This whole conversation of work/life balance is definitely fraught with controversy. Many, including myself, would argue that there is no such thing as balance. As a friend said to me recently, you’re always giving 100% – no matter what. And, in my house, it is not just me giving 100% to everything, my husband does the same. One would assume that with that 200% effort, we would actually be on top of it all but, in reality we still struggle to hold everything together.
Any of us who have spent any time working on, talking about or researching work/life will tell you that even if you have developed the best plan, it will all go out the window the minute something out of the ordinary pops up. Whether it be an unexpected illness, a last-minute business trip, a crisis at the office or some other wrinkle that was not included in that original master plan, suddenly your strategy is blown and chaos ensues. It is a tightrope walk for sure.
In my house, last week was one of those times when our perfectly planned strategy was abolished by a series of unplanned problems and interferences that threw everything out of whack. On a positive note, it also forced us to regroup and reprioritize. For someone like me who is a planner and likes to have a handle on what is happening at all times, unexpected events and challenges often throw me for a loop. However, these occurrences are also often a chance to reset ourselves and force us to revisit our priorities and make some adjustments. For my family, last week was just one of those times.
I was out of town on a business trip in the midwest the week before last. Since I own my own business and pay for all of my own travel expenses, I tend to try to find the rock-bottom cheapest flights. This often forces me to travel at inopportune times like super early in the morning or returning on a weekend day rather than racing back as soon as my meeting is done (boy, do I miss the corporate Amex!). For this trip, I was scheduled to fly back early on Saturday morning in order to allow me to get back in time to pick my younger son up from his show rehearsal. He was an ensemble member in his very first performance and was extremely excited about it – as were we despite the crazy rehearsal schedule that we really did not focus too much attention on. We had already grown accustomed to his class schedules at the performing arts school and had worked in the biweekly rehearsals but we had not yet digested the intense tech schedule for the week leading up to the show. More on that in a minute.
On top of the show rehearsal, I had to take my older son shopping to buy clothes for his upcoming band concert as well as attend a christening for our cousin’s new baby. Plus, we had a basketball game on Sunday, another full-day of rehearsals for younger son’s show, the Giants were playing for a spot in the Super Bowl (which automatically cuts our own team in half because husband must be granted clemency to watch his beloved Giants clinch a spot) and I had to prepare for a client meeting on Monday for which I had to leave early as we were making a 4-hour drive (to save on travel costs). Sigh… Everything was planned down to the last minute. Frankly, I really had not even planned beyond Monday because it was enough to just get us there.
Well, for those of you living in the NYC metro area, you will recall that last weekend we were going to have that first big winter storm and, in preparation, Continental Airlines cancelled my flight (and all flights) home to NJ on Saturday. This all before a single flake had fallen or before they learned that the big storm would result in a massive 3 inches. So, I was stuck in the midwest for an additional day and, right there, in a split second, the plan was blown.
There would be no pickup from rehearsal by me and now I had to coordinate all kinds of carpooling the next day to ensure that not only would my younger son have a ride to and from the theater but I would also have my own pickup from the airport.
My husband was tasked with the job of going out with my older son to procure black pants and a white shirt for the winter band concert (which, surprisingly enough, he did a great job with).
No one from my clan attended the cousin’s child’s christening as we were either in flight, at rehearsal, driving to or from rehearsal, procuring clothing or otherwise occupied picking up the slack.
There was little time for preparation for the important client meeting and we had to do a little bit of “winging it.” (That worked out surprisingly well too!)
Miraculously, we managed to do everything we needed to get through Monday. But, in all of the angst of preparing for my return from the business trip and leaving on the next one, I really had not prepared for the week ahead. First, I did not factor in that my younger son’s big musical production would require him to be at a theater 30 minutes away for two rehearsals during the week and all weekend long. I had not realized that I was invited to attend my older son’s winter band concert which of course takes place smack in the middle of the workday (and would be expected – no excuses – to attend said concert). I did not expect that our meeting would go so well on Monday that I would have two proposals to write during the week on top of the other work that was already piling up (since I had been out of town all the previous week).
Are you following all this?
Yes, a bit of a mess indeed. It was Wednesday when I first began to process the magnitude of all that I had forgotten. I knew that our weekend was pretty much tied up with my son’s show although I was committed to squeezing in a girl’s night with some friends and let my husband be the dutiful parent watching the show that night. (Needless to say, that was one of the first alterations to the plan.)
I have probably been labeled a “joiner” more than once. I tend to be very liberal with my volunteering and can easily be convinced (coerced) into helping out. So, probably because of the meeting I had agreed to kick off on Tuesday night and the various breakfast meetings I agreed to attend as part of my volunteer work, I was tired and my resistance was low when my younger son asked me to hang around for his 5 hour rehearsal at the theater 30 minutes away from my home on Thursday (which sounded like a clever plan since I could make myself useful rather than schlepping back and forth). The day before, I nearly ran out of gas on my way to the theater 30 minutes away from my home as I failed to actually pay attention to the loud beeps coming from my car telling me I was running out of gas. Picture me navigating myself around towns without any clue as to where there might be a gas station and praying dearly that my limited fumes of gas would get us to a service station. (Thankfully, my older son managed to keep his cool rather than his normal dialogue pointing out what a dope I am for not remembering to fill up before we got on the highway.) And, of course, I am managing all this while on a call with a colleague!
When I called my friend who was serving as a stage manager for the show to ask if I could be of any help while I was hanging around for the 5 hour rehearsal on Thursday, I was done in. I had inadvertently sucked myself into the show and landed myself a role as a stage hand. (By the way, after watching way too many episodes of “Dance Moms,” I was doing my best to stay away from the director and choreographers so as to not insert any additional drama!) I had become ingratiated with this show and was committed to supporting it for the entire weekend.
And I could not have been happier.
I had to throw all my plans out the window. There would be no girls’ night for me. I would be able to watch the show but wanted to be certain that I managed the responsibilities I had committed myself to. I took this on like I would any project for work and gave it everything I had. I raised my white flag, surrendered the schedule and just become part of this production to support my younger son. Even though he had only a small part in the ensemble and spent most of his time hanging out with his little friends in between numbers and costume changes, I knew my being there and being part of the crew made him feel more special. Granted, I was a bit of a theater geek back in high school so this was like a little flashback and I loved it. I was cheering for all the leads and watching them do their pre-show routines. I marveled at all the work that went into the quick costume changes, prop placement, moving of sets and all the other wonderful drama that goes on behind the scenes. For several blissful days, nothing existed but the show and I forgot about all the foibles of the week that screwed up my schedule. All that really mattered now was getting this production off and supporting my son in his FIRST BIG SHOW!
On Sunday morning when we were preparing for the final performance, I told my friend how tired I was and how surprised I was at how the show sucked up so much of my mental and physical energy. She laughed at me and asked when I was going to blog about this experience. Well, here you go Kim! Thanks for letting me be part of the magic and thanks for helping me remember that what happens in between our plans is what life is all about!
And congratulations to all the amazing kids who put on an incredible show! Count me in for next year – maybe this time I’ll put it on the schedule!