It was a Tuesday morning around 9:30 am. My husband, Luke, sits at our breakfast table, presenting for both of us in a daily video meeting with our team which I normally join. Sometimes I'm on screen but most of the time in close enough proximity to hear everyone and interject questions (or unsolicited opinions) as needed.
I had already adventured to the store that morning, donning my protective gear and a list of quarantine treat requests from every child, of course. Back again, preparing a marinade for our chicken kabob dinner that night; a meal I was preparing for our family and another. Our 2-year-old at my feet, sprawled out on a beach towel with a Tupperware full of uncooked rice. A little sensory play while he fishes for treasures I've buried; he dumps large amounts of rice well outside the frame of the towel. I break up a fight between two children. I send an email to my counselor. I strain to hear the meeting while shushing kids to be quiet. A quick pop in to share my thoughts about an upcoming project at MudLOVE (as I do). I send two sales emails. I’m back to mixing marinade, 2-year-old on my hip. Rice all over the floor. My 5-year-old wants juice. My 10 year old asks me to help him list more books on eBay. The dog scratches at the door to be let out. Luckily, for this particular pocket of time, I’m down one kid because my teenager is, of course, still in bed. If not, surely he would need me too.
This cross-section of 20 minutes in my home, overloaded my senses and anxiety settled in. If offered a job for an opportunity like this, I would surely reply with a hearty "No Thanks.”
And yet. Entrepreneur-ing and working primarily from home has been my constant for nearly 14 years. These years include a traumatic & sudden end to a marriage and subsequent role as a single mom for 2 1/2 years. Now, in the last month, add in a few more doses of challenge. Working from home 24/7, on lockdown during a pandemic, and checking my kids’ school work daily. (Full disclosure. Homeschooling, tutoring or anything that might slightly resemble teaching is most assuredly not happening in our home.)
With a full awareness that similar vignettes are taking place in homes all around the world, in some form of another, I am comforted.
But pandemic aside, one of the most frustrating & emotional challenges of my life, often seemingly without a solution, is in keeping equilibrium between work & family life. You can likely tell I’m dancing around the phrase, "Work-Life Balance". My brain translation for balance implies harmony & equilibrium, at the exact same moment. The idea that the two can be in perfect synchronization? In my experience, it has felt like chasing a unicorn. And in turn, promotes failure & frustration.
Harmony is not a word you would use as a descriptor for my life and equilibrium remains elusive. The truth is, when inspired and using my gifts & abilities to the fullest at work, parenting and marriage get roughed up a bit. (As an aside, this is where counseling, date nights & community enter in. We need help keeping these relationships strong enough to endure the responsibilities of business owner life.) When I say yes to class parties and field trips, inspiration and productivity undoubtedly take a dip. Bending to make room, one for the other. It always includes sacrifice. Sometimes welcomed, often not.
"Pivot. It's what working moms have been doing for... well, forever."
Now that three out of four of my children are in school, I welcome summer with a great deal of trepidation. The desire I have to cherish (key word here) summer memories with my kids while staying engaged with work makes my heart skip a beat with fear. What do I do now, with the realization that our summer has been extended by two months? At a time when our small business experiences new change, almost daily, as we try to keep it afloat? The new buzz word swirling around the business world during the lockdown: Pivot. It's what working moms have been doing for . . . well, forever.
Our role is one that constantly requires the ability to pivot. We morph our careers to accommodate childbirth & maternity leave, continually weighing the value of childcare vs. staying home. We adjust our work hours with every school year. And these are just examples of seasonal changes. If you want to hear a valiant story of a speedy pivot, talk to the working mom that wakes up to a 5 am call from the school with news of another snow day cancellation. Or to the mom that sat down for a meeting when the school nurse calls, your feverish child by their side.
So, in my continual effort to deny the idea of Work-Life Balance, now more than ever, I set out to find a word that gives credence to what feels attainable to me in my role as a mom and business owner.
"Lagom: Just the right amount, a happy medium; enough."
Happily, I have found it. The Swedish word, Lagom (pronounced [la-gum]). Lagom is the new black, or as it were, Hygge. Lagom is defined as “just the right amount”, a “happy medium” and I especially love this one… “enough”. It’s untranslatable to English, not surprisingly because our culture is constantly reaching for more. We don’t typically find rest or contentment in minimalism and resourcefulness quite like the Swedes.
Rest assured, I’m not going to tell you that this whole endeavor is a worthy one and I love it. Sometimes I don’t know if it is or if I do. But with full authority, I can say that I am grateful for all of it.
The photos from my days and likely, my months will not appear in the pages of a book on ways to “Live Lagom”. An individual day will never define an entire season (thank you, Lord). In terms of averages, when looking back at these months as a whole or heck, my life in total, I will be ever so thankful if my work & home balance has been lived with the confidence of “just the right amount”. That my deep, fierce love for my husband & children as I nurture and serve them combined with my life’s work & purpose will be deemed “enough."
Whitney is co-CEO at MudLOVE and one heck of a mama. Read Whitney's MudFOLK HERE.