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Quality time with the kids…
Are you laughing too? I stopped laughing, I am just too exhausted. As part of our family discussions surrounding our upcoming move, I promised my son he would be able to have a vacation with his best buddy Leyton, whose mother, Cheryl, is one of my dearest and nuttiest friends (you know the kind who walks in the back of a bar with the band posing as their manager just to avoid the line kind). The boys and their siblings grew up in California together and just 18 months after we left, Leyton’s family moved to Canada. Since sleeping at a friend’s house constitutes a vacation to an eight year old, I had the ingenious idea that I would take a road trip with my three munchkins leaving my husband home to continue on his house projects that he so adores. Ingenious? NOT.
I have been trying to make a real effort to stop leaning on my au pair so much, taking little road trips here and there alone with the kids. We even went for a week to Disney World without her – which is unheard in the Boudreau family. Come to think of it, I think that was the first vacation we did without our au pair, ever! Why would anyone intentionally outnumber themselves vs. their children? It doesn’t make numeric sense.
I am sure you can see where this is going… so I get in the car last Friday with three very excited kids between the ages of 5 and 10. We are packed with electronics, books, and DVDs. What could go wrong? Let’s start and end with an eight and a half hour trip that turned into 12 due to snow and a closed highway. “Are we there yet?… He’s touching me again!…I’m hungry…I have to pee…NOW!…Why didn’t we take a plane?…” When we arrive, the first thing I remove from the car is 6 bottles of Wente Riva Ranch Chardonnay and the below sign. The drive is over… life will be good from here on out.
Have I said this yet? What was I thinking? I went from the car to a house with six children and only two adults (Cheryl’s husband was stranded in California – which I think he might have just planned). I love this family… we spent every holiday together for the six years we lived in California, our children are all friends and treat each other like siblings. I love the craziness of my friend Cheryl, who jumps from planes and shows up for dinner with appetizers when we are about to serve dessert…. And never, ever lets me be sad on my birthday. But the next 2 days were pure chaos and we were clearly outnumbered. We went sledding, bowling, built snow forts… and of course we drank wine, but there just wasn’t enough wine to calm the chaos. So we turned to being productive – we hung a large TV (Cheryl, please tell me it didn’t’ come crashing down!) and assembled a treadmill. And I have to say, these last two things did the trick.
Being out of control of my environment is one of my items that feels like someone is constantly scratching their nails on a chalk board – and when I can’t make it stop I want to jump out of my skin. And I realized, in all the chaos we had with the kids in California… the weekly Wednesday nights when Cheryl and I created an assembly line of all the kids in the double shower and Jacuzzi tub… the bad day Margarita nights that occurred regularly at Bar Boudreau on Friday nights… the endless holiday celebrations… I always had a task to hold on to along with my sanity. I was always cooking… it is my place in the middle of chaos. But after last weekend, I realize it is not just cooking – it is anything where there is a tangible completion. For me it is like Valium to the chaos. I need to complete things like some people need to eat or drink, it is my comfort zone.
The point of sharing this chaotic weekend experience with you is not to demonstrate that I have the patience of a gnat and that I am not a qualified parent (we can talk about limitations in the next post) – it is to demonstrate how to calm yourself in the midst of chaos. Knowing your calming trigger is incredibly important. It is what you need turn to when everything around you is seems to pile up and you are not sure which way to turn. Without that trigger, the cortisol levels in your body continue to escalate impeding your performance, both at work and at home.
For me it is anything that has a tangible beginning and end, I need a sense of completion to calm myself. For you it may be just the opposite – maybe you need a good dose of chaos to kick-start your performance. I have a colleague who performs best when chaos ensues – it’s an like an energy drink for them, they immediately begin to pull the best characteristics from each team member and sets everyone into action to achieve something they couldn’t see through the chaos, but my colleague could.
Whatever that item is, the next step is to understand what about it helps you because you will need to create mini bites of it so that you can replicate it when needed. Obviously I can’t cook while in a meeting, but I can draw while listening, any little thing that has a beginning and end is all I need. When everyone is throwing out complaints or ideas – I put them in columns and categorize them on a piece of paper. I realize I do these things when put on the defensive in the office, I use them to calm down and respond without emotion. Certainly my children would vote I try this at home more often.
What’s your Valium? Share yours and let’s determine what about the activity calms you and break it down to something you can do anywhere.