I cringed when I was first called the dirty, little C-Word: "career" woman.
I never set out to have a successful career. I aspired to have adventures and build a financial security net to be able to provide for my future. Men do it all the time. Yet, here I was getting pegged as a "Career" woman, suggesting family isn't of importance to me simply because I'm in my early 40s and never married.
How Did I Get Here?
I've had several wonderful relationships and several heartbreaks through my dating decades. And through it all, I'd witnessed women turn to their relationships for financial and emotional security. I watched as it broke their self-esteem and left them lonely and afraid for their very survival. I realized early on that when I marry, it will not be because I need security or saving like a Disney fairytale princess.
Instead, I've always leaned in, authoring a few books and rising up the executive ranks at Nickelodeon television before doing a career 360 midlife to become a Life Strategist and entrepreneur. I've even bought a home alone.
Instead of relying on a man to make me financially secure, I invested in me for that and to provide purpose and happiness. When I wasn't happy anymore in one career, I divorced it and married another one. I got more education and another degree. I have had plenty of struggles and grown from them along the way. Still, I've always yearned for love rooted in an equal partnership.
"I have my life, and I just try to fit you in it," one ex from my early 30s told me after I confronted the unequal distribution of compromise in our relationship. Though heart-broken, I was not reliant on him for my financial and emotional well-being and could securely move on. Initially, this was not the case for my now 80 year-old second-cousin.
During a recent trip to wine country, I learned she was stuck in an emotionally unfulfilling relationship in her 30s. With three young kids to raise, she was a stay-at-home mom. When her children were old enough for school, she returned to school to earn her Masters degree. Soon after, she found her self-worth through a successful career in academia. She also found her courage to leave her lonely marriage. Today, she still travels the world and lives in a modest home in northern California, happily dating, choosing to not remarry.
Unlike when my pioneering cousin was young, today's statistics prove women are capable of providing for ourselves. We are outpacing men in home buying, education and in our careers. Results from a Pew Study in 2013 showed women are now the leading -- or only -- breadwinners in 40 percent of American households. Yet much of society still view men as the gender that provides, as reflected in the same study that shows women are now equally or better educated than their husbands, yet most men still earn more than their spouses.
"Career" woman is an Assault to All Women
Society's assumption that because I've been successful in business that I must make relationships and family any less important is an assault to all women. Rather than revering women for electing to become whole and healthy before entering a relationship, the "Career" woman notion is a socially acceptable modern term to passive-aggressively repress women and keep us small and subservient. It discourages women from having our own sense of self and purpose. It suggests we must give up the things important to us and completely sacrifice ourselves for our families. And worse, it purports the notion that we are less-than if we are not attached to a man. Perhaps most disturbing, we women are often even pointing fingers and purporting this very denigration amongst one another.
Recently, I ran into a girl friend struggling with whether to stay or leave a relationship with a marriage-ambivalent man. She was visibly pregnant and excited as she explained her pregnancy, "I decided after spending two years with him and his ambivalence, I didn't want to waste more time and decided to do it alone." She was 43 and a successful attorney. Because she had invested in herself all these years, she was empowered to make these important life decisions. She had the means and trust in herself to not miss out on her dream of having a child.
Like me, she isn't the dirty little C-word. She is simply a woman with standards, a woman who values herself and need not settle for less than her worth. She is a woman who invested in her own happiness and financial security so that she didn't have to depend on others to fulfill her needs.
I understood her, intuitively. We aren't "Career" women. We are women. Love and family have always been and are our priorities, but not at the sacrifice of our value, dreams, security and self-worth.