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I never wanted to stay at home and be a mom.  I was all about career, good daycare and sharing all responsibilities 50/50 with your spouse.  If you told me 5 years ago I would be at home with 3 kids, have a husband who works around the clock and be starting my own business in my wee spare time – and that I would love it – I would have called you nuts.

A couple of months ago, at my IT job in a cubicle sprawl of my previous employer, a Singaporean co-worker who I didn’t know very well stopped by desk and asked if I thought North American women were rude!?  This seemingly random, at first offensive, question led to an interesting conversation.  In his culture people are more or less born into ‘roles’ – so there is a certain expectation and responsibility that, as a woman, you will take care of the home and kids.  The “rude” comment was in reference to the fact that many North American women he met seemed unhappy or abrasive and he had some theories on why and wanted to know what I thought about it.

As a younger woman, any kind of societal obligation to do anything was extremely offensive to me.  I believe that everyone is free to choose their path in life – I am a feminist and I believe in the freedoms that come with North American society.  But talking to this guy, I realize there is a certain amount of order and power that come with these other social structures.  He said his wife rules the house and all decisions regarding the kids are her domain, he respects her wisdom in this and she has the final say.  Whereas he is responsible for the finances.

Nothing earth shattering here.  What really opened my eyes, was that all this freedom us North American’s are entitled to has created a lot of chaos and disgruntledness (is that a word?).   Here I was sitting at my cubicle, making decent coin with my kids in full time daycare.  My job was totally mediocre and my 3 kids were really struggling with the lack of parental attention (3 kids is a lot to spread the love over in a limited time window).  But embracing the traditional role of  ‘stay at home mom’ went against all my beliefs of feminism, freedom of choice and of wanting to have a successful career.

I think in some ways “accumulating stuff” has replaced the true meaning of these beliefs.  Freeing myself from the rat race to choose what is best for the family is a big decision.  And it doesn’t mean giving up on my career, or being less feminist or being submissive to my husband, or even giving up control of my finances.  But it does mean rejecting the cycle of work – daycare – buy sh*t – work some more.

It seems to me that the vast number of choices made available to us as North Americans is overwhelming us.  With all expectations and obligations abhorred by most people, it leaves us wandering – looking for a perfect role in society, but one that isn’t too traditional or comes with too much responsibility (especially to your family).

How is this benefiting us a society?  Innovation is amazing, – and we see it all around us in fantastic ideas, products, people.  But not everyone is wired for ground-breaking innovation.  So why not just work lots so you can consume all this innovative stuff 😉  And there are many other benefits that I don’t think need to be listed here.

I wouldn’t wish to born into any kind oppressive society.  I found living in England stifling because their expectations of women were so low – even though they were allowed to be prime minister, or whatever else they wanted, they just weren’t expected to.  But appreciating the wisdom of some “traditional” roles, especially family ones, that have been a part of humanity for a long time, is not a bad thing.  And it shouldn’t feel like I am contradicting my principles of equality and opportunity by embracing them!  This is a point of view I never thought I would support – but now that I here, it makes remarkable sense.

I am most content at the edge of a grove of trees.  The smell of the leaves, the symphony of sounds, the colours – they all talk to me.   I feel completely at peace and can just observe.   I am always happy there and try to find and mingle in these spaces whenever the opportunity arises.

I fantasize about living in a quaint cabin in a grassy plain – miles from anyone.  Living off the land, communing with nature and contemplating the beauty that surrounds me.  There are animals and occasional visitors in this vision.

The one piece of this dream that is with me everywhere I go is the weather.  Wind, sun, rain, cold, heat, snow – nature surrounds you everywhere you go.  Interacting with the land, even in urban areas.  It changes everything – almost like makeovers change a person – the colour of the landscape, how comfortable you feel.  And if you just breath and notice the changes you feel so connected to mother nature.

Through our feet, through the ground we all connected to one another.  The air we breathe circulates the planet and is shared by everything.  Weather connects us, unites us- we all talk about it incessantly.  It is the last vestige of once revered connection to mother nature; a safe, fluid constant in our lives which we all are affected by.  I find the concept of sealed, weatherproof homes repulsive and the open air homes common in the tropics delightful.

This part of me think economics is foolish and I can’t figure out its place in the rush of a career focused life.  But it also the calmest, wisest part of me.   I can find instant peace and relaxation by going outside to take the garbage out, just because I get to feel the weather on my face.

Sometimes I love the capitalist game of money, career and the feeling of getting ahead.  For most of my adult life, this part of me has had the biggest voice.  I need to look at the numbers on paper and go for the decisions with the best financial outcome.

I was brought up in upper class circles – I went to a private high school, I did another year of private school in England then got my BSc from McGill.  My family took it for granted that I would get a good job and succeed in the north american society.  If I have a continuum of persona’s, this one would be furthest to the right – and it is quite a ways over.

There is a subtle caveat though – I am not motivated by money.  Career success and financial success are just indicators that I am winning the game.  I have no desire to accumulate money to buy stuff, I just like to see the numbers and the titles grow.  But it is also the part of me that is the strongest critic – keeping me in safe roles, when really I want to bust out, ditch the shackles of being financially responsible and try something new.

My capitalist personality doesn’t like to take too many risks and likes to analyze the numbers a lot before jumping in with both feet. This is also the side of me that is proud of my prestigious schooling and family history.  I know how to make business connections and feel comfortable in the old boys club.

It is this side of me which makes me feel ‘split’ – because it is home to some of my strongest opinions and it is almost always at odds with the rest of me.  Labeling this persona and learning to treat her as a consultant amongst the group really makes sense to me and helps me to give all my opinions context.

The strongest values here are: connections are everything, after that, make sure you have done your research and know the financial possibilities of any decision (almost paralysis by analysis – but I am ok with that)

I have trouble making decisions.  That isn’t the exact phrase, I mean more like I have trouble forging a new path or purposefully changing direction.

I am extremely adaptable and can manage pretty much anything you throw at me.  So I tend to just wander through life jumping at attractive opportunities when they appear and making the best of whatever situation I am in.

I have reached an impasse.  The shiny opportunities aren’t as plentiful, or they are harder to ‘wander into’ with 3 kids, a mortgage and a husband.  So I have carved this rut with really high walls – and I need to purposefully align my skills and bust out of it.  Aligning my skills, being purposeful and forging a new path are not my strong point – I instantly feel overwhelmed just thinking about it.

Then someone gave me this fantastic visual tool.  Imagine I am made up of all these different people, who all need to agree on a choice – like a committee of personalities that makes up me.

I know, I sound like a whacko with a personality disorder.  But really – I have always felt a dichotomy between many of skills, desires and ideas.  And this image seemed to capture and accommodate this feeling so well.

So it was born – my visionary team.  9 (!!) personalities that can be called upon in any given situation to take the lead and make sure I excel at whatever it is.  They can also be consulted when ideas and opportunities come up and I can better evaluate if or how to make it happen.

I am going to write about each one.

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