Sunday, February 23, 2014

Bumps in the Road

Two weeks ago, on the way home from one round of Listen To Your Mother auditions, our car was rear-ended when our family was stopped at a traffic light. We were all okay, I was definitely the most shook up of the four of us, and the car didn't sustain too much damage. Marc took the car in to be repaired this past Monday morning, President's Day and the start of a week of school vacation for the kids.

We thought it was actually good timing, since the kids left on Tuesday morning to spend a few days in Arkansas with my in-laws, my sister-in-law and her family. With the kids gone, we thought we could get by without a rental car for most of that week, since I'd just have my normal commute by train. Marc and I also thought we'd be spending a lot of time together, since a break from the kids should mean one constant date night, right?

Wrong. Very, very wrong.

The week ended up being an exercise in why work-life balance isn't just for people with kids. What should have been a simplified life ended up even more complicated as we experienced many more bumps in the road than just the original car accident.

After dropping off the car Monday, Marc had gotten a rental car because I was at home with the kids that day, and we didn't want to be without a car since Max had been semi-sick over the weekend and we had put off some errands. On Tuesday, Marc and the kids left the house at 5:30 in the morning so they could make their flight leaving from Hartford. By the time Marc got back to Boston, another snowstorm was already beginning and we were both busy with work. With the roads in poor condition, our first date night opportunity morphed into crabby cabin fever couch potato-ing, since I had spent most of the past four days at home. We didn't end up returning the rental car until Wednesday morning, and since that was after the storm, we had to dig both cars out of the snow and drive them to the dealership. The commuter rail is closer to the car dealer, so I took that train to work instead and arrived about an hour late and $6 poorer after spontaneously buying a ticket on the train. Wednesday night I had a friend come pick me up and we went out to dinner, which had been previously arranged weeks before, but now Marc was getting anxious that we'd have no time together, as we needed to add a shiva call to the following day's already carefully orchestrated plans. Thursday morning saw Marc cramming in an inspection on our other car before attending our friend's father's funeral. I couldn't attend the funeral due to back-to-back morning meetings with clients, but I really did want to make the shiva call, so I figured out how to take a bus to the location, or so I thought, so I could get there earlier. Only the bus driver was ignorant of how the route worked and told me to get out far earlier than necessary, and I ended up walking a long distance on snow-covered sidewalks and not getting there as early as I'd anticipated. Meanwhile Marc was stressed out, arguing with the guy who rear-ended us about the cost of the car repairs, and his stress boiled over into an argument with me. Another date night was derailed, and though we eventually made it to a late movie, we were so frazzled and exhausted that we got up late on Friday morning and Marc ended up having to drive me to work.

Our only salvation? The kids' flight home on Friday was canceled, and they stayed in Arkansas an extra day. Marc and I finally got a decent dinner and time alone together on Friday night, after we picked up the repaired car in a major rain and lightning storm. By that point, having gotten through all of the craziness of the past few days, the time together felt extremely indulgent and wonderful.

It's now Sunday night. The kids are back home, both cars are appropriately repaired or inspected, and we're on track for a more normal week ahead. Hopefully a week with fewer bumps in the road.

Monday, February 17, 2014


I'm in another blogging funk. After wrapping up The Having It All Project, I haven't felt inspired to write again. It was such a big endeavor, and I'm so proud of the fact that I convinced 51 people to share their lives with me. It wasn't easy asking people, and at times I felt really uncomfortable asking. It was those really big asks that made me most uncomfortable, and that you actually didn't end up seeing, because they said no.

Obviously I, of all people, get being busy. It is the name of the blog, after all. I say no sometimes too. No, I can't volunteer at the class Valentine's Day party. No, I can't squeeze that class in right now, given my commitment to Listen To Your Mother Boston. But when it's an individual asking me to do an individual task for that direct person? I try really hard to say yes, to find a pocket of time. So being rejected by those people, mainly strangers with blogs that are more successful than mine, really stung.

The sting hurts most when I see those same people lamenting a seemingly golden age of social media, that they say no longer exists. When everyone knew everyone, and blog comments were easy to come by, and conferences were small and you met your best friend and you got your next business deal or book deal just by being in the right place at the right time. I feel a bit late to the party, and I'm jealous.

I also know that this space will always be last place on my list, behind everything else that's important in my life, and it stinks knowing my last place efforts will mean that it never really has time to become something more. But it did bring me to Listen To Your Mother, and I sit in awe that Jessica, Phyllis and I have been entrusted with this amazing gift and these important stories. And I know that I'm always drawn back to writing here, always starting posts even if they remain unfinished, always filtering my life and experiences through this lens.

Maybe it's just the harshness of this winter. Or it's the boredom of spending too much time inside with semi-sickness and snow. Or not having enough to look forward to. Whatever it is, I'll come back, eventually. I always do.

Max's Valentine's Day creation

Monday, February 3, 2014

50 Lessons Learned from The Having It All Project

Just over a year ago, I started The Having It All Project because the media narratives on the subject just weren't enough for me. Whether you believe you can have it all or that having it all is a myth, my thesis was that most people have enough of however they chose to define "all." When it comes down to it, we're living life on the best terms we can figure out for ourselves and our families.

I was confident that in doing these interviews, we'd have something we can learn from each other. At the same time, no one person can tell us how to live our lives for optimal satisfaction--we're all just living life the best way we knew how. I tried hard to find diverse points of view and present people from all walks of life. In the fifty interviews presented below, most are parents but a few are not (parents aren't the only ones trying to balance a lot!). The interviewees are married, single, divorced, widowed, gay and straight, biological parents and adoptive parents, parents of multiples and parents of only children, special needs parents and parents coping with their own issues, stay-at-home parents and working parents of both sexes, across the economic spectrum and from all over the U.S., Canada and England. They are list-makers and laissez faire. They thrive on routine and revel in spontaneity. They are living the life the imagined and the life they could never have possibly dreamed.

In chronological order, here are 50 lessons learned from The Having It All Project. Obviously, I'm teasing out just one great point below, so be sure to click through and read all the original interviews!

1. Allison embraced flexible childcare by using morning hours with her nanny and finding accommodating daycare.
2. James is on a senior non-partner track at his law firm so he can make it home for dinner most evenings, and loves his Google Calendar.
3. Liz says that to manage her work-life juggle, she's upfront with her employer about what she needs, be it telecommuting or adjusted hours.
4. Lynne relished her independence before adopting her daughter, but now she can't imagine life without her daughter's busy schedule of extracurricular activities.
5. Liz, primary breadwinner in her family, lives in a messy house but wrote a book on top of her full-time job, staying true to her priorities.
6. Alison works from home, avoiding a commute, and takes her preteen daughter out for breakfast on her own to make special time just for them.
7. Leslie and Adrian, parents of four, try to keep life simple, carpool, and sometimes, just complain out loud and then move on to get past the tough moments.
8. Carla looks to her friends for balance role models, and realizes that when you're sick, all the rules can go out the window.
9. Jessica often has to "fly solo" when her husband travels, so she's learned to slow down and take things one at a time when she's managing her kids and work on her own.
10. Eleanor embraces technology, like the reminders app and lists for groceries and errands, and isn't afraid to schedule date night when calendars get chaotic.
11. Carol followed the un-schooling model for her teenage stepchildren and, as a minister, carves out time to attend to her own spiritual needs.
12. Sharon's family uses a "reset button" for when the chaos level gets too high, and recognizes that having it all is pretty easy when you have the right perspective.
13. David tends to get involved in too many volunteer efforts, but is working to curb his "Fear of Missing Out" and scheduling more downtime to recharge with his cat.
14. Kimberly acknowledges she's been able to pursue success at work due to her children's great daycare experiences and her husband's hands-on parenting.
15. Al sings along with the car radio, enjoys a cathartic cry, and knows he's never more than 24 hours away from his next Dunkin' Donuts extra large coffee.
16. Danielle, mother of four girls and lawyer with a home-based practice, learned that she can't schedule appointments before 10 am if she wants mornings to go smoothly.
17. Naomi gets lots of help from her extended family so that she is able to work as a Creative Strategist and run a side business of balloon twisting.
18. Nanette's family relies on routines and rituals to curb the chaos, particularly observing Shabbat and sharing their "WOW of the Week."
19. Audrey, a stay-at-home mom, knows that it's okay to have a sitter come in sometimes so that she can have some "me" time too.
20. Kristopher had a rough first day back at work after being a stay-at-home dad to his twins for the first two years of their life, and was able to negotiate a flexible schedule.
21. Lyette never thought she'd get married and finds some of domestic life difficult, but she handled a rough stomach bug-traveling-snowstorm situation with grace.
22. Emma has learned to avoid caffeine, situations that are highly disorganized, and experiences where she can't tap into her own creative energy and spirit.
23. Faun, a work-life balance expert, says it's better to serve Cheerios for dinner and be able to focus on talking to her children than cook an elaborate meal and be too tired to listen.
24. Marc believes in "logistical bankruptcy," meaning that sometimes you have to stop planning, do what you can do, and let go of the rest.
25. Astrid cobbled together her career as a virtual assistant and a Zumba instructor, and prioritizes getting enough sleep!
 26. Monina, a single mom, has been handed more than her share of lemons in life, but now? She's living life exactly how she wants.
27. Gina shared some of the challenges of navigating open adoption after foster care, and uses her experience with sexual assault to educate others.
28. T.J., an Army pilot whose helicopter was on fire over Baghdad, Iraq, knows how not to sweat the small stuff and take life one bite at a time.
29. Allison works with parents of special needs or quirky kids, and reminds us not to be ten years or even ten steps ahead of ourselves, but to practice in the moment mindfulness.
30. Rachel's family made a big move in support of her husband's career, and shares a Disney World experience that proves it's not the happiest place on Earth for everyone.
31. Mrs. Mac, our anonymous attorney from across the pond, shows us that life as a working parent isn't all that different in other parts of the world.
32. Casey, half of a two-mom family, tries to keep things simple, and admits that though it's easy to lose balance just after you've found it, life totally rules.
33. Kristen builds in a few minutes of meditation into every hour, and tries to focus on building a fun and healthy life for her and her daughter.
34. Danielle came back from a difficult time in her life to realize that she's needed here, and now tries to make time for herself so that she can be a better mom and have the career she wants.
35. Sarah's boss said she wasn't paid enough to be that emotional and upset about work, so she's learned to sleep on it when she has to make a big decision or react to a challenge.
36. Elaine taught herself web design skills and built her business from scratch, and wants her children to see what it looks like for her to fail, to succeed, and to be in limbo.
37. Jeanette, a military kid who moved a lot, now tries to stick to a meticulous routine with her children, to give them the same sense of stability. (Oh, and she's dangerous.)
38. Rachel transitions from work mode to parent mode several times a day, but still makes time for her own "extracurricular" activities.
39. Michelle, a mom, college professor and part-time PhD student, plans and makes time for the freakouts that are bound to happen, and has a true partner in her husband.
40. Hollie uses music to help transform her mood, and survived an interstate move while her family coped with lice!
41. Heidi's family adheres to five week meal plans (my favorite tip of the whole series!) and admits that she loves working while under pressure.
42. Kristina struggled with postpartum mood disorders after her first of three daughters was born, but got treatment and went from surviving to thriving as a parent. Now she helps others do the same.
43. Meredith's daughter had a health scare that she got through by compartmentalizing and simply because she had to, and knows the only "right way" to do things is the way that works for you.
44. Vincent realized he was out of sync with his infant daughter and reduced his workload to accommodate both her needs and his own.
45. Jessica admits that her house can be a complete disaster, but she doesn't let it stress her out, and encourages her husband to take on more of the "invisible labor" in running a family.
46. Kate manages a chronic and progressive nerve disorder that can make everyday motions more of a challenge, but she works hard to take things one moment at a time.
47. Phyllis lives across the country from her extended family, so she's worked hard to create a community of friends that she can rely on like family.
48. Melanie took a year for an intense journey of self discovery to figure out a new career path now that her youngest child started kindergarten.
49. Diane realized her family tended to break down in the mornings, and that if TV during breakfast was the solution, she was going to embrace it!
50. Robin, whose family theme song is "Crazy Train," has learned it's important to be able to ask for help as well as accept that help in whatever form it comes in.

A HUGE thank you to all 51 Having It All Project participants. Thank you for opening up and sharing your lives with us all. Your words have inspired people more than you know, including me.

Relate to what the Having It All Project is saying? Leave it some love in the comments. Read other posts from The Having It All Project here. Want to participate? Send me an email at