Tag Archives: Work/Life Balance

My 30 day challenge

A 30 day challenge. That’s all it took. I’d been battling with the idea of maintaining better health, and exercise has been the number one priority to reach that goal several times. Don’t believe me? The proof is here and here and here. I mean, seriously.

I watched this TED talk on trying something new for thirty days. The speaker, Matt Cutts, basically points out that you can do anything for thirty days. And within that time period, you’ll decide if whatever you challenged yourself with is going to become habit, or if you will drop it on day 31.

It’s a simple principle, really. But it’s also life changing. Give yourself 30 days and try something new. Dedicate yourself to it and own it over that thirty days. So I set out to exercise for thirty days. Either it would become habit or I would drop it on day 31. What did I have to lose?

To be honest, the first eight days still sucked. Knowing you are committing to something for a thirty-day period doesn’t make the pain go away. But after that, I was hooked. I downloaded the Nike GPS app for the iPhone. Now I was tracking my running, sharing my progress on Facebook (which I found made me totally accountable to my goals),  and even allowed people to cheer me on. I even ended my runs with 30 minutes of power yoga, thanks to Jillian Michaels. I love her. In a masochistic, she kicks my a&& and makes me sweat kind of way. Everyone needs a little Jillian in their lives. I just happen to need ALOT.

I’m now at day 31. Granted, I’m nursing some heel/knee pain, but I’ve truly found my motivation and commitment. My mind is clearer, my energy is different, and my body is slowly transforming. Instead of complaining that I have no time to exercise, I find myself making time. It’s now part of my life, not just something I should be doing.

Everyone has to find what works for them. But if you are struggling to achieve a goal, give it a shot. And if you’ve got a great idea for another thirty-day challenge, please share. I’m in the market for my next one.

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The 26 hour day

No joke, I once worked a 26 hour day. Yeah, I started at 8 AM one day and worked until 10 AM the next day. It was a bit of heaven and hell all wrapped into one. No joke. Of course I was much younger, had no kids, and was at the start of my career – bright eyed and bushy tailed.

To be honest, I’d do it all over again. Big pitch? Critical to the company? You need me? I’m there. That said, there was something special about this 26 hour day…2 more hours than the norm!

I have a theory. If I could add two hours to my day and turn the average day into 26 hours, I would be all set. I would have the time I need to get everything done. Right now my life is a series of trade offs. Sleep for working out. Laundry for work. Work for time with my husband. Time with kids for dishes. Late night Facebook with friends over mid-day telephone calls. There is never enough time, no matter how organized or motivated I get.

All I can do sometimes is take a deep breath and hang on tight. It’s a wild ride, day in and day out. But I wouldn’t change a thing. Well, except maybe for that darn time change that creeps up on me twice a year.

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Perpetual Motion

This used to be one of my favorite songs to play on the viola. I miss my music days. I was lucky to play with some wonderfully talented high schoolers – far more talented than I – but I did hold my own as first or second chair in the viola section. I still remember all the notes from this song, and anticipate someday owning a viola again and perhaps even teaching one of my kids the beauty of music.

But perpetual motion has a totally different connotation to me today. I can’t sit still. I have a problem.

I took two days off this week – workload was lighter than usual, and the few projects I had on my plate didn’t impact anyone else, so I took advantage of vacation time to burn. I was going to lounge in front of the TV for a few hours, do some light cleaning, get ready for a great weekend.

I haven’t done any of that. I jumped into a deck for work. I made a few client calls. I wrote a bunch of blog posts. I did some heavy cleaning. I baked apple crisp. I organized some drawers. I did laundry. i changed sheets. I. Didn’t. Stop. Once.

I blame it on a busy life. I’m always on the go out of necessity – day care drop off, work, day care pick up, kids dinner, kids bath, kids bedtime routine, getting stuff ready for the next day, and it goes on and on. The weekends are jammed with fun activities for the kids, cleaning, grocery shopping, dinner prep for the following week, laundry…and it goes on and on too.

There is little time to relax, and the time that does exist quickly disappears when I think “if I just get this cleaning done, I can have more time to do (something fun) with the kids this weekend”. Or “if I get this work done tonight, I can get the laundry done tomorrow night”. Or “if I prep the kids lunch tonight, I can work out in the morning”. It’s never “if I can get this done, I can take a nap tomorrow.”

I’ve tried, I really have. I’m not sure this is an issue I will ever overcome. I wasn’t always like this. There were days of enjoying pedicures, weeks where I found myself on a Caribbean beach enjoying the warm sand and lack of cell phone coverage, long drives with my husband enjoying the mountains, and early days of napping with a drooling baby resting on my chest. I suppose some of what I feel is the stage of life we are in – two kids in preschool, work, and a desire to have as much quality time on the weekends as possible.

Maybe this weekend I’ll make it a point to squeeze in a quick nap myself. I think I’ve earned it.

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The Breaking Point

This post has been on my mind for exactly 10 days. 10 days ago I was at a bachelorette party, speaking to several other moms. Two of them had sick kids at home and were only staying for a short while, one of them had a neighbor recently pass away, and all of them were balancing life with kids, work, and in need of a bit of “me” time. We all were wondering “how much is too much”.

Jake had been sick with strep throat all summer – no joke. Nine positive strep tests. We were due in for surgery on a Friday (the week before the bachelorette party). The last time we were at the pediatrician for his culture, they gave me the positive results and I cried. Not for me, but for this poor little guy who couldn’t remember what it was like to feel well. I knew the week leading up to surgery would be a little anxiety ridden, but I was ready to make him well. That was my focus.

Then life piled up a bit. The passing of a young man I used to babysit for was first. Wake on Monday, funeral on Tuesday. There is nothing more devastating than a life lost so early.

Following the services, I had to immediately shift my focus to work. A client meeting followed directly behind the funeral. Then there was a day trip to Chicago. Then, the day before Jake’s surgery, I spent a good 17 hours clearing my plate so that I could focus on his recovery the following week.

Surgery went off without a hitch, as did his recovery. But the following week when I was home with him, work was pretty busy, and required my attention. It happens, I’ve learned to juggle pretty well. It’s what a working mom does.

I once heard that God won’t put more on your plate than you can handle. I suppose that’s true, because I somehow survived those two weeks. However, I asked God several times throughout those two weeks to understand that my plate was full. Because sometimes knowing your breaking point threshold  is the only way to prevent yourself from reaching it.

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It’s been a long, long time

Wow, my neglected blog. Somehow, mysteriously, I’ve managed to have a few visitors this week. Not sure how that happened, but if you are still here, welcome!

So, let’s talk about this neglected blog. What does it mean? It means I was completely, and utterly unbalanced. I’ve talked about how there is no such thing as a perfect balance when you work full time and have kids. But I usually can find a comfortable balance for myself – sure it’s one where everything takes priority over me still, but the “me” is still there and present, even in a reduced capacity.

It’s not the number of hours worked that puts me out of balance – while a 40 hour work week feels like heaven after a 60 hour work week, I have to admit, that I’ve had some pretty wonderful 60 hour work weeks. They were fun, engaging, dynamic, challenging, and the hours didn’t matter.

But the past few weeks have been filled with life events, work events, some travel, and plenty of deadlines. It happens. It’s life. As my balance diminished, away went my workouts, my healthy eating, my blogging.

All that said, I’m back. Still not balanced, but taking the time I need for myself. At least little moments of time.

And when I’m out of balance, those little moments of time really make a difference.

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Travel trauma

It finally happened. My travel affected the kids. Not that they weren’t aware of it before, but the emotional impact was not fully expressed. Let’s face it, I’ve been traveling since both my kids were babies. I think my first business trip occurred eight weeks after my son was born. Came back to work at seven weeks, was traveling at eight. It was hard. But as hard as it was, I knew, like all things, it was all in the attitude in which I approached it. So, I got on the plane, did my job, and came home to my baby snuggles and cuddles.

Over the years, it’s gotten progressively harder for me to be away which may seem counterintuitive, but for me the struggle is in having them know I’m away. I am becoming one of “those moms”, picking up treats at each stop to bring home with me. This is done for two reasons – the first being that I miss them and am thinking of them. The second is the reason I suppose many moms would not admit – I do it so they aren’t still “mad” at me when I get home. There, I said it.

I can imagine it’s hard for the kids – to have mama there one day, and on the road the next. The last business trip illustrated the point – more than I would have cared for it to. I left on a Monday morning, prior to the kids getting up. Monday’s are hard on everyone, trying to get back into the weekday routine. My husband and I seldom get to talk on the phone when I travel, as managing the two little ones before and after school can be a chaotic routine. So, we communicate via e-mail at some point in the day.

Monday’s e-mail: “Kids are doing fine. Morgan woke up asking for you, and Jake had a meltdown that he wanted his mama. Everyone was fine once they got to daycare.”

Tuesday’s e-mail: “Kids are doing fine. There was a lot of hugging and crying and I want mama.”

Wednesday’s e-mail: “Jake got upset last night that it was Morgan’s turn to sit on my lap, and cried for mama. It was a cry like someone took away his toy. They are excited for you to come home.”

I’m sure there are moms out there that would prefer not to hear these things while they were away, perhaps ask their husbands to edit what they say. Frankly, I need to hear these things. I need to still be their mom when I’m traveling, and while I can’t be there in the moment to cuddle them and make the hurt go away, hearing these things lets me know what needs to be done on my return.

So, upon my return last week, I made sure there were extra cuddles, extra stories at bedtime, and a fantastic weekend of mama-filled fun. They seem to have gotten over it, even if I haven’t. And, I suppose, I never quite will.

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A working mom’s balance

Work/life balance? A 50/50 split? Nope. Sorry, but it’s the truth. Having been a working mom for almost four years, there are some things that have become very clear to me. Rather than skirt the issue, pretend everything is roses, I figured it was time for the raw truth…no, this isn’t a blog post about how awful work is. It’s just self reflection on the working mom experience. I believe this is a shared experience, not unique to me – you tell me. Here we go: 

  • When you are at work, you will think of home. When you are at home, you will think of work.
  • When you have two big client presentations and a pitch on your plate, one of your kids WILL get sick. And you WILL, as the mom, feel the need to stay home with them
  • When you are home with them, you will feel the need to pretend that you are not missing any obligations – you WILL meet your work obligations, and you WILL take care of your kid. And frankly, you will accomplish both. Who needs sleep anyway?
  • Just when you have a handle on it and think “I can do it”, your world will turn upside down. Your clients will change over, your most productive employee will leave or be reassigned, or one of your kids will get sick. And you will wonder, “am I really cut out for this?” Then you will pick yourself up as though nothing had happened. After all, you have a sick kid/new client to take care of. There’s no time for self pity.
  • Your house will fall apart. If you are lucky enough who has a husband who cleans, this may not be evident to those that walk through your house, but YOU will have crap tucked into drawers, piled in your sewing bench, and in piles waiting to be dealt with. You will promise yourself that you will get to this. But you won’t. And it won’t matter.
  • You will overcompensate for being a working mom. You will add extra pressure on yourself to throw the best birthday party, be the mom who always takes their kid to the playground, and delay your errands for after the kids go to bed. They are in daycare all week, so you will make sure their weekends are spent playing with the kids. You will recognize you are overcompensating and wonder if it’s healthy. But you will do it anyway. It feels right, and wrong, but more right…
  • You will question whether or not putting your kids in daycare is the right thing. You will think back to your wonderful childhood days. You will remember the freedom, the hours spent playing, the days spent outdoors. And your heart will break thinking of your kids being in a structured classroom for years before they get to school. You will attempt to balance that with the life and future you are (supposedly) giving them by working. Then you will look at your 529 statements, be reminded of the economy, and question again. For relieving this guilt, please see the previous bullet. Now recognize that this is a never-ending cycle.
  • You will lose sight of yourself a bit – especially in those early years. You will find yourself during brief moments of time – a night out with the girls, a pedicure, or a ten minute shower with no interruptions. Those moments are restorative, but fleeting. You will wait too long in between these moments, and use up all your “good vibe” reserves. Finally when they are totally depleted, and you are a bit down in the dumps, you will find the motivation to get on the horn and set up a girls’ night out.
  • You will have to set aside time to spend as a couple. If the kids don’t deplete your energy, your work will. You will realize time with your husband is restorative, just like the time with your girls and time spent on yourself. This too, you will forget periodically, and have to be reminded of. Especially during sick kid/multi-pitch/too much work to do weeks.
  • You will come to appreciate 10 minutes of peace and quiet like never before. Sometimes you won’t recognize it until it’s over. After all, those quiet times are the only times during the day that you can process your thoughts – which usually revolve around the daycare supply needs (sippies, diapers), work, the kids’ health, the state of the house, and your husband. Notice that those thoughts don’t include you? Yep. Precisely why we lose balance.

You will realize, that in some form or fashion, you are extraordinary – all mothers are, really. You may not be balanced, but you are doing it. Sometimes perfectly, sometimes successfully, and sometimes asking for forgiveness when you fall short. And when people ask how, you will simply reply “I just do”.  Because honestly, you don’t know how you do it. You stop looking for balance, you accept your obligations, and you keep going. And you come to peace with it. I have.

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