Let’s be clear.
Yup. Off my rocker. Certifiable. Nuts.
I was raised as part of the generation of women who were told, “you can have it all” and swallowed the line, hook and sinker.
My life in a nutshell:
1. Happily (no really) married for almost 25 years.
2. Matt and I have two amazing sons, ages 22 and 20.
3. We live on a 5-acre horse farm including two horses, a dog, four cats, a turtle, a pool, woods, and a creek. My dream made real in cooperation with Matt aka “The Hubby.”
4. I’ve been published in fiction and non-fiction, am an Amazon Best-Seller several times over, had a short story published in 2020, and am finishing up an alternate history novel.
5. I read slush for an online magazine.
6. I’ve owned my own law firm. Twice.
7. I speak all around the country about using the law to protect businesses.
8. I am humbled and honored to call some of the most generous, wonderful, and supportive people on the planet my friends.
So, I have it all, right?
Yeah. Truly, I can’t complain about my life. Well, sure, I can complain about things – like the orange cat shredding and eating (literally) my papers. But really, this is a trivial problem. I’m a pretty A-type personality. I love being in motion. A week of doing “nothing” is not my idea of fun. I’m also just a bit of a perfectionist (stop laughing, Matt). “Having it all” is a lot of work.
So, here’s the truth about “having it all” and the myth of the “work-life balance:”
You can have “it” all; you just can’t until you decide what “it” actually is.
It took me far too long to come to that epiphany. I’ve felt guilty about success in one area of my life, as a mommy, wife, writer, business lawyer, speaker, science fiction/ fantasy geek or farmer, because that success came at the expense (real or perceived) of another area of my life. To “do it all” I’ve had to accept there were times when being a small business attorney in Fairfax, VA meant I couldn’t be a writer right then.
I’ve had to let go of one of my favorite sentence stems – “I should be…”
I’ve wrestled with the “I should be…”s and related “I’m a bad…”s all my life. See, my Mom “did it all” too. She worked but she always made us dinner and came to our school events. I called her shortly after my oldest was born and asked Mom how she “did it.” I didn’t remember that she worked part-time until I was too busy with school to come home before 7 pm. All I remembered is she and my Dad had been there when it mattered. I remembered dinner was at 5 pm; learning how to cook in her kitchen; studying Latin with her and math with my Dad; Dad waking up at 4 am and taking me to a horse show; and the hours he and I spent fishing.
Still, that simple and profound lesson took years to sink in:
Others don’t see the things that worry us so very much. Having it all is about priorities.
Balance is a myth. No aspect of my life ever balances out in perfect proportions. I don’t spend 1/6th of my time wearing each of my hats. Most years the garden is ruled by weeds. Sigh. But I accomplish a lot.
We all have 24 hours each day. How we use them is what matters most. Not having “enough time” is an excuse. Let’s be real. When we say we don’t have enough time it means “that task isn’t important enough for me to make time for it.” When is a task a priority? Let me give you an example.
At six o’clock every day, without fail, with no excuses, Sam Vimes must go home to read Where’s My Cow?, with all the right farmyard noises, to his little boy. Sam Vimes is Terry Pratchett’s beloved Commander of the City Watch in Ankh-Morpork. His officers block traffic to ensure he gets home on time. Regardless of what insanity is happening in his city, reading his son a bedtime story is Sam Vimes’ priority. He (and his officers…and let’s be honest, the fact that he’s fictional helps a lot) make it happen.
If I really wanted to exercise, I wouldn’t watch another episode of Supernatural (Sorry, Dean) or I’d wake up an hour earlier. It’s all about your priorities. Exercise hasn’t been one of mine for too long.
How do you have “it all?”
- Determine your priorities.
You can’t know what “it” is until you know your priorities. Giving everything equal weight or trying to take every opportunity that presents itself is madness. No one but you can set your priorities.
- Let go and accept.
Sometimes we’ll need to prioritize one area of our lives over another for a time. That’s okay. That’s just life. The needs will change and if you’re paying attention over a lifetime, the scales will balance the way you want.
- Lists. Lots and lots of lists.
I know myself. If a task, appointment or whatever doesn’t hit my to-do list with a deadline it isn’t happening. Because I’ll procrastinate if I can do the task “whenever.” Every task has a deadline whether real or Nancy-created.
- Hire people to deal with as much of the administration as possible.
Time is best spent on income generating activities (for me, doing legal work or writing a story) or fun (watching movies with my 3 boys) rather than on unproductive tasks like mailing out my invoices. I can pay an admin $15 an hour to handle those necessary distractions. There are things only you can do. Do them and nothing else. Use money to make time when you can.
- Focus on what you accomplished rather than what remains to be done.
Matt constantly tells me not even Superman could handle my to-do list. He’s probably right (although Wonder Woman could). When I focus on the 15 things that weren’t humanly possible to do in the day that I, surprise, didn’t finish, I’m a grumpy gal. Instead, I work very hard to end the day remembering what I accomplished.
- Sleep is for wimps.
Just kidding. Sleep really isn’t optional. Make time for it.
For me, finding balance meant accepting there are limits to my superhuman strengths (Again, stop laughing Matt or I might revise the “happily married” point). Don’t get me wrong. I still hear the deeply fearful part of me repeating her “not good enough” and “I should be…” mantras, but her voice has grown softer over the years and she’s getting easier to ignore.
Oh yeah, and when getting the work/life balance right, it helps to be downright crazy.