I’ve been back at work full time at the ad agency for almost a year now. Throughout this time, I’ve been reading different points of view on balancing motherhood, careers and relationships, and rather than feel stressed about not being able to have it all… I have to admit (at the risk of ruffling feathers), that I’m left rather perplexed; what do you mean, I can’t have it all? What is this “all” you speak of? Because I’m pretty sure that I actually do have all of it.
First, let me clear up what my “all” is, because every woman has a different situation and a different definition of this “all”. I kept my list of ALL very short to ensure I increase my chances of success:
- 8 hours of sleep a night;
- a happy child who’s entertained, educated, respectful and loving;
- a workplace that respects that my child and husband come 1st, they come 2nd;
- and a husband who is a motivated and active partner in all facets of our individual and shared lives.
Is that really too much to ask for? Hell no! But it does require one really important thing that is solely on me: communication of my expectations and delivery on my end of the bargain. I can’t expect my child to be happy, my office to be respectful and my partner to be active and supporting without giving my fair share of it all.
I’m sure you snickered at my expectation of getting 8 hours of sleep, but I’ve been sleeping them since my now 21-mo was about 4-mo. If you read any of my other posts, you’ll see that routine reigns supreme in our house and that’s the key to my sleep success. These days the routine is pretty simple:
- I wake up at around 6-6:30, kid at about 7; we eat and get dressed, and we’re out the door at 7:30.
- I grab my coffee on the way to the office, and I’m there by 8:15-8:30.
- From then to 4:30, I’m 110% about work – client meetings, strategies, managing projects, preparing pitches, quotes and invoicing.
- At 4:30, I’m out that door to go pick the kiddo up by 5:30 with my husband. We get home, eat dinner, play, read books, run around, watch a show and then it’s teeth/bath, and bed by 7:30-8pm.
- From 8-10 I spend it with my husband chatting, cuddling, watching our shows, and picking up our mess.
- Then it’s bedtime at 10pm with a book on my iPhone or iPad to help shut off my inner voice that keeps trying to judge my day and plan the next one. Nononono, I will have none of that. STFU brain and let me sleep.
Pretty straight forward. Of course, it’s not set in stone and it’s important for me to leave room for flexibility like overtime (which we negotiate with one another; and yes, my husband and I have the advantage that we work at the same agency so that facilitates understanding and our coworkers’ expectations – i.e. I can’t stay late and finish a pitch if my husband also has to stay late to finalize an edit), and our daughter goes to an in-home daycare two blocks away from our house where last-minute babysitting is an affordable option. We’re very lucky, but it’s also part of the reason we picked that daycare. If I have overtime work to do at home, everyone at my office knows that I’ll be working from 8pm on, and to not bother me between 5:30 and 7:30 because I simply won’t answer. Otherwise, I’ll be in the office really early the next morning, and my husband will take care of dropping the kiddo off himself. We’re also both equipped to work from home, with access to our servers, which means that we can be much more flexible with productivity when it comes to sick days or overtime. We were also the first new parents at the office (one of our general managers had 3 children before joining the company and only worked part time, so that also helped raise awareness about family/work balance, paving the way for our experience), so our colleagues got attached to our child as they saw her grow and know how important she is to us.
Beyond anything else, though, partnership has been the key to making it all flow for us. I have an amazing husband who gets it; who’s a REAL FEMINIST (whaaaaaat? Yes, he totally is.) Whether it’s cleaning, getting our daughter ready, daycare drop-offs and pick-ups, fixing dinner so I can attend after-work events or last minute opportunities, he’s totally with it when it comes to sharing responsibility and negotiating fairly in the best interest of the other person’s happiness and the family’s wellbeing – and he fully expects the same from me and holds me to it. < All of this is so essential. Of course our priorities means some of our child-free activities have bitten the dust like weekly networking events, cleaning the house on weeknights, spontaneous date nights. But a pile of dishes can wait when it means that we get quality time with the family. And we plan them ahead of time nowadays rather than live on the seat of our pants like we used to. And we are totally older and more boring than we used to be, but we’re happy boring old people, so that’s totally okay.
All that being said, all of this makes me respect single working parents SO MUCH. My life would certainly be much harder to manage if I was single, worked a part-time or flex schedule, was on minimum wage, and didn’t have access to a great daycare situation. But I definitely believe that the first step in getting an ideal work-life balance is knowing your priorities, setting up your expectations, making room for flexibility and working to achieve the situation that works best for you.
So do I really have it all? Yes. What about you?