Turn, Turn, Turn–My Turn

by Nan

Recently I spent the day with a friend who is at the tail end of fairly acrimonious divorce proceedings. In the last several months she has expressed an array of emotions as she has processed the grief associated with the end of her marriage. This time she expressed surprise and dismay at the degree of jealousy she felt. Though she is a dentist, in nearly two decades of marriage she practiced only a handful of years—primarily while her husband pursued his education or while helping him establish his orthodontic practice. Now his practice is worth over a million dollars, and she is struggling to find a dollar value for keeping the home fires burning all these years.

I told her that a woman didn’t have to be divorced to feel that jealousy. In spite of my own teaching degree, I have only worked full time during four school years of our fourteen-year marriage. We’ve often moved in pursuit of my husband’s professional goals, and two of those moves have been away from jobs I loved and in which I was well regarded. I don’t regret the sacrifices we have made, but I won’t be foolish enough to say that they weren’t sacrifices—that there hasn’t been a great personal cost to create the life we have wanted for our children. At the time of my conversation with this friend, I was not only an unemployed teacher with an expired license; I was an unemployable teacher. I was vehement in my response to my friend, perhaps more passionate than I intended or she expected. No doubt unsure how to react, my sweet friend, in a voice one might use to placate a tantrumming child, said, “And to that I would say that there is a season for everything.”

I know that.

I know that.

If I didn’t know that, I wouldn’t have made the choices I have made.

But I also know that too many people—especially women—keep waiting while the earth turns. And turns and turns. And we give everyone else a turn with our time, talents, and energy. The children. Our friends. Our church and PTA groups. Our husbands. Everywhere I turn somebody looks at me and yells, “My turn!” And so I wait. And wait. And wait for the universe to give me some kind of sign that it is finally my turn.

My friend’s well-meant comment, however, prompted me to think deeply about some things. And what I decided is that I’m tired of waiting. If I don’t say, “My turn!” then nobody else will say it for me. I’ve begun to take a closer look at my life and become aware of all those things that keep me from achieving my goals, from embracing my dreams. This summer I am going to carve out time to decide just what it is that I really want, and then I’m going to excise all those things from my life that are standing in the way of what matters most to me.

Before the earth makes another revolution, I’m going to make a little revolution of my own. It is my turn.

Dear Readers, What is standing in the way of what matters most to you? And what can you do to have your own “revolution”? Please feel free to share in the comments.

Image credit: Strange Journey

13 Comments on “Turn, Turn, Turn–My Turn

  1. Thank you so much for this. I sincerely hope that one day it will be more common for newly married couples to place equal weight on both of their hopes and dreams, instead of placing more weight on the husband’s career etc. There are just so many factors that make this currently difficult; from a system that is not built for dual career couples to cultural backlash for not putting the husband’s career first.

    • Great post. In the fall I will have an empty nest – I am practically giddy to have my turn.

  2. For me, there’s a sense of urgency and importance associated with “my turn”, which makes it really hard to make decisions. I graduated from BYU and worked at a low-paying job before my first was born, not really planning for my return to work very well.
    Now that I’ve given up so many years of my life to the children, it seems to me like when I do go back, it had better be good. If I’m going to pay someone to watch my children, it had better be a high-paying, earth-changing service to humanity in order to be worthwhile (I know that’s not the best way to look at it, but it’s how my brain works sometimes). And since I’m not returning to the same type of job I had before, I know that I’ll have to invest a lot of time to break back in, so I want to get it right, rather than wasting a lot of time working my way up only to discover I hate it or that I’m no good at it. If you don’t like your job in your twenties, no biggie, you can just change careers. If you do that in your thirties and forties, though, how much time do you have left in your career? How many times are you going to go back to school or to yet another entry level job, and how much time and money are you going to spend doing that and how will it affect your family?
    I agree with Beatrice, too. I don’t think the system accommodates any career path other than the standard ladder approach very well. But I’m also optimistic enough to believe that’s changing.

  3. Great stuff, Nan! Totally agree. It’s been eye-opening, getting married at 36 and going through all the newlywed stuff in the middle of life. I feel like I got the best of both worlds, living “my” life before I got married and started living “our” life. That said, I didn’t appreciate what I had when I had it. And I’m probably not appreciating what I have now that I finally got it. I think one of the largest lessons we get to learn in this life is putting the needs of others ahead of ours while simultaneously fulfilling our own needs in order to grow as people. It’s. Not. Easy. Good luck to you this summer!

  4. While I understand that feeling of jealousy while taking the back-seat to others, I think it is important to remember that what is important (in the big scheme of things) is to become Christlike. I know that as I’m in my 60’s now the only things I feel any regret for is the times when I felt like I wasn’t responding as I should to the “My Turn, My Turn” pleadings of my children or my husband when I was putting my “dreams” ahead of theirs. I can’t get those moments back. I’m not saying we should be slaves to petty requests and whining from the “me” generation that we’ve become, but we should never be ashamed of our roles as mothers and wives and sisters during the various seasons of our lives. Just remember that there are indeed seasons in our lives–and enjoy each one in which you are living. Each season prepares us for the next one and if we are just resenting the present we will miss out on the joy and growth along the way. I’m now a CEO in a company for which the seasons that came before prepared me for my current role–and I can enjoy this time without regret. There is enough selfishness in this world. Make good use of your time in each of the phases of your life–and ignore what the world considers a success because the world opinion is often wrong.

  5. Being a supportive wife and teaching and nurturing my children IS my goal, my career. Like any job, it has hard days and I look forward to vacations. But I feel that I am taking my “turn” the same time as the rest of my family. When my husband retirees and our kids are grown, I will have different goals, but they will still involve my family. That is the choice I made. It is the turn I am intentionally taking now.

  6. Thank you for your beautiful post! I am finding that even when it is “my turn” that my years of sacrifice seem to have set me up to fail. I am a mother of four with a college degree, and yet my hubby without a degree can walk out of the house and get a better paying job then I can. We are in transition right now to get me working and him back to school, but it’s hard to even get him to take time off for me to get to an interview when money is so tight.
    I find myself angry at a system that has handicaped my usefullness outside of dishes and laundry. It feeles like I must either wait for my turn to be an entry level canidate in my fourties, or take my turn now and bring hardship onto my family.

  7. It is interesting to read the variety of comments here, from women in so many different phases of life. I mentioned “sacrifice” when writing this piece. Because we all come from different backgrounds, life situations, interests, aptitudes and expectations, the definition of “sacrifice” varies widely. I feel to reiterate that I don’t regret the time I’ve spent home with my children; there has been glorious purpose and learning to be found in my years more or less out of the work force. But there were trade-offs; as there are in every aspect of our lives. My point is that if we aren’t careful about what we choose to trade-off, we will find in the end that we have short-changed ourselves. And if there is a season for everything then that means there must be a season for me too.

    I loved your comments, Beatrice. Some years ago I had a friend say wistfully that it would be awesome if she and her husband could each work about 30 hours a week outside their home. Their income would be adequate, and both would feel deeply fulfilled but still enjoy the meaningful family time that we all crave. Employers will hopefully one day understand the value of having more women in their ranks and respond accordingly.

  8. My favorite quote about women being able to have an impact comes from Daughters in My Kingdom, from Eliza R. Snow. (https://www.lds.org/relief-society/daughters-in-my-kingdom/manual/a-wide-and-extensive-sphere-of-action?lang=eng)

    ““Don’t you see that our sphere is increasing? Our sphere of action will continually widen, and no woman in Zion need[s] to mourn because her sphere is too narrow.

    “God bless you, my sisters, and encourage you, that you may be filled with light, and realize that you have no interests but in the welfare of Zion. Let your first business be to perform your duties at home. But, inasmuch as you are wise stewards, you will find time for social duties, because these are incumbent upon us as daughters and mothers in Zion. By seeking to perform every duty you will find that your capacity will increase, and you will be astonished at what you can accomplish.”

    I prefer not to think in terms of dreams or even seasons. That language doesn’t really resonate with me (and I know that often when talking about these things, language does limit us). I like to think in terms of wisdom and order, as in order of priorities, with trust that God will guide us (each in individual ways) as to what our mission needs to include. I firmly believe that if and as we put Him and His kingdom first (which starts in our homes), He will do things with our lives and our time that we could not do ourselves. (Think of the Pres. Benson quote along those lines.) My experience has been that He introduces me to dreams I never knew I had, and opens doors I never would have imagined even being in my path. Sometimes He asks me to wait, too.

    I think He cares about what matters to us but He also can refine those things and magnify our time and space if we let Him. way exceeds dreams I could have had for myself, and He has guided me in directions that I could not have come up with myself.

    I think sometimes we as mortals think in binary terms. But I think God can help us think in different ways about all of these things.

  9. Sometimes giving up our dreams to serve others is actually harmful to the others, because it enables them to avoid growing themselves. We also need to consider our example to our daughters–they need female role models who respect their own needs as much as they respect the needs of others.
    Your post reminds me of a favorite poem by Mary Oliver
    THE JOURNEY
    One day you finally knew
    what you had to do, and began,
    though the voices around you
    kept shouting
    their bad advice–
    though the whole house
    began to tremble
    and you felt the old tug
    at your ankles
    “Mend my life!”
    each voice cried.
    But you didn’t stop.
    You knew what you had to do,
    though the wind pried
    with its stiff fingers
    at the very foundations,
    though their melancholy
    was terrible.
    It was already late
    enough, and a wild night,
    and the road full of fallen
    branches and stones.
    But little by little,
    as you left their voices behind,
    the stars began to burn
    through the sheets of clouds,
    and there was a new voice
    which you slowly
    recognized as your own,
    that kept you company
    as you strode deeper and deeper
    into the world,
    determined to do
    the only thing you could do–
    determined to save
    the only life that you could save.

  10. You might enjoy the book “The Price of Motherhood”, which describes the situation in Sweden where it’s possible for both father and mother to work 80% of full time…it sounds like a match for your ideal work/life balance.

  11. I wanted to add that sometimes the ‘my turn’ has nothing to do with employment for a woman (or man for that matter) and everything to do with passions that don’t earn an income.

    I’ve been successfully self-employed and working my entire married life. My career isn’t something I find particularly fullfilling anymore, but it pays well and is super flexible as long as I meet my deadlines. It does feel like a drag on my time/passions, in the same way that the housework, kids schedules, etc. do.

    Interestingly, my husband would say the exact same thing about his career. Which isn’t to say we’re not both very grateful to have such wonderful jobs that fit our personalities and lives so well and support our family, but at the same time we each recognize that our passions are not things that we will ever be able to pay the mortgage on. And that’s okay, but it does mean more work to make space for those things.

    I’m actually much better at making sure my passions get some of my time and attention than him even though our schedules are equally overcrowded. And I’m extremely grateful to have this problem. A good lot of the human population wishes they could.

  12. Nothing stands in my way; born standin up and talkin back; born into poverty, fatherlessness, abuse, etc…….joined the army right out of high school; 31 years of abusive “marriage”, followed by a church who voted me out membership, with my name up on a big screen (3 times).

    My life story won a scholarship and I began school at age 60 and am a Sophomore at 67. My passion and mission is to speak on national tv regarding verbal abuse (1 in 3 women will be phyically assaulted and it begins with verbal abuse. I shall never be silent.

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