Thursday, March 8, 2012

BLOG CARNIVAL - How I Get It All Done (and Am Fabulous)

Happy International Women's Day! This post answers the call of the wonderful Blog Carnival Hostess With the Mostess - @feMOMhist.

Listen up youngish (or oldish) women, here's where I inspire you to decide for yourselves what you want out of life and encourage you to believe you can have it.

Here's my recipe for work/marriage/parenting/living life fabulously. I've got 6 touchstones about that, then I'll share my day to day logistics (I think ours are probably pretty rare for Americans today).

Who Am I? Four years ago, I was a former academic turned VP at a BigName company making bank. Then I got pregnant, and had a nice long mat leave, came back, and was at the lowest point of my life ever, my marriage sucked, I had no social life, I was out of shape, and I had an epiphany. When my first child was 8 months old, one day I just knew I had to leave BigName because I had to travel all the time and I never saw my baby or my husband. (No really, I never saw my baby or my husband.) And though it paid quite well, I didn't love the work and how it drained all my time and energy. I felt trapped by the hours the job required.

We solved the problem in an odd way - by moving far away to a much smaller town where we could pursue our passion for skiing, spend more time as a family, and get the hell out of the stressful BigCity corporate rat race. It was the right decision. People thought we were nuts for leaving. There were haters, but the haters were wrong. (In fact, one hater still living our old life came to visit us recently and confessed that he envies our current life.) Best decision ever, second only to marrying DH.

Now I'm the owner of 2 profitable businesses (providing almost as much income as I made at BigName - quel surprise), the mother of two kids, ages 4 and 2, and the wife to Mr. Perfect who works one 9-5ish M-F job where he's the owner and the boss, but unlike most Americans he has 12 weeks of vacation. We ski a lot because now the mountain is only 30 minutes from our door. We are happy.

My Six Touchstones for how I manage to get it all done:

1. Marry Well or Not At All - Doubt means don't. I've seen too many careers derailed because someone married an asshole, and then had to deal with more weird passive aggressive shizz than could fill an entire episode of shitty Dr. Phil. My husband rocks, and does more around the house than I do. We have had rough patches in our marriage due to kid stress, but we've worked though them. (Thank you Harville Hendrix and John Gottman, et. al.) We schedule the time for dates and having fun and sex together - I guess that's our secret. My old male mentor once advised me, "If you and your equally ambitious spouse want to run with the big dogs, carry the leash in your mouth, and have children - live near the office, get the help you need on childcare, and you will have more flexible time and more total time to spend with your children." Amen!

2. Be Ferociously Organized - this is a personality thing, I think. I came out of my mama's womb knowing how to organize, write everything down, and remember the details. I'm a planner by nature, and I'm excellent at time management. If you're not, may I suggest "Getting Things Done" is a cult book for a reason.

3. Know When To Let Shit Go - Our home life is at times a controlled chaos. It will never be camera-ready 100% of the time when our kids are little. There is often a dog turd lurking somewhere. We just roll with it. We still have people over once a week. This provides the incentive we need to tidy up. I let go of the need to have a perfectly manicured home. It is at a Good Enough level of clean most days.

4. Show Them The A.F.C. = Actual Fucking Cash. That's how you get promoted in a company or survive as a business owner. You have to produce revenue. You have to convince the people with P&L responsibility that you're the reason for all of the A.F.C. coming in to your area, so therefore you're valuable and deserve more. People seem to forget that. As Tina Fey said "Everyone is your competition." Learn how to compete. Once you consistently show them the A.F.C. then you'll free to do more of what you want to do, such as showing up to work at 10am, or being a royal beeyatch when the mood strikes. Read "Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office" if you want a shitty-titled but accurate how-to.

5. Pay A Professional - Delegate. Outsource. We have a gardener. We have a handy person who comes quarterly to tackle our running list of things I can't fix in 5 minutes time. We would have a housekeeper if we could find one locally who could actually complete the job right. (Still searching). We have 2 regular babysitters. We would use daycare, which is more reliable, but there are no good daycares where we live. It saves us time to have the sitters come to our home and let themselves in. Our regular daytime sitter also does light housework. We pay her well and worship the ground she walks on.

6. You Make Time For Things That Are Important to You - I need me time. I need to ski a lot. I need time to go see a movie in the middle of the day if I feel like it. I need local friends. I need our dinner group, our wine group, and my two book clubs. Even though they're often not perfect, they're working for me now. Life is too short to let your time get away from you. So I re-arranged my life so that we have the kind of time for these pursuits. I don't have to go to an office everyday. We have no real commute. We have plenty of vacation time. In a few years we'll take the kids out of school for weeks on end and go on a big international trip. These tradeoffs make living in Podunkville worth it.

Now, our day to day logistics.

Most Weekdays:
I wake up at 5am, work out, and shower. Start working at my computer at 6am.
Kids wake up at 7:15am or later. I eat breakfast with the kids. Spanish-speaking Babysitter arrives at 7:30am. DH takes DS to Bilingual Montessori.

I work at home from 8am-3:30pm. I can come and go as I please, and run errands or have me time if it's a slow work day. Either DH or I will pick DS up from Montessori and noon and meet up for lunch. Babysitter leaves at 3:30pm.

I play with my kids from 3:30-6pm. But if I didn't finish my work (happens very rarely), and it's winter, I'll take them to the local McDonald's with a play area and I'll work on my laptop. If the weather is good though, I'll send them out in the backyard to play. Or put on a movie for the kids if that fails.

One day a week DS has karate from 4-4:45pm - DH often takes him. DH comes home anywhere from 4-6. DH cooks dinner every night. We sit down together as a family and have a routine of each taking a turn talking about our day. Even the 2-year-old, which is hilarious. I do the dishes while he plays with kids.

At 7:30ish we start the bedtime story routine. If DD has not napped at all, they'll both be asleep by 8:30pm. DH and I have sex and/or read and watch TV in bed. I do one last work email check to make sure I have no fires to put out. We're all asleep by 9:30-10pm.

Weekday Exceptions:
I'm home all day with the kids one day a week (DS is at half day Montessori, and I attend morning co-op preschool with DD).

If it is Thanksgiving-Easter I'm skiing one day a week with DH, while our sitter cares for our kids at home.

We have Date Night one weeknight a week, and we have a regular sitter come from 5-9:30pm.

DH and I are also in book clubs and on local boards that might meet the occasional M, T, or Th night every 6 weeks, so we roll with that.

Most Weekends:
We have Date Night every Saturday from 5-10pm, when we sometimes meet with our Dinner Group of 3 other couples, or our Wine Group of 4 other couples. Regular sitter watches the kids.

Sunday am is ski school for DS, so DH and I get a half day of skiing in, while a sitter watches DD. We could take her skiing with us if the sitter calls in sick, but it is a lot more fun to ski sans kids. She'll start ski school when she's 4. Eventually we'll all have blissful, full days of skiing.

Other than that, we don't have much scheduled on the weekends. And we like it that way!

What works well about our daily logistics:
We don't have our kids in activities that take up much time. There's skiing (which we also get to do while DS is doing it), spanish (in our home), karate. They don't have a choice at this age. Swimming happens during the summer when karate is over. Very rarely we'll do a one-off soccer or art camp that is short and ends soon. Our daytime babysitter teaches them Spanish, and she tidies up the house - lots of drive time saved there. It might start to suck when they're older and ask to do more activities. To which we'll start off saying no...

We are not bound to an office schedule. I work from home. DH works out of an office but is an owner and sets his own hours. We can take vacation pretty much whenever, but we will lose some income. Living in a small town, there's no traffic, and no commute stress. Win-win-win-lose as to the lack of ethnic food.

There you have it. Thanks for reading! Feel free to share yours.


Anandi said...

Love the touchstones. And the advice your old mentor gave you is awesome.

ITA about limiting kid activities. I'm still working on that but much better than I was when she was new :)

NK: Style-ING w/ Children said...

thank you thank you. I'm all for limiting activities. DD is in an art/montessori daycare and her works are sometimes included in exhibitions. She's just over 2.5. The daycare has asked if we wanted to pursue her artistic talents further. And I'm very much inclined to say no, because I really do not feel that this would benefit her in any way shape or form. Doing art at her age is great, but anything beyond that is not for us as a family. Hope that doesn't make us bad parents.

I very much like your setup! :) I too agree that if there are two ppl working, paid help is a must.

I'm sending DH the link to your post :)

Got It, Ma! said...

Yes, yes, and yes! It irks me beyond belief when people say, "You're so lucky your husband [fill in the blank with cooks, cleans, engages with the kids, etc.]. How is it lucky or remarkable even for a partner to act like a partner? My husband rocks for so many reasons, but do his fair share around the house and with the kids should not earn him a medal unless it earns me one, too. Luck has nothing to do with it. I chose well.

I will say, with kids age 7 and 10, the activities get harder to avoid. We keep it to a sensible amount of stuff and some weeks it still kicks my ass. I haven't solved that one yet. Stress management is part tangible and part mental. On the tangible side, I'm hiring a new cleaning person after being without one for a year. It makes such a huge difference in my happiness. If I'm ever going to finish this novel I'm writing I need somebody else to remove the distraction of dust rhinos and gross toilets, one of the great drawbacks of working at home. I will always put off writing to clean because mess and clutter are huge distractions for me.

Less tangible stress relief for me means trying to get to that Zen Mommy place where I actually experience how lucky I am to a) be able to give my kids the experiences they love, and b) have the time to sit and watch them do amazing stuff and grow and develop literally in front of my eyes. I get lost in the after school/weekend insanity pressure cooker sometimes, but if I can stop and breathe and appreciate it makes a difference. It's not forever. Sometime I will have a lot more time to myself. And that will be great, but I will miss them, too.

Thanks for sharing your strategies. Sounds like you guys have built a great life together.

nicoleandmaggie said...

My grandma (and mother) always said the way to be a successful professional was to hire good help.

mom2boy said...

You are way awesome! Building a life around personal priorities is my favorite of the touchstones. I like all of them really. Put together it's a great blueprint for having it all and enjoying it.

I had no idea y'all were so busy during the week and take a full on date night once a weekend. I'm going to do some reassessing of my own adult/child included time within our family. Taking me time and adult time without looking back is something I need to do more of even now that Tate is older and easier to leave with someone else.

Thanks for the peek behind the curtain!

Jac. said...

Awesome Hush! My favorites are Marry Well or Not at All and show them the A.F.C. Around my neck of the woods, we call it having F.U. money - as in F.U., you can't talk to me that way or I'll take my awesome book of business elsewhere. Or F. U., you don't want to give me what I want, I'll be taking my productive ass over here to this person willing to give me that or more. Producing the revenue is really where it is at.

My DH rocks self-employment. I just signed us up for because we are gearing up to start doing some major travelling and am thinking that home exchanges will really help us do the longer trips (i.e. month+).

feMOMhist said...

cracking up that you put when you find time to have sex in there. As our kids stay up later and later that is posing quite the challenge.

GMP said...

Awesome post! Can I haz your life? It sounds wonderful, and I don't even ski!

Cloud said...

OK, now I'm dying to know what your businesses are!

This is a great post. I love that you and your husband have made the life you want. That is just awesome. We're working towards that here. We're not that far off- i.e., we rather like the life we have now- but there are some changes we'd like to make. Having kids and bills just makes it a little trickier to make them. But we'll get there!

paola said...

Your post has brought home to me just how far off we (I) are to having the life we (I) want. I speak for hubby to as I know he feels the same. Emigration does that to you.

Slowly things are moving for us. I have just found work that fits in with the kids schedule and holidays and is literally across the road, so zero travel time . It keeps me happy, because quite frankly I do like working and the extra money is always welcome. Friends are harder to come by. Not that easy starting from scratch, seeing I am not an extrovert.

zenmoo said...

I am so fucking jealous of the amount of skiing you get to do! (This jealousy is probably accentuated by the fact it's going to be 100F+ here AGAIN today. Weather, it is autumn. Cool the eff down already. And also the fact that my husbands family are planning a skiing holiday to Japan for Christmas this year - when I hope to be pregnant. I can't decide if I kind of hope *not* to get pregnant so we can go or if that is a really bad reason to delay trying to get pregnant given my medical history!)

Seriously though - when I met my husband, he told me his ambition was to be a family doctor in Wanaka (a NZ ski town). At the time, I was all "whatever" as I hadn't been to Wanaka and I'd never skied. Then I learned how to ski and we went to Wanaka (stunning) - and I very seriously told him, if that was what he wanted to do - I was with him. In the end, he decided he wanted to specialise, which takes living in ski towns out of the equation (but brings the potential for regular ski holidays into the equation).

In any case, if you're planning a big international holiday with kids in a few years, consider Botswana/Namibia/South Africa. Amazing countries, totally kid-friendly in terms of activities and surprisingly easy to travel in (if you're a crazy-brave driver). We did 7 weeks through the area on our honeymoon & I'd love travel to the area again with school aged kids - animals, social history, awesome scenery...

hush said...

@Anandi - My old mentor rocked. He cared and he told it like it is. ;)

@NK - Of course it doesn't make you "bad parents" - the family's priorities have to come first, that makes you smart parents! ;)

@Got It, Ma! - "Luck has nothing to do with it. I chose well." AMEN!! "It's not forever. Sometime I will have a lot more time to myself." Double Amen!!

@nicoleandmaggie - True dat.

@mom2boy - Thank you! Date night is an absolute must. Our marriage goes to shit without enough couple time. Do it and don't look back!! ;)

@Jac - F U money!!! YES!! home sounds awesome.

@feMOMhist - I'm all about the sex. It's laughable how essential it is to my happiness.

@GMP - Thank you!!

@Cloud - Our businesses bore just about everyone except us. Yes, making changes is hard but well worth it in the end.

@Paola - Zero travel time is so awesome. The friends bit will come along, you just have to keep putting yourself out there even though it sucks for us introverts.

@Zenmoo - Wanaka sounds like a great place to visit! I will definitely consider Botswana/Namibia/S. Africa in a few years, thanks!!