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This Job

By November 25, 2013Mack's Musings

ry-and-e

It’s Sunday just before noon. I’m headed to speak at my final conference of the year. I purposely booked my flight in the afternoon so that I could have more time with Jon and the kids.

There’s anxiety in the kitchen as Ryan notices my suitcase by the door.

Tears well up in her beautiful baby blues. She doesn’t want me to leave. I wipe her face with my fingers and tell her to close her eyes.

“Can you picture me in your head, Ry?”

She squints, using all of her might not to open her eyes and look at me.

“Can you see me?” I ask.

“Yes.”

“OK. Anytime you miss me just close your eyes and that’s where you’ll find me.”

I pull out of the driveway and sign I love you at the window as I wave to her, E, and Jon. I’m relieved I booked a quick trip. I’ll be back in less than 3 days.


“I never learned to count my blessings. I choose instead to dwell in my disasters.”
Empty
Ray LaMontagne


If you had handed me a script of what was going to unfold in my life over the last couple years, I would have called you crazy. When I reflect, my throat gets tight and I have to fight back some pretty heavy emotions.

And not entirely from joy.

I signed up for this job as an entrepreneur completely blind to the sacrifices that would be made. Time with my kids. Time with my husband. Time with myself. Stuff I won’t get back. Things I can’t undo. In 10 years, will I regret that I wasn’t entirely present during these years of my kids’ lives? Worse, will I be able to forgive myself when the lament finally settles in?

All the recent success we’ve had aside, this job has left me feeling pretty broken. I’ve wrestled with extreme self-criticism, doubt, and guilt. The isolation. The relentless pushing and driving. The extreme highs and even more severe lows. Utter exhaustion. Defeat. Hurt.

And now I’ve got my big girl pants on.


“Wake me up when it’s all over. When I’m wiser and I’m older. All this time I was finding myself and I didn’t know I was lost.”
Wake Me  Up
Avicii


I get it now. It took me a while but I can clearly see that everything in this job is a cycle. Stuff gets accomplished and crossed off the list but there will always be more impatiently waiting right behind it. It’s up to me to drive the rhythm.

I understand now that I need to make the time to look for those extreme spikes in the pattern of my work, identify where I’ll need some space, and communicate that beforehand to Jon and the kids. And, just as important,  prioritize time off with myself when the push is over so that I can rest, recover, and be completely present with my kids and spend some much needed time with Jon.


“Everything that kills me makes me feel alive.”
Counting Stars
One Republic


Every time I go away to a conference I am torn. It’s really hard to leave my kids.  And even though I enjoy the change of pace and am fulfilled from time with friends, I question whether it’s worth it. Do the gains that I make for my career and the business really mean more than the time I’m trading with my family?

What I have come to understand about this job is that I derive an incredible amount of satisfaction, passion, and joy from it and that’s nothing to feel shameful about. The key for me is to learn to prioritize my family over my work and not criticize myself when I don’t.  I am Mack the Mom and I am Mack the Entrepreneur. Sometimes one requires more attention than the other and I’m learning how to tell which one that is. I’m not making a choice between the two. I just need to give my all to both and know that it can’t happen at the same time.


“Even on my weakest days I get a little bit stronger.”
A Little Bit Stronger
Sara Evans


This precarious balance between this job and my family is truly a daily exercise in mental and emotional strength. But I can see now that this job is a gift. Like parenting, it’s been a daily lesson in self-awareness and personal growth. I am grateful for the constant reminder and perspective on priorities, meaning, and purpose. That even though I indulge in and crave the validation of what we’re accomplishing at Mack Web, that I would be empty without the love and true reward my family brings.

My dad always tells me, “you’ll never get it wrong and you’ll never get it done.” This job is relentless and I’m sure it’s not going to let up any time soon. But I’m not going to punk out and I’m not ready to quit.

This is the job.

Author Mack Fogelson

More posts by Mack Fogelson

Join the discussion 17 Comments

  • Brandon Doyle says:

    Great post here Mack! I have two young children myself, and know exactly how you feel. It helps having such a satisfying job (I’m sure you’d agree).

    • Mackenzie Fogelson says:

      It really does Brandon. I love Will Critchlow’s perspective on how lucky we are to be doing something that is so meaningful and fulfilling. I’m grateful for the opportunity to build this company and also to have such a beautiful family.

  • Wow Mack! Thanks for sharing such a personal insight. I’m not operating at the level you are but as I mentioned before, as my business grows I constantly struggle with building the business, making sure work quality is the best it can be, and also making sure I am not sacrificing time with my family. Lately that means more and more late nights.

    Good to know that I’m not alone in these struggles as an entrepreneur with young children and that sometimes there are no solutions other than to prioritize, do your best, and hang in there.

    • Mackenzie Fogelson says:

      So true Matthew. It’s a blessing to be able to run your own business and to have a growing family. It’s tricky not to allow the business to overshadow how important the family is. I don’t want to miss out on what’s unfolding now with my kids, and I also have a wonderful opportunity with my business. So I’m going to constantly work on balance and be aware that I can’t be awesome at them both at the same time. Shifting my focus to respecting my time with my family will help me to set boundaries and be present with my kids and my seriously patient and wonderful husband.

  • Petra says:

    I have to raise my voice now as a working mum. My “little” girl is 17 now and I have been working for way to long hours each day since she was little. But as you described you have to be aware that you can fullfill both jobs (mom and entrepreneur). Sometimes that is easier – sometimes not. But I am pretty sure you are going to make that perfect. I have the best relationship to my daughter now and so will you with your children :-). If you feel happy that’s the best condition to make your family happy, too.

    • Mackenzie Fogelson says:

      I completely agree Petra and thank you for sharing that with me. I know my kids know I am there for them, love them, and am doing my best to be with them. I am proud to be growing this company and be a role model for my kids. My work brings me so much joy and I’m a better mom because I am happy in my career. I learn so much from them and how they view the world. It really helps keep me in check 🙂

  • I love when you post these Mack! Sounds like lots of us struggle from the same challenges, but you were strong enough to put it down 🙂

    Thanks!

    • Mackenzie Fogelson says:

      Thanks Aaron. I was a little nervous about this one but felt the honesty was important. Both jobs are tough (being a mom and being an entrepreneur) but completely rewarding and I’m blessed to be doing both.

  • Elise Ramsay says:

    I love this post, Mack. Especially this: “What I have come to understand about this job is that I derive an incredible amount of satisfaction, passion, and joy from it and that’s nothing to feel shameful about.”

    Thank you for writing something about the difficulty of reconciling both, and not about the need to choose OR the perfect formula for balancing it all. Now back away from the computer, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving 🙂

    • Mackenzie Fogelson says:

      Thank you Elise! Can’t wait to see you guys in December!

      Growing this business is part of who I am, and so is being a nurturing mom to my kids. They know this makes me happy and so do they (most of the time :)). I’m extremely lucky to have the opportunity to do both and I’m really thankful for the perspective and constant reminder that my family is an integral component in my life.

  • George says:

    The beauty of this post is that only a parent will truly understand where you’re coming from. The enormous pressure on your shoulders on a daily basis… To others it might sound like you’re just gushing about your kids or it’s some sort of “feel good” thing that parents talk about.

    One of the hardest things is dealing with preconceived social norms like “the women should be home with the kids”. I consider myself a pretty good dad but in some circles I might be considered a horrible mom. But I also feel it in reverse, when I spend too much time away from work.

    I love that you pointed out the fact that there are peaks and valleys in business and family responsibilities. As a grown up, you can make the decision to put all of your energy where it is needed most at different points in time.

    I think the hard part for me is how to relay that to my employees…because they are younger and they don’t have kids yet. My guess is they don’t really understand how stretched I am. They just see that I’m not in the office or whatever. That may be one of my own insecurities. I guess that’s what your post is really about…insecurities.

    • Mackenzie Fogelson says:

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment George. Isn’t it funny that as parents we find solace in the pain that other parents understand and experience? It’s really kind of a secret club that can be incredibly rewarding and also incredibly difficult to be part of.

      I like your point about comparing your role as a dad to that of a mom. My husband is a wonderful contributor and an unconditional supporter, but inherently I think I can handle more. Maybe it’s the multi-tasking thing that women have down so well or maybe it’s that societal pressure we put on ourselves to do more. Either way, it’s a lot for any parent, mom or dad, to balance both work and family.

      I definitely need both. I certainly enjoy breaks from work, but when those breaks are too long, I really don’t feel as happy as I’d like. I’m working on honoring those times when I really want to work so that I can feel better (relieve pressure and anxiety that I experience when work is building up). I’ve found that this allows me to leave work alone and be more present when I’m with my kids.

      Lots to work on all the time (in both areas) and always many challenges to face. I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to run this business and have these great kids. I hope you feel the same 🙂

  • Thanks so much for sharing this post, Mack. Striking a healthy, fulfilling balance is such a difficult thing to do, and such a raw topic to talk about! I think in part it’s because so many of us feel like we’re not doing a very good job at it. What I took away from your post is a reminder that balance is something we have to fight to make for ourselves. It’s not going to just happen on its own and no one is going to do it for us.

    A great reminder for the holiday season. Thanks again!

    • Mackenzie Fogelson says:

      Thank you Jonathan. I was afraid it was a bit of a risk to be this honest, but it truly captures the mental game that I struggle with. It has been a subtle reminder to continue working on balance and not be critical of myself (which is really easy to do). Glad to hear it struck a chord.

  • Ronell Smith says:

    Mack,

    The candor is refreshing. I’ve experienced each of the sentiments you express above. As entrepreneurs, we do have to thoroughly convince ourselves we ARE making the right choice, we ARE there when our family needs us, we ARE contributing in the most meaningful way, for ourselves and for those who rely upon us.

    I’ve found it’s easier to justify the sacrifices made as an entrepreneur because of the feeling of stability provided from doing something your way and for the right reasons, which isn’t just about money.

    What helps me is talking to people–friends, acquaintances and family members–who have great incomes, titles and responsibilities through working “corporate” jobs, but wo have very little in the way of lasting satisfaction, always talking about “one day doing my own thing” or “I wish I could make this money working for myself.”

    We are making the right choice. We are making a difference. We are there when our family needs us.

    RS

  • Holly says:

    I loved how you articulated this delicate balance in life. Your honesty about keeping those things in tension is so refreshing and real. Your company sounds amazing. It makes me wish that I, too, could work there! 🙂

  • Ian says:

    Well said, Mack. Every time I travel, even with my kids at 14 and 11, I get a little ache in the pit of my stomach. But every time I come home, I get a feeling that I likely wouldn’t get by just staying there.

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