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Suzanne Power: Destroy

In life you have to learn to paddle your own canoe. Sometimes that may be hard on other people.

Let me explain. I was on holiday last week and went sea kayaking with my family. The guide was on sabbatical from his. I knew there was a big story behind his eyes. In his late 30s, he was older than his co-workers. "It's a summer job/midlife crisis," he said and I could see he didn't know why he was telling me.

I encouraged him to talk. He had two children and his desire to change his life from a business approach to more life-focused existence was not easy. "I have a mortgage and if I follow my dream it turns my wife into a single parent while I pave the way." The guilt was clear but I got the feeling that if he didn't make a change, he might end up not being good for anything or anyone.

I loved his approach to my own children so I knew he didn't want to be away from his. But for the next few weeks he is under canvas and sorting his mind out so he can find a way of keeping his family together and make a living that doesn't destroy him at the same time.

I admired his honesty and felt his pain at being away from those he loves. He is not doing anything lightly. What he is doing a lot of people ought to consider. Carrying on regardless can be more of a crime than facing up to the fact you can't. Carrying on might lead to total breakdown. Sometimes we need to take time for ourselves to work through the big choices.

People are quick to judge. But here is a man who might have been heading for a lot worse if he stayed in a job he found intolerable, who will find a direction that makes more time for family. To get that he needs a clear head, and living away from his family lets his ideas come together.


My own husband did this. He craved his old demanding job. He wanted a similar one, which living here didn't provide. When he got one we didn't follow him as it was clear he needed to think it through. He found he couldn't bear being away from his family and his career just didn't count as much as it once had. He realised he was better off living what he calls a "smaller life in a bigger way".

A man has to do what a man's got to do. A woman is the same. The two women I know who have left families to find a way of working that suited them better have ended up highly successful in their new fields. But they were going up the ladder and were not emotionally separating. They commuted to the UK and came home to Ireland on weekends. Their husbands were the homemakers. The men I know who have taken time out from families were emotionally separated as well as fiscally. Their sabbatical from work was also from their relationship, they were evaluating everything. It made my husband a stronger person and I know the guide will end up the same.

Retreating to get straight is not an easy choice for the one leaving or the one left. But paddling your own canoe can help you to guide others to do the same.