Michelle Conrad is an essential part of the Awakening Your Creative Soul team. We wouldn't all be here right now if not for her and I am grateful every day for her expertise, help and friendship. Now you can get to know her better and appreciate her like I do. Thank you, Michelle for writing this blog on balance.
The past few years of my life have changed drastically…I said goodbye to the corporate and startup worlds and went off on my own as a marketing consultant, I became a wife and I became a mother...all in under three years. I was recently asked if starting my own consulting business had been a smooth road which I replied – what is a smooth road?! As I got to thinking on this, there was one prominent ‘bump’ that stood out far more than others and that was balance.
I think as women, we have the tendency to want to “do it all,” and for me that means having a successful career, being a supportive and present wife, an engaged mother, all while maintaining a social life and making my own self-care a priority.
As soon as I had my firstborn I knew I wanted to spend as much of every second of his life with him as possible…my mother stayed at home with my siblings and me and we were so lucky to have that, I wanted the same for my children. I also knew that my career was important to me and I didn’t want to let that go, it was vital to be able to fuel something of my own that helped others and made me feel confident. Being supportive and present for my husband had always been something I strived for. I also never wanted to become one of those people who had children and lose all touch with their friends…I’ve always been very social and my friendships meant a lot to me, I wanted to make it a point to continue to have a social life. On top of that, I also knew how important self-care was for my sanity…if I was unhappy with myself, I knew I wouldn’t be the best career woman, mother, wife and friend I could be. So, I hit the ground running and was ready to be superwoman and prove to myself that I could be that person who “does it all.”
And boy did I crash and burn!
Over a year of striving to do each of these things at 100% all of the time created extreme stress, exhaustion, a loss in confidence in my work, as a mother, wife, friend, and overall anxiety and self-doubt. I wasn’t succeeding or doing great at anything that was important to me and it left me feeling defeated. But I kept going...because nothing comes easy, right?
It wasn’t until a good friend (and one of my most honest friends) told me “Michelle, you have to let go of the concept that you can do it all perfectly. You just can’t and you’ll drive yourself crazy.” Instead of brushing her off and sticking to my ground I really started to think about this…I was pushing myself so hard to do each of these important life tasks to their full capacity when I simply didn’t have that much to give all at once. The realization of this gave me the opportunity to throw this concept of ‘doing it all’ out the window and reevaluate the balance of each thing that was important to me.
I gained so much freedom as soon as I was able to accept that I couldn’t work 40 hours a week while being a full-time stay at home mom, providing daily home-cooked meals for my family, continuing the same social life I had pre-baby and going to yoga every single day all while having a sparkling clean house. All of these focuses are still very important to me but I realized I needed to direct my attention toward each focus at different times to be able to be successful at any of them. First and foremost, my family comes first and they will always be my number one focus, but identifying specific days that I dedicate to work helped me accomplish more rather than always being “on” as a marketing consultant and mother at the same time. That wasn’t fair to my family or my clients. By making this mental switch I began to feel more fulfilled in each aspect.
There’s a John Mellencamp lyric that I love…"I know there's a balance, I can see it when I swing past.” Balance is such a fluid idea; it’s always evolving as is our life and our priorities. So no, I don’t have it all figured it out but I do know that it’s important to give yourself freedom to let go of these high expectations of balancing everything at once. You can do everything that’s important to you, you just can’t do it all at once at every moment of every day. You have to give each important focus it's own space to grow.