- Posted July 18, 2012 by
Emerald isle, North Carolina
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Work and motherhood
Telling Our Story: Mothering and Work-Life Balance
I am a mother and a CEO. A boardroom medical yogi traveling, teaching, educating, and seeing patients...and who also sweeps floors, irons laundry, and sings jazz in her spare time...and oh yes, is a wife and a mother of three boys under the age of six.
I am the "perfect storm" for telling the "American mother seeking work-life balance" story. Here is my short version of how keep my wits about me while I "do it all":
Reflection. You see your own in the mirror day in, day out.
But who do see? The person you were, the person you are, or the person you want to become?
Self-reflection is recognized as a universal requirement for learning. And for me, it is absolutely necessary in the daily pursuit of my own work-life balance.
Maxine Greene PhD, who entered the field of education in 1938 and established herself early on at Columbia University as the “lone female voice” in a male dominated philosophy of education, has this to say about reflection:
“…you can be submerged in the crowd, and if you’re submerged in the crowd and have no opportunity to think for yourself, to look through your own eyes, life is dull and flat and boring,” she says. “The only way to really awaken to life, awaken to the possibilities, is to be self-aware.”
Greene likens reflection to “wide-awakeness.” “Without the ability to think about yourself, to reflect on your life, there’s really no awareness, no consciousness. Consciousness doesn’t come automatically; it comes through being alive, awake, curious, and often furious.”
My self reflection practice has revealed to me, through the years, these two truths. Though simple, they have had a profound effect on ordering my life for greatest growth and success - and ultimately to strike a peaceful balance as a woman, wife, mother, physical therapist, and business owner.
1. Write in pencil. As I order my days and set goals for myself, I now only write in pencil. Whether on my family or google calendar I can swiftly erase or delete whatever no longer serves me or my family’s best interests. Putting away the ink pen has freed me to invite new experiences into my life. I am more flexible as a parent and professional and realize I can flow with life’s changes gracefully. Wielding a pencil instead of a pen has allowed me to let go so I can grow.
Time has a way of showing us all – that we are not in control. Sooner or later, we have to learn that flexibility, not rigidity, serves us best. My wake up call was my 2 year old son’s emergency heart surgery. With his diagnosis and the surgeon’s curt announcement, “your son will need cardiothoracic surgery within the month…” suddenly my packed work schedule and all the responsibilities that I had tied to it – paled and fell away. I found myself waiting outside the pediatric neo-natal intensive care unit – pacing and praying for my son’s life.
That experience demanded that I write in pencil. Now I don’t wait for the proverbial shoe to drop before self-reflecting. I do it every time I plan an event in my calendar.
2. Omit possessive vocabulary. I began this practice more than a decade ago, during a humanitarian trip to Alaska to help a community of Native Americans. That trip showed my that nothing I have is mine. It is only gifted to me while I am here on earth. Being Native American myself, I was reminded by this beautiful family of Alaskan Indians that the “my” we use so often – doesn’t really exist.
That year I stopped using the word “my.” “My” belongings or “my business” or “my skills” were no longer mine. They belonged to a greater good that had nothing to do with me but everything to do with how I used what was entrusted to me and what lasting effect is has in this world. This small practice also helped me more earnestly apply the yogic principle of non-attachment. Situations in life were no longer mine, and as a result, I was able to look at them through a more objective, level-headed, and less emotionally possessive lens.
As a result, relationships I had with others also improved. Annoying habits or hurtful behaviors from others were just that – only habits or behaviors – but they did not own the person. As a result, I was able to detach the bad experience from the person, which left me free to forgive and open myself up to healing and growth in the relationship.
The benefits of being self-aware helps others find their work-life balance too. If I am responsible for the energy I bring into a room, then from colleagues to cradle, those around me have the freedom to cultivate their own self-awareness and sense of inner peace and external balance.