I am extremely busy. You’re probably busy too. There are all kinds of busy. Personally, I’m not, gosh I can’t get to the grocery store busy, I’m more like, I should probably sleep in what ever I plan to wear tomorrow because there will be no time in the morning to change my clothes sort of busy. I do not advocate a life where you fill every moment of your day; so please do not start researching ways to make dinner while you shower and update your contact management system. I don’t want to be that person and you shouldn’t be either. What I do want you to understand is that my ability to accomplish what I want is directly related to the life I have carefully constructed. I get posts on Facebook and e-mails all of the time wanting to know how I manage to do everything that I’m doing. The answer is that I’ve created a flexible life. I can schedule clients around my family. This is not the traditional model of most careers where everyone pretends like they don’t really have families and if they do, for sure they’re an after work activity that will always come second to their professional priorities. Let me be very clear. I travel and work hard. I am unapologetically ambitious and passionate about my work, but I created a path that would allow me to take Wednesday off because my mother needs to go to the doctor or my son has a track meet. This is what it means to live a life that reflects all of your values.
There is no clean balancing act by the way. If I have to read one more article about balance I might start running through the streets screaming. The notion of balance has become one more thing we are tasked with accomplishing and because none of us are doing it particularly well, we all get to feel really bad about that. Poppycock I say! Poppycock! Balance is not my goal. My goal is integration. My family and my work matter to me. When my children were very young and I was selling real estate, they knew to be silent when I was on the phone. I was brokering deals around making mud pies, and guess what? I was a damned good negotiator and kick ass mud pie maker; in fact I was so good I could do both.
My mother lives in a modest cottage behind my home. She will be 79 this year and she gardens all day, reads, and gets to watch her grandchildren grow up. She also does all of the laundry. Before you call adult protective services to have me investigated for abuse, let me assure you that if I set foot in the laundry room, my mother will be extremely displeased and practically knock me to the ground for trying to fold a towel. Because I value extended family my sons get to watch someone they love grow old, my mother continues to be valued into the end of her life; and let’s face it, the fact that I haven’t done laundry in fifteen years has allowed me to do other things. This is integration and living my values.
I also have what most would call an extraordinary relationship with my ex-husband. It is a relationship that allowed him to make partner at his law firm and has allowed me to build a business. If we had chosen to fight over time, every nickel and every irritation, neither of us would have yielded when the other needed flexibility. We are deeply invested in one another’s success because that is what’s best for our children, one another and our family. Yes, I said our family. Divorce dissolved our marriage, but not our family. If I didn’t have this relationship I couldn’t expect him to take my sons when I’m traveling on business and he could not ask me to switch weekends or bring the boys home early so he could meet a deadline.
I am not a martyr and have no interest in auditioning for the role. I do not try to do what my children can do for themselves. I believe independence is a gift, not punishment. My children are young men who contribute, at times with much prodding, to our domestic life. I do not believe that I’m the single only person who knows how to load the dishwasher “properly” and therefore must always do it myself. This sort of thinking ensures that you will never have time to do grand things and your children will never contribute to domestic life.
If you really, truly want to write, learn to speak Spanish, play the guitar, or open a cafe, you have to create a life that will allow your dream to grow. Big, bold, audacious dreams need light and air and feeding. Ask for help, live your values, and be responsible for your choices. I am not here by accident or divine intervention. I am here by my own design.