The working parent shuffle
As parents, we all have stories of trying to manage work and home and kids and ourselves. Sometimes it all works beautifully, and sometimes it can go amazingly wrong ...
One of the most embarrassing stories of my career happened during my tour of duty in Canada. I just had Austin, our third, and I had been back from maternity leave for a few weeks. I had to go on a two-night trip with my team. I was still nursing (and pumping) and determined to keep it up for at least 6 months. I also vowed that if I pumped that LG (liquid gold) out, I was NOT going to throw it away.
I spent an hour going through the itinerary and determining when I’d need to pump and where it was going to happen. I was also honest with my team about my pit stops, but made sure they wouldn’t be inconvenienced. This meant that I ended up pumping in some not so comfy spots, like a mall bathroom. I had a little discrete portable cooler with me that just looked like a laptop bag so I could carry and ultimately take home my yield. I guarded that thing with my life. It was my “LG Bag”.
The trip was successful. I was able to make all of my stops, pumped, save the LG, didn’t inconvenience the team and it was all super discrete… until we were getting ready to board the plane to go home. I had the LG Bag sitting on a seat at the gate area. We were starting to shuffle things around to board and someone on my team grabbed the bag to moved it and sit down. Somehow the way he swung it caused one of the LG cooler bottles to fly out, land on the ground and splatter all over him. O-M-G. I died.
Ok, if you know me, you know that it takes A LOT for me to be embarrassed. I could feel my face turn so red that I thought I was going to pass out. I just stood there stunned, and so did he. He looked at me with my LG all over his pants and said … “Is that what I think it is?” I responded…. “Yep, that’s exactly what it is.” I ran to the bathroom and got some paper towels for him. He’d snapped out of it, we cleaned it up and moved on. We’ve never discussed the incident since then, but I couldn't look at him for like a month.
People ask me all the time how we manage our jobs + kids + working out + our marriage. We certainly don’t have it all figured out, but here is how we approach trying to get it all done …
When we were first married. We did everything – we mowed the lawn, cleaned the house, shoveled the driveway, and on and on. As soon as we had kids, time became our most precious commodity. When we have time outside of work, we want to spend it with our fam, so we started to outsource as many things as we could. Early in our careers, there were tradeoffs, but we viewed this as an investment in our family, and our sanity. Don't be afraid to hire someone to clean your house - even if it's just once a month. That relief is worth it's weight in gold!
Decide what you’re going to cut out.
And stick to it. Having kids + jobs means you’ll have to make tradeoffs to make it all fit into your day. I worked in a very social environment and happy hours and vendor dinners were a regular occurrence. They made kid pickup challenging and also didn’t usually align with my nutrition goals. So I decided, no more HH’s or vendor dinners for me. If I have an extra hour in my day, I’d much rather spend it working out, with my kids, or catching up with close friends over coffee. I would be happy to grab coffee, breakfast, lunch, etc. but grabbing drinks or dinner after work were off limits for me. I found that if I didn’t have this as a hard rule, it was way too easy to go back on. The pressure to participate in these kinds of things was always there, until I just took a hard line and everyone knew my stance, and respected my decision. Without boundaries, you open yourself up to being pulled into things you don't want to do, and you'll find yourself sitting there with a colossal amount of parent guilt. Never worth it.
Manage your wins
Your job can’t win every time. The kids can’t win every time. You can’t win every time. Think about it like a bar graph and your goal is for the three bars to be relatively equal. If one wins more often than the others, get it back in check. Use your partner to make sure things feel in line. For me, that is balance. It’s always a series of tradeoffs. But, since I have a way of thinking about it, I feel like I'm driving my schedule vs. my schedule driving me.
The art of the shuffle
No matter your obligations, you will fill up your time. Which means, it will always feel like you “don’t have time”. There is always time, it’s just a matter of prioritizing what is important to you, and then actively managing it. The art of the shuffle is a learned skill that you will have to use to make it all work. Otherwise you’ll fill your time up with things that might not be important to you. Ben and I actively manage our calendars to make sure we can both get in a workout, people can get to all of their places without having to hitch hike, we have some fun scheduled and we can get our work done. We do it every Sunday night religiously. It doesn’t all just “happen”…
Bring your kids along as partners
Remember in this blog I talked about making Sydney proud? How can she be proud if she doesn’t know what I’m doing? Can you get your kids involved in your work? Bring them to your office and show them what happens. It’s relatively easier for us now because they come to Fly Feet all the time and help fold towels or check people in. They feel a sense of ownership and when Fly Feet has to win, they get it. We spend time explaining to them what we're building, what the future looks like, and how what we're doing today will get us there. That seems to make them feel part of the journey. Now when they write us cards, they talk about our family making Fly Feet successful!
It’s so much easier being a working parent vs. working mom. Make it a true partnership. You have the ability in your marriage to define how you operate. For us, we don’t really have “mom roles” and “dad roles”. We just have parent roles and that means we both can do any job the other one can do, which give us a lot of flexibility. We also ask each other for help and divide and conquer. Ben goes to Brownie meetings and I can roll with the hockey dads. I’ve had so many conversations with women who are afraid to take the big job or go back to work because “what about the kids” when they have to travel, work late, etc. Two things: 1. Kids are super resilient – make them proud. 2. Not asking your partner for help is a missed opportunity for them to play an important parent role. So make it a partnership and things will fall into place!
Your homework… Answer these questions:
1. What am I doing in my life that I feel obligated to, but don’t love? Can I get rid of it?
2. Where do I need help from my partner and do they know it?
3. Which part of my life wins out more often and how do I feel about that?
4. What can I outsource?