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The Balance between Success and Family

July 4, 2008

I’ve put off writing this post for three days.  A whirlwind of thoughts swirl through my head in a cacophony of ideas.  Several events in the last few days have come together in a cloud of reason and I am inspired to share my thoughts.  Let me back up for a moment and share the events; then, with a little brevity, I hope to show their connections.

TwitterSo where am I going with this disparate collection of events?  Well, I’m going to try to put some things into perspective.

Over the last three and 1/2 years I’ve become increasingly aware at how tough it is to be a Mom in 21st century America.  It seems to me that the mothers of our children live in a constant state of guilt and shame – never doing enough, not doing it right, and living under this impending doom that their children are being ruined.

@thiskatMy conversation with @thiskat just heightened that awareness.  She talked about her vision to create a flexible workspace where other parents could share childcare, office space, and camaraderie.  I’ve heard her mention this on Twitter, but to talk to her in person – using more than 140 character sentences – was even more enlightening.  I never really realized how demanding a role this is until my darling daughter was born 3-1/2 years ago.

@garyveeGary Vaynerchuck runs a retail and online wine business that grosses around $50million a year.  He understands viral, word-of-mouth marketing.  He understands personal branding.  AT the beginning of his presentation Tuesday night, he said, “I do this because my family is important.”  A few minutes later he said that the way to be successful, like him, was to produce, produce, produce – work 12 hour days, answer every email (he answers 5000/week), and just invest yourself.

What I heard Vaynerchuck saying was, “because my family is so important, I’m willing to be out of balanced and produce.”  Granted, this is my paraphrase, but this is what I heard.  So, during the Q&A, I asked him, “How can you justify being so out of balance when you say your family is so important.”

I was surprised by the eloquence of his reply.  In a nutshell he said, “know the players.”  Know the strengths and weaknesses of your family and adjust yourself accordingly.  That was brilliant!  I immediately saw the strength and the potential abuse of that philosophy.  But taken at face value, it was a brilliant reply.

It was also obvious from his reply that he didn’t have children.  As many will attest, kids aren’t so flexible when it comes to long hours, cross-country absences, and other adjustments made for the sake of success.

Then, the rest of the pieces began to fall into place.  The Newsweek article referenced above talked about the folly of looking for enlightenment through exotic foods – especially given the carbon footprint of those global excursions.  Indeed, the intensity in which people are discussing the future of socialnetworking seems a bit misplaced – especially given the recent disasters in Myanmar, China, and even the US Midwest.

Our society once dreamed of an increasingly growing Leisure Culture.  One in which the computers would do the work and people would be free to pursue enlightenment and recreation.  Quite the opposite, we find ourselves falling into increasing busyness.  Once we get past the how-are-you?-I’m-fine. part of the conversation, people begin to talk about being tired and busy, or busy and tired.

Indeed, because of the pressures of our employers, our own desires for success, and the need to escape our indebtedness, we are finding our kids increasingly are being raised by other people.  Single-parents, double-income households, and other situations require us to put our kids into daycare.  This is frequently necessary, but not always.

My real point is this:  Social networking will work itself out, your kids may not.  My personal brand will be what it will be (and I can always reinvent it), but I’ll never get a second opportunity to have the first 10 years of my kids’ life – and I won’t be able to reinvent my kids.

Vaynerchuck was absolutely right!  I have to know the players.  I chose to marry the wife I did, till death separates us, and I am still thrilled by that choice.  But given the pressures of her role as a Mom, I can’t work 80 hours a week anymore.  She needs more of me.  She needs opportunities to have some time away from the kids.

And when I look at how cool my kids are, and I realize I won’t get a second chance with them, I know that I don’t want to even work 60 hours a week.  Fifty is pushing it.

The best way to support my kids is to support my wife.

“When Mama’s happy, everyone’s happy!”

I love being a Dad!  I love my family!  I want to avoid some of the crazy mistakes my parents and grandparents made.  I made a choice a couple of years ago to stop working 80 hours a week.  It has been an uphill struggle, but I’m still a work in progress.

I’m trying to find that balance, but it is hard.  I have cut my hours, but I haven’t figured out how to go to bed on time, or be more emotionally available while I’m not working.  But I’m still on that journey to find a balance.

In 1984, on his Scarecrow album, John Mellencamp said this:

“I know there’s a balance, ‘cuz I see it when I swing past”

That’s what I’m working towards – balance!

I’d love to hear about your journey toward balance?

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4 Comments
  1. July 4, 2008 1:46 pm

    I think from the outside, our balance looks very traditional — I am married to someone who puts long hours into his career and community activities, which pays the mortgage so I can stay home and take care of the children. This does feel frustrating when it feels like a zero sum game, that with a limited number of hours in the day every moment I spend doing something for myself is taken from something I could be doing for the family, or that time he spends doing community building is time he cannot give to the family. But then, it’s not zero-sum. The investment of time and attention to my kids has yielded fruit in their being relatively self-sufficient, and the community we cultivate is one friendly to our kids, so they have a sense of adults besides us interested in them and their well-being, the time I spend on myself models for them what it is to have a life of the mind that has nothing to do with formal schooling.

    Mostly, things go ok until we realize we need to adjust the balance again, and after twelve years of doing this together, we have a lot more faith in our ability to adjust the balance in response to our children’s needs and our own, to trust that a couple of months with a lot of travel for him will be followed by a couple of months when he does a lot of work from home giving me a little more flexibility to get out by myself. We trust our balance of short-term and long-term goals and needs. I am most grateful that social networking like Twitter exists to cut the isolation that would arise if I were feeling like I was just trapped into attending the needs of the four children.

  2. July 4, 2008 3:34 pm

    U are a great dad 🙂 I cant wait to calm down and be one too 😉

  3. July 4, 2008 11:24 pm

    @oleoptene – great comment, thanks! You are a great writer and I’ve appreciated posts I’ve read on your blog before. I also appreciate your ability to make adjustments with your husband (whom I stood right next to as we chatted with @garyvee outside of W+K).

    I agree about the modeling and the community around us (It does take a village) to influence and enhance our kids. Our recent move returning to Oregon, with a six-week old son, was quite hard on my wife. I was ready to dive into my new position here, but due to the circumstances, I had to put that on hold (if you know what I mean).

    I had the opportunity to meet @garyvee’s wife at W+K. She seemed quite happy and on board with his vision. That is awesome! My wife is also onboard with my/our vision – but, we’ve had to make adjustments.

    Yesterday, I was all fired up with some creative energy. I had thoughts, I had ideas, and I thought I had time. Next thing I knew, my wife told me she needed a nap – and I was now kidsitting. When she got up, my daughter wanted some QT with me. Finally, I sat down in my office to work – “Dinner’s ready!” And as we sat down, some of our friends stopped by (which doesn’t happen much out here in Rainier!) and stayed till 10.

    Because today was supposed to be spent with extended family on the coast, I stayed up till 5am working on the stuff I wasn’t able to get to yesterday. Hence, we got a late start today, missed the parade, and didn’t get to Ocean Park until 4.

    But the cool thing is, as we talked about it, we realized it’s OK. We’re making adjustments and moving forward. And today, today, was a great day!

    Thanks again for the great comment!

  4. July 4, 2008 11:26 pm

    @garyvee Thanks man – it really was a pleasure to meet you and chat outside of W+K. I was about your age when I decided to make some changes in order to find greater fulfillment than I could ever find through the awards and accolades I got in my previously very satisfying career.

    If you approach fatherhood, like you have marketing, that is, to win, you’ll do great!

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