It was a beautiful, crisp fall day in Charlotte. As I sat with one of my girl friends (we will call her *Lindsay* for the purpose of this blog) we chatted about small things, which led to discussion of bigger things. We explored the most mundane of topics and the deeper questions of existence. And as the conversation usually does, it turned toward the ultimate question: what is my purpose? You see, both her and I taught middle school together a few years back. We were asking ourselves the same questions then. Is this the last stop on the career train? Are we teachers for the rest of our days? With all of the long hours and grading papers and behavior issues. Having to make sacrifices at home to advance in our careers, OR having to make sacrifices in our careers to take care of things within our homes. The answer for both of us was an emphatic NO, seeing as neither one of us is working in that capacity anymore. But here we are, college educated women, one of us with a masters degree, and we are doing absolutely nothing related to our studies. In fact, we do not even receive health benefits or presitigious titles and recognition. But we are making it. And both of us are engaging in work that is fulfilling, with less demands that chip away at the time we spend in our personal spheres. Ultimately what we have been searching for, what I believe many of us have been searching for is greater balance. It is often called 'work-life' balance. I don't like that name. This makes it seem like work has to be separate from life. Such that life is where all of the good heart felt stuff sits and work is where all of the dreaded, hard heavy lifting sits. As we sat on that picnic blanket in the park it dawned on me. I do not want work-life balance. I want freedom-security balance. Bare with me as I explain the concept.
I have been chasing this elusive career dream for more than a decade. The dream where I get to do what I love, set my own schedule and reap massive financial rewards in return. Sounds too good to be true, right? Maybe. What I have learned though, is that I am not actually seeking a specific type of job, or schedule. What I am really seeking is freedom. Freedom to make my own schedule so that I can decide what priorities receive my attention and when. Freedom to work in the environments I choose with the people that I am drawn to. Freedom to answer to the demands of motherhood and my career in this crazy and wonderful season I find myself in. But this freedom I am talking about involves a measure of risk, even uncertainty. Starting your own business, or taking a leap of faith where career is concerned can be very scary. Tons of self doubt rises to the surface, and the very thought of being in charge of your own financial outlook goes from liberating to daunting, if not purely terrifying. There is a trade off for freedom to pursue autonomy in your career. In many ways, you are exchanging your security for this freedom to do and be and work on your own terms.
A traditional 9-5 can be very confining and suffocating. But there is a measure of freedom that comes with this scenario. You have a predictable schedule, you know where and when you have to report to work everyday. That frees up time for you. Time that you do not have to spend planning out contacts, follow ups, business plans and schedules for your day, your week or your year. More than likely if you are working m-f/9-5 you are receiving a set amount of income every two weeks, or monthly. This ensures the freedom to make a predictable and repeatable budget which gives you the freedom to do the things you want and need to do. One of the largest trade-offs you have to make when taking the leap from employee to self-employed is the question of health benefits. The security of health benefits is one of the single greatest obstacles for many entrepreneurs or even people who want to work part time or flexible contract work. Likely, there is no single combination of freedom and security that works for every person. Even the same person may have different needs in the different seasons of their life.
I find myself in a season where the health, safety and care of my family is my utmost highest concern. Caring for my beautiful baby girl, 6 year-old boy, rock star husband and the most loving (needy) dog on planet Earth has become a tremendous portion of my life's purpose. Providing for these dependents has also grown in importance. But motherhood is such that, while the demand for income rises, so does the demand on your time. All the moms out there can I get an 'AMEN'? With the considerable financial and emotional cost of putting the baby in daycare and running the rat race to be out of the house 11 hours everyday to rush home cook and do the nighttime routine with the kids...that is just madness. For me, doesn't add up financially, doesn't add up to time-well-spent. So I am working differently. I am taking a leap of faith. I am creating the working conditions that I want to have in my life, because I have yet to find one organization that will provide them for me. When answering the question, what is my ideal freedom-security balance? Each of us will have a different answer. For me, the future is wide open and free, and I am almost 100% sure the risk will be worth the reward.
If you are interested in any of the small business ventures I am engaged in, or if you would like guidance in your career path, reach out in the comments or via email at email@example.com. There is always an answer to whatever problem you are facing. Sometimes you just need a little perspective. (Originally posted December 2016)