Success and Having it All: Possible, but Not Easy

Having it all and making it all actually work are two entirely different things. But offering proof that it is possible, two North Shore women share their stories of building successful careers while maintaining lasting marriages and raising happy children.

Northbrook ophthalmic surgeon Tamara Fountain, M.D., recalls an afternoon several years ago when her son Nicholas, who was 10 years old at the time, paged her in the operating room to complain that his sister Natalie wouldn’t let him have another cookie.

“I told them, ‘If there is no smoke or blood, don’t page me,’” Fountain jokes.

While the challenges of balancing career and family weren’t always as obvious as they were that afternoon, Fountain says it did require creativity and flexibility. Although she didn’t necessarily plan on it, Fountain took a couple of years off of work when her children were young.

“I would never recommend someone take three years off and not stay connected,” Fountain says. “But, most women are afraid of doing anything but full time, because they read about the ‘mommy track.’”

Fountain says, in her case, following a non-traditional path actually worked to her advantage. During the period when she was not practicing medicine full time, Fountain became active in medical organizations like the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Serving on boards allowed her to develop skills like giving media interviews that she wouldn’t have gained in the operating room.

“I kind of developed a dual career,” Fountain says, “And, I’ve found myself now in a position to advance.”

Linda Yonke, Superintendant of New Trier Township HS District 203, says one of the secrets to her success at home and at the office has been having a supportive spouse.

While Yonke, 56, was working her way up the ladder, earning her Ph.D. on the weekends and raising two children, she says her husband Gary not only pulled his weight with the house and kids, but he also supported his wife emotionally when she had to be away from home.

“He didn’t make me feel guilty or like I was being neglectful of the kids, and I know there were women who struggled with that,” Yonke says.

Work, school and kids didn’t leave time for much else, but Yonke says she and her husband always made time to create memories with their children by prioritizing things like summer vacations in Michigan.

“We really focused on special times with the family, and I just didn’t do a lot of other clubs and commitments,” she says.

Yonke’s advice to younger women just starting their careers and families is to “try not be bothered by what other people think when they don’t understand how your family operates.” Instead she says to communicate with your partner and find schedules and routines that work for your own family.

To that end, Yonke says she and Gary always made time for date night — even if they spent it attending a high school concert or play.