This week, my insanely amazing cousin, Liz, posted about my blog on her Facebook page.
Quick Gratitude Sidebar: whenever I recognize the fact that I have women who support me and my writing and this site, I get hella emotional. As someone who believes herself to be the human equivalent of a trash bag full of medical waste at times, knowing people are out there speaking about me and going to bat for me makes me burst with emotion. The imposter complex is a real bitch, ladies. But we’ll talk about that witch another time.
In all her incredibly kind words she said one thing that stood out to me, “you can make the time to do what you love to do…even when you work full-time and have a family.”
This principle is the exact thing I wanted everyone who reads CampaignHER to realize. It’s the heart of everything we write and publish on this page. But do you know what my first gut reaction was to hearing someone so perfectly understand and share my vision? The very first thought running through my head?
But I’m not doing it all.
I constantly feel like I’m leaving something out.
In her book, WorkParty, Jaclyn Johnson writes,
The common hum of women everywhere saying, “I just want a solid marriage, good friendships, and a successful business” is often met with, “You can only have two of the three.”
And that’s how it feels, doesn’t it? We constantly feel like we’re dropping the ball on something important to us to put energy into something else that’s also important to us.
Imagine you’re carrying three ginormous paper bags full of groceries into your house at once. You shift your weight to better carry a bag that’s falling from your arms, your grip on a different bag gets looser.
When I think about my life, I can divide my always-shifting grocery bags as my family, my passion project and my career.
Running head-first into my relationships with my family means more family nights, which also means I’ll spend less time at work and less time writing for this blog.
When my focus is on my passions, I’m spending every ounce of free time writing and editing and reading, which means I’m spending less 1:1 time with my husband and committing less hours to work.
And when I focus on work? Well, my family and my side hustle aren’t getting the best version of me, that’s for sure.
For the longest time I couldn’t seem to win. No matter how thin I spread myself and my time across these three incredibly important things to me and my life, I was always dropping a grocery bag.
And every day, I would log into Instagram and see gorgeous women totally crushing it. I’d see their perfect, smiling faces behind a computer screen and in the kitchen and hugging babies and think “How does she do it?”
Maybe that woman is a whole lot of Instagram bullshit, and I’m just torturing yourself. Or maybe, this woman is making personal sacrifices that helped her get to where she wanted to go.
Maybe, the key to having it all starts with us realizing we would never have it all, allowing us to focus on how to make the most of our time and energy and resources to help us handle exactly the right amounts of everything.
If we were back in real life struggling with those grocery bags day in and day out, we’d take action, wouldn’t we?
Maybe, we’d buy only the groceries that WE want and need, instead of loading up on needs for everyone else.
Maybe we’d buy the things we need only when we need them, instead letting things go to waste.
And maybe, we’d buy fewer groceries, only the essentials, so our bags are lighter to carry with ease.
Still with me?
Grab your cart ladies. We’re about to go shopping.
Buying the groceries that are most important to us.
AKA: Taking ownership of your definition of yourself.
Imagine you order your groceries online and you ask for bananas and peanut butter. And your grocery store decides to substitute bananas for plantains and the peanut butter for vanilla almond protein powder.
And, when you notice the mistake you smile to yourself and say “Well, this is what every other woman I know eats and I guess that means it’s for me too.” When you really just want a friggin’ bunch of peanut butter and bananas.
Would you be happy settling for something that looks like what you want instead of what you actually want?
When I looked at bloggers, Insta-famous and Pinterest-perfect women in my life. I always felt that I should be more like them. I saw their gorgeous curated lives on their social feeds and instantly felt incomplete.
These were women who lived very similar lives to me. They too were balancing the grocery bags of marriage, children, career, and somehow, they had it all. Fresh-made dinners on the table every night. Perfect stain-free outfits no child had wiped a nose on. Even the “challenges” they shared in an effort to be authentic felt too perfect.
I saw these women and I wanted to be them. So, I did whatever I could to make my life look like theirs. And guys, what a joke.
Every picture, posed.
Every caption, a mixture of word vomit.
I spent hours trying to perfect my Instagram profile description to match those of the influencers I idolized.
Up until a few months ago, every single one of my social media profiles used statements like “Momma to Maisy & Parker” or “Wife to Justin” because that’s what I saw on other women’s pages. It felt inauthentic and so totally not me. Do you know what was missing from my profile description on my Instagram page – stuff about ME. Just me.
As women, we are constantly balancing our titles. We’re bosses, we’re mothers, we’re sisters, we’re friends, we’re daughters, we’re wives. But do we ever stop and think that when we define ourselves by these titles, we’re blissfully unaware we’re defining who we are in relation to someone else.
I was saying “Justin’s wife” and “Maisy & Parker’s Mom” instead of saying “I love my family and being a mom,” instead of saying “I love to write,” or “donuts are my love language” or anything – something – that defined me as a living breathing human being that exists outside of my love and devotion to my family.
Let me back pedal a bit. Maybe your primary title is “mom.” Being a mother is incredibly important and meaningful work. Plain and simple. You may find pride and comfort and joy in defining yourself as being the mother to your sweet babies.
But if you find that the only way you define yourself is by your relationships to others, you may be losing yourself in the importance of the titles you are holding. You are a mother and a wife and you are fulfilling a purpose so great in owning those titles, but what else are you? Who are you when you stand alone, just you?
Think of it this way: What would you want your children to say about you someday? How do you want your kiddo to talk about you to their friends? Will they call you an adventurer, a comedian, an amazing baker, the best story teller. Or will they say “That’s just my mom.”
We’re supporters and nurturers and champions and survivors and fighters and strugglers and failures and reachers and doers and dreamers. We are more than titles. Isn’t it about time we start calling ourselves as we see us?
Armed with this realization, I made a simple change to update my Instagram profile with the title I’ve been dying to wear like a badge of honor since I was a little girl: Writer/Blogger.
I am a writer, a blogger. I write and I blog and I fucking love the shit out of it. And with that as the forefront definition of myself, I saw the other things I balanced in a completely new light.
I am bananas and peanut butter. Not plantains and vanilla almond protein powder.
What are you?
Buying what we need when we need it, instead of waiting.
AKA: Taking ownership of your time.
Let’s go back to the grocery store.
Imagine you’re pushing your cart through the aisles and you notice a Buy One Get One deal on loaves of bread. You have bread on your list of needs and everyone loves free stuff, so you buy two loafs of bread instead of one. You know you will only go through one loaf over the next two weeks but who cares. The other one is free and right now the only issue is the grocery bags you’re carrying up to your door are a bit bigger; a bit heavier to carry.
After a week in your pantry, you’ve made it through that first loaf fine and haven’t even touched the second. And the second has started to mold. You scoop it up and throw it right in the trash.
You lugged this bread home, you grabbed it and added it to your grocery bags only for it to literally go to waste.
High school English teacher metaphor unpacking time – the bread is your TIME and the grocery bags are how you spend it.
How many times a day do you mutter to yourself that you have no time?
How many nights a week do you find yourself binging entire seasons of The Office?
Or doing another quick scroll of your Insta/Twitter/Facebook/Snapchat feeds over and over and over again?
If you do these things daily, guess what – you’ve got time.
You know what you don’t have time for? Telling ourselves we have no time.
Ain’t nobody got time for that.
I had a dream of starting an online community that would help women and as I thought on that dream over and over, I sat and muttered about how I had no time to start it.
I made a change. I told myself, if I wanted to see my dreams come to fruition I had to put in the time to create them in the first place. There was not a single soul on earth who would put in the time for my dreams for me.
I needed time. I quickly found the moments every day where I was being wasteful with my hours – like binging Netflix at night or staying late after the work was complete to save face. And I took the steps I needed to take ownership of those hours back.
If I finished my work at the office and had no more emails to write, I left. (Letting my boss know I was available if anything else popped up.)
If the kids were in bed and I was watching TV, I got up and went to my room and wrote. If I had 30 minutes to watch an episode of Brooklyn 99, I had 30 minutes to write.
If I wasted time, I called myself out on my bullshit. I set strict limits and deadlines and I never flaked on myself.
Balancing an actual full-time job and a full-time dream is work. I leave work and come home only to get to work the second I arrive. I spend evenings writing or posting or emailing, trying to drive women to this site I’ve poured my entire heart into.
Remember this: Entrepreneurship comes in the hours you claim. You must choose when you want to work, you must make promises to yourself because you think they are unwaveringly important, and you must never break those promises that you make to yourself.
If you’re putting time into areas of your life just to tick off hours, if you’re not being meaningful or practical with your time, you’re wasting it.
Keep those grocery bags filled with only the things you need when you need them.
Shopping from a Grocery List & Only Buying the Essentials
AKA: Make time for the things that mattered most to the people who matter most to me.
Before you leave for the grocery store, you mention to your man that you’re headed out and ask if he needs anything.
“Actually, yes.” He says, “Can you pick me up some milk?”
You add milk to your list. While you’re in the grocery store, you start thinking about this simple ask. Maybe he needs cereal for his milk. Or more coffee to put the milk in. Or this pack of double-stuffed Oreos to dunk into this milk.
You load your cart up with more and more, anticipating the things he wants. You get home and – you guessed it – you struggle carrying those grocery bags up to your door. They’re filled with all those things you feel he’ll need.
And when you get home, he takes the milk out and pours himself a glass. Just a single glass of milk. No cookies. No cereal. No coffee. He just wanted the milk.
Ladies, are you putting effort into things for the important people in your life that aren’t important to them? Are you sacrificing your sanity or time or energy to make sure the people in your life have more than everything they need?
You want to know the real key to having it all? Stop saying yes to it all.
The most liberating thing I’ve done in my entrepreneurial journey is telling myself that I simply did not have the time to commit to everything and giving myself the permission to say no.
No part of my life did I exercise this right more than with motherhood.
Earlier this year, I was over-the-moon excited to sign Maisy up for Girl Scouts. I had the day of the first parents’ meeting in my planner and on my work calendar. I had planned to leave work an hour early. But things never seem to work the way you want. I had an urgent email roll in, then a request that required my attention, then needed to send something over to my boss’s boss. All this and more, and the time got away from me.
When I finally got to my car, I opened my GPS app to see how long it would take me to get to the meeting, and my heart immediately sank. I would get there almost an hour late. I called my husband and begged him to go for me so we wouldn’t miss it. And he did, being a stay at home parent allowed him that flexibility.
When I finally got home that night to an empty house, I sat on the couch in silence. I sang to some music on a radio. I enjoyed an hour of no one needing anything from me, of contemplation, of peace. And sitting in the empty house savoring those moments to myself, I didn’t once feel guilty I couldn’t make it to MJ’s meeting.
Then, that weekend we were at a birthday party for a friend of ours. Several moms from Maisy’s new troop were there. The topic of the next meeting came up and one mom, asked me if I’d be there. I wasn’t totally sure, I had said. It depended on work.
“No worries,” she replied, “I figured Justin’s pretty much going to be the Scout mom anyway.”
I know she didn’t mean it as a dig at me. I know that she knew that Justin’s the stay-at-home parent. And, honestly, she wasn’t wrong. Justin became the point of contact for getting information about MJ’s first scout fundraiser, he brings snacks to their meetings, he organizes, he chit chats, he loves it.
But her comment still hurt me like hell. Why? Because it made me I feel like a bad mom.
I worried about Girl Scouts for far too long in the weeks that followed. I spent days hurrying at work, trying to remember to sew badges on her vest, asking a million questions about her scout meetings, apologizing profusely when I couldn’t make it.
And do you know what Maisy did? She spent her time at Scouts learning and playing with her friends. She didn’t care that I wasn’t there. Or, better put, she didn’t give a flying fart whether I was there to see her or not. In all those weeks of fussing over not being a part of Maisy’s Girl Scouts, Maisy never once said “I wish you were there.” Or “How come you didn’t come?”
Let me say this again for the folks in the back because understanding this was glass-shattering. She didn’t even notice I wasn’t there.
I spent weeks stressing myself out and sacrificing time I wanted to spend on other equally important things in my life all over this one thing that was more important to me than it was to Maisy – and it was HER thing!
I realize now that I have reached a point in my life where I am officially leaning in to being the bad mom. I’m not going to be at every Girl Scout meeting. I’m not going to take Maisy to every dance class. I’m not going to run to the playroom to see each and every one of Parker’s Lego creations.
Maybe I’ll get slack for saying that.
Maybe someone will read this and see me as selfish, detached.
To those people I say you can kindly fuck right off.
I might not be a troop mom, or a dance mom, or a your-Legos-look-boss Mom. But you bet your ass I’m the kind of mom that’s always there for the things that matter the most to my kiddos.
I may miss dance practice and girl scout meetings in favor of writing or having thirty blissful minutes of silence to recharge my batteries, but you better fucking believe those girls are going to see me at every recital, every teddy bear picnic, every game, every single thing I can tell they’re bursting-at-the-seams excited about because it matters to THEM.
THEY know I’m going to be there telling them I’m proud, and they are spectacular, and I’m the luckiest person in the world because I get to be their mom.
Mommas, Sisters, Ladies – ask yourself this. Are you getting all worked up over something that doesn’t matter to the people you’re doing it for?
Guess what, those things are keeping you from having it all. You getting worked up on these things is causing you to hold onto that bag of groceries so tight you don’t even have hands on the other bags anymore.
Stop killing yourself to be at every soccer game if your kiddo only gives a shit that you bring Elmo Fruit Snacks when it’s snack day.
Stop making endless elaborate plans with friends if your girl just wants you to respond to her texts as soon as possible.
Stop doing busy work when the work day has ended just to run the work day clock until 6.
Stop buying coffee and cereal and double-stuffed goodness if your husband just wants milk.
These things don’t matter and they’re keeping you from having everything you’ve always wanted. They’re keeping you from having it all.
The Name of the (Grocery) Game
Real talk time.
Having it all takes sacrifice. It takes self-awareness. It takes time management. It takes saying “No.” A lot.
Before you can make a plan to set these steps outlined above into action, you need to decide what “It All” means to you.
Think of a life where you have it all. A world where you have no monetary stress What are your non-negotiables? What are the things your soul 1000% needs to you invest in?
Focus on those things, those few things. And forget the rest. Make sure your time and energy and money are being spent on the things that matter most to you.
Girlfriend, carry fewer groceries.
Ally Pippin is a writer, mother, and digital media professional from Orlando, Florida. In all aspects of life - from parenting to career building - she believes the keys to success are a clear vision of your future self, a whole lot of belly laughs and a few stiff gin & tonics. You can connect with her on Instagram or Twitter @allyjeanpippin, or follow along with her food and family adventures on her blog, Ally Jean.