Writing those hefty tax checks (federal, state, and estimated) always reminds me that nearly one-third of the year has already passed. Which is a handy time to reflect on how well I’m doing on New Year’s resolutions. I always have one easy goal and one biggie. Easy? Changing over from paper napkins to cloth at our house. Check! The biggie? Well, here’s how it started on SciLance in January:
Emily Gertz: I don’t do resolutions, but do sometimes think in thematic terms of “the year of…” Like, “the year of exercise,” “the year of money,” etc.
Emily Sohn: The goal I like the best is to aim to write just one story a year that I am passionate enough about to want to talk about with everyone I meet….I think I’ll stick with that goal each year for a while.
Michelle Nijhuis: I finally thought of what I want 2013 to be for me – the Year of Focus. I’m getting closer to being able to focus on the few projects I really want to do, and think will move me forward in some way….And of course my kiddo and I have more fun when I really focus on her during our time together (instead of, you know, daydreaming about the email I need to answer).
Me: Do you think it is possible for a freelancer to have the Year of Living in the Moment?
I spend way too much of my family time stressing about a deadline when I should be playing on the floor. Or on the flipside, sitting in front of my computer “at work,” I wonder what kind of party favors to get for
my daughter’s birthday. The Newtown tragedy had me thinking of that old adage: “No one ever got to the end of their life wishing they had worked more.”
OTOH–and it’s a big other hand–until very recently, I was hoping this would be the year I revived my career, which, after five years of part-time freelancing and part-time chasing two preschoolers, feels like it’s been on life-support.
Is the secret Focus, be focused at work and be focused at play? I find it very hard to switch between the two and leave the other realm behind completely.
I figured setting a resolution would at least keep it in the forefront of my mind. That same day I came across an interesting twist on work-life balance that led me to think I truly do have an ideal ratio of work-to-family time. Alas, my true weakness is focus.
Taking stock of my Year of Living in the Moment, I can report some success. I strive to limit work to my workday hours, which sometimes means my day stretches one hour longer. But when I pick the kids up from daycare,
we dance to Tom Jones or dogpile each other in the living room. I also try to move all family-related tasks out of my workdays–emails to swim coaches or picking up the dog’s prescription must wait until my “day off.”
In other ways, my attempt to keep work and family compartmentalized has utterly failed. Take all of February for example.
Each of us got the stomach flu, a few days in succession. My son scratched my cornea, legally blinding me for a week. Then my daughter got pink eye. A week later my son had pink eye. Another call from daycare: a rubber band had been shot at my daughter’s eye (I’m pretty sure we financed the optometrist’s new car that month). To wrap up, we all got the stomach flu again. I think I had two full uninterrupted workdays in February.
On some days, I salvaged a small part of my workday–I tackled tax preparations one day while my sick daughter slept. But mostly, instead of practical adjustments, I find I must make mental ones: This month, get everyone healthy. Next month, back to work.
And sometimes mixing family and work brings unexpected benefits. When I was invited to speak at a DC meeting in late March, I got a plane ticket for the trip, which made it an easy decision to take my kids east from Colorado to visit their Nana for Easter. The trip gave me a day to catch up face-to-face with several editors. It also meant writing a 1,200-word feature draft while at my mom’s house during our “family vacation.”
Is that a violation of my resolution? Maybe. But it’s also what the life of a freelancing parent looks like–juggling both sides, trying to keep everything in play, and minimizing collisions. In a chapter on work-life balance in our book, Robert Frederick (bio) says:
“I remember those early elementary-school experiences on the balance beam–balancing was active, not passive. It meant wobbling all the time, and sometimes I fell off.”
Balancing kids and career takes real work–trying out new approaches, being persistent, and sometimes overcorrecting, falling, and trying again.
If anyone has secrets to staying on the beam, please share your wisdom with us. Now, if only I had Gabby Douglas’ legs.