Did you sacrifice your career for love?


Have you ever sacrificed your career for love?

Last week, when Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger announced their separation after 25 years of marriage, there was the usual speculation. What happened? Did he cheat? Was there a fight over the last bottle of fake tan? Did she finally watch Kindergarten Cop? As it turns out, it was a little more than that, Schwarzenegger has now admitted to fathering a child with one of his staff.

One of the recurring comments in the media, and perhaps the most intriguing, is when speaking of Maria Shriver, the inevitable mention of her ‘sacrificing’ her career for Schwarznegger’s two terms as the Governor of California. In 2004, in the months following her husbands inauguration, Shriver asked to be “relieved” of duties, she said at the time that she had realized her  “journalistic integrity and that of NBC will be constantly scrutinized” if she were to stay. In the same breath she also mentioned finding it hard to juggle her unusual dual roles, obviously it didn’t pack as much of a punch as a ‘sacrificial’ headline.

Why does the media do this? Why is she made to be the ‘sacrificial’ wife?

Sure Maria wasn’t happy about stepping away from her NBC career, but she was no shrinking violet. Please, this time, let’s not see the politician’s wife played out as the damsel in distress while Arnie sucks away on his cigar with Sly at lunch. Let’s give the woman some credit.

Maria Shriver, is of course, amongst many other things, a well known and successful journalist in the US. She is the mother of four children, a many times published author, a television producer, a strong advocate for volunteerism, the Founder of The Women’s Conference and well, there are way to many things to list. The woman is no slouch. She is also a part of the Kennedy clan, her mother Eunice Kennedy Shriver was John F Kennedy’s sister.

As women, do we sacrifice our careers or do we make informed decisions with our partners. Are we still blindly going in, hoping for the best? Or do we go in with our eyes open?

To put Maria Shrivers position in to perspective, California has a higher population than both Australia and Canada. It has the eighth largest economy in the world. I imagine, in the role of first lady, you’d make some very influential connections and have an opportunity to fund and initiate projects that you believed in. Shriver certainly achieved this in her role, with an incredible amount of work dedicated to both Alzheimer’s and Volunteerism. Shrivers father was a victim of Alzheimer’s, her mother, the Founder of the Special Olympics, it’s not hard to see where her inspiration came from.

Was she sacrificing her career or did she perhaps expand, challenge and develop it?

I’ve attended my own farewell party at the office, twice in the past ten years. Like a lot of women, the first time involved a pregnancy. Coincidently at about the twelve week mark when we began doing the math of childcare centres and maternity leave, my husband was offered a job overseas, in the package was a living allowance and a higher salary. For the both of us, the decision was a no brainer. We began packing up the house.

The second time I resigned, once again from a role that I loved, involved another International career move, for my husband. Once again a discussion was had, numbers were crunched and the best outcome for us both, as a couple, and as a family, was reached. How can I say it was the best for me, because the chance to stay in my role was offered, and I didn’t choose it. As much as I loved my job, there were reasons to leave that worked for everyone.

Female Traveling Spouses are often depicted as women who gave up everything for their man. Do I feel that way? Definitely not. My husband and I have a partnership, we make joint decisions and I feel  I have enough skills to keep myself employable. Sure, there are days I could pack up and go home, but I made the choice to be here. Like most women I have to find the balance between relationship, work and family. This is a universal issue, not just mine.

I wonder when we talk about career sacrifices if we’re on the right track. Maybe the sacrifices are only there when the choices are not. Did you get to choose between working or staying at home with a baby? Or is it a luxury you can’t afford. Remember the women before you, the school teachers and bankers who were forced to leave the workforce upon marriage or motherhood. No choice.

Ultimately, isn’t that what we all want? The right to choose full-time, part-time, no time, children or not, single or not.

I don’t think I sacrificed my career for love, sure our children have provided some interesting situations and challenges, particularly when we were both working full time, but I’ve always felt we were in this together.

Although our workforce remains unbalanced in both senior positions and equal pay for women with a long way to go, with a background in HR I’ve seen how far we’ve come. It’s changing and it’s up to us to keep working at changing it. I wonder if talking about giving up our career as a sacrifice is the best way to describe it? A sacrifice sounds almost terminal. It means giving something up. Are you giving it up or stepping away? Are you working it, moulding it, making it the right fit for you? Are you making choices or are you really ‘sacrificial’.

With news of several networks currently discussing possible options with Maria Shriver, including her good friend Oprah Winfrey, it appears the career we continue to be told was ‘sacrificed’ is rolling along quite nicely. Her only questionable choice so far, appears to be her choice in men.


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