Choices or Sacrifices? Which Do Divorced Moms Make?

Posted by Delaine - December 10, 2009 - Career & Money, Career Growth & Change, Parenting, Single Dads, Single Moms, Social Barriers & Change - 4 Comments

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Many months ago,  during a deep conversation with my Good Man - a handsome, young widower who continues to restore my faith in men -  we began talking about ’sacrifices’ and ‘choices.’  Or rather, I was rambling on about how I think women make sacrifices when they become wives and mothers – when he cut me off.  “Do you really think of the decisions you’ve made as being sacrifices?” he asked.  “Cause when I look back on the timeline of my life, I think I made choices…not sacrifices.” 

His words left me feeling somewhat foolish.  For he was right – the word ’sacrifice’ had an air of helplessness and regret about it.  It was shrouded in a self-pitying “if only…”  I thus decided to refrain from using that word again in that context.

But his past weekend, a situation with a married girlfriend had me speaking it again.  As a part-time working mother of three young children, she’d been offered her ‘dream job’: we’re talking big money, challenge, clout, and recognition for all her many years of study and work.  But what did she do?   

She turned it down.

Her reasons were well-thought and honorable: for untimately, her children and husband would feel huge repercussions if she accepted. There’d be no more volunteering at the kids’ schools, before-school and after-school care, less family time, and over all, one heaping plate of stress on top of  her children and marriage.

As my girlfriend discussed her decision with me, I admired her for them greatly; she was putting her family’s needs and wants before her own.   But I could hear something in her tone – it sounded…sad.  Almost resigned. And when I asked her about it, she honestly responded that as much as she ‘knew’ she was making the right decision, a part of her was grieving.  “This may sound selfish,” she said.  “But a part of me wonders when will it be MY time.  What about MY dreams?  I mean, when I got married, I knew marriage would be hard work and I’d have to give of myself and compromise to make it work.  But this job was everything that I - ME, the Stella pre-marriage, had dreamed of.  (sigh) And I’m letting it pass me by.”

So now I wonder: Was her decision a choice?  Or a sacrifice? Perhaps a little of both?  And I further wonder how many men find themselves in this position verses women; who, in such a situation, gives and/or bends?  Who makes the choice to take the lesser job to be home on PD days, care for sick kids, prepare family meals, drive kids to their activities?  I’m not saying this to start a gender war; men make ‘sacrifices’ and ‘choices’ too.  But oftentimes the nature of those sacrifices and choices, the reasons why they are made, are different.

We all know that for every big decision we make, consequences will follow.  And when us women arrive at those major forks, most of us sit there weighing not only the pros and cons of a potential fatter wallet, but how it might ripple outwards into the family and possibly burden everyone else and our homes…

And so I wonder: is it not until a woman is in her sixties, seventies, or even eighties, that she finally feels peace with all her ‘choices’?  Is it then that she clearly sees how all her ’choices’ aligned her towards living an honorable and meaningful life?  Or is it then that a pain in her bones achingly reminds her of  that which was dreamed…and sacrificed?

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