Marriage Archive

Finding Balance and Fighting Mom-guilt as a Small Business Owner

“How do you balance it all so well?”

This is one of the most frequent questions that I get asked.  The (absurd) subtext behind that question sounds something like this – “I have followed your Instagram feed and you have two perfectly behaved kids, an always clean and beautiful home, an effortless thriving business, you cook Pinterest dinners, go on regular romantic date nights, have thriving friendships, you dress well and (obviously) wear a gold sequence dress and heels to work every day. How do you do it all!?”

To which I have one response.

False.

If there is anything that I have learned in ten years of business ownership and six years of being a business-owning mom of young kids its that there is no such thing as “balance” as we envision it in our heads (or imagine it in other women’s lives).

I think that we look at the idea of “balance” as if it operates like juggling; all things are simultaneously kept suspended in the air in perfect unison.

The reality is that in order to have healthy bodies, families, marriages, friendships and businesses they each need their own individualized attention and effort – to the (momentary) neglect of the others.  Juggling them all simultaneously usually results in not being able to do any of them well.

Thriving comes when you are willing and able to pick each area up, one at a time, and give it your undivided attention; saying “no” to one thing so that you can say “yes” to another.

This is very different from the cultural pressure to say yes to everything simultaneously and to do it all well. To be honest, I can’t even do two things at once well, especially if its trying to parent and work at the same time. Sitting at my computer while trying to entertain my kids at my feet only ever resulted in tears for everyone! I learned this the hard way and spent the first year of my daughter’s life resenting parenting and then feeling full of guilt for that resentment. Painful. My husband and I both own creative businesses that allow us to work from home so finding natural rhythms and setting firm boundaries has been critical to our health individually and the health of our family.

Last week my best friend and fellow creative-business-owning mom, Ashlee Proffitt, sat down on Periscope to talk about this idea of finding “balance” fighting mom-guilt and what we have found to work (and not work) in our own lives.  Today I am sharing that conversation, along with the top 10 practical  rhythms and boundaries that have enabled our family to thrive with two small business owning parents.

Here are my top 10 rhythms and boundaries that Graham and I have found to work for our family.  We don’t do them perfectly, but the key is that they are the norm that we fight for:

1. I limit my work to a set consistent two days a week (Tues and Thurs from 9-5) without kids in the house. My children are both in school or daycare out of the home for that set amount of time.  All of my work (with rare exception) has to take place during that window of time. I take only the amount of work that fits into this schedule.
2. No work after 5:00pm for either of us.
3. No work on the weekends.
4. No checking work e-mail on nights, weekends, or vacations.
5. Regular weekly date night with a consistent babysitter. Even if all we do is go for a walk or to Starbucks.
6. I hired a cleaning lady to come once every other week to help with deep cleaning.
7. We put our kids down for bed between 7-8pm every night in their room so that we get regular mommy and daddy time to reconnect.
8. We eat family dinners at the dinner table.
9. Friday night is family movie night.
10. The kids have to stay in bed until 7am each morning and daddy fixes them breakfast and packs their lunches each morning so that I can have some alone time to read my Bible and really actually get dressed for the day in peace (haha).

What is healthy for you and for your family is going to look very different then what is healthy for me and mine.  There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to life rhythms and boundaries.  What I would encourage you to do is to be brave enough to ask your spouse or your friends to speak honestly into your work by asking these question, “Is what I am doing working for us?  Am I present? Is this healthy? Do you feel loved?” and being willing to listen to the answers. These are difficult conversations to have but so critical to thriving and I want you, your family, your marriage and your business to thrive friends and I know without a shadow of a doubt that it is possible.

Love,

Shay

 

It’s Time to Stop Choosing Busy

Have you heard the buzzwords being thrown around a lot lately?  They are #hashtagged on Instagram. Vented about on Facebook. Tweeted, Shared, Liked and Sent.  You’ve probably thrown them around in a conversation or two yourself recently.  I know I have; so much so that I’m sick and tired of hearing them come out of my mouth. What are they?

Busy. Exhausted. Overwhelmed.

Most of us feel it. And Hate it. And Complain about it.  And then we continue to choose it.

For months I have said, “Things will settle down after…” or  “I know things are crazy but it’s only until…” and “If I can just get past…” and then I explain why there is no other alternative and every single thing I have committed myself to NEEDS me.

And the problem is that you have to choose to stop the madness because in the day and age we live in busy is the new black and the world will tell you that your value and importance is in direct relation to the volume of your to-do list.  Have you ever had a slow day and when asked how your day was you felt guilt or shame at the thought of saying that you took it easy and didn’t really do much.  Maybe you couldn’t even bring yourself to say it and instead focused on the things that you did accomplish to validate yourself in that moment. I know this because I do it. All. The. Time.
Styled Desktop by Shay Cochrane Peonies Styled Stock photography for bloggers

 

In our house things have gotten dangerously busy. It’s time to say enough is enough and to actually DO something about our chronic busyness. Our schedule is dangerously full. Our heads are dangerously full.  And what hangs in the balance is our physical health, our intimacy in marriage, our closeness to our children, our compassion toward others and the peace and joy that comes from walking closely with God.

I do not want busy to be my family’s “normal.”  

I think it makes me less effective at every role and opportunity that I am given. Every specific “good work” that God has prepared in advance for me. Every relationship that he has entrusted me with.

Stopping busy is hard. So hard that we usually don’t even really try to stop it. Because it means saying no…something my people-pleasing heart struggles with.  Often times it means saying no to really really good things.  Things you are good at. Things you enjoy. Things you are expected to do.

I truly hope that as this “busy” holiday season approaches, you and I are both willing to take an honest look at our lives and have the necessary conversations with our spouses and friends about the quality of life that we are choosing. I don’t want to sprinkle myself out into the world. I want to pour deeply into the few truly valuable things in this life. Who’s with me?

**This post was originally part of the SC Insiders monthly newsletter. If you want to receive more posts like this and free monthly images directly to your inbox, subscribe to the newsletter today!**

Spring Reset: Part 1

march

(Beautiful printable desk calendar  from Ashlee Proffitt)

 

So, we are already 2/3 of the way through March and I would swear to you that we just toasted to the new year YESTERDAY. I’m still thinking up my New Years resolutions for goodness sake!  I set out at the beginning of the year with the very best of intentions about intentionality in business and family and how this was going to be my “best year yet” (that phrase applies no pressure whatsoever right!?) and the only problem is that on January 1st REAL LIFE continued. 

And not in the clean, scheduled, refreshed, predictable, tied-with-a-bow way that other people seem to be experiencing life (at least if we take Instagram’s word for it) but real life. Messy life.  Full, wonderful, crazy, I need to nap (for a week straight) life.  The kind of life where 50% of the time the kids are fighting and I’ve taken on more work then I have work days for, and the bathrooms haven’t been cleaned in weeks…okay maybe months (It’s ok you can gag if you need to.  It’s gross.) I’m on my phone texting, e-mailing, Instagramming when I should be looking my family in the eyes, blur of multitasking, something is on the schedule most nights kind of life.  Life as messy as that run on sentence just was. Anybody with me?

Vera and Mommy

 

Mommy and Chloe

There has been a vacuum in the middle of my master bathroom since Friday.  Let me explain. I cleaned out our horrendous master closet and was going to suck up all of the hair on my bathroom floor (Instagram THAT ladies) and I ran out of time that day to finish the job and so now it just sits there. Literally half of the hair on my head (I’m not even kidding you that I have googled “normal amount of hair loss”) and the vacuum. And we step over it. And it stares at me as I put my makeup on in the morning.

On a certain level I am ok with this.  My identity is not in how clean my house is or how organized my week is.  I don’t need this to be my “best year yet” and actually, I have NO idea what this year will hold and it is only by God’s grace that I will make it through another “awesome”, “awful” or “mediocre” year at all.  I am however, more distracted and mentally busy then I set out to be when I color coordinated (ok not really but some of you do.  You know who you are.) those new years resolutions. I do think that there is so much value in intentionality and for that reason I think that it is time for a little Spring reset, and I hope that you will join me.

Over the coming weeks I am going to be making a few small changes to life. One at a time. Baby steps. Little wins to reorient the ship that is threatening to keep charging forward whether I am on board or trying to keep my head above water in its wake. I will post one change a week here on the blog so that you can hold me accountable and cheer me on or just to entertain you with how not “insta-perfect” my life is. I hope that these little changes will open up the windows and let the fresh air back in to your life too if you choose to come along with me.

Here goes.

Reset #1: Go back to my set office hours

Starting tomorrow, I will go back to my regular office hours. Tuesday and Thursday from 9:30-3:30pm. Outside of those office hours I will not check or respond to work e-mail. I will not fit in little bits of work while the kids nap or play on the other days.  I will instead use that time outside of work the way it was intended – doing something for myself or taking care of my mom/wife/homemaker responsibilities. I LOVE my job and that is why it has started to grow like a vine out of the planter box I created and up the walls of my life.  It may not seem like a problem at first until the vines cover and suffocate the house.  I feel them creeping up. I sense it when I am trying to listen to my husband tell me about his day and find my mind wandering back to my own endeavors.   I feel it when I glance through my e-mail while at the playground with my kids.  I don’t want to be that mom.  I want to be fully present wherever I am.

I love my business but my business exists to serve my life and not the other way around.

MeandGirls

My office looks like this 2% of the time.

office

 

My office looks like this 98% of the time.

messy office

So there you have it.  One of the biggest questions that I hear from stay-at-home moms and small business owners is “How do you balance it all?”  The answer to that question is unique to everyone but I would strongly argue that balance cannot happen unless you set specific intentional child-free office hours and stick to them.  So for you the first step in this Reset may be to set office hours. You can do it!  It is positively freeing!!  Work on nailing them down this week and start on Monday if you have to.

You have to CHOOSE to let life and family win out over work. Especially when you love your job.  There is no illusive “balance”…only day by day and minute by minute choosing of priorities.  And I need to get back to mine…

Family

Follow along on Instagram @shaycochrane and share your Spring Reset with #SpringReset

 

 

Marriage Monday: Do you still like me?

“I know you love me…but do you still like me?”

I have found myself asking Graham this question a lot in the past year. 10 years into our relationship, 7 years into our marriage, 2 kids, two states, three houses and countless challenges later we are really good partners.  We help each other.  We love each other. We appreciate each other. But the constant, urgent, exhausting nature of this season of life with young kids has distanced the friendship in a way that makes me often question whether he still actually likes me.  Despite seeing the very worst of me does he still find me fun, funny, charming, or just needy and frustrating. haha. I know that I am not alone in this feeling.

I have been working on the wedding of a really sweet couple that I shot a few weeks ago.  When I look at their pictures I smile because what is so evident and refreshing is their friendship and enjoyment of each other.  Now, I am no marriage expert…but if I have learned anything, it is that genuine, transparent, selfless friendship is crucial to a healthy marriage. And you know what?  What comes so effortlessly easy in those early days becomes something that you have to intentionally fight for as the years go on.  And that is ok.  Actually, its more then ok.  I think God uses those awkward moments when you are sitting across from your spouse without anything to talk about other than the kids to 1)make us rely on Him (God, help me to be a good friend and spouse.  Help us to reconnect.) 2) to force us out of our selfishness (I can either work on this or I can be selfish and wait for him to make the first move and be bitter if he doesn’t) and 3) to really challenge us to ask what marriage is all about.  Is it really all about my happiness, pleasure, enjoyment fulfillment and when I don’t feel that any more then it’s time to move on?  That’s what the world would say isn’t it?  But the scriptures would tell me that marriage is about much more and that the “much more” is worth it. And I believe it.  I have seen it for myself.

We are working to rekindle the friendship.  Regular date nights help.  Long conversations help. Being honest about the situation helps. Asking meaningful questions helps. Growing together spiritually really helps. Breaking out of the routine and doing something fun and new helps. Putting each other before the kids helps. Prayer helps.  I’m praying that this year is one where, despite life likely only getting crazier, we will take the time to brush the dust off of the amazing friendship that brought us together all those years ago. And by God’s grace I am able to see it happening even now.

 

 

 

 

2012: What DIDN’T work (Intentional Living part 2)

If you missed my first “Intentional Living” post, start here.  I am following the inspiring lead of Lara Casey’s awesome 2013 Goal setting blog series and taking the time to openly share some self evaluation that Graham and I have been doing for the new year.  For someone who likes to skip ahead without doing the necessary “dirty work” (aka I am a Cliffs notes kind of girl – just tell me the main points so that I can move on to bigger better things. haha), this exercise in thinking and WRITING out my thoughts has been really challenging and beneficial to me.  Here are my answers to Step 2: Evaluate what DIDN’T work in 2012.  For me, I am looking at both life and business when I answer these questions.  I challenge you to do it for yourself.  Make this the year that you start living intentionally in all areas of your life. As Lara mentions there is nothing special about starting on Jan 1.  It is never too late to start being intentional about your life and stop simply reacting to life. So…here goes…

Step 2: Evaluate what DIDN’T work in 2012

1. Any time I was doing more reacting to life than taking intentional action. Whether it was how I spent my day, my goals for the week, or intentional spiritual growth. If I’m not being intentional about my day/week I end up just spending the day/week reacting to what life/the girls/my marriage/my job throws my way.

2. Not having a set nanny one day a week for a work day.

3. Trying to accomplish too much each day.  I need my days to be more compartmentalized (Monday cleaning, Tuesday work, Wed play day etc etc) otherwise I try to do everything every day and that rarely works.

4. Complaining.  Mainly doing it myself but also being around people who complain a lot.  Both felt icky and were not helpful to anyone.  When I look back on this year and what didn’t work my main thought is that the overall posture of my heart did not work.  I want to be fully satisfied in Christ, full to the brim on Him and not looking to anything else to fill me.

5. Saying “yes” to photography work that I don’t really love.

6. My website and blog. Both are in desperate need of an upgrade for clarity and cohesiveness.

7. My branding and its many disconnected parts.

8. Having something going on too many nights of the week and lacking time to refresh and reconnect with each other and with God in the evenings.

9. Teaching too many things all at once.  I was always preparing to teach others and rarely asking God to show me what it is I need to be learning and having time to study/pray though that.

10. Saying “mommy can’t play right now” more times than I said yes to playing.

11. Not sitting down as a family to read the bible to Chloe and Vera enough. By the end of the night we were always so exhausted and mentally tapped out that it rarely happened.

12. Any time we were on social media/our phones when we should have been present in our own lives instead of looking into other people’s lives.

13. My prayer life.  I just am not disciplined at quieting my mind enough for substantial time in prayer in the morning.  I move on too quickly to other things that feel more “productive.” This didn’t work.

14.  Not journaling enough or taking the time to really think through and take note of what God is doing/answered prayers etc.

15. Not being present minded when I am with my family.

16. Not incorporating regular personal time to seek inspiration via pinterest, helpful blogs, etc.

17. Not regularly being around older women who are outside of my season of life to regularly learn from and to give me perspective.

18.  Not giving Chloe enough experiences at serving others intentionally and broadening her perspective.

19. Not having much time for long phone conversations.

20.  Going to bed too late each night.

21.  Any time I allowed myself to wallow in bitterness or self pity.

22. Focusing on insecurities about my body.

23. Measuring my days by quantitative productivity.

24. Lacking clear business direction.

25. Not having a solid and uncluttered web portfolio and business identity..

26. Anytime I allowed days to pass without being in the word.

27.  My iphone. I love it and hate it.  I love it when it connects me to someone or something in a meaningful way. I hate it when it distracts me away mentally from time with my husband and girls.

28. Being too “busy” to do some of the things we love like reading or taking evening walks. Being too “busy” in general doing insignificant things (aka constantly cleaning – for me at least)

29. Allowing myself to resent this stage of life as a mom to young ones.

30. Not allowing enough quiet time during the day to be still, listen to God, pray, reflect.

What DIDN’T work for you this year?  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!  This is not a time to beat yourself up – just a chance to honestly asses so that you can be intentional going forward and make this year different!

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