I am not perfect at this, but I am trying.
A conversation with Will last night, a recent comment from a friend, and several LDS General Conference talks have had me thinking about this for the past few days.
How do I balance my life?
Oh how I struggle with this. And yet, I seem to somehow pull it off to the outside world that I have it all together - being a professional musician, recording artist, music teacher, wife, and mom of a young child.
To have recorded and produced a new album during a year of my life when most moms are barely operating in survival mode.
News Flash: I was in survival mode.
To find the time and motivation to dedicate to losing the weight that I gained during pregnancy instead of putting it off for years.
Enlightenment: It was not easy. By any means. And it's still a struggle. I'm still working on this.
To have a healthy and loving relationship with my spouse of almost 5 years through the adjustment of becoming a new parent, through sleepless nights, exhaustion, and not always agreeing on similar parenting techniques.
Reality: It was not all roses, and we have learned a lot about each other and continue to work at our relationship every day.
Last night, Will and I sat down to do our weekly schedule, and ended up sitting on the couch for 2 and 1/2 hours just talking about a great variety of things. Running, Lost toenails, Twisted ankles, Jobs, Dream pianos, Preston, Buying a home someday, The real estate market, My parents, Our siblings, How to raise kids, How many more we wanted, When the timing would work out for us, My music career, What did I want to accomplish with it in the next year.
And more. Much more.
Will and I - we both want so much out of life.
There is so much ambition, and passion for our hobbies. And we fully support each other. I attend his races and cheer him on, and he attends my concerts and helps me produce my albums.
There was a talk a couple years ago by one of the General Authorities of our Church, where he said that for years his wife had a designated night of the week where she left the kids at home with him while she went off to participate in the community choir. It was her night and her time to shine and develop her talents. He wanted that for her, and wanted her to remember that she could still develop herself and the person that she was.
While I had most of my 20's to be single and "play", if you will, I did not find my place in music until I met Will.
I spent my early to mid 20's emerged in the world of Classical music at college and afterwards, performing with symphonies on concertos, practicing sometimes up to 8 hours a day on the piano. But I didn't actually start to compose my own songs until shortly before meeting Will, and then it completely blossomed from there.
As of now, I feel that I am finally in a place where I have truly found my inner musical destiny. It only took me about 30 years to find it. So in a sense, even though I have been doing music my entire life, I only feel like I've been on my true journey of where I belong for the past 5 years. It is just beginning.
The question was brought up last night, "You have to stop and think though, in 20 years from now, will we regret certain decisions we are making right now? In the grand scheme of things, certain things that matter now - will they matter in the future?"
This is where my thoughts have been lately.
Am I balancing my life properly?
Are my goals and priorities in order?
Let me just say first of all, that I think that women are strong. We have so much ability and talent, and often times we give up certain things and sacrifice a lot to be a good mother and wife.
My mom did this for us. She put her music aside while my 3 brothers and I were young children.
I often think that if I were a man, I could actually do my music career full time. I actually could pursue trying to get signed with a record label that would expect me to perform 250 times a year. I wouldn't have to take breaks in my career because of pregnancy and babies. I would have more time to practice as well, and compose - because it would be my job. I could compose all day long if I wanted - and treat it like a 40 hour work week.
Most of my music collegues are men, and they do compose 8 - 12 hours a day. They produce probably 50 times the amount of music that I do.
I often get asked by them, "Jen, why aren't you with a distributor", or "Why aren't you concertizing more?" or "It's time for you to get an agent, why you don't have one already is beyond me."
And after such questions, often, I explain that I also have to balance a home life. I am a wife. I am a mother now too. A record label would expect me to perform more than I can. An agent would want to book me too much.
"Can't you do both?" they then ask.
One such collegue suggested that in order to get some composing done, I simply lock myself in a room with headphones and a keyboard.
*This is where all mothers reading this laugh out loud and shake their heads.*
In my opinion, I am doing "both". I am accomplishing my passion in music and I'm also a wife and mother. Maybe not in the same sense that they are, but for me I'm doing the best I can to balance it all.
And over the last year and a half, as I've adjusted to new motherhood, a blossoming music career, a busy studio with many students that I teach on a weekly basis...though it's been trial and error and I'm continually trying to figure out how to "do it all" and not burn out - I think I have figured a few things out.
And I'll share these.
1. Manage Your Time the Best You Can. It was not easy when Preston was little and had cholic, and wouldn't sleep very well. I survived on very little sleep. For the first year, I did not wake at a very early hour because I was just trying to make up for the lost sleep during the night. And I did not feel guilty for this. But I would take advantage of naptimes to get things done. I also tried to combine things - such as taking Preston for lots of walks in the stroller. That time was golden for me. I was able to brainstorm, compose in my head, and also get some exercise. Now that Preston is a wonderful sleeper, I get up earlier and hit the gym.
2. Schedule Your Weeks in Advance. This way you have no room to complain that you didn't get to do something you wanted to. Will and I started doing this after we realized that our lives seemed chaotic and we just felt like we were "flying by the seat of our pants" all of the time. By scheduling our weeks, not only do we know what the other person has on the calendar that week, but we also try to schedule "fun time" in there - otherwise it won't happen sometimes. Such as date nights, family outings, Will's basketball nights with the guys, my music nights in my studio, etc.
3. Turn Off the TV. We actually don't have TV in our home. Yes, duh, we have a TV. Two in fact. But we aren't hooked up to any sort of cable or local stations. We cannot get a single channel even if we wanted to. This was done on purpose, and we have not had TV in our home for the past 4 years almost. It's amazing what you can accomplish when you are not side-tracked by TV. I know because during times past when we have had TV in our home, I have gotten addicted to certain shows, wasted hours by mindlessly surfing and watching shows when I could have been doing something else. It is a complete waste of your time and your ability, not to mention your intelligence. We do Netflix though. So we select movies we want to watch. And if there are shows that we absolutely are dying to watch, we watch them online with no commericals. Saves a lot of time and we can watch them at our convenience. Not to mention watching a show while sitting at a desk in a computer chair is not that comfortable, so it makes it easy to turn it off when you're done so you don't have to sit there any longer.
4. Just Do It. I don't know how else to say this other than if you want to accomplish something, just do it. Find a way to make it happen and do it. The only person stopping you is yourself - either because of fear, doubt, or what not. Be a DO-er. Accomplish your dreams, don't just think about them. Even financial excuses don't fly in my book. Believe me, I started my music studio out with a computer, an audio cable, and a digital keyboard. Pretty meager. And it worked.
5. Family Comes First. I know this isn't always easy when you're in the thick of a project and you are heavily in a mode of concentration. But your project will wait. This is something I've had to learn. I used to set these deadlines for myself - I had to get a project done by a certain date. And I would beat myself up trying to meet that deadline, sacrficing my family in the process. The reality is, nobody set that deadline for me but myself. I would think "Yeah, but I promised my fans that I would have it done by a certain date." The truth is, they don't care. People will wait. The world can be patient for your project, and when it does get done and emerges it will be all for the better.
6. Be Disciplined. To be honest, I don't goof off with my time too much. Yes there are days when I stay in my pajamas most of the day, or when I spend a little too much time on Facebook or writing emails. I do schedule fun time and enjoy it. But for the most part, I work. And I work hard. Will seems to think that all this music stuff that I do is "play". When he goes off on all these trail running adventures, I often tease him that I now need some "me time" as a trade since he got to have some time for himself. He then often says "Yeah but you do your music". I have to remind him that spending 6 hours through the middle of the night working in my studio is not what I consider "playing" or "me time". It is work. Yes, work that I thoroughly enjoy, but no less, work. I spend a lot of time marketing my music as well, sending cds to promotors, radio stations, emailing, doing paperwork for licensing and royalties, corresponding with other artists, keeping up my website, blogs, etc. Through all of my hard work over the past 5 years, I am proud to say that my music career is self sustaining and it pays for itself. I have no debt, I do not borrow money from our family funds either. I work hard at my music career.
7. Put God First. I know above I said to put family first, and I do mean that. But I have found that you also need to put God first as well. There was one day a few weeks ago, when I was feeling particularly stressed and like I had too many things on my plate. How was I to do them all? I took Preston for a walk in the stroller, and I prayed out loud. I just poured my heart out to Heavenly Father and told him why I was stressed out. I actually went down the list and named everything one by one. And then, in the midst of that list, I stopped because I had the amazing impression overcome me. It was "If you put God first, He will take care of the rest." I got it. I understood it and believed it and said "Okay. Thank you for that." How nice it is to know that instead of having to worry about 20 different things, that you really only need to worry about one thing and God will take care of the other 19.
Women, you are amazing. You are gifted, beautiful, and talented. You can fulfill your dreams. You can be a wife and a mother and still be yourself too. It's all about finding balance and harmony. I still workon this daily, but I can tell you that balance is found in finding out what is most important to you in your life, prioritizing those things, and "cutting the fat" with the rest that doesn't matter.
You are amazing.
You can accomplish your dreams.
You are worth it.