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Friday, May 10, 2013

The Having It All Project: Audrey Beerman

I met Audrey through Julie somewhere along the way...so this is probably the second participant to The Having It All Project that she didn't know she was leading me to back when we met in 1996. Audrey's a new mom figuring out how to balance all the different roles in her life - something many of us are balancing on this Mother's Day weekend. Happy Mother's Day to all of you. Here's how Audrey is having it all.

Briefly describe your life and what you think makes it unique.
Although Margaret Mead probably isn't to credit for this quotation, I giggle at "Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else." Lately I derive considerable comfort from that! I'm a daughter, a wife, a stay-at-home-mom, an aunt, a daughter-/ granddaughter-/ sister-/ niece-in-law, a Chief Marketing Officer, a sorority sister, a volunteer, a true friend, … so you know, I'm unique, just like each of us is unique! In stark contrast to my "past lives," though, I'm a member not the leader.

What are some of your favorite tips and strategies for coping with the chaos? 
Nuts and bolts: My husband and I run our lives on a carefully curated suite of Google products (Gmail, Calendar, Drive), and I love Evernote too. Thanks to apps for eBay, Amazon Prime, and FreshDirect, I do 90%+ of our family's shopping from my phone. Near-debilitating OCD is a beautiful thing - if only it were contagious!

More philosophical: I attempt to avoid and / or eliminate as much chaos as possible. This may seem basic, but I'm not someone whose life is naturally drama-free, and thus it requires consistent, conscientious effort on my part. Sometimes this is as simple as saying "no" which should be easier than it is. Although I don't completely disregard social niceties and legitimate obligations, I do say no to lots of things "the old me" would've done begrudgingly and / or by incurring epic stress, ranging from joining committees to making weekend plans. Along those lines, I no longer waste time attempting to cultivate / repair / continue relationships with people who are not worthy; I don't have arrogant delusions of these individuals pining away for me, but I'm not interested in teaching anyone how to be a good friend.

Being a stay-at-home-mom is extremely weird for me; in the beginning, on some days, the only adults with whom I interacted were our doorman and our parking lot attendant. Now we go on more "adventures" including spontaneous outings and as a recovering Type A, giving up my routine was really challenging. To feel human, I make sure that each morning, I take a shower and get dressed, even if Ari and I are just spending the day rolling around on the playmat. Sometimes I have a sitter come for a few hours so I can be on my own, and I don't feel guilty about it, because I know I'm a better mom if I can have some "me" time too.

Please share a moment where it all broke down, and how you got through it. 
In November 2009, my then-boyfriend Hal asked my father for my hand in marriage. A few weeks later, my father was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer, and given only a few months to live. I still do not fully understand how I survived the 117 days between hearing the prognosis and delivering his eulogy, but in that time, Hal proposed to me and we planned, then had, a beautiful wedding with the people we love most, and my dad was there to walk me down the aisle. To say "it all broke down" is a colossal understatement.

I got through it because I am blessed to have the best people on earth. My people - my friends who are my family - are the most loyal, thoughtful, generous people in the world. They are insane in their devotion and selflessness. This is what friendship is supposed to be, in my mind; my parents raised me this way and I pray that I live up to their standards. When Hal witnessed the outpouring of love and support, he understood me a lot better, and now he gets why my definition of family includes far more than people who are technically our relatives. "Having it all" means different things to different people, but I truly believe that having my people in my corner means I've got everything.

Do you have any balance role models? Anything you try to avoid because it wouldn't work for you? 
I've learned a lot from my own mistakes so I try to use "past me" to avoid making them again. Over the years I have been blessed to interact with many painfully efficient, impressive individuals and I've taken notes on their best practices and try to incorporate them into my everyday. For instance, about 15 years ago my rabbi, Loel Weiss, taught me that he attempts to avoid letting things pile up on his desk. If something is due in a week, for instance, and it's going to take five focused minutes to do, he gives it his attention immediately so he doesn't have to add it to his to-do list and think about it later - it gets done, and it gets done right, and it's done! It sounds simple but it has saved me a lot of stress. I also loved Lean In and agree that "Done is better than perfect" - and it doesn't mean settling, it means being realistic.

Since I'm still adjusting to my new role as mother, I try to avoid making too many rules for myself. Being flexible is becoming easier.

Think back to your 18th birthday. How is your life different from how you expected it to be then?
When I was 18, I had two parents I thought would live forever, and two best friends who were like siblings to me. I assumed I'd be super-involved in the Jewish community forever and eventually make aliyah. While I've always wanted to be a mother, I didn't expect to be a stay-at-home parent. Since then, my dad died and those two best friends dumped me. Although I would love to visit Israel again, I have no plans to move there, and after an eight-year absence from the Jewish community, I am only now beginning to find my place in vibrant, Jewish life. Having earned three degrees, it is strange not to be employed outside the home.

Part of me cannot believe that any of this is really happening. I have a healthy, happy son who blows my mind and breaks my heart every single day. I have a compassionate, hilarious husband who I fall asleep next to, laughing!, every night. We live in a beautiful apartment and pay several thousand dollars below market which in New York City is probably a bigger accomplishment than the spouse or kid! I FaceTime with my mom every single day so she can see her grandson and we take long weekend field trips to visit her in my native Boston. As above, I am surrounded by the greatest people, for which I feel lucky all the time. And despite all this, sometimes I cry because I miss my dad so much. So, so much. Life is nothing like what I expected it to be, but I'm nothing like I expected to be, and although there is always room for improvement, I count my blessings and am genuinely grateful. As Asha Tyson wrote, “Your journey has molded you for the greater good, and it was exactly what it needed to be. Don't think that you've lost time. It took each and every situation you have encountered to bring you to the now. And now is right on time.”

Relate to what Audrey 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!

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