Southern Voice: Michelle Myers
The first few years of my business, I lived in what I now call the “guilt cycle.” If you’re a parent who works, you know exactly what I mean. When you’re working, you feel guilty that you’re not with your family. And when you’re with your family, you feel guilty that you’re not working.
It. Is. Exhausting. And if you feel it, you’re definitely not alone in your struggle.
But good news: You do not have to stay stuck in that endless cycle of guilt. In fact, one simple swap can convert family and work tensions from conflict to contentment.
Be fiercely committed to doing what matters, not getting things done.
A few years ago, my husband and I were at a conference where former President George W. Bush was interviewed. Regardless of how you may feel about his politics, he certainly brought the room together with his answer to this one question:
“You’ve got a room full of small business owners here, many of which are probably still at the stage of being chief ‘everything’ officers of their businesses, so many of them probably live in the tension of work and home life. You arguably had the most important job in the United States and yet, you left the White House with a strong relationship with your wife and your two daughters. What wisdom can you give the room on how you were able to do that?”
We were not even permitted to have pen and paper in our hands while he was speaking, let alone our cell phones, but I wish I could have a picture of 43’s face when he heard this question. It was a look of complete bewilderment — like he was actually shocked that this was such a struggle.
But I’ll never forget his answer:
“Well, you just have to do what matters. So that means, there were times that the country had to wait.”
Let those words sink in. The COUNTRY had to wait. And yet, so many of us struggle to think about letting a potential customer wait … which is maybe just a little less important than an entire country.
Here’s the truth: Your family will always resent what they feel like is their competition. It’s not that they hate your work. It’s just that if they feel like you constantly choose work over them, it’s going to be difficult for them to support you in what they feel like constantly takes you away from them.
So what if you chose today to end the competition?
I’m not talking about being legalistic, making sure that you are with your family more hours than you work. Between office hours, school, sports and your kids’ ages, that may not be possible.
But here’s the real question: When you’re with your family, are you actually with them?
This goes beyond physical presence. I’m talking about being undistracted, unplugged and as focused on your family, their needs and their life as you are when you’re at your desk or in a work meeting.
Because when you’re doing what matters versus just getting things done, it’s not about the number of minutes you have, but how you use the moments you get.
The topic of “Family Before Work” is part of our core curriculum at she works HIS way. Each time we have a guest communicator, I’ll ask the question, “How do you make sure that you go beyond saying the words of putting your family before work and actually put your priorities into action?”
Most of the answers I get are really great. They’re usually not crazy innovative, but they’re intentional. Each time this topic comes up, I reiterate how important it is to have an answer to this question. It doesn’t mean that we live it perfectly or that we don’t sometimes make mistakes. But if we don’t have an example of our intentionality, we have to stop lying to ourselves about what our priorities really are.
Because priorities aren’t merely spoken; priorities are lived.
One of the pieces of advice I often give to working parents is simply this:
Even the very best business makes a terrible life. Because no matter how much you love your work, your work cannot love you back.
I’m far from perfect, but here are my top three tips to manage your time time to pursue diligence both at home and work:
Get up early.
No one likes this one, but by allowing yourself preparation time before the day starts ensures that you begin your day ahead, not behind. I begin my morning with prayer and reading, reviewing my schedule for the day and jotting down a quick brain dump and task list. Then, I get dressed before my kids wake up.
Is getting up at 5 a.m. most days hard? Yes. But is attempting to get yourself ready while simultaneously attempting to pack school lunches, make breakfast and prepare for your work day without screaming at your spouse a million times harder? Also yes.
It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. (As you know is true for most things!)
Set family technology boundaries – and actually follow them.
In today’s world, we are more accessible than ever. So you can’t rely on your phone, email or social media to stop notifying you that someone wants your attention. You know yourself, so you have to put the boundaries that you personally need in place.
Maybe you need certain hours where your phone goes in another room. Maybe you need to delete certain apps from your phone on the weekend. Or maybe you need to find another activity to replace mindless scrolling.
Contrary to how it sounds, boundaries don’t bind, but boundaries actually bring freedom. So do yourself a favor and set some boundaries as a family as to how you can make sure technology is a used as a tool in your household and not a trap.
Get accountability where you need it.
Once upon a time, I thought accountability was something you only needed for work. When I was first building a business, people talked about the importance of having a “success partner.” And it’s not that I think the idea is bad. But as someone who errs more on the side of struggling to turn my work brain off, I didn’t really need someone holding my hand to make sure I got my work done.
So I expressed my frustration to a mentor of mine and he said, “Okay. So how about each week when we talk, I ask you how you did unplugging – both with your kids and your husband?”
Accountability matters, yes, but you need to personalize the accountability you need, based on your personality and season of life.
Now, I take it one step further. I don’t leave it to chance, or even my intentionality, to make sure my family feels more important to me than my work. I ask them. From my husband down to my 2-year-old, as often as possible, I ask them how they feel about my job.
Sometimes, their answers are the perfect encouragement to my weary soul. Other times, they’re the correction I need to get back on track. But we don’t grow by avoiding tough questions or hard conversations. We get better by facing the facts and putting in the effort needed to improve.
Again, my tips aren’t crazy innovative. But they’re intentional. So no, we’ll never be perfect. But we can take intentional steps to do what matters.
I’m rooting for you!
Michelle Myers is an author, entrepreneur and motivator. She is the founder and face of She Works His Way, a space devoted to encouraging, inspiring and training women to pursue their passions in life and in business while prioritizing the people and things that matter most. A mother, pastor’s wife, author and serial entrepreneur, Michelle launched She Works His Way as a platform that allows her to pour God’s truth into the lives of women in ministry and business. Michelle lives in North Carolina with husband James and two boys, Noah and Cole, and daughter Shea.
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