“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.
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.