All the clichés parents say about having kids… the mommy brain, the sleep deprivation, showering on a less than ideal frequency, etc… Well, as hard as it is for us to admit it, those clichés are pretty much all true.
We swore we would be the type of parents who wouldn’t let having kids completely change our lives. We thought that after maternity leave we would just go back to “normal” life with our personal, professional, and social goals, and we’d weave the kids into that lifestyle.
Welp, even though we were warned, we still had to learn through experience. No one could have prepared us, even with all the well-intentioned advice.
You know the saying “family comes first”? Well when your only baby is your dog (which we both have and love), it’s easy to believe the saying without it actually having a big impact on your personal and professional life. We never want to put our job first, of course – whether it’s with or without kids! But the reality is that without another human being to take care of, it’s easy to stay at work late, work a few hours over the weekends, and turn a team meeting over happy hour into a late-night brainstorming dinner session.
With kids in the picture, “family comes first” takes on a whole new meaning.
So how did we embrace this transition? And most importantly, how did having kids actually give us the push we needed to hone our business, focus our attention, and nurture not only tiny human beings but also a business that looks like us and feels aligned?
Here are the most important lessons we’ve learned since having kids:
1. Be honest with ourselves
As new parents, we started feeling paralyzed with all the things that needed to be done, and no way to even approach how to decide what the first thing should be.
We tried to fool ourselves by saying things would get back to normal once we were back to work.
But with kids in the picture, time just disappears. Between feeding a baby 6-8 times a day, keeping track of naptime and wake windows, introducing developmental toys and tummy time, and then coordinating daycare drop off and pick up…it’s impossible to get it all done.
We quickly realized we had to say goodbye to weekends that were dedicated to recharging our batteries. In fact, weekends can be more work than a normal workday because there is no “time “off”. And what about on the weekdays after work? Well, if we used to go out with a friend, relax in front of Netflix after dinner, or take a bath after a long workday, that all had to change as well! Those evening wind downs have been replaced with the kiddos’ bath time and bedtime routines.
So being honest with ourselves and admitting that kids actually do change everything was the first important step. Turns out we don’t have the same amount of energy and time to give to our work as we did before! This was a hard but important realization for us! So now that that’s clear, how can we move forward?
Without this honesty, we would be running ourselves straight into the ground.
2. With less time comes clearer priorities
Our new workday is nothing like our old workday anymore. We had to adjust every aspect of our lives. We can no longer let our workdays bleed into the evening and weekends. No more coming home exhausted. And no more early morning arrivals either.
How can we be there for our kids while still growing a successful business? How can we be both present at work and home? And is that even possible?
Yes it is! And here is the magic. You’d be surprised what you can actually accomplish with LESS time!
When we have more time, we also have the opportunity to be less focused.
With less time, comes more specific priorities.
We realized we needed to be extra clear on what we wanted to focus on!
So we asked ourselves what it meant for us to have a successful business and what we were truly passionate about.
And the answer was surprisingly easy.
We realized that traveling has and will always be a big part of our lives and our identity. We both took sabbaticals to explore the world and to learn more about ourselves. We’ve seen how important it is to take extended breaks and we see it in the people around us as well.
It was time for us to redefine our mission and our goals at Middleton & Company.
We are now on a mission to make sabbatical breaks not only possible but also an important, intentional, and rich part of one’s career by providing financial advice to help make them happen. We help our clients define and achieve both their career and personal goals while adding meaning and adventure into their lives!
We’ve actually had this idea for a while now. But having kids was the push we needed to make it happen. To learn more about us and our mission, click here.
3. Learn to say no and be intentional
Our capacity is limited. Our mission is clear. Now we have to take intentional actions to meet our goals.
One of the hardest lessons we learned was to say no. That also means listening to ourselves. With a limited amount of time, every opportunity that we say yes to that isn’t 100% aligned takes time and energy away from something that is. Time and energy that could be spent with our family but also with our clients.
Saying no when we don’t believe it’s right, allows us to say YES to all the right opportunities.
Side note: The book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown helped us make this leap.
We want to make sure we do just as good of a job for our new clients as we do for our existing clients, so we had to learn to be selective.
Any new client or project we bring on has to match. Our current clients are like family and we want to keep it that way!
4. Set expectations
Today we focus our energy on relationships that fill us up. This is as gratifying for us as it is for our clients. Our best client relationships are with those who value and celebrate stepping away from the office to focus on the important things (including vacation!) and understand that we need to do that ourselves too.
Setting expectations both for ourselves and for our clients is extremely important. When are we working, when are we not, what can we do for people, what is not included…With clear expectations, we can build a more trusting relationship.
Having kids was one of the hardest, most rewarding life experiences we’ve had. It has changed everything, and it has helped us make moves towards what we have really wanted. We are proud of the business we are growing and we realize how much our kids helped us do just that!
We believe life-changing experiences don’t have to ruin your career – whether it’s having kids or traveling the world for a year! When planned correctly they can actually help you grow in many different aspects of your life.
Read Taking a Sabbatical: Will it Ruin or Grow Your Career? to learn more.
If your dream is to go on a sabbatical, clarifying your priorities leading up to it is going to be essential. Embracing the transition phase will help you make your time away productive and empowering.
If you’re ready to be supported in that phase of your life, we are here for you! Schedule a call now to see how we could best guide you!
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