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I’m Not Scared. Are You???

Posted by Deborah Huso on Mar 28, 2014 in Musings, Relationships, Success Guide

Originally published November 6, 2011.

My husband said to me recently, after a disagreement about how I operate my professional and personal life, “You know I really admire the way you fling yourself blindly into life. It’s one of the reasons I fell in love with you.  But it’s just not smart.”

You’ve probably heard statements like this dozens of times: “I love you, but….”  We all hear them.  They are the bane of happy relationships.  If you love somebody, but this or that, maybe you shouldn’t be with him or her…unless, of course, you have to be.  You have to look after your kids, your parents, that dog you adopted from the SPCA.

This post isn’t about loving some but not all of a person, however.  It’s about living, not blindly, but, as I prefer to argue, openly.

And I’m not talking about hopping out of the proverbial closet if you’re gay or letting your grown children know you’ve divorced…six months after it has happened.  I’m talking about being open to life, to the opportunities it offers at every turn, the opportunities we often miss because we’re afraid, afraid of trying something new, striking up a conversation with a stranger, saying “yes” when our self-protective instinct wants to say “no.”

Everything extraordinary that has ever happened in my life has happened because I took a massive leap of faith, defied the naysayers, hoped, believed, and closed my eyes and jumped. When I told an acquaintance of mine once that much as I enjoyed sea kayaking, I didn’t know if I was up for whitewater, he said, “Whitewater kayaking is all about fear management.”

So is life.  Conquer your fear, and the thing you thought you couldn’t do becomes possible, manageable, maybe even smart.

For those of you who have been reading my columns in newspapers and magazines for the past decade, you have heard all of this, to some degree or another, many times before. But I think it bears repeating.  It is probably why my dad, from the time I was a teenager until deep into my adult life, would tell me every time I left home to go on a date, return to college, go back to my apartment in the city, “Drive fast, and take chances.”  He wasn’t talking about how to drive my car (though I’ve been lead-footed, I’ll admit, since age 16); he was talking about how to live my life.

Overcome fear.  No matter what.  Overcome it.

As many a philosopher has pointed out over the centuries, it is beyond fear that we find the true meaning of our lives.

When I was a child, I was incredibly afraid.  Everything from piano recitals to going away for a weeklong church summer camp terrified me.  They pushed me outside my comfort zone.  It was one thing to play the piano in my parents’ living room, quite another to play it in front of an auditorium full of people.  And it was one thing to have a sleepover at a best friend’s house, but to bunk in a cabin in the woods with girls I hardly knew?  Now that was scary.

But as I grew older, I slowly began testing my own limits, learned to say “yes” to crazy, nerve-wracking things like singing the “Star Spangled Banner” at the opening of every high school basketball game and leading discussions on comparative religion in the college Humanities classes I started teaching at age 23, finding myself, on many occasions, younger than my students.

These small dares led to ever bigger ones because I had begun to discover that saying “yes” to things that terrified me taught me, little by little, to push through fear.  And the amazing thing about fear is that once you push through it, it disappears.  You’re not only never afraid of that particular thing again, you find yourself a little less afraid of the next scary thing because you’ve proved, after all, you can handle fear.

By the time I was in my mid-twenties, my fear management had grown to a whole new level.  I was willing to drop a full-time, good-paying job at an ad agency, give up my penthouse apartment, and take a wild risk becoming a freelance writer in the isolated mountain reaches of western Virginia.  Everyone, except my dad, told me I had lost my mind, and even my dad admitted, years later, that he thought I had lost my mind, too, but was smart enough to keep his mouth shut.

A lot of people will chastise themselves, when they are young anyway, for taking a risk and falling flat on their faces.  After all, it’s pretty darn embarrassing when a girl turns down your request for a dance, so why on earth would you ever risk yourself by asking a woman to marry you?  You see how this reasoning against risk-taking can get out of hand.  Pretty soon, you’ll be avoiding everything that makes life worth living.

Consider instead, if you’re feeling a little fearful, of twisting your thinking.  Learn to regret the risk not taken, and pretty soon it will become habit to put yourself out there.  So strong a habit, in fact, that you’ll kick yourself until you’re black and blue every time you fail to take an opportunity and see where it leads.

I’m still beating up on myself for failing to get the business card of a Belgian businessman I met on an airplane a couple of weeks ago who sought me out because he wanted to talk to an American who could speak French.  I was afraid he might think I was hitting on him.  When I told my husband about this failure on my part later, he said, ironically enough, after I had described the gentleman, “I bet he’s in the diamond trade.  You could have had a new client.  You’re an idiot.”

Hmmm.  I thought so, too.

I should have just flung myself blindly into the possible opportunity.  But then, I don’t really see staying open to possibilities as a blind leap of faith.  Rather, it is a calculated sense of foresight.  Life is too short for giving into fear.  Sure, you might embarrass yourself, offend someone, maybe even lose your shirt (metaphorically speaking).  But that’s the beauty of risk…and of life.  You really, truly never know what’s around that next corner.  And if you operate from a place of opportunity instead of a place of fear, chances are whatever is around the bend is pretty darn grand.

 
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Let Me Act Like I Know What I’m Doing Here

Posted by Deborah Huso on Mar 13, 2014 in Musings, Relationships, Success Guide

Originally published December 30, 2011.

“Perfect isn’t that interesting to watch. In fact, it can be both boring and exhausting. What we like to see is human.” –Frances Cole Jones

In a book I had to review recently, the author wrote, and not necessarily with contempt, that social media has made us all exhibitionists and opened the way for everyone to make public confessionals.  There is truth in this.  And the result is a lot of noise in a world already overflowing with information.

When I asked some women friends and acquaintances to help contribute to this blog, they balked (even the two who are currently contributing).  The idea of flinging their personal lives onto the Internet for their parents, their friends, their neighbors to read…and judge…seemed a little bit scary.  “What if I offend someone?  What if I make someone mad?”  Of course, having been a journalist and columnist for many years, I know that stirring up the pot is often the whole point.  If you’re not offending someone or making someone mad at least some of the time, you probably don’t stand for much, and you’re probably not making much of a difference in anyone’s life either.

But is it all, in the end, just self-serving and self-magnifying noise?  Well, it depends.  There is a place for the public confessional.  I think of Brooke Shields’ book Down Came the Rain, where she talked about her own struggle with postpartum depression.  I think of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, which chronicled her trials with recovering from divorce, lost love, and daring to love again.  I think of Isabel Gillies’ It Happens Every Day, where she acknowledged her own responsibility in her ex-husband’s extramarital affair.  And I think of Youngme Moon’s Difference, where she talked about the day she decided to stop teaching the way everyone else was teaching and how it changed her life and the lives of her students.  These books fit the category of public confessional, and how glad am I these women confessed.

Their confessions have made me (and others, too, no doubt) feel less alone on this journey called life.  And they have taught me new ways of thinking about and approaching my own existence.  Knowing someone else has tried and failed and tried again…differently…gives me hope in moments when hope seems hard to come by.

Some of my friends and acquaintances will be surprised–those who think I limit myself to great, dead literary authors like William Faulkner, Thomas Hardy, Henry James, and Elizabeth Gaskell.  But all these books, literary fiction and popular memoir, have something critical in common.  Perhaps no one can set a scene like Thomas Hardy.  And perhaps no one can jar our senses with “hit that nail on the head” meaning like Faulkner.  But they are, in the end, all public confessionals–cutting open the writer’s view of the heart of life, whether achieved through fact or fiction.  And these confessionals change us.

So let me confess….

I started this blog because I realized I had it too good in some ways.

Trained by experience to establish rapport with sources by finding that rock of shared experience that would make them trust me, I have been the recipient of more than a few confessionals over the years.  And what I discovered from that and from the tools of journalism that I have transferred over to my relationships with friends and colleagues is that everyone has a story, many stories most likely, that they are dying to tell, need to tell.  They are just waiting for the audience…the audience that often never comes.  They want someone to walk into their lives who gives a damn, really, honestly gives a damn.  Because life is hard, and life is scary, and isolation is the surest path to eternal torment.

I have received confessionals on a scale far deeper than any Catholic priest’s.  And it has not, as you might imagine, given me a front row seat to the hidden melodrama of people’s lives. Rather, having that window into people’s souls has given me a window into my own.  It has given me the courage to acknowledge my own failures, learn from them, and pass the lessons on.

The assistant instructor at the dance studio where I take lessons twice a week often remarks when teaching choreography she has just learned herself, “Let me act like I know what I’m doing here.”  And we chuckle with some relief, glad perhaps to know that someone else is “winging it” besides ourselves.

I can recall having done the same as a young Humanities professor, teaching the history of early Western Culture, a subject well outside my area of expertise, a subject in which I struggled to stay a step ahead of my students.  They thought I was the expert.  How wrong they were.  Yet I never let on that I had about as much expertise in the origins of Islam as the Walmart greeter.

But I grew up, as many of us do, with the idea that perfection is the goal.  After all, the Bible (a centerpiece of western culture whether you are Christian or not) enjoins us to “be perfect as thy Father in heaven is perfect.”  I don’t know if anyone else has noticed this, but this world we live in is far from perfect, and if you think God created it, then I guess you also have to figure He wasn’t perfect or that He was intentionally imperfect.  So I think it’s probably perfectly okay and well within your rights if you are religious to perform imperfectly in this world.  It might even be you were meant to do so.

That’s not an easy idea to get used to, however.  Some of my most well-educated and seemingly level-headed friends still strive for perfection, still attempt to hide imperfection even from the people they love most in the world.  How many times have you watched yourself go through the motions of cheerfulness when you did not truly feel it?  How many times have you told your boss you can handle that project, no problem, when on the inside you’re terrified that you have no idea what you’re doing?

We all lie to each other…and sometimes to ourselves for the sake of civility.  But where does civility stop and honesty begin?  It is a difficult question.

I have a lifetime of experience in “acting like I know what I’m doing here.”  I write articles that people trust to be accurate and true even when I myself am sleep deprived and pulling through with the aid of caffeine alone.  I write columns that are supposed to inspire people to get off their rears and do something with their lives even when I haven’t the slightest idea what I’m doing with mine half the time.  A friend of mine remarked to me not long after I’d returned from three consecutive trips that had me zooming through seven different time zones in the course of a month, “I wish I could live your life for a day.”

Really? 

Perhaps it looks grand from where she is sitting.  From where I am sitting, it often looks downright ridiculous.

There was a time, not too terribly long ago, when I felt some not entirely sane obligation to offer the appearance at least of the perfect life.  I thought that, by virtue of the fact I had followed a childhood dream to fruition, it was my duty to inspire others to do the same—to make it look rewarding and wonderful to follow one’s heart.  And it is.  But not all the time.  Not by a long stretch.  Sometimes I feel like I am hanging onto my dreams with a tiny piece of thread that is slowly fraying.

We all feel that way, of course, at one time or another.  But rarely will you find a person willing to admit it, unless you are interviewing her for an article on overcoming doubt.  Most of us, for the most part, still hide behind our carefully constructed and often ridiculously transparent veils of perfection.

An acquaintance of mine said this is necessary, that we cannot bare our souls to the world.  What an awkward place it would be.  He has a point.  You know those people on Facebook who announce to the world when they’re having a nervous breakdown?  Yep, that’s a little creepy, I have to acknowledge.  I’ve “unfriended” a few of those.  It can be uncomfortable, at times, to have a front row seat to imperfection.

But maybe that’s only because we are not used to it.  My jury is still out on that.

And though I’ve never given much heed to New Year’s resolutions, I might give it a go this year.  My new purpose in life will be to be an inspiration, not by being perfect, but by being human…and being very good at it.

 
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Why I Will NOT Write for Free

Posted by Claire Vath on Dec 3, 2013 in Musings, Success Guide, Writer Rants

A year ago, I walked into a meeting and was introduced to a longtime editor. “I’m an admirer of your writing,” she said.

I turned to see who it was she was complimenting.

“Me?” I asked, flushing. There was no one else there.

“Yes, you,” she said, smiling. “I love your work.”

It’s something I’ve been doing professionally for a decade now—and something I’ve been doing informally my whole life—but when people ask what I do, I sort of laugh when I say, “Well, I guess I’m a writer. I write, at least.” Because, even to my ears, it doesn’t sound real.  So when someone gives anything close to recognition, it’s just … odd.

Apparently other people think it’s not quite a real thing either. In a meeting a few months back, a client leaned back in his chair and asked, as though he were joking: “So if you do a lot of work for us, do you give us a discount on your hourly rate?”

It ain’t manual labor, folks, but writing is hard work. (A point which Mollie Bryan made a few weeks back.)

You’d pay me if I sat at a desk all day inputting numbers into a database. Right? Or if I answered phones all day and made copies. Or wasted time playing Solitaire at an office desk. (Does anyone actually play Solitaire anymore??) Or if I cleaned your house or mowed your lawn or cooked your meals.

But yet … some people balk when you ask for money in exchange for words.

My job as a writer is to come up with smoothly flowing sentences and correctly spelled words so you come across as competent.

Nine-point-eight times out of 10, writing is far from inspired. I’m not exuberantly scratching out with my quill pen some existential work that will transform mankind with the gravitas of my words. Mostly, I’m drinking too much coffee and sleepily squinting as I slog through a story that doesn’t particularly interest me while trying to make it sound interesting to a reader. Or I’m crafting interview questions designed to draw out from an interviewee a really great quote that will neatly fit my ideal of what a story should be.

And then there’s the mental toll—mulling those sentences and leads over and over again while I can’t sleep at night, while I’m taking a shower or doing the laundry. It takes time, effort, careful culling and editing to craft a story, a press release, an e-mail.  I may not be doing manual labor, but for every physical hour I spend typing up a blog post or your newsletter or web copy, I’m spending at least twice that working it out in my head, editing and re-editing for you.

To ask me to discount that is frankly insulting.

So when that prospective client asked me about my “writer’s discount,” I gasped but recovered quickly.

If I’d had my wits about me, I’d have said: “So, do you take a pay cut if you work more than 40 hours a week?”  (Judging by his shiny Lexus that was parked just outside, I’d be willing to bet not.)

Or: “My job as your writer is to make you sound less like the idiot you apparently are.”

Instead, “Do you know how expensive diapers are?” in a saccharine-y sweet voice that showed I was also pretending to joke, was my response.  (Judging by my post-college compact car stuffed with diapers and car seats, I was not joking.)

I got the job.

And, a few weeks later, an e-mail. That same client sent me his self-written press release as background for an article I was supposed to write.

The press release copy was rife with misspellings that could have easily been caught … with spell check.

“Did you mail that out yet?” I wrote him back.

His reply: “Yeah, LOL. Did you see any boo boos? :-)”

… I’m worth much more than my hourly rate.

 

 
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Learning to Say No (While Saying Yes)

Posted by Claire Vath on Nov 8, 2013 in Motherhood, Musings, Success Guide
My serene work environment....

My serene work environment….

It was my dream job, the one I imagined while I sat in meetings sipping tepid coffee out of a styrofoam cup: I want to be a stay-at-home mom and writer.

“It will be great!” I mused to my husband. “Don’t you want all your laundry done, a hot meal, and clean house?”

He rolled his eyes.

“I’ll work too!” I told him. “I’ll need something else to do anyway. I’ll write and edit from home,” I said, picturing myself sipping a cup of coffee and flexing my creative muscle while my child played quietly at my feet.

The driven, perfectionist side of me believed I could be at home all day, cook a hot meal, keep a clean house, find time for hobbies, laundry and meet deadlines.

Those were the lies I told myself pre-children.

But I am a “Yes” person, finding it hard to turn down freelance jobs … mainly to prove to myself that I can do it all and do it all well.

Then I began working from home. My son was 4 months old, and I had a phone interview. In addition to my research preparation and list of questions, I had a spread-out blanket on the floor beside me, a myriad of chewed-on toys that jingled and made music, a bottle and three pacifiers for good measure. I was leaving nothing to chance.

Once on the phone I was confident that, put to the test, my child would be great.

I asked the first question in my list and the person on the phone launched into an explanation which I furiously scribbled down on a pad while keeping one eye on my child.

And my baby, well, he projectile vomited all over me, the floor, himself. On the first question.

One tiny, helpless human being was difficult, yes, but then when I found out a second helpless human was on the way—the first only 7 months old—I panicked. But the second was born, and I was even more determined to do it all, be it all. Maybe even while wearing a dress and makeup?

“Wouldn’t it be even more impressive if I took on more work and responsibilities while raising two children under the age of 2?” These were questions I asked my subconscious, as I told clients “Yes” in the same breath.

“Yes, I’d love to edit monthly copy for you.”

“Sure, I can fill in this month.”

“Next month? Well, yes. That’d be fine.”

“Oh, that story sounds like it’d be fun. Yes, I’ll accept the assignment.”

“Yes, writing product copy would be great!”

I was Rosie the Riveter! I could be it all! The consummate professional, maternal goddess, Martha Stewart, made-up wife.

But my life is far from Pinterest-worthy. It’s 11:30 a.m. as I type this. I am wearing Christmas pajama pants with a T-shirt—my husband’s undershirt he wore yesterday, because it smells good. Forget the bra; I haven’t gotten that far yet. And likely won’t, if I’m being honest. But here I am, pounding out the words on my keyboard for a story well before its deadline.

My third cup of coffee was consumed by 9 a.m. It coincided with my son’s third timeout. I’ve wiped more runny noses so far than typed words. Both children are currently wearing diapers and little else—it’s easier to change them that way—and vestiges of their breakfast yogurt remain in the corners of their mouths and the crevices of their hands.

Last night’s dishes litter the counter. A host of half-empty water glasses and coffee cups surrounds my computer desk. Graham cracker crumbs litter the floor around me from the children “quietly playing” at my feet. And when I get up, I trip over a singing teapot.

Some days—hell, most days—I let my children watch too much television—the same “Daniel Tiger” and “Sesame Street” episodes on Netflix. It is the only way I  get actual paying work done sometimes.

Then it’s finally nap time—time for me to get a good chunk of work done! But I’m exhausted. So I choose sleep for an hour … until a child cries out. I’ll work later. You know, when I’m supposed to be cooking dinner.

And when I’m particularly busy, dinner turns into a handful of out-of-the-can almonds and often the discarded food on my children’s plates. Maybe a stray grape or half a sandwich if I’m lucky. All this as I sit with a pen in my hand and a stack of copy on my lap.

I am not a total loss: minus the dirty faces in the morning, my children are well-loved, well-fed, well-tended, well-disciplined. I religiously take them to the zoo, story time, the park. We read books, sing songs.

I may not know how to turn down work, and I may not have it all—but my deadlines are met. Screw the mopping; I’ll peel the dinosaur stickers off the floor tomorrow!

Will I accept another story assignment or editing job if I’m offered one? …Yes. Probably. A deadline met gives me a fleeting sense of “I did it!” that doesn’t nearly as often come from raising children.

And, maybe tomorrow I’ll find the time to put on a bra?

No. Probably not.

… See? Maybe I can get the hang of this saying-no thing.

 

 
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I’m a Writer, Not a Stay-at-Home Mom (Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That)

Posted by Mollie Bryan on Oct 28, 2013 in Motherhood, Success Guide

After quitting my editing job about 15 years ago and moving to a different area of Virginia to stay at home with my new baby, I expected to feel a sense of relief. But what I felt was isolation, frustration, and a sense that, all of a sudden, I had become invisible to certain segments of the population.

In some ways, I still struggle with those issues—but I like to think I have a better perspective on it now.

The relief I expected to feel was a sense of freedom away from the pressure of deadlines, of selling my writing and editing to people who really had no appreciation for the skills I offered. In fact, some of them could barely put a sentence together. My writing was just another task they checked off their list. In the meantime, I sweated over every word and stayed late to meet my deadlines.

I was starting to make decent money in my career—but the lack of respect wore me down. That, along with the daily D.C. Beltway grind of just getting from point A to point B and loads of my time being sucked away in the process, pointed me in a new direction. As did the fact that my husband and I were lucky if we saw one another by 7 p.m. every night. We knew we wanted to spend more time together and more time as parents. What was the point of having a baby if we would hardly ever see her?

Freelancing, after close to twenty years of publishing experience, and moving away from the D.C. area, seemed a viable option. My role in my family began to be a shifting balance between writer and stay-at-home mom.

Fast forward fifteen years, and I’m pretty much broke, ridiculously busy shuffling my girls to all their activities, am never caught up on anything, and am still dealing with feelings of isolation, frustration, and invisibility.

Part of this is self-imposed.

I am a writer of novels.  It is my choice to sit in front of the computer alone each day, spin stories, and meet my word count goal. The other part of it is that I live in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, where there’s no real outside work for me. When I’ve tried to enter the workforce, it’s been an utter failure. I’ve written and grown myself out of the local market.

So I need to make this novel thing work.

And my books do well enough to offer hope. I’ve been able to patch together a sporadic professional life freelance writing and editing, along with book writing and consulting, while maintaining a certain focus on my family.

Even with the financial woes and the other frustrations, I don’t regret the choice we made for me to stay home, freelance, and write, and for my husband to take a job eight miles from our house. This has allowed him to be an active partner in our parenting.

I know that the confident, secure, bright, and fabulous daughters we are raising owe a big part of their magic to my husband. But they also owe a part to me—the one who is always just a phone call away if the girls leave an important paper at home or if one of them gets sick in school. I’m also the parent waiting at the bus stop every day— and the one who asks how their day went and talks with them about the boy who’s their crush-of-the-week. All of that matters.

And then there’s all the volunteering I’ve done over the years—school, music, and dance studio functions—even when I’m not as available as what some people think I am.

I am not a stay-at-home mom. I have deadlines. I write books.

Yet I do try to be available because I want to be an active parent in my kids’ lives. Sometimes I stand back and think: How did I become THAT person? I often shake my head when I remember that at one point in my writing career I was called a “radical feminist poet.” Heady stuff.

So on the face of things, I’ve gone from radical feminist poet to mini-van mom in a matter of a few years. But I’ve also penned a couple of cookbooks, four mystery novels, and countless articles in magazines and on blogs.

My accomplishments outside of parenting are also for my daughters. I hope someday they will see and appreciate how I’ve managed to maintain a sense of self and patch together a writing career in a world that is constantly chipping away at selfhood.

I’ve decided the sense of relief I was after is not ever going to come. Deadlines are like heartbeats to me—part of what gives my life energy, balance, and structure.

Knowing who I am and what I can realistically accomplish has been a gift of maturing.  Now I wear the skin of novelist, mother, and wife. In a few years, I’ll be a different kind of mother as my kids go off to college. My writing self will adjust. But for now, I walk a precarious line, gathering new strength along the way for whatever comes next.

Neither the path of mothering, nor the path or writing is an easy one.  Some of us are compelled to do both. As writer Julianna Baggott so succinctly put it: “My fear was that if I gave up writing because of my children, I’d resent my children. If I didn’t spend time with my children — or didn’t have them to begin with — for the sake of my writing, I’d resent my career. I had to do both.”

And so have I, balancing my roles precariously at times but balancing them nevertheless. I am not a stay-at-home mom, but I am a mother…and a writer…who happens to work from home, the deadlines of editors and the deadlines of parenthood ever looming. And no matter how old I get or how much my girls grow, I will always occupy these roles–writer and mother, crafter of words and crafter of heartbeats.


 

 
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Am I the Only One Who Can Pick Up Socks Around Here? And Why I Fold Laundry in Front of My Husband

Posted by Mollie Bryan on Oct 3, 2013 in Men, Motherhood, Mothers and Daughters, Success Guide

I’m not the world’s best housekeeper. As you can imagine, living in a small house makes it even more of a challenge. When you need to put things away, where do you put them exactly? Under the bed? Squeezed between some furniture? How about one of those nifty pretty storages boxes? Wait. Where will you put the pretty box holding your stuff?

It doesn’t help that my husband is as much of a slob as I am. He’d rather be reading than doing anything else, so he reads in his free time, rather than pick up his socks from the bathroom floor.

Would I rather be reading or cleaning? I’d rather be reading. Better yet, I’d rather be writing my novels. It’s much easier to live in my fantasy world than to open the door to either one of my daughter’s bedrooms and carry on as if the piles of clothes and books don’t really matter. It shouldn’t bother me, I tell myself, the rest of the house is pretty untidy, too. But at least I can walk across the floors in the rest of the house. (A good thing, don’t you think?) Not so in my daughters’ rooms.

Sometimes I do try to pick up and keep things clean—but I’m not sure anybody really notices what I do—unless I perform the task in front of them.

For example, the other day my husband was surprised that I laundered a load of towels. “Do you think the clean towels just fill the hallway closet on their own?” I asked. So I try to do my housework in front of everybody when I can, with as much moaning and sighing as I can muster. “Look at me, I’m folding the laundry!”

But seriously, this was not an issue in our lives until I decided to stay at home with our children and freelance. Before children, my husband and I lived in the D.C. area, and I worked outside of the house as an editor. We divided chores much more equitably—when we actually did the household chores. We didn’t keep up easily because we were too busy bookstore hopping, going to concerts and readings, and eating out to worry about a clean house. Ahhhh, those were the days.

It’s really been a struggle for me to justify not doing the housework every day when I’m home all day long. But it’s not as if I’m eating bon-bons and watching TV. I’m actually writing books. And blogs. And proposals. And so on.

But the sad truth is most people have some sort of lala-land image about what I do, as if writing isn’t working, as if writing is nothing but joy and happiness and money coming in by the droves. And yes, even my own husband of almost 23 years has a hard time with this concept. From his point of view, if I’m not making money, it’s not a job. He has a point.

I am making money with my writing, even though it’s not enough that if I were alone on this planet without a spouse, I could earn a living by penning my novels. No way. Maybe I could do it with freelancing, but then I’d have to give up writing books because freelancing deadlines are tighter and must be met if you want to keep working. The kind of a novel you could squeeze in between the deadlines of another kind of writing might not be a very good novel. Or even a very good idea of a novel. Novels take long tracks of uninterrupted time.

Okay. Seems I’ve gotten sidetracked, away from my original subject, which was housekeeping. You see how easy that is for me—to just forget about it?

Right this minute I’m thinking “Just step away from the keyboard and put a load of towels in the washer.” But the very next minute my thoughts progress to the next sentence on my computer screen and how I’m going to finish this blog post in time for my deadline. Next, of course, I think about my next book and that’s where my thoughts always lead me—which is a good thing because that due date is looming, too.

In the meantime, I’m not sure how important a clean house is to the happiness of my family. And thank goodness for that. I’d much rather spend quality time with them than nag at them to clean or to be cleaning the house myself. While trying to keep the house passable, at least, I try to keep the bigger picture in mind. In the words of the wise-cracking Phyllis Diller, “Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the sidewalk before it stops snowing.”

 
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Life’s Messy: Don’t Clean it Up

Posted by Amy Anderson on Jul 2, 2013 in Motherhood, Success Guide

When my husband and I prepared our home for our newborn son, Max, I went to the baby superstore with one thing in mind: We will NOT be one of those families with a house full of multi-colored baby crap. So I carefully selected a high chair, pack n’ play, and other items that coordinated with our home’s “décor.”

Now, I didn’t put décor in quotes because I have a fundamental misunderstanding of grammar. I used the quotes because if you were sitting here with me while I told you this story, I’d use air quotes to describe our home’s furnishings and wall “art.” See there? I did it again.

No one would mistake us for interior decorators, but we were quite proud of our two-year-old living room set and gigantic TV armoire. I refused to let some baby come in and mess up the harmony of details that was our living space.

Amy's living room...ok, just kidding!

Amy’s living room…ok, just kidding!

The parents among you already know the ending to this part of the story. But for those of you who aren’t parents, here’s a picture of the corner of my living room. Okay, that’s not my living room, but you get the idea.

Turns out, my child’s joy and laughter are the best accessories in any room. Yes, I still look forward to the day when we can have a sofa made out of a fabric that doesn’t repel juice like turtle wax on the hood of a car. But really, would I rather sit on a luxurious sofa while I scrub stains out of it or casually brush them off and continue chasing my son around the now-foam-padded coffee table with my hand shoved up a monkey puppet?

Being a parent has made me realize so much about myself, life, and the living of it that I could fill a baby superstore with tidbits of wisdom and wake-up calls.

But here’s the real lesson: How do I apply this stain-resistant, mismatched attitude to the rest of my life?

I run my own business. I have a husband. I have collected, over the years, a stellar line-up of friends and social connections. I volunteer and sometimes go to church. And I’m writing a book.

In my obstinacy to do all these things in accordance with the established “décor,” I often miss the most beautiful parts. I get so caught up in doing it “right” or looking good to others while doing it that I miss the laughter. I miss the breathless exhaustion after going all out and throwing caution to the wind on a creative project. I miss making my husband snort with glee at the hand-up-a-monkey-puppet moments. I miss showing my friends a good time with paper plates and cheap off-brand sodas in the dim light of a once-in-a-lifetime sunset from my back porch.

Nobody is perfect. Our living rooms don’t match. Our makeup isn’t always on. Our business ideas aren’t always great. And sometimes our children go to school with snot on their faces.

These are the things that make us human.

These are the things that make me real. So today, instead of agonizing over any detail—any detail at all—I’m going to step back and look at the real picture, the one where everyone is messy…and smiling.

 
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Passion and Commitment: Why You Need Both

Posted by Deborah Huso on May 20, 2013 in Musings, Relationships, Success Guide

There are wonderful times when life catches me completely off guard. Like a week ago when I attended my five-year-old’s first piano recital.  It was, initially, reminiscent of the recitals I’d played in as a child, where the first children to play were the youngest and least skilled, and the last were those who could show some mastery over their lessons. Needless to say, I never played last at a recital in any of my seven to eight years of piano lessons.  I liked playing the piano, still do, but I was never passionate about it.

However, last Sunday, I saw passion.  As I sat there in church watching one student succeed another, a few of them showing fine technical skill, I expected no great epiphanies at the keyboard. But then the last student to play, an 11-year-old boy who had been taking lessons only four years, sat down to regale the audience with five minutes or so of “Pirates of the Caribbean,” and I sat there dumbfounded. Not only did this boy demonstrate technical skill way beyond his years, but he played with the passion of a man who has found and lost love, watched a beloved die, walked through fire….

Where does feeling like that come from in an 11-year-old boy?

I have no idea.

But I do know that it was not passion alone that made that young man stroke the keys as if he was born to play. The piano teacher’s sister informed me after the recital that the boy’s parents could hardly keep him from the piano, that he played all the time.

That’s not just passion. That’s commitment.

And if you ever want to succeed at something, and I mean really succeed, you have to have both.

How often have I seen a person with passion for an art, skill, or subject fail to reach potential, not for lack of talent but for lack of commitment. And commitment, mind you, is more than hard work.  It comes with cost and sacrifice.

A friend of mine had to give a meditation recently at a wedding, and she was anxious about how to do it because she had been asked not to be too religious. “How can I talk about passion,” she asked, “and not draw an anomaly to the passion of Christ?”

I don’t know what she ultimately came up with, but even though I’m not religious, I know there is much to learn from what we refer to as “Christ’s passion.”  Jesus, whether mortal or God, was willing to take the cost, make the ultimate sacrifice, for what he believed. The result? His life and teachings form one of the world’s most influential religions. And that’s really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the influence of Jesus’ passion and commitment.

I suspect, knowing my friend, that she perhaps touched on the necessity of passion and commitment to a successful marriage. It is one thing to love another person, even deeply love him.  It is quite another to commit yourself to maintaining that love for life. That not only takes work, like the work of resolving minor disputes before they become big resentments, but the work of sacrifice–willingly and lovingly giving up to get more. And I don’t mean more in a greedy sense. I mean more fulfillment, more meaning, and, ultimately, more passion.

Because that’s the thing about commitment that is passion-inspired. It builds more passion.

I will not pretend to know about passion and commitment within the framework of a marriage.  I know I tried commitment without passion for a very long time, and it didn’t seem to do much other than take up valuable space in the short span of what we know as life.

But I do know about passion in other things. I have had a passion for writing since I was a small child, yet for a brief period while in college and grad school, I let a couple of mentors convince me to pursue a career as professor instead of as a writer. To my good fortune, poverty eventually drove me out of academe, and I began to see, after working as an ex parte brief writer, speech writer, and copywriter, that one could indeed earn a living writing.

For five years, I spent every waking hour I wasn’t at my salaried job working to build my own business as a writer. And once I cut the cord to the world of the regular paycheck and began freelancing full-time, I worked 80-hour weeks for a couple of years to build a client base. There was never a time that any of it felt exhausting. Why?  Because I was passionately committed to living my dream.

The same held true when I finally bought the farm I’d always dreamed of owning and built the house I’d always dreamed of building, working until the wee hours of the morning at times painting cathedral ceilings while lying on my back on a scaffold, hanging wallpaper, and sanding and varnishing cabinets, stair treads, and trim. Passion launched me. Commitment held me.

I have no doubt I will hear one day of that 11-year-old boy at my daughter’s piano recital rocking the world stage as a concert pianist. Because the boy is not just passionate; he is committed. He practices his passion daily.

That’s the key—daily commitment to passion.

As one of my favorite poets, Pablo Neruda, remarks, you should live “as if you were on fire from within.” Doing anything less is not really living; it is not really committing. If you believe in your passion, whether it is the passion you hold for your work or the passion you hold for your lover, then commit to it, live as if “the moon lives in the lining of your skin.”

 
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All Roads Lead to Rome: Finding the Courage to Go On in the Holy City

Posted by Susannah on Feb 10, 2013 in Motherhood, Success Guide, Travel Archives

With the kids in St. Peter’s Square

I finally succumbed to sitting on the grotty stoop of the apartment building by the bus stop.  I leaned away as residents pushed by me to enter their building, muttering something in Italian.  Looking directly up from my perch was another striking old building.  By this point, I was less into the architectural details and more interested in how the little overhang protected us from the drizzle, which had progressed well past the tolerable early evening mist.  It was well past dark.  The kids and I were damp, and although it was July, we were getting chilly from sitting still as we huddled in a residential neighborhood a few blocks from the Vatican.

We had crossed the street back and forth and jumped around the block from bus stop to bus stop.  Most of the drivers were kind, and though their facility in English was about as good as my knowledge of Italian, they each assured me that their bus went nowhere near our hotel.  How that was possible puzzled me since our little hotel was in the historical center just off a major thoroughfare. Isn’t there some saying about all roads leading to Rome?   I guessed Rome was just bigger than we realized.  I tried not to complain as it was futile.  We were so hungry for real food, not gelato or street cart popcorn.  I missed my husband and his planning.  I longed for the chipper young Parisian women donning perky green uniforms that we had met a few weeks prior in the Paris metro, with ready smiles and pens and maps in hand.

Honestly, I just wanted to cry, but every time my eyes welled up, my children looked all the more hungry and tired.  I was alone with them.  I knew that had Jorge been here, he would have figured out our transportation home long before we had even left our hotel for the morning.  And if he hadn’t taken care to plan, I could gripe and complain to him, as unjust as I knew that behavior now was.

The stark truth was that after more than 2,000 years, Rome was clearly tired of accommodating tourists.  And after a nine-week odyssey in Europe with my kids, I was ready to go home.

Abigail and Dylan waiting for the bus as the rain starts to fall in Rome

We were stranded, hungry, tired, and cold.  Later when my husband asked why we didn’t just do the obvious and take a cab home, I explained that it hadn’t even been an option for me.  When he and I travel, we have a hard and fast rule about walking or public transport whenever possible.  It’s cheaper, you see more, and you are given a better glimpse into the lives of the people that a cab can’t give. There were chickens under the seat in Bali, a uniformed school boy traveling alone who was almost too small to make it up the bus steps in Japan, and an interminably hot bus in Egypt by the Libyan border that stopped at a roadside shack with the best ground meat kabobs I have had ever had, along with scary looking big men with big guns, lots of flies, and a yucky hole-in-the-ground toilet.  Give up these experiences in exchange for the comfort and security of a cab?  I’d rather stay home.

I also confess I had something to prove.  I could do this trip alone.  I wouldn’t take the easy way out.  After a month with my husband in Spain and Morocco, I had five weeks alone with my kids to see a bit of the rest of Europe and I was going to show the kids, myself, and my husband that this life of a gypsy was in their blood.  Wanderlust would become a part of their psyche by nature and nurture.

But I wasn’t thinking all those lofty thoughts as I cursed the bus schedule under my breath.

Then the moment of responsibility came to me and I was released from my paralysis.  I stood up, looked at my two raincoat-hooded children and knew what we must do.  Though I have a habit of making broad proclamations, I knew I couldn’t force anything.  At this moment, I asked them if we should start walking.  I genuinely wasn’t sure if they had it in them.

They knew it was through the rain, in the dark.  I didn’t know how far we would have to go or how long it would take us.  We were all dead on our feet.  Our legs ached from the long day of walking and standing in our extended tour of the Vatican, preceded by many long days of traveling.

The consensus was to strike out into the dark and start walking in the direction of what we thought was our hotel.  We went a block and then another.  Soon we had crossed the bridge over the Tiber.  Our paces quickened in our soggy shoes as we started to recognize a few landmarks.   We had been walking for no more than 15 minutes at that point.  We soon became giddy with excitement as we realized we were close.  And we had been so close all along.  Within less than half an hour, we were back in our neighborhood and looking at the al fresco dining options.  The rain had stopped, and though we were still wet, we couldn’t help but notice that we were actually late enough to experience dining with the Romans instead of our usual habit of eating in quiet restaurants that were barely open for the evening hours.

As we were seated with our wet bags and jackets hanging off our chairs, I looked at both of my children.  I was so proud of them.  Proud of their bravery, their willingness to take that first step away from the security of the bus stop, and their sense of adventure, not just today, but every day on this journey we had taken them on.

I told them that they must never forget what happened that night.  Never forget how far away we felt from home, how dark the night seemed, and how discouraging the rain felt.  Never be afraid to take that first step away from the complacency of a bus stop into the dark unknown.  Avoid the trap of letting the temporary situations of life, like rain and darkness, hunger and fatigue, overwhelm them and keep them from making their way.   I wanted them to know they always have the strength to make the journey, to remember that more times than not, we are much closer than we think.  Just remember Rome.

And yes…my children do sometimes roll their eyes when I remind them of this night.  But I know that as they grow, there will be many moments in their lives that they think that they cannot go on.  It’s then that they will remember that night in the dark and the rain in Rome and, I hope, take the necessary steps toward their dreams, whether those dreams are as simple as coming home again or launching themselves onto a completely foreign road in an untried direction.

 
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Who’s Bringing Home the Bacon? And Does It Matter?

Posted by Deborah Huso on Jul 1, 2012 in Men, Motherhood, Relationships, Success Guide

If women’s level of power in America is at an all-time high, why is their sense of adequacy at an all-time low? You’ll find some of the answers in Anne-Marie Slaughter’s recent and controversial essay, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” in the latest issue of Atlantic Magazine. In it, she talks about her own feelings of inadequacy in juggling a demanding, high-powered career and the raising of two sons, remarking about her not always successful superhuman efforts, “I’d been part, albeit unwittingly, of making millions of women feel that they are to blame if they cannot manage to rise up the ladder as fast as men and also have a family and an active home life (and be thin and beautiful to boot).”

If you’re like millions of other working women, you might breathe a sigh of recognition at those words. How many days have I worked myself into a frenzy of stress, meeting inane deadlines, racing to get to daycare to pick up my daughter at a reasonable hour (or maybe going to dance class first because, after all, I have to exercise to maintain the figure of a 25-year-old when I’m pushing 40), coming home to put together what truly amounts to a pathetic dinner (thank heaven my daughter is only four and thinks making spaghetti takes skill), while I fold laundry while watching her finish her meal, then answer e-mail on my Blackberry while I give her a bath, and often find my quality time with her is accidentally falling asleep beside her in her bed after a 10-minute bedtime story.

And I’m not even married.

Slaughter is though. And while she acknowledges her husband is largely responsible for making her rise to the top possible (he took care of the kids while she was hours away in D.C. all week for two years), she does not once mention in her essay of many thousands of words making time for him. It’s about kids and career.

And, unfortunately, that’s exactly the kind of outlook that has led millions of American women to divorce high-powered husbands while their friends looked on in incredulity. Are the tables going to turn on American women (who are, by and large, responsible for initiating 80 percent or more of divorces)?  Probably not. Men just don’t have the same high standards we do when it comes to relationship satisfaction.  Lucky for us, I guess.

Pity for them.

I’m not suggesting Slaughter doesn’t love her husband or that she doesn’t value him. She obviously values him since she suggests that one way for women to climb to the top professionally is to “marry the right person.” That would be someone like her husband who is willing to take on responsibility for home and kids when she is away. And honestly, I couldn’t be happier that at least some men are willing to do this, even if only some of the time.  But um, is that all the guy is good for? For me, it’s just a little too reminiscent of the perfect hostess/housekeeper 1950s housewife. Marry the person who will help you advance your career and keep you comfortable.

We’ll never know Slaughter’s take on the husband’s role (though we suspect being a lover has very little to do with it given her long hours) because she doesn’t go into it. But we do know she asks people to introduce her as a “mother of two sons” alongside all her professional accomplishments. She does not, however, ask to be introduced as the wife of Princeton University professor Andrew Moravcsik.  Maybe she thinks her audiences already know this.

My point is, however, when did women, who have regretted for centuries their insignificance in the lives of husbands who were out in the working world, decide to be hypocrites and forget the men in their lives?  Or at least overlook them a lot.  I’m speaking of professional women, of course, and I know a lot of them.  Some of them are devoted wives; some of them, however (and I’ll admit I’ve been guilty myself at times), have come to see marriage as a convenient partnership where the benefits accrue in a rather lopsided fashion.

Part of the trouble here, as is so often the case, is the shifting landscape of gender roles. I don’t know if Slaughter makes more money than her husband, and, thankfully perhaps, they enjoy professional parity at least, but there are an increasing number of women who have outstripped their husbands professionally and financially.  And that’s where things get tricky.

A close friend of mine was persistently convinced during the seven years of my marriage that a likely source of the trouble between my husband and myself was the fact that I made more money than he did and, later, when he chose to be a stay-at-home dad for three years, I made the money, period. She insisted this just didn’t sit right with men. I persistently disputed her.

But when I look back at how frequently my former spouse defended his contributions to the household, even when they were not being questioned, I wonder. Because I’ve seen resentment on the part of female friends and acquaintances who have lower-earning spouses or stay-at-home dads for partners. They rarely mean to but they cannot help but see the guy’s role as somehow diminished because he is either not bringing home the bacon or not bringing home as much (or more) than she is.

What’s going on here?  Isn’t this what we wanted?  Isn’t this what our mothers’ generation fought for?  For us to have equal earning power with men? And to have no glass ceilings?

Sure it was.

But remember the old adage, Be careful what you wish for.

I’m not suggesting for a moment that I’d like to see American culture go back to a 1950s model. I am beyond grateful for the fact that I can be economically independent as a woman.  And were it not for the freedom I have had to grow professionally and financially, whether married or not, neither I nor my daughter would enjoy the opportunities we have to live far richer and more meaningful lives than the women who went before us.

But there is a problem here.  Men are becoming largely insignificant, at least in the lives of women who can pull off six-figure salaries or better.  Because even if he knows how to do laundry and change a diaper, well, you could always hire a housekeeper and a nanny.  So if the sex isn’t over-the-top or if he’s not just plain enormously charming, what exactly is his point here outside of offering a sperm donation?

This is a question, I’m afraid, more and more men are asking themselves.  And we women aren’t helping matters.  Because the plain and ugly truth is, there are an awful lot of high-income earning women married to men who just aren’t in the six-figure category. Why? Well, my theory is that rich and powerful men really don’t want competition.  So those of us with brains, no matter how beautiful we are, are not likely to land any millionaires.  If you check out the spouses where the wife is earning as much or more than a high-earning husband, my guess is you’ll find the two of them have been together since before either one of them was making much of anything. Women who have chosen to delay marriage until they themselves are financially secure are not likely to get too many proposals from men playing at the top of their game in high-paying fields.

So is my friend right? Is it hopeless to expect men and women to co-exist in a mutually loving, respectful relationship where the wife is bringing home the bacon and the husband is cooking it or maybe bringing home a basket of eggs instead?

It’s not an easy question to answer, especially given the archetype many of us still hold, sometimes against all reason and education, that men are the providers and protectors. It’s not just men who hang onto this idea and feel themselves less than men if it’s their wives who have the bigger bankroll. Women buy into it, too, even the liberal, executive-level women who have chosen as their life partner an incredibly worthy guy who, despite all his intelligence, charm, and decency, has an annual paycheck of $50,000.  Or maybe, because daycare is so darn expensive anyway, he’s decided to stay home until the kids hit school age while she goes into work every day at a law firm.

Is it possible to maintain love, respect, and passion under this scenario that seems so in conflict with biology, tradition, and the Jungian archetypes of our unconscious brains?

The answer is “yes,” but you better be prepared for some complex choreography:

1) Never forget for a moment that your spouse is and should always be the single most important person in your life. Put your career first, put the kids first, and you’re screwed.  And that’s the case no matter who’s bringing home the bacon. Get that in your head before you even get married because once lost, it’s awfully hard to get it back, if not impossible. Respect and love are earned; once lost, they are rarely regained…unless, of course, you want to spend $150 an hour on cognitive behavioral therapy with a marriage counselor.

2) Create an atmosphere of equals. If you think the fact that you earn more money (or all the money) is going to mess with your ability to see your spouse as an equal, then you probably shouldn’t get married. But if you’re already in the stew, then make sure things are as equitable as possible. If you’re bringing in a quarter million a year and working 14 hours a day six days a week, it won’t take long for you to resent the spouse with the regular 9 to 5 job who’s not earning nearly as much. Together, figure out what you need to do to make things feel more equal. If that means he mows the grass, cooks dinner, and gets the kids to bed, fine, do it.  And if that’s the agreement, stick to it. It’s not fair to start resenting later when he’s pulling his weight exactly as you asked him to.

3) Don’t pull out all the feminist crap. After all, it’s the two of you, not society at large. Let him do things for you.  Let him carry your luggage, open doors for you, pay the cab driver, hold you when you’re scared, kiss away your tears, fix things that are broken, take charge of whatever he wants to take charge of. And don’t think there is something wrong with you because some part of your brain needs all this. We’re human, and it’s totally okay to let down your defenses with the one you love.

4) Don’t forget why you married him in the first place. You can tell yourself it was because the doctors, lawyers, and CEOs wouldn’t give you the time of day (and maybe they wouldn’t), but did you really want that kind of man anyway?  The kind who considers his career more important than you?  And let’s face it, the man who is top-notch in the boardroom is rarely top-notch in the bedroom—he really just doesn’t have the time.  So honor the characteristics that led you to choose this man who may not be CEO of a Fortune 500 company but who puts meaning, love, and joy ahead of making money and gaining power. Count the many blessings of having him in your life. And no, I’m not talking about the fact that he knows to separate whites from darks before tossing clothes in the washing machine. I’m talking about the way he looks at you as if you are the only human being on earth…because, in his mind in those moments, you are.

Before some of my female cohorts jump my case, let me say that none of this is to suggest that there are not men out there who will not take advantage of their six-figure earning wives. Some intend it from the beginning; some do not but end up doing so over time, just as the “desperate housewives” do who come to value the backyard pool, the European vacations, and the BMW more than their spouses. If you’ve married the kind of guy who sees your high-powered job as a great opportunity for him to kick back and enjoy the fruits of your labor without contributing much labor of his own, then my uncensored advice is this: dump him.

Because if you’ve climbed the ladder high enough to have attracted (or created) a gold digger, then you’re worthy of something far better…unless, of course, you have failed at points 1 through 4 above and the most exciting thing outside your professional life is the cocktail you have after work to deaden the heartbreak of going home to kids who know you only as the person who paid for the latest trip to Disney World and to a spouse who has grown more accustomed to sleeping with the family dog than with you.

Nothing is set in stone, however, much though it may feel that way. With summer here and school out, I have been letting my daughter stay at home from daycare a couple days of the week, and she occasionally drifts into the home office, leans against my chair, head tilted into my shoulder, and says, “Mommy, why do you have to work so much?”  And some days, like today, I get a clue and break from my story editing to cut out paper dolls for her.

My own mother rarely played with me when I was a child. She was too busy working.  One of my girlfriends, who graduated college at the top of her class, had the same experience with her own mother. Despite all of her promise as a rising professional, she dumped it to be a stay-at-home mom, and she actually plays with her kids, knows how to relax into it, and can leave dirty dishes unattended for hours without too much guilt.  I’m not quite that good.  But I’m trying to learn the art.

Long ago, I became a writer in part because I envisioned it as a flexible career that would give me greater control over my time. And it did to a point. Once upon a time, my ex-husband and I enjoyed three-week long vacations and monthly weekend getaways. Never would this have been possible in a conventional career.  My career also made it possible for him to retire from the military and stay at home after our daughter was born. I cannot thank my work enough for the life it has given me.

But it has also taken some things away.

And that is the challenge for women, who, for better or worse, are still expected to be nurturers, caregivers, and lovers even as they also assume the role of breadwinner. We are never allowed to slough off any of our roles. We just keep adding more, and so often they seem incongruous.  That is the hardest part, trying to figure out if it is okay to be in charge at the office and then let go of it in the arms of our spouses.

I’m here to tell you: it is okay, and it is critical.

Keep bringing home the bacon if you will.  But if you really want the meaningful home life (and one that includes your husband as well as your children), you’re going to have to drop the role of powerhouse at the door and allow yourself to be vulnerable to love, open to being cared for, and willing to let go of the idea that you have to be on top of things all the time. You do not. Give it up. Let it go. So maybe your husband fell in love with you, in part at least, because he found something tremendously sexy about your take charge attitude, your intelligence, the way you look in a suit and three-inch heels.  My guess is, however, that he also fell in love with the idea of finding the vulnerable woman who needed him beneath all that.

Let him have her.

And soak it up whenever you can because heaven knows there is rarely a place for letting down your guard at the office.

And when you’re standing on that stage accepting the Nobel Prize or whatever grand distinguishment your career earns you, remember to thank all the important people in your life who made your success possible, including, if you’re lucky enough (and hopefully, you know just how lucky you are), the man who has been confident enough to stand aside and let you have your glory.

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