Early on in my career, I heard so much about work/life balance and messaging that said “you can have it all.” As a working mom of two young children with a spouse who also had a demanding career – those messages made me do some truly crazy things and drive a very hectic life. We had schedules for daycare drop-off and pickup. We had schedules for whose turn it was to stay home if one of the children was sick. We had our kids signed up for the best summer camps by February every year. Basketball, dance classes, tutors, baseball, soccer…our kids were overscheduled for every minute of free time. We had what looked like Gantt charts for our travel schedules and MBA School.
I realize now that I wasn’t living life – I was managing through the activities in the attempt to “have it all.” Then in one moment – one life changing moment, my life changed. My 16 year old daughter was in a serious car accident. She was sent to a trauma hospital in Boston. I was newly promoted into a leadership position and supposed to start my new role the next day. I knew I had to be with my daughter and felt so conflicted about this new position. I received a call from a senior leader in my company who simply said to me “Don’t say a word, just listen to me…..you need to be there for your daughter. We have this covered. You come back when she is well.”
Someone actually gave me “permission to not try and balance” everything or create a plan to cover it all. I could focus on her and my family. Thank goodness my daughter recovered over a period of three months with surgeries, rehab, and hospital follow-ups. After three weeks, I returned to work and started my new position when it was right for my family.
When I returned, I had a number of interesting conversations with my boss, mentors, and senior leaders about the Art of the Juggling Act.
A couple of key concepts resonated with me then (but took me time to really embrace). I hope by sharing these with you, it will save you from managing your life and move you into living your life!
“You can have it all, but probably not all at once.”
Your life will never be perfectly balanced – some weeks it may be career gets more, some weeks it may be family. Your measure of success in this space should be “did it even out at the end of a month?” Did you “live your life” or did you let “your life live you”?