Unbalance by Ann Imig

This is the first entry in my new series “I Don’t Know How She Does It,” written by Ann Imig, a stay-at-home humorist and the National Director of Listen to Your Mother (LTYM).

Ann Imig

Source: AnnImig.com

In some overwhelmed moments, I still wish I could just be content with the privilege of affording to stay home raising my kids.  I wish that the business of mothering could fulfill me completely, because my five and seven-year-old boys’ baby days are bygone, and their childhoods feel fleeting. I already have to bribe my boys for hugs. Kisses are completely off-limits. Suddenly this year “Seven” will barely make eye contact with me in his classroom when I volunteer. I asked him if he’d prefer I stop coming, and he replied that while he still wanted me to volunteer at his school, he’d rather I’m not in his classroom. Gulp.

The truth of matter is, however, the isolation of being a full-time SAHM, combined with the neglect of my huge creative ambition from pre-motherhood, drove me to start my blog in 2008–subsequently launching a new career path. My husband travels for work, and I desperately needed an outlet for my 18 hour days parenting a preschooler and an infant, during five months of the longest, snowiest, coldest winter Wisconsin had seen in decades. I started writing furiously. I found an audience. I became obsessed. For the first two weeks after I started blogging I barely slept. Each comment brought an endorphin surge further fueling my elation over the array of other creative adults available online to collaborate and commiserate with at any hour.

Unbalanced might describe those first months—maybe my whole first year online. I’d sneak away at every available moment to write, read or comment on blogs, or even talk to blog friends on the phone. My writing ambitions felt all-consuming, on top of the all-consuming role of motherhood. When I wasn’t blogging, I submitted my writing everywhere I could find. I dreamed of writing a book. While some rejections were hard, seeing my work published and getting paid a few dollars made up for it. As opposed to my theater days when I had to audition in order to act, I found it thrilling that as a writer I could work whenever I chose and from my own home. One of the huge assets of blogging for me became the fact that I had this supportive audience to share my work with on my blog, regardless of my pieces getting accepted or rejected elsewhere.

When I started LTYM I didn’t know I was starting a new career. The requests to do the show came pouring in from other cities and bloggers, and I found Deb Rox–my mentor/business strategist who gave me the confidence and know-how to undertake a national effort. As I began to understand the scope of the project, I soon realized I had to make some decisions regarding my work/life balance. In a conversation with a career counselor I’d worked with for years, I determined that something had to go. You can do a lot of things sufficiently, but you can only do one or two things really well. If I planned on starting my own business, I had to do it really well.

For reasons financial and due to my overwhelming preference, fulltime daycare for my then four-year-old wasn’t an option. I wanted to spend his last year at home with him, and also wanted to remain available to help out at my older son’s school. So, in order to pursue LTYM in a meaningful way that would give it the best chance to succeed, I had to let my free-lance and book author dreams go for a while. Throughout this process came a letting go of my blog aspirations as well, in a sense. I knew I needed to keep the blog for LTYM and my for platform, but I gave up any notion of becoming a “big blogger.” I allowed myself to publish posts only once a week, and gave up much of my reading and commenting on other blogs.

As soon as I made my decision to take a hiatus from my professional writing pursuits, offers came in. I had to say no to opportunities I would’ve swooned over previously. I had to quit and scale-back wherever I could. I knew my commitment to LTYM was being tested—in fact, I expected it. But, after a couple years of giving myself to other people’s projects, it also felt great to put my project first.

All that said, I still struggle with balance. Currently I have more work than ever combined with less childcare than last year. When I encounter LTYM’s slower periods, my writer dreams come raging back and I struggle to find patience. I question my priorities constantly. I still spend wayyyyy too many hours in front of my laptop, and feel like a total hypocrite as I control my sons’ screen time to the minute. I do make sure to spend quality time playing board games or reading with my kids every day. I cook (ahem–prepare) three meals a day. My husband and I make at least a few minutes for each other every day that he’s home. But if you measured who I spend more time with, my laptop or my family? The laptop would win. Next year, with both boys in school full-time, it will be easier to distinguish working time from family time (from exercise time, from marital time from ME-time-DAMMIT).

My online life, LTYM, and writing has brought me so much happiness, satisfaction, and sense of possibility. As I strive for that elusive “balance” I know that even while someone or something gets short-shrift for a time, overall it’s unequivocally worth it. A friend of mine says a good mom is a happy mom. Because of my work that I love –that also allows me flexibility to be with my family–I’m now, for the most part and on most days, a very happy mom. Even if I’m a little unbalanced.

Comments

  1. Thank you for having me, Holly! This reflection was helpful for me, and I was honored to be asked.

  2. So thoroughly enjoyed this. Getting to know Ann on a different level.

    I did have shivers as I read her blogging life timeline and the thought of how much mine shadows exactly what hers has been.

    The all consuming love of the newfound blogging community. The eagerness to connect with those that came to my site. The ease of publishing my words. The offers for things unimaginable to me a year ago.

    Just like my 1st and soon to be end of 2nd year blogging.

    Except for the nationally famous stage show, you know…national director and all…ahem and being mentored by DEB ROX OH MY GOD and yeah, throw McSweeney’s and CollegeHumor in there and being on a BlogHer panel.

    Otherwise, parallel universe.

    • Alexandra, you are a phenomenon to me. I want to read your “how does she do it” post next, because I truly do not know how you do.

      How many people get chosen to speak for the community key note ever, and especially their FIRST BlogHer?

    • Alexandra, I have just come on my 2nd year of blogging, too, and like, Ann, I can not believe the places it is taking me. But sometimes I definitely have to take a step back and re-evaluate what’s important. I need to remove items from my to do list, too, but I’m having too much fun doing EVERYTHING and don’t know what to remove.

      In addition, I LOVED meeting you at BlogHer and can’t wait until we meet again this year.

  3. congratulations and good luck on your upcoming show.

  4. Sari Judge says:

    A sense of possibility trumps perfect balance every time. And LTYM going coast to coast in three years? Anyone else would have fallen off the beam.

  5. I loved reading about your path, Ann. And I love that you know that certain things have to go in order to make space for more important things. Still.trying.to.learn.this.lesson. Oy…

  6. This is a resonant, thoughtful and though-provoking post, even for a woman without children.

    Thank you for your willingness to always tell your own truth, Ann. You don’t stop inspiring me.

  7. This is wonderful and I don’t even have kids of my own. But I do have some close friends with kids and jobs and husbands who are always searching for balance so it resonates. And as someone who aspires to someday add the family part to my life, it’s good know that it can all, certainly, be done. Happily, too! Thank you, oh-so much, for sharing.

    • Sarah and Shayla, kids or no kids–life is busy and overwhelming.

      Thank you all for your supportive comments.

  8. Fabulous post Ann. The unbalance reference in the headline hit me like a ton of bricks. I’ve written how each is achieving their own form of balance because there is no magic formula – but the truth of the matter is – unbalance is how it is and that’s okay. Thanks!

  9. I loved this. I’ve always believed that if mommy’s happy, everybody’s happy, and have seen this proven over and over.

  10. Testify, my sister! I am, as always, floored when I think about the transition we have all made since our initial blogging days. I have to say, though, our friendship shadows every other success. You are an inspiration and I just adore you. And, last thing: I can’t wait to see where Listen to Your Mother takes you!!

    • How cool is it that blogging led to amazing LOCAL friendships??? I’m so grateful for you Amy.

    • You guys live near each other now? I didn’t realize you were so close since Amy moved back from the UK. I’m so jealous! Also, I’m so honored you both stopped by my blog.

  11. Awesomeness. Thanks for sharing the hard work of figuring out what’s right. We all need help seeing how it’s done, even if our choices are about different things. Learning to listen to our gut instincts about What We Need To Do (as opposed to what we should do) takes a lifetime to master, so congratulations on this unbalanced acheivement!! xx

    • Thank you Stacy. You have so much insight and self-awareness on this topic, and you’re absolutely right about it taking a lifetime to master.

      Humility is the key. For me anyway.

      I’m back to one of my old mantras for 2012 and it reminds me of you: Trust my path (struggle) trust my path, trust my path.

    • I love that, Stacy: Learning to listen to our gut instincts about What We Need To Do (as opposed to what we should do). I am going to record that in my memory and live by it.

  12. Ann, you’ve inspired me since I first started following your blog a little over a year ago. I still struggle to balance writing aspirations and blogging “commitments.” The blogging has all that good instant gratification laced in to make me want to stick with it. The novel writing takes a different kind of concentration and time than I can find right now with the four little kids. Of course, if I wasn’t blogging . . . OY.

    Good for you for being able to say no and for recognizing what’s most important to you at this particular time. That’s not always easy!

  13. An amazing drive like yours finds a way to balance. Although, I see it getting harder for you. That’s what happens with wild success ;-)

    • HA, Stacey I’m afraid you’re right. We just have NO IDEA what lies around the corner. Whether things go stratospheric or completely fall apart it’s guaranteed to be WILD.

  14. Great post! You’ve set the bar high!

    The realization that your thoughts are meaningful to others is a powerful one..and one that keeps many of us blogging, guest blogging etc. As someone who works full time and still wants to guest blog…I actually use my commuting time (on the train) to write. Whodathunk I’d embrace commuting so much – but now it has a purpose!

    • I completely relate, Elissa. I crave commuting time to get things done. Unfortunately, I now drive to work and can’t multi-task at the wheel.

  15. Ann, I loved this and felt like it came directly out of my head. (Although far more articulately expressed). I had the pleasure of meeting you briefly at BlogHer and trust me, you are a big, big deal. Looking forward to future posts!

  16. Betsy, you must follow Ann’s blog for more of her words, which I read so often. You can find them at http://www.annsrants.com.

  17. Balance is bullshit. That is all.

  18. Equal parts insight and honesty. Well done. Thanks, Ann, for the peek in the windows of the way you make life work.

    Great series concept, Holly!

  19. Ann, I’m in awe of you. Truly. And this post is fantastic. Thank you for sharing it.