Balance is Out: Chapters are In.

My husband subscribes to this fabulous magazine called Inc., which is intended for entrepreneurs and small business owners. Because he hardly ever has time to read it, it usually ends up sitting on the kitchen counter for weeks at a time, and I like to peruse it while I eat my cereal in the morning (or late at night, when I’m starving from the stupid diet I am on). Though I don’t own a business, and I am not at all entrepreneurial – I do have lots of great ideas, but I suck in the execution – I enjoy Inc. because I find that many of the topics actually relate quite well to being a working mom. There are, for example, lots of columns about managing your time, getting organized, being resourceful, figuring out what values are important to you as you grow your company, etc. and so forth. But in this month’s issue, there was a piece that was so brilliant and so on point that I just feel compelled to share it with you.

 


The article was about a guy named Howard Lefkowitz, who is the CEO of Vegas.com. The guy seems a little weird; he likes to scuba dive, but he lives in Nevada, so he built himself a really deep pool and as often as he can he puts on his scuba gear and goes down there and plays cards and listens to music, and that’s how he relaxes. The picture in the article is of him underwater, in full wet suit, at the bottom of this big, fish-less pool. Whatever. Anyway, the article wasn’t so much about him as it was by him; it was like, Howard riffing for three pages about what his job is like, and what his days are like, and how going out clubbing until three in the morning is actually part of his work. Uh-huh.

 

He does have kids, though, which brings me to the point of this post. Towards the end of his monologue, Howard was talking about how people try to find balance every day, and how he thinks that it is a totally ridiculous concept. Now, I expected him to go on to say something like, when you own a company, you have to dedicate yourself to it and you have to make sacrifices, blah, blah, blah. But he didn’t. Instead, he said that he thinks people live life more as a series of chapters. For example, he just had a slow period, where he spent more time with his family, and now the busy season is starting and that is going to be a different chapter. “Some people,” he said, “try for balance every day or every week, but I can't do that. That's not achievable for me. What is achievable is chapters.”
When I read that, I was like, oh, my God, why has no one ever said this before? This is genius. Of course, as a novelist, the idea of chapters is immensely appealing to me. But it really does make so much sense. I mean, with jobs the way they are and with life the way it is, sometimes it’s impossible to get quality time with your kids every day. And if you have a big project or a deadline at work, or if you have a business trip, maybe you don’t see them very much for a whole week, or a month. Most moms, I think, would sink through the floor with guilt over it, but if you think about it as a chapter, and that there will be another, more family-oriented chapter, maybe a vacation or a slow period – I don’t know, it just seems so much more palatable.

 

UmmAminata
05.02.08

I really enjoyed this article.

schultzy
04.15.08

The chapter approach sounds great...however it sounds like "balance" on a much larger (and more realistic)scale...my worst days are the days when I think I have failed at every turn, but if you have to give the office 200% for two weeks...that is a short burn in long run...especially if it means you can leave on time for the next three months.

TMCMom
04.15.08

I read this article and loved it! Chapters it is - they go along with "you can have it all but not at the same time."

Samantha
04.15.08

Another cheese stick? How about another bag of Cheez-its?

betsystreeter
04.14.08

Isn't this similar to how you're supposed to look at how you feed your kids... if you're worried that they're not getting enough of the right stuff you're supposed to look at their diet over several days, instead of optimizing the heck out of every morsel - and often it turns out their balance of foods is fine, just not every minute of every day. Hm. Maybe our professional/family selves work that way too. You're right, 100% balance probably also means 100% beating yourself up every minute over whatever you're not doing, like feeding your kid broccoli rather than a(nother) cheese stick.