“You have a condition that usually only occurs in people over 60,” my doctor said as she typed in her lap top. “Have you been under a lot of stress lately?”
Hmmm, does she mean balancing the needs of my family, and my growing business?
Or does she mean the PTA meeting I skipped so I could meet a writing deadline?
By “stress” could she mean the lists that don’t get checked off, or the emails that don’t get opened, or the dog that doesn’t get walked?
Which stressful event was my doctor alluding to, and how could I answer “yes” without shouting, “Isn’t every working mother- are you crazy?!!”
“You know,” she continued, “You will probably get this again if you don’t do something about your stress level.”
Shingles. That’s what she diagnosed me with. Shingles is this terrible burning sensation that attacks the nerves underneath your skin until you eventually erupt into mischievous oozing bumps. Awesome. I’m a therapist. I preach self care. I believe in balance. I teach people how to take care of themselves. And I have a stress-related, immune deficiency condition that no 38 year old should get.
Wake up call.
Time to take some things. Off. The. Plate.
So, when Marissa Mayer of Yahoo announced no more working from home, I paid attention. When Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg told American women to “Lean In”, I listened. What are the women at the top saying about their positions, their work-life balance? What are they saying about their priorities? How do they balance it, and what are their secrets?
Turns out, they probably experience the same things I do (with the caveat of being paid just a tad bit more- wink).
Erin Callin, former CFO of Lehman Brothers before the crash, recounts in her New York Times piece this weekend that “Work always came first, before family, friends, and marriage- which ended just a few years later.” She goes on to say, “Until recently, I thought my singular focus on my career was the most powerful ingredient in my success. But I am beginning to realize that I sold myself short… there were diminishing returns to that kind of labor.”
Though admired by many young women who see Mrs. Callin as a hero and an over-comer of the gender barrier, she is fraught with regret.
University of Michigan business professor Marina Whitman, a full-time professor and a corporate executive says in a recent CNN article by Todd Leopold, “I think this thing about ‘can women have it all?’ or ‘can’t they have it all?’ is kind of a silly argument. Yes, you may have it all, but not all at once.”
And what about Marissa Mayer banishing the working-from-home flexibility? She certainly has gotten a lot of back lash. Some of my working mother buddies say she ought to be ashamed of herself. But it has got me thinking that maybe “working from home” for the working mother, is just playing into the illusion that women really can have it all. That there is some ideal out there that a woman can be at home with her smiling contented children, while sitting at a desk with phone in hand, lap top open while climbing the corporate ladder. Maybe we’ve bought into the illusion that we “should” be able to do it all. Maybe we think, “if only my work schedule was ‘flexible’ then I could make that PTA meeting, I could take that work call while mixing the baby formula,” or in my case, I could schedule myself to being two places at one time and be half committed to both. Ugh.
So what did I learn from Shingles? Well, for one thing, I’m taking the Sabbath. I’m working my tail off Monday through Friday 8:30 to 3 until Sweet and Sassy get home from school. I’m shutting my lap top until they go to bed at night, and I’m wearing them out on Saturdays with chores, sports and lots of family fun. I schedule a date night with Mr. Dashing and make deposits into the marriage bank account. Come Sunday, I don’t return e-mail, I don’t write blogs, I don’t do anything that could remotely seem like work. I go to church, I go out to eat, and I read for FUN (not for work.) Then I try to catch up on some Duck Dynasty, which really puts me into relaxation mode, because I’m pretty sure they haven’t worked a day in their lives, unless you count catching bull frogs as work.
Everything has a price tag. Everything worthwhile requires sacrifice. Some of us choose work, some of us chose family, and then the crazy ones, like me choose to work out the balance of both. The sacrifices I make as a working mother are continual and on-going. The fact is, if I throw the soft ball with Sporty Spice, then I’m not going to get that blog post done. And if bring home work to do, I won’t be available to hear mini-Taylor Swift’s original song on the piano. What am I going to forfeit? What am I going to give up? Something has to go, which one will it be? I’m the last to cast a stone at working mothers’ choices. But I’m the first to say, life is about choices, and values, and about consciously making those choices according to your values. Could I be further along, higher on the ladder, with a broader following if I chose to spend more time at the office? And if I spent more time at work, would Sweet and Sassy be as well adjusted and fantastic as they are now? I wonder. We make choices, some good, some bad. But most times we don’t know they’re bad till we feel the pain of them. Like the pain of Shingles. I didn’t know I was burning at both ends until I actually felt the burning.
My prayer is that you won’t have to.
This is a guest post written by Michelle Hollomon. Michelle is a Counselor and a Coach, author of God Unwrapped, and host of Relationship Coach Radio. You can find out more about her at MichelleHollomon.com.
Has anyone ever qualified a question with the following: “I know you’re busy, but…”?
This happened to me the other day, and I had two immediate reactions.
My first reaction—> I was glad they recognized my schedule was packed with busy and important things.
(Confession: that observation made me feel important and popular).
My second reaction—> I was frustrated that my busyness made them think I wouldn’t have time for them.
Too often, I over emphasize my busy schedule.
When people ask me “How are you?” usually my response includes something along the lines of “Good, I’ve been staying really busy, etc etc etc.”
We live in a world that masters the glorification of being busy.
While busy seasons come and go, defining myself by my busyness will communicate that I’m unavailable.
So even though I desire for others to know that I am always open, my actions show that I am closed.
What would it look to communicate a more open and flexible schedule?
I’ve set a new goal—> To stop defining myself by being busy, and to be more approachable and flexible so people don’t begin conversations by first acknowledging my limited availability.
That’s been on my mind this week…I’d appreciate any feedback or suggestions you all might have!
A while back, I learned the importance of creating boundaries between my work and personal life. Those boundaries helped to compartmentalize my life, which had its benefits. I kept my work life separate from my personal life. And there wasn’t much crossover.
Working at thinkspace has shown me that I actually need less compartmentalization. A healthy level of balance can still be maintained without strict boundaries. In a recent conversation with a coworker, he expressed his strong dislike for the idea of work/life balance. He argued that the work/life balance concept creates a delineation that doesn’t need to be present. It usually generates a “clock-in” and “clock-out” mentality. To compete in the Social Era, that mentality needs to take a backseat to generating value and relationships. With Value driving the car and Relationships as the copilot, crossover (once was seen as a negative thing) is now welcomed.
In an article in Forbes, Ryan Blair explains a ”pro-compartmentalization” strategy:
“Pretend as if everything you’re dealing with in your life is a room where you have to walk in and solve an equation on a white board. You have a countdown clock with less than an hour to get the problem solved, or take a single step in the right direction, and then shut the door and go into another room equally as important. You spend your entire life going from compartment to compartment.”
While I appreciate what Blair is getting at, and while it may be helpful for some entrepreneurs, his “one room at a time” strategy is limited. Every area of our life is hard wired to every other area. Therefore, there will always be some rooms that I simply can’t “shut the door” on. Plus, there are some rooms that will always take up more than just one hour of my time. To take part in meaningful projects, conversations, and interactions, rooms should be inviting. A countdown clock may be strategic, but it is not inviting.
In an article called “The Fallacy of Compartmentalization,” Jonathan Fields shares his opinion on why compartmentalization is overrated:
We talk about things like our work life and our home life as though we can somehow slip out of our skin and assume another identity when transitioning between them. However, trying to compartmentalize the various parts of life can take a significant toll on our effectiveness across the board.
How about you?
Are you pro or anti-compartmentalization?
How do you make sense of balance in your life?
Enter [what’s been on my mind]
Blink [see a new perspective]
There is no weakness is forgiveness. More often than not, it is the strong who are able to forgive and the weak choose to remain resentful. In regards whether or not America can forgive Lance and Manti, I think the answer should be and has to be “yes.” While the truth of the matter is that Lance and Manti both got caught in lies, there is another truth present: I am a liar, too.
Don’t get me wrong, I try to be honest. Honesty and trust are two things that I not only value in others, but also in myself. But there are times when I have been caught in a half-truth (which is just another way to say “lie”) which I explain away saying “Oh, that was just a little white lie.”
Lance and Manti are liars. So am I. And if America is honest (since we are discovering that the truth will come out eventually), then we all have to admit that at some point in our lives, each and every one of us has told a “Lance.” Or told a “Manti.” In other words, we have told a lie. We may console ourselves by saying our half-truths aren’t anywhere near as severe as the lies exposed last week, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to line-up lies on a sliding scale of comparison.
In resonating with Lance and Manti, it makes it a bit easier to offer them forgiveness.
Shift [try it out]
But while I argue for forgiving Lance and Manti, a part of me has a hard time with the statement “forgive and forget.” In some circumstances, forgiveness is cheapened when it is paired with forgetfulness.
What if the If the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency forgave Lance Armstrong and decided to dismiss and forget about his years of drug use? Pairing forgiveness, alongside the USADA’s ruling that Lance ran “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program the sport has ever seen” (source), with forgetfulness would undermine the existence of their organization, as well as open the door for other athletes to do the same.
Forgiveness means getting to a point where you can wish the other person well, but it does not necessarily mean that you completely forget their indiscretion. Moving through the steps of forgiveness can cause a relationship to change – sometimes you part ways, but sometimes the relationship is strengthened for the better.
Listen [hear from our community]
We are all flawed, in some way or another. Some mistakes and missteps are bigger than others, and our ability after the fact to do or recognize the right thing and course-correct isn’t a cut-and-dry decision either. It’s hard to see things from another’s unique point of view, and even more difficult to know that our perspective on their actions is, itself, correct or even appropriate. Best thing I can think to do is stay true to what I believe, understand and stick to my values, and learn from what I see around me (including experiences from other flawed people) to constantly try to make myself better.
-Matt Heinz, President of Heniz Marketing Inc
Enter [what’s been on my mind]
Does this ever happen to you? You’re about to start a new task, and you realize you cannot begin until you either
- a) throw away the collection of empty Starbucks cups,
- b) clear away the mound of papers collecting on your desk,
- c) try out a new organizational strategy (apparently the current one is not working), or
- d) all of the above.
For some reason, organization and my [think]space are correlated because in the midst of unorganized chaos, I have a hard time getting any work done.
Blink [see a new perspective]
Maybe I’m not alone in my multiple choice dilemma.
And maybe the best solution isn’t found in either a, b, c, or d.
Your work environment directly affects your productivity, therefore the status of your [think]space should be taken seriously.
Shift [try it out]
It’s not too late to still start off the new year in a more efficient and organized way. Resources are literally clicks away and readily available to help people like me (and possibly people like you). Innovatively Organized is local productivity consulting firm, and they just happen to specialize in this very topic. After checking out their website, I already feel inspired and equipped with checklists, innovative ideas to manage my desk space, and ways to handle digital clutter.
Listen [hear from our community]
Coming up next week Wednesday, we have the opportunity to hear from the CEO of Innovatively Organized, Elizabeth Bowman, at one of our Brown Bag Lunch Events. The event is called Maximize the Potential: Quick Tips to Organize Your Cubical or Small Office, and it will provide helpful hints on how to maximize your desk space and storage. For more information and to register for this event, click here.