Today I'm sharing a more personal story from my experiences during the first half of 2015. I knew I needed to post this after talking with a girlfriend this week, who is also a working mom. We briefly shared our struggle of wanting to be present with our families, be impactful in our work, and save time to enjoy life and be creative. It's really challenging.
I originally wrote this as a guest post for my good friend Kara Lydon. I hope by sharing this today with you, more of us will talk about the cultural challenge of work-life balance.
At the beginning of 2015 I had some big (albeit achievable) goals for my business. I had just launched this blog and thought I knew exactly what I needed to do to make it successful. I joined a special blogging mastermind group, I spent hours developing new tools for my website, I bought a fancy pants camera and started to really focus on my food photography, and I boldly went after new opportunities.
Basically, I had laser focus for about 3 months. As a working mom of two little boys, the only “free time” I really have is early in the morning, nap time, or late at night. So I chose to forgo some of the things I enjoy doing or are just necessary components of my everyday life, to spend time on my business.
About the end of March, I was feeling very tightly wound up as there were literally not enough minutes in the day to accomplish everything I HAD to get done. One night, Coach got home late and I was sitting in front of my computer in tears over this reality. How could I reach my goals, spend quality time with my boys, take care of our home, manage our health care or whatever the heck else was on my list in my minimal amounts of “free time”???!!!!
The answer that I finally swallowed is that I couldn’t get it all done. Something was going to have to give.
My hubby asked me a really important question that night he found me sobbing. He asked me, “Are you sure this is what you want your life to feel like? It seems partly self-induced.” He was right. Sure, being any type of working parent is a VERY FULL LIFE. But I was making choices that put those I love and the things I enjoy doing at the very bottom of my priority list. And through all these choices, I didn’t really like the version of myself or my life that had unfolded.
You want to know something else interesting? I didn’t accomplish one of my goals during those 3 months. Not one. And it certainly wasn’t because I did not work hard. Every opportunity I pursued came back a big fat “NO.” So for all that investment of my life, I had nothing to show for it. That made it all so much worse.
Wait, aren’t you supposed to get exactly what you want when you work really hard for it?
Um, I’m sorry to break this to you, but I’ve learned that hard work ≠ getting what you want. Sometimes it does, but it’s no guarantee. So I think we need to stop lying to ourselves that more time working will pay off, because it might not.
I also realized that achieving my work goals doesn't make me happy; it just makes me greedy for the next opportunity. My happiness cannot be conditionally based on my circumstances.
So in the past couple of months, I’ve chosen to change my mindset and realign some priorities. I’ve decided that I’m going to work hard on my business in the allotted time I’ve set for it. If I don’t get it all done that day (which is pretty much a guarantee), I’m just going to choose to be OK with it and jump back to it when I schedule time again for it. I’m going to work at being present in my real life (not just my virtual world), and pay attention to the relationships that will matter when my blog and business are long gone.
One of the most important things I’m trying to include in my life is time for the things that I think are fun. I’m not talking just going out with friends or a moms night out, while those are all just fine and wonderful. I’m talking about things that make me feel creative and alive. Through that time of extreme focus on specific tasks, I didn’t do anything that fostered my creativity or made me feel connected to my purpose. I therefore obviously, was left feeling really dry and un-like myself.
Friends, this might be the hardest skill any of us in this fast paced life can learn to do regularly. We must take time away from our agenda and technology-driven lives to just “be” yourself and allow creativity and life to flow. Perhaps this is through playing a musical instrument that you really enjoy but rarely take the time to pick up. Or maybe you like to craft or build things, talk long walks and look at nature, enjoy leisurely bike rides, learn about a new topic, a coffee shop conversation with a close friend, or read a real book with pages. Whatever it is, you must do this thing that makes you feel like you.
For me, this “thing” is opportunities to be creative, whether it’s through creating a new recipe or decorating a room or a small sewing project. When I had super-laser-focus, all of these “fun” things sounded so overwhelming. My inner dialogue often said “you don’t have time for that! Not with this XYZ you must finish.” I noticed that I had ZERO new recipe ideas popping in to my head during this time and I’ve now learned that this is a sign I’m out of balance.
I recently read a book called The Art of Work, by Jeff Goins. It actually talks about this very issue as it relates to pursuing your “calling” in your life and vocation. Your calling is not just that job you do to earn a paycheck (or grow that paycheck) and be able to pay your bills. Your calling is your life’s work that involves every relationship, every conversation, every influence, every big and small job you do. It’s a really wonderful book and I highly recommend it.
So I encourage you now to take a quick self assessment. Do you feel like “you”? What are the things that make you feel like you? What makes you feel creative and alive? You need to give yourself the chance to go and do that thing. It’s hard, because it requires you to be a touch selfish with your time. But, I am finding it’s actually a very loving thing to do for yourself and the important people in your life.
Here’s to getting a little skip back in our step,