Finding Family Fun–Off the Merry-Go-Round

Jen with “her guys.”

By Jen Ashenfelter

Riding the “career carousel” is a different experience for everyone; some love it, some loathe it…and a few ride somewhere in between. This is my story and I can tell you it’s ok to get off the merry-go-round and be happy…

One step through the gate…anticipation builds. The distant music is joyous and enchanting, quickly pulling you closer to its source. Anxiously you search, competing with the crowds and traveling with focused determination to reach your destination. At first sight, you fall helplessly in love with its breathtaking beauty and dazzling detail. With the giddy excitement of a child, you eagerly hop on full of energy and expectations. After close inspection, you carefully chose a horse—deciding whether to remain steady or add a bit of movement. The ride is slow at first so you enthusiastically wave to the crowds. Feeling the rush as the speed picks up, you firmly grasp the reins. Eventually, the crowds and the music become a blur and you grow tired of the monotonous motion. You think: What happened to this wondrous ride? I expected more than this one-trick pony moving in circles.

At home with my first baby, Nicholas, at 10-months-old, April 1999.

When the ride is over, it’s ok to get off.

Long before I decided on a career path, getting married and having a family was what I wanted most. That’s not to say developing a career and landing my dream job were not important. I married after college graduation and wanted to build a firm foundation with a resume full of experience to draw from in the future before starting a family. International travel, global publications, corporate initiatives, and management presentations—the ride was everything I dreamed it would be. And after 8 years, it was time to go. The day we knew our first child was on the way, I was prepared to get off the proverbial “merry-go-round.”

The option to take another ride on the merry-go-round always presents itself.

Several years later, I heard the music again. Knowing what to expect when I reached the carousel again, this journey was less deliberate and I searched for a slower ride. All the horses were attractive so I tried a few on for size. However, there was something about that last horse—adorned with lots of pretty ribbons and bells; it seemed innocent underneath. I hopped on and took off in a measured gait thinking I had this trot mastered. Each time around, the pace quickened so slightly I hardly recognized the change. The next thing I knew, the ribbons had unraveled and I was racing again.

My youngest, Christopher (in blue), is a joy to watch on the soccer field.

The second ride is not always as smooth as the first. These alluring and hypnotic attractions can easily create distraction from what we really desire.

By this time, my first born was now in middle school and my baby was in elementary school. Where did the time go? That horse was moving so fast I started missing these little boys step off the school bus, learn a new karate move or score a goal during a soccer match. I became frustrated when they got sick, and was cranky when they needed my attention. Despite the speed, I became restless at work, impatient at home and full of doubt that I could ever win the race.

Jumping off at full speed is scary, but you won’t fall.

Finally, tired of holding on for dear life and disappointed that I veered off course, I hated everything that about that horse. The reins snapped and I jumped. The fear of falling hard was immediately replaced with comforting relief and the promise of a new journey that would lead me back home to my family and focused on the career I established many years before.

Hopefully, our stories will inspire you to get “off the merry-go-round.”

Yep, I jumped off twice…and I’m sure it won’t be the last time. There are open, caring arms in that crowd around the carousel who understand the need to take that leap of faith. Our mission is to create a supportive community where women can share information and creative ideas that enrich our family life and celebrate…us.

WELCOME to Off the Merry-Go-Round!  Please share a comment below–thanks!

Nicholas earned his first-degree Black Belt, 2012, after 6 years of hard work! I am so thankful to be there for my family’s big moments… I cherish each one.

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One thought on “Finding Family Fun–Off the Merry-Go-Round

  1. How many times I have been off and on this merry-go-round. Now retired, I am off permanently but, sometimes, I still think of getting back on for a brief spin. However, the music is very faint. This article is a wonderful view of a woman’s choices and how lucky we are to be able to make them. Great job, Jennifer.

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