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.
“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.”
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
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.”
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
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.