In the past decade, my roles as a professional and mother have been redefined more than half a dozen times. Like many do, I struggle to balance marriage, motherhood, work, schedules and everything else. I go hard. I sleep too little, and I don’t exercise enough. Regardless, I’m content with my out-of-balance life. I have many titles that don’t fit on a business card.
In my professional career, I had the big office and an array of titles. Through incredible mentors and hard work, I was blessed with numerous business opportunities. I could have continued my climb up the corporate ladder to bring home bigger paychecks. However, a few years ago I realized my kids were never going to value the titles on my business cards more than my role at home. During the course of a couple years, I changed jobs and scaled back to the point I’m now able to be at home most of the time. I still work, but it’s rarely an 8 to 5 routine anymore. A couple of times a month, I have day-long meetings or speaking events. Other than that, I work from home when it doesn’t conflict with my kids’ routines and schedules.
About five years ago, my now second-grade daughter, Elizabeth, drew a picture of me to describe my occupation. I was on an airplane, emailing and talking on the phone. The picture panged my heart. This year, Elizabeth wrote “stays at home” as my occupation on a worksheet she completed about her family. That description panged my heart, too.
According to my kindergarten daughter, Anika, when she’s in school, I clean. That made me chuckle because, in reality, I clean as little as possible but enough to survive in a busy household. I also know when it’s time to call in help. These days, there isn’t a title that fits who I am or what I do.
The benefits of my current “job” aren’t direct deposited into my bank account. I’m grateful I’m able to help out a friend as back-up daycare, volunteer for community events, co-lead a 4-H club, teach a Sunday school class of 11 enthusiastic children, provide a listening ear after a disappointing day at school or help my husband with our family business. In my corporate role, packed with travel, client meetings and conference calls, I had little flexibility in my routine or time to volunteer.
I wouldn’t trade my past experiences. Juggling an imbalanced life as a more at-home mom makes me appreciate my past career life and paychecks more. Now that I have more time to “be home,” I realize my kids and family need me more today than ever before. As I mentioned to my husband last week, I’m in a season of giving. It’s important to me to give more of my time to others than ever before.
As Theodore Roosevelt first said but my dad, Fred, recited for years, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” Today, I’m living those words with too many roles to fit on a business card. My life is full and rich even though it’s no longer defined by a specific career path or paycheck.
No balance. No business cards. I’m right where I am supposed to be on the prairie.
How do you define your personal and professional roles?
This was originally published as my weekly column on Agweek.