Based on all the things I post on social media and all of my endeavors (parenting, fiance-ing, work, blogging, hair tutorials, documentary filmmaker, etc), I am often times ask how do I manage to balance it all. In fact, I’ve been listening to more and more podcasts about women, specifically women of color who are entrepreneurs, and that is always one of the first questions (if not THE first question) during an interview. “Such and such, how are you maintaining a healthy work/life balance? What are some good tips?”
First and foremost, there needs to be some clarity around what a healthy work/life balance actually means. More specifically, what the word “balance” means. We tend to assume that balance is equivalent to 50/50 when in actuality, there is no such thing. As much as I love Teddy P and his jam, “When Somebody Loves You Back” (also known as 50/50 love) I don’t find that equation to be relevant… at least not today. AND that’s not a bad thing either.
This concept didn’t become real into me until I was knee deep in college and parenting at the same time. I would always feel guilty because I either felt like I was focusing too much on my studies and not enough on my daughter, or too much on my parenting and not enough on school. It wasn’t until I got to graduate school that I truly understood my journey had to be walked a day at a time – and not feel bad about it. Some days I had to put myself in a zone and pull some late nights while Addy entertained herself and we ate fast food because I didn’t have time to cook. Other days I said “ta hell with class” and slept in or picked Addy up from school early so I could spend some time with her.
I carry that concept universally now. It’s relevant with all of my identities – all of my endeavors. When my hours at my 9-5 get to be hectic, I pull back on one (of my many) creative projects until the tasks are complete. For example, rather than writing 3 blog posts this week, I may only write one to make sure I at least put forth some effort and to stay consistent with my writing altogether.
On days I know I need to film, I try to schedule those days with space in between so my daughter isn’t always away from me (she not ready to be on set yet lol). This works for me.
So how do I manage a healthy work/life balance? I understand that 90/10, 80/20, 70/30, & 60/40 mean “balance” too – not just 50/50. Some areas will get a greater percentage out of me on some weeks than others. I accept that because that is where I am.I’ve learned to accept my “W’s” as they come. I may not cook a nutritious meal for my household everyday but I guarantee you they never go without a meal – whether it’s made by my hands or picked up from the drive thru. I may not be further along with my film than I originally wanted to be but I’m gaining more and more skills by the day.
We tend to get all bent out of shape and frustrated because we feel our efforts or inadequate and half-ass. We set ourselves up with unrealistic goals from the jump and get upset when they aren’t accomplished in the way we originally intended. Ultimately, there is no such thing as 50/50. You do the best with what you have when you have it and you get real honest with yourself.
Just don’t tip the scale over.
Over the past couple of years, the culture has definitely shifted from going to school to get a good 9 to 5 job and ultimately working for someone else to “F the man – I’m working for myself.” There has even been a surplus of FB groups dedicated to encouraging people to quit their day jobs (with a plan in place of course) and fully invest their time (and resources) into their own entrepreneurial endeavors. I agree with some of these sentiments as I’m even in the process of working on my own creative gigs that I hope to turn into my full-time profession, but I can’t dismiss what I’ve gained from working my 9 to 5 that aids in the current success of my entrepreneurial endeavors.
I know it can be hard to shift your brain throughout the day from full-time work to entrepreneur work but as the saying goes, perception is reality. If you perceive your 9 to 5 to be nothing but a distraction and barrier to your 5 to 12, that is exactly how it is going to feel when you approach the latter part of your day. If you perceive your 9 to 5 to be a stepping stone, you will find that it can help boost your daily flow.
Below are 4 ways that my 9 to 5 help boost my creativity and pour into my entrepreneurial endeavors.
For those who may not know, I am immersing myself in the world of filmmaking and currently in mid-production of my first feature film, The Kinloch Doc (view teaser here). Because this is a new endeavor, I can’t even express how challenging (yet rewarding) it has been to manage all that encompasses creating a film…..with a day job…..and a kid….and a fiance…..and etc. My current role is an Administrative Coordinator for a college access program so 95% of my job is to take care of logistical tasks from behind the scenes and make sure everything is in order – emphasis on order. Filmmaking requires a lot of pre-planning and order from scheduling interviews, renting equipment, conducting interviews, editing projects on a deadline, etc. My administrative coordinator role enhances that skillset so I’m more than prepared during production.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t trust myself to work for myself 100% at this point in my life. My level of discipline is not where it needs to be. Like, if God said “Alana, quit your job and go work for yourself” I’d probably say, “Wait, I aint ready yet.” It’s something about a pre-established schedule and expectations set for me that helps make my job a little easier. Maybe because I’ve been conditioned to learn and work that way all my life so approaching anything new so abruptly would cause more anxiety than excitement. However, I am taking this time to translate my work discipline into my creativity: setting my own deadlines and following them, seeking out people to hold me accountable, task follow through and completion, etc.
Because I am looking forward to working on my own projects when I clock out, it helps me approach my work tasks with more dedication, discipline, and efficiency. Ultimately, I want to get all of my necessary tasks out of the way so I can start working on what I really want to work on. Consider it rewarding yourself for a job well done.
Self explanatory. For me (and in general), making a film is EXPENSIVE and contingent upon how much money I have available at any point in time, that will dictate my production timeline. You need a steady flow of income that will help fund your other endeavors until those endeavors can consistently fund themselves. I try to treat my film like its own bill and have a completely separate bank account with another institution that I only use for my film and any film related expenses.
I know many of us are counting down the days, hours, and minutes to where we can ultimately be our own boss but until that day comes, find value and contentment where you currently are. I’m fortunate enough to have a job that I enjoy and colleagues that I loooooove working with, AND they also understand and support the fact that this job is only temporary for me. I know that is not a reality for everyone. However, there is reasoning and purpose for the now and with a few minutes of self-reflection and introspection, there are several things we can pull away from our 9 to 5 that will enhance our 5 to 12.
Make it work for YOU.
I don’t know about you, but whenever the end of the year approaches, it sends me straight into reflection mode; borderline reminiscent. Knowing me, I never checked in on myself throughout the year to see how I was doing so consequently, November and December have become my annual “evaluation months.”
Blogging has actually been one of my struggle areas this year so this post alone is my way of holding myself accountable to keep adding to my successes.
It’s one thing to entertain thoughts and then ignoring them when you no longer feel like dealing with it, but having your thoughts written down on paper, tangible and convicting, it moves you to action.
Below are things I have identified as successes and struggles within my life throughout 2017. Here goes nothing:
I knew I would be in repayment this month because that would have made 6 months since I finished graduate school. It’s a topic I willingly choose to avoid and if I don’t wise up, could have very serious ramifications on my credit in the future. In a nutshell, I didn’t plan ahead of time for this inevitable expense that I know would be coming to disrupt my life. I DON’T WANT TO GIVE THEM A DIME! But that’s not an option (not if I want to live a peaceful life at least). I figured if I ignored them long enough, they would disappear. I know. I know. Childish but real as hell.
Quality time with my daughter.
I’m always up on my toes; always on the move. I told myself (and my daughter) that once I graduated, it was going to be more of her and I. Instead, I found other things to busy myself with. While my projects are not bad in them of themselves, I have yet to develop healthy discipline habits and boundaries with myself so I continue to make my daughter a ride-along with all my endeavors.
Oh I’ve been bitten by the spirit of gluttony all year (life) long. I stay spending money on fast food. I justify my habits by saying to myself “I’m too busy to cook throughout the week so it’s fine.” NO ALANA! IT’S NOT! I know I have a spending problem (because I have a discipline problem). But knowing don’t mean nothing if I’m not willing to do anything about it.
With the loss of yet another close family member this past summer, that was the last straw for a lot of my family members. So much discord occurred not even hours after the funeral, and many of us have yet to speak to each other to this day. I’ve become privy to the generational trauma that has impacted my family and finally able to identify and articulate it now. Especially, since it is affecting me now more than ever. Severing ties with certain family members and coming to terms with the fact that some relationships will no longer be as close as they once were (in addition to mourning over the death of a loved one) has taken a toll on me emotionally and spiritually. Apologies need to be given. I just don’t know how and when.
Letting go of Mae’s Closet.
After being honest with myself and understanding my capacity to do (or not to do) everything that I’m currently doing, I made the decision to pause Mae’s Closet in the upcoming year and work solely on my documentary, The Kinloch Doc. That decision was extremely emotional for me because of my reasoning for starting Mae’s Closet in the first place. I had to face my priorities and realize that Mae’s was not at the top (at least not at this moment). I’m going to miss the hell out of it though.
On a more positive note….
On May 17, 2017 @ 7pm, my daughter and I walked across the stage for the 2nd time. I’m the first in my immediate family to get a Bachelor’s degree let alone Masters. Anyone who is a first generation college student understands the weight of that burden. Creating roads as you walk because there wasn’t a guide laid before you. No shade. Just facts. But that was by far one of my proudest moments. I don’t ever want to stop “wowing” myself.
My place of employment is well aware of my other endeavors and fully support me as I work on them. My job provides me with the flexibility to work on my passion and for that I am grateful.
Alana Marie Productions, LLC
My production compant was birthed (in addition to Mae’s Closet, LLC). I want The Kinloch Doc to be housed under my own production company as I know I will be evolving in the field of media production. Makes me feel all official or whatever.
Paid off my credit card
and increased my credit score. I feel a certain way about the establishment of credit (like who created it and what is its true intended use) but since we need it, might as well work it in a way that will make my life easier.
My baby started second grade this year.
I can’t believe I have an entire 8-year-old. And she reads at the 5th grade level. I want her back in my belly…. sometimes.
for The Kinloch Doc this past April
I was accepted
into the inaugural media production program with Continuity, a local non-profit working to expand diversity within media production. Out of over 100 applicants, I am one of ten who was accepted.
One of the successes that I am most proud of, I started going to therapy
this past October. I’ve never been to therapy before and I always told myself I was too busy to ever go. I have a lot of unsettled issues that have grown to be excruciatingly bothersome over the years and I honestly feel like I am becoming stifled if I don’t get them addressed. People who know me know I don’t like asking for help (because I don’t always know what I need help with), so this is a big step for me.
I have a desire to be intentional about my growth and progress, my healing. While I am grateful for my accomplishments, I have enough discernment to know that there is more in store for me and there are many areas of my life that are in need of improvement. I am appreciative of every occurrence and circumstance from this past year and I’m looking forward to going into the new year with a renewed mind and grateful heart.
Fear is one hell of a drug; one hell of a vice. It’s the one thing we hate that is apart of us but we feed and nourish it on a daily basis. Often times we really can’t even articulate what it is that we fear, we just know that feeling if we are triggered.
When dealing with passion and purpose, it has been said that many people remain stagnate out of
fear of failure; fear of not being received; not being accepted.
I beg to differ. I believe our
fear enters another realm.
We aren’t afraid of failing. We are afraid of succeeding. We are afraid of actually doing a good job and having to sustain. We are afraid of having to exceed our previous success. Because of that
fear (irrational as that sounds), we allow a steady stream of excuses to subdue us to stiffness. “I’ll do it tomorrow” turns into “well, ya know, I just got so much going on” or “it was a stupid idea anyway” or “I don’t have the money” or “I don’t have the time” or “insert your excuse here.”
Let me know where you spot the lie and I’ll stop.
You inadvertently turn into a self-sabotager. The reason I know this is because I can identify. Rather than with my passion projects and purpose, I would unintentionally/intentionally sabotage certain relationships. Relationships that were going a little too right or felt a little too good. Almost to the point where I would tell myself “things aren’t supposed to be going this well so I’m going to end it” or I’d convince myself that I wasn’t deserving of a happy/healthy relationship. I’d psych myself out of things that were actually good for me. I’d starve my faith and allowed my
fear to have a field day.
Because happy and healthy was foreign territory to me, I never knew how to respond to it. I’d look away when eyes caught mine and could never receive compliments well.
I wasn’t afraid of bombing the relationship. I was afraid of it actually going right and how that would feel and how that would change me along the way.
It didn’t to me either when I was going through but overtime, it did.
I face the concept of
fear on a daily basis with all of my identities. A mother, an entrepreneur, a partner, an aspiring filmmaker, etc.
Pessimism is society’s theme so of course that’s what felt normal. The idea of success used to feel so out of reach but now that I see it as a possibility, it scares the hell out of me.
My natural reaction is to walk away so the battle is internal, is mental.
“Stay. Keep going. Try this today. Feel this feeling. Sit in this success. Claim it.”
Who are we to acknowledge our gifts and do absolutely nothing with them?
If success is our biggest problem, it is one good problem to have.
“I wish I could read for leisure more but I am just too busy” – said all of you. Ok, that’s an overgeneralized statement but I do see and hear that being said from many of you. One of the greatest lies ever told is that we simply don’t have enough time to (fill in the blank). It isn’t that we don’t have enough time; if we are honest with ourselves, we most likely don’t have enough discipline. I have that same issue and talk about it here, but I am proud to say that I have grown to be consistent over these past two weeks with a book in hand everyday. A few days prior to the new year, I made a commitment to read every single day from the books that have been collecting dust on my bookshelf. In fact, I am in the process of reading two books: I read 1-2 chapters of Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend every morning and I read 1-2 chapters of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond every night. These two books are of two totally different genres but both keep me equally engaged in the pages. I highly recommend both and will follow up with a book review for each once completed.
I am over halfway done with both books and I wanted to take the time in this post to share some tips that helped me get back to my favorite pastime.
- Do what I did above – make reading a part of your morning/nightly routine. If you want to start off slow, choose the time in which you have the most energy. I am everything but a morning person but the book I am reading (Boundaries) serves as a devotional to me which helps boost my day. I only read one chapter so I don’t get overwhelmed (unless that chapter sucked me in and I can’t stop reading. The book I read in the evening (Evicted) has longer chapters than Boundaries but is a highly engaging read and is relevant to what I am studying in my graduate studies program. It only takes me 30 minutes or less to get through one chapter per book.
- On your lunch break, leave your phone at your desk, in your locker, in your purse – anywhere but in your hand and take a book instead. You’d be surprised how much time we waste on the phone during the breaks we have allotted to us throughout the day. 30 minutes here to an hour there – you’d be done with a book in no time.
- We are the “continue to sit on the toilet even after we are done using it” generation. If you are going to just sit there, take the book with you. Try this out the first few times and I guarantee by the end of the week, you won’t even miss your phone.
- Scheduled any appointments for the upcoming week? Hair, dental, OBGYN – all good places to have a book handy. You already have to wait in the waiting room and then have to wait in the room before your doctor is ready to see you. Those few minutes slowly but surely add up so go ahead and knock some pages out.
- If you are so pressed to believe that you simply do not have the time to physically sit down and turn the pages of a book, try e-books. Download them and listen to them during your daily commute, while you exercise, while you are cooking, etc. It won’t feel as though you are interrupting your “most important” tasks throughout the day and you are killing two birds with one stone. Personally, I love the feel and smell of a good book and I need to see the words in order to paint a picture as I read.
See, five very doable ways to incorporate literature into (or back into) your schedule without hindering your fake ever-so-busy schedule. Try one, or several, of these tips for the next 7 days and keep me updated on your progress.
“Mommy, but kids can’t die right?”
That is the question my daughter asked me as we were walking up to the vigil for Jamyla Bolden, the 9-year-old girl from Ferguson who was fatally shot while sitting on her mothers’ bed doing homework by a man who shot into the bedroom window. Just two streets over from where Mike Brown’s body laid slain for over 4.5 hours in the hot sun just a year before. After hearing the tragic news, I wanted to come and give the family support for the loss of their loved one and in doing so, I knew my daughter would have some questions while we were there.
Jamyla Bolden (9)
“Mommy, kids can’t die right?”
“Not exactly. Kids can die, unfortunately?”
“How did Jamyla die, though?”
“Someone shot her.”
“Did they do it on purpose?”
“Yes, I believe so.”
“I don’t want that to happen to me, Mommy.”
“I don’t want it to either, baby.”
That’s as truthful as I could be with my child. Although I wanted to tell her without hesitation that that wouldn’t happen to her, I couldn’t guarantee that for her.
As a Black mother raising a Black child in today’s society, that is one of my greatest fears. The fact that I had to have that conversation with my (then five) year old child and have to break her innocence by letting her know that there is a possibility that as a child – even at five- she could die by the hands of another.
The fears of raising Black kids are way beyond making sure they come in before the street lights come on, letting them know to not let anyone in the house if they are home alone, not taking candy from strangers, and not going into adult chatrooms online (outdated). No, we’ve moved way beyond that. Every situation enters us into survival mode. We just want our kids to stay alive.
I asked a few Black parents what was their greatest fear for raising Black children and how do they combat that fear and this was a few of their responses:
“My fear is them not being able to enjoy their carefree youth” – Kasper
“My greatest fear is not being able to protect them from how cruel the world can be and cramming them with info and truth that takes away their innocence” -Sheree
“The degrading rap lyrics about women seeming normal to her” – Chauntez
“Not being able to always be there for them, protect them and keep them from all that is not right” – Heather
“I worry that my fear will not allow me to let her enjoy what life has to offer and that my desire to protect her will instill an unhealthy fear of the outside world” – Elisabeth
All of which are common discussions amongst Black dinner tables all across the country. The unfortunate truth is that not only is raising Black children in American frightening but being Black in America (with child or not) provokes an immense amount of worry and fear. Our fathers, uncles, brothers, husbands, and friends are being murdered with impunity, our women are being scrutinized for being care-free, our children are being pushed through the pipeline straight to prison, and the media has a field day by demeaning our value each and every single chance they get. To be honest, if I didn’t have faith in WHO I am and WHOSE I am, the current happenings of this world would have erased every ounce of hope I’ve ever had – easily. For most (and for me) I know it’s not that simple as saying a short prayer and going about your day but for me, that is where I at least try to start.
A consistent prayer of mine as a parent is that I DO NOT raise my child out of fear. Evil lurks around every corner and I believe it is my job as to stay abreast of all that is out there that is a threat to my child but to use my fear of this world as a guide to parent my child, is beyond unfair to her and to me.
How these fears are combated:
“Show my daughter how a man is supposed to treat a woman” – Chauntez
“Always tell them the truth but try to let them remain children” – Sheree
“Prayer” – Elisabeth
As for me, I just do what I can and chunk up the mistakes as they come. I’m pretty open with my daughter about the evil in this world but I modify my words to where a six-year-old can understand and not have nightmares after having the conversation. I also try to wait until she comes to me with a question and I have a discussion rather than throwing things in her face. I have come to terms with the fact that there are things that my child is going to see/hear that is out of my control so I would rather her express her inquiries with me than someone else who may be ill-intended.
Being a parent, in general, is frightening. Another life is in your hands and anything that happens, you are completely responsible. But for us Brown folk, it’s another ball game. I trust that I am doing a good job and that I’ve been equipped with the tools to raise her just as I’m sure every parent hopes to have.
Pray for the parents who have lost their children to the evil that plagues this world and pray for the parents who are working daily to prevent these things from happening.
RIP Jamyla. RIP Mike Brown. RIP Mansur Ball Bey……and unfortunately, this list continues.