I found myself thinking about a recent article on Jill Berry, a headteacher, in which she said that women cannot have it all. Her point was that ‘there is no shame in stepping off the career ladder to bring up children’.
While I would not argue with this, I am disappointed that she did not suggest this was as much an issue for men as it is for women. How many successful men do you know who talk with angst about the price they paid for their career – missing out on their children and now regretting it?
I personally believe that you can have a career and a family and be very happy. But man or woman, there will always be trade-offs to get there. In my case I haven’t grown the business to the UK’s largest agency – which might have been an ambition once. I’ve had to put my ego in a box and look at the bigger picture of what I am trying to achieve and a happy family is very much a priority in that.
So what should we be teaching our children?
The world has changed dramatically in the last 20 years and I don’t think government, parents or teachers know quite what messages we should be giving to young girls and boys.
Bringing up children is a joint activity and every couple should have a serious discussion about how this is going to work – and the role of the father as much as the mother. I sense that many couples bumble into parenting and realise too late they should have sorted out roles and priorities earlier.
The messages and skills for our girls and boys are
- Learn how to negotiate with your partner – wife/husband or whatever – and talk through what parenthood will be like for both of you. Talk to other couples and draw up your own rules
- Children bring great happiness, but successful parents make sacrifices – in their finances, careers, hobbies
- Prioritise what is important and find ways for you both to achieve status and success – whether that is through working, voluntary support or being at home. And work does not have to be a traditional corporate career for either parent
- Learn to accept that sometimes you have enough and be content with that – earning more and more money does not necessarily make for more happiness
Victoria TomlinsonChief executive, Northern Lights PR
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Ben PindarCommunications director, Northern Lights PR
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Helen RobinsonAssociate, Northern Lights PR
Jonny RossAssociate, Northern Lights PR
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