Friday, June 29, 2012

Crack, WAKE UP!

Last week an article started floating around the web from The Atlantic, titled Why Women Can't Have it All. It is fantastic, and I encourage all Moms and Dads to read it.  There is an incredible amount of pressure on women to do it “all”.  As I heard one person respond, “It is almost as if our Moms worked so hard to give us incredible opportunities, but now we are supposed to do them all perfectly.” According to "whom", are we to do them perfectly? Is it a huge pressure we put on ourselves to be "all" to everyone and in everything we do.  And women are tough on each other at times without even realizing it.  There is an insane amount of guilt and the teeter totter affect when juggling work and family that is unending.  I feel it is our job as humans to live richly, and own what we are doing and the choices we make, for ourselves and our families.

Interestingly enough as I feel I need to own my choices, I have been trying to step back the past couple years and feel good with not being "all" to every aspect of my life.  When having to relocate and start over, redefine your role in a community, in your own business, and as a Mom and wife, you have an opportunity to decide what to shift.  After Makenzie was sick and I started back to teaching full force in January 2011, I redefined my balance.  As Makenzie embarked on her first full year in school in 2nd grade, there was a huge part of me that felt I should  do every activity possible since she had missed so much of 1st grade.  I signed up to be co-Room Mom, Art Docent, lead Walk -A-Thon Warm Ups, volunteer at every class event I could and able to participate as much as I could in her school.  And guess what...that juggling with my business, especially before and after the surgeries this past December, made me reassess why I felt I needed to make everything happen at once.
Picture of my Family in Balance

In February, after the double knee surgery, I was forced to redefine who I am as a Personal Trainer and business owner. I had to decide what goals I can manifest into reality with hard work and which had to be put on hold for the present time. I had to retrain how I teach, how I train others, and what I could and couldn't do.  It has been hard because some of the goals I put on hold with relocating in 2010 and Makenzie being sick, I've been eager and excited to put into fruition.  In addition to owning Power Fitness PDX and teaching boot camps and fitness workshops, I used to do fitness segments for Better TV, had a couple fitness columns in magazines, wrote fitness and parenting/juggle pieces, led workshops, and was immersed in a big business community.  In 2010, As I was ready to start some of those goals locally when we had felt established in Alameda post relocation, my parenting hat was put on tight for 4 months and emergency mode in effect.  After Bug was home from UCSF and we evolved last year, a part of me wanted to prove I could make the professional and athletic goals happen immediately, to feel that my own needs were being met, and life was in balance.  Fast forward 18 months and I had ingrained in my head that after the surgery, I would do my Physical Therapy and be able to get started on making ALL the elements of my old life happen again. It was a feeling to prove I could do it all, to myself, and to those who knew me in my previous life in Portland and new life in Alameda.  Unknowingly, I felt I had to prove to myself I could create better balance financially with limited work time, and lots of play time with my kids. In other words, cram everything into the limited childcare time, and then I could be fully present as Mom, and also fully present as a trainer.

Guess what? I wasn't in balance as much as I thought I was. I realized the balance I needed at the time was to step back to redefine what I could and couldn't commit to.  With owning your own business and creating goals, it means if you can't commit to some of the goals, you can't commit to yourself.  It can envelope a feeling of defeat.... But it can also be a gift to feel you can have a rebirth in redefining what you are and what you want from work/life balance at any time. Guess what? We all can at any time, regardless of profession, redefine what we are, what we want from work/life balance.

One big 2011-2012 goal was to have both Makenzie and Emerson have an uber normal school year, no medical hiccups or moves, and have our life FEEL good. Overall that goal came to fruition.  While some of my work goals have been put on hold, a significant personal goal was accomplished.  That feels GOOD. During the work week, I have also created a balance that I won't trade for the world. It is one that evolves but the past year, Tuesdays and Thursdays have been solely days with Emerson(and Makenzie when she is on school holidays) to play and do whatever she wants. Venture to Farmer's Market, play at Washington "Fish" Park for hours, visit the pool to be mermaids, create sand castles at the beach or enjoy pancakes and stay in jammies until lunchtime.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I won't do work events during the day, nor will I slip away to the computer unless it is during or after E's quiet time or sports classes. That feels good and is a shift compared to my life a few years back.  I tried to keep Tuesdays and Thursdays open when Makenzie was 4years old, but work would creep in.  There was a distinct feeling of guilt that I wasn't being a good business owner for every email I didn't respond to within 2 hours.  Today, I am fine knowing I can get back to the non-time sensitive emails the following day, since I am enjoying timeless moments with my daughters. I also have realized it is ok, I am not being a neglectful Mom, if I need to add more childcare hours to the week if we feel it will help our family balance. 

Mind you, I have chosen this too.  I could be making more money, live in a bigger house, and drive a nicer car.  I could present at more health and fitness conferences expanding my credibility in the industry, in addition to writing more paid articles. But opportunities will always be there to embark on. Emerson at age 4.5 years and Makenzie at age 8.25 years will not always be there.  My experience with their health issues and how unexpected life is has evolved who I am, and how I am willing to work, as a Mom and Business Owner.  While I don't wish the experiences of hospitalized kids upon anyone, I am grateful that from them, I feel more confident with each shift in the work/life/goal balance.

Interestingly enough, we all resort to thoughts sometimes that fool our brains. Such as, "What if I were doing x,y,z with my life? Would the success make me a better woman?". On Sunday, I was thinking about The Atlantic piece while swimming laps and doing backstroke.  My mind started wandering to what huge goals I "need" to complete by the end of 2012 to feel successful.  I created a list of 10 significant work goals, including finishing my book and qualifying for Triathlon Nationals 2013.  In my training mental zone, I wasn't paying attention to the swim flags to count my strokes to the wall.  CRACK.  My head hit the wall with a hard smack.  It was a wake up call!  As if the higher power was saying,  

"Look lady, take it as it comes and don't be overzealous this year.  There is time and it will all happen. One goal at a time does equate success.  Who do you need to prove anything to, but yourself. Remember, you met the goal of a normal school year for your kids, your business is successful, a column in Alameda Magazine has been signed on for the 2012-2013 year, website is being worked on, you placed in your first races back post surgery and your life is good.  It is in balance, even with some wavering of the teeter totter, don't be overzealous."

Jack and I had a discussion regarding this topic Wednesday night.   The element of balance and being a Mom. We covered how men don't have babies or have to put their lives on hold at various times to the same degree women do when having children.  While he can relate to the juggles, he can't understand how out of whack a female can feel and won't ever, since it's not in his DNA. There can be compassion, empathy, support.  But this is not the same as understanding how the juggling can cause guilt, frustration and tension of Mom/Work balance.  Fortunate for me, Jack supports my dreams and goals, as long as they can work symbiotically with our family.  Not rushing around, being frenetic, or having anxiety that things didn't get done at day's end.  His goal, which I am grateful without enough words for (as if that is possible), is to have a work/Mom/married balance allowing me to go to bed feeling each day's tasks got accomplished. 

If we feel good at day's end, our kids are healthy and nourished both emotionally and physically, as are we adults, than a balance is there.  Of course some days and weeks will be off, but that is when you reassess and climb back on the teeter - totter to break even.  Have a number one goal to go to bed at ease, without words.

Feeling without words now...Feels good.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day

Happiest of Father's Days to all the incredible Dad's out there.  Earlier this month it was fun to surprise Dad and Jack with a toast to the two of them in my PFPDX Newsletter.  They are the epitome of great Dad's, and for that I am eternally grateful.  Take a read and wish your favorite Dad's a Happy Father's Day!
With love and much laughter-Erin

Fatherhood is pretending the present you love most is soap-on-a-rope.  ~Bill Cosby

As a Mom, I am constantly in awe with the ease some Dads have.  The difference in chromosomes creates a knowledge that "All will be good, relax and have fun in the moment with the kids! Let's go to the pool and do huge cannonballs even if there are 10 loads of laundry to be folded. They'll be there when we get back, don't worry, cannonballs await us."  Dad's can start a water fight at the drop of a hat, with the desire to create a fun moment with their kids so they can be kids. They end the day with tickles and pillow fights, knowing it means an additional 10 minutes of calming down kids for bed. Dads have a gift of laughter and ability to not stress about things that aren't truly important, but relish and celebrate the huge moments while truly being "in" them.  

Mermaid Tri with Dad & E
When growing up, my Dad, Bob, was my hero. He is over 6 feet tall and has a football players build.  Dad has always been silly and fun, with a nature that allowed everyone he met to be comfortable with him and know he was a good guy.  Dad cherished each little moment with us, from raking leaves to taking us to tennis tournaments.  Whatever we did, Dad always saw the bright side  and lived life fully embracing us.  In Summer, he would rush home from work to ride his brown Schwin ten speed to the pool with us.  At the pool, Dad let us chew bubble gum while swimming and would throw us to reach the flags.  He was as excited as we were when we were launched high in the sky, especially when landing and making a huge splash.  While Dad was fun, he also let us know we were loved and supported as we embarked on our academics and athletics.  While in college at Cal Poly, Dad would make an excuse when he had afternoon work meetings in Monterey, to drive the three hours to visit me for breakfast in San Luis Obispo.  In every race, Dad tried to be there and understand the sport logistics of swimming, running and triathlons. I am beyond grateful because I was raised by a man telling me daily that I could do anything I put my mind to, and I better find fun while doing it. 

Upon meeting Jack, I admired who he was in his inner core. While he is uber competitive, as those who do Date Night Boot Camp know, he is genuinely in love with sports and wants all participants to feel included. He gets along with
Jack, M & E at the Mermaid
everyone, finds the good in people and is an eternal optimist.  Jack is competitve, but also beyond supportive of each athlete doing and trying their best. He has taught me to step back and breath in all the fun that is happening; to ensure I remember the silly moments. With our daughters, Jack is genuinely present with them.  He strives to be part of their daily activities.  Athletically, he encourages them to work hard with their respective skills.  While I was doing rehab work with Makenzie, who has had different medical needs due to her hospitalizations, Jack was first to encourage her to try gymnastics again. Emerson has knocked Jack's socks off by her comptitive nature, but also her polite manners with those she plays against. Jack brings the girls spirits up through highlighting their respective strengths. He has always said that life and athletic boundaries are meant to be broken, and our daughters can, and will, break them.  That element of pride and confidence is an unending gift all should be so fortunate to open each day.

This past two weekends were the two races in Alameda catered to women. See Jane Run's Half Marathon, 5K and Kids Mile and the Mermaid Triathlon and Mini Mermaid 1.5 mile.  My Dad and Jack were at both events, and both supportive of not only me racing, but of Makenzie, Emerson and all other women and kids.  When Emerson, age 4, did the kids mile, she looked up at me running alongside her and said, "Mommy, I think Daddy will be excited I am faster than him!".  He was beaming upon seeing her run through the shute. He told her to wear her medal daily and be "super excited" for what she accomplished. Dad had to leave before Emerson's race so he called to ask how it was. While sharing the experience and how happy Emerson was, Dad said, "Erin, it must feel so good for you as her Mom, like when I watch you race. She's a runner like you. I know the joy."  When Makenzie did the 1.5 Mini Mermaid, both my Dad and Jack were there to support her. 
After she ran by, I looked at my Dad and had tears streaming down my cheeks.  He smiled and knew the joy, since he feels that watching not only my siblings and I, but also my kids. Especially Makenzie and all that she has gone through medically. Last year at this time she could barely do P.E. and now, she can run 1.5 miles comfortably.  Upon her finish, Jack raced by excited and beaming with pride.  He whispered to me, 'Erin, we have to get her a hat to celebrate today. She ran 1.5 miles now, she can do it!". For all of us, it was a true testiment in believing and knowing it will all be better than ok. That is a gift the two most important Dad's in my life have taught me. My husband, Jack, and my Dad, Bob, let me know that despite anything life will be good, all will be ok, and someone is always cheering for you.  

To all the Dad's out there, Happy Father's Day.  Know we are cheering for you daily, and forever grateful that you step back to have water fights while encouraging your kids to embrace the rich moments in life. 

Challenge the POWER of YOU!  

----Erin Kreitz Shirey
Owner & Lead Trainer of
Power Fitness PDX LLC