By Katie Hellmuth Martin
The column this month nearly broke me. I tried writing it early, but that only afforded me more time to reflect on what I was trying to say about, in this case, day care and babysitters — always a trigger.
When you’re writing a kid-friendly column, there is the necessity of self-reflection of how and what you are doing as a parent. Looking down that kaleidoscope is scary.
The photo below was taken on a Saturday, in the early evening, after I had left the house (as a homebody, this is a status I aspire to) to do an afternoon work session to finish an article. I have been doing that a lot lately — leaving the house to go to the office, because if I don’t, I just clean the kitchen on repeat. This is a problem for the self-employed, because you never get in trouble with the boss.
So the theme this month is Getting Out of My (Own) Way. As a working parent, and an entrepreneur who chases ideas, I have encountered what could be called “negative time.” This occurs when I run out of time to do all the things that need to be done.
As a business owner, being in your own way means you’re not letting go enough to grow your business. Hold on too tightly, and you choke it. The problem of not letting go looks like this: I want to write all of the articles! I want to design all of the websites! I want to take all of the social media photos!
To force myself out of the way, I pulled back on after-care for my older two children. I know. Crazy. No working parent would or could do this. I couldn’t figure out why I did it. I thought maybe I was psychologically prepping for summer camp, when the schedule is beyond choppy.
My business grows during the summer, during the time I’m mostly driving to and from camp and taking family day trips. The time that I can work is so limited that I begin working in negative time, which means that opportunities disappear as time marches forward. It’s a great way, however, to cut to the chase to get something done — perfectionism and the guilt of having someone else watch your child is wiped away. The priorities get done and a symbiosis between work life and family life happens.
In my new schedule, I book babysitters at odd times to work around the children’s activities. The limitation of a three-hour work session can be extremely productive.
In the beginning, when I was booking the babysitters, up rose the child-care guilt.
But as the client deadlines increased, so began the desire to stop pushing off my own stuff and to call in the babysitter for business-building goals, too (i.e., ones you don’t get paid for, but you need to do to grow your business).
The guilt subsided. The result has been a balanced feeling when I do return home. I can unplug work life and be on the full-court press of family life.
As I said, the photo here captured a moment when I had come home from working on a Saturday. I had published the article, and a business owner called me up to chat about it. I very much wanted to continue hearing what the business owner was saying, but I was walking up my driveway, encountering various family members as I went inside the house to put down my bags.
My middle son and his friend wanted to show me their scooter moves; my husband wanted to show me his first yard trimming of the season; my littlest was on the porch treating himself to a jug of apple cider; my daughter and her friend had finished another batch of slime; my neighbor (and the mother of my daughter’s friend) was over, looking as lost as I felt, watching the chaos. We looked at each other. “Is this all all right? Is everyone as they should be?” we seemed to ask each other silently, because I was still on the phone.
Perhaps the chaos in the kaleidoscope is sparkle, and we only need to look at shape definition sometimes, to understand how it’s made, and then carry on as the kaleidoscope turns.
Katie Hellmuth Martin is a Beacon mother of three children, wife to one man and owner of A Little Beacon Blog and Tin Shingle.