and family breakdown.”
With every divorce or break-up, another family is torn asunder, another child will grow up in a broken home and another sacred marriage, or so-called ‘lifelong commitment’ between two partners, once supposedly in love with a desire to make a life together, comes to an end… and not an abrupt, painless end either.
There are always inexpressible heartaches and high costs involved – both emotionally and financially – for the family, as the divorce or annulment finally draws to a slow and weary end.
More to the point, even the families that happily remain intact – somehow managing to juggle the pressures and demands of everyday life and family time with relative smoothness – still suffer as a result of the sacrifices that their partners, parents and yes, even children, are ‘forced’ to make.
The reality for most women – and families at large – nowadays is that the ‘stay-at-home’ mother is virtually a thing of the past.
I understand that most women (and even fathers) are not fortunate enough to raise their children in the traditional sense anymore and that, due to global economic constraints and shifting gender equality views, most, even if they would preferred it to be otherwise, are expected or forced to help support their families either as partial or sole breadwinners.
I cannot fault any woman for wanting to have a both career and a family because I think for many women today, it is simply the reality we are faced with and the hope that we still hold for our futures but it bothers me that in modern society it often feels like some women cannot wait to give birth just so that they can head straight back to work again.
As recently as the 23rd of July, 2014, Steve Doughty of Britain’s Daily Mail wrote an article discussing the recent findings of a study compiled by the University of Essex-based, Institute for Social and Economic Research.
In it, he writes: “Mothers who return to work after their baby is born risk causing serious damage to the child’s prospects in later life, researchers revealed yesterday. Such children are more likely to do worse at school, become unemployed and to suffer mental stress than youngsters whose mothers stay at home to bring them up.”
Mental stress is not the only risk at hand because, in many instances, as soon as the baby is old enough, it is left with a caretaker, which, unless a relative or friend can be found, involves the hiring of some outsider. This person is usually someone with no emotional connection or moral obligation to the child or its well-being and this can result in possible negligence, psychological, emotional or physical abuse and even death.
In our 21st century world, there is an immediate problem facing most young children and it is this: they will grow up without either of their parents being actively present in their lives during childhood.
At times, it appears that having children is a ‘chore’ for most couples these days, one which, once they have successfully created and given life to another human being, they are able to safely tick off of Life’s to-do list before returning to their former ways.
The politics of the matter aside, the crux is that many children feel closer emotionally to their grandparents, nannies and teachers than they do to their own parents and, on the flip side, many parents run the risk of knowing next to nothing about their children and their social lives because, barring the odd scattered moments here and there, they spend little to no time bonding with or talking to their kids.
Nevertheless, the blame cannot solely be laid at the feet of modern day parents because as siblings, children and grandchildren, we need to take responsibility as well, for when we allow our academic achievements or even the pressures of our social lives – at school and university alike – to interfere with the amount of time we spend with our siblings, parents and grandparents, then we too are at fault.
In the short term, spending the next three to five years post-school (or even after college) chasing down that next qualification or high-paying job opportunity might seem like a really great idea – but not if it comes at the expense of our ability to maintain, expand or deepen our friendships and intimate relationships because, somewhere down the line, the price we have paid for our success and the fulfillment of one or two parts of our future, will not seem to have been worth it in the grander scheme of things.
It’s important for us to understand and to remember that, one day when we are older and we stop to reflect on our life achievements, as important and treasured as the academic or career accomplishments will be to us then, the fun things we did, the invaluable time we spent with those we loved and the exciting places we saw, will be utterly priceless in comparison.
I believe most people would agree with me when I say that you cannot put too high a price on such things – and unlike with career opportunities and projects – you don’t always get a second shot because sometimes, the chance of a lifetime has already come and gone and the lasting things in our personal lives and the people we care for and love are not always going to be willing or able to wait around for us to make time for them.
As a quote by Max Lucado says, “When you are in the final days of your life, what will you want? Will you hug that college degree in the walnut frame? Will you ask to be carried to the garage so you can sit in your car? Will you find comfort in re-reading your financial statement? Of course not. What will matter then will be people. If relationships will matter most then, shouldn’t they matter most now?”
Because, unlike a test, a failed relationship or marriage can never be re-written and while there are some things that can be rescheduled in this life – such as a job interview or business meeting – the birth of a child, a graduation ceremony and wedding cannot be.
Often, the purest happiness in life will only come to us after we have made the greatest personal sacrifices of our lives… after we have passed up that internship in favour of a gap year spent travelling the world (or even just our own province or country) or, on a more serious note, it might even mean losing a wonderful job so that we can spend time with a loved one or friend during their final days.
As people, one of the most important skills we can ever hope to perfect is how to efficiently balance our priorities and our time and to simultaneously make the most of both, even when it feels like our responsibilities and troubles in this world are on a roller-coaster ride that only ever seems to go up…
So please… as you go out and try your hardest to achieve your dreams and personal goals, make sure that you are not also busy sacrificing the permanent on the altar of the temporary.