September 28, 2016

Having It All Is a Vicious Lie and Balance Doesn’t Exist

For years I have been hyper-focused on this concept of balance.  How can I find more balance in my busy life as a mom, business owner, wife, daughter, friend and social do-gooder?  On almost every business call, as I was getting to know someone knew, I asked the question.

And you know what I found out? No one had any secret answers.  Just about everyone I spoke to described the unrelenting pressures of modern motherhood, a constant juggling act, and always feeling like they were falling short.  I hosted seminars on the topic of Finding Balance as A Mom with Fortune 500 CEOs like Lori Caden from Belly Bandit / Caden Concepts, small business owners, bloggers, successful designers like Erin Condren and others, and they were copied throughout the country by other mom groups, all in search of this elusive concept.

While I got some helpful tips, like planning everything in your life within a 3 mile radius of your home (thanks Lori!) and not feeling guilty about getting help (thanks everyone!) no one was ever able to crack the code except for one woman, Lisa Kline, who told me balance for her was easy.  She had four nannies after all!  I did not think she would be a good fit for the panel, despite her tremendous success in life!

After I had my son, we moved back to Los Angeles from Chicago before he was three months old.  I wanted to create the type of community I found in Chicago through the women I met in Junior League of Chicago, from every corner of the country who moved there and knew very few people.  But Chicago is a true community, and people are there for you.  When I found out I was pregnant, I had an instant circle of women on my committee who were due around the same time as me, two other women having their sons within days of me.

So I started out to create Club Momme with the vision that I wanted to create a community for women, but also so I could have a flexible schedule, be there for my son and also fulfill my passion.  I started that fall, and we launched the site just two months later.

When my son was 13 months, my life was already incredibly busy with work and I was struggling to keep up.  My husband would come home, and I would tag out of mom duty, run to my computer, and work until 2, 3 or 4 in the morning.  I had conference calls with women like Jill Smokler from Scary Mommy at midnight my time (she set her alarm to wake up in the middle of the night to write her books).  I had very little time for my husband or my friends.  I needed help.

But I had help.  We moved back to LA to be close to my family. My parents live 5 minutes away and spent a lot of time with my son and helping me, but it wasn’t enough.  My husband proposed a nanny.  I shuddered at the thought of needing help to take care of my son.  I could do it!  I wanted to do it!

So he went and interviewed nannies without telling me, and when he found someone he liked, he set up a meeting so I could meet her.  He knew I was barely treading water and he wanted to help me pursue my passion and be the mom I wanted to be.  But there is something in the water, because LA moms don’t like the thought of anyone watching their child who is not family.  Seriously, it’s some weird epidemic here.  And to have someone DRIVE their child, that’s a whole other can of worms.

I started with just a few hours a day, a few times a week.  It was a game changer for me.  She left during nap and I had a few solid hours a day where I could focus and bust out my work.  I walked laps around the building or did conference calls walking around Target on days where my son was fussy.  But I made it work.

What I never found was balance, at least not until I sold my company and stepped away last Spring.

And I finally know why.

Balance as a mom doesn’t exist.  It’s a myth.  A vicious lie.  Helen Gurley Brown, a former editor of Cosmopolitan Magazine wrote the book Having It All in 1982, and women ever since have taken that phrase and used it as a benchmark of success.  You know you have made it when you have it all.

img_8729What does that even mean, really?  Samantha Ettus’ new book The Pie Life talks a lot about balance, or rather, the myth of balance.  As she points out, once you remove the scale image from your head and redefine your vision of success, you realize that you are already good enough in what you are doing, whether it is working 10 hours a week, only seeing your kids for a few hours a day, only seeing your friends via facetime, or whatever your life looks like.

Instead of scales, let’s think of a pie.  A pie can be divided into different slices, though they are rarely even.  What does your pie currently look like?  One thing I know is that it is not 50% work and 50% kids / family.  You have to think about health and wellness, friends, your relationship, hobbies, community along with children and your career.  Where does everything fit in?

Now, where do you want them to fit in?

One thing for me is that I am an extremely efficient worker, and I do not need to be in front of a computer 8-10 hours a day to be successful.  I can kick ass and take names in a shorter, very efficient period.  Then I can take care of things efficiently from my phone, but I am much happier not being confined to a typical schedule.  So I look at my week and add in different things, work time, outreach time, Instagram time, photo time, event time, workouts, school pick ups, volunteering, seeing friends and my mom, and even some time with my husband.img_0647

Some days are more of one than the other.  Does that mean I don’t have balance?  No!  It means that within a week, I try to make things balance out. Kind of like how you can go on a juice cleanse for two days and then eat pizza and pinkberry.  Balance is amorphous, and it’s not straightforward.

But YOU need to design the life YOU want.  Only you can do so.  For me, I need a healthy slice of work.  A lot of nights I get out of bed after my kids have fallen asleep, and after my husband turns off his light for the night.  But I made the commitment to get into bed and take that time with my family, and with my husband.  Work can come in spurts.  You do what you can, that particular day.  Some days are good days and others are bad.  It’s a pie and you know what? Not every slice tastes the same.  The next week the divide may be different.

The thing to remember is, if you need to work out, YOU must make the time for it.  I try to schedule all of my workouts 1-2x a week and I add them to my calendar.  I schedule around them. What do YOU need in your life? What changes are you going to make to your pie?

Sam’s book The Pie Life is out today!

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