Is It Honorable For Women To Give Up Their Dreams?

Debra: You preach ambition for women. Aren’t you forgetting something? What about life balance? Mothering? –32, with better values than “just career”

Say your ambition is to be a great wife, mother, friend, or fair-minded coworker who refuses on moral grounds to educate herself about office politics. That doesn’t bother you, does it? No, because that’s socially sanctioned ambition. You’ll likely regard the following women as having chosen “honorable ambition”.

Amy, 39, was a high-profile Ob/Gyn. Her work was challenging, fulfilling, plus she earned seven-figures. Her oldest child is severely autistic. Amy decided to scale down her practice to work only 10% time so that she could help start a charter school for autistic students. She lost most of her patients. Her surgeon husband enthusiastically insisted on becoming sole breadwinner.

Nan, 29, was a single, mid-level marketing director in a hip company. She prided herself on “not doing politics.” Everyone at work liked her. She regarded strategizing, paying attention to shifting power hierarchies and the competitive plays made by her peers as “distasteful”. She figured that her Ivy League degree, hard work and team loyalty would get her the recognition she deserved without dirtying her hands.

Rusti, 25, won a place in Stanford’s M.B.A. program plus a tuition free ride. Her fiancé, a young lawyer who was “clearly my soul mate,” was offered a position at a leading New York law firm and wanted Rusti to  move with him rather than manage a long-distance relationship. Rusti gave up her Stanford spot, planning instead to try for acceptance into a top-tier  New York b-school. She reasoned, "He'll line up his dream first, then it will be my turn next fall."   

Many would say these women made noble sacrifices any woman should make and furthermore freely chose their paths. But we rarely consider what “honorable ambition” costs us. What if it hurts you in ways you haven’t bargained for? In ways no one encouraged you to think about before making your decisions? Is it then truly an informed choice? What if it doesn’t turn out the way you planned and your turn never comes? Then what?

Click here for part two of these women’s stories: Is It Honorable? Let's Get Real.

Anything can happen. Think about it.

« When Joining Mom and Pop Is Good Business | Main | Is It Honorable For Women To Give Up Their Ambition? Part II: Let's Get Real »

More Like This: Ambition , Career , Integrity , Money , Mothering , Parenting , Role Model , Women , Work/Life Balance

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I am a business psychologist, researcher, author, executive coach, and career advisor. I lead workshops and lecture frequently on women’s need to embrace our ambition. I founded the Women’s Business Alliance, a motivational think tank for more than 2,500 women. For more details, see my about page.

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