Photo by Jaci Forshtay Photography
I am (Jeri) wife of 11.5 years to Matt, my high school sweetheart, and mom to 4 beautiful girls ages 7, 5, 2.5 and 1. When we started this business 3.5 years ago. I had 2 littles and wanted a way to get back into working part time and using my creative side for more adult ventures. Life was busy but manageable and frankly being able to have a few hours a month out of the house, talking with adults and using the part of my brain that I’d shut off for 3 years was a welcome change of pace.
Then life got real. My husband was going back to get his MBA (Go Irish!) while traveling very frequently for work, I was pregnant with baby #3 (and had a very difficult pregnancy), business was growing and so were the needs of my family. In true Jeri fashion, I put my head down and managed a grueling schedule. I mean that’s what you do right? You just make it work because this is what I signed up for.
Business continued to grow and we were so thankful for the people that believed in us and for the sacrifices our husbands and families made to see our little dream grow. Then I got pregnant with baby #4. Game changer! After thinking I was going to loose the baby, being on modified bed rest and being incredibly sick I had to say no. I had to realize that doing it all was not possible, nor was it healthy for my body, family or emotional state.
God has a way of whispering the direction you should take. Unfortunately, I see those as suggestions and must learn the hard way. Learn from me, listen to the whispers. I was not only dealing with my physical limitations but my family was sick literally and figuratively. We were worn out and paying for the decisions of busy that we had been pushing through. Something had to give.
Photo by Jaci Forshtay Photography
2015 was a crazy year. We welcomed our 4th daughter and we were full of weddings and people depending on us. In my mind, I knew after I delivered the baby things would get moderately better. I knew how to handle baby & work and would have my “normal” body back but I was dreading the cycle of busy that was coming.
After discussing this burn out feeling with Erin and Ally, we knew that we had to start making changes to our business. Setting boundaries, clearly defining our roles and getting back to the why of our business.
First, we set business hours. Sounds so simple but it was huge. I’m the type of person that feels like when I get an email, text or request I need to deal with it now. So this gave me the okay to say no, it can be handled when I’m back in office mode not when I should be sleeping, in the moment with my family or on a rare date with my husband.
With office hours set, I decided I needed to dedicate 3 mornings a week to business. Meaning I needed help with the kids. This was the hardest. The guilt of leaving my littlest girls when I didn’t do this with their older sisters made me feel like a bad mom. I felt guilty that I needed the Martin’s Starbucks to draft client paperwork, timelines, schedules and contracts and those mornings to schedule client meetings. The whole reason I started my own business was to stay home with my kids, right? Yes, but here’s the lesson I had to learn. If you want to be a business, then treat it like a business otherwise you have a hobby. Don’t get me wrong I sneak in grocery shopping and the occasion hair cut but I needed dedicated time to focus and to really be present for my clients. This also gives me the freedom to really be with my girls when its not my business days. To say no, this is my day with my kids and show them that mommy is reaching for her dreams but also caring for her family. So important as I parent 4 girls, I want them to dream big but know that they are and always will be my greatest gifts.
All of this to say that balance doesn’t exist. I love how Jen Hatmaker describes the “balance unicorn” in For the Love
Jen put into words the feelings I had been having for almost 2 years and validated my feelings that the guilt of not achieving it all was destructive.
Take this away on how to juggle it all. Don’t. Simple, but so hard to implement. Figure out what’s stressing you out. Is it worth the space and energy you’re giving? Do you need to set limits like business hours or have a few hours a week or month out of the house to focus on your business? Map out your typical day or week. Really look at what needs to stay & what needs to go. Be honest and be willing to let go of things that just aren’t working for this season of life (see more on how we are do this in New Name, Same Faces). Giving it up for awhile doesn’t mean no for forever. It means no for right now and may bring opportunities you’d never imagined because you gave them the space to develop.