My Birthday and Mother’s Day gifts did not come this year in beautiful boxes with lovely ribbons. They did not come in the form of a bouquet or in breathtaking flats of flowers carefully chosen by my family to lovingly plant in my garden. Nor in a carefully prepared meal of multiple fresh organic vegetables shipped in from out East, (am accused of being high- maintenance), prepared especially for me and served at my farm table fondly considered my home’s mission control. My gifts this year came in the form of startling realizations, “ah ha” moments, repeated theme questions from multiple mentees, and a chance meeting at 7-11. All compelling me to write this blog.
It started with a phone call home from my son, because sadly he did not come home for Mother’s Day this year. Do not shed a tear for me dear readers. That is because I completed my job. He left the nest.
Up until this moment I have shied away from writing a blog solely about my children, but alas the time has come. Yes, I have sprinkled them in here and there through anecdotes and references but never as the main event. That is because this is mainly a business blog, but you will ultimately see the connections. For those who know me personally this is by no means because my children took a back seat to my career, in fact it is just the opposite. They are my inspiration. The reason I have the strength to do all I do. The impetus behind all I have accomplished. You see ours has always been a story of survival of the fittest. Eat or be eaten. In retrospect my children are the wind in my sails. The energy that fuels my soul. My talisman enabling me to face another day, weather life’s storms, ebbs, flows and challenges.
They say it takes a village to raise a family, for us it took a small country. So this blog will not only be for parents. It is for anyone who dares to love, mentor, shape and mold a child, young adult or influence a life. This may ultimately be a story of happily ever after, but it was no fairy tale in the making. Ours is a story of steps, rotating family members, friends and neighbors. We needed to throw convention out the window to cross the finish line. It was by no means a graceful relay race; it was an obstacle course, a tough mudder at that, navigating all of the personalities. There was no baton to pass. It was more a struggle of wills carried out through passed backpacks and winter coats through car windows. Happy meals and sports equipment dropped over little league fences. Disputes, disagreements, negotiations, and resolutions conveyed via email and text. Nevertheless, we made it through!
We had three rules, 1. Be a good Person (Pay it Forward, Equity, Inclusion) 2. Do Your Homework (Accountability) 3. Make something of your life, case closed! The rest was up for interpretation. Making it out the other end was the top line, bottom line, end game, daily goal, and a struggle at that.
The phone call:
If your life is anything like mine from the time you give birth you will never have another sip of any liquid or bite into any form of solid food (even if you are thousands of miles away from home) that is not interrupted or without one of your family members having a burning desire to tell you something. This Friday night was no different. Feet up, finally relaxed, ready for that first sip of (very good) Cabernet, Boom! My son was ready to download his first week of work. Boy, I am lucky I answered the phone. He was calling to tell me with a voice full of pride that he joined the Women’s Initiative at work. I was speechless; something you might imagine does not come up often. He went on to explain that by example I taught him the importance of diverse teams and inclusion. This he felt joining the group was the best way to meet the managers that supported these Initiatives. Wow, I was blown away!
HE WAS LISTENING
I had a similar experience with my daughter weeks earlier; suddenly I was beginning to connect the dots. While conducting a lunch and learn at Love and Quiches Gourmet on the subject of Time Management, I looked out into the audience and my daughter was sitting in the front row. It was both shocking and daunting. Truth be told, I did not think she would even show up because it was not mandatory, I assumed she would take a pass. I had underestimated this young adult. Low and behold there she was, pen and paper in hand. The moment turned out to be magical. The lunch and learn progressed and every time I asked a question or for audience participation my daughter chimed in or raised her hand with the answer. Finally I had to say ENOUGH! Secretly, I was beaming.
“Ah Ha” Moment:
THEY WERE LISTENING
Over the years I have mentored countless scores of men and women. My mentees know I take calls at all hours. My heart and line are always open. I am always a text, e-mail or phone call away. What I realized that day is the impact this made on my children.
The whole time, THEY WERE LISTENING!
For you see, my children were raised amongst a backdrop of mentoring advice. For every one of you out there that I have talked off the ledge while making a pot of meatballs, whose resume I have reviewed while proofing a college essay, or mock interview I have conducted while making a paper mache volcano (with real lava I might add).
MY CHILDREN WERE LISTENING.
My son still to this day thinks I could not hear him in the back seat while I was driving carpool when he would say to his friends. “Ask my mom, she knows stuff.”
So full circle, why is this story so important and how does it tie into raising children and ultimately business success? Doesn’t mentoring really start in childhood? Isn’t mentoring crucial to personal development and building confidence which is vital to success? Look at the impact it has had on my children’s success. Think of the lives YOU can impact by becoming a mentor!
Who are your childhood mentors? Who has helped shape your career? Who have you helped influence and pushed up the corporate ladder?
The questions and the recurring theme:
If I were to do a retrospective; a greatest hits album of sorts, of mentoring conversations or most frequently asked questions and recurring themes, the two that instantly come to mind are, drum roll please…
Will I be able to maintain balance while working and raising a family?
Will it be alright in the end?
After all, these are the same two questions I have been pondering myself since I gave birth 26 years ago. Patience please, I will circle back in the end, promise.
A Chance Meeting, The catalyst for writing this blog (A true story):
As you all know I am a collector of people. An attractor of odd happenstances. A relisher of consideration if life is made up of coincidence or sheer will! As I often say, I do not write my blogs, my blogs write me. They come to life through a series of circumstances, conversations, meetings and happenings compelling me to put pen to paper. This blog is no different.
From the time my children were toddlers, my calendar has been filled to the brim and my to do list wants to fight back and say “are you kidding me?” Instead of my hotel loyalty program sending me a congratulations letter each year they should have been apologizing, and sending my family a fruit basket! You can be rest assured I was always forgetting, running out of, or leaving something to the very, I mean very last minute. 7-Eleven became an oasis in the storm. It was where we went for the forgotten milk. The last ingredient for the cookies we were baking for class. Where I comforted an inconsolable child with Slurpies and other unsavory items I would not allow at home. Hate to admit, it was where dinner was served for back to back games and nights on the field!
As we all know the more things change the more they stay the same. Two weeks ago when I finally cleared my schedule to visit my son’s his new apartment in Philly, (more excited than you could possibly imagine), the week leading to the visit was overflowing to the brim with meetings, clients, workshops, you know the drill. I found myself at 10 PM the night before unpacked, on the way home from a sales dinner with nothing to bring as a house warming gift. Then I saw a sign, or actually THE sign, 7-Eleven. Not sure what I thought I would find inside but again there are no coincidences!
As I opened the door there in the aisles was a beautiful woman in a business suit, milk carton in hand, with two adorable children in tow. My life flashed before my eyes and suddenly I knew what I would give. I taught my kids to give first for if you pay it forward you will always be successful. That is true in life and in business.
I tapped this woman on the shoulder, handed her my card, told her of my children, life, balance (or lack thereof), and that I was going to tell my story in a blog for her and as a gift for my son.
Much to my delight I received this e-mail the very next morning.
Nice meeting you at 7-11 last night and reminding me there is no such thing as balance and I will survive motherhood ha ha.
Please do let me know when you write your blog would love to read it.
My son thought it was cool but was a little less juiced as you could imagine after 23 years of similar stories and happenstance. He was hoping for a flat screen.
So, what is the net long term effect of nights on the road, running out of milk and serving cornflakes with orange juice? Will your children be permanently scarred from screamed lullabies due to frustration, cold pizza for breakfast or heaven forbid Pork Fried Rice? Can you truly make the right choice between a board meeting and a track meet? Did the world come to an end because I missed a business opportunity or two or let my kids turn in assignment late because being together for whatever reason that day was the better option?
There actually was no long term net effect.
This week I will make my pilgrimage to see my youngest child graduate, a miss-matched army in tow. My job is done, my heart is full, and I could not be more proud.
So, what is the answer to those two burning questions my inquisitive readers?
Will you be able to maintain balance while working and raising a family?
Probably not, I never did. You will make choices, some good, and some bad. Through those choices you will ALL grow and learn, after all, isn’t that the point of this blog.
Balance is like one of those jig saw puzzles we all have stored high up on a closet shelf. When you finally do take it down that boring rainy day and decide to put it together as a family activity, inevitably there is a piece or two missing. Nevertheless, you have spent so much time working on it you just squint your eyes and make it work. Mentally you refuse to see what is missing. That’s how you make it out the other end! Each day you show up fully and do the best you can.That might not make you balanced but it makes you whole.
Dear 7-Eleven mom and countless others reading this blog.
Will it be alright in the end?
That depends on your definition.
I say ABSOLUTELY!
About the Author: Joan Axelrod Siegelwax is the Executive Vice President of Love & Quiches Gourmet, and the Founder and President of Powerful Possibilities Coaching. In her role at Love and Quiches Gourmet she leads the Human Resources Department with the primary goal of increasing employee engagement, accountability, retention and improved corporate culture. Through creation of Powerful Possibilities Coaching, she has made these skills available to a larger audience through Transformational Executive Coaching, specializing in personal growth, organizational development, career coaching, leadership development, managing transitions, executive presence, personal branding, personal empowerment, life balance, organization and productivity.