Mom story: Balancing life with no regrets
Mom of three Heather Schuck had it all. With three beautiful kids, a successful career and her successful business, Glamajama, everything seemed great. The problem was, Heather — like many moms — was stretched too thin.
We talked to entrepreneur, author and mom, Heather Schuck, to find out how she developed a better work-life balance and to learn more about her new book, The Working Mom Manifesto: How to Stop Hoping for Happiness and Start Creating It.
SheKnows: Can you share a little about where you were at emotionally and career-wise around your 32nd birthday and why this was a low time for you?
Heather Schuck: Birthdays are always a time of reflection and introspection for me. My 32nd birthday was no different. However, that year I was asking more questions and digging deeper. I was completely burnt out with my business and my 80-hour work weeks were sucking the life out of me. I wasn't chasing my dreams anymore, I was running from demons. I relied on coffee to get me up in the morning and wine to settle me at night.
The constant physical, emotional, and psychological stress was taking its toll and my health was deteriorating. I was suffering from an unexplained neurological illness with symptoms that included partial paralysis, vision loss, disorientation, and severe migraines. Ultimately, the hardest part was facing the reality that I wasn't the mother I had always dreamed of being. Work/life balance was non-existent and my three children were being showered with “just a minute” instead of the “I love you” they desperately needed. I was so caught up in working to create moments for tomorrow that I was missing the perfect moments happening today.
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SK: What specific actions helped you change the momentum of your career and work/life balance?
HS: I wasn't running the business, it was running me. To bring balance back into my life, that had to change. I completely unplugged and hit the reset button on my business. I shut down my website, went offline, canceled customer orders and closed production orders at the factories. Those actions were powerful and breathed new life into me.
With my passions restored, I moved out to a beautiful lake house and began writing my Manifesto. Anxious to not repeat past mistakes, I made sure my life plan came before my business plan. I soul-searched and defined my core needs, family plan, and genuinely worthwhile work. With my Manifesto guiding me, I transformed from disaster to renewal in just 12 months. Instead of working 80-hour weeks, I was down to 30 hours. I shattered my sales goals of $500,000 by hitting $5 million in revenues. I created systems to ensure my family and my health came first, not work. I was finally blissfully happy.
SK: Do you believe work-life balance is something any working mom can strive for, or does economic stability have to come first?
HS: No, absolutely not. I'm living proof that economic stability doesn't need to come first. Honestly, that thinking is exactly what traps us into unhealthy working environments and prevents us from creating our own happiness. Work/life balance is not about simply having more free time — it's about having a life with no regrets. All the money in the world means nothing if you don't have your family, happiness or health.
SK: What do you feel about "mommy wars" between moms who to stay at home full-time and moms who work?
HS: I think the “mommy wars” are horribly misguided. There is no “one way” to show your child love and support. Whether you're a stay-at-home mom or career mom, we all want the same thing — to raise happy kids. In simplest terms, happy kids come from happy moms. Not “stay-at-home moms” or “career moms” — but happy moms. Instead of pressuring moms to adhere to outdated stereotypes, we should support and empower women to make work/life decisions that best fulfill their family's needs.
SK: Can you share some tips for moms who are really struggling to put family first?
HS: To put family first, your actions must speak louder than your words. Schedule play-time with your kids just as you would a conference call. Stop snuggling up with Fifty Shades of Grey and start snuggling up with your husband. Instead of picking up your iPhone, pick up the garden hose and chase your kids around the yard. All the best intentions in the world mean nothing if you fail to act.
SK: Can you tell us a little about your business and how you're able to juggle work with personal life and parenting?
HS: As the CEO/founder of Glamajama, a licensed lifestyle brand for children, my days are spent designing and strengthening our relationships with retail partners like Target, Sears, and BuyBuyBaby. I also set aside time each day to focus on my other passions such as writing and coaching working moms to create more balance in their lives.
My Manifesto keeps me grounded and only genuinely worthwhile work makes it to my daily action plans. I follow the work systems outlined in the book and spend my mornings executing work tasks, while my afternoons are spent researching, networking, and planning. I always sneak in a lunchtime workout session to help me make that mental transition from active to passive work tasks. It also keeps me committed to my health and my energy levels high. I typically end my workday at 3 p.m. and use that time to tackle all my “mommy duties.” Evenings are work-free and spent actively engaging and connecting with my husband and children.