we all can grow in tandem

In yoga, intructors often remind us that we’re ony competing against ourselves. We’re told over and over again to ignore others in the room and focus only on our own practice. And it’s an easy enough thing to embrace this in yoga — because we are independently struggling to not faceplant into another person — but harder to sustain in other parts of life.

This is how real growth takes place though: when we intentionally wear spandex.

Awkward pause…

Kidding. It happens when we focus on our own progress, devoid of comparison to outside influences. If we start to base success on a comparison to others, we put ourselves at a disadvantage (in yoga, this is when you fall over). But when we stay focused and support others’ success, we all can grow in tandem.

It’s a lesson you learn in any introductory business class — how supporting your competition strengthens your market niche. When others in your sector succeed, it also positions you for success. But when you strive to be the only player in a space, you isolate the demand for your services and limit your growth potential.

There’s certainly a need to differentiate your product and offer something unique, but it doesn’t need to come at the expense of eliminating others. I can name my favorite provider in any market from airlines to donuts, but I can’t think of a thriving industry where only one player is successful.

Your toughest competition usually isn’t among those doing something very similar to you, but in those who threaten your operation through something you can’t deliver. If I’m an average grocery store, I don’t need to be threatened by other stores like me. Should I watch them and monitor their performance? Absolutely. But I should pay closer attention to stores poised to offer things in a different way at a more competitive price point (here’s looking at you, Costco). There are enough people who need groceries for all of these entities to exist when operated efficiently, but generally speaking, competition fuels innovation and growth for everyone.

It’s this way in our personal lives, too. When we fixate on others and try to “surpass” them we gain nothing but a false sense of validation. It never ends. It’s freeing to recognize that there’s no limit to the good things that can occur around us, and we grow the most when we learn to celebrate all of it instead of just our own.

The Day I was Yelled at in the Doctor’s Office

I had a doctor’s appointment on Wednesday and arrived a half hour early, as instructed. I filled out forms, provided my insurance information and then I waited, and waited. I’ve spent plenty of time waiting for medical appointments, and typically I don’t mind this unqualified alone time. Have smartphone, will travel.

But on Wednesday I had a lot to do at work, so I was stressed to be away from the office, particularly because it meant I would be staying late, and missing time with baby in the short but oh-so-sweet window between daycare and bedtime. Being a working mom is good, most of the time, but when things interfere with that precious window of quality time, ain’t nobody happy.

After waiting nearly an hour, I went outside to make a work call, asking the staff to grab me when they were ready. So naturally, right in the midst of an intense conversation, I got summoned back in. I was trying to wrap up my call and make mental notes of what I had to do, while stepping on and off the scale and hurrying after a medical assistant.

She showed me to a room and excused herself. Not 30 seconds later she poked her head back in, and when she saw I was still on the phone, promptly shouted at me that she was trying to do her job and I had to get off the phone RIGHT NOW. I don’t do well when people yell at me (…does anyone?), and I was so taken aback, overwhelmed and just tired that she might as well have smacked me in the face.

The irony in this situation that I was also just trying to do my job.

When I shared the experience with my colleagues they asked what I did; if I yelled back. I didn’t – not my style. I was sweating and holding back tears in Introvert Hell after being publicly scolded.

I mean, sure, I had visions of telling her that the jerk store called and was running out of her, but I recognized that I was likely engaging in one of her pet peeves, that she might be having an awful day or enduring hardships I know nothing about. The office delays had nothing to do with either of us, but probably meant that she would be working late and missing time with her family, too. I decided to assume positive intent. Not to excuse her behavior – but because I was still responsible for my own.

Looking back, I wish I’d taken a minute to apologize to her and explain that we were navigating similar circumstances. We probably could have laughed about it. Hugged it out.

Maybe next time.

 

The balancing act 

I think balance is the name of the game I struggle with the most in life. I tend to be a lover of structure — not in the sense of having a spotless home or color-coded calendar — but in terms of how I seek to understand things. If X is right, then Y is wrong. I’m open minded on most issues, but setting parameters in my own life helps me feel like I know what I need to do to succeed. 

Take money for example. I’m a saver, through and through. I’m not over the top (although my husband might disagree), but I worry about financial stability a great deal. Despite the fact that we are in great shape and blessed with a comfortable lifestyle. Despite the fact that we have lots of savings as a cushion. Despite the fact that friends and family would undoubtedly help us out if we needed it in an emergency. I know ALL these things, but sometimes it’s hard to treat myself to a nice haircut or new clothes, because there are more responsible things to do with the money. 

I’m expertly skilled at defying logic to find ways to worry. This comes into play with my health, too. I work out almost everyday and make healthy food choices the majority of the time. Yet when I see someone ordering a salad when I got a burger, I will often question my decision. 

It’s enough to drive you mad, the “shoulds” and the analyzing. Especially because I’ve seen what happens when people fall too far to one side of a behavior. They miss out on trips with friends because they can’t rationalize spending the money; they keep their houses uncomfortably hot in summer to save on the utility bill, they never see anyone because they are always working; they never order what they really want on the menu because of what the nutritional content  is, or they spend endless time in the treadmill that could be dedicated to family. 

Everyone has their own challenges and quirky “things,” and we must be respectful of and embrace these in others, but we also must reach out when we see someone we love losing balance. Because life really is too short to focus on the wrong things. It’s a tried and true cliche, but if you consider what someone on their deathbed* (*what the hell is a deathbed, anyway? Sounds awful) might offer up as advice, it won’t be to spend more time at work or running laps, it would likely be to fill your days with the things and people you love.

I’ve lost friends suddenly –  lives cut short so unfairly and unexpectedly – and when I find myself struggling with balance I think of them, and what they’d urge me to do. Which is exactly why I just went and got a pedicure instead of catching up on work, going for a run or doing laundry. 

  

 

“I know what you just discovered, are you ok?”

She doesn’t tell me what she knows I’m going to discover on my own, but she pops up at the right moment to say, “I know what you just discovered, are you ok?” –Nancy Dubuc

Nancy’s quote from her recent NYT interview describes her relationship with her predecessor as CEO at A&E. It’s a art — being there without hovering — and I ‘d never heard it articulated this way. I relate to this on so many ways; as a mother, daughter, wife, friend, professional, etc. I’m constantly trying to insert and remove myself.

No matter how you slice it, lots of things matter in relationships. And sometimes the tone, timing, or nature of an interaction matters more than the frequency. More often than not, the best people to surround yourself with are the ones who decline to dictate a precise course to follow, or weigh in with strong opinions, but instead find ways make you feel safe through subtle interactions.

5 truths on a Friday evening 

1. There is a giant spaghetti squash rotting on the kitchen counter that I’m too lazy to carry outside to the trash. Jim offered to last week but I stubbornly declared “it’s not that bad,” and demanded he leave it. Joke’s on me.

2. I ate a large bowl of Minute Rice for dinner. Partially because I didn’t feel great this week, but mostly because it was the fastest way to get carbs in my mouth.

3. Every time I read the dosage instructions on the baby’s teething tablets I laugh because it claims they are designed to “alleviate symptoms of wakeful irritability.” Uh…every person I know has that. Should we all be taking teething tablets?

4.  I admittedly don’t like Scandal anymore, but I absolutely will not stop watching it because I still want Vermont and jam to happen. 

5. I have never made a March Madness bracket*

*ducks to avoid being smacked with a rotten tomato.

working moms: the only perfect solution is whatever works for you

Over the past few weeks, a few friends have asked for tips on transitioning back to work after maternity leave. I don’t pretend to be an expert on this (that’s a comical idea, actually), but having gone through it so recently I figured I could share what I’ve learned.

Truthfully, I dreaded going back to work before Lila was even born. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go back; I did. I love my career. But all the unknowns scared the pants off of me.

Don’t get me wrong–there were plenty of days where sitting in meetings seemed like a luxurious alternative to enduring the screams of a colicky baby–but it’s really tough to part with this precious extension of yourself that’s so tiny and vulnerable.

Around three months was when I finally got into a bit of a routine and started getting some sleep (read: I could leave the house with the baby and neither of us wound up sobbing). My new normal centered around spending my days and my nights with an infant, and as the countdown kicked in, I doubted my ability to even have an adult conversation — let alone make business decisions.

All that being said, the transition has been a smooth one. Not a walk in the park, but it’s been good. Really. There’s this societal expectation that all women secretly hate leaving their babies and only work out of necessity, and that just isn’t true.

I know that right now this is what I am supposed to be doing. I’m also open to whatever might feel right and make sense down the road.

There are days that I feel like crap for working and am jealous of her teachers, and I’ll question what I’m doing. But that’s ok, and it’s not the norm. Most days I genuinely value the opportunity to be a role model for her and show her what women can achieve. I’m thankful for a job that lets me grow and learn, surrounded by good people, and for the ways my income supports our family. I appreciate that she’s gaining early socialization, a toughened immune system and loving attention and activities I would never attempt at home (hats off to the brave souls who supervise infant painting).

I don’t have all the answers and I’m convinced there’s no perfect solution to being a working mom, at least not until America decides to get with the times and give moms appropriate support. So don’t strive for perfection, because it’s only an illusion. Just work on figuring out whatever solution is perfect for YOU. Whether you work in a cubicle, on the road or from your kitchen table, there will always be struggles and questioning, this I can promise you, but it can be great. And if you choose not to work outside of the labors of motherhood, which is a 24/7+ gig in itself, that’s wonderful too. Your babies are blessed to have you full time. But never go into a situation expecting to be miserable. Always give yourself a chance to adjust and to like the way things are.

Here are a few tips, mostly courtesy of sweet friends who walked this road before I did:

1. Choose childcare you LOVE. Not one that you like, or that is a better price, but one you think is the damn cat’s meow. Our daycare is pretty amazing and I credit this as the single biggest factor in having a pleasant transition back to work. Considering these folks see my child more than I do and charge us a second mortgage payment, I knew I had to love it there. They send photos all day, are flexible to each baby’s needs and schedule and genuinely love them. There’s crazy-intense security and amazing support for parents. Total win.

2. Don’t start daycare cold turkey. If you can, start taking your baby in for a few half days or every other day for a week or two before your official return to work. This lets you both adjust to spending time apart and makes the process so much less stressful. Also, see if your first day back at work can be a Wednesday or Thursday so you don’t spend a whole week apart at the get-go.

3. Divide and conquer baby tasks. Until Jim and I worked out who made bottles, who washed bottles, who packed diapers, who set aside clothes, etc., I tended to get resentful and overwhelmed. Once we figured out what tasks needed to be done each night and each morning, and what made the most sense for each of us to tackle, things were way easier. Pro tip: do as much the night before as possible, even just putting things in the car. I put my work laptop bag back in the car every night because it means one less trip in the morning when we’re inevitably running late.

4. Find working mom friends. Let me be specific here: wherever you work, find other moms who choose to work, and enjoy it. They will be an incredible support and give the best advice. They’ll get it when you have a bad day, feel mom-guilt or have to tend to a sick kiddo. They will let you vent about being t-i-r-e-d. I really value having working mom buds both in the office and all across the country via email to keep me sane and support me.

5. Give yourself grace. Please, just yes. Because no one is perfect and no situation is perfect, but you will do the best you can and it will be enough. You will be awesome and your baby will be great and it will all be ok, I PROMISE.

6. Accept that it sucks when your baby is sick. You will feel torn and guilty about not being everything to everyone and it’s normal. It also passes before you know it, so hang in there.

7. Learn to smile and discreetly zone out when people offer unsolicited advice. They mean well. I use these opportunities to nap with my eyes open.

8. Keep extra clothes in your car or office because you will, without a shadow of a doubt, end up with poop or puke on you.

9. Set clear expectations with your boss and team about your parenting priorities. Don’t let it distract from your role, but if you have to leave at 4:45 to get to daycare on time every day, then make that clear, don’t apologize and go on with your bad self. It’s like going to a new class at the gym…we’re so paranoid about what we look like in front of everyone, but everybody else is more focused on themselves than on your departure.

10. Make sure you like what you do. This is a biggie. I was told 100 times not to make “any big decisions” the first year after having a baby, but I sometimes struggle following instructions, so I promptly quit my job to take a new one when Lila was six months old. Here’s why: being a working mom is a-o-k, but it ups the ante on job satisfaction. If you don’t enjoy what you do, it’s a LOT harder to be away from your little one. So if you’re not digging the daily grind, make every effort to find something that’s a better fit.

rosie

on grace 

We got a new roof last summer and recently discovered an area where it was leaking. The company fixed it for no charge, but I was so irritated. I had this ugly thought: “This is your job, you do it every day, how can you make this kind of mistake?”

And then I remembered the collosal error I overlooked while proofing an important message at work this month. Our CEO very easily could’ve responded with: “This is your job, you do it every day, how can you make this kind of mistake?”

Lesson: We’re all human and we all make mistakes. It’s how we learn, and we all deserve grace.