What do you wish you knew about work/life balance and career trade offs when you were younger? Do you wish you knew how difficult it would be to balance two partners’ career demands?
When I was in college, I wanted to marry someone who was as ambitious as I am. I had no idea I would have to make career sacrifices for my spouse to achieve his ambitions while we raised a family. I had no idea what kind of time demands were required to raise a family. This week, on the WSJ's Juggle blog, several commenters responded to a blog post on the Obamas' marriage and got into a fascinating discussion on the subject of things they’ve learned about the work/life juggle that they wished they’d known in college.
There was one woman who lamented that the all-female college she attended left her ill-prepared for balancing work and family life. “We were taught that we could simply do it all,” she wrote. “We were that bright and that well-educated, we’d figure it out, forge new paths, be leaders in our chosen fields, have 5 children and balance all effortlessly. You simply can’t do it all, all at the same time your spouse is doing it all. Something has to give to sustain a marriage and a reasonable quality of life. Had I had better perspective on this before learning it ‘on the job,’ there are several choices I would have made differently.” Those choices, she said, were "As I always knew I wanted to have children, I would have chosen a different field of finance that was less demanding in terms of pressure and hours worked. … I also would have had children earlier on, and would have had more children because I started earlier."
Blogger John J. Edwards asked his wife what she would have done differently had she known in college what she now knows about the juggle. She immediately cited the same answer he had in mind. She would have saved more. Edwards remembers shortly after college, scoffing at a friend who had started contributing to a 401(k) at his first job. He writes: "Believe me, I’m not scoffing now. Though my wife and I earn strong salaries and are generally solvent, our financial condition would be less tenuous now if we’d started saving in earnest just a few years earlier than we did."
Here's what another commenter wrote: "I completely misunderstood the scope of what a “real” job would be like after leaving college. I thought, mostly, that a “real” job would be a lot like the part time jobs I help in college, just 40 hours. I was wrong.I wish I had better understood what leaving college and entering the workforce would mean.
So what are the lessons you wish you knew years earlier about careers, relationships and family?