Being a non-parent gives you the chance to pursue a career you feel passionate about

By Nina Steele 

Emma Sky

Emma Sky

In late July of this year, I contacted the publisher for Emma Sky, author of ‘The Unravelling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq’, the acclaimed book on the aftermath of the war in Iraq. I had read the book and wanted to do a Q&A with Emma for the purpose of sharing it on Emma was among the people summoned to give evidence at the Iraq Inquiry, the findings of which were published also in July this year.

As a civilian, Emma Sky volunteered to help the coalition forces rebuild Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. She became the governor of Kirkuk from 2003 to 2004, and then the political advisor to US General Odierno from 2007—2010. She has firsthand experience of what happened in that country after the war, hence her role as a witness for the inquiry.

I was intrigued by the book because Emma’s passion for Iraq and the Middle East was apparent throughout. That she played such a major role in the aftermath of the war is quite remarkable, considering that it was her first time holding such a prominent role in a foreign country. When I asked Emma what significance has being a non-parent played in the choices she has made both professionally and personally to date? Her answer was: “I am more willing to take risks”.

And those risks are never far in the book. In fact you fear for her life, the minute she arrives in Iraq. That she survived an assassination attempt within a week of taking on her new role as governor of Kirkuk, says it all.

Kirkuk had 40% of Iraq’s oil reserves or 6.7% of the World’s total oil reserves. Because of its richness in oil, Kirkuk was naturally a bone of contention. The Kurds who have long been fighting for their independence needed Kirkuk if they wanted a viable state, while the Iraqi government thought otherwise. Ethnic tensions were always present.

When I asked Emma what her plans for the future were after Iraq? Her answer was: “When I was on book tour, people kept coming up to me and telling me I needed to get back out there and do more in the field. I have a few balls up in the air at present. I would like to do more to try to end conflicts. And perhaps to write more.”

As Emma said herself, being a non-parent gives you opportunities to pursue the type of career that understandably, may not appeal to someone with children. In addition to being able to take more risks, not being a parent also means that one does not need as much money as one would have needed had one had children. And of course the money issue plays a major part in what kind of career people end up in.

Figures suggest that only 13% of people in the world are happy with their jobs. These are quite depressing figures, and since one of the main reasons why people do jobs they don’t like is because of money, not having children and needing less money to live on, is likely to result in many non-parents following their passions, as opposed to seeing work as purely a means to an end.

Emma Sky

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