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Friday, April 5, 2013

The Having It All Project: Kimberly Hensle Lowrance

I was lucky to meet Kimberly when we attended last fall's Springboard Conference, where she enthusiastically introduced herself to me as soon as we got on the boat. I'm trying hard to convince her to come to BlogHer this summer so she can continue being my conference buddy. Here's how Kimberly is having it all.

Briefly describe your life and what you think makes it unique.
My life, in many ways, is a classic story: I’m married with two kids, and I live in the
suburbs. (Thankfully, no minivan!) My son is five and my daughter is three-and-a-half
(the half is very important). I work four-days-a-week as the managing director of an
educational nonprofit organization in Boston. I moved to a part-time schedule in 2008,
and having work flexibility has been a blessing for our family. It’s offered me a way to
parent the way I want to—involved, engaged, and proactive—and to cultivate my career
in a manner that fits my needs and personal goals.

I have been working, in some capacity, since I was 11, when I got my first babysitting
gig. Forward to today: the work-life balance struggle is so much more complex! My daily
struggles are those that many working parents with young children share: coordinating
day care pickup, making lunches, getting the kids to soccer practice and gymnastics,
reading the Magic Tree House books, and organizing play dates, while also responding
to time sensitive emails, jumping on a conference call, and meeting that critical deadline.

One of the reasons I have been able to keep my career as an important part of my life
is because I have benefited from great day care for my children. Knowing they are safe
and stimulated has given me space to continue contributing to the world outside of my
home. I appreciate that, and value the lessons it teaches my kids about the role of their
mother (and their father, of course). That being said, public school starts in September
for my son (cue the waterworks), and I am already aware that our carefully crafted
schedule will be upended by early release days and school closings for never-before-
celebrated holidays.

My ongoing dilemma is that I never seem to have enough time for, well, everything. It’s
been a challenging process to accept that my commitments may exceed the hours of the
day and the days of the week. I’ve realized that it’s all part of keeping my priorities at the
core of everything I do, and letting go of that which doesn’t fit it.

What are some of your favorite tips and strategies for coping with the chaos?
1. Most importantly, I have a fabulous partner in life, my husband, Rob. He’s an involved
and hands-on parent, and he’s always been incredibly supportive of me and of my
career. We laugh a lot, too, which is a truly a gift. Everything is easier when you know
someone has your back.

2. I try to find time for me—for something outside of work and family responsibilities.
Whether that’s yoga class, which goes a long way toward keeping my stress in check,
or my blog, Red Shutters, where I have an outlet for my writing, carving out time for me
keeps the chaos at bay—or helps me to be more prepared for the chaos!

3. My tried and true strategy is the to do list (original, right?). I have an ongoing and
constantly updated to do list that covers family, house, and blog (I keep a separate list
at work). I love the satisfaction of crossing off the task when it’s complete; with two small
kids underfoot, it makes me feel like I’m in control!

4. I made a choice in January of this year to get up each weekday at 5 AM. I had
gotten into a bad habit of getting up when my kids awoke, instead of before them,
which resulted in hectic mornings full of stress. I wasn’t my best self with my kids in the
morning. Because I was always running late, I was impatient and frustrated when they
delayed getting their coats or shoes on or when they wanted to tell me one last story.
They deserved better. Now, by getting up earlier, I’m able to get showered and dressed
(and even manage to put on eye liner!), eat breakfast, and spend 30-45 minutes doing
whatever I need to do, including catching up email, working on that to do list, writing, or
reading. The result is that 5 AM isn’t so scary anymore, we’re arriving at school earlier
than before, and I’m more patient with my children.

5. My can’t-live-without strategy is communication. We have family meetings each
Sunday to talk about what’s going on and what’s coming up for us as a family. While
my daughter typically likes to use the time to discuss the latest adventure of her Care
Bear, the meetings are reinforcing (hopefully) the four of us as team and helping our kids
to know how important our needs are to one another. My husband and I also check in
daily and take time to plan out upcoming commitments and deadlines, so we’re on the
same page. And, I’m the one who asks him, every weekend, “what are your goals for the
weekend, honey?” It drives him nuts (he’s not nearly as Type A as me), but it’s a great
way to find out his expectations for our family time, so we can make sure we get to the
end of weekend, having a good balance with gotta-get-it-done items and fun.

Please share a moment where it all broke down, and how you got through it.
Two years ago, my mother became very ill and ended up in the hospital for more than
a month. It was a scary, stressful time, but I was at her bedside constantly, thanks to
support from family, friends, and my employer. My husband stepped in to become super
Dad while I coordinated my mom’s care and spent hours every day with her; my mother-
in-law helped with the kids; and family and friends from all over the country called, sent
letters and email, and prayed for her. Additionally, my colleagues covered for me when
I was out, and my director gave permission for me to work from my mom’s hospital
room. We made it through that time because of our network—and because of my mom’s
amazing health care providers—and it reinforced for me what a gift it is to be healthy and
how grateful I am for the people in my life.

Do you have any balance role models? Anything you try to avoid because it
wouldn't work for you?

What works best for me is staying true to our family goal of raising healthy, confident
children who are kind and have a positive impact on the world. If I keep this as our
guide, I know it’s OK to decline invitations and to make certain commitments over others.
Also, having watched my mom struggle these past few years with health problems, I am
better than I was—or at least I am trying—to keep focused on the truly important things:
the people I love.

Think back to your 18th birthday. How is your life different from how you expected
it to be then?

At 18 years old, I was eager to move away from my small New Jersey town to the big
city of Boston for college. I don’t know if I could even conceive of what was ahead
for me. However, I do remember, at 23, interviewing for a job during graduate school
and being asked what issue about women in the workplace was of particular interest
to me (the question was relevant to the job). I said balance: how do women get it—
career, family, life—all done? Well, 17 years later, I’m still working on my answer to that
question.

Relate to what Kimberly is saying? Leave her some love in the comments. Read other posts from The Having It All Project here. Want to participate? Send me an email at havingitallproject@gmail.com!

1 comment:

  1. I recently started setting my alarm a little bit earlier each week.

    A night owl by birth, I was getting up around 7am, but now I'm up by 5:15. My final goal is 5am.

    I love the 2+ hours of tranquility I get each morning to write - it keeps me connected to my inner writer. Tho' I'm still struggling a bit with getting my body & mind to wind down for a 9:30-10pm bedtime.

    Change is a process, change is good.

    ReplyDelete