A Successful Life vs. A Successful Parent?

In the Sunday Times newspaper a week ago today,  (OK in all honesty, I probably read it in the middle of the week) at the end of the Money section was an interview with Hilary Devey who was taking over from James  Caan as the next Dragon on Dragon’s Den. (Dragon’s Den is a TV programme in which potential start-ups are given the opportunity to pitch their business/business ideas to already established (read Rich!) entrepreneurs)

Multi-millionaire Hilary Devey made her fortune with a pallet distribution business that she started in 1996. In typical rags to riches fashion, she had her fair share of extreme poverty moments, living above a fish and chip shop (cheaper rent) and even describes having a Christmas dinner out of a tin. The business/entrepreneurial and over-achiever side of me admires and is rather jealous of the tenacity, hard work and steely resolve Devey must have had in order to be so successful.

However, in the interview, there is a telling sign, her answer to the question ‘How much money do you have in your wallet?’ is ‘ My purse is often empty because it’s raided by my son….’

While I can’t remember where I first read about Devey, ages ago, I do remember wondering, as I read her story, if she thought the sacrifices that she made were worth it. You see, Devey’s son Mevlit, 24, a recovering drug (heroin) addict, was raised by her mum and a series of child-minders. Then at 11 he was sent away to a boarding school

In a recent article in the Daily Mail  she claims that she would give it all back if she knew it would make him completely better. I don’t want to be judgemental about Devey and her choices, but I can’t help wondering what she actually thought of herself, whether she felt she was a success?

You see, I’ve always been driven, ambitious, had a long line of goals to accomplish and reach, I wanted a Successful Life. I wanted that large house, the posh car, the fabulous holidays and I was certainly willing to work for it. But having a child changed that in me.

It made me feel that there was something more important in life than achieving or achievement. Between the time I was childless (early preganancy) on a funded month-long research sabatical in Japan to the time, I went back to work when Georgia was 9 months old, suddenly my goals and needs to achieve had become secondary, in a larger sense even somewhat non-existent. I no longer cared, if I made Professor (proof – I’m no longer even in Academia!), what became more important was that my child was raised ‘right’ (whatever/however that means), that the time i spent with her, meant something to both of us, and that we enjoyed our lives together and were happy (admittedly there were other experiences that coloured this outlook, but time for that in another post perhaps)

I know what they say about never letting your dreams go, and no, I’ve not let them go completely, but what has changed the most must be my definition of what makes ME as success.

I still drool over that lovely house in Bathwick Hill, I love that E-Class Merc and I would so love to visit the pyramids in Eygpt and go shopping in New York, the difference now is, these have come to filed under the ‘would be nice’ and what has become most important is that I have a child, who is polite and can differentiate between right and wrong, who is challenged and stretched as much as her potential will go and most importantly happy and content just being herself.

What about you? How would you define success?

© 2011, Li-ling. All rights reserved.


  • I’m with you. Nothing feels quite as fulfilling as knowing that one’s child has everything they need and some of what they want. Maybe it’s instinctual, but all the rest of the things in life just seem kind of pretend in comparison to life as a Mama. (For me, anyway). I don’t regret a second that I gave up in the “real world,” as many back-to-work Mamas call it, to spend with my children. I’ve always been very aware of “my death bed,” so to speak, and how I might feel in the last moments of my life looking back, and I know that being a present mother will feel like my greatest success (assuming I’m doing it correctly! 😀 )

  • Elena, thank you for your comments. It’s nice to find solidarity 🙂 I think whatever happens, success must lie in the ‘doing’. We can only do our very best. Hope you’re having a great weekend!

  • What a powerful post! Wow! I totally agree with you and Elena. The ambitious side of me to achieve the long list of goals set by and for myself simply went into hiding after my first child was born. Actually, it is probably more accurate to say that the ambitious side is still there, but my ambitions have changed. Now it is all about raising my children as best as I could.

  • Hi domesticgoddess, Thank you! It’s something that I feel really passionately about. It was a really long journey to reconciling those differences for me, and I really wonder, especially having a daughter, how to go about sending the ‘right messages’. I suppose at the end of the day, most important is happiness, contentment and satisfaction with oneself.

Got anything to say? Go ahead and leave a comment!