My husband & I both own businesses. With 2 children, I found myself in a never-ending internal struggle during their early years. This stress depleted my energy, impacted my wellness, & often left me feeling like I was never enough anywhere. Instead of embracing what I was doing well, I often felt at odds about what I wasn’t doing. A completely unsustainable state.
My business requires my time. And a fair amount of it. However, we all have more “flex” than we think we do – regardless of whether we are owners or employees. (If you work for someone and you don’t believe this, it is worth investigating & proving out because a parent’s window of time with children moves at warp speed). At some point, I realized I needed to change my thoughts.
So, I threw the word balance out of my vocabulary – because even the acknowledgement of it assumes its possibility – and replaced it with harmony. I plan my day w/ the goal of harmonizing – or flowing with grace & awareness- between my roles. This has required changing my definition of success as a professional & mother. It isn’t measured in time, attendance, or total accessibility. It is measured in presence, immersion, results, & commitment.
I do have basic groundrules for myself;
1) Leave the office at 5PM. Even if this often means plugging back in after the kids have gone to bed.
2) Minimize work travel by leveraging to a highly capable team member, who will love the experience & embrace the bus opportunity
3) Stay present for my family when I am at home. This has involved hiring great people to help at home so our evenings are about dinner & connection versus laundry & groceries. This is a $$ investment w/ unmeasurable return. If money is an obstacle – get creative and find ways to trade, leverage, barter, and/or change your expectations of yourself on tasks that distract you from your biggest priority – your family.
My children witness two parents who run businesses. They understand we cannot drive for every field trip, signup for Friday recess duty, and spend hours in Walmart pondering which Wii game is best. They appreciate that when these things do happen, it is a gift.
They also learn from us that applying yourself with the goal of being amazing at work takes time & effort. That you can harmonize your life to create impact & meaning in all areas you value. That they always come first but that this isn’t a decision based on their desire – it is a decision based on what’s best for their development & our entire family. They also learn that the way we spend our time is a choice, and that life is only amazing when we choose consciously.
The question I ask myself is: “Where am I called to be right now?” If I answer this truthfully, I can rest easy knowing I have done my best & decided from a place of openness versus limitation.
Last week, my son arose with the flu. My schedule was booked with out of town business meetings, conference calls on my drive, and a string of tasks that required my immediate attention. But, it all got cancelled because the answer to the question above was with my son.
This is the ebb and flow of every working parent’s day. Learning to do it with grace, self-gentleness, & proactive planning is the trick.