How to Do Good Work and Have a Life

This morning my son, AJ jumped out of bed at 6:00 AM:

“It’s my first day on the school bus AND I’m 7 now!!”

Two huge milestones all in one day! AJ walked up those school bus stairs with his backpack firmly on his shoulders, never looking back as he found a friend to sit with and chat on the long 40 minute ride to school.

I worked from my home office all day, content with the quiet, but thinking of him often.

By late afternoon I was ready for him to come bounding into the house, ready for his snack and all of our birthday plans of buying a new video game, eating pizza and singing “Happy Birthday” while he ate his favorite dessert, whoopie pies.

With a squeal of breaks the bus stopped in front of the house and there he was: my now 7 year old baby ready to tell me all about his day. “We had gym and wrote in our journals and Mrs. H. read 3 stories and I played “wall ball” at recess…you play with tennis balls…and a wall ,of course.”

Of course.

The Most Amazing Part

While AJ’s milestone is amazing to me (where did 7 years GO??), what I think I’m most proud of is the fact that I was able to achieve a dream of mine. I am a working mom who can put my son on the bus 5 days a week and be home when he returns 3 afternoons (the other 2 he is with a friend or a grandparent). Essentially, I’ve created my “dream job” and my ideal life balance.

I get to do work I love and be home with my family when they need and want me around. We don’t have harried mornings or baby sitters or nannies to schedule and pay. I can be home if AJ is sick or has to go to an appointment during the school day.

I’m not on call, don’t have to handle emergencies, work the hours I want with the clients I can help best. Honestly, it’s amazing.

Am I Lucky?

Many of my friends who are also working moms say I’m “lucky” to have a career with this much flexibility. While I agree I am fortunate to be in this position, luck had nothing to do with it.

This career was planned out from the day I found out I was pregnant.

My goal was to always have a job where I could use my skills and talents while at the same time being my son’s primary care giver.

So I carefully developed my own business that allowed me to reach this goal. Over time, as AJ’s needs changed, I was able to change my schedule, work more or fewer hours and augment my clinical income with passive income streams.

This took experimentation, trying things that most of my colleagues condemned as “not done” in our profession, like blogging and coaching and working by phone and email.

The best part is, I still get to help people, do good work and have a life. My clients love being able to email me, work by phone, read my blogs. It works for them and for me. No one has to compromise or settle for less. I’m happy and satisfied in my work, which I know allows me to be more present and effective both at home and with my clients.

What’s not to like?

Just last week I received an email from a colleague accusing me of “cheapening the profession” because I advocate that therapists have a flexible schedule and that using technology “moves us away from the skills we worked so hard to acquire.” I could not disagree more.

If we can help more people AND have a comfortable life balance what’s the problem? Am I any more skilled if I have to work a 60 hour week and miss my child’s soccer games? No way!

This guy and I had a nice email exchange and he finally said that he just didn’t want to have to change anything in his practice and was frustrated that he can’t make a decent living doing the things he always did.

Change is hard and scary. But if the career you have now is making you less money and makes you unhappy, what is the cost of staying still and not making any changes?

The truth is, you can make your career ANYTHING you want it to be. I created my perfect work/life balance. What is YOUR perfect lifestyle? Maybe it’s like mine and allows you to be present for your children. Or maybe you want to travel more, spend more time with your partner, take a sabbatical, write a book, care for an ailing parent, master a new hobby.

Therapists have skills that transcend one business model, one way of working. You can take your skills anywhere, treat the people you want to treat and design a business that supports your lifestyle goals.

Yes, of course you must do the work and yes, you do need to be flexible. (I work 2 evenings a week, but those are the night’s AJ”s dad tucks him in at night, which is awesome for both of them).

But if you take the time to thoughtfully plan, rather than just accept your career options at face value you will find so many opportunities to do good work and have a great life.

So, what does your balanced life look like? How will you design your business so you can pursue your passions and personal goals? What fears get in your way as you consider the possibilities of career freedom?

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