My Proudest Achievement – Part 1

At the pinnacle of my career some years ago – and about to receive another award for outstanding achievement – a television interviewer asked me:

“What is your proudest achievement?”

I looked at her smiling face, at the cameras and lights surrounding us,  at the bare studio floors — and paused only slightly.

Thanks to: publicdomainpictures.net

publicdomainpictures.net

“Raising children who have become strong, decent adults.”

She stared back, surprised. It was not the answer she was expecting.

I knew she was expecting me to mention my professional achievements.  The award-winning television programs. Contributions to the media industry in Canada and other countries. Championing new program methods and technology. Mentoring women and cultural minorities in the sector.  Helping to transform South African public television after apartheid.

But she hadn’t asked me to identify my biggest career achievement. She’d asked about my proudest achievement, and I had answered truthfully.

Was that a look of disappointment I saw on her face? That a woman who had come of age during the recent years of the women’s movement, the years when we fought hard for gender equity in the workplace — that a woman who had climbed those challenging ranks, moving up from one influential role to the next – that such a woman should, after all that, point to raising children as her proudest achievement?

I didn’t mean to disappoint her. I didn’t mean to suggest to someone in the early years of her career that mothering should be her greatest aspiration.

I was simply voicing my own truth.

Not that I’d always known it. There were times when I was being lauded for my career achievements and I got a big head, and could feel myself getting high on my own supply.

publicdomainpictures.net

publicdomainpictures.net

But now I had been there, done that and won all the career accolades. And, upon reflection — as I thought about all the things that I had done with my life — I knew my answer as surely as I knew my own name.

**

Parenting was the thing for which I’d never received an award – and rightly so.  Indeed, I was still struggling at it. Parenting may come easily to some people. Not me.

Just a few days before, I’d rushed to give one daughter advice when all she’d needed was a listening ear.

A week before that, I’d missed an opportunity to hang out with my other daughter, only to realize later that I could and should have gone. I’d remembered too late, my mother’s advice: “When your children invite you to spend time with them, drop everything else and go.”

Ironic, then, that I should name parenting as my proudest achievement.

My mother, despite her academic brilliance, had given up her own dreams of becoming a professional teacher. Money was scarce after her father’s unexpected death.

Instead of going to teachers’ college, my mother had married, borne five children and become a seamstress – designing and sewing dresses for the ladies of our village, something she did at home.

She was a loving mother; a great mother. But I vowed that my own life would be different.  I wasn’t sure if I’d have children, but I knew that I’d have a career, one that took place outside the home.

image via brolero.com

image via brolero.com

Coming up next:  Part 2 – The Juggling Act

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21 Comments

Filed under A Good Home, Family, Mothering, Parents, Raising Children

21 responses to “My Proudest Achievement – Part 1

  1. “Raising children who have become strong, decent adults.” There are no gold medals for this but it has to be one of the hardest jobs ever. Looking forward to part 2.

  2. Great answer and values. Good for you Cynthia. I would have liked to be a parent.

  3. Dealing with journalists and the media is such a game. In my limited experience of running a business which I needed to keep in the limelight and in the press at all times, I quickly discovered what information to feed them and what they wanted to hear. I never compromised my integrity by doing so, but then I was never asked a really big question.
    I am so glad that you answered in the way you did. It was honest, true and from the heart. Maybe you felt you no longer needed to play the media game because you had reached a stage where you felt you could stop?
    It is interesting though, how if we are asked the big question about what means most to us, how we answer. Often the answer surprises others who would say that we put our careers first. I think sometimes women are so pulled in so many directions and it is so hard to be perfect at everything.
    Your achievments are staggering. Karen.

    • Thank you, Karen.
      Early in my career, especially when I was trying to prove that I could do the job as well as others, my answer might have been different.
      As for women being pulled in so many different directions: Yes, indeed. My goodness — Yes.

  4. Sometimes honesty is very surprising, especially when we are put on the spot and have to give an immediate answer! Bringing up children is so difficult and such a responsibility, and, we all make mistakes. Getting the balance right is hard too – when and when not to interfere, when to let our own needs come first and when to drop everything and put them first. Going out to work often seems the easy option as generally there are a set of rules to comply with, coffee breaks and people to go to for advice or to delegate unpleasant jobs to!

  5. I look forward to your posts on values, Cynthia. This one was a pleasure to read.

  6. I think I only do because my body is injured and the pain makes itself felt. But I never really did before that little problem. But hey – you sound wiser than me! So…..

  7. It’s a great answer. I’ve failed to achieve any career accolades – unless you count being cited by the MD to all the junior managers as the kind of manager they should aspire to be – but that was on the Friday and I was made redundant on the Monday. Mwah hahahahrgh! Clearly he thought better of it over the weekend. Sorry, no tangent is too obscure for me to jemmy in a funny story.

    Where was I? Oh yeh, no career accolades for me but yes, I get that. If my lad grows up into a decent, well adjusted human being than I reckon I’ll feel pretty good, too. Here’s hoping! Phnark! 😉

    Cheers

    MTM

    • Well said. Based on the McMini sayings so far, your lad will go far in those areas and have plenty of wit too.
      Now, since you seem as incapable of entirely serious comments as I am of entirely serious poems, tell me: did they really make you redundant after such high praise?

      • Yep. I felt like some other M T in another version of reality whose life wasn’t going so well had somehow switched me.

        BUT that said I think they were trying to signal that I should stay. I hadn’t been made redundant before so they offered me two alternatives: a couple of month’s money as redundancy payment (minimum redundancy entitlement) or they said I could have a bottom rung job in their call centre or at one of their ops centres but on a guaranteed six months at my original marketing manager’s salary. It was only later that I realised that was a gold plated invitation to stick the heck around.

        It made no difference though, we were reliant on my earning that income to buy a house, we would have to buy the house for me to work there every day and we couldn’t buy the house if my salary was only guaranteed at that level for 6 months… And of course, at the end of six months, if I was replying for marketing manager jobs again, the all that time answering the phones or telling people which stop their bus was going from would look quite odd.

        I remember ringing one of my friends in tears on the way home (I loved that job) and she said, “but Mary, you were only proving you could do it. None of it was real.” I was a bit ticked off at the time but later, I realised she was right. It’s as if the job gave me the confidence to do a lot of other stuff… if that makes any sense.

        Cheers

        MTM

    • And I just had a thought:
      How can someone who’s written successful books say “I’ve failed to achieve any career accolades”? You should feel very proud of what you’ve achieve!!! (Yes, triple exclamation marks required.)

      • Ah bless you. I guess it’s all relative. I’ve written some books I like but they’re a very hard sell. I can’t even give them away.

        Cheers

        MTM

      • Written “some books” you like is such a major accomplishment. I know many people who’d like to have written even one.
        And I can’t help but think that with your talent, it’s only a matter of time till many more people catch on to your books. Wishing you a great day.

  8. It does. Having spent years at home and hospitals, etc., I really understand how one’s confidence can be derived from certain roles and also how quickly it can slip away.

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