Mom in the Arena

The Success Indicator

So I had a friend (and by friend, I mean my mom and grandmother, I think they are my only two followers:) ask how the Alliance was going…

Well, some days I think it was the best decision I ever made, and some days I have a (very)  little regret about it.

The good:

  • I have gained a fantastic mentor. She is an open book sharing her experiences, knowledge, and inside information with me. I truly enjoy her company, as well as her staff, and that is a huge plus.
  • Her energy is contagious. I said in Big Chicken that I don’t know what pulled me from my slump, but in all honestly, I  recommitted to my ties and relationship with my mentor. That is where the credit should go.
  • It is nice to feel little protected as the under-dog.
  • The bad:

    • As the newest, underdog, in the industry, you are constantly trying to find (and project to your customers) what sets you apart. For us, that is a personalized, customer service based experience. Don’t get me wrong, that has absolutely not changed, but it has been a struggle to explain the relationship to others and prove to them that our focus remains the same.

    All in all, I think I made the right decision. Our (small) staff seems content with the situation, and I think down the road, we will experience the right type of growth from it.

    It still scares the shit out of me. Once I month I am able to join in on the BIG GUYS monthly meetings…it usually ends with me calling my husband (with tears in my voice) saying, “I think we need an exit plan.” He laughs. I go back to work. The world goes on…

    Here is what I have taken away…the point is to say “yes” to keep yourself in the ARENA. Once you start to say no, things go down hill. I have asked myself over and over, why are BIG GUYS willing to share information with me..this is the best way I can explain it:

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    http://maryellentribby.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Infographic-Black-01.jpg

    When you are confident and secure, you are willing to share information with others. When you are at the top of your game, you you don’t protect your spot by tossing others off the mountain. Your spot is protected because you will continue to grow and adapt.

    I recently had an acquaintance move to my neighborhood — within the first week, she emailed me wanting to know the name of my babysitter.

    Come again? You need a kidney? Sure, I’ll give you one. I have a spare. Oh, you need my babysitter? Um, I don’t have a spare one. Sorry.

    Keep in mind, this happened in the middle of me writing this post. So, I took a lesson from my mentor and shared our beloved babysitters name and number with our new neighbor. I really hate when I have to listen to my own blog.

    Can you work late…again?

    I know this is been a hot topic lately… we have “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” written by Facebook guru, Sheryl Sandberg. Recently Marie Claire (July) had a great article describing the discrepancy between the hours of employees with kids verses the hours that have come to be expected from those without families.

    I, I think like most of us, am straddling the battle lines on this one…

    We are constantly needing extra help at our office, not full-time help, but rather just part-time help. Our business is located in Suburbia (about 20 miles from major city) so we have a lot of (super qualified and smart) moms who are staying home for the time being, but would love a part time, flexible job. Perfect fit, right? Not so fast. This is a tricky one…

    When looking for a new-hire about 6 months ago, we interviewed 10 prospectives (only women applied) for a part time business development position. 90% of the women sat down and told me this was the perfect job for them, not because of their experience, their drive, or their skills. No, they told me the schedule was perfect for them. That is what I struggle with…

    Yes, the schedule has to work, but I need to get my money’s worth out of you too. We ended up hiring a great new employee (mom of three) who sat down and wowed me with her experience and dedication, and then followed with “I do have family, and this flexibility is what I am looking for. If I ever feel like I cannot devote the time to you that you deserve, then I promise to tell you and step down.” I swear I saw stars and angels shooting over her head and I may have given her a raise on the spot.

    I have people that I’ve worked with for about two years in this industry that are sometimes surprised to find out I have a daughter. I fight the urge to whip out my iphone at networking events to show off cute pics, or share funny stories that only other parents would appreciate. Why is this? The biggest reason is that I truly keep my personal life separate. I try to avoid becoming facebook friends with too many in my industry, and even then, I definitely put some extra thought into what I post.

    I don’t have pictures of my family up in my office.  That is just a personal choice that works for me. I keep the office clean, simple, and free from personal clutter. It is so hard to go from work-to mom-work-to mom-work mode multiple times during the day, that keeping the two worlds as separate as possible helps me keep my focus.

    When I first started out my career, I started off at a 65 year old, family-owned midsize company where I was one of the youngest employees.

    We had paperwork that came in overnight that had to be sorted and processed by the next morning at 8am before our trucks headed out… this became my responsibility. Maybe because I  was low man on the totem pole. Maybe because I didn’t have kids to get to school in the morning. I just know that I started to resent it. I would resent it when I would still be there at 8pm, and everyone else in my department was long gone. Once morning I was rushing into the office, running late, and I see a co-worker sitting with her kids on the patio of a local donut shop enjoying coffee with her kids. I lost my shit. I got to work and wrote a letter to our manager that we needed to come up with a rotation for the early morning task where everyone in the department contributed. Yes, as a 21 year old, recent college graduate, I felt that this was the right course of action. You can only imagine how popular that made me with the group of 5 (all women) veteran employees I had to sit within 10 feet of for over 8 hours each day.

    What I wish I could tell those women  now is:

    * I now know, that coffee and donut with your kid may have been the only 30 minutes of quality time with your kid that day.

    * I’m sorry for bring an entitled, crybaby tattletale.

    * You women taught me a lot… Most importantly, make the young, grunt do the dirty work to pay their dues.

    There are so many men and women who have covered for my ass as I try to juggle this craziness, so I like to see it with a pay it forward mentality. You pick up the slack when you can, deposit a few coins in the karma bank, and there will be good people around to help cover for you when you need it.

    This applies to those without kids too… I have a mom with health issues and I know there is a good possibility that some day I will have to (gladly) help her with day to day stuff down the road. I really hope I have enough money in the karma bank to help cover me.

    That said, don’t take advantage of those willing to pick up your slack or throw the kid card around too much. Or at least bring donuts for the whole department when you do.

    Summer Time

    It is the universe’s funny little joke that my busiest work time of the year, happens to kick off the same week of summer break…YEAH! I know the easiest way around this would be to hire full time help for the summer, but I just can not do it. Partly financial reasons, and partly because I really want to spend this time with my daughter. So, I spend many hours in our google calendar, planned lots of day camps that are 9am – 12pm a few days per week. Basically, I am spending the summer in my car, but it is the best I could do. I run to the office to get in a few hours, pick up the kiddo from art camp / tennis camp, hang out together for the afternoon while answering work emails on the iPad and getting carpal tunnel from texting with my office. We do something fun the for evening…dinner…bath…kiddo in bed…and then my real work day begins at 8pm. This is the only time I can really devote to those projects that require more than a quick email or text reply. I am shockingly surprised with how well it is going. It takes a ridiculous amount of planning, and way too many iPhone Alarms set, but we are making it work with help from a great babysitter once or twice a week. I am also super blessed to have a sis-in-law close by that comes to my rescue all the time, and great friends to trade the kiddos back and forth to help us survive the summer.

    A friend asked me last week, “How do you do everything? I don’t know how you do it!” HA!!! That is the funniest joke I have head in a LONG TIME! I don’t do everything…my fridge is a joke. My kiddo is asking everyday when we will get more fruit…I toss her another Fruity Pebble vitamin and ask her if she is ready to go swim (because my email is blowing up and I have got to get some replies out).

    I found my husband sitting on our couch this Monday morning in his underwear when I thought he had already headed out of town for work. Why you ask? Because he didn’t have ONE clean piece of clothing to put on and he was waiting for a load of laundry to dry.

    I locked my child in a running car last week (while she was asleep) and had to knock on the window so she could open the door to let me in.

    Friends, none of us, have it all together. I don’t even know what that means…and maybe it means something different for all of us. Maybe rather than thinking about what it means, we should just focus on having a slight smile on our lips at the end of the day…and no one calling CPS that day. It is the little things.

    I have a tiny little trick I use that I wanted to pass along…

    When I have to ask a family member or a great neighbor if my daughter can come over for a play date so I can attend a meeting or work event, rather than tell my daughter, “You have to go over to Aunt T’s house because mama has a meeting.” I say, “Guess what?? Aunt T invited you over for a super fun play date with your cousins. That is so awesome!!!!” While she is busy running around like a cat on crack packing a bag, just a tiny bit of the self-imposed working mom guilt is slipping away. It is a win-win.

    Big Chicken

    Oh my goodness, guys. I just ran away, didn’t I? I don’t even know how it happened…I just got scared and let fear get the best of me. I would love to say it was only in regards to the new blog, but in all honestly, I got scared in real life too. I felt small, overwhelmed, and at at times like an idiot for getting myself into this crazy lifestyle.  When things got scary, I should have kept fighting ( and kept writing to keep myself sane), but instead, I went into survival mode. I did the bare minimum to keep my business going, and rather than fighting to get ahead,  I told myself it was too hard and starting looking for an exit strategy. What a chicken shit way to live, right?

    Little background…

    When I was in high school, we were having a house party when my friend’s parents were out of town, lots of loud music and underage drinking going on..cops come…group of us hide is a closet. The police officer knocks on the closet door. I am terrified,  praying he will just go away. Next to me, a friend shouts out to the police, “No one here except us big chickens!”

    I am so sad to say, that pretty much sums of certain moments of my life. I have these sudden burst of energy and bravery..and then BAM. I turn back into a big chicken.  I don’t know what happens…most people around me don’t even notice, but I can just feel it and it feels like a ton of bricks on my chest. The first step to getting over it, is first realizing I am in it. It was about 4 months ago when I realized I was in major funk, my energy was down, and it was affecting the energy at my office.  It just hit me…these people, my husband, my family have worked their asses off to get us this far and I am ruining it because I am a chicken shit. What a waste.

    I just snapped out of it…I wish I knew how so I could pass along some words of wisdom, but I just woke up, had a few cups of coffee, and knew I had to be brave. I just had to be. I had to put every thing on the line so at least if I go down, I know I went down fighting and trying and not hiding in a coat closet with a drunk 17 year old trying to grab my ass.

    So, here I am, back in the ARENA. In the middle of the arena…not flattened against the colosseum wall, praying the lions don’t see me.

    Can we get someone in charge over here?

    Today, I was back in the ARENA. I thought it would be less scary than my official (re)introduction to the Arena. Last week, I was on the (former) Competitor’s / New Alliance’s turf, today on was on my own turf.  Today, I told my people.

    Due to Confidentiality Agreements, the last few months MY PEOPLE have been in the dark. My people who I only ask to never, ever lie to me, no matter how much they have “messed up” something, have been kept in the dark. This was hard for me.

    They knew I was working on something important and would only agree to the terms if I believed that everything single person on our team would benefit from it. I am asking them to trust me with their security, their family, and their future. (Chest tightens as I write this…paging Dr. Google.)

    So, now we all know. I was hoping to see faces that said, “Oh, great fearless leader, this sounds wonderful. We will follow you to the ends of the earth…” Instead, I saw confusion, fear, and, I swear, resume posting on monster.com.

    Change is hard. I am scared. They are scared. The day did not go like I imagined, but it is just one day. I believe in us, and I know deep down, they believe in me too.

    No Judgment Here.

    You already know how I feel about iphone alarms. They are like my very own start gun at the Olympics. “Ready, Set, Go!”

    I really try to honor that alarm. It is it the difference between success and failure most days. You know what? Some days I fail. Recently, I had one of those days. I had to miss my daughter’s dance class.

    But, I still had a Hail Mary. I had missed most of the class but I have not missed the last 5 minutes where they ‘showcase’ to the parents. I rush in. I am sweaty. My feet feel like I have 100s of nails in my super high, black, sling backs.

    I am feeling pretty damn proud of myself. I whip out the camera, and film my sweet, little person dancing her little butt off. She did awesome. I am in awe of her confidence. As I am hugging her and helping her switch out her shoes, a mom (who looks like Cindy Crawford’s prettier, younger, sister) comes over and pats me on the shoulder, and puts on her best “I pity your poor existence face” and says, “I am so glad you made it. She is such a different person when you are here. You can tell she hates it when you miss.”

    YOU BITCH. I want to rip the Louis Vuitton from her bony shoulder and strangle her with it. Why would she say this? Was she being honest? Was she tying to be helpful? Was she trying to be hurtful? As I drive home, I think, was she jealous? She has way better hair than me, so that can be it?  Can that be it? Could she, all 5”9’ of her, be jealous of frazzled, little me?  Here is where I am going with this….

    Moms, we are not that different. If we want the (men and women) CEOs, HR managers, and even our own husbands and families of the world to treat us equally and respect our wide variety of skills and experiences we bring to the table, then the change needs to begin with how we judge other women.

    Where does JUDGMENT come from? I think it comes from Jealously (guilty!) and then when I really dig deep, there I find that damn FEAR monster.

    • Why it is okay to ask a mom of an only child, “Why do you just have one child?” Um, how would you feel if a woman (or man… gasp) asked you, “Why do you have 2 children? What’s up with that?” Hello, do you realize how rude that would be??

    I personally believe this is asked by moms of three+ kiddos that have had ridiculously hard, parenting days and a little part of them is thinking, “man, that mom of one over there has it pretty easy. One kid must be a breeze. I am definitely a better mom than her. Oh, shit. Maybe I should have had just one. Maybe I made a mistake?”

    • Why is it okay to ask a work from home mom, “Don’t you ever get bored. Gosh, I would go crazy at home all day.” Um, hell yes she gets “bored” some days. Can you tell her you are 100% fulfilled in your career and never have mind-numbing moments looking over a spreadsheet or listening to the same story over and over from a co-worker?

    I’m thinking this work outside the home mom has just had a heart-wrenching day of missing a kiddo moment, and is thinking, “Screw the mom that gets to stay home. She is obviously stupid. I am way smarter than her. Damn it. Her little girl always has those boutique bows perfectly perched on the side of her head. And, they always match. Maybe I made a mistake? Will her daughter have a better life because of those damn bows?”

    • Why it is okay to ask the work outside the home mom, “Don’t you miss seeing your kids? Gosh, I love my kids too much to leave them each day.” Really, lady? Do you really think they drag their tired bodies into their ARENA because they DO NOT love their kids? Come on. You know better than that.

    You know where I am going with this. I believe this “home” mom just had a day where she remembered the time, many years ago, sitting in a board room, hearing the praise of her company’s CEO for a job well done and helping her team get to the next level. She is now thinking, “crap. That felt really good. My snotty kid never tells me ‘job well done. Your quarterly numbers are way up, mom. I do hear what you say. Thank you.’ Does not matter. I am such a better mom because I am home. I think I am doing the right thing. Maybe I should never have quit my job? Maybe I made a mistake?  Will her kiddo have a better career / life some day from seeing her mom kicking butt in the corporate world?”

    Ladies, let’s take our judgie pants off (Heather Spohr, I believe I may have borrowed that phrase from you…thanks!) and help out moms that need it.  What can you do to help each other? What encouraging words can you offer? Deep down we all know the CORPORATE ARENA is hard, brutal, and ruthless. You know what we also all know? The HOME ARENA is also hard, scary, and let’s face it, can be really gross. Let’s cut each other some lack and appreciate and respect the cross we all bear.

    There is no RIGHT or WRONG in how we choose to parent, live, love, when you are doing your family’s personal best.

    Now, I’m off to get some of those damn bows.

    ***To all you dedicated writers that I have respected and read for all this time, you have no idea what is means that you have taken the time to visit… and the fact that some of your readers have been coming by…just amazing. Thanks to you all for your courage, and especially your support!

    You can totally do this. Maybe you can do this.

    When I heard Brene Brown speak for the first time, she asked the audience, “Do you ever expect the worse? Do you ever lean over your sleeping child and pray to God, with everything you can, to please not take them from you? Do you always fear something bad will happen?”

    I felt the spotlight shining down on me. I also felt less weird that another mom did this. When I mention this ritual to my husband, he says, “you worry too much.” He then kisses our sleeping kiddo and heads to bed. Not me, I kiss her again and whisper my prayer, “Please God, Universe, Whoever can hear me…do not take this child from me. I will not be able to breathe. Don’t. I mean it.”

    I know these words mean nothing. I don’t believe that my God would willing “take” a child from a parent. I believe that really shitty, heartbreaking things can happen in life that rips parts of your soul from your body. (My religious beliefs are for another day…when you really know me…and like me.)

    For years, when I tell my mom I am trying something new… something scary. She always responds with a super encouraging, “I am so proud of you, honey. You can do this. How did I get so lucky to have such an amazing daughter?”

    While I am busy basking in my mother’s glow, thinking maybe I SHOULD sign up for the Mt. Everest climb (kidding…my treadmill is a part time clothes rack), I hear “Ooh…. Aahh…” and a sharp intake of breath, followed by, “Honey, do you think this is a good idea? What will you do if it doesn’t work? Maybe you should think about this.”

    When I was younger, this would devastate me. Really devastate me. Keep in mind, a few minutes later, she is my biggest one woman cheer team, taking down anyone or anything  in my path. Too late. That little voice has already moved in. And it brought luggage. It’s like Cousin Eddie. He is not leaving.

    This pissed me off. I thought she didn’t believe in me. It broke my heart.

    A few years ago, after I had kids, I finally GOT IT. I understood where my mom was coming from. It was FEAR.  She could not physically, or mentally, bear the thought of me suffering. She would place herself in front of anything, or anyone, who tried to hurt me. She wanted to protect me from any pain. Keep me on the nice, safe path.

    When I think of what most scares me most about this ARENA, it is not what could happen to me if it fails. I can tell fear to kiss off when I think about my own well-being, but when I think about how a monumental failure could effect my kiddo, I want to throw in the towel. The thought that I could jeopardize her “happiness,” or security, really messes with my mind.

    Apparently, fear is hereditary.

    I am going to break the cycle. I will prove to my child that WE can do hard things. (Thanks, Glennon.) I am going to prove to her that the unknown can be amazing. I will also to prove to her, the ARENA may kick our ass but we owe it to ourselves to join the battle. The worse thing that could happen to my child is not that her social or financial standing drops, but that she thinks her mom is a big chicken shit.

    I will also prove to her that going to the car wash…parking lot, mall, etc. alone does not automatically guarantee that a masked gunman will do horrific things to her body. Yes, mom. I hear you, but I am living proof that ALL the emails you forward (followed by a phone call) don’t actually come true. I promise to still listen for that crying baby on the front porch at night. You never know.

    Get in the game, friends. The ARENA may be where your best moments are. It may also be where the boogieman lives, but I am feeling lucky today.

    Game. On.

    Wow. Friends, my first post was pretty intense. I felt a little like Tom Cruise’s character in Jerry Maguire writing my Manifest at 2am. At least I cannot be fired, that is a plus. I can be foreclosed, impounded, berated,  forced into a bankruptcy hearing, but no sir, you cannot fire me.

    After making my own way for a year in a competitive and lucrative industry, I was invited to join forces with a competitor. Not just any competitor. THE competitor — the one we respect, fear, and model our company after.  We will continue to be our own brand, company, and separate entity, but we will align ourselves in a way that hopefully benefits us both. I am scared. The negotiation took months, and every time I would get slightly excited about it, I would feel my chest tighten, fingers tingle, and think…

    “I should not do this. It is daunting. It is a risk. I huge risk. I could fail. Lose all my money. Worse, it could be a “trap” and I’ll be the laughing stock of the industry. Definitely a bad idea. I’ll just go back to my little space and keep chugging away in my small, safe(r) place with MY people.”

    Then it hit me. I’m not really in the game. I’m not a true player. I am third-string. I am kind of here,  on the roaster, but please don’t ask me to put my body, reputation, or pride on the line. I may not lose if I play it safe, but, I’ll never WIN.

    Will winning mean millions and security for my family?
    Will it mean respect and admiration from my peers?
    Will it mean I escape the Arena by the skin of my teeth?

    Maybe.

    Or, will it just be a school-yard beat down  and I escape with nothing but the knowledge that I played. I entered the ARENA.

    Maybe.

    What (I think) I know is that not only do I have to Enter the Arena but I have to enter with all the heart and confidence of a True Competitor.

    Yesterday was an intense day. I spent my first day in the Arena. This ‘relationship’ was publically announced. With sweaty palms and armed with my husband’s deodorant because, damn it, Tom’s All Natural, was not going to cut it today…I put my skin (more of my skin) in the Game.

    Now, all I have to do, is prevent an old school beat down…or at least protect my face and stomach in the Battle.

    The Arena

    I am busy. Like, truly busy. Just like you are. Maybe you are busy because you work at home with 3 kids under 5 (God bless you if you do). Maybe you are busy because you are fighting your way through Corporate America. Maybe you are both…struggling to find the hours in the day to meet everyone’s needs and just survive. Please don’t stop reading, I promise I am not about to tell you “to take time for yourself…it is important…you can make the time, you just have to put it on your Google calendar and commit to you!”

    Bullshit…it won’t happen. Writing it down will not make magically make time appear. Trust me, I have tried. Glamour magazine, you lie. You know you do. You tell us we can “do it all” and you make it look so damn glossy and perfect. I know it’s not true, but somehow it still stings when I can not make my hair shiny, brunch with friends, run my business, exceed my customers’ expectations, and make the PTA meeting all in one day. Pinterest, do not even get me started on you.

    (Speaking of magazine’s that lie, Sassy, the tiny braids and little butterfly clips were not a good prom look for this whitest of white girls in 1998. I would like to formally request a full refund and damages in the form of therapy hours for that hit to my delicate 17 year old self esteem.)

    Our professional life is no longer 9-5. Thanks to technology and innovation, we are never “Off”. Do I resent this? No way. I love it. It gives us flexibility and allows us to do what we do. With our biggest asset, typically comes our biggest challenge.

    I did a crazy thing. Really crazy.

    Give me a fancy computer, ipad, and two glasses of wine (what, your bottle holds more???) and I think I can open a business. Like, a real business. No, not even a business, but a company. With employees, warehouses, trucks, and, make your chest tighten up at night, debt. (Don’t worry, I am totally Dr. Google…all is well…just old school anxiety…I think.)

    So, picture this…. I am told no, I am told that I can’t start and build a company in this area. What do I do? I take my family’s  retirement fund, invest it is inventory and equipment, and start a company in an over-saturated market. I am smart like that.

    Guess what?

    I am HERE. It is one year later and we are making it. The company is growing. Slowly. But we are here. I am learning that some days that is enough. Other days, it is not enough. But maybe that is the goal. Maybe being HERE is sufficient. Just like Grace. Maybe it is enough.

    That is why I am writing. I want a blog for us. The women (and men) who drag their tired bodies out of bed, get the kiddos feed, loved, dressed, dropped off. Then we don’t go to yoga. We don’t hit the greens or our corner office. No. We go into the Arena. The Arena is scary. In the Arena, there are men with families who depend on a paycheck directly from YOU. In the Arena, there are customers who can make or break your reputation in 140 characters or less. In the Arena your trucks, your equipment, your business does not run without cash. It is some scary shit.

    You come out of the Arena. You are bloody. You are sweaty. You are victorious. You did it. You made it another day, another month, another year…

    You jump into your car, wait,  there is no time for celebration, because your iphone alarms tells you that you have the cutest, most loving, little person waiting for her parent to pick her up from school. And if you fail at this, you are a failure. None of it matters if you fail at this. You will get there in time. You will apologize to her for having to take a customer call right in the middle of her “how was your day story?” but she will forgive you because you are HERE.

    If our place (yes, this is OUR place. we will help each other succeed) can help at least one other emerge from the Arena with their company, their job, their marriage, their family, their sanity intact, then I will consider myself a Victor. We are HERE. We are in the ARENA.

    Maybe your Arena doesn’t look like mine, or anyone elses. That is okay. I may not know what your’s looks like, but I do know fear of failure can be crippling no matter the battle.

    “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

    – Franklin Roosevelt
    “Citizenship in a Republic,”
Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910

    Thank you to Sgt. Major  Park for encouraging our family to live and repeat this each day of our lives. Thank you to Brene Brown  for the wake up call.

    Welcome, my friend, to the Arena…

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