Life is ever-evolving in terms of social norms, economic expectations, family structure, career trajectory, you name it. As we evolve, it’s obvious that certain things gain attention, while others shrink in priority. Despite our best efforts, we cannot be all things to all people at all times. But as the shifts take hold, we can make the mistake of focusing more on what we’re running toward and less about what’s getting left behind. I want to be more mindful of that and ask myself, “What am I willing to sacrifice?”
I recently had a conversation about my career trajectory and what advancing looks like to me. At the same time, I’ve also been having conversations with my husband about his involvement in national committees and other work obligations. Connect that with three growing kids, who are doing sports and arts and church and have friends, and it’s easy to see how something will have to give.
Unfortunately, there are no easy answers.
Women oftentimes sacrifice their own career advancement, at least at earlier stages, to make room for their children or even the careers of their husbands. If that wasn’t common knowledge already, the pandemic reemphasized it, with women bearing the brunt of virtual learning support, home school or having to completely shift to full-time parenting. Oxfam International quantified the loss of jobs by women around the world to at least $800 billion in earnings, which is more than the combined gross domestic product of 98 countries. In April 2021 alone, 165,000 women left the workforce.
There’s no question men make enormous sacrifices, too, and some women may have happily left a certain career path in order to parent or pursue some other personal endeavor. Furthermore, careers aren’t the only thing being sacrificed. Families, marriages, physical and mental health, hobbies, and friendships get sacrificed all the time in the name of more money, better titles, power or fame.
Are these sacrifices worth the payoff? Rather than seeing that great paycheck or feeling validated for years of hard work, do we think about missing out with our children? Growing apart from our spouse? Gaining 40 pounds and developing diabetes or having a heart attack? Do we think about losing ground on years of effort and professional experience?
I feel very blessed to have a job that’s meaningful and lets me grow professionally but is also part time. I know I can’t “have it all,” so for me, sacrificing income felt better than having less time with my kids, or managing the stress of having too many expectations of my time. I also feel blessed that sacrificing income is even a choice for me. For many, it isn’t. In making the shift, I thought long and hard and had a lot of conversations about what I would lose if I stayed in my existing role or switched gears. What I was and wasn’t willing to sacrifice made a lot more of a difference to me than what I would gain without change.
Sacrifice can be beautiful and powerful, just like it can be hurtful and scary. Sometimes it’s within our control and other times it definitely isn’t. The trickiest part is that once something has been sacrificed, it can very rarely be regained. So, with that in mind, I think we owe sacrifice greater consideration in our lives.
When not living it up as a wife and mom of three, Amanda Godfread is regional director of Make-A-Wish North Dakota and a co-host of the podcast, "Welcome to Our Box."