It is often I am asked by readers and people in general,”How do you manage to work full-time (with an hour and a half commute), blog, speak or attend events, be active on social media, join/lead boards & committees, exercise, shop, advise others how to shop, shop (again), maintain a home, and, well, shop?” I then answer, “Oh, I don’t know. It doesn’t seem like that much when I’m actually doing all of these things. But I have to admit that the things or activities which take a good amount out of me have to do with my children.” That’s when I really capture people’s ear. “You have kids too?” “Yes, I have 2 kids (ages 14 and 6), and active kids who have enough extra-curricular activities and play dates to really throw me over the edge.” Then, I think to myself, wait, there’s more: my husband (he’s pretty low maintenance, but still…), my parents (getting up there in years but thankfully in good healthy), and friends (most of whom are Super Women multi-tasking and balancing life on one foot just like I am. So, how does it get done? How does one feel accomplished, fulfilled, loved, admired, and empowered without feeling regret, guilt, or worse of all, resentment?
Well, here’s how I do it. May it work for you.
Round Your Troops: Never has a saying been more true than, “It takes a village.” For me, it often feels like it takes a state, a country, a planet. There just aren’t enough helping hands when it comes to kid-sitting, carpooling, and everything else that moves the needle that much closer to becoming an empty-nester (you’ll cry the blues about that one too). Of course, you must be ready and willing to reciprocate the favors, but you must have your paid “troops” ready and waiting for that oh-so-lovely call from your child’s school nurse (the call you wish you could ignore while you’re finally having face time with your boss or your best client) comes through letting you know that little so-and-so has a stomach virus, and is not invited back to school for a whopping 24-hours. Then you have to have, what I call, “The Big Guns” on reserve. They are your Trump Card and your last resort, when your reliable sitter has the same stomach bug your kid passed on to him/her. If your “Big Guns” (in my case Grandparents), have a scheduled colonoscopy on the day they are supposed to be on call, then it’s your turn to be “on.” Then, you’re doomed! That’s when it comes down to you calling heads or tails with your spouse on who will leave work to pick up the kid. I’m usually heads.
Two Birds With One Stone: Join or volunteer activities, organizations, or task forces that involve or pertain to your kids, family or work. This will ensure you stay focused, inspired, and with a pulse on your kids and/or your industry news. At work, join the committee that plans the holiday party, summer picnic, or annual charity event (you’ll earn lots of points as a company person and network with new co-workers). Choose to coach your child’s soccer or lacrosse team, or become active in his/her dance company in any capacity, using your natural talents and skills. Lead a Girl Scout or Cub Scout troop, which makes you a mentor not only to your own child, but to all of his/her friends. Chaperon a school party or dance. It can really have its benefits in that you get the inside scoop on who’s “hooking up” with who. I’d rather be present than hear about it from some gossipy mom (not that there are any in my town) the next day.
Seize Your Moment(s): My long commutes are spent thinking, writing, catching up on emails, texts and social media feeds, or getting a head start on the day’s work. I also make all of my play date arrangements, orthodontist appointments, while I listen to music, look through a magazine, plan a vacation, sip my morning green drink, and apply mascara without a mirror. Then there are times when I close my eyes and all I want to do is catch up on my sleep, or practice relaxation techniques. When you arrive, choose to walk a few blocks or take the stairs to get the blood pumping and circulation going. A walk certainly helps clear your mind more than a ride on a crowded subway.
Cherish the Moments: Take a mental picture of where you are in your life/career right now, and of what your kids are doing, and which friends are alive and well to be around you. As much as you complain, stress, and wish it were all behind you (I’ll admit I do this often), someday it will be. When that day finally comes around, you will look at your phone, and you will wish the school nurse was calling you to say little “So-and-So” needs to be picked up from school. Only then you’ll wish he/she were housebound for more than 24-hours, so you could feed him/her tea and crackers, and hold him/her tightly–tighter than you did when it actually happening.