In her bestselling book Women Who Love Too Much, therapist Robin Norwood writes for those of us who equate being in love with being in pain and who are looking for a way to break a cycle of destructive relationships with inappropriate men.
It’s occurred to me, however, that many of us could fall into a different category: women who work too much.
If you’re anything like me, as a child you’ll have set your sights on academic achievement and professional success. We were presented with opportunities – to better our circumstances and achieve more than had ever been possible for our parents – and we made sure to make the most of them.
Our stories, on the surface, will look different. The path I followed took me to Oxford University and into a career in international journalism. I worked on the biggest stories for the largest news organisations, travelled the globe and mingled with VIPs.
Perhaps you went into law, accountancy, investment banking, retail, medicine, or started your own business.
But whatever our profession, it’s likely we share the same drive and have become successful, accomplished and capable women. Over the course of our careers, we put in extra hours and proved our worth, often in male-dominated professions. We managed our finances, made beautiful homes and went on exotic holidays.
But the question some of my friends and I are now asking is did we work too much?
I am 41 and single and am surrounded by capable, professional women in their late 30s and early 40s who are just like me. They have risen high in their careers and have created enviable lives for themselves.
But now they’re wondering why they’re still alone and are asking where all the years have gone.
Sometimes I think we can be the victims of our own success. We’ve achieved so much and created extraordinarily high standards for ourselves – our body, our wardrobe, our accomplishments, or our socialising skills – and we expect our man to match up.
We’ve become so accustomed to our freedom that we balk at the prospect of compromise. We’ve lived alone for so many years that we’re overly protective of our space and our diaries are so full that there’s very little room for romance.
The fact is we’ve got it so good that few men seem good enough.
In her book Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough, Lori Gottlieb suggests we throw away our fantasies about our perfect match and turn a blind eye to a potential suitor’s perceived defects. This sounds like a sensible plan – especially for women who are approaching the end of their fertile years and still want to be mothers.
But these women – and I am one – are often also those who have ‘worked too much’, who have achieved so much, and ‘settling’ has never been part of their vocabulary.
So what’s the answer? Well, if I had it, I’d no longer be single but I do understand, after many years of chasing misplaced dreams, that there is much more to life and contentment than career success and professional status.
I’m learning that slowing down, taking time out and pursuing activities I’m passionate about are the first steps in creating a life in which there is space for love. And I’m realising that accepting myself and celebrating every part of myself are an essential part of accepting others.
Don’t get me wrong. I am still ambitious and I encourage ambition in all the women I meet. It is beautiful to see women achieving their dreams and becoming all they were meant to be and I wish the same for myself.
It’s important, though, to keep one eye on the personal cost and, wherever possible, to practice balance.
My ambitions today include expanding my writing career and publishing a book. But they go far beyond that: they involve enjoying the sunshine, swimming in the sea, spending time with friends and family, experiencing wellbeing every day of my life and, ultimately, God willing, finding love.
Katherine Baldwin is a journalist, writer and blogger who writes about women, dating, relationships, careers and life choices in the national and international media and on her blog, From Forty With Love. She also writes about international development, women’s rights and current affairs following a long career working for Reuters and other news agencies as a foreign and political correspondent.
She is writing her first book – a work of non-fiction about women and choices around careers and motherhood. She also speaks on panels and at women’s events on the above topics as well as on eating disorders and other addictions. For her full biography, please see her website: www.katherinebaldwin.com.