Hi, I’m Dan, the Duke of Chaos. (yes, I claimed my own title). I am an independent contractor, with clients all over the spectrum, from individuals who have issues with the government to large businesses that need help with running their offices and corralling the processes that keep them solvent on a daily basis. I also have five children from 11 years old down, living at home, and a wife who’s amazing but who also has a full time professional job. When we started out on this crazy rewarding [maddening?] Catholic family journey together, the plan wasn’t to include children (it wasn’t supposed to be possible medically, but eh, doctors vs. God. Not to diverge too far, but we discussed our future, and with what things look like now, work life balance is a myth. I work full time, I’m a dad and husband full time, she works full time and still managed to make my parenting efforts look mediocre at best.
Realize that nothing 100% perfect all the time
I’m human, my kids are mostly human, my wife is super-human. My house looks like a zoo was dumped into it on a regular basis. Trying to keep everything perfect is an impossible dream. Let me give you an example from yesterday. I made boxed mac-and-cheese. You know the story. I had five hungry kids at lunchtime, we just walked in the door, there’s nothing handy, and everything is chaos. I grabbed two boxes of Annie’s Pasta Mac and Cheese. This one here:
This stuff is amazing. Kids devour it en mass… wait! I only had two boxes, it takes four to feed these guys… nuts. OK, organic pasta into the pot with the Annie’s. Now, right, block of aged cheddar and grate it up, add to the sauce…
The result, a gooey mess that was still mostly healthy, and they ate it. What I’m getting at is that nothing turns out perfect. No matter your effort, no matter the heart or skill you put into it, nothing is perfect. Ever. This particular not perfect example was slightly granular because I didn’t’ get the sauce quite right, and gooey because of the real cheese melted into the mix. Kids loved it and ate it all. Life goes on.
Give it everything you have to everything that matters
When you get up in the morning, do you think to yourself, I’m going to be rushed at lunch, I’ll need to prepare the Mac-and-cheese ahead? No. You’re up, or at least I am, because the baby needs me. I’m there 100% of me is there -in the moment-, changing diapers, wiping noses, bottle feeding the sleepy little one, the list goes on and on and on. Does the yard matter? Does the laundry matter. What is important now? Put yourself entirely into that thing and focus.
When I am at work, I am at work, trusting that my wife is good with the kids. When I am at home, I am there, with the kids, only occasionally pulled out to answer truly critical work items. When they are playing without me and don’t want me around, then I’ll work, leaving enough of my attention open to come back to the kids because they’re more important than working when I’m the primary parent home.
The point is, half-assing life, piddling around with TV Shows, Facebooking blocks of time, even casual reading (I miss casual reading) isn’t a good use of time. Focus on what matters. Children, Marriage, Work, Housework and maintenance, in that order for me.
If you half-ass it, you get half-assed results.
You are the best version of yourself, keep that in mind
Following up on the half-assing comment, cut yourself some slack, life is hard, and we all make mistakes. See the mess I made of the pasta that I referred to earlier. Life is really complicated; budgets, bills, children, schedules, schools, this is all a lot to process and a lot of things to keep up in the air as a parent. Your work is going to suffer sometimes. You are going to be late to an appointment on occasion.
It happens. To some of us it happens more than maybe it should. Cut yourself some slack and remember this:
Do the best you can with what you have, and fix it later as needed.
People, you, me, the homeless guy on the corner named Joe, we’re all a work in progress. It takes time, and we were born cold, naked, and hungry. Since then, you’ve made progress, keep moving forward, growing and glowing better and better.
Recommit very day, hourly if needed, stay loose and open
Every morning, get up, thank whomever you need to, and get back to work. Not literally, although some of us delight in getting up to go to work. Each of us has a path, and coming back to that path every morning, or even recommitting every hour during times of trial and challenge, is what’s required of us.
You are called to show up, give your best and leave it all on the table when you’re done. Can you say that you did so? I sure can. Most days are a spastic chaos of too little sleep, too many obligations and far too many issues that need dealt with. But each time I get snowed under, I look up, (or down if the baby’s near, she’s cute), and remember why I’m doing this. It’s what God asked of me as a father.
Give it everything, hold nothing back, and thank God for the opportunity to do so.
Work/Life Balance is a Myth, Keep Moving and you’ll be alright
In closing, the work/life balance that so many of my peers and mentors grew up knowing about, is a crock of crap. You can’t balance the huge parts of your life that make it all worthwhile. I love my kids, I love my wife, and I love my career.
How am I supposed to portion bits of myself out to them so that the balance is maintained? Do the kids get less than 100% of me? When I get a rare moment with my breathtaking wife, do I hold some of myself back? Do my clients deserve less than my best when I’m charging them for the results?
It’s insane to think that I should have to portion myself.
Give it everything, you’ll be glad you did. Oh, and don’t forget, you, yourself, are also an important part of the equation. So, while you’re giving it everything, don’t forget to invest your time and heart into yourself as well.