What Does a Strong Life Look Like?
One final detail: not long after she became an agent, Anna became a mother, too, giving birth to her son, Ben. She nursed him and after her maternity leave was up, she returned to the agency. Both she and David had full-time jobs, so, as many working couples do, they hired a nanny.
She explains, "I thought I'd be fine with it, and I guess I was for a while. But, then, my senses started picking up on something. I felt weird leaving him. It's not that I didn't want to go back to work—I did, and I enjoyed work even after being a mom. It's just that something didn't seem quite right at home. I wrestled with it for a couple of weeks trying to pin it down. And then one morning, it dawned on me that our nanny was rushing me out of the house. It wasn't anything that I could actually point to; it was just a feeling, a feeling that grew more insistent the more I thought about it: 'My nanny does not want me in my house!'"
She installed a nanny cam. And that night, watching it at home—"The worst night of my life," she calls it—she saw why the nanny wanted her out of there. The nanny slept on the floor almost the entire day.
"It killed me to see video of Ben clambering over her and toddling to the window calling our names, looking over the little gate into the kitchen and calling for me. It wasn't that she was being mean to him. She was just completely ignoring him. No attention. No love. No cuddling. Absolutely nothing. It was just terrible. The next morning, the full momma bear came out and I fired her the moment she set foot in our house."
Which left her and David with a problem. Anna didn't want to stop working, but neither could she stomach the thought of leaving Ben at home. Even with a different nanny. She and David sat down that night and talked it out. It was a tough night, but in the end they found the right solution for them. As much as Anna loved her job, David was bored with his—his family had sold the printing business and the new owners weren't overly fond of having the oldest son still walking the halls. David, this athletic, rangy, 6'3" sportsman, didn't know what it would be like to spend all day looking after his son, but he wanted to give it a try. Anna would work full-time, he would take care of Ben and any other kids who came along (a daughter, Charlotte, after a couple of years), and then Anna would come home and put them to bed every night.
That was seven years ago. It's not an arrangement that would work for every family—although it's not particularly rare: according to the most recent U.S. census, in 20 percent of families with kids under five, the man is the primary caregiver—but it works for Anna and David. They are fortunate to have each other, and they are stronger, together.
So that's one version of what a strong life looks like. You'll draw your own conclusions, I'm sure. Whatever your conclusions, resist ascribing it all to timing and luck. Luck certainly played a part in the trajectory of Anna's life but nonetheless Anna was an active agent (pardon the pun) in her life. She made her choices, rejected some advice, closed some doors, opened others, took initiative. Mary McCarthy wrote, "We all live in suspense, from day to day, from hour to hour; in other words, we are the hero of our own story."
This was true for Anna, as it is and will always be, for you.
Read more about Anna in Chapter 5 of Find Your Strongest Life
Marcus answers your toughest career questions
Take the Strong Life Test for women