Do you feel unsuccessful?

I’m mothering an almost 3 year old.  And a first grader.
I’m working to recover from a now-12-months-old tailbone injury and get strong enough to run again.
I mediate twice a day… On a good day.  
I’m an auntie to 12 nieces and nephews, including - since October 30 - one who lives here in Seattle!
A sister.  A daughter.
Blessedly, at 41, still a granddaughter.
A discipline-free yogini.
A whole-foods cook (and sometimes procurer of delightful junk my kids love).

Oh, and I run a business.

I have, on average, 15 hours a week of solitude in which to run my business.
Every few weeks, I’ll complete a project on a weekend or after the kids are in bed.  But - have I mentioned this? - I also dedicate a lot of space and attention to staying deeply connected to my husband.  And as I’ve learned the hard way and perhaps you know, too:  computers after dark are vicious libido-killers.

My work time is pretty tight.

Cough, “Understatement!”
And then things happen.
A child is sick and needs to stay home from school.
Our nanny has a baby (yaay!) (that’s going going on any MINUTE now, and her mat leave started last week!).
There’s a holiday that only bankers and the government recognize as an excuse to close up shop.
In every. Single. One. of those instances, the allocation of finite resources in our family goes like this:
  • My husband Kurt has a fixed (if generous) number of vacation/personal time off days.
  • I do not.
  • Theoretically, I can work “anytime.”
So we use my “time off” rather than his to close the gaps.
None of which is a complaint.  I’m writing about it because it took me so blessed long to understand why I was feeling so stretched, so “bad” at time management, so Sisyphean in my efforts to set goals, stick to my timeframes, and cross them off as planned.  I DO finish things, but my projects are profoundly vulnerable to my family life.
Whether your family includes children as mine does, or simply dogs or a goldfish or the occasional refrigerator repair technician, if you are self-employed and your partner has a job, your situation almost certainly parallels mine.
You will be the one to stay home for the whoever to show up between whenever and whenever.  You will be the one to cut your day short when there’s “early dismissal.” The one to take whatever creature it is you love to the doctor.  Pretty much every time.  And that means, pretty often.
This is not unfair.  It is not your partner taking you for granted.  It may well be, as it is at our house, the best allocation of family resources.

But it will suck time and energy away from your business.  A lot.

I want you to prize the flexibility your self-employment gives you and grieve the cost such flexibility exacts from you, personally.

I do not want you to beat yourself up as a result of:

  • Thinking you should get more done than you do, even though you get pulled away by your family's other priorities
  • Comparing yourself and your achievements to others who may devote several-fold more hours to work than you do, because they have a partner who absorbs these kinds of frequent contingencies, because they delegate many of these tasks to staff, or because they do not divide their loyalties between business and other things they care about.
  • Neglecting, as I did for several years after my daughter was born (ahem.. 3 years ago) to understand that new commitments outside work must either be matched with a commensurate reduction in your work commitments OR exert a toll that will be deducted from your own well-being in concrete and measurable ways.  Like unintended weight gained or lost.  Aches, pains, fatigue.  Irritability.  ...I don't want you to wonder why you're grumpy and feeling unhealthy and ungrateful for a life you actually love in a lot of ways.

I did all that.  And I've walked it through.  What's sweetest now is feeling the right-size-ness of my business.  The way She fits into my life among my other priorities.  The way I've designed (and refined, and redesigned again!) Her to be ready for the vagaries of my beautiful, wild, kid-filled, my-own-mom-visiting life.

I scaled my expectations of myself down.

I cut expenses I didn't need (even some that I felt like I SHOULD have, if I was a bona fide business owner or fabulous woman) as much as I need the flexibility to love my business AND love my family. And I've -- my dearest business confidantes would say, FINALLY -- settled down into this phase of life I'm in, this fleeting magnificent chapter where my babes need so much of me and I get to do the things with them I know I'll miss for all the years I live after they're gone.

This period has so many challenges, so many demands, so many draining moments where I have to be the prevailing limbic system even though the urge is so strong to throw my OWN tantrum... But it is MY chapter.

It is my NOW.  And I am NOT a failure because the other things I value conscribe my business into a smaller circle than it would, in its abstract theoretical potential, occupy.

I am a success because I am working every day to fit and re-fit the pieces of my life into one whole in which I can live and thrive - not without struggle, but turned on by every stroke that comes my way.