identity and different times of life

Images-1 The more I write about women, the more I think about identity.  Personally I am entering or perhaps I have already entered a new phase of my life.  In many ways I feel like I am 23 again.  I can focus on myself which is something I have not done in a very long time and it feels great. 

In today's NYTimes Home Section, one of the front page articles is called Frazzed Moms Push Back Against Volunteering.  The title itself made me laugh out loud.  First thought that came to my head was "frazzled?  no shit." 

Having children is basically what separates women from men.  Nobody has figured out how men can carry those babies and I feel pretty safe in saying that won't be happening any time soon.  Women, like myself, decide to get off the ramp to raise the kids and in order to use your multiple talents and to be involved with your child's life, you start to volunteer to do anything and everything for your kid because it isn't work.  Here is the mistake.  It is work. 

I have always been a multi-tasker.  When my kids were young I was running a business.  I had a few offers from people to back me in my own business.  I didn't take up those offers because in my heart of hearts I knew that if I started my own business I would find myself working 24/7 and my kids would not get the best of me.  They'd get a stressed out person whose brain was going a million miles an hour thinking of how to grow my business, how to make sure the groceries were in the house, when to make that dinner reservation, how to get the orders out the door, making sure I was at all the schools events, etc.  So, I took a step back and made the decision that I would stay home for a few years and be the Mom.  For the kids, it was great.  For me, my personal identity, ego and intellect….not so sure how that was but in the end it seems to have worked out.  Life is not a straight path. I am back where I was although much older with different businesses and a very different role in the business world.  That is ok.  I am loving it. 

The key here is balance.  My friend says to me the other night that he is worried that I am going to overextend myself.  He brought up something that I have thought a lot about myself.  What I have learned is that I know now how not to do that.  I can say no.  I can say I have enough on my plate.  I can say I am taking off some time here to spend time with the family.  I know that too much isn't good for anyone.  The other key is reminding yourself every now and then what your number one priority and focus is at that time. Just because you are there physically doesn't mean you are there mentally and making sure you are aware of that is important too. 

After reading the article this morning of the frazzled Moms is that these women decided to stay home yet they kept working even though the work was as a volunteer vs being paid the load was the same.  One of the women stepped back and said to herself that she stayed home for a reason, to be with her kids and keep a personal business going under her own terms.  Being devoted to the school projects is admirable because it is fun and you get to do something that is yours but being devoted to your own true time and your own mission is more admirable if you can step back and look at the big picture everyone will be happy including you. 

Happy moms make happy kids which in turn make happy families. 

Comments (Archived):

  1. Erin Newkirk

    Great post. Lots to think about. Regarding taking on too much…I have found it is MUCH more difficult to say no to my inner drive vs. saying no to others. Haven’t quite mastered that one.But the point you make about knowing WHY you are doing what you are doing is so important. Staying home, starting a business, working at a corp…whatever your means, it’s knowing the end goal that’s key.

  2. Mike Hart

    There is another side to this as well. In raising 3 sports-centric boys my wife got to be such an organized team mom of hockey, baseball, soccer etc. that she couldn’t extricate herself from it. Carried into high school too. She finally was able to only after saying “no” a thousand times. Organizations tend to wear out volunteers who are good at what they do.

  3. Cookiemoo

    After spending years volunteering in my sons’ elementary and middle school as a PTA President and running countless fund-raising events, I backed away in high school. I was totally burnt out. I came to realize that the reason we were spending so much time on fund raising events was because the PTA was supplementing the school district and paying for things that the district should have paid for. We volunteers should have directed our energies in putting pressure on the board and not on ourselves.

    1. Gotham Gal

      i am sure you were burnt out. i get it. but you volunteered b/c you caredabout your kids and the school they went to. as for the board,unfortunately they are praying for people like you to step up to the plateb/c the money is nil these days.

      1. Cookiemoo

        This was not even “these days”. It was 25 years ago!

        1. Gotham Gal

          well….i guess times have not changed!! LOL

  4. Tereza

    What a topic! Made me laugh too, cuts so close to home.I only half-joke to my husband that I decided to do a startup because I was already doing all that work, but as a volunteer. And by the way, the transferability of skills from volunteer work to lean startups is huge. But I bet you know that.I had a mentor back in my PWC days who was awesome, a woman who was their first part-time partner. I’ve been meaning to blog about her. For a few years while we worked together she’d share her tricks.A piece of golden advice she told me is, pick a volunteer activity where you are highly visible to your kids and your kids’ friends. So she picked brownie troop leader, and not the big fundraiser.BTW I get so annoyed at all the piddly little fundraisers that get sent home in Backpack Mail — one week we had four! Gift wrap, cookie dough, a leukemia coin collection, and a produce drive for the local shelter. Are they kidding? Do they really think my second grader is doing this?? I’d rather write a check for all and clear out the clutter. Grrrrr.Another friend who is 10 years older told me, when they’re teens they need you too. They need you around, so they can blow you off. 🙂 They just need to know you’re available. Indeed, our kids’ needs ebb and flow over time.So right now i’m trying to be more disciplined about focusing my kid time on the kids. Sometimes I’m successful. Sometimes, well……OK, often…..notsomuch.

    1. fredwilson

      “they need you around so they can blow you off”that is so true

      1. rebeccastees

        My friend calls this “I hate you and please give us money for the mall”

        1. Gotham Gal

          That’s hilarious

    2. Gotham Gal

      you hit on every single high note here. great golden advice. actuallyworks on any platform. totally true on the teens. it is about beingpresent because you never know when they feel like sharing. greatcomments!!!

  5. Sunchowder

    Great post as usual…hit the nail on the head. I am going through transition myself, so this really touched me.

  6. rebeccastees

    speaking of focus … word for 2011 is metamotivation………i make it a priority to build my skill sets in my volunteer work.i enjoyed this advice today by keri smith (good for the art of life as well as the business of being freelance) …….

  7. Atlanticgull

    After years of seeing the same ten women at every meeting, on every list, running every fundraiser, I decided to re-learn the word no. I didn’t seem to have a problem with it when I was responsible for a staff, a facility and a bottom line, why did that change? (Funny, cause I’m still responsible for a staff, a facility and a bottom line.)Redefining and aligning seems to be the common thread throughout my adult life. My husband has never really had to change much about how he’s seen himself or readjust his ‘identity’ with the world around him.Frazzled is now no longer part of my landscape. I’m busy, I’m productive, but I’m no longer a chicken with my head cut off. Everybody’s happier.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Why is it that men never have those identity issues. Or at least theynever share that they do. Good for you for figuring out what works foryou. That is the hardest part