Why am I doing this?
As I've been talking more about this experiment that has grown into my personal strategist business, I've been thinking about where it started. While I know that my experiences running my own companies, teaching, studying, doing therapy, and raising kids all play a part in the skills I bring to this role, it was desperate need that catapulted me here. I'll go back a bit... a few years ago my husband and I found ourselves in a surprising place where he was working 90 hour weeks and I was solo-parenting with two kids under 4. It had gone on like this for a year... we never intended it to last so long but his work had dramatically changed, we didn't know how long it would last and so we just hunkered down and survived. I think back to that time as mostly treading water... desperately trying to make it through to bedtime. No energy. No patience. No sense of how to get things to change. After a deep conversation with our best friends about what was happening - something that took months of planning to both have babysitters at the same time, and all of us to be available - I thought we had the beginnings of a plan. I didn't realize just how much work it is to try to make change when you can barely keep your head above water. And that's when our best friends stepped in. They knew that Andy would take some time to leave his job and make the needed BIG changes and all they could do was support me until Andy was ready. So they wrote up a list of all the pain points in my life, from the moment I woke up (even in the middle of the night) to the time I went to bed. And then brainstormed possible solutions to give me more time, space and ease. Things like:
- Both of you need time to have a shower in the morning - Andy takes a shower at 7:30 and you have one at 8am. Set your alarms.
- Talk to Andy about not having a garden this summer: what about tomatoes on the deck?
- Pay a local teenager to mow your lawn.
These were simple and powerful ideas. And I would never have thought of them at that time. I simply had no space - mental, physical, emotional - to be creative in the midst of what we were wrestling with. They also offered to watch our kids for an hour on Saturdays so Andy and I could squeeze in time to actually see each other - something that wasn't happening because we were just both working so hard.
They are amazing friends.
That first date over coffee felt like a rushed business meeting. I told Andy about the list they'd given me and that these were the changes I needed to make immediately to be able to cope and start to make things sustainable. And he was on board (he is truly awesome this way!) It was brief, it didn't feel momentous, but it started us down a path to a much better life.
Looking back I know that we made the really big changes we needed to because we are an amazing team; we talk and we listen and we are willing to be uncomfortable. We know it matters to talk about the little things before they are BIG things. And I also know that we were able to make these changes because we had people in our lives who cared and knew our world was beyond what we could manage. They helped us find the next island. And gave us space to plan for the next island. We were no longer treading water constantly. And after a while, we had pieced together enough islands to build something that worked for us.
When I think about the work that I'm doing as a personal strategist I believe that much of it stems from the humility of that time. I truly did not know how to make things better. The more time I've spent talking with women and mothers about our work and lives, I think we are often just trying to keep our heads above water. And often feel alone. (I have much more to write about this but it's for another post!) I know that it is powerful to bring sunshine to these dark times, compassion to the utter overwhelm that can envelop us, and simple strategies that can carve out time for thinking, recovering and planning. We are not alone, and reaching out for help is often the bravest and smartest move we can make.
It's my jam to help working mothers find grace and space in the midst of the mess of life. Contact me to start a conversation.
-image from gnuckx - creative commons-