Our society almost always demands that we become successful in one way or another, but for a woman, the definition of success is a bit harder to pin down than it seems to be for a man. Men tend to determine success by how they perform in their job, how they provide for their family and how they are viewed in the community. I do not mean to downplay the importance of friends and family to men, but society’s view of a man’s success is narrow.
Women have a wider range of choices to make and hats to wear, and in the end, each woman uses a different yardstick to measure her success, depending on the path, or paths, she has chosen over time. I went to college right out of high school and got a B.S in nursing. I then began to work as a registered nurse, and I was very good at what I did. As a nurse, I was a success because I cared about people, and because I loved to learn and help others. However, I only worked as a nurse for three years. Then I had my first child, and my real work began. Being a mother had always been my dream and my greatest desire. I went on to have seven children in all, my youngest born when I was 45.
Many would say that I wasted my education, but I do not feel that way at all. I do not know that I would have been able to be successful at raising seven children had I worked outside of the home fulltime. I gave my all as a nurse, and I cannot imagine arriving home depleted with a family needing me. I also wonder what kind of a nurse I would have been if I had wanted to be somewhere else, such as home with my kids. I was blessed to have had a choice.
As a woman who came of age in the late 70s and early 80s, just as women were feeling free enough to put their career first and start a family later, my decision to stay at home baffled many women. But I knew my heart, and to be successful at whatever a woman undertakes, she needs to know where here heart is, because that is where your mind will be, too. A successful woman listens to her heart.
I knew that I needed balance if I was going to be a successful stay-at-home mom, so I did a lot of volunteer work outside of the home, which got me out of the house and allowed me to do something that helped others and made me feel that I was giving back. I chose to invest my time into things that really mattered to me, and I had a positive impact on other people. I was very busy, highly sought after and quite successful by most peoples standards, and I did not make a dime for myself. You can be a successful person and yet not earn money, as long as you earn experience and gain compassion. Being a lifelong learner and a person who seeks diverse life experiences leads to success in almost any arena.
In my early 40s, I hit a patch in life that most anyone would call an absolute failure. I was dragged deep into the disease of alcoholism, and I failed my children, myself and my friends. I failed repeatedly to get and stay sober, and I failed repeatedly to make sound life decisions. It was a horrific time for everyone that I loved. The one thing that I never failed to do was to keep trying to get better, and eventually I did succeed. I am sober for many years now, and I have back all that I lost. I know now that I learned more about myself, my faith and my family during that time than I had during any other time in my life. A successful woman makes mistakes, but she learns from them.
I tell my kids that we do not learn a lot from our successes, but we learn a tremendous amount when we fail. I learned just how much I was loved and how strong I was, and still am. I also learned that hope, tenacity and asking for help when it is needed bring about more successes than people realize. I learned that I can choose to be happy or miserable, and I choose to be happy most days. Because I was forgiven so generously and lovingly, I learned to love more deeply, to be more grateful and to forgive easily. My compassion grew beyond measure. A successful woman continues to grow throughout life. She forgive, she loves, and she is determined to be happy and hopeful, no matter the circumstances.
Many women evaluate their success in life by how their children turned out. If that is a measure, then I am a great success. My kids are accomplished, loving, generous, forgiving and devoted. I like to say that they have turned out well despite me, but I know that is not entirely true. I am now 51 years old and what success meant to me in my 20s is not what it means now. Today, if I make one person’s life a little easier, give one person a little hope that they didn’t have or put a smile on a face where there was none, I know that I am a successful woman and that it is these seemingly small successes that make all of the difference in life.