This morning my very tough teenage son came into my room to tell me that he threw up 3 times in the middle of the night. He is wheezing as he tells me this, because he has asthma. Jackson will be sixteen in December and has always been someone who doesn’t easily bend to illness. When he was about six he almost died from an asthma attack. I promise you that facing the mortality of your child is the most stark and anguished ridden moment a mother can live. This is not such a moment. He is just sick, but he’s my son, and today I just want to care for him. Working parents struggle with how sick is sick enough to stay home. I don’t struggle.
Today I cleared my calendar. I told my clients the truth. And I told the assistant of the CEO of the L.A. Film School I was going to interview today the truth; and asked if we could reschedule. My clients all understood. I didn’t have that horrible pit in my stomach that this would compromise my job. I’m the boss of me so I’m very understanding. I have no feelings of guilt. I am where I need and choose to be. I would not be fully present for my clients if I was worried about Jackson. They deserve my undivided attention. What kind of advisor and guide would I be to my clients if I weren’t able to live my values or felt compelled to apologize for them? The fact is being a good mother, makes me a better advisor, consultant, and coach.
I choose to work with clients who have families and dogs and cats and complications as well as businesses. I have moved appointments for them at the last minute, and taken tearful calls after hours. Colleagues tell me that I should have policies around moving appointments and should bill people for unscheduled calls, excessive e-mails, and additional time. I should if I want “balance”. But my business is not measured in the fractions of billable hours or the number of e-mails and scheduling conflicts. I have built this empire so that I can rule my kingdom. I take my business seriously. You won’t find anyone who will tell you otherwise, but I also take my humanity seriously. I am ferociously dedicated to my work but not to the exclusion of my family.
I don’t want a client who is offended that I have chosen the care of my son over an appointment with them, and I have also raised my sons to understand that on a Saturday morning if a client is in crisis I might need to talk them off the ledge. Being a good businesswoman also makes me better mother. This is what an integrated life looks like. Balance is not the correct word for this navigation. It’s integration. My work and personal life are not compartmentalized nor are they compromised.
This integration expands to those I work with. My marketing director, Linh Tang is a stay at home Dad, and like me, he takes care of his mother. This matters because there are no lines between family and business. It’s just one conversation as we decide how we want to grow a business that doesn’t tolerate family, but celebrates family. We own our time and therefore elect how we spend it.
I live my values through my work and my personal life, and because I do that without apology no one is neglected, and I feel that I serve everyone as my best self. I am not fractured by guilt that I am failing my children or cheating a client. I serve everyone with loyalty and dedication and the understanding that life is not a clear delineation between personal and professional. In fact, when you are madly in love with your work there is only one world; and it is that of the decadent dream or inspired life. It is my goal to never have a job again. I value this freedom and cooperation in my life where clients value and respect my time as a mother, and my family enjoys the flexibility of my work.
I assure you that someone will read this and decide I shouldn’t be talking about being a mother on my business page, and that doing so will in some way compromise my professionalism. That person isn’t my client.