How the puzzle pieces fit

photo-202By some measures, this has been a busy past 7 days. Starting on Wednesday last week, I’ve been to NYC twice and to Illinois once. My husband went to Boston and Geneva (yes, Switzerland). On the other hand, we’ve done a lot of family stuff too. I went to the second grade back-to-school night. We picked apples. My husband baked an apple pie with the kids and took all 3 kids to their soccer practices this weekend. Our set-up managed to absorb the unexpected (the 4-year-old getting sick at school on day 2 and needing to come home) and my husband and I were never both gone overnight. Our new nanny just started and I didn’t want to spring that on her right away.

Making the puzzle pieces fit with two parents who don’t stick to a 9 to 5 schedule and who travel isn’t easy. It continues to be a process. But it’s not mind-bogglingly difficult either. A few things I’ve figured out:

We need a scheduling meeting. I can send emails to my husband reminding him that I am speaking in Illinois on Friday, but that bit of information doesn’t necessarily translate to “I will be leaving first thing in the morning for the airport so you need to be home Thursday night.” He might interpret this as just needing to be available at 5:30 p.m. on Friday. We need to sit down with our calendars and hash all 168 hours out.

We book (and pay for) more sitting than we need. Even when we look at calendars, things change. My husband sometimes switches things last minute. I thought he was flying to Boston Wednesday — that’s what we’d talked through and planned on — so I booked a sitter to take over from our nanny at 5:30 p.m. and to stay late (until I could get home from NYC). I came home at 11 p.m. to find my husband’s car in the driveway. He’d decided to fly to Boston first thing Thursday. For all I know, he was home at 5:45, but we pay for at least a few hours when we book someone.

We have a sitter “portfolio.” In a comment on this blog, reader Griffin had mentioned always having a handful of sitters who were trained to care for her young children. Since many are college students, she’d look at things like who’d be there in the summer, who was a first year and might be around for a while, who had mornings free vs. evenings free, etc. It’s a good idea. I’m still trying to get the right mix of availability vs. what I need (because people lose interest if you don’t call often enough), but we have the major potential flash points covered.

We cram a lot into a day. Turns out you can go to middle-of-nowhere Illinois and back in 1 day! Yeah, it was a 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. day, but still.

I don’t feel bad about advocating for my career. From logging my time, I know I spend a lot of time with my kids, so I’m not worried about that potential guilt factor. But I suspect a number of people in marriages like mine might succumb to the tendency of the party with more testosterone to push on things. Yes, I said you need to be home Thursday night. You can take your Friday meeting by phone. You can ask me again, but I’m going to say the same thing. This is what we agreed to. Kiss!

If you and your spouse both travel or have irregular hours, how do you make the pieces fit?

Photo: The mosaic of our lives involves two traveling parents, and apple pie. My husband neglected to peel the apples before baking, and hence the kids wouldn’t eat the pie because it has green stuff in it. I like to think of it as a high fiber apple pie.

In other news: Eric Baker’s Barking Up The Wrong Tree blog runs an interview with me on “How the Most Successful People Manage Their Time.

New round of title ideas proposed by publisher: possibly “Have it All: How Real Women Build Lives That Work.” This is for the book formerly known as Mosaic. Thoughts? (someone also threw out Have-It-Alls but I’m not sure about nouning such things).

29 thoughts on “How the puzzle pieces fit

  1. I have to say that I hate the phrase “Having it All”, but I do love the second half of the title, a lot.

    For us the puzzle is a lot easier to sort out, since I’m working part-time and it’s all from home and a lot of it can be done outside of business hours if need be. (Though I’m trying to keep it all within the time I have childcare so I can use those evening/morning hours for my own crafty business and fun stuff.)

    But I am totally in favor of the weekly scheduling meeting. Hubby goes into the office at least one day a week, and on that day I’m solo with the kids from 6am until about 5pm.

    It’s not that big a deal, but typically we work together getting everyone ready in the morning and if I have an early meeting, then he handles getting them ready and drop-off.

    Since his “office day” varies we need to chat about schedule stuff. But in general our lives have improved a LOT since he started working from home regularly. 2 hours a day is a lot to lose to that commute.

  2. These are great tips, Laura. I think the relationship angle of negotiating sharing family responsibilities is a very important point, especially for women who are not yet married to consider– I hope you write more about that aspect in your upcoming book.

    For title ideas– I think that all of your time logs come from women with children at home, so I suggest making the intended audience more explicit in your title. Perhaps

    “A Whole Wide Life: How Real Women Build Careers that Thrive and Families that Work”

    1. Yeah, “real women” strikes me as problematic, as it’s a VERY specific subset of women. I know acknowledging that doesn’t sell as many books, but…

      1. @gwinne- but they aren’t “unreal” — I didn’t make them up! It’s also getting at the idea that many Sandberg-style have-it-all books feature famous/extremely wealthy women. While $100k is obviously much higher than average, it is not as far removed as the big name people such books are about.

        1. It’s the implication that other women are “unreal” or less than. High-powered women? High-earning women? Working moms? Having “Personal Narratives” or “Real Stories of…” in the subtitle takes care of that “real” issue without being potentially offensive.

  3. I like these logistics posts because they give me ideas! As for the title, Having it all doesn’t bother me so much but I agree with those above who mentioned that “real women” is problematic. I kind of like the original Mosaic best!

    1. @Sarah – I love other people’s logistics posts too! That’s often what I want to know in conversations as well: what childcare arrangements have you figured out, how does your life work, etc.

      1. Me too. I just love seeing the variety of what people do, even if it wouldn’t work or isn’t necessary for my life right now. You never know, and its good to have ideas stored away!
        I really love the idea of a weekly planning meeting with spouse and am going to implement it. We don’t travel and usually have the same routine each day, but there is always SOMETHING. It also gives a chance to plan in fun things, if we notice the week isn’t crazy busy, we can plan a lunch date or take the kids somewhere in the evening.

        1. @Ana – I’m happy to see that people like logistics posts. I’m hoping that this winds up being some of the appeal of the book-formerly-known-as-Mosaic. I am personally even curious how massively high powered women structure their lives. I don’t have a billion dollars but we all have 168 hours in a week, and I imagine many superwomen want to see their kids and their spouses too, so how do they figure that out? There may be something I can learn and possibly implement in a lower-budget fashion.

  4. Hmm, I’m kinda coming at it from the other side – the use of “real women” doesn’t bother me at all because I take it to mean the personal accounts of women who I feel I can potentially relate to and learn from, more so than the Sheryl Sandbergs of the world who are in a completely different realm. “Having it all,” on the other hand, is so overused and meaningless that I instinctively chafe at its use and go all Grumpy Cat NO.

  5. I really think (as several noted above) that “having it all” is completely overplayed and may well be a turn-off. What about “making it work”? I’m not bothered by “real women” because you are using real personal accounts, though it is a specific subset. There should be a reference to family in the subtitle to clarify that all the women profiled are taking care of others and may not be as applicable to a child-free for life woman.

  6. We had a scheduling/planning meeting with candlelight, popcorn, and alcohol. The kids watched Netflix. It thunderstormed while we planned! Romantic! I called it a date! 🙂 it worked. Thanks for showing us how you do it. -Anne, from middle-of-nowhere Illinois

  7. I agree that “Having it all” is overused. I also don’t think it accurately captures what anyone does with their life. It’s more “Having what you want: How Women Build Real Lives That Work.”

        1. My comment from your July 22nd post on book subtitles:

          I know that “Having It All” is a bit of a pet peeve of yours but how about “Having All That You Want”?

          Sorry….couldn’t help myself! 🙂

  8. I liked the title Mosaic (and it might have been a nice theme to weave through the book) but I guess you’ve fought as hard as you can for that one!
    I personally dislike both the ‘having it all’ and the ‘real women’ bit. The whole ‘having it all’ thing is so eye-rollingly over-used – I usually figure any article with that in the headline or blurb is click-bait or just trying to stir up angst. I also dislike it because to me, 168 hours should have been sub-titled ‘you have less hours than you think’! Your books have been incredibly useful in teaching me how to be more realistic about my time and to use my time in a considered way, according to my values – rather than trying to cram in a million and one things that are poorly done in a vain attempt to have it ‘all’.
    I also dislike ‘real women’ – as others noted, the book is about a certain segment of society and – however much it’s unintended – calling that group ‘real women’ has an implication that that’s the only group that matters.
    Sorry to be so negative! How about something like ‘How we do it: women building lives that work’ or ‘This is how we do it; etc. The reason I like blog posts like yours is that they give an honest answer to the question ‘how does she do it?’ and show the logistics behind the scenes.

  9. I also have never commented but am definitely interested in your book, and would indeed be rubbed the wrong way by the “having it all.” Indeed I think your whole point is that none of us can have it all, but we can have a lot, and choose what is most important to us. I can also see that the “real women” would be an invitation to internet trolls! One suggestion: “Mamas making it work” (I joke with several of my friends that we are in this club (MMiW) and we would make a logo & t-shirts but who has the time!?). Great post (and blog!) in general, too, thanks!

  10. I am also a regular reader but have never posted before. I agree with the comments above that ‘Having it all’ is a real turn off. Too many negative connotations. I like the idea of ‘how we do it’ or ‘how they do it’ because, like this logistics post, I enjoy reading real examples of how people manage their lives successfully.

  11. My husband and I also have a scheduling meeting, usually on the weekend at some point, looking at the week ahead. Doing this allows me to relax even heading into the busiest of weeks. It also helps us both to know what upcoming events in our work-lives might be particularly stress-inducing and how we can best take care of ourselves and each other (and the kids of course!) during those times. What I think we could use more of is a mid-week touch-base meeting (we do not manage to do this regularly, yet…) to review any last minute changes and deal with the inevitable curveballs that come our way dealing with 3 kids and school and activities, etc.

  12. “(someone also threw out Have-It-Alls but I’m not sure about nouning such things)”

    Funny 🙂

    As noted with “planning dates”, it’s not about women, it’s about families, and it sounds like weaving the parts of life together. Something along those lines?

  13. Rather than a weekly scheduling meeting, my husband, daughter and I all have Google calendars that we have shared with one another. I can see their events on my calendar in a different color. Everyone can see the shared calendar on their phone and I’ve also figured out how to overlay this calendar onto my work calendar in Outlook. We each also have our own personal calendars so when events are added we have to choose if it goes onto the personal calendar or the shared calendar. That way I don’t see my husband’s mid-day meeting or my daughter’s weekly note about when her favorite television program is on. It took me an entire evening to figure all this out but now that it is done it is working great!
    Oh, and “having it all” rubs me the wrong way too. Sorry. “Real women” seems OK to me though.

  14. Wow, they want to change the title from Mosaic? I really loved that title and have thought about it a lot since you wrote about thinking about both the good parts and bad parts of a day outside of narrative format. I guess it might be hard to know what the book is about from the title, but I’ve found the symbolism has helped me evaluate my day/life from a different perspective.

  15. I like the suggested title. You only have so many words, and I think we know what having it all implies for women in terms of career plus family. Seems like aspirational titles would sell better. I’m not going to pick up a magazine that promises to help me get kind of organized. I want to have hopes that I am one article away from being totally organized or perhaps one book away from having it all. Reality of sales even if we like to think about ourselves otherwise.

    1. @Natalie – I do want aspirational. But as I think about it, I do worry about turning off massive numbers of people. We’re still debating it! Hopefully it will come out with *something* on the cover…

  16. What about “A Life to Proud Of”? I’m interested in stories about how women get to that point, both logistically and emotionally.

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