She Chose a Career and Thus Destroyed Her Family

"I regret that I practically abandoned Tanya for the sake of my career and destroyed my family with my own hands."

Originally appeared at:

Marina graduated from a prestigious university in the late 1980s and got married. A few years later she received a grant to study in the USA. She was later offered a job at the World Bank in Washington. She liked her work, her colleagues loved her, her bosses noted the young employee’s dedication and responsibility. Then her daughter Tanya was born. Marina had to decide: to go on maternity leave and lose her promised promotion at work, or to leave her infant daughter with a nanny and pursue a career. She chose the second, which she now bitterly regrets. Her success at work was brilliant, but her family fell apart, and her daughter became a stranger. Here is Marina's story.

I thought that for American women, children are not a hindrance to their careers; shortly after giving birth, some are back at work in just a few weeks.

I decided to "keep up" with my Western contemporaries, and besides, the chance to advance in such a prestigious organization only comes once in a lifetime.

My husband and I “registered” a nanny from Russia (the bank not only partially paid for the nanny’s services, but also took care of the visa application).

My daughter was born weak and sickly. She was allergic to most formula. A local pediatrician was trying to persuade me: “The child has a weak immune system, anemia, and is underweight. Ideally, breastfeed her for up to a year, but even if you can just do it for six months, or even three months, your daughter will benefit. This is now the most important gift that you can give to your baby.” But I was adamant. I thought: thousands of children have grown up on artificial formula and it didn't cause any problems; they turned out healthy and smart. I was probably blinded by my upcoming achievements at work.

My Mom called us on the phone (there was no WhatsApp or Skype then), suggesting that my daughter Tanya and I live with her for a while in her village. She said that fresh air, porridge with goat’s milk, pureed vegetables from the garden, and homemade compotes would help my little girl get stronger. I listened with half an ear: what good is a village, when there is competition at work, and so many people want to take my place? I was especially skeptical about my parents’ opinion that my main job was to be a mother, and that everything else would follow. I had my own opinion: it would be a shame to lose a good career — as for my daughter, she can grow up and be proud that she has a successful mother.

A few years later there was a business trip to an African country. Considering the state of my daughter’s health, I decided to send her to my mother — her grandmother. My husband asked me to cancel the trip so as not to be separated from our child, but I couldn’t resist: working in third world countries was useful for my career. It was believed that an employee who went through difficulties deserves a promotion.

At this stage I lost my husband. Even before that, he could not calmly relate to the fact that I see my daughter only on weekends. On weekdays, I go to work and she’s still asleep; when I come back, the girl is already asleep. The husband gave reasonable arguments: he said my daughter smells of the perfume of some other woman — the nanny (sad American joke), and when little Tanya wants to show someone her achievements - dressing and combing dolls - she runs first of all to the nanny, looking for affection and a kind word. 

I sprinkled counter-arguments:

“Do you want me to cook borscht all day, look out the window, and just play tag and play ball with little Tanya?” To do this, it was not at all necessary to study at a university...

After six months in Africa, my husband packed his things and left for Russia.

“My heart is not in the right place without my daughter.” He said goodbye.

He never worried about his career. A strong IT specialist will not remain idle.

My Mom tried to reach me. She repeated and repeated:

Do you remember when you were a child and you loved to play mother-and-daughter? You had children's dishes, you cooked dinners and fed your dolls, and you said that when you grow up, you will have many children. Where did all this go? Come to your senses! You will regret it when your daughter completely moves away from you. You are already left without a husband, think about your child.

It seemed to me that I would have time to do everything. It’s okay that I couldn’t come to the first school meeting because of an important conference. In the photographs on September 1, Tanya was the most beautiful and the saddest. I “celebrated” a graduation party after the 4th grade on Skype with my daughter and relatives. The rest of the important and not very important events in Tanya’s life passed me by.

I reassured myself: I’ll get promoted a little higher in my department, I’ll go on a few more business trips — and then I’ll return to Tanya, go to parent-teacher meetings, and help with homework. I wasn’t worried about my daughter because I trusted my parents and husband. Probably the worst thing is that at that moment I did not consider myself a bad mother: Tanya and her grandmother swam in the seas at the most famous resorts, tried national dishes in many countries, my daughter studied at a private school, I paid for the necessary tutors, and I spared no expense on sports. Instead of love and care, I tried to give my daughter expensive pencil cases with rhinestones, phones, laptops, and so on.

There were signs that I was wrong, that Tanya and I were becoming strangers. On vacation in Malta, my daughter said that she liked it better at the dacha in the village with her grandparents:

Mom, it’s so cool here! Can you preserve 50 jars of cucumbers like grandma? What about collecting a basket full of mushrooms in the forest in the morning and frying them with new potatoes in the evening? I made friends with the local kids, they are waiting for me all year long, looking forward to when the holidays begin...

I didn’t think twice when I read an essay on the topic “My Family” in French (my mother sent it to me by email). I was just offended by Tanya. Her essay said: “My family is my dad, grandparents, and an old pug dog.” Something was said about me somewhere in between. It was not this that hurt, but what stung was that the gray parrot, which I brought as a gift from an African country, was not included in the family at all. And yet the pug, who has a thorn in one eye — Tanya took him out of pity, because everyone refused the poor fellow — was considered a member of the family.

When I was transferred to Switzerland, I decided to take Tanya with me. I wanted to do this, not because I had changed my mind and decided that my daughter should be near me, but merely because her second foreign language at school was French and I thought it would be a good opportunity for language practice. But Tanya refused.

I didn’t think twice when Tanya, faced with her first betrayal (her best friend set her up), consulted with her grandmother, and not with me.

Unfortunately, I brushed aside these and other wake-up calls.

So the years flew by: now I’m retired, my Tanya is 25 years old. We have a good relationship, but this is a relationship between two women who happen to know each other, not a real mother-and-daughter relationship. My ex-husband and his parents raised Tanya to be kind and sympathetic. They instilled in her a love of faith, of Orthodoxy. This is probably why my daughter is not vindictive, does not take revenge on me, does not persecute me. She once told me:

“I love you either way, but I missed you so much as a child, I just wanted to snuggle, take you and dad by the hands and walk together.”

I know about my daughter from letters and photographs. I personally talked to her only on vacation or during my short visits to Russia. But these were routine conversations: How are you? How are you studying?... It turns out that I know as much about my own child as about some neighbor. I feel hurt and sad about this. I regret that I practically abandoned Tanya for the sake of my career and destroyed my family with my own hands.

My faith in God, and Sunday services, help keep me going. I pray for God’s mercy, that the Lord will send grandchildren, so that I will be needed and useful for them.

  • Shqip
  • العربية
  • English
  • Français
  • Deutsch
  • Bahasa Indonesia
  • Italiano
  • Português
  • Русский
  • Español