People are asking me lately, “How’s your business going?” and I usually have no idea of how to answer them. What I want to say: “It’s going great! It’s growing; my revenue and visibility are increasing, and pretty soon I’ll need to start hiring a team!”
What’s actually true: my business is growing in a looping, squiggly line. I’ve seen real people impacted, but there’s not that much cash. I am completely proud of what I’ve created, and it’s probably the best thing I’ve ever made, but not that many people have seen it. Sometimes I work 30 hours a week on it, and sometimes 5 – depending on what else is going on with my family and friends and how much I want to use my time to be with them.
And I’m embarrassed. I’m not supposed to say this. I’m supposed to be leaning in, outsourcing, following my passion and my dream, not letting the emotional labor of motherhood interfere with my self-actualization and the success that I am owed. A business that ebbs and flows – much like the hormonal cycles within my own body that ALSO truly affect my work – isn’t a real “business” – it’s “just a hobby.” Honoring the commitments I’ve made to be present for my husband, my kids, my friends, and myself - feels like a cop-out. It’s weak.
We’re told that it’s just a matter of nuts and bolts, of time management and outsourcing. But no one talks about what it takes to CARE that much about that many things. How can you be 100% present and 100% passionate every minute of the day? How do you move from writing a passionate blog post to being completely present for your 5 year old’s angst over her loose tooth in the space of the same hour?
It’s just a matter of how you balance it; at least, that’s what we’re told. Pay someone to do your laundry, to clean your house, to plan your meals, to watch your kids. But what’s left? The tasks that are left are completely, totally emotional and mental labor. So – with no more menial and mindless tasks, I’m supposed to be engaged with my mind and my heart 24 hours a day? It’s not about the time. It’s about the emotional bandwidth of being fully engaged with too many things.
Something generally has to give.
And – I believe – it’s our relationships that suffer.
We can move our bodies from self-care to family time to time at the computer, but no one is talking about how it feels in your soul. How do you maintain full power passion and full power presence constantly? I can’t do it, and I often feel ashamed.
When we try to “have it all” – what gives is our friendships. Our marriages. Our families. Because my husband can tell when I’m phoning it in. And that does happen – particularly when I’m super excited about a new project or endeavor and I really would rather be working on it. I have to consciously shift from my work sometimes so that my mind and heart can be free to listen, to talk, and to CARE about his life as well as mine.
Someone I really respect recently mentioned on her Instagram that she was separated from her husband. This woman is (from all I can tell) a tremendous, gifted leader. But over the last year, when she talked about her family, her marriage, and her husband – alongside other social media posts about the passion and time she was putting into her work – I couldn’t help but think, “How does she have this much heart to go around?”
We talk about this all the time as a problem that women face – but I think it’s just a human problem, and more likely – an American problem. We’re taught that following our dream, realizing our own potential, is more important than anything else – including nurturing the community around us. The needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many – don’t make decisions about your career based on your family, for God’s sake. You can hire someone.
But you can’t. You can’t hire someone to love your kids for you. You can’t hire someone to have good sex with your husband, and then a great conversation afterwards. You can’t hire someone to spend time with other women, looking into their eyes, and hearing their stories, and building those deep bonds of friendship.
And so, I’m learning to accept. I have to redefine what success means. I have to redefine what balance is. I have to have work that comes on my terms – that can ebb and flow as my heart requires. Because I believe that the relationships – the people – have to be cherished.