Work / life balance or work / life integration? This week I listened to a podcast that really resonated with me. It was Chris Do chatting to Robert Hranitzk (a german motion graphic designer) about running business and family simultaneously.
This was the first podcast I’ve listened to that spoke to the reality of being a professional whilst trying to be an active part of your family. I’m sure there are tons of women lead discussions on other podcasts that would have had this conversation a million times over but this was the first one I listened to. I feel it’s important for a platform like The Futur, to give a slightly less trendy angle of the successful designer as well. I noted that Chris mentioned at the beginning of the conversation that the discussion was going to be about two family men not women...
It’s unbelievable the transition that occurs before and after having a child. My husband and I have always worked together. We even spent a year living in the factory we were working in. It was great, it was like camping inside, we loved it. We worked, created and could get so caught up in our projects that the year flew by.
A few years later (living in a house not an office) we had our son. I was lucky to have 6 weeks off in between two massive publishing contracts so we got to be new, giddy and clumsy parents for a few weeks before I had to sit in front of the computer again. In Australia you get a minimum wage for 18 weeks when you have a baby - from memory it's about $400 a week. We were stoked. While the amount was small, it was the most regular my income had been in 5 years of freelancing!
I remember being jealous of my buddies who got a full year of maternity leave when they had their babies, mainly while I was breastfeeding at my computer, taking in corrections to a manuscript using my only free hand. I got fearful that if I stopped working and said “No” to any incoming work that I might lose a client or an opportunity might get missed.
16 months later we had our daughter. With no such thing as maternity leave, we decided back-to-back babies would somehow be easier?! Misguided but we’d already done it once before so figured it would be fine. We were so confident that we were in control, I remember casually emailing some files to the printer from hospital bed the afternoon Alice was born!
In reality, getting back into work with 2 babies under two was the hardest thing I’ve ever done! I had to do the feeding and it made sense that if I had the baby, I should probably have the toddler as well - at least then, Matt could work. It was tough. There is nothing more frustrating being stuck to one spot (feeding) while the world goes on around you! On reflection I wished I’d just stopped and tried to be in the moment more but, to be honest, I didn’t want to miss out! I love my work! The kids have both turned out pretty awesome so it obviously didn’t affect them too much.
As the kids get older they become less dependant on us for EVERYTHING and we are lucky enough to have active grandparents who looked after the kids fortnightly. The idea of work / life balance gives the impression of juggling to get the balance right. Work / life integration feels more promising. Being self-employed, work is always going to be a massive part of our lives and I want the kids to see that and be part of it. I want them to know what I do and what happens - the highs and lows.
The best we can do right now is to give 100% to the task at hand - whatever that maybe. 7am it might be getting the kids to eat their breakfast - using spoons please! 10 am it’s writing this blog. All we can do is try to be present in the moment you’re in!