When the dream job calls, what happens to family dreams?

Nothing is ever simple. Just because you have a job doesn’t mean you don’t want a nice husband. Once you have a great husband, you still want a kid. Even though you have a wonderful family, you don’t check your ambition at the door.

I recently got a call about a new job. Not the mid-level job I have now, but a REAL job, with lots of money, responsibility and a long commute. The American Dream.

So what that it’d mean long hours? So what that after five years of trying to conceive, we have an 8-month-old we adore who I actually like to spend time with? None of that mattered-I finally got the call for THE job and I was going to get it.

The interview went like this: I did as the HR person asked and told her about my adult life, my education, my career history and how I’d ended up where I am now. In my very interesting narrative about my life, I mentioned that I had left the corporate world for several years and consulted. One of the reasons I did this resonated with this recruiter and she spent the next 15 minutes telling me about her life-in MY interview, for MY job, which I was willing to consider even though I have a husband and a child and an easy commute on the train to my current job. So due to her desire to commiserate about our life experiences, we ran out of time.

When she asked if I had any questions for her, I didn’t think I should ask her why she took up nearly a quarter of our time together talking about herself. I asked her if she had any critique for me. She said she was concerned I wasn’t corporate enough, since I wasn’t wearing a suit and was wearing open-toe shoes.

I blanched. I had been a VP in this industry eight years ago, and I didn’t wear my fancy suit because this was just the HR screening; she wasn’t a decision-maker. She then spent a full five minutes praising my portfolio and regaling me with stories of all the bad material she’d seen. As we walked out, I noticed she was wearing casual pants, a sweater set and open-toe shoes.

When she called the next day, she opened with, “First, let me say I enjoyed our girl bonding time.” Was she kidding? That bonding time was supposed to be my job interview. When she sent me the rejection e-mail, she mentioned how much she enjoyed meeting me. I’m sure she did.

At 45, it’s a bit scary to realize I can’t have it all, at least not all at once. So when my boss leads our meetings and I’m cc’d on e-mails as an FYI only, I look at photos of my son, think about how nice it is to read the paper on the train on the way to work and count my blessings that the biggest mistake I’ve made lately is wearing open-toe shoes.

Susan Bisno Massel is a mom living in Chicago.

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