Tegan had it all—or so it seemed. A formidable force in the marketing world, her talent, good looks, and abilities opened doors. Her life was an enviable mix of boardroom triumphs, fascinating dates, and social events that made most Instagram feeds look dull. At 35, Tegan relished her freedom. She was unattached, unconstrained, and unstoppable. Tegan closed yet another high-stakes project successfully, earning a round of applause at the office. Tonight, she had a date with Alex, an artist, the latest in a string of charismatic men she enjoyed but never got serious with. "Why limit yourself when the world has so much to offer?" she often mused.
A couple of years back, Tegan decided she wanted children. Opting for a sperm donor and surrogate, she brought Emily and Jack into the world. To Tegan, they were another choice she was thrilled to have made, another aspect of a life she could curate as she pleased. Emily, now seven, and Jack, five, began to show signs of behavioral and emotional difficulties. Emily's teacher pulled Tegan aside one day, suggesting perhaps the children were having difficulty in a single-parent environment, compounded by her work commitments and social life.
Then, Mark happened. Unlike the others, Mark seemed serious, emotionally available, and interested in a long-term commitment. For the first time, Tegan hesitated, recognizing that Mark offered the possibility of stability, for both her and her children.
Sitting across from her sister Kate, who led a more traditional life with a husband and kids, Tegan felt uneasy. "What's wrong with wanting it all, Kate?" "Nothing," Kate sipped her tea, "unless 'having it all' leaves you with less than you need."
That night, as Tegan tucked Emily and Jack into bed, she looked into their innocent eyes and felt a pang of guilt. Was her freedom costing them a stable home environment? Was her strongest motive—her pursuit of freedom—disadvantaging her own children?
The following weekend, Tegan took Emily and Jack to the park. As they played, she found herself observing a nearby family: a mother and father laughing with their children. What if it was not just about having the ability and means to do what you want but also about facing the consequences of those choices, especially when they affected innocent lives?
Returning home, Tegan thought about her children and the lifetime they had ahead of them. Sitting alone in her elegantly furnished living room, the weight of her freedom suddenly felt like a burden, its ethical implications glaringly clear. A wave of realization washed over her: her desire to "have it all" had been her strongest drive, a compelling force that condemned her to servitude. That drive for freedom had cost her children a stable environment and may have cost her something just as precious—true freedom, the freedom to choose what's right even when it's hard, even when it comes at a personal cost.