THE STORIES WE TELL
The Year Everything Changed
What are the stories that you tell yourself? What are the beliefs that drive your actions, behaviors, and results? Are you hanging on to an idea that doesn’t really work for you anymore?
Maybe the stories you grew up with are outdated or irrelevant now. Maybe you’ve changed. Maybe the world has changed. Maybe your stories conflict with where you are going or how you want to live your life. Maybe they were never even true, to begin with.
If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that we don’t know it all, and anything can happen. Sometimes, it takes a seismic shift to change our beliefs. Sometimes, changing just one idea can create a ripple that turns your life in a completely different direction.
2020 wasn’t all bad. If I set aside disruption and fear and analyze it objectively, I can identify many reasons for gratitude. For instance, when I left my corporate job in 2016 and started my business in 2018, I did it for my family. Of course, I didn’t know what was coming, but I knew I wanted to be a hands-on mom, present at home, enjoying my children, building a legacy.
Then, a pandemic arrived. While other parents were scrambling to figure out childcare and support, working at an office or working from home for the first time, I was already home. Our daily routines were already established; I didn’t need to order supplies or adapt to new technology— I’d been working from home since 2008.
It wasn’t ideal, of course, not all sunshine and rainbows, but nevertheless, it was a gift. I wanted more time with my babies. Determined to make the most of it, I focused on the opportunity.
Sure, we get on each other’s nerves, invade each other’s personal spaces, and snack all day long, just like everyone else, but it’s so fun watching our kids learn, seeing them engage with classmates and teachers, sneaking a peek behind the curtain.
This year was heartbreaking and stressful for so many reasons, but I loved having meals together every day, not rushing the mornings to start the day or get out of the house, and knowing our family was safe and together at home. Who knew it could be like this?
And, astonishingly, my business grew. During a pandemic, while helping three little ones with remote school every day, my business and my marriage thrived. I didn’t know that could be true either.
For this year to unfold the way it did, I had to confront beliefs about what was possible many years ago. Before I could entertain the idea of becoming a successful entrepreneur running a business while remote schooling three children, I had first to consider motherhood and then entrepreneurship. But even before that, I had to understand the implications of the story that I had been telling myself that prevented it:
In today’s world, if you have children, both parents have to work full-time to afford it.
How many of you believe that? How many see irrefutable evidence in the lives of your family, friends, and colleagues? In my mind, there was no doubt. Life is expensive; kids are too — the end.
But when we found out we were having twins; it didn’t seem so clear-cut anymore. When my husband and I talked about raising children, we pictured both of us working, maybe a nanny, but we also wondered if one of us could stay home.
We didn’t know how it would work, but we were open to trying it. So, hubby became a stay-at-home dad, I went back to work, and we figured it out on the fly.
It went so well that I wanted to try it too. Four years and another child later, I left my corporate job to be a stay-at-home mom. Again, we didn’t know everything. We weren’t sure if that meant he would go back, or I would start my own thing, or how we would do it.
The hardest part was the pay-cut. Our income dropped by approximately $150,000/year. I share that number so you can appreciate the magnitude of our decision.
If you told pre-kids me that we could afford our house, lifestyle, three kids, and take a pay-cut like that, I wouldn’t have believed you. But that’s the point. You can’t know everything until you try it — you must be willing to experiment.
When we have constraints in our lives, we get creative. When we are required to step up, we rise to the occasion. When we want something badly enough, we do what it takes. It’s hard to imagine that before it’s necessary.
When something changes, you begin to think differently, and the ripple leads to asking better questions. Suddenly, you notice examples all around you that you couldn’t see before.
Just Try It
It’s like this: When we got a puppy in 2008, we committed to two walks/day for life. Our doggie is 12 now. Every day, out we go, morning and night, no matter the weather. We don’t think of that as a goal or a responsibility, or a badge of honor. We think of it as inseparable from what it means to have a dog.
For us, dogs = walks. Or more broadly, we believe that dogs have short lives and demand very little from their people, so the least we can do is love them and show our love by going for a walk together every day.
We’ve decided that we feel the same way about our children. Childhoods are fleeting. We have just 18 years: 18 birthdays, 18 summers, 18 winters, 18 autumns, 18 springs that will fly by in a blink of an eye.
Ask anyone who parented before you, and they’ll tell you that your children will be babies and toddlers and little kids for a moment, and then all of the sudden, real people moving out of the house, and you’ll be wondering how you survived it and where did the time go?
When faced with a certainty like that, we didn’t ask, can we live life on one income? We wondered what if we were home every day during their childhoods? What if we could make that work? What if we showed our love by being present? What if childhood = presence?
I can’t even quantify how much resistance came up. It takes two incomes. Of course, we will both have to work. We can’t afford that. We will have to give up travel. Who does it? No one we know could pull it off; how will we? Is it the best thing for us? We will have to give up our careers. We will have to give up ourselves. We will have to give up our dreams. On and on and on it went, a spiral of doubt.
But then, we wondered, what if it isn’t true? What if we can make it work? What if we can figure it out? What if we just try? What if we have the time of our lives?
We have been having the time of our lives for eight years, and 8,760 dog walks, give or take.
Looking back, if we hadn’t been willing to question that belief, I wouldn’t have found my way to entrepreneurship, my husband wouldn’t have traded sports radio for sales, and this year would have been very different for us.
If we both had been working outside the home when schools closed, we would have had to make much tougher choices. If we were both still in media, one or both of us would have likely been laid off.
If it sounds as if I’m trying to talk you into being a stay-at-home parent, I’m not. If it feels like I’m saying we did everything right, that’s not it either.
The takeaway is this: 2020 changed everything. It was wildly disruptive, and yet, the whole world has been united in the opportunity of facing COVID, thinking differently, changing our routines, considering how we work and learn, and what’s true going forward.
The ground that once felt so strong and solid, wavered and cracked. That opening is an opportunity. Something better is out there.
No matter what the lessons were for you this year, know this: If you have a belief that doesn’t serve you or is at odds with what you think is possible for your life, you can change what you believe.
You can confront what contradicts your dream; you can let go of limitations that hold you back or an idea that keeps you small. You can suspend reality for long enough to try something different, to consider if it’s really true, and what works for you.
What new truth could you accept that would lead to a better life? What are your dogs = walks or childhood = presence “time of your life” defining moment? Now is the perfect time to find out.