It’s Been Awhile…

I have been away from this blog for far too long. I let life, mostly work-life, get in the way of this. I have struggled with finding a “balance” between family, work, hobbies, and God for some time, and this has built up an irritation within me that I am not willing to live with any longer. I’ve written before about how to create balance. I am, by nature, a planner and a scheduler, yet I’ve focused too much on scheduling others and planning for business that I’ve failed to plan for myself and maintain “balance” in my own life.

The common mantra is “we all must find work-life balance”, and I’ve long believed in this mantra. But the more I’ve lived, the more I’ve failed to balance, the more I’ve thought about this mantra and realized it doesn’t provide enough clarity. I hear this mantra and picture an old two-pan scale with “work” on one side and “life” sitting directly across with no skewing in favor of either. This doesn’t work for me.

My job is demanding, and the success of my work directly relates to the livelihood and lives of many people. That doesn’t mean that I should give equal time and equal mind space to my job and home life. This version of balance, strictly looking at this in numbers, would mean I should give 84 hours a week to work and 84 hours a week to life (or if i take time out for sleep that would be 70 hours a week to work). The sad thing is that I’ve been doing that. For several weeks I’ve averaged between 60 and 65 hours a week at my job plus time spent driving to and fro, and time spent thinking through the problems and tasks if work while at home.

So, as the planner and scheduler I am, I went through the numbers and figured out what the right ratio for me truly is. In order to maintain my sanity, and to not feel overly stressed, I need to give more time to my not-work life than I do to my work-life. This is hard to do, but when it works out I can feel the difference. My target number for work is now 53 hours a week plus drive time (2 hours total per week). This allows 85 hours a week of away time for family, God, rest, and hobbies (and I suppose housework/yardwork too).

I’ve actively worked at this for two and a half weeks now, and though stress still comes (and always will), it is not a constant. This ratio is making me work to keep my days planned out and stay on plan as much as possible. I know that it can work, but I need it to work. I need to have my priorities straight, and give the right amount of time to each part of my life. Time to put in the work.

I hope to write again soon…

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Voting for My Children

Here in the U.S. this week it’s time to get out and vote.  I’ve long been a proponent of voting, because I truly believe that each individual vote matters.  When you see the total tallies it may not always appear that way in presidential or even state-wide elections, but if you look at the votes in individual precincts or for smaller proposals it’s different.  Each vote visibly matters in those elections.

So I’ve always been interested in voting and being an informed voter, but since becoming a parent I’ve started thinking about voting a little differently.

It’s easy to see certain correlations between choices we make as parents and the effects on our children.  If we choose to home school or choose a private school or a public school, then we know it will alter our child’s life.  But what about who we vote for and how we make our decisions on proposals?  Some of those decisions could lead to immediate changes in the world around our children, and some could lead to a butterfly effected change in the future lives of our children.

Researching the Repercussions

I normally research before I vote.  I know the campaign ads and I recognize names on the ballots, but that’s not enough for me.  I want to know what changes my vote could lead to and what changes my vote could help avoid.

I’ll be honest.  This year I haven’t done nearly the research I’d like to, but I know that before I cast my votes on Tuesday I will be researching every item on my ballot.  I will seek out the info I need to make the votes I believe in.

A Future and a Hope

I want to give my children the best future that’s possible, and I realize now that the way I vote—and the way I respond to voting—can affect that future.  So for the next couple of days I will research the candidates and the proposals.  Then on Tuesday I’ll vote for a brighter future for my children.

 

 

Holiday Hoopla

Halloween:  The Candy & The Chaos

I remember the days when Halloween was a one day event that kids dressed up for and hoped to get the most candy of all their friends and siblings.  Maybe I was just oblivious when I was younger, but it seems that there are so many other opportunities to celebrate Halloween now.  In fact, we are still five days from the actual day of Halloween, but my kids have already been in costume three times.

They are adorable as a minion (Despicable Me) and Minnie Mouse, so I don’t mind one bit.  I especially don’t mind that they have dressed up three times and only have about twenty pieces of candy a piece.  Our girls are way too young, in our opinion, to have too much candy.  Since they have only received a little bit it’s easy to try to teach them about how it is special and not to be eaten at just any time.

Turkey Day Drama

Thanksgiving is coming up quickly.  This is often the most overlooked holiday—much to my wife’s dismay—and that’s not the way it should be.  Thanksgiving is a great day to spend time with family, watch some good football, and eat a feast.  This has been the go-to prescription for many people over the years, including me, but retailers and other factors are cutting into the traditions.

I usually take part in the Black Friday craziness, but I don’t buy much, if anything.  Maybe that’s why I won’t take part in the Thanksgiving Day shopping, but I’m pretty sure I just don’t like the idea of an industry changing how they do things in a way that helps their bottom line (theoretically) while hurting their employees.  The extent of my Thanksgiving shopping has always been a morning trip to the corner store for a newspaper and sometimes a coffee.  I welcome you to join me in abstaining from the Thanksgiving Day shopping, and instead stay home, spend time with family, and relax.

The Trees and The Lights

Christmas is just two months away, but that doesn’t mean we need to freak out about holiday plans, present buying, and family photos just yet.  Take it easy, make a plan, and help yourself to a lower stress Christmas season.  It’s too early in the year for me to comfortably write a lot about Christmas, so that’s all I’ll say for now.

The Smartness of Our Phones: Blessing or Curse?

Early in the day yesterday I began to dislike the smartness of phones today.  Many people have forgotten how to use their phone simply as a phone.  If something needs an answer quickly, then please make a call rather than sending a text.

I won’t usually stop what I’m doing to check on a text, but if a call comes in I will at least look to see who it is from and answer it if it is someone I know.  To me, a call means important or urgent and a text means chit-chat.

Yet as the day went on I realized how thankful I was for the smartness of my phone.  I don’t have a super-crazy-good phone, but I do have a smart phone.  And the things that it allows me to do are amazing.

Many people argue that smart phones make your life easier, and though I can agree that some apps can help simplify parts of your life I can’t fully get behind the idea that my phone makes my life easier.  Wasn’t it easier when people had to wait for me to check my messages or emails at home before I responded to them?

Though I won’t say my phone makes my life easier I will say that it adds some richness to my life.  I know that seems strange to say that a piece of technology that makes calls and checks emails can add richness, but it did yesterday and it does many days.

Facebook for Family

Between work, my wife’s birthday celebration, and other responsibilities I didn’t get much time with the kids on Friday or Saturday.  I missed my girls.  But thanks to Facebook on my phone I was able to see my girls enjoying themselves.

On Friday they spent the day with their auntie Momo, and one of their adventures was a walk.  Sounds mundane, but the little ones played in leaves along the way and the pictures are awesome.  My sister-in-law is really good at using her phone as a camera to catch so many awesome moments with her nieces.

Our daughters also had their first sleepover at grandpa and mimi’s house on Friday night.  So when Saturday morning came it was nice to not wake up to one daughter crying or the other standing next to our bed, but I still wanted to see my girls.  Thankfully grandpa and mimi each took pictures and posted them to facebook.  It was nice to see that they were having such a great time.

Voice Notes for Big Moments

We’ve been working with our oldest daughter on potty training for a little while now, and though she is pee trained she is not poo trained (yet).  We’ve been trying to figure out the best way to get her to understand that her poo needs to go in the potty too: we’ve tried chocolate, we’ve tried rational reasoning (which usually works for her), and many other things.  Finally yesterday she gave in to us and made a poo on the potty.  She has done it before, but it had been a couple of weeks.

Sadly I wasn’t there to help celebrate the moment, but once it happened I had a text message from my wife alerting me to the goings-on.  I was super excited for my daughter, but stuck at work.  So I recorded a voice note for her and sent it to my wife, so that my daughter could at least hear my excitement for her before I got home and showed her my excitement.

Connecting With and Without

There are so many ways that the smartness of our phones allows us to connect across great distances, to help us feel present or help our presence be felt even when we aren’t there.  But we also need to remember that when we are there the best way to be present is to put the phone away.  Use it to share memories, but build those memories with the people around you and not the phone in your hand.

The Work/Life Balancing Act

Over the last few weeks I’ve been in transition mode at work. I had been offered a promotion that was to start at the beginning of 2015, but instead it started just a couple of weeks after it was offered. This quick transition created a lot of uncertainty and required flexibility.

I’ve worked at a golf course for the last 12 years, and though I am still at the golf course I am now in a much different role. I used to be the Assistant Superintendent, which put me in charge of the grounds crew and much of the course maintenance. I am now the Assistant General Manager, which puts me in charge of the golf shop, marketing, and many other new tasks. These different roles come with a different supervisor, varied hours, and a new career path.

All of this change, all of this flux, has forced me to tip the scales of my work/life balance in the work direction.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my job.  But if I was tipping the scales in one direction by choice it would be toward life, toward family.

Work/life balance is such a broad term that implies you should spend as much time living life as you spend at work.  But the “balance” each person seeks could vary.  Some may prefer to work more, some may prefer to work little, and others may prefer to simply stay in bed as much as possible.

Months ago, as I began considering a career change, I began thinking hard about what I wanted in terms of a work/life balance.  Ultimately I’d love to be a stay-at-home dad that works (brings in income) by writing, but in the meantime I will accept having as much family time as I can possibly fit into a given week.  Now that I know that’s my goal I attempt to build my schedule to create the optimum result.

I realized that it was time to set my priorities and then acknowledge them as I make my plans.  I needed to sit down and list out everything that was important to me, so that as I plan my daily and weekly activities I could accommodate those priorities.  I’ll break down my full process in a future post, but the key point for now is that I need to get back to those priorities.

It was important to know my priorities and plan around them as I began my work/life balance process, but it’s more important to keep those priorities in mind no matter what is happening in my life.  When my schedule is built around my priorities I won’t have to sacrifice anything to make room for changes created by my work.  There always needs to be room for adjustment and flexibility, but priorities need to remain just that, priorities.

The first couple of weeks in my new job were chaotic and out of balance, because I allowed them to be.  I didn’t go in following a plan.  I just let the weeks happen and said that I’d adjust over time.  I know now that approach wasn’t right.  I know now that my adjustments need to fit my priorities.

I need my time with my wife, my girls, and my words.  And with those things in order my work life will be better too.  So it’s time to tip the scales back in my favor.  It’s time to live life the way it’s meant to be lived.

Football Season for Dads

‘Tis the  season!  No, not that red, green, and cold season.  It’s time for some football!  And for many of us that means our Saturdays and Sundays will involve at least some time in front of a TV or listening to a radio.

Some guys have created a man cave for themselves, and that is great, but don’t lock your cave.  Let your loved ones come in and share in your hobby.  Yes, it’s important to get some alone time.  But why not bring your hobby and your family together.

It may take some time to adjust to teaching while you watch, but it feels so good when your wife or child starts cheering alongside of you.  I had the pleasure of teaching my wife the rules of football years ago and now she knows most of the rules as well as I do; and she can sometimes spot the calls that the refs miss.  It’s important to fully understand the rules and strategies yourself when you start sharing with someone else, because you may get asked a question that you would never expect.

Last football season I attempted to have our little ones watch some games with me, and our oldest cheered at times.  But this year I hope to get some cheering out of our youngest and some game comprehension out of our oldest.  Nothing too drastic, but I’d like to see some progress this season (same way I feel about my favorite team—the Detroit Lions).

Don’t Force It

The key is that I don’t want to push it on the girls.  I want to give them a chance to feel out my hobbies without telling them they have to like the same things as me.  If they end up liking football, then great!  But if they decide they want to spend their fall weekends in a different way, then that’s great too.  I do hope they choose football though…

My plan is to ask them if they’d like to watch with me, and then go from there.  I won’t know exactly how I’ll proceed until I know how they want to proceed.  If they give me cues that they are enjoying themselves, then I will keep trying to incrementally increase how much I get them to watch with me. But if they don’t seem into it, then I’ll back off for a bit and try again later.

I want them to make their own decisions, but I will try to steer them a little bit.

Prepare for Audibles

Inevitably there will be changes when you begin to include your children in an activity that they weren’t previously a part of.  You may have your set seat that you like to view the TV from, but then when you head to grab a snack you come back to find your toddler has taken a liking to the same spot.  You may regularly yell at the horrible play-calling, but now a child has fallen asleep next to you on the couch.

Prepare yourself to have a bumpy ride for the first few games of the year until you figure out how best to respond to the audibles called by your little ones.  Maybe this is the year that you actually watch preseason football from start to finish – it would be a good experimental period.

So grab your favorite game-time snacks, find your spot on the couch, and settle in with your kids for an interesting season.

What I Learned from Family Vacation

This past weekend my family and I embarked on an adventure.  Seven of us (my wife, my 2 daughters, 2 sister-in-laws, my nephew, and I) went camping in northwest Michigan.  We were smart enough to get two tents, but there were still seven of us traveling together so we had no idea what to expect from the trip.

The primary worry I had going into the trip was sleep.  Would our little ones (Mikaela, 31 months & Juliet, 14 months) sleep in a tent?  Would they need their naps?  Would the rest of us get any sleep?  Would the weather allow us to stay in our tents or would we have to spring for a hotel?

In the end, sleeping was not a problem at all.  The girls went to bed in the tent in the same way they go to bed at home—made a little noise, but soon they were silent and asleep.  The difference was that Mikaela wasn’t restricted by being in a bed, so when we opened the tent to join the little ones on the first night we found Mikaela sleeping just inside the tent door.  We had laid her down at essentially the opposite corner of the tent.  She continued to move into random spots throughout the night, but she stayed asleep so we were happy.

Beyond the worries of sleep I was looking for some time with my family where I didn’t have to worry about work or “the real world”.  I even managed to only use my phone as just a clock, camera, and crazy enough a phone until we were two-thirds through our drive home and needed GPS.  I had a great time.  I felt relaxed, and I didn’t feel like I missed out on anything.

We did so much in such a short amount of time, but more importantly we shared so much time together and learned so much about ourselves and our girls.  We learned …

  • we can camp as a family.
  • we like minivans (Bettina was very skeptical before the trip, but we rented one and it was fantastic).
  • the girls can handle swimming in cool water.
  • the girls love the beach.
  • we need to let the kids stay up late every once in a while, because you never know what you’ll be privy to. We had a fire going outside the other night and I was holding our oldest in my arms while we sat around the fire.  She looked up and said, “Do you see that star? It’s like: ‘Twinkle twinkle little star’ …” and continued singing through the song.  It was awesome and adorable.
  • we are all here for each other. If either my wife or I starts to get down the other is there for a pick up, and if necessary our girls are there with silliness or a hug to perk us both up.
  • dune sand will follow you everywhere you go.
  • McDonald’s really struggles with coffee orders sometimes. I mean they really struggle sometimes; they kept thinking we wanted orange juice at the speaker and then handed us food at the window.
  • transitioning back to reality is no fun, but vacations can’t last forever.

I’m really glad we took that trip out of town.  It was a great experience, and I hope that we can do it more often moving forward.  Now that we know the kids can make it through two nights in a tent we might be able to put together another trip down the road.  I don’t know when it will be or where we will go, but I’m already looking forward to it.

In the meantime I’ll try to incorporate bits of our trip and bits of what we learned into our regular life, so we can enjoy regular life even more than we already do.  Some aspects may be easier than others.  I truly enjoyed what we had up there and I enjoy what we have here as well, so if I could mesh the two together it could be amazing.  I think that’s worth a shot.

 

Side Note—Bettina’s Motherhood Perspective post was supposed to be posted today, but instead it will be this coming Sunday so stay tuned for that.