Everyone says you can’t aspire to be superwoman.
But I have a friend who really seems to do it all, and more. I love this friend. I can’t be her, but I love her. She has four children, including a newborn and a toddler. In her day job, she runs a communications department. While on maternity leave, since July, she has filled her pantry cellar with preserves. At a glance, I’d guess there are 100-plus jars of jam, chutney, pears, peaches and fruit cocktail in there. She’s done this while breastfeeding full-time and working on her MBA – you know, in her spare time.
“Doesn’t it make you sick?” an elderly relative asked me recently.
On the contrary, it makes me inspired.
We recently spent the weekend at her house. I took advantage of an extremely comfortable gliding rocking chair and foot stool, rocking my baby to sleep constantly, while she served me gourmet coffees and delectable homemade muffins. (I have no idea where they came from. They just sort of appeared).
On the morning of Thanksgiving, I asked if I could help. “Nope,” she replied. “I’m good. And just so you know it’s not going to be all stressful until lunchtime. I’m just going to pop in and out of the kitchen as needed, but you probably won’t even notice me cooking a turkey.”
Fine with me. Had I been cooking, everyone would know it. It would be chaos for four hours and the turkey would very likely come out overcooked and two hours late. So I went out for a walk in the sun, and then retired to my rocking chair for the morning, sipping gourmet coffee after delectable gourmet coffee.
I started watching the way she worked and thinking about the secrets to success in life. And by success, I mean accomplishing a lot in a day, being healthy, having four healthy children, earning a good income and developing oneself academically -- all things which my friend is doing at the same time, in an effortless way.
I noticed a few things. For one, she is extremely good at thinking ahead. Her brain is like a little computer database, ticking off tasks as they’re completed. She’s also great at taking advantage of snippets of time, which most of us, frankly, would spend lounging in a rocker.
Early morning, after feeding the baby, when everything is “under control” (ie: kids have breakfast that had been prepared the day before and guests are rocking comfortably with gourmet coffees in-hand), she goes for a 20-minute run. It’s efficient, she’s cleared her head and she’s powered up for the day. She pops the (extremely contented, I might add) infant into a bouncy chair, while she chops up something for tomorrow night’s dinner. Then she takes a pause to go feed the baby, have a conversation with guests, set up a craft for her older offspring or read to her toddler.
The toddler and guests now entertained, the baby now full, she slips into the kitchen (almost unnoticed) and, I kid you not, whips up a pumpkin cheesecake pie from scratch. The secret, she tells me, is she made the pastry a few days ago in anticipation.
Then she rests. We chat again, she probably brings me another gourmet coffee – or, depending on the time of day, a slightly stronger cocktail. While I’m in the bathroom for a moment, (I’m guessing), she whips up some stuffing.
But I realize her secret is that she’s actually not “doing it all,” as I thought at first glance. She makes trade-offs between things that are important and those that really don’t matter; she’s actually extremely good at letting things go and also at delegating tasks that can be delegated. If the turkey isn’t served up perfectly, no matter, at least it got to the table and it’s delicious. If the kids need to spend some time with a babysitter while she works on an essay, that’s what needs to be done. If I have two hands to tackle the dinner dishes, she fully expects, or asks, that it be done.
I came home from my weekend away well-rested and full, not to mention inspired. I spent the next two days baking and making soup and working on that book I’ve (actually, never) wanted to write. I went for brisk walks in the mornings and tried doing things in snippets like my friend does. I’ve accomplished a lot and, you know, it feels good. Next on my to-do list? Purchase one of those gliding rocking chairs. After all, it’s all about balance.