We all have our own definitions of what is “normal” – a normal day/week/month, a normal schedule, etc. With our hectic life and my husband traveling all the time, I try to give my kids as much “normal” as I can here at home. We often travel across our state or across the country to meet dad for meetings and events, and we grab family time as much as we can whether we’re home or away. Our “normal” includes the usual – school, athletics, and clubs – for each of my three kids, as well as driving for those activities and my husband’s commitments, and flying somewhere at least once every other month. That means that my type-A personality lives by a series of lists. I have a list for everything!
One of my goals for this forum is to share how I manage it all, give a little insight into our crazy life, and show that we all have struggles along the way. Sometimes my biggest challenge each day is coming up with dinner! There are weeks when I get to Friday and realize I haven’t cooked a meal all week. And other times I call it a win if I cook 3 meals out of 5. Depending on the season, I play mom’s taxi for volleyball, flag football, basketball, tae kwon do, drama club, wrestling, t-ball/baseball, dance, horses, as well as any extra club meetings and activities that might come up. There are nights when all three of my kids end up eating at different times just because their practice times are staggered!
As an introduction into my life, I have run a small consulting firm for over 10 years, and I love working at home. I made the move to work for myself after spending three years commuting several days a week to an office job in the city (we live two hours outside of Denver, Colorado) and missing the every day activities – the “normal” – with my daughter. Since then, I haven’t regretted the move one bit! I am able to take on small projects, new challenges, and try new things, all on my own terms. I’ve had successes. I’ve had failures. During the last decade, we welcomed two more children into our lives and I was able to be home with each of them and work around their schedules. I love being able to pick my kids up from school and go to each of their games and activities. And I love being able to travel with my husband, with and without the kids, when I can.
My best advice for work-life balance, and for life, is to figure out what is most important to you, and to grab it with both hands! I have loved each step of my career and never thought when I was younger that I would give up my “job” to stay home with my kids. Now, I can’t imagine being in an office day after day and being restricted by those walls. I can work from anywhere. My phone is my office most of the time. We each live our best lives for ourselves, and there is no one size fits all answer to getting that balance! I recommend that you talk to your spouse/partner/significant other, and remember that parenting is a partnership. While I may be the primary parent most of the time, my husband is never more than a phone call or Facetime link away, and we make sure our kids know that any big decisions come from both of us.
Each of us is in a different season of our lives, and what may be the perfect answer for you today could change when your circumstances change. When my oldest daughter was born, I looked at my husband like he was crazy when he suggested I stay home with her. I had a great job that I loved, and the perfect at-home daycare situation with the wife of a co-worker who wanted to have friends for their young daughter. As we moved back to our home state, and after three years of me working two hours away – and staying in Denver during those days – it became too much. I had an opportunity come up for expanding an existing business into our state, and it was the perfect transition for me to work from home. Since that time, the business I started in 2008 became stagnant and I’ve had several other contracts through those years that worked out great for short times. I tried running a national non-profit in my field and it wasn’t a good fit for either me or the group. I sold women’s clothing for almost seven years, representing a company run by fantastic women who live to empower women entrepreneurs – and I loved it! Each of these experiences has led me to my current work, doing business administration and social media for a friend who has become so successful in her world – and I’m glad she is one of the contributors to our new venture here!
We made a choice years ago to stay in our little town, in order to give our kids the same home base my husband had growing up. His parents live two blocks away, and we actually live in his great-grandparents’ home. We have a lot of family here in town, and I love that my kids have grown up knowing many cousins, aunts, uncles, and three of their great-grandparents. My parents now live just over an hour away as well, and it is so nice that my kids know all of their grandparents and get to spend regular time with all of them. The “normal” that I strive to give my kids includes the safety and security of living in a small town, knowing our neighbors and knowing that everyone is looking out for my kids, and being able to let my kids play outside – in summer and winter – without me watching their every move. I love that! I love giving my kids the freedom to be kids.
My choices are not for everybody. We are all individuals and we all have different goals and dreams. I am honestly living my dream – I have my own business, am able to set my own hours and juggle all of my kids’ activities, my husband’s commitments and travel, and keep up with life. And I have great help! I do not do it all by myself. We have a fabulous preschool where my youngest goes three mornings a week – and when I am traveling and grandma needs to get her work done, the daycare is there also and can usually accommodate us for afternoons as well. My middle is in first grade and very active with friends, sports, and community activities. And our oldest just finished her freshman year of high school, a member of nearly every club, and plays a sport every season as well as riding horses in the summer for 4H and now FFA (Future Farmers of America).
The best advice I can give about finding the right work-life balance (or “normal”) for you, is to decide what is most important to your family. While I loved working in an office, had a great job and fabulous co-workers, my life changed and I found that I couldn’t do everything I wanted to do within the structure of a traditional job. I am a huge advocate for alternative work schedules – I haven’t “worked” on a Friday (other than a few hours here and there) since my oldest daughter was born, 15 years ago. If you have the opportunity to move to a 4-day work week or a modified week (every other Friday off, working 9-hour days) I strongly encourage it! That extra day home with your kids is the gift of your time, to focus on them and have special time outside of weekends when everyone is busy with all those extra activities we all add to our schedules.
I am also a big supporter of women (and men) who choose to stay home with their kids. When I first became a “stay at home mom” I had a mental block about doing it. I was a working mom and I enjoyed my career. The change was a big adjustment, not just for us as a family, but for me mentally. I had been running a statewide organization that I loved but which I was no longer able to give my full attention to, and then I tried running a national nonprofit that was not a good fit for either the organization or me. At the same time, my husband’s career took a new path and with him gone even more than he had been, I needed to be home and give my full focus to our then 3-year old and 10-year old. And I was pregnant with our third child. Honestly, it took me almost two years to adjust to not working – obviously during that time I had baby brain – and not having my own income (a topic for another day). Having talked to other moms in the same situation, it is an adjustment to make this change. It takes getting used to. As with every family choice and change, make sure you keep the communication lines open with your partner. You are not in it alone!
As parents, we are the examples our children follow, and I have to constantly remind myself that no matter what I need to get done, I can always take a few minutes to snuggle, slow down and give a hug. We all need that – the time to just enjoy the present. I want to show my kids how to work hard, how to live their dreams, and that no matter how much life changes we can always move forward in a new direction. The great thing about my consulting business is that the possibilities are endless and I have had some great opportunities to explore all kinds of new things. When I have reached the end of one venture, I have moved on to the next – with some time in between to just enjoy life. I want to show my kids that they can do and be anything they want, and that we can all live the American dream by making our dreams come true. Find your “normal” and embrace it!