Balance: The New Olympic Sport For Moms

As women and mothers, we want it all, don’t we? We want a successful career, a great home-life, supportive partners, and most importantly we want to be the very best we can for our children. And, as honorable mention, we also want a clean and perfectly decorated house, delicious and healthy home cooked meals, clean clothes in our drawers and closets, and perfect post-baby bodies. But, in this crazy busy day and age, having it all and finding that perfect work-life balance seems to be next to impossible, but is it?

When my daughters, Brooklyn and Olivia were one and two, life was CRAZY and little did I know, it was about to get CRAZIER! I was working full-time at the Make-A-Wish Foundation doing a job that I truly loved and had endless passion for. At the same time, my husband launched a company, which (thankfully) was instantly a success and his time commitment to the business was incredibly demanding. We functioned like two ships passing through the night for a solid year, barely seeing one another and sadly we hardly spent time together as a family. We simply could not figure out the whole work-life balance thing, and we knew that something desperately needed to change.  We were both overworked, tired, hanging on by a thread, and missing our kids.

After months of serious discussions and planning, we jointly made the decision that I would leave my job at Make-A-Wish to try my hand at being a stay-at-home mom that still worked on a limited basis. So, there lays the tricky part; I am a worker and enjoy being involved and having my “own thing” going on. I knew working part-time would make me happy and would provide the right amount of balance that I needed in my life. Don’t get me wrong, I think that stay-at-home moms who do not work at all are true heroes – honestly. They were born with that endless patience trait, something that I am completely missing. So, my thought was to balance a few freelance projects while playing an active role in our company by assisting with some of the day-to-day office work that was being neglected simply due to lack of time. This seemed to be the perfect solution to the work-life balance problem that we were having. I could have the unlimited flexibility that I needed for my children and help my overworked husband balance his work load and still feel like I was contributing to our family. One would think that this would be the solution to our problem and it was in many ways, but in others it was not. No one tells you that when you work for yourself, you work harder than you have ever worked in your life. And, you are never “off the clock.

So, my plan to master “how to have it all” had been in place for a good year and you know what I found? I still was struggling with how to balance my life. Not only was I insanely busy with work for our company, but I still had a few freelance projects that I was committed to. The problem now was that I had no childcare. My solution to the original problem was not going as planned! I would find myself in front of the computer whenever I could squeeze in a few minutes here and there, but ultimately I was failing on both sides. I couldn’t find the right or appropriate amount of time to give to my work and children, and HELLO . . . wasn’t this why I left my beloved job in the first place?!? And, let’s not even talk about trying to do laundry, grocery shop, or pick up the house. I certainly couldn’t do it all, and trust me, I tried my best. I was tired, I was failing, my house was a disaster, and I was cranky. I knew that I needed to make another change. And, all I needed was a little help.

I hate to ask for help and I realize that this is a flaw of mine. I would love to do it all by myself, but in my crazy life, that was not even close to a possibility. I sat down with my husband and we had to make some decisions on how to balance my schedule, his growing business, our marriage, and most importantly to provide the best possible home-life for our girls while they were still wee-peeps. We wanted to be there for them all of the time and spend as much time with them as we could, but at the same time we decided that it was very important for them to see us working hard in our business and being active members in our community. We knew that someday, we would have the “value of education and work-hard talk” with the girls; what better way for them to learn than for us to lead by example. Finding a babysitter that could come to my house on a part-time basis was part of the solution to my work-life balance conflict. It was the best case scenario and it worked out quite well as it provided me the opportunity to eat breakfast or lunch with them whenever I wanted, or just simply pop my head in their playroom to say “hi” while I was working in our home office.

So, let’s flash forward a few years to today – right now. I am sitting at my dad’s house in California writing this piece. I am here just for the weekend. I am here solo. My husband is home with the kids, his crazy work schedule has not permitted him to come along with me and he says that is just fine with him because after the crazy summer we have had trying to BALANCE it all, he thought I needed a break.

When I get home, it is a brand new balance act as the girls start school in two weeks, and so do I. Following your dreams and passions is another thing that I want my girls to learn, and what better way than to (once again) lead by example. I am a foodie and am thrilled, at the age of 36, to be heading to the Secchia Institute for Culinary Arts this fall. It’s never too late to follow your heart. I welcome the new challenge and am ready for a new go on the balance beam of life.

So, do I have it all and have I mastered the art trying to balance work and home? Well, the truth is, I am happy and content and the balance thing is something that I take one day at a time. I am realizing that I will never get it quite right, but I have learned to accept it and not feel guilty or stressed about it. I have also learned that being flexible and having realistic expectations is crucial when trying to balance work, home, and
now school!

So, what does having it all really mean to me? Well, if by having it all means that I maybe cook a meal once a week, or I can complete one load of laundry in two days, or teaching my kids finally (at the ages of 4 and 5) to flush the toilet on their own, or working my tail off along side my husband, or following my passion, or letting some of the unnecessary guilt go, or it means that my kids are happy, healthy and are loved unconditionally then ladies and gentleman, I think that I have it all.

Photography of Cara Essick Ontiveros

Cara Essick Ontiveros is the mom to 4-year old Brooklyn and 5-year old Olivia. Cara is a true modern day mom and proudly wears many hats such as mom, wife, business owner, philanthropist, cook, maid, chauffeur, and wine-drinker.



One thought on “Balance: The New Olympic Sport For Moms

  • September 23, 2012 at 2:21 am

    Cara, I hope your dream comes true and in a few years we might see you on Food Network! I love those cooking shows.

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