Work + Life: Fork in the road

By Autumn Manning

autumn-pic1.jpgI grew up in a large family with lots of siblings. I have three great sisters and one brother, so you can imagine how loud and crazy our house always was growing up, and how loud and crazy any family get-together is now. Growing up, we fought all the time and when we wanted to communicate anything to anyone, we did it in the form of yelling. People tell me I am overly-dramatic all the time, and I swear it is because I had to be that way growing up to get any personal attention.

Aside from my loud mouth, my family has drastically shaped other things about me, like my views and goals now as a woman, a mom, and a wife, but not always in the way you would think. I can say that I learned a lot of my valuable life lessons from my mother, but I learned what I didn’t want to do and believe more than what I should do. My mother, some would argue out of necessity, was rarely around because she was constantly working to support the kiddos. Even though she didn’t have the time, money, or emotional energy to give to us, she continued growing our family until we were at five kids. Looking back on it now, I believe she was surrounding herself with people to always love her. Like an insurance policy to provide some sense of security. If one child didn’t love like they should, surely one of the other four would.

Since I have been married, I have had this idea that I wanted a very large family. This was pretty much a non-negotiable for me. Just recently, though, I have come to a fork in the road where I have been asking myself, “Why? Why do you feel the need to have so many children?” Just the thought of having another one after Marin is exhausting.

With work and life going and going, I can’t even begin to think about how I would devote the time, love, and attention more children would need. But still, it has always been what I wanted, so I push the anxiety away for a while and think something like, “I’ll figure out how to do it…no matter what” No matter what…I will have a large family AND a great career.

Only just recently have I taken an honest look at myself and my life and been open to the thought of letting things happen as they will…and possibly stopping after Marin…possibly not. The point is that for the first time, I am not tied to the notion of having many more children no matter what. I am passionate about my future in my career, and I know that I have serious doubts about managing my two lives if I have a huge family. I realize that I don’t need to pad myself with kids for our family to have a lot of love to go around. I will say that growing up, it definitely was NOT an overwhelmingly loving environment, so the theory for my mother of quantity = quality was wrong if you ask me. I want to have the time, the attention span, the patience, and the love to give each of my kids. If I strive to have a successful career, be an awesome wife, AND be an amazing mother, I just don’t think I have the resources to give more than Miles and Marin at this point.

One very valuable lesson stands out from my childhood now. If you choose to have a child, you better be willing to do whatever it takes to love and nurture that child every day of her life. No matter how hard it gets. I cannot do that if I continue down this career path and continue having kids every two years. Miles and Marin deserve a better mother than that.

You’d think that this decision is not that big of a deal. So what?! You changed your mind to have fewer kids, maybe. Big deal! It’s bigger than that. Part of me felt like I was compromising my personal life so that I could continue to have a great career. I felt like I was giving in, finally, to what was inevitable all along. I would have to make a choice and give something up along the way. But is it really like this? I wonder if other mothers experience this at some point. Do you feel like you are compromising something in your personal life to be able to achieve what you want in your professional life? And … is this really a compromise, or is this a natural part of maturity?


  1. Autumn, I’m no expert but I do have an opinion so consider it for what it’s worth, everyone has one.

    Life is a compromise. I have found that sometimes I compromise work and sometimes I compromise family. It’s a tricky balancing act that could possibly win as long as you realize that you won’t win both for very long.

    I would like to make a couple of observations. I don’t know you or your mother but it seems to me that you don’t give her enough credit. She spent most of her time supporting the kids she had for whatever the reason she had them. Maybe her heart/mind was not in the reality of supporting / devoting time to kids. Maybe the dream of having kids was stronger than the intelligence of having kids.

    Second, (and last), is that you sound like you are a good mother and a good career woman which tells me that you are driven. I bet that part of your drive is derived from your childhood and not to have that same environment for your kids that you had. Thank you Mom.

    Good luck on that balancing act.

  2. Thanks for the thoughts. I appreciate your perspective and I think you are right on many of your points. My mother is an amazing lady and I am constantly amazed when I think about how she did all she did for us, how she managed the home and how she provided for us. For that, I respect and love her forever and ever. And you are right…there are many other lessons I learned from my mother that I carry with me throughout my life but simply didn’t touch base on because of the length and content of this particular blog. But they are there.

    Regardless of her motives, I think my main point is that her decision to continue having children once she realized she couldn’t do both well (work and home) is not one I would personally like to make. I have finally come to realize that I have the ability and the understanding to make that decision before it is too late….before I have 3,4,5 kids that I feel aren’t getting enough of my love or attention. I believe there was a point when my mother realized that she couldn’t manage both aspects of her life to a healthy degree, and it must have been when she put me in charge of the three little girls so she could work as much as needed, no matter what. That is what I do not want for my life.

    Thank you for your thoughts. I appreciate them.

  3. Autumn~

    What a well-thought self evaluation of you and your motives. There is something to be said for burning the candle at both ends, however, the notion of wanting to have it all is not so foreign to as many as we may be willing to admit. There comes a point when you have to be pleased with your best efforts and you alone will know when you reach that point.

    Reflecting on our parents and our own raising, as we remember it, is healthy. But spending too much time remembering our parents and how we don’t want to be to our kids takes alot of energy away from focusing on what we can offer them. Parenting skills are innate and some are far better at it than others. Mabye our parents just did the best they could with what they had and that’s all it amounts to.

    I admire your focus and your energy and it sounds to me that whatever path you are lead down with family and career, you will make good choices. For now anyway, it isn’t a story about the grown ups. It is a story about your beautiful children. Know that you are strong, blessed, loved and supported. Those qualities are only a few that will shape the people that they will become.

    I enjoyed your post.:)MM

  4. Dear Autumn,
    It is not often we take such a close inventory of our lives. I admire your willingness to take a close look at making decisions that effect others more than yourself. Often, we are driven to meet needs within ourselves rather than face a reality we might not like. You are a brave woman!

  5. Autumn,
    You are such am amazing woman. Since the first time I met you at SVI, I’ve been impressed beyond words with your insights, your drive to make a difference, and your contagious sense of “fun”. I had developed a pretty clear picture of “what” you do. After reading this wonderful blog, I know get to have a little glimps into “who” you are as well. You are a blessing to so many people – and Morgan, Miles, and soon Marin, are unbelievably blessed to have you as a wife and mother.

  6. Great post! I know this a mom’s blog but this really resonates with struggles I have. One thing that struck me is how unwilling you are to compromise. I think that is fantastic!

    As BusyBody said, life is a balancing act. However I don’t accept that, that means we have to be willing to be “average”. Instead your post highlights that you have been intentional about identifying what’s important (vital, in fact) to you and you are absolutely NOT willing to compromise in your pursuit of those values. For instance, you realized that many children equals compromise – not just for you, but for Miles and Marin, for your husband and for your career. Therefore, you chose against that. You chose a route that allows you to be fully and 100% committed to the children you love while, at the same time, being fully and 100% committed to the career you also love. It reminds me of my beautiful and wonderful wife. When she is home, she is an amazing, wonderful mother and wife. When she is at work, she is a brilliant and innovative career woman. For her, there is no compromise, there is no settling.

    I commend you for living life in the extremes – which is much more exciting and fulfilling than the middle road!

Comments are closed.