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.
My kids just had a two week spring break, and I spent great time with them every single day. It was fun, and I loved it, and they loved it. But now I’m ready to get back to work, and I want to work a lot in the next three months so that I can finish my book by summer. So this is going to be a work chapter, and summer, I hope, will be another family chapter, where I’m not stressed out and nothing is hanging over my head, and my kids can have my full attention. So I’m with Howard. Forget about balance, it’s a hopeless cause. It’s all about chapters for me, now. And who knows, maybe he’s onto something with this scuba thing. If only they had underwater shoe stores…