We are so thrilled to be featuring guest bloggers all year long. These individuals have navigated their own way through the journey that is being a working mom. This month, we hear from Christina Curtis, founder of Curtis Leadership Consulting and writer for Harvard Business Review, Forbes and Psychology Today. Thank you, Christina!
As a working parent, I am perpetually juggling my priorities between work and home. Running fast, running hard, sometimes in several directions simultaneously. The question is, where the heck am I headed?
In 2010, I took great care in answering that question after an unfeeling riptide threatened to pull our family out to sea. A mysterious health condition befell our son who was just 3 years old at the time. He began experiencing blackout spells where he would suddenly stop breathing, turn blue, and fall unconscious in our arms within seconds. Doctors couldn’t figure out why his brain would stop sending the signal to breathe, and worse, couldn’t predict what would happen if it continued.
Already a student of the brain, I voraciously read everything I could get my hands on in hopes of finding any answers. I stayed up all night scrolling through research papers and medical journals, falling asleep at my desk, desperately seeking that one elusive nugget doctors might have overlooked.
After several excruciating months, a diagnosis came in. They had found that our son had a rare neurological condition without a clear treatment plan or prognosis. There was nothing we could do but watch and wait.
After about a week of struggling to get out of bed, my husband pulled me aside and asked a game-changing question. “Watch and wait?” he asked. “Are we really going to have our children live their lives watching Mom and Dad holding their breath to see what happens?”
The answer, clearly, was no. We sat down at the kitchen table and wrote out what we wanted for our family and our own fulfillment. We then reflected on how we were operating to see what was moving us forward and what was holding us back from achieving the highest level of fulfillment, fun, and financial wellbeing. A few questions helped us think through the process:
· Where are we playing small or holding back?
· What can we let go of that is low value and/or low enjoyment?
· What do we complain about and how can we shift it?
· Where do we feel guilt or shame and how can we let that go?
These were incredibly hard questions to answer and even harder to tackle. But the reality is it would have been worse to know we weren’t living our lives to the fullest. Hard, after all, is just a perspective. Carving out time for self-care is hard, but so is suffering from stress and worry. Speaking up in a meeting is hard, but so is being overlooked and unappreciated. Getting physically fit is hard, but so is being unhappy with our well-being. Given that most things can be hard, we might as well choose what kind of hard we are going to get!
That day in the doctor’s office when we first received my son’s diagnosis was 12 years ago now. His condition continued to evolve, threatening to take his life on more than one occasion. And yet, he fought. We fought. And here he is today, thriving as a young man ready to take on the world, living with the intensity that comes from having a deep awareness of life’s fragility.
As working parents, we continue to juggle our priorities between work and home.
And yes, we are still running fast and furiously in several directions. Perhaps that hasn’t changed that much, and yet everything looks and feels quite different. At least now we have a clear direction and know where we are running and what for.
by Christina Curtis