I always knew that I wanted to be a mother. I dreamed of having children of my own to love and care for and was thrilled when my children, Madeleine & Nicholas, were born. They are an absolute joy and having them in my life is such a natural fit for me. They have enriched my life in more ways than I could ever adequately express and I love them dearly. But I also knew that I wanted a career. I didnâ€™t always know exactly what it was that I wanted to do, but I never expected not to have to work. The thought of having a job always excited me.
As the years went by, things seemed to fall nicely into place: I was married, owned a home and a business, worked, volunteered, and took care of my children. I had a busy social life, a wide circle of friends, and was very active in my community. But then everything changed. Iâ€™ll spare you the details but, needless to say, it wasnâ€™t pretty. My relationship of 20+ years was over. I found myself taking care of 2 children on my own, having to find a job that allowed me to be the mother I wanted to be and the career woman I now needed to be.
I had previously spent many years in the hospitality industry and also worked as a performer. Now, as a single mother, restaurant hours were impossible to keep and a career in the performing arts seemed like a frivolous pursuit. So I did something that many people are terrified of doing: I started over.
I saw this as an opportunity for reinvention and rebirth. I thought about everything that I liked, everything I was good at, everything I wanted, and everything I needed. I made seemingly endless lists. I took a free career planning course. I researched the requirements for every job that sounded even remotely interesting and I conducted informational interviews to help me narrow down the field of possibilities. I did absolutely everything that I could possibly do for free because there was no way that I was going to pay a single cent towards anything, until I was certain that I was making the right decision. I didnâ€™t feel as though I had the luxury of being able to make any more mistakes. I wanted to get this right, even if it took a little longer to get there.
When Iâ€™d finally settled upon a few options, I had 3 main criteria:
1) Would I really enjoy it?
2) Would this career be a good fit with my family life?
3) If schooling was required, which program allowed me to obtain the highest academic credentials in as little time as possible?
When all was said and done, I chose to go back to school to become a Certified Image Consultant & Stylist which, ironically, was something I had already done for friends and family over the years anyway. I was always the person that everyone wanted to take shopping with them. People admired my sense of taste and style and I realized that I could actually get paid for doing what Iâ€™d always done for free! Imagine that! I definitely had moments of doubt but, for the most part, I was filled with excitement and exhilaration for what the future had in store.
My studies went exceedingly well. I made incredible connections and was presented with wonderful opportunities for growth and personal development. My newfound career path was such a perfect fit that I honestly donâ€™t know why I hadnâ€™t pursued it sooner! Workshop facilitation, speaking engagements, freelance writing assignments, and invitations to countless fashion and beauty events soon followed. Now, whenever I tell someone what I do for a living, the response is usually a version of this: â€śHow exciting! It sounds like you have it all!â€ť I have heard that phrase so often that it has forced me stop and think about what â€śhaving it allâ€ť really means.
For me, having it all used to mean having everything that money could buy. It was about the acquisition of stuff, about status and bragging rights, in addition to all of the â€śnormalâ€ť wants and needs of life, love, and relationships. Now itâ€™s all about choice and compromise.
My life has 4 main components:
1) my private time
2) my life as a mother
3) my business world
4) my social life
Each component is important to me and helps me to be a well-rounded individual. Iâ€™ve listed them in that order because that is the order of their importance to me. Some of you have already gasped and said, â€śWhy on earth did she put her private life before her life as a mother?!!!â€ť Thatâ€™s easy: my private life takes 2 – 3 hours out of every day and happens before my children wake up each morning and after they go to bed at night. It does not detract from the time I spend with them in any way and, in fact, makes me a better mother. During my private time, I plan my day, meditate, exercise, listen to music, read, and unwind. Thatâ€™s it. Nothing salacious here, so relax. That â€śme timeâ€ť just makes me a happier, more grounded person, with the ability to face each day with a smile and to sleep soundly at night.
These are my choices. I own them and they work for me. If and when they stop working for me, I know that I will have the freedom and the opportunity to make other choices and adapt my lifestyle accordingly. That, to me, is the ultimate objective of having it all.
So where does compromise come into play? What gets sacrificed? Everyone who knows me is aware that my children come first. If there is a school event or excursion, a difficult homework assignment, a project to complete, a test to study for, or if a child is sick, my social plans will be cancelled and my business engagements will be rescheduled. Itâ€™s as simple as that. No exceptions. Luckily for me, being self-employed allows me to get most of my work done while my children are at school, so they rarely see me working or feel my absence. Theyâ€™re actually quite happy when I have to go out to a meeting or an event in the evening, as they thoroughly enjoy their time at home alone.
Of course, having it all involves a tremendous amount of hard work! I was not born independently wealthy, nor have I won the lottery. It is a mistake to think that those we perceive as having it all laze about at the beach all day, piĂ±a colada in hand. People who have it all are some of the busiest, hardest working people on the planet. What they do with the money they earn is their business and they are free to spend it as they see fit, but they must earn it before they can spend it.
I used to live a life that, to the outside world, appeared as though I had it all. But I didnâ€™t. People just assumed I did and I never disabused them of that notion because I felt as though it would have brought shame to myself, my family, and our business. Now I proudly tell people the truth about my past life. It wasnâ€™t always pleasant, but it did help shape me into the woman I am today. My life now, although much simpler, is so much more fulfilling. I have a home I love, my children are happier than theyâ€™ve ever been, I thoroughly enjoy my work, I have meaningful relationships, I laugh and have fun every day, and I do things that I enjoy doing. I have given up a lot, but I donâ€™t miss it. I make better choices for myself and for my children and we are all better for it. So, if you ask me if I have it all, my answer would be an unequivocal, â€śYes, I do!â€ť
Your version of having it all and mine might not be the same, but you are free to interpret it however you please and to do whatever it takes for you to achieve your goals. In spite of all of the self-help books lining the shelves of your favourite bookstore, there is no a one-size-fits-all diet, relationship guide, or career-planning manual. Â What worked for me might not work for you and thatâ€™s okay. Having the choice to do what you want, to try different things, to add a number of lifeâ€™s experiences to your personal shopping cart, and the ability to compromise as you see fit, thatâ€™s having it all.
By: Elizabeth Friesen