I have a BIG confession to make- I do NOT have it all together.
Far from it.
So for those of you that think I do, THANK YOU.
I’d like to say it’s because I have a fabulous press agent (ha-don’t I wish!), but that would be a lie.
It’s all smoke and mirrors baby.
There are a million self-help gurus out there that proclaim “You too can have work-life balance!”
Truth is, that’s a crock of crap. When you hear this, you need to run the other way. FAST.
I bet you don’t have it all together either. And it’s OK.
We all act like there’s some sort of cosmic balance sheet, where for one work-related action, we just need to add a family-related action and life is in perfect harmony.
This is the real world folks- it doesn’t work like that.
You will screw up. You will juggle lots of balls in the air and you will drop several. You will disappoint others. You will disappoint yourself. There will be tears. There will be judgment. You’ll hate yourself.
But you know what? It’ll turn out fine. I promise.
It was easier when my kids were little
The kids roll along and whew buddy, does that throw a monkey wrench into your neat, little organized world. I did well for a while, simply because when they’re infants they don’t need a ton of attention- they’re sleeping like 20 hours a day right?
Then maternity leave (or paternity leave) is up and the first round of guilt comes and crushes you so you can barely breathe. It was at this point I began the work-life balance dance. I cried, I railed, I screamed at the unfairness of it all.
But, then I also realized that in order to feel whole, I needed the other parts of my life too. My family is but one facet of my life. I needed all the spokes to make the wheel.
So I put on my big girl pants and said to myself, “Carrie- it’s going to be tough. There will be days you feel like a failure. There will be days you have to make tough decisions. There will be days you cry. When your kids cry. But in the end it will be OK. You just have to trust yourself.”
I also realized that after 6 weeks at home with my babies, staying home full-time would NOT have made me happy. Tell me if you’ve heard this one before, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy.”
It’s become more difficult as they’ve grown up, but not impossible
When the kids start needing more attention, that’s when the challenge begins. That’s when you hope and pray the cosmic balance sheet will start to work. Even though there is no such thing. You start to bargain with the devil 😉
The fact of the matter is, to achieve any sort of happiness between your work and family, you need to set boundaries. And when you’re self-employed, it’s especially challenging. For example, I don’t set any evening appointments and seldom participate in after work networking events. That doesn’t mean I won’t- it means it better be really worth it to take that time away. That’s the decision I made when my daughter first arrived. It’s simply more important for me and them to be accessible to them at night. And truthfully, there’s no business deal that’s as satisfying as snuggling with my babies and watching cartoons 🙂
My stories about the work-life balance myth
- When my daughter came up to me 30 minutes before we had to leave for school and said “Mommy, I don’t have any clean underwear.” AHHHHHH……So I pulled a pair out of the clothes hamper and washed them in the sink with detergent. And laughed about it. All because I had been furiously writing most of the week and forgot about her laundry.
- When I took my daughter to school the day after Easter Break ended (supposedly) only to discover that she WAS still on Easter break. All because I had been wrapped up in a work project and neglected to read the school newsletter.
- When 4 days after my son was born, my dad called me into the office because he needed my help. So, I got up, got into my work clothes, bundled my son up and off we went to the office. When you’re self-employed like me, you get to do the heavy lifting, but there’s also a tremendous amount of freedom. Did it kill him or me? Of course not.
My advice to you?
- Cut yourself a tremendous amount of slack.
- Realize you can only make decisions with the information you have at that moment in time.
- When you screw up, apologize.
- Learn to laugh at yourself because humor will keep you sane. Laugh in general. A LOT.
- Remember that most of your daily decisions are NOT life and death, so don’t treat them as if they are.
- Get up earlier, even on the weekends. Truly, the hours before the kids are up are my most productive. And guilt-free. I say this as I write this post at 7 am on a Sunday morning.
- Drink wine.
- Get an awesome support system in place.
- Drink more wine.
- Say “I love you” more often.
- Don’t dwell on your decision. Make the decision and be OK with it. Only then can you learn and move on.
- Know that very few of your decisions will result in your kid on top of the water tower with an AK-47. I always say that if they don’t end up on top of the water tower or in prison, I will have done my job 😉
Yes, there are days (and even some evenings) where I’m working when I could be playing with my kids. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. But that’s just how it is sometimes. I acknowledge it then and there and make my peace with it. And I do my best the next day to spend a bit more time with them or share at least one special moment.