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.

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I am probably out running, but I thank you for taking the time to share. I look forward to your additional input as this blog grows and evolves.
Erin Kreitz Shirey