Who Are You Without Your Career?

Spend any time at all with the average Millennial, and you’ll quickly learn something.

They’ve been hurt. Very, very hurt.

As products of divorce, Millennials have been so damaged when it comes to love and family they steel themselves against future damage by throwing themselves into work.

Hell bent on not making the mistakes their parents did in love, Millennials map out their lives with work at the center. Marriage and family are an afterthought, something that can come along later—if they come along at all. Because of that, every decision a Millennial makes is with one thing in mind: money.

Earning money is what Millennials do well. It’s their safe space. A job doesn’t let you down. Or if it does, you can just move on to the next one. What’s more, every two weeks you receive a reward; and if you’re lucky, a pat on the back.

Compare that to marriage, in which trust and sacrifice are the name of the game and rewards are few and far between, and it seems like a slam dunk. Work wins.

But somewhere around the age of 30, at least for women, those values begin to change. Work matters less, and love & family matter more.

Problem is, no one told women this would happen. Instead they were raised to focus on work and make that the meat of their lives.

This is a stark departure from any other generation. For most of human history, Americans viewed work as a means to an end. Its purpose was to serve the family, which was the center of people’s lives. Work merely orbited around it.

I tried to explain all this to a female Millennial recently, who didn’t understand why women are saddled with the emotions and decisions regarding work and family in a way men are not. She attributed it to sexism.

She’s not alone. Most women of her generation who were raised under the banner of equality attribute the differences between women and men to sexism. (Pay gap? Sexism! Overwhelmed with housework and childcare? Sexism!) No one schooled them on the biological realities of being male and female—and on how to navigate those realities.

No one told them, for instance, that a man’s identity is inextricably linked to his paycheck, while a woman’s is typically linked to motherhood—and why that is. No one told them that while this does not hold true for every woman and every man, it doesn’t change the fact that what drives most women is different from what drives most men.

Women are able to do something no man can: give birth. Moreover, their bodies are made to nurture new life. What on earth can top that? Nothing—it’s miraculous. And men don’t have this power. I’m not saying men secretly long to give birth. I’m saying a man’s ability to provide for the children he helped create is integral to his identity. That’s something he can do.

For women, motherhood is integral to their identity. Any gynecologist can tell you that most women, if they haven’t had children by their mid-thirties, become anxious. They cannot envision a life without children. No matter how committed they may be to their jobs, that desire is there. And when it’s  met, the woman’s nurturing gene kicks in. Providing for that child emotionally, not financially, will be her first instinct.

This all sounds rather blasphemous in a culture that insists men and women are equal. To hear otherwise is to have one’s entire worldview upended. It means the decisions a woman has made have to be unmade, or at the very least reconsidered—which is a tall order. And yet, for women who want to have a family, it must be done.

You were sold a bill of goods. You were woefully unprepared for the reality of what your life will look like down the road.

A job, or career, is merely one part of life—and not even the best part. The best part of life is finding someone to love who loves you back. It’s also just smart to put love & family first since it will have more effect on your happiness and well-being than anything else you do.

Moreover, the feminist promise was an empty one. The idea that a career can fill a woman up, that it can somehow compensate for having a fulfilling marriage, is bogus. For most women, nothing is more important than getting love right. Nothing.

That’s why work should be kept in its place. Never be so enamored with your job that without it you don’t know who you are. That’s when you know you’re in trouble.

You are not your job. If you feel you are, something’s wrong.

Stop running from your parents’ mistakes. Stop listening to the culture tell you you’re oppressed. At the end of the day, it’s about what you value. The way you live is a reflection of your values.

What does your life say about you?

Suzanne Venker

Suzanne is an author, columnist and relationship coach committed to helping women let go of cultural beliefs that undermine their happiness in life and in love.

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