My new Man BFF is shaping up to be a real pain in the ass. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy his company, but he is a pusher. Not of the drug variety like Ms. Norbury, but of the Be All That You Can Be variety (minus the army context).
Friending a pusher has it's pros and cons. On the pro side, I am inherently lazy, and could certainly use a push from time to time. God knows Justin won't do it, since it would inevitably result in the death stare and possibly a fatal stabbing. Plus I haven't had a friend get all up in my business like that in years, so it's kind of refreshing to have someone give enough of a shit to ask the hard questions. The cons are stressing me out though. I had been sitting there all content with my life, and now my pusher Man BFF has me really questioning things. Ugh.
The first area that we delved into was my career path. As a reminder, I do regulatory work for a utility company. It's not glamorous work, but I'm good at it, and I get to do a lot of reading, writing, and powerpointing, which are all things I enjoy. In the 8+ years I've been here, I've worked my way to the equivalent of a staff business analyst, which is as high as you can get without being a manager or consultant (and consulting jobs are few and far between). Justin and I make enough that we are financially comfortable - we have a smallish but nice house, we can go on a cheap family vacation every year plus plenty of fun weekend trips, everyone has enough food and clothes and money for hobbies/activities, I'm saving for retirement and two college funds (maybe not as much as I need to for the latter, but I'm not worried about it yet).
As of right now, the girls are 3 and 5. To me, balance is everything. I am a high performer, but I do not have infinite time or energy. To be amazing at work, I have to give up some home stuff. To be amazing at home, my work suffers. In order to "have it all" (2 Tina Fey references in 1 post!) some shit has to slide. Maybe my house is too cluttered, maybe I have to do my makeup at my desk, maybe my kids eat ramen on the living room floor instead of real dinner some nights, maybe I can't come in early and stay late and work after the kids go to bed to get everything done and perfect. I just can't be awesome at everything all of the time. Which is hard, because I like being 100% awesome.
My talent profile currently says that while the kids are little, I'm not interested in management. This BLOWS MAN BFF'S MIND. He is one of those people who is constantly climbing the ladder, always trying to make more money, have more power, be more influential. Not necessarily in a bad way, he also plans to change the world and feels like constantly improving his situation is how he can best make that happen. I just don't have that same drive right now. I love that for the most part, I can kick butt at work from 8-5 and spend the rest of my time with my family without having anything hanging over my head. There are times when I genuinely can't imagine taking on one more thing in my life. I know I am a far better parent when I am not stressed out - there is basically a directly proportional relationship between my workload getting too heavy and how often I snap at my kids. If my current situation feels more or less balanced, why fuck with it?
That being said, this is likely a temporary situation. The girls won't be little forever, and I feel like it's basically inevitable that I will eventually go into management, whether I have a large desire to or not. I have zillions of dollars of student loans, and I'd like to retire at a reasonable age. It's the next logical step in the game of life.
I have been spending a considerable amount time defending this particular life choice to Man BFF and reiterating that I AM HAPPY and THIS IS TEMPORARY. But that didn't really stop my stomach from dropping when I got an email from my boss saying it's time to update my talent profile. My gut reaction was that maybe it's time, since the girls are going to school next year. Pushers are the worst, uggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhh. Can't I just keep things exactly how they are for a while longer?
The second area which Man BFF has opinions about is Justin's career. This is a bit of a touchy subject, since it's not really about me. Basically, hubs didn't go to college and is therefore limited in how far he can progress up his respective ladder. I tried to get him to go to school back when we first started dating, but then he found his current job (which is a great place for people without degrees to work) and then we got married and pregnant (not in that order) and all that jazz. I know this is probably weird since we are married and all, but basically I don't feel like it's my business what Justin does with his career, as long as he pays his half of the bills. As I said, we are comfortable. This BLOWS MAN BFF'S MIND. He thinks I am "frustratingly accepting" of both Justin's and my own situations. As far as I'm concerned, as long as Justin is happy, I'm happy. If he decides that he wants to advance in his career and realizes that the best way to do that is by getting his degree, I will support him. But I'm not going to be his own personal Pusher. I didn't marry a pet project, I married a grown ass man who is capable of making his own decisions.
The only aspect of this particular topic that gives me pause is that maybe I'm being a bad wife by not at least raising the question from time to time. Maybe if it was more clear that J going to college is something I'd support would make it more of a viable option in his mind. It also makes me think that perhaps I have been selfish. As I said, there are times when I can't imagine taking on one more thing. Justin going to school would certainly mean tradeoffs on the home front, which would further upset the life balance I so desperately seek. I feel like I'm the 50's husband oppressing my spouse. But then again, I think Justin would read this and laugh and remind me that he, too, is perfectly happy with our situation.
The last topic of discussion is the hardest. Man BFF is always trying to get me to identify areas of my life that aren't making me happy (despite my repeated assertions that I AM HAPPY) and then make a plan to bridge the gap between the actual and desired scenarios. At one point I made a comment about how I fail to see what I get out of moving up in my career, as I am not particularly motivated by money or power...I work at an electric company, I'm not going to change the world by moving up the chain. This then led to a discussion about how I did originally want to have a job where I could help people, but certain life choices led me here instead.
This is as close as I get to admitting that I do have some regrets. As you may know, electric utility regulatory work was not my original career path - I was in medical school and dropped out. My reasons for this were very complex, but I have 10 years of hindsight now so I think I can boil it down. If I'm being 100% real and honest, I was not the most mature or driven 25 year old. I had an opportunity that isn't offered to most people, and I blew it. I could have been a doctor, and I truly believe I would have been a great one, but ultimately I didn't want it enough to put in the work to become one. Quitting was taking the easy route. I think that if 35 year old me was in the same situation, I would have made different choices, because ultimately I do regret selling out and working for the man instead of sticking with my principles and trying to help people. At the time though, sitting in a library all day felt oppressive when I could instead be out living my life. I hated studying because it was the first time in my life I ever had to do it. And I thought that because I wasn't trying harder, it must not be what I really wanted.
What has always saved me from having too many regrets was the fact that quitting freed me up to be a mom. Not that I couldn't have been both a mom and a doctor, but I certainly would have been an older mom, and with a different guy, and therefore I'd have different kids. And you know what? My two specific kids are awesome. I can't imagine having any other kids. Having children is the most freeing thing in the world because it instantly justifies any questionable past decisions...any other road taken, and they disappear from the family photo, Marty McFly style.
I also find some comfort in the fact that while a lot of my friends didn't go the parenting route and are contributing to society in a meaningful way, SOMEONE has to pass the good DNA on. May as well be me. I'm not a doctor, but at least I'm contributing to the gene pool in a positive manner. And maybe (hopefully) the girls will go on to do great things.
I keep getting really frustrated during these discussion because ultimately, I really do think that everything has worked out. Maybe not for the best, because I have NO FREAKING CLUE what my life would be like if I made different choices. But I don't see the point of playing the woulda, coulda, shoulda game when I obviously didn't and it all turned out okay. But that doesn't stop me from having a tiny little voice that says "wait, AM I happy?" every time I assert that I am. I think I keep coming back to yes, but the fact that I even question it a little kind of pisses me off. I guess that's what it's all about though...I may not be pushed into a different life path, but it's good to be pushed out of my comfort zone from time to time.