Roundtable: Can We Really Have It All?

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The Question

I am wondering how others in the Owning Pink community find the time to do/create all that they do/create. In a typical day, I am up before my family, doing cooking/cleaning/schoolwork checking/activity planning/mail and bills/correspondence/charity work/working out, and whatever else pops up (sick kid, orthodontic emergency, husband's work-related surprise). I do put sleeping at least 8 hours a night high on my priority list. That said, what am I doing/not doing that does not allow me the time to do any of what your friends and followers seem to find the time to do? (blogging, writing poetry, going to pole dancing classes, attending retreats, painting, writing, and so many other luxurious creative activities.)

It is a big question - one that every women's magazine and forum seems to constantly be answering by saying "you can do it all!" And I disagree. I even wrote to one magazine to lament the fact that their choices for "Creative women of the Year," who claimed to do things like host the national news, and raise fabulous children, and live in picture perfect homes, and have wonderful, romantic marriages and needlepoint had to be the result of full-time staff, not their own superhuman efforts.

Everyone has priorities, and I think what Owning Pink is trying to do is support whatever those priorities might be. So, if my "free" time is spent tutoring a foster child, instead of taking beautiful photographs, that's ok. I am being authentic in making that choice.

But I have help at home. Since the majority of women have almost no free time and no money to hire help, how do you address the truth that most women cannot be all the people they want to be because they barely even have time to get dinner on the table? I would so appreciate some insight. xoxo T

Lissa’s Answer

Every morning when I wake up, my monkey mind inevitably roams to the realms of my to-do list. I wake up, stretch, rub my eyes, then BOOM. The chatter begins. I’ll bet you can all relate. There is grocery shopping to do. Child care to deal with. Meetings, work, presentations, homework, whatever. And then there’s all your passions -- your creative dreams, your untouched projects, your sex life, your spiritual desires, your YOU time. You’ve barely just opened your eyes, and already, you’re feeling anxious.

My daily list usually includes writing for Owning Pink, checking email, tweeting on Twitter, paying attention to my daughter, cooking healthy meals, getting outside and exercising, catching up on Facebook, working on my next book, returning phone calls, and making time for sex with my husband. Two days a week, I see clients at the Owning Pink Center, and one day, I focus on administrative duties associated with the center. Sometimes, I paint for upcoming art shows, and sometimes I have networking meetings with women who are interested in co-creating for Owning Pink, as well as the editors / agents / publicists / sponsors /book tour promotion partners who are supporting the work I do. When I look at my list, it can be quite daunting.

One way I’ve learned to bring inner peace to my life is to recognize that I can’t possibly be Superwoman. I am flawed. I am human. If I expect to check off everything on my daily list, I will always let myself down. Who wants to feel like a failure every day? So I opt not to let that happen. Instead, when I think about my upcoming day, I consciously choose what I will let slide. Maybe on Monday, after I spent all weekend with my family, I will put my nose to the grindstone and neglect my daughter a bit. I will eat left-overs so I don’t have to cook. I will probably skip meditating (sadly, it’s too often the first one to go). I will focus on writing my book. I will try to go for a hike because I skipped it the last two days so I could spend time with my family. My husband and I might have a sex date, so I will stop work early enough to be present for him.

This way, at the end of the day, I have been mindful of what gets done and what doesn’t. Instead of kicking myself for not checking off everything on my list, I will pat myself on the back for doing the things I chose to do. I will celebrate being good enough, even though I let some things slide. I will honor myself for a job well done. I will remember that inner peace is more important than to-do lists and accomplishments.

There are some non-negotiables in my life. I sleep 7-8 hours per night. I exercise at least 4-5 times per week. I snuggle Siena every morning and read her a bedtime story every night, unless I’m out of town. But other things often slide. It’s always a juggling act, and achieving balance is the hardest thing I try to do.  Overall, I admit I’ve learned to do it pretty well. 

What’s the secret to my success? Two things. First, I have help. My husband is a stay-home Daddy who helps me runs my business and is truly the wind beneath my wings. I also have six people on the Owning Pink staff who have got my back, in addition to a web coder, a graphic designer, and some other consultants who help out when my team can’t handle something. I am NOT doing all this alone.

The second secret is that I’ve let go of being perfect. My house is a mess, I buy store-bought cupcakes, things fall through the cracks, and I’m a Type B parent. If I felt the need to keep up appearances and be the perfect mother / housekeeper / entertainer, etc, I couldn’t do what I do. We live in a state of happy chaos, but it’s definitely chaos, not the kind of orderly balance you reference in the women’s magazine article. And I’m the first to happily admit this to people. If you visit my house, you’ll see what I mean.

I know it’s hard to follow your dreams and achieve balance when you’re being pulled in a bazillion different directions. And I know that truly Owning Pink -- owning all the facets of what makes you whole -- is, for many, a luxury. Clearly, this website is not targeted at the poverty-stricken women of the developing world. When your energy is focused on survival -- finding food and clean water for yourself and your family, avoiding rape, escaping bombs, and battling life-threatening disease, it’s almost impossible to pursue your dreams, express yourself creatively, and nurture yourself wholly.

So yes, Owning Pink seeks to help fight the diseases of the developed world -- the loneliness, regret, disconnection, depression, materialism, joblessness, stress, divorce, betrayal, addiction, greed, anger, hatred, and fear. We’re not here to make anyone feel inadequate, overwhelmed, or disappointed. We’re here to ask people, “Do you feel content with the life you're living?” If so, then YES! Your life is as it should be.

I guess Owning Pink is largely aimed at those who have that niggling discontent that tells them there's more to life than the one they're living. It's an invitation -- permission even -- to blaze forth, pink lights blaring, into the life they really wish to live. Some may see that as selfish -- and that's okay. And it's true that Owning Pink isn't for everyone. It's okay to pull back if the message doesn’t resonate with you.

But I'd love to invite you to ask yourself the question "What's missing from your life?" This is not an attempt to get you to focus on the lack, rather than the gratitude. Rather, it's meant to help you focus on areas in your life that might need work in order for you to be rocking with mojo. I routinely ask my patients this question, and it's remarkable what comes up. Discovering the answer to the question doesn't require immediate action. It doesn't necessarily require any action at all. But it does require awareness.

What do you most desire? What would make you giddy with glee? What makes you giggle to your toes? These are good things to know, even if you don't pursue them. Some people are afraid to ask those questions because to realize what they desire and then not be able to have what they want could be painful. But how can we ever have what we want if we don't know what we want? Stating our desires and intentions has to be the first step.

We each must walk our path at our own pace. Mine got catapulted into fast forward when Dad died. For some, it takes crisis. Others can do it without. Some never even find their path.

I could write forever about this...but I'll stop now. Suffice it to say that I love you, and I support you no matter how you choose to lead your life. I know that you will know better than anyone else how to make choices about what matters for you.

-- Lissa

Lakenda’s Answer

I agree with "T" -- we can't have it all. There are too many constraints on our time to do everything we want to do without guilt, children screaming for attention, and looming deadlines. However, we can set our priorities to make time for the things that matter to us. These need to be scheduled priorities because these wanted tasks feed us, allowing us the bandwidth to get everything else done.

For me, creating is a nurturing activity, like meditation. It feeds me. I make time where there is time. I meditate in the shower — two birds, one block of time. I create with my kids so we are all involved and again, two birds, one activity. That way, my girls learn about making vision boards or mixing paint colors, while I have an opportunity to do my own artwork.

Writing is a harder task to find time for. I need uninterrupted blocks of time and quiet, so my fingers can keep up with everything trying to make its way from my head to the page. Sometimes I schedule blocks with my girls. "Mommy is writing now, so you guys can watch TV. Don't knock on the door unless you really need me." But I am also lucky because I share my children with my ex. So sometimes I wait until they are at Daddy's house so I can have the space to allow myself to write whatever I want.

Still, timing being what it is, I do this maybe once every other week. The important piece is recognizing that self-care is as important as caring for everyone else you love. If you don't schedule the time to allow yourself to express who you are and how you are feeling, it may express itself in ways that are completely unhelpful. Journaling resentments often helps you come to terms with them before you blow up at a child or spouse. Scheduling the opportunity to express hopes and dreams and fears gives you more clarity on the tangled ball of emotions within. And once expressed and understood — even just on the page — you have more space and tools to tackle the rest of everyday life on your to-do list.

-- Lakenda

Dana’s Answer

I work about 75% to full time, mostly from my home office, but I also have client and volunteer meetings on site about 10-15 hours a week. I sleep about 7 hours a night during the week and 8-9 on weekends. I'm on two boards of directors. I have two teenage sons and a working husband. I also write blogs, meditate for 30-60 minutes 4 times a week, workout 2-3 times a week, make jewelry, and carve time into my schedule to entertain and see good friends as frequently as I can.

I have a housekeeper who comes once a month (which is my only outside help). I work hard to make time for everything that feeds my soul and takes care of my family and "life obligations". It all starts with setting priorities and then letting things go. It's a constant shift and evolution, but here is what my two lists look like right now:

Priorities that I always make time for (in no particular order):

  • meditation
  • family dinner about twice a week (I don't always have to cook it)
  • chat with kids when they are in proximity and interested in chatting
  • client obligations (I deliver everything I promise)
  • board meetings
  • house and family necessities (groceries, home repair, technology repair, weeding when reaching disastrous proportions, putting gas in car, taking kids to the doctor. etc.)
  • consulting with kids on college applications, schedule challenges
  • exercising when not traveling or dealing with early morning meetings
  • sex with hubby (when we can find time for it)
  • "friends" - coffee, IM chats, email exchange
  • my own laundry (everyone is in charge of their own)
  • coordinating dinner (we trade off in making it depending on who's home and who has time; we also graze a lot)

Stuff I let go of (if it's convenient, great; if not, I don't sweat it but wait or a time when I can do it):

  • a totally clean house or completely landscaped yard
  • making jewelry/jewelry shows
  • a weekly blog post
  • creative writing/poetry
  • reading books (of any kind)
  • bookkeeping (I'd like a very part time assistant, but haven't managed to find one yet)
  • parties and entertaining (except for "pot lucks", which always work great)
  • going to movies, art openings, theater etc.
  • more extensive travel
  • my websites
  • baths and personal spa times
  • wardrobe obsessions/shopping
  • TV (never watch it except for a half hour comedy with family about once a week for bonding time)
  • internet surfing

I'm sure there's other stuff on both lists and this list changes and morphs (e.g., meditation and exercise used to be on the bottom, but over time I've realized the benefit of them and moved them up). It's all a process and has to be actively managed day-to-day. When I'm clear on my priorities I manage to get in enough of the things that matter to me so I stay sane. Some weeks I miss things and have to make an effort to get them back on the schedule when craziness recedes a bit (e.g., travel and exercise are in constant tradeoff). I "work" off and on all day every day, 7 days a week and take my breaks in between and around my obligations and commitments. It took me a while, but I often take my breaks (personal time) during the workday when the kids are at school and then do my billable work after dinner when the kids are doing homework and hubby is playing guitar. Once I gave up the idea that evenings and weekends were "off time" I was able to fit it all in. The 40 hour, M-F work week just doesn't work for me.

-- Dana

What about the rest of you? What do you think about what "T" asked? Do you feel the same way? Does Owning Pink inspire you or frustrate you? Do you feel like trying to OWN all the facets of what makes you whole is simply impossible? Is it selfish? Or is it the path to true joy, life force, and mojo? Be honest! We want to know what you think.


Dr. Lissa Rankin is an OB/GYN physician, an author, a nationally-represented professional artist, and the founder of Owning Pink, an online community committed to building authentic community and empowering women to get- and keep- their "mojo". Owning Pink is all about owning all the facets of what makes you whole- your health, your sexuality, your spirituality, your creativity, your career, your relationships, the planet, and YOU. Dr. Rankin is currently redefining women’s health at the Owning Pink Center, her practice in Mill Valley, California. She is the author of the forthcoming What's Up Down There? Questions You'd Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend (St. Martin's Press, September 2010).

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