Welcome to the Sweats & Balances Blog - The Balancing Act. Here, we will be featuring #goals women and their answer to the simple, but complicated question - What does Balance mean to you?
Up next, is Nicolle Pangis. A celebrated Advertising Executive, but we also love celebrating her as a wife, mom, marathoner, and amazing friend.
The amazing founders of S&B asked me several weeks ago to write a blog post defining what ‘balance’ means to me. I thought about it a lot and really struggled to start writing. The reason why is I don’t believe in balance per se, and writing about it would be inauthentic for me.
Instead, I will write about creating boundaries and buckets rather than creating balance. Let me explain.
I’ve learned to create the time and space for the things that matter to me most and most fulfill my spirit. I’ve also learned to be completely apologetic if people view my boundary creation as somehow imbalanced.
Here are three things I’ve learned about creating your own boundaries and buckets.
Lesson #1: Your boundaries and buckets are yours and yours alone
One of my favorite movies is ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s.’ Besides Audrey Hepburn being my girl crush for as long as I can remember, the reason I’ve always loved the movie is that this seemingly perfect woman on the outside was so incredibly imperfect when you looked more closely. Yet, the more I watched the movie, the more perfect I found Holly Golightly (Audrey’s character in the film.) She is so authentic and unapologetic about who she is-she isn’t perfect, but she is figuring it out in the most sophisticated and authentic way. I loved that underlying theme when I was a teen and first saw the film. It made so much sense even back then.
We all play a lot of ‘roles’ in life. These are what I define as buckets. I am a mother. I am an advertising executive (currently on a sabbatical and loving it.) I am a friend. A sister. A daughter. A wife. A runner. That’s a lot of things (or buckets) for one person to be and to juggle, and to imply there is balance, or some sense of equality in all those roles at once would be a lie and trying to find a balance across all of them would lead any sane person to madness.
Instead, decide what is most important to you, and allocate time for those things (and only those things.) This is hard to do in practice, because people will have expectations of you and for you; how you should behave, what you should value, who you should be spending time with, and what you should be spending time on.
That is noise.
Decide what is important to you, and who truly contributes to your life. Define those things in the way most natural to you. The earlier you learn this the better off you will be. This may mean you stop spending time with certain people, or spend less time with them, or break (or minimize) relationships that you are expected to keep, or spend less time working overtime and more time running on your treadmill, reading, or painting. But if you know you need the treadmill or that paintbrush more than you need to send that last email at 7:30 pm, do what you need to do to fulfill that need.
Lesson#2: Don’t try to be the person everyone thinks you should be
My second piece of advice is to try to look within rather than look externally as it relates to who you are, and want you want. Spend time on what makes you whole. Any alternative to that is too hard to manage over the long term, I promise you that. Authenticity is the only route that (nearly) ensures you won’t hit a major roadblock at some point in your life least convenient.
I often think about how I will allocate my time over a day, a week, and beyond. How do I want to spend my energy? Who do I want to spend time with?
You know the people that fill your soul and the people who do not. Let yourself feel that authentically. You know the things that give you an extra bounce in your step. Do those things more. Once I started viewing my life into this way, it became easier to see everything in life creates a value exchange. For me, this has meant maintaining a global role which requires travel, it means running or spending time training more than most, it’s meant less time to get to extended family events, because I’ve been away all week and I wouldn’t see my kids if I also attended these events. As I’ve made these ‘trades’ over the years, many have some opinion about it.
- Aren’t you missing out on your kids live because you travel for work? And by the way, my male coworkers that have the same travel are not asked this question. (Answer: Maybe sometimes, but I’m also showing them that when they grow up, they don’t have to choose to be a wife OR a mother, OR a business woman, and that women can be whatever they want in life-just like men.
- Don’t you feel guilty going out for a run when you get home from work? (Answer: Sometimes, but I do it anyway it makes me a better mom to my girls to be physically healthy and clear my head after a long day)
- Don’t you feel guilty that you aren’t a ‘traditional’ wife. (Answer: No, definitely not.)
I’ve heard all of those questions more times than I should have from people of every age and every gender.
Lesson #3: When the boundaries don’t work, move them-they are yours!
Colleagues have come into my office over the years and asked me how I ‘do it all,’ my very simple answer is ‘I don’t’ –not even close. I do choose HOW I spend my time. That means starting most days with a 5 am coffee, and straight to the gym. This is not something I did before I had children. Life before children was getting home around 8 pm and often later than that, throwing some God-awful food down my throat, and hitting the gym late night. Now, 8:30 pm on most nights when I am not traveling for work, mean I am falling asleep with my almost seven-year-old in her bed after having read her a book and talking about what we liked best about our days. I choose not to trade that time with her for the world. Five a.m. was a necessary wake up time in order make time and space for both. Both buckets get filled, but they get filled separately. And sometimes when work gets hectic or my daughters are up early and my little wants to play with Peppa Pig figurines-her current obsession- or my seven-year-old wants to play a video game, the gym doesn’t happen that day. I’m okay with that.
Rather than considering how to create this fallacy balance, determine what you want to make room for. What are your buckets? What are your boundaries? How do you integrate the things that are important to you into perfect formula for you? Make time for the people and things that fuel your soul, not necessarily equal time, but the time allocation you desire. You will not make that allocation work every week. You will miss the gym sometimes because you hit snooze. You will forget to send in the permission slip on time to your daughter’s school for the class trip next week (and you will feel horrible about it!) And sometimes work will take over your time in a way you don’t want. But having a clear view of your authentic north star will help you navigate your day to day.
Give yourself permission to be imperfect. Perfection is totally overrated, and horribly boring.
And if you haven’t seen it yet, watch Breakfast at Tiffany’s. We are all a little bit Holly Golightly-perfectly imperfect in our own way.
Nicolle is recognized as an industry leader, most recently named in the Adweek 50 list and Crain’s 40 Under 40 in 2016. She was also acknowledged in Ad Age’s 40 Under 40 and as a Working Mother of the Year by Working Mother Media and AWNY in 2015. Nicolle and her adorable family live in New Jersey.