As many of you know, in the spring of 2016 my life was flipped upside down. My husband was arrested, and overnight I was a single parent of two young daughters.
Before John’s arrest, I was free to work as much as I wanted, knowing that he had things covered on the homefront. And I worked a lot. I mean, a lot.
I got used to working long days in Senator Kohl’s office, and when I decided to launch my own business I felt like I needed to work even harder. I wanted to establish myself in the entrepreneur space and felt the fear of leaving behind a steady paycheck and great benefits.
But in March 2016, I had to slam on the brakes. My life was a mess, my girls needed me more than ever, and there was so much to do to sort out our personal chaos that I couldn’t have worked 70-hour weeks even if I wanted to.
The step I took next was pretty extreme, but so were the circumstances. For several months, I didn’t work at all. Nothing. No meetings, no trainings, no speaking. I was absolutely terrified to give it all up, but in the end, it was the best choice I could have ever made.
After a few months, I started to slowly ease my way back into work. I took on some clients again. I was still emotionally exhausted and navigating the personal, logistical, and legal fallout of John’s arrest but I was ready to get back out there (and more than ready to make some money).
I would say I did not get back to a full work schedule until about six months ago. And even now, I have to find more balance as there is no one else home to play taxi driver, chef, and ringmaster. I spend a lot more time managing my family than I ever did, and I love it more than I ever could have imagined.
I still have to make concessions. I don’t travel that much outside my region for work, and I know that national speaking tours aren’t in the cards right now. I don’t work as much on weekends so the girls and I can have more time together enjoying life. But as time has gone on, we have found our new normal.
Even if there hasn’t been a dramatic shift in your life, there are all kinds of things that cause our relationship with work to change over time. Whether it’s a new baby, an aging parent, or even just generational differences, there will always be reasons to recalibrate your work-life balance.
The key is to figure out what works for you in this moment, and hopefully find an employer that makes it possible to honor that mix. And remember, it’s always okay to ask for what you need! The answer might be no, especially if you ask for a two-day workweek, but there’s no harm in finding out. And remember that what works today might not be right tomorrow or a year from now.
When I took a big step away from work, I worried that I would never find my way back. But, with a flexible attitude and a willingness to let things be different, I have found a place that works for my daughters, my business, and me. And you can too.
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