Sunday, December 13, 2015

On "Having It All," Which Really Means "Cutting the Right Corners"

A lot of people ask me how I have time to do the things that I do.  I've been thinking a lot about the answer to this question, and it really comes down to this.

Coffee.  Lots and lots of coffee.

(No, that's a joke.)

(but I do drink a LOT of coffee)

The truth is that I'm from the generation that was the first to really, truly, be able to "have it all."  Career and athletic doors were already flung open for me, largely due to my mom's generation (thanks, ladies!).  Don't get me wrong--there's still a glass ceiling for sure, and I can write a whole 'nuther post about how I still see a great amount of inequity, from little stuff to big stuff.  But overall, I've been able to completely choose my destiny, which is a lot different story than women who have come before me can tell.

So here's the real truth on how I "have it all:"  I get a CRAPLOAD of help.  And I figure out which corners can be cut. Then I cut them.  It's a constant tightrope of difficult decisions and reflection to be sure I'm doing the right thing, and a lot of questioning myself.  It's a lot of trusting my gut a-la-Olivia Pope.  Sometimes I panic; sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with a sick feeling of HOW ON EARTH WILL I DO ALL THE THINGS but then Matt helps remind me that we don't have to do ALL the things, just the things that matter.  So that helps a lot.

But the most important things are the help and cutting the right corners.

So a few years ago I read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg.  I figured it would be a LOT of eye rolling and slow-clapping in my head ("Yeah, Sheryl, easy for you to say BIZILLIONAIRE") and in some parts, it was.


But it also sort of gave me a little kick in the butt that I needed to keep from being too mediocre, too.  I was feeling like I was just sort of floating along in my career and, quite literally, trying to stay afloat under a sea of papers and lesson plans.  Reading that made me think about ways I could reinvigorate my teaching, but keep it fitting in the very, very limited time that I had.  I stepped it up in a national group I'm a part of and offered to lead our statewide efforts to connect educators.  Through that, I had the opportunity to present at a national conference last March and this past November, which led to some more connections and pretty awesome experiences.  I aimed pretty high and actually got a position at a summer seminar at Stanford last summer.  And this August I was honored to be named my district's Teacher of the Year, which I'm still in a little bit of shock over since I work with some pretty inspiring and talented educators.

So how do I do that?  It helps that I love what I do and honestly can't imagine NOT doing it.  I realize the very fact that I can say that about my job is a privilege that not everyone has, and I am grateful for it.

I cut every corner I can in my house.  I hire someone to clean it, because I hate doing that and if I'm working, I'm willing to outsource cleaning. I often spend two hours or so putting together freezer meals (10-15) so I can stack  my freezer with easy stuff and I LOVE MY CROCKPOT MORE THAN ANYONE SHOULD LOVE AN INANIMATE OBJECT.  I'm not a baker; I'm not a crafter.  You're not going to get anything off Pinterest from me.  Don't expect me to sew you something or bake something. You'll get store-bought goods, and you'll like it, okay?  That's a corner I cut.

I work through my lunch almost every day.  I do miss hanging out with people during lunch, but it came down to bringing more work home or trying to soldier through so I could relax at night instead of grading so much from 9-11pm, and if working while eating lunch gave me (most of) my nights/weekends, back, then I'm doing it.

And it also helps that I have quality, loving child care. This is something that not enough of us have access to, and OH BOY IF YOU WANT TO HEAR ME RANT JUST GO AHEAD AND ASK ME WHAT I THINK ABOUT THAT.  But we'll save that for, I just want to say thank you thank you thank you to the women who provide me with childcare so that I get to do what I'm called to do.  I am so thankful for them and the love they give to my kids.  So Mary (and Terry!), Suzy, Paula, Luann, Lindsay, and Cristi--I can't thank you enough.  If I were actually funny, I would have said this (start around 1:10):
So that's the career aspect.  Now, how do I fit in athletics? Marathons? Ironmans?

Cutting the right corners, people. CUT THEM ALL (if you can).

First thing first: my quest to qualify for the Boston Marathon which has been on my radar for the better part of the past 5 years has shown me that there are some corners that I am just not willing to cut.  I've learned that I don't have the talent to do it right now in the time that I am willing to give, and accepting that has led me away from anger and frustration and toward a more peaceful acceptance that now is not my time and that's okay.  I'm not saying never, but I'm saying not now, and that's a powerful and difficult decision to make, and one that I'm proud of.

So wait, crazy chick--you'll do an Ironman, but you won't try to qualify for Boston?

YES.  Hear me out.

I have quite literally and figuratively beat myself up pretty badly trying to get to Boston, and I've had an X-ray recently to prove it.  Plus the sticking out my tongue at my running shoes since October (and the fact that I just wasn't that into it in this past training cycle, too!) reminded me that I am built for endurance and built for triathlon, too.  That's where my heart is.

I always, always knew I'd be back to Ironman someday. But the corners. I was not about to cut them while my kids are so young.  (Please understand some people do Ironmans with young kids and hats off to them!  You might be one of them.  I am not judging these people at all.  They are most likely WAY more talented than I am and can pull it off, and that's fabulous.  Keep on rockin' with your bad selves, people.)  Now that my kids are older, they are a lot less dependent upon me.  We're in a sweet spot where they still want to be around me, but don't need to rely on me every single second and, in fact, enjoy being with their friends sometime over me, and I'm (mostly) okay with this.  It means that if I'm swimming in the morning and miss them at breakfast, they know that I'll see them at our family dinner.  It means that I can swim laps at the pool WHILE they play, and they come by to ask me to do butterfly to show their friends (my fun party trick!) or wave at me while they're in line for the diving boards.

It means that now I'm ready to put in those long hours again.  I'm comfortable with that, because I know they will be, too.  I'm timed it up to be mostly in the summer--when I have a lot of help and support and time and when they have a lot of fun opportunities, too, that I can work my long stuff around so I don't miss the important stuff.

And let's be honest, I'm extremely lucky to be in a two-teacher household with available, active, loving, and supportive grandparents down the road who go above and beyond helping me, especially when I get overwhelmed by ALL THE THINGS.  My parents and Matt's Dad are also extremely supportive of my athletic endeavors and also of the kids, and are willing and able to help out often.  Matt and I do a lot of professional development and work over the summer, but we can make it work for our schedules.  So this is the real reason that I chose Ironman Wisconsin--I honestly was only willing to pick an Ironman that coincided with the summer and school schedules.  If it means a harder course, well then, I'm just gonna have to suck it up now, aren't I?  I was really hoping for Mont Tremblant but next year it was the DAY BEFORE school starts, and that ain't gonna work. So Wisconsin it is, and to tell you the truth, I'm looking forward to the challenge of those hills again. It will be a good measure of how far I've come in the past ten years.  I'm nervous about it, but in a good way.

And one more thing: I have been lucky enough to find a coach that I also consider a great friend--who knows the right words to say at every moment, and who knows how to push me just hard enough while still respecting the corners I refuse to cut.  She's made me a better athlete and a better person, and I can't thank her enough for that.

So "Having It All" means cutting every single corner you can, and find the help in as many places as you can.

And the coffee, of course.  Don't forget the coffee.


Hotpotatokate said...

I needed this today- great post. I haven't managed to fit in a consistent exercise regime post kiddies yet, and I've just realised that I'm trying to fill that void with pinterest and becoming an uber SAHM instead. But just imagine if I put the hours I've spent hunting down bits of craft stuff, obsessing over perfect preschool teacher presents (etc), and trying to grab some "me time" to get these things done, into something I'm actually Good At and passionate about. Shouldn't be a mind-blowing thing, but somehow it is! (every year!!)

Robyn said...

Preach it! As a fellow mom, professional, and endurance athlete, I loved every word of this. Thank you!