Friday, June 7, 2013

The Having It All Project: Faun Zarge

Faun is a member of my wonderful "Lean In" women's networking group, and quite the work/life guru. She might say below that she doesn't always have it all figured out, but in my mind, she's got a really good handle on life. Here's how Faun is having it all.

Briefly describe your life and what you think makes it unique.
I’m pretty sure that my life isn’t terribly unique…it’s both wonderful and insanely chaotic at times…both of which are true for many of the families I know. Jonathan, my terrific husband of 15 years, and I have three crazy kids, Livia (12), Jeremy (11), and Ilan (8), who definitely keep us on our toes!

If there’s anything which makes my life unique, it’s probably the fact that I’ve been working in the Work/Life field for 20 years now, the last 16 spent running my own Work/Life training and consulting business.  Work/life issues have always been front-of-mind for me, even before I had kids, so people often expect that I should always have it “all together.” Actually, the most important thing I’ve learned from being in this field is that I’d be crazy if I tried to have it all together all of the time. I once forgot to pick my kids up at school, I’m regularly late with birthday presents, and I feed my kids cereal for dinner at least once a week. This must sound terrible—I’m really not a negligent parent—but I just have to make choices. I’d rather sit down with my kids and listen to them tell me about their day over a bowl of Cheerios, than be so exhausted from cooking a meal that I’m too distracted to pay attention to them. I’m not suggesting that this is the right choice for everyone, just that it’s the right choice for me.

What are some of your favorite tips and strategies for coping with the chaos?

·      We’ve lowered our standards. This is probably obvious from my comments above!

·      Involve kids in running the household. Our kids do laundry, unload the dishwasher, pack their lunches, etc. The kids know we expect them to share family responsibilities, and that when we all help, we’re all less stressed.

·      Ask for and accept help from friends. I don’t know how we’d do it without their support.

·      We don’t sign up for big commitment activities like Little League unless we know we’ve got others to carpool with.

·      Regular adult-only time! Jonathan plays soccer weekly, and I have my morning workouts—we work hard to make sure that we each get to keep those commitments. We need to be better about getting out for date nights, but we’re pretty good at making sure we each have time to take care of ourselves.

Please share a moment when it all broke down, and how you got through it.
Mother’s Day, 2003. Around 2pm, after hosting a family brunch, everyone left our home, including my husband who was leaving for a four day business trip. That left me with a party to clean up, an energetic 2 ½ year old, and worst of all, a very sick 1 year old son who couldn’t hold any food down.  I was completely overwhelmed. But I got through it by calling a friend (thanks, Norah!) who reminded me that the only thing I needed to do at that moment was take care of my kids, and in particular, make sure my son didn’t wind up in the ER. Everything else could wait. It was good advice that I clung to as I spent much of the next three days literally sitting behind my son in his high chair, slipping drops of Pedialyte into his mouth with a medicine dropper, as his eyes stayed glued to Elmo on the television. The apartment remained a disaster, and we all went a little stir-crazy being housebound, but slowly my son got better. From time to time, I think back to that awful week, and try to remember my dear friend’s advice about only focusing on what’s most important in the moment.

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

I have many role models—I have so much admiration for my friends and how they manage their lives—but, without a doubt, my biggest parenting role model is my older sister, Edina. What I admire most about her is that although her schedule is astoundingly busy with a demanding full-time job, a myriad of volunteer commitments, and a husband who is concurrently working full-time and getting his PhD, she still manages to be incredibly present with her daughters. She genuinely knows what’s going on their lives, knows their friends, and most importantly, recognizes when to compartmentalize the rest of her life so she can give her daughters her full attention. Though I tease her about it, she has no problem leaving her house a complete disaster if it means that she’ll get two hours of quality time with her kids. I have a much harder time doing that, but I’m getting better, and my sister inspires me all the time.

Think back to your 18th birthday. How is your life different from how you expected it to be then?
My life doesn’t look remotely like anything I imagined! And having graduated high school in the 1980’s, everything I pictured included big hair and even bigger shoulder pads! Now my life is big in other ways…professional work I find gratifying, volunteer work that’s deeply meaningful, and most of all, a family which brings me joy beyond words. It’s not perfect, sometimes it’s downright messy, but it’s big and full and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. 

Relate to what Faun 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!

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